Last week, Asus announced the all-new Zenfone 5Z in India which happens to be the company’s first phone to flaunt an Apple iPhone X- style notch above the display. On top of that, powering the handset is Qualcomm’s current top-of-the-line Snapdragon 845 SoC. In fact, it also becomes the most affordable Snapdragon 845-powered phone currently available in India, followed by OnePlus 6. Does the Asus Zenfone 5Z have enough to compete with OnePlus 6? We find out in our review:
Asus Zenfone 5Z features and specifications
Display: 6.2-inch (2,246 x 1,080) | Operating system: Android Oreo | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 64GB (expandable up to 2TB) | Rear camera: 12MP + 8MP | Front camera: 8MP | 7.7 mm thickness | Weight: 165 g | Battery: 3,300mAh | Connectivity options: 4G VoLTE, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS and headphone audio jack
Asus Zenfone 5Z price in India
Asus Zenfone 5Z 6GB RAM / 64GB storage variant will cost Rs 29,999. Other two variants, 6GB RAM / 128GB storage and 8GB RAM / 256GB storage will cost Rs 32,999 and Rs 36,999 respectively.
Asus Zenfone 5Z review: Display, design
Asus Zenfone 5Z features a notched display, which has now become a common fad across the majority of smartphone brands these days. The smartphone sports a 6.2-inch Full HD+ (2,246 x 1,080 pixels) IPS display, which looks crisp and feels premium to interact with. On a positive note, the screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass. I feel Asus should have rather opted for AMOLED display instead of IPS, especially since it falls under a premium flagship segment. I have nothing much to complain about the display’s brightness. The sunlight legibility is poor, though.
Asus Zenfone 5Z measures 7.7mm in thickness and weighs 165g. It feels more bulky and heavy than devices like OnePlus 6 and Vivo X21. It flaunts a glass-back design, which is both slippery and prone to fingerprint smudges. Thanks to slim bezels and bottom chin, the fingerprint reader is now on the rear. Thankfully, it retains a 3.5mm headphone jack and offers a USB Type-C port on the bottom.
As for button placements, power button and volume controller are on the left. The left side, on the other hand, houses a SIM card tray. Overall build quality is nice and feels sturdy enough. The phone’s display feels huge, especially for one hand usage.
Still, Zenfone 5Z misses the wow factor that people usually look forward to in any flagship smartphone these days. For example, Vivo X21 features this in-display fingerprint reader on the front, Honor 10 has this exciting colour combination. Meanwhile, Asus Zenfone 5Z flaunts a pretty standard design with an added notch above the display which is more suitable for a mid-range flagship.
Asus Zenfone 5Z lacks IP rating for water and dust resistance. I would suggest you should ideally consider a water-resistant smartphone at this budget. Even premium smartphones like OnePlus 6 are water-resistant, though the IP rating is not specified in its case.
Asus Zenfone 5Z review: ZenUI 5, software, gestures
Asus Zenfone 5Z runs the company’s own ZenUI 5 skin based on Android 8.0 Oreo. I find ZenUI a bit cluttered and confusing. The UI includes its own launcher, themes and a security suite called ZenUI Safeguard. The device also bundles a number of proprietary apps like ZenMotion, Selfie Master, Game Genie, Mobile Manager and more.
I got a 6GB RAM / 64GB storage variant to review. Upon setting up the device, 50GB of storage was user-available whereas 14GB was already taken up by bundled apps and operating system.
If you want to hide the notch, you can simply go to Settings > Display and toggle the ‘Hide notch’ switch. It will blacken the top bar and will no longer hide the content when using apps like WhatsApp or Instagram. Similarly, you can configure settings related to a Navigation bar and even hide this if you want.
For the display, the phone comes with certain colour modes like Wide colour gamut, Standard and Customized. Additionally, Asus Zenfone 5Z packs a feature called Smart Lock. What it does is keep the device unlocked when it happens to be with you or at trusted places like your home. You can also opt for options like trusted and voice match. It also has a fingerprint gesture like swipe down to pull down the notification tray.
Asus Zenfone 5Z review: Camera, photography, selfie experience
When it comes to camera, well, Zenfone 5Z is not the phone you will call a flagship. It delivers a photography performance, more suitable for a mid-range smartphone. The handset features a 12MP primary sensor paired with an 8MP wide-angle sensor.
In well-lit and natural lighting conditions, colours would come out dull and washed out, and they often miss out on details. I captured a couple of sky shots and in many cases, it failed to recognise a blue sky. It also fails at determining accurate contrast and exposure levels.
