Asus ZenFone 2 Review - Still The Game Changer Of 2015!

When Asus announced the Zenfone 2, undeniably everyone was hyped and excited about it. At 14,995 Pesos only, you'll get a 5.5-inch phone that's the same size as other popular flagships like the iPhone 6 Plus and LG G4, and jam-packed specs that include a powerful 64-bit Intel processor and 4GB of RAM. And yes, I repeat, 4GB! By the way, Asus is the first company to release a smartphone with 4GB of RAM. 
ASUS ZENFONE 2 REVIEW, STILL THE GAME CHANGER OF 2015!
Asus Zenfone 2 review

Asus Zenfone 2 has 2 more affordable variants. The cheapest one is priced at only around 9.9K Pesos. The unit I have with me here is the one with 4GB RAM, 2.3GHz, 32GB ROM which costs 13,995 Pesos.

Before I proceed with the review, it's better if you have a background first of its specs:

Asus Zenfone 2 (ZE551ML) Specs

Display: 5.5 Inch IPS FHD 1920 x 1080 resolution w/ Gorilla Glass 3 protection at 401 ppi
CPU: 2.3 GHz 64 bit Intel Atom Z3580 quad core processor
GPU: PowerVR G6430
RAM: 4 GB
ROM: 32 / 64 GB expandable via micro SD card up to 128 GB
Back Camera: 13 MP f/2.0 w/ dual real tone flash
Selfie Camera: 5 MP f/2.0 and 85 degree wide angle lens
Battery: 3,000 mAh Li Pol
OS: Android 5.0 Lollipop w/ Zen UI
Connectivity: WiFi, 3G, LTE, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS, A GPS, Dual SIM
Sensors: Accelerometer, proximity, compass, light, gyroscope
Others: Colors: osmium black, sheer gold, glacier gray, glamor red, ceramic white
Dimensions: 152.5 x 77.2 x 10.8 mm
Weight: 170 g
Price: 13,995 Pesos (32 GB), 14,995 Pesos (64 GB)

Unboxing / Accessories

ASUS ZENFONE 2 REVIEW, STILL THE GAME CHANGER OF 2015!
Asus Zenfone 2's Packaging
Asus Zenfone 2's packaging is simple, neat, compact and easy to open. Inside the box you'll find the following: Asus Zenfone 2, 2A Adapter, Data Cable, Earphones with extra ear tips and User Guide. I'm so happy that Asus included an 2A adapter which charges my device faster than regular types of adapters that's commonly provided. Yay! I'm even using it to charge my Zenpower. :)

I must say the Asus is really generous when it comes to the accessories. Normally, companies would trim down their costs by reducing the quality of the accessories that they would bundled up with their smartphones. Surprisingly, that's not the case with Asus as they have included a pretty decent earphones. I think the only missing thing here is the phone case. (Or am I asking too much? LOL :))
ASUS ZENFONE 2 REVIEW, STILL THE GAME CHANGER OF 2015!
Adapter and data cable
Good sounding IEM
Stock in-ear monitors


Build Quality

I love the build quality of this phone. With dimensions measuring 152.5 x 77.2 x 10.9 mm, the handset doesn't feel heavy and is comfortable to hold (thanks to its curved back), especially when I'm watching my favorite series Breaking Bad (LOL! so last two years ago... IKR) or exchanging long text messages with my friends and loved ones. 

At first look, I can describe right away that it's one of the most premium looking handsets I had in hand (considering the price). The rear of the phone has a brushed aluminum exterior which gives it a more elegant and classy feel. It is where you will also find the camera, flash, volume rocker and speaker. It obviously borrowed some of the design perspective of the LG G2 and G3 (referring to the positioning of the volume rocker), but mixed it well with their own design that we saw in Zenfone 5.

The Asus Zenfone 2 has rounded corners, not so thin bezels and capacitive buttons. Some smartphone manufacturers opted to remove the capacitive buttons and make it part of the screen instead to maximize the screen size. For me, it's a good thing that Asus retained the capacitive buttons for easier navigation. I just wish that it has a back light.

