Asus ZenFone 2 Laser 5.5 S Review - The Major Upgrade!

The ZenFone 2 Laser 5.5 S created a lot of buzz recently due to its near-unprecedented configuration for the price. It's way better than its previous iteration on paper which got our attention and  curious on what it can do in real life. After our first impressions several weeks back, we were finally able to finish taking it to the spin for a full review.
Asus ZenFone 2 Laser 5.5 S review
Asus ZenFone 2 Laser 5.5 S review

For the review part 1: ZenFone 2 Laser 5.5 S Unboxing And First Impressions - A Major Upgrade?

Disclaimer: This review unit was provided by Asus Philippines for an honest review

Display Quality

The screen in action
The screen in action

This edition of the Laser is still using the same 5.5 inch HD IPS OGS panel. Last year, we said that the screen of the ZenFone 2 Laser is one of the best you'll get under 10K, but times have changed and technology evolved which makes HD screen not that great in today's world.

However, don't get us wrong, it's still an enjoyable display as long as you're not under direct sunlight. Pixels are still hardly visible, goes with that well known Asus warm color tone that won't hurt your eyes easily and it's still pretty vivid with acceptable contrast in general.

Then in the screen settings, there's a bluelight filter that and color customization that you can play around to fit your eyes the best.
Great 10 points of multitouch here
Great 10 points of multitouch here

Overall, the screen quality is decent, but I would have like to see and FHD panel at price point. Fortunately, it isn't really much of an issue, this type of lower res-screen will benefit the gamers in performance and battery life that we'll talk about later.

Audio Quality

The Laser 5.5 S is also still equipped with the same type of audio configuration coming from the first gen laser. There's a single loud speaker at the back that boast some average type tunes. It goes with warm and dark tones, minor bass slams, a little muddied mids and good highs.  What's nice here is it has an above average loudness that makes it hearable even from at least 10 meters away.

Going to the audio out, if you love warm tunes with a lot bass you'll like this one. It has that thick signature that's great for bass slams with sub-woofer like attitude. It's still a little overpowered, not that tight and uncontrolled for my taste, but this is more refined that the bass of the regular ZenFone 2.

In terms of mids and clarity, you'll feel that there are times where the bass is eating its space in the spectrum. It's still good at times especially in tracks where there is less bass. Highs is there, has good sparkle, less hiss and not that fatiguing. Soundstage and separation is on the decent side as well, but not as special as the Flash Plus 2.

Software-side, there's an Audio Wizard that you can try, test and mix to suit your listening preference. However, it may sound artificial and might have some audio spectrum imbalance when not properly tuned.

Moving to the microphone part, you'll mostly enjoy it if you're not a picky person as it delivers the usual Asus good type of quality for calls and video recordings.

Battery 

Long battery life achieved!
Long battery life achieved!

One of the main reasons why you should consider this phone is its battery life. Donning that 3,000 mAh of battery capacity only, I didn't expect this to be this good. It was able to score 10 hours and 6 minutes via PC Mark battery test with Max brightness and volume on.

On real life usage, I only charge the phone once a day as a daily driver. That's says a lot as I'm always on social media, loves taking photos and do different kinds of task using my phone most of the time.
The 5.5 S delivered one of the longest battery life for that kind of setup and specs.
If you're a heavy gamer, you'll definitely enjoy this as you won't need to charge the phone from time to time. In general, battery life is truly one of the major advantage of this handset over the competition.

Camera

The camera with laser AF at the back
The camera with laser AF at the back

In terms of technical capabilities and details, nothing much changed in the camera department of this handset. It's still loaded with a good type of 13 MP Toshiba lens with f/2.0 aperture w/ laser AF and 5 MP wide angle selfie camera.
It's still a more than capable camera phone for something this affordable.
The Laser 5.5 S still can take better than average photos with sharp details and good vividness in a slightly warmer yellowish tone. The laser autofocus really focuses quite fast, has speedy shutter, but it takes at least a second to save your capture. It's also great for macros, comes a burst for action shots and one of the nicest HDR around to correct against the light shots.

