The ZenFone 2 was first announced back at CES then it was announced again in March and it’s a phone that has quite a lot of weight on its shoulders. You see, when companies tackle the market of mid-range flagships for not a whole lot of money, they start working on a fine line of budgets—both for manufacturing needs and also for the consumer target. The ZenFone 2 is a phone that ended up on the wrong side of that line but maybe (just maybe) it still entices you.
Let’s first talk specs. Up front, we have a 5.5-inch 1080p IPS LCD panel which is good but it’s not very appealing. It’s nowhere near as vivid as the screen on the HTC One M9 or even the OnePlus One. Plus, the phone is wrapped in a plastic build, which is usual but doesn’t feel well put together or high quality. Another downfall is the bulky build of the ZenFone 2. It may say that it’s only 10.9mm thick on paper but the bulge makes it feel a whole lot thicker. The button layout is also not too great. It’s seems like they borrowed the tactic of LG by placing buttons on the back but ASUS only elected to put the volume rocker. So where’s the power switch? It’s in the worst place imaginable—the top center. Combine this with a large phone measuring at 6 inches tall, it’s an ergonomic disaster.
But looking at the specs inside may brighten up your day. There are two models of the ZenFone 2: one priced at $199 and the other one at $299. I have the $299 version, which is packed with an Intel Atom processor. It’s a Quad-Core chip clocked in at 2.3GHz. It’s also paired with 4GB of RAM. The other model’s packed with a Quad-Core 1.8GHz chip, also an Intel Atom processor and 2GB of RAM. The camera on the rear is rated at 13MP and there is a 5MP front-facing camera.
There’s always an issue with low-cost manufacturers. It’s usually in the software department. The ZenFone 2 does run Android 5.0 Lollipop, which is fantastic. But ASUS, in order to make money, decided to overlay a skin with a lot of bloatware. You may think that’s not so bad. HTC, Samsung, and others impose skins on stock Android. But the skin on the ZenFone 2 must be the most radical and most aggressive skin I’ve ever seen. Basically, everything is different from stock Android Lollipop. The amount of bloatware is unbelievable. And if I had to say one nice feature about the software, it’s they implemented a double tap to wake and sleep to the device; a needed feature due to the crappy placement of the power switch.
But surprisingly, the ZenFone 2 runs without any issue. Perhaps this is a testament to the power of that Intel Atom chip, especially on a mobile device. But I can only imagine how smooth and how powerful this phone would be without all the bloat.
Next, I want to talk about the performance. The ZenFone 2 is a fairly speedy device. Browsing the web, running multiple applications and more are done with ease. It’s only when running native ASUS applications or all that bloatware is where you notice all that lag. But when the heck are you ever going to do that? Probably never.
Battery life on the ZenFone 2 relies on a 3000mAh non-removable battery. You’d expect good things when you have a battery of such size but the ZenFone 2 draws power like crazy. I’ve struggled to get 4 hours of on-screen on-time but thankfully, the ZenFone 2 does have the capability to do fast charging so you can actually charge 60% in roughly 40 or so minutes.
Next thing I want to talk about is the camera, which is rated at 13MP but it’s pretty much less than par on basically all or any of its performance. At 13MP, you’d think UHD video would be available but sadly, the ZenFone 2 pops out at full HD. And the photos are fairly average and the video quality is nothing to write home about.
The ZenFone 2 is a phone that could have been something great and I’m sure when it was just a project, the potential was huge. But when ASUS put the constraints of affordable flagship power, things sort of had to be sacrificed. In the case of the ZenFone 2, perhaps too much was sacrificed to make ends meet when selling the ZenFone 2. Perhaps the next ZenFone could run stock Android. Now that would be very awesome.
I want to hear what your thoughts on the ZenFone 2 so make sure to leave your comments below.