On top is where the power button and 3.5mm jack is located. The power button's positioning is a little bit awkward, but I don't really use it that much

The power button's positioned at the top of the handset, which feels a little bit awkward to press. Thanks to the "double tap to wake" function, I don't need to press it every time I'll switch on/ off this smartphone. Beside it is where you will find the 3.5mm audio jack while the microUSB port is located at the bottom part of it.
ASUS ZENFONE 2 REVIEW, STILL THE GAME CHANGER OF 2015!
Rear of Asus Zenfone 2
ASUS ZENFONE 2 REVIEW, STILL THE GAME CHANGER OF 2015!
Camera, dual color real tone flash, volume rocker
ASUS ZENFONE 2 REVIEW, STILL THE GAME CHANGER OF 2015!
Asus and Intel Logos and Speaker Grills
ASUS ZENFONE 2 REVIEW, STILL THE GAME CHANGER OF 2015!
Top of Zenfone 2: power button and 3.5 mm audio jack
Side view
Side of Zenfone 2
Mic Below
Capacitive buttons and microUSB port

Display Quality

The ZenFone 2's 5.5-inch display gives users a spacious area for typing out messages, reading e-books, watching videos, browsing, playing games and etcetera. Its 1080p display has great viewing angles, which I really find perfect for me since I love watching series/ movies while on the go. Although you might notice that it's not as saturated and vibrant as other phones, but you can adjust its color setting via its built-in color calibrator.


You will also notice that the display looks warm and not so bright which makes it friendly to the eyes. It features "Blue Filter" mode, which reduces the blue light it emits. One disadvantage I can think of is its max brightness is not that enough when it's used outdoors under bright sunlight - which I think is not so big deal.
ZenFone 2 screen
Display of Zenfone 2

Audio Quality

The speaker quality is better than the average, it has enough tunes and loudness to be hearable and listenable even from few meters afar. What I like with it is the distortion isn't that noticeable even when you crank he volume way up to 100%.

When it comes to the audio quality thru headphones, the ZenFone 2 is a very capable HiFi DAP! It has more driving power than most flagship smartphones I've tested even against the Meizu MX4 Pro. I'm not saying that bait's cleaner sounding, but it can play even full sized can with its power. Sound quality wise, it's better than 80% of the smartphones I've tried. It was able to provide warm and bassy sound signature with surprisingly clear mids and sparkling highs. For the audiophiles out there, just tone down the bass and sub-bass part by at least 2 dB and you'll find this one a good substitute in case you missed your dedicated DAPs.

Stock IEM w/ mic - this little beast is a revelation, it looks good, it feels durable, doesn't tangle, easy to drive and has that massive sound! It has the biggest soundstage I've heard from a stock IEM which puts the most to shame. It provides a concert type of soundstage that makes you feel like listening to a full sized can. Another positive aspect of it is the instrumental separation and sound layering was surprisingly detailed. This is a decent sounding V-Shaped sounding iem with good and decent highs. It's amazing for a freebie even if the sub bass rumbles too much for my liking that makes the mids sound thin and not that clear. It's still not as good as the Mi Pistons 2 and Quadbeat 2, but if you're not super picky to audio and loves bass, I bet you won't need to replace this decent set until it's broken.

Maybe my only gripe with  here is it wasn't able to play 192 KHz / 24 Bit Lossless audio, something that even my lower end smartphones can. I hope that Asus can find a way to fix that as this phone is a great audio source.


Battery

Battery life
Battery life of the ZenFone 2 on normal usage

With normal usage, the Asus ZenFone 2's 3000 mAh battery can last up to 8 hours. Normal usage includes regular browsing, messaging, calls, taking photos and occasional gaming. 

Just a tip, make sure to turn off your WiFi / data connection when you're sleeping, or else, it will drain your battery even if it's on sleep mode. It's not too much surprising that it easily drains compared to other handsets because of its power hungry internals. Hopefully, Asus can improve this.

