Asus ZenFone 2 ZE500CL Review
Last time around you saw our full review of the Asus Zenfone 2 (ZE550ML). This time, it’s the ZE550ML’s little brother’s turn on the spotlight as we take a closer look at the Asus Zenfone 2 ZE500CL.
When Asus originally announced the Zenfone 2, they inconspicuously added the ZE500CL to the line up. In fact, we only learned of the ZE500CL much later when Asus announced it in Taiwan last March.
Design and Construction
Despite the difference in feature set, the ZE500CL features the same design as the ZE550ML that we featured earlier.
The ZE500CL is, however, shorter than the ZE550ML since it only has a 5-inch display compared to the 5.5-inch panel found on the latter. The smaller screen also favors the ZE500CL in terms of pixel density as it resulted in to a higher pixel-per-inch of 294.
Just below the screen are three capacitive buttons for Back, Home and Menu. It should be a welcome addition to the handset’s feature set, particularly for those who are accustomed to getting their way around on their Android devices using these buttons. On the other hand, it may look a bit outdated to some especially since some newer Android smartphone gets away with just on-screen buttons thanks to Android Lollipop. Oh and these buttons doesn’t light up, in case you’re wondering.
The bezel around the ZE500CL’s screen looks acceptable even at close quarters, though it’s not as spectacular as the ones on other note-worthy handsets. Placed at the top is the smartphone’s earpiece with the company’s logo just below it and are neighbored by the ZE500CL’s 2-megapixel front shooter and a tiny LED for notification.
The only other thing in the front panel that’s worth writing home about is the company’s signature embellishment on the chin of the device – a piece of metal with circular pattern that adds a hint of flavor to the handset’s design, especially when a light hits it.
Some of the external components are around the edges of the ZE500CL. These include the Power button and audio jack at the top, as well as the MicroUSB port at the bottom neighbored by microphone pinhole.
Similar to the ZE550ML, this 5-inch ZenFone 2 sports a curved back panel and a removable back cover with a soft matte finish. Needless to say, this combination, along with the right amount of heft, makes for a very good handling experience as it sits nicely in to the users hand and the soft matte cover provides enough traction to prevent the phone from slipping.
The curved form factor also creates an illusion that the ZE500CL is thinner than what its specs sheet suggests. It also makes it easier to pick up the phone when it’s lying on its back.
Prying the removable back cover open reveals a somewhat similar layout to the ZE550ML but with slight variations. The handset’s 8MP rear camera is smacked right in the middle with the accompanying LED flash unit placed on the right side instead of dual-tone flash located at the top on the ZE550ML. Also present here is the ZenFone 2’s iconic volume rocker with the same circular finish as the handset’s chin.
The ZE500CL’s 2500mAh battery is tucked underneath the SIM and MicroSD card slots. Do note that, unlike the ZE550ML, this 5-inch ZenFone 2 only accommodates one MicroSIM card instead of two, though you’ll still get LTE connectivity.
Display and Multimedia
Unlike its siblings, the ZE500CL comes with an IPS display that only measures 5-inch diagonally. It’s not a bad thing per se, on the contrary, this model should get a well-deserved nod from folks who find anything larger than 5-inch too cumbersome to use.
Another thing that’s going for the ZE500CL’s way, as far as its display goes, is that it requires lesser pixels to provide users with near-“Retina” viewing experience. This also means that its display will take lesser toll on the handset’s battery which, theoretically, equates to longer battery life.
When used indoors, the ZE500CL’s screen worked like a charm, producing vivid colors, great viewing angles and comfortable brightness even at its lowest settings. Couple that with a loudspeaker that can produce respectable sound output (but not a lot of bass) and you got yourself a neat device for your media consumption needs.
Sadly, like the ZE550ML, the ZenFone 2 ZE500CL’s screen is also reflective which is susceptible to poor outdoor legibility despite cranking the brightness to its full capacity.
OS, UI, and Apps
Folks who are very particular with their device’s OS should be glad to know that the ZE500CL runs on Android version 5.0, also known as Lollipop. It’s not evident at first because of the customizations that Asus has done on the interface, but for the most part, it doesn’t stray too far away from the stock Android experience, and most of the important components of Android Lollipop remain untouched.
Apart from the obvious visual customizations, Asus has also added a ton of neat tricks on the Zen UI which folks can use to further customize the interface to their liking. Changing the icon or the scroll animation, even altering the color temperature of the display, are just some of the many customizations that are available at your disposal.
This ZenFone 2 ZE500CL that we got last week comes with a ton of pre-installed apps that easily filled up the handset’s 16GB internal storage (11.12GB usable).
We don’t expect the local version of this handset to have this much junk in it, but this should serve as a fair warning to those who will be getting grey units.
Like in the processing department, the ZE500CL didn’t see any improvement on its rear camera from the ZenFone 5, at least as far as megapixel count is concerned. However, considering that the ZenFone 5 delivered very respectable pictures, using the same 8-megapixel shooter on the ZE500CL may not be that bad of an idea.
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Overall, the pictures we got out the ZE500CL were pretty decent with nice contrast, acceptable sharpness, and above-average color reproduction. The rear camera’s autofocus and exposure metering systems also gets a thumbs-up from us as they deliver on their respective roles quite well for the most part.
Also present in this device is Asus’ own software-based camera tweaks which can help users turn average pictures in to something that are worth sharing on social media. One of the more note-worthy tweaks is the PixelMaster which allow users to take decent pictures even in low-light scenarios.
