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Asus Zenfone 5 (2018) First Impressions: Taking it up a ‘notch’

Asus has really pulled some tricks out of its hat with the Zenfone 5 (2018), and has a potential winner on its hands.

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Although it’s fair to credit the Xiaomi Mi MIX for introducing the world to the first truly bezel-less smartphone, the concept didn’t really take off until the Apple iPhone X. The revolutionary tenth anniversary edition of the iPhone reimagined the idea altogether, and went with the all-screen front that we’d all been really waiting for. However, there are some components that need to be on the front. To accommodate them, the iPhone X introduced the world to the ‘notch’.

There hasn’t quite been anything in the smartphone world quite as polarizing as the notch. There’s no doubt that it looks odd, but the technology does not exist yet to work around it. So love it or hate it, for the time being, it’s here to stay. And while the Android approach to larger screens has thus far been a bit more traditional, we’re finally looking at the first serious bezel-less design yet.

Surprisingly, this revolutionary new smartphone comes from a brand that we least expected to pull tricks out of its hat – Asus. And unsurprisingly, this nearly bezel-less design embraces the very design element that Apple came up with – the notch. Naturally then, comparisons will be made between the new Asus Zenfone 5 and the Apple iPhone X. We recently had a chance to preview a pre-production unit of the Asus Zenfone 5 (2018), and here are our first impressions.

The infamous notch

It gained infamy with the iPhone X, and it’s taken a while, but the Asus Zenfone 5 brings the notch to Android. Notably though, the notch on the Zenfone 5 (2018) isn’t as wide as the one on the iPhone X. The notch fits in the earpiece, sensors and front camera. However, unlike the Apple iPhone X, the Asus Zenfone 5 (2018) has a fair amount of ‘chin’ space below the screen, and isn’t quite as bezel-less in design and you might have hoped.

The back of the phone has one key similarity to the Apple iPhone X – the vertically-positioned dual-camera setup. The rest of the rear panel is dinstinctly Asus, including the glass finish, brand logo and fingerprint sensor. With glass at the front and back, the Asus Zenfone 5 relies on its metal frame for rigidity and strength. You get a USB Type-C port for charging and data transfers, as well as a 3.5mm jack at the bottom.

While typical 18:9 tall aspect ratio smartphones fit in a 6-inch screen into the form factor of a classic 5.5-inch phone, the Asus Zenfone 5 has a 6.2-inch full HD+ resolution screen with an aspect ratio of 19:9. This doesn’t, of course, take into consideration the non-screen space of the notch, but you do get usable screen area on either side of the notch. Pulling down from either side will show you both notifications and quick-toggle controls. However, since we were using a pre-production unit, this could change in the final software.

An Android-powered Asus at heart

Despite it’s distinct looks, the Asus Zenfone 5 functions like any Android smartphone at heart. The phone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 SoC and features up to 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. The phone also has a 3,300mAh battery, and a dual-camera setup that brings in wide-angle photography and portrait mode. The unit we used was running Android Oreo with the latest iteration of ZenUI on top, which is a lot lighter and easier on the phone than the interface has typically been.

The phone also comes with face unlock and fast unlocking with the fingerprint sensor, although we couldn’t test these on the pre-production unit. With its specifications, the Asus Zenfone 5 will go head-to-head with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro, which features similar specifications and features. However, Asus has the distinct advantage of its all-screen design at the front, giving it a considerable boost over the Redmi Note 5 Pro.

Better viewing and listening

Apart from the screen, the Asus Zenfone 5 also features a new five-magnet stereo speaker system. The phone’s speakers are at the bottom and within the earpiece, and both speakers work together to offer stereo sound when you’re using the phone without headphones. The sound is particularly loud and impressive, and is a useful addition considering that a lot of people watch videos on their phones without necessarily plugging in headphones.

On the whole, the viewing experience is particularly good thanks to the combination of the large screen and the stereo audio setup. While the notch design doesn’t allow videos to play on the entire screen and limits video space to the area below the notch, you do still get the typical 18:9 aspect ratio for videos.

Final thoughts

The Asus Zenfone 5 might have the same name as a previous, not-so-exciting smartphone from Asus, but things have changed here. While the Zenfone 5 launched in 2014 was named for its screen size, the Zenfone 5 (2018) represents the generation. Sure, Asus’ naming conventions have been a bit confusing thus far, but we’re looking at a new, energized company that hopes to make a bigger impact.

Although we’ve only had a chance to use a pre-production unit, the Asus Zenfone 5 looks like a game-changer for the Taiwanese smartphone and computer maker. It features top-end hardware, a revolutionary design for the Android space and a definite focus on things that users are interested in. The camera, audio, screen and software all see improvements, and the phone’s design is excellent. We’re looking forward to bringing you the full review of the Asus Zenfone 5 (2018) soon.

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  • Published Date: February 28, 2018 1:14 AM IST
  • Updated Date: February 28, 2018 1:15 AM IST