One good thing is it has one of the best fast-charging technology out in the market today. Paired it up with ZenPower 10050 mAh, then you're good to go.

Camera

The camera of the Zenfone 2 is a performer, considering its price. It has a lot of camera modes to choose from such as the following:
Front camera options
Camera mode (front camera)

Front Camera Modes: Beautification, Selfie Panorama, Auto, Night, HDR, Effect, Low Light, GIF Animation, Slow motion and Time Lapse.
Rear camera options
Camera mode (rear camera)

Rear Camera Mode: Auto, Manual, HDR, Beautification, Super Resolution, Low Light, Night, Depth of Field, Effect, Selfie, GIF Animation, Panorama, Miniature, TIme Rewing, PanoSphere, Smart Remove

The Asus ZenFone 2 can also record 1080p videos and take burst shots (up to 100)  when the volume rocker is long pressed. For those who know how to configure the camera manually, the handset has a manual mode, as well. It's also one of the best phones for macro photography especially when you use the Depth of Field mode.

The Asus ZenFone 2 produces sharp photos with warm tone. It's rear camera's low light performance is very good. The focus and shutter speed is quite fast, although it will take you at least a second to load the photo in the View Finder.

The front camera's performance is good when photos are taken under good lighting condition. In low light, I suggest that you use the Low Light mode. It will take a brighter photo but will also be grainy.

Based from experience, in order for you to maximize the full capacity of the handset's camera, you just have to be a little patient when taking photos. Explore different modes to get your desired results. Check out our camera samples:
Dim light shot using ZenFone 2
Dim light shot
Macro shot
Depth of Field shot
Flash test
Low light with flash
HDR at night
HDR shot
HDR comparison
Outdoor shot (Auto and HDR)
Great for landscape photography
Auto Mode (Glass Window)
Crazy good results in Super Low Light Mode
Low Light and Super Low Light Mode
Selfie test
Selfie shot with and without beautification


Performance

Zen UI
Some of the music modes I loved and general multitasking

Combine the powerful 64 Bit Intel processor with an unprecedented 4 GB of RAM, the result is a world class lag free performance. The ZenFone 2 is arguably one of best power phones available today. I can open multiple apps with ease, multitasking is extremely easy and I had no issues when it comes to gaming. From light games like Magic Touch and Subway Surfers to the heavy games like the NBA 2K series, Mortal Kombat and etc. Connectivity is also never a problem here, it can get LTE signals and connect to WiFi with ease. In general, I'm sure most of you coming from a phone with 1 GB or 2 GB of RAM will feel the huge difference when it comes to smoothness of use.
Zen UI full view
User interface

Take it from a non-ZenFone user before, I didn't have a hard time with its user interface. Maybe because Asus did not completely abandon Google's stock Android interface - which almost everyone, I believe, is more used to. However, if you find bloatwares annoying, you'll spend time disabling those, as the handset comes with a lot of software pre-installed to it. Some would be useful, which I bet you would install it your self anyway. Well, other applications.. hmm, nevermind, just disbable it if you don't need it. :)
Zen Ui icons
User interface


Benchmarks

For the price, it scored very high on different benchmark applications. See below:
Antutu before and after update
Antutu benchmark before and after software update
Stability and multi touch test
Antutu stability and multi touch test
Quadrant and Geekbench score
Quadrant and geekbench
GPU bench
GPU bench

ProsAlmost everything (top notch performance, build quality, audio quality, camera, accessories and other features), affordability
ConsBattery needs improvement, lots of bloatwares, display not that bright


Verdict

Even after several months after it's release, the ZenFone 2 is still the undeniable flagship killer to beat this 2015. If you're a power user and wants flagship performance but on tight budget, I recommend you this phone. You'll get a great deal for the price! It has just one major flaw, the battery life is somehow mediocre for a 3,000 mAh device. I hope that they'll do something about it soon.

GIZ Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
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