With the below 10k segment smartphones raining into the smartphone marketplace this year, the competition has been really interesting, if you ask me. It all started with the Motorola Moto G, which launched for 14k in India in February this year and was later accompanied by other smartphones from competing manufacturers. THAT smartphone was a game changer, but now after Motorola launched the Moto E, everyone is trying to surprise us. I’ll be damned if the 7k price point, which used to only involve low-end crap earlier, doesn’t have some really good options to choose from.
Redefining what we can get from a sub $200 smartphone, Asus has entered into the arena with their Zenfone smartphone series. We will be talking about Zenfone 5 in this review which is a direct competitor to Moto G which resides in the mid-range segment. Asus had launched Zenfone 4, Zenfone 5 and Zenfone 6 in India last month. Launching for Rs. 9999, now with Xiaomi Mi3 too in the league does it add anything to the tough competition? Let’s find out.
Recently launched mid-range and low-range smartphones under the sub 15k price point have redefined our expectations from them. Asus Zenfone 5 in the same manner in no way looks like a sub 10k smartphone.
Resulting in a surprisingly good smartphone for this price tag, the design of the Zenfone 5 is very similar to what we could expect from a 20k smartphone. The matte finish back and the clean front gives it a premium look and feel.
The front has a earpiece and a secondary camera above the 5-inch display and capacitive touch buttons below. It has big bezels which though add up to the height but undoubtedly adds up to its looks. The back has a 8MP camera with LED flash with the Asus and Intel branding in the centre and below centre respectively. The right houses the volume and power buttons while the left is clean. There is microUSB port on the bottom and a 3.5mm audio out on the top.
The back cover is removable but not the battery. The back holds up the dual microSIM cards and the microSD card. For 145 grams, it is solid yet sturdy device but longer for a 5-inch display.
Asus Zenfone 5 flaunting those looks also packs decent hardware within. Powered by Intel chipset, the Asus Zenfone 5 comes with a dual core Intel Atom Z2560 processor clocked at 1.6 GHz, with 2GB RAM supporting hyper-threading which means it will now handle multi-tasking with ease. Earlier smartphones from Xolo and Lenovo which were powered by Intel chipsets used to face issues like overheating, and some multi-tasking woes but it looks like the tech giant has fixed those.
This smartphone comes in 8GB and 16GB storage variants and features a 5-inch HD display with 720p resolution protected with Corning Gorilla Glass. It obviously supports 3G, WiFi, EDGE, Bluetooth connectivity but no 4G/LTE which is quite understood.
Asus did a major overhaul considering the user interface. The Zen UI is what Asus call it, is a minimalistic subtle and pleasing user interface based on Android 4.3 JellyBean. For now its JellyBean but soon it will be upgraded to the Android 4.4 KitKat as promised by the firm.
The Zen UI is completely different from what all we have seen. Comparing with stock Android, Samsung Touchwiz, HTC Sense and Sony’s NXTgen UI Zen UI is a pretty good addition to the list which actually is welcomed by some of us. Zen UI is simplistic and pleasing to eyes with color themes and at the same time being functional too. Zen UI does the job pretty well without making any fuss.
There are software enhancements like the reading mode which tweak the UI for specific tasks. There are apps too that come pre-installed not much of which can be considered bloat as most of them are useful.
The Notification panel has to be one of the prettiest which I have seen. It feels different and we are comfortable with it and I feel it will be accepted by other users as well.
The Asus Zenfone 5 comes with a 8MP rear camera with LED flash and a 2MP front-facing camera. Asus claims to build in PixelMaster technology which shall facilitate low light imaging well. The camera app features everything that one should get in return for max output. We felt that the low-light imaging is exaggerated but then we could see more light in pictures from the Zenfone 5 when compared with the competition.
The camera sensor on the Zenfone 5 is not like the average 8MP sensors. We felt that it comfortably makes a long jump and stand ahead when ranking. There was slight lag in the camera app not sure due to what but we think that might be fixed with the upcoming software updates.
The pictures clicked from the Zenfone 5 turned out to be pretty good. Indoors might be disappointing at times, but there’s actually not much to complain at this price point. During the video sound recording quality was also good, but then the camera was not able to synchronize well or it was the surroundings which made it look bad.
The Asus Zenfone 5 have left us surprised. We got this smartphone before the launch for a week and there was no way I could guess that it could have launched for this pricing. The performance of the smartphone has been generally smooth which includes some jitters at some times. Intel’s Atom processor turned out to be good with the probable improved performance tweaks. The phone does get heated up at times, especially when using the camera or playing games for long. There was barely any lag as such which we could remember.
The 8MP camera sensor as said is above average gets good shots in daylight while the app struggles sometimes to click a shot. The Zen UI is one of our favorite features from the smartphone if you ask me. Giving out for a week, I couldn’t test it completely maybe we should dig in again when we get the device if possible. There have been some of the software updates fixing some bugs on the same ROM, but the Android 4.4 KitKat is yet to arrive. The experience which we had from a smartphone for 10k INR was fairly good.
With the game changing for below 10k smartphones in India, Asus made a quite significant impact with the Zenfone 5 in this segment. There are Zenfone 4 in the sub 7k segment and Zenfone 6 in the above 15k segment but the Zenfone 5 is perfectly suited for what it has been offered. The performance as discussed above is one of the best for 10k pricing is definitely value for money. It also comfortably beats the Moto G which is 4k higher in pricing. Totally recommended if you are looking to buy a smartphone in this range.
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