More often than not, colours would be a tad too unnatural. I did a side-by-side camera comparison with Vivo X21. Pictures captured using the Zenfone 5Z were too dull and foggy to go on my social media profiles. Pictures captured using Vivo X21, on the other hand, had punchy colours and accurate contrast to offer. But to my surprise, low light photos captured using the Zenfone 5Z had more vibrant colours an details than Vivo X21. It has a wide-angle camera resulting in a greater dynamic range of luminosity.
Also Read: OnePlus 6 Review
If you enable HDR while clicking pictures in natural lighting conditions, you will see a dramatic effect applied to those pictures. Colours get bright and vibrant with HDR, but in low light, this is not up to the expectations. This phone is capable of clicking some good portrait shots with accurate bokeh effect. During portrait shots, the bokeh effect sometimes goes out of focus, which is something Asus should fix by rolling out a software update.
Selfie experience was fairly up to the mark and it seems to have enough potential to stand out. It sports an 8MP camera on the front for selfies and video calls. Although selfies come out overexposed, they manage to retain details to a great extent.
Asus Zenfone 5Z camera samples
Asus Zenfone 5Z review: AnTuTu, Geekbench, FutureMark benchmark tests
While performing benchmark tests, the company’s Power Master app was adamant enough about sending notifications, asking me to turn on something called AI boost mode to “get the best experience and benchmark scores.” But for some weird reasons, the notifications kept coming repeatedly even after I preferred not to turn AI boost mode on during the tests.
But, the phone’s AnTuTu score without having AI boost mode enabled was better compared to the one after turning it on (263380 with AI boost mode enabled as compared to 267907 without AI boost mode enabled). The device recorded an AnTuTu score of 267907 during the first attempt, which is better than OnePlus 6 and Samsung Galaxy S9+.
I performed a Geekbench CPU test thrice, and after each attempt, the numbers went significantly down. The scores stood at 2459 single-core and 8780 multi-core with AI boost mode enabled as compared to 2467 single-core and 9050 multi-core without AI boost mode enabled. See the screenshots below of three different tests for Antutu and GeekBench.
Asus Zenfone 5Z review: Multitasking, gaming, audio performance
Benchmark results do not necessarily show the actual performance and processing capabilities of a device. Running over 10 tabs on Google Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft Edge web browsers was easy, and the phone faced no lag or stutters switching between the tabs. Thanks to 6GB of RAM onboard, multitasking was absolutely fine.
I had over 30 apps running in the background including YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, Hotstar etc. Resource-intensive games like PUBG, Asphalt 8, Dead Trigger 2 and Modern Combat 5. During the continuous gameplay for about half an hour, I did not face any kind of lag.
But the device heats up pretty much quickly. I noticed while performing benchmark tests and playing games, it easily reached 42-degree Celsius. At once instance, the device got unbearably hot at 46-degree Celcius, which is the maximum temperature I have recorded on this.
Also Read: Vivo X21 Review
Asus Zenfone 5Z features a bottom-firing speaker, while on the front, an earpiece grille also acts like the one, resulting in loud audio experience. Hence, the music-listening experience was fairly up to the mark. Fingerprint reader did not perform well during my usage. Despite numerous attempts, it did not unlock the phone after setting up fingerprint unlock for the first time.
Once I added the second fingerprint, it slowly started to respond, but overall, the performance was pretty much inconsistent. Face unlock feature, on the other hand, performed really well in almost all lighting conditions. Asus claims that turning AI boost mode on optimises system performance and enhances the overall experience while playing games and running resource-intensive apps. But I didn’t observe any drastic improvements, though. The performance was just as good.
Asus Zenfone 5Z review: Battery
Asus Zefone 5Z packs a 3,300mAh battery under the hood. Thanks to fast charging support, Asus Zenfone 5Z has to charge the battery from 5 per cent to 100 per cent in 1 hour 5 minutes, which is impressive. If your usage is moderate, it should last easily one full-day. During my moderate to heavy usage though, Asus Zenfone 5Z managed to deliver a battery backup close to 16 hours. I also performed PCMark battery life tests, which delivered a score of 8 hours, which is not bad as such.
I play PUBG a lot which is a graphics-intensive online multiplayer game. The handset managed to last somewhere around 3 hours 20 minutes with continuous PUBG gameplay. Meaning, you can easily play 6-7 rounds with a duration of 30 minutes each.
Asus Zenfone 5Z review: Verdict
At a starting price of Rs 29,999 with 6GB RAM and 64GB expandable storage, Asus Zenfone 5Z is one of the viable alternatives for OnePlus 6. It also happens to be the most affordable Snapdragon 845 phone currently available in India. The performance is great, and the phone sports a premium design.
But like any other phone, the Zenfone 5Z has certain deficiencies to bear such as no IP rating for dust and water resistance, the fingerprint scanner needs improvement, and the phone does heat up. Finally about, the camera though, Asus could have done a better job.