For the more advanced users, there are also some nifty tweaks that are buried inside the native camera app’s menus. These added controls will allow users to control various camera presets like ISO, white balance and exposure compensation.
Besides controlling the ISO, all of the aforementioned controls are also available on video mode. Asus has also added a software-based video stabilization feature, although it’s only limited to 720p resolution.
Performance and Benchmarks
It’s quite disappointing that the ZE500CL didn’t really get a huge shot in the arm in the processing department. It has a near-identical feature set as some of the latter models of Zenfone 5 which would make it difficult to convince current users to upgrade to this model.
That notion was validated by the results we got out of the synthetic benchmark tests that we ran on the ZE500CL. This handset only yielded slightly better results on AnTuTu and NenaMark 2, but has seen significant decrease in score on Quadrant Standard.
Along with the aforementioned synthetic benchmark tests, we also ran a few other benchmark tests on the device and here are the results we got:
|Asus Zenfone 2 ZE550ML||Asus Zenfone 2 ZE500CL||Asus Zenfone 5 2.0GHz|
|Vellamo||2,985 (Chrome)||1366 (Chrome)||-|
|1,194 (Metal)||646 (Metal)||-|
|1,357 (Multicore)||938 (Multicore)||-|
|PCMark||8,594 (Ice Storm Unlimited)||3,573 (Ice Storm Unlimited)||-|
Despite the pedestrian benchmark scores, the Intel Z2560 actually performed relatively well in real-world use. We rarely encountered any sluggishness from the ZE500CL and it was able to handle graphics-intensive titles like Asphalt 8 without any issues.
Furthermore, that ZE500CL’s 2GB RAM will come in handy during multitasking and for users who have multiple tabs opened on their browsers.
Connectivity and Call Quality
Unlike the ZE550ML, this 5-inch ZenFone 2 only comes with a single SIM card slot which accepts a MicroSIM card. Despite being a grey unit, the handset picked up LTE signal whenever it’s available on all of the three local LTE-provisioned SIM cards that we’ve tested on it.
The quality of voice calls on this device is nothing short of great. The voices of the people we’ve talked came out crystal clear either through the handset’s earpiece, through its loudspeaker, or through the pre-bundled in-ear headphone.
Battery life was not a strong suit of the ZenFone 5, and Asus is looking to change that by increasing the battery capacity of its spiritual successor, the ZE500CL. With the beefier battery pack, a smaller display (compared to its 5.5-inch cousins) with only 720p resolution, not to mention software-based enhancements, you would assume that it will translate to significantly better mileage-per-charge, right?
Sadly, the answer is no – or at least not as impressive compared to other note-worthy smartphones like the Meizu M1 Note which even has better specs list than this handset.
Battery Test Parameters:
Device State: Airplane Mode, GPS turned OFF
Display Brightness: 50%
Volume: 50% with Earphones plugged in
File Type: mp4
File resolution: 1920 x 800
Media Player: MX Player (Loop One mode)
When we put to its paces using our standard battery test, the ZE500CL’s 2500mAh battery only gave us 7:10 hours of battery life. In retrospect, the ZenFone 5 only managed 5 hours and 10 minutes when we tested it using the same parameters listed above.
And while we’re at it, we’ve also ran PCMark Battery Test on ZE500CL with the aforementioned parameters. The test simulates various tasks like web browsing (pre-loaded, no internet connection required), watching/scanning movies, as well as editing text files and pictures. This variant of the Asus Zenfone 2 lasted for 5 hours and 58 minutes in the said test.
As a matter of comparison, the ZE550ML with its 3,00mAh battery pack got a score of 8 hours and 6 minutes.
As far as design goes, there’s really not much to say about the Asus ZenFone 2 ZE500CL (or any of the other handsets under the ZenFone 2 lineup for that matter) that hasn’t been said on other ZenFones that we’re featured here in the past. We’ve come to expect well-built devices from ASUS, and we’re glad to report that the Taiwanese firm didn’t disappoint on their new smartphones, albeit it’s thicker and heftier than your average smartphone in today’s standards.
What we can’t wrap our heads around, however, is why Asus opted for the same internal configuration as the ZenFone 5 on their new budget handset. And while that doesn’t seem to have any major drawback on the ZE500CL’s performance other than lower benchmark scores, the outdated processor requires too much power to perform even menial tasks which is evident on the two battery tests that we’ve performed on it.
ASUS ZenFone 2 (ZE500CL) specs:
5-inch IPS LCD display, 1280 x 720 @294ppi
1.6GHz Intel Atom Z2560 dual-core processor
PowerVR SGX544MP2 GPU
Expandable 16GB internal storage
64GB via microSD
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP and EDR
8MP Autofocus rear camera w/ LED flash
1080p video recording @30fps
2MP front-facing camera
Android 5.0 Lollipop
148.1 x 71.5 x 10.9mm (dimensions)
155 grams (weight)
Then there’s the price which, as we speak, Asus Philippines has not yet announced. If the words of our various sources are anything go by, then this model of Zenfone 2 is expected to be retailed for Php7,995.
We’re hoping that the SRP of the ZE500CL that was tipped to us changes when Asus Philippines officially announced the Zenfone 2 locally because, quite frankly, we feel that the addition of LTE connectivity and slightly bigger battery pack (which is the only two differences between this Zenfone 2 and the ZenFone 5 that was launched last year) to the ZE500CL’s feature set doesn’t warrant a Php1,500 increase in price.
What we liked about it:
What we didn’t like about it:
Author’s Note: The variant of this ZenFone 2 featured here was purchased from E2 Power Gadgets at SM Cyberzone Megamall for Php10,430.