However, under harsh conditions you'll see that there's glare under direct sunlight, grains in lowlight and uneven dyanmic range at times. Gladly, there's a useful manual mode that may correct those issues when doing just plain point and shoots and a good type of dual tone LED flash when needed.

Selfie-wise, those who loves beautification will like this as it blurs out your imperfections very well. However, others may find it too much, but fortunately it's adjustable for your taste. It also goes with good sharpness, colors and wide angle lens that can let more people in your shots.

Still has the same features that we loved like the manual mode, beautify, super resolution, low light, night mode, depth of field, various filters, selfie, various filters, panorama, miniature, time rewind, panoshere, smart remove, all smiles, slow motion and time lapse. However, feels slightly better from what I saw before as the camera software looks better now with nicer post processing.

Rear Camera Samples

Normal daylight shot
Normal daylight shot
Great shot in daylight again
Great shot in daylight again
Normal vs HDR
Normal vs HDR
Silhouette shot
Silhouette shot
Macro using depth of field mode
Macro using depth of field mode
Photo in the dark
Photo in the dark
Super low light mode activated
Super low light mode activated

Selfie Camera Samples

Against the light
Against the light
Against the light HDR
Against the light HDR
Indoor selfie with Angel
Indoor selfie at night with Angel

Video Samples


Performance

Antutu benchmark and geek bench score
Antutu benchmark and geek bench score

Like what we said above, there's a major improvement in terms of performance with this phone especially in its processing capabilities. Coming from the slower Snapdragon 410 quad core chip w/ Adreno 306 GPU, this phone is now equipped with the better Snapdragon 615 octa core SoC w/ Adreno 405 GPU. Then from 2 GB RAM / 32 GB ROM, this now has 3 GB RAM / 32 GB ROM.


What's the effect of that? It's smoother in terms of performance. There are less hiccups and crashes from our experience. The camera doesn't lag anymore too as well compared with the older Laser. It was also gotten better in gaming as it can load even some heavy games with ease.


To our surprise, this is also the only phone with that type of setup to run Asphalt 8 in high settings in a super smooth way. For NBA 2K16, there's still lag in all high settings, but noticeably smoother w/ less frame drops and lags from what we experienced with the likes of My36, A7000 Plus, Flash Plus 2, Elife S Plus and Huawei GR5 to name a few.
This phone doesn't heat up that much too compared with other Snapdragon 615 handsets.
Some may say that why put Snapdragon 615 instead of 616 or 617, but hey consider the price point too. This is still one of the most affordable phone with 3 GB RAM and 32 GB to load that chip. Plus the optimization that Asus did here is great to make the battery last long and avoid the usual heating issues of that SoC.
Zen UI
Zen UI

However, I can't wait to get the cleaner Asus Zen UI that runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallows as there's too much bloats in here and unnecessary updates all the time that eats you bandwidth. Anyway, going to the good side, the Zen UI of Asus is pretty feature packed with lots of features like smart gestures, double tap to wake and tune-up utilities.

All the connectivity options included in the package also works such as WiFi, 3G, LTE, Bluetooth, GPS, A GPS, Dual SIM. Then this unit is also loaded with important sensors that includes: accelerometer, proximity, compass, light and gyroscope.

Pros - Great specs to price ratio, great for gaming, good cameras, 
Cons - Ageing design, Still on HD screen, too many bloatwares

Verdict

If you're on a budget and wants a great gaming machine, the ZenFone 2 Laser 5.5 S could be the right one for you. Why? it's a great all rounder with nice cameras and extra long battery life to keep you connected most of the time. With that low SRP of 8,995 for the specs, it's another bang per buck phone from Asus. 

GIZ Rating: 4.75/5 Stars
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