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Asus ZenFone 5 review: Powered by Intel, but still reasonably priced

Asus has hit the jackpot with the ZenFone 5, a low cost but relatively powerful handset that is excellent value for money

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Asus has never really hit the headlines with its handsets. That might be about to change with the new ZenFone 5 which is an excellent value for money choice.

The ZenFone 5 supports 4G or 3G and comes with either 8GB or 16GB of RAM. The 16GB 4G version will set you back around £210, the 8GB 3G version around £160. Various colour options are around including white, purple, gold, red and black.

This is a large phone, with a 5-inch screen. One of its few let-downs is that the screen resolution is just 1,280 x 720 pixels. These days that counts as average, but in everyday use it is fine with even quite small web site text easy to read.

There are softkeys below the screen rather than being incorporated into it. That means the entire screen area is available to your app, but it does help to make this quite a tall handset in relation to the screen. It is a pity the buttons don’t light up when touched, as they’re difficult to see in darker conditions. Asus has included a designer strip beneath the touch buttons to tie the handset in with its laptops and tablets.

The build is plastic, and the back has a soft touch finish which helps make the handset easy to hold.

The ZenFone 5 runs on Android 4.4.2. It is therefore a little behind the leading edge, but Android 5 (Lollipop) has not rolled out very widely yet.

Asus includes its ZenUI overlay to Android. This provides a huge range of additions and tweaks to native Android, yet Asus has managed to impose it without encroaching too much on internal storage. The 16 GB of RAM in our review sample was reduced to 12.1GB actually accessible to the user.

Nor does the skin seem to cause a slow down to the handset itself. The 2GB of RAM in our review device helped ensure it moved along swiftly enough for our taste, and it helps the dual core Intel Atom Z2560 hum along nicely.

We mentioned that the ZenUI skin adds a lot to Android. These include tweaks to the way the interface works and additional apps. Among the many tweaks is the inclusion of a keyboard with its own number row – and web relevant keys when the browser is open, and a facility in the pull down menu to free up RAM. Called Boost you just tap the icon and it does its stuff.

Among the added apps Remote Link lets you remotely control your PC via Bluetooth. You could use this to run PowerPoint presentations in the workplace. There’s also PC Link which offers screen mirroring to a PC. You could use it to show presentations in a work situation or share photos or videos socially. Other apps include the excellent Asus Splendid for tweaking the screen’s colour depth and SuperNote for keeping track of all your to dos.

The 8 megapixel rear camera produced reasonably high quality shots, and there are plenty of shooting modes. There’s an owl icon you can press to increase ambient light in darker environments as well as two low light settings, a selfie setting (ideal for the front 2 megapixel camera), beautification setting, depth of field setting and more. And you can fiddle with a lot of settings for example using the volume key as either shutter or zoom as you prefer.

Battery life could be better. The battery has relatively low capacity at just 2110mAh, and it shows. Our anecdotal testing suggests you might get through 24 hours from a single charge but you are more likely to need to apply an early evening boost. But that aside the ZenFone 5 is, as we said right at the outset, super value for money.

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Interested in more in-depth phone reviews? If yes, then make sure to check out the new issue of Android Magazine.

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