After a couple of generations of its FonePads – 7-inch tablets that could make calls – Asus is finally launching its first smartphones in India on July 9. The Zenfone series was unveiled at CES earlier this year, where Asus surprised everyone by launching smartphones starting from $99 for the Zenfone 4, $149 for the Zenfone 5 and $199 for the Zenfone 6. The numerical signifies the display size. All three of them run on Intel chipsets, which makes Asus one of those rare brands that still go for Intel’s silicon for smartphones instead of Qualcomm and Snapdragon. We have spent a couple of days with the Zenfone 5, which would compete with the Moto G and other smartphones in the sub-Rs 15,000 price segment. While our detailed review will come closer to the launch day, here are our first impressions. Also Read - Best laptops under Rs 30,000 to buy for daily usage in October 2021Also Read - Phones launching next week: Pixel 6 series, Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, Motorola Edge S, more
Asus hasn’t revealed the pricing for Zenfones in India but considering the US price of $149 (approximately Rs 9,000), the Zenfone 5 looks and feels extremely premium, even for a smartphone priced at Rs 15,000. The back is made of a matte finish polycarbonate plastic with subtle curves that make the phone feel good to hold. The front is dominated by the 5-inch 720p display with Asus Zenbook’s trademark concentric circle finish at the bottom, which adds to the look. Also Read - Best laptops to buy under Rs 35,000 in October 2021: Asus VivoBook 15, Avita PURA, more
Having said that, the phone does have thick bezels on the sides of the display, which stick out a bit considering the trend these days is to have ultra-thin bezels. Rather than having onscreen menu buttons, the designers have opted for capacitive buttons below the display. For some reason, these buttons are not backlit and hitting them in the dark becomes guesswork.
The Zenfone 5 that Asus had announced at CES had a 2GHz Intel Z2580 chipset with 1GB of RAM but the one being announced in India runs on the Intel Z2560 chipset clocked at 1.6GHz but with 2GB of RAM. We haven’t noticed any lag or signs of worry during our usage, yet, but we will reserve our judgement for the final review. The Zenfone 5 will be available in 8GB and 16GB variants in India both of which come with a microSD card and dual micro-SIM card slots. There is an 8-megapixel camera on the rear and 2-megapixel camera on the front. We will talk about the camera performance in our detailed review.
One of the major talking points for Asus in the Zenfones is the UI, which not surprisingly is called Zen UI. What we like the most in the UI are the lock screen widgets that let you access certain apps directly without having to first unlock the phone and then finding the app. Asus has also give a “what’s next” widget on the lock screen as well as one of the home screens that show you your agenda for the day.
The Zen UI has round icons in the notification centre, which reminded us of Samsung’s latest iteration of TouchWiz, which too has round icons and a flatter look. Talking about the notification centre, it is a bit strange that swiping it down takes users to shortcuts for various settings and to check out the notification you have to hit a tab on the top. It is usually the other way around.
The Zenfone 5 is looking like an interesting product though not without its own set of quirks. A lot of its success will depend on the pricing considering the Moto G is currently ruling the roost in the sub-Rs 15,000 price point. Our detailed review is coming soon. Stay tuned.