ASUS ZenFone 5 (ZE620KL) Review
Four years ago, ASUS launched the original ZenFone 5, a phone that helped the company position itself in the smartphone market by providing capable specs at a low price. In succeeding generations, however, ASUS has not been consistent in that regard, and have lost their momentum. Wanting to get back on track, the company recently launched the new ZenFone 5 series, and representing the mid-range segment is the ASUS ZenFone 5 (ZE620KL). Find out what this “intelligent phone” can do in our full review.
Design and Construction
The company has been known to create elegant flagship smartphones since the introduction of the Zenfone 3, and the Zenfone 5 continues that trend. The very first thing you’ll notice when you lay your eyes upon the Zenfone 5 for the first time, is its uncanny resemblance to the iPhone X. Like Apple’s anniversary device, ASUS’ latest also has that weird looking top notch, although it does fit well with the device’s overall look and design.
Despite the uncanny similarity with the iPhone X, the Zenfone 5 is still able to distinguish itself thanks to the signature ASUS Zen Circle design under the glass back panel.
Up front, we have the 6.2-inch 19:9 aspect ratio FHD+ (2246 x 1080) display protected by 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass and the top notch that houses the 8MP f/2.0 front camera, speakerphone, notification LED, and sensors.
On the left, we have the hybrid SIM tray slot, and on the right are the power/lock button and volume rocker.
The top has the secondary microphone, while down at the bottom are the USB Type-C port, loudspeaker, main microphone, and a 3.5mm audio port.
Found at the back are the protruding dual-rear cameras, LED flash, and fingerprint scanner.
The Zenfone 5 is a thin, light, and sleek looking device. It’s easy to hold thanks to its curved edges and nicely sized frame. Speaking of the frame, we have to give props to ASUS for cramming in a 6.2-inch screen in a much smaller body. Apart from that, the phone feels solid, well-made, and exudes an elegant and premium aura.
The only complaint that we have is that it’s a smudge magnet, which is common in glass-clad devices. But you can easily remedy that by putting on a case, which there is one included in the package.
Display and Multimedia
ASUS equipped the Zenfone 5 with a 6.2-inch 19:9 FHD+ IPS display that has a pixel density of 402ppi. Resolution is good for its size and has good color reproduction, accuracy, and viewing angles. By default, the ZenFone 5 uses the ‘Wide color gamut’ color mode which enhances color, though we often find to be too artificial-looking. You can set it to ‘Standard’ or customize it tot your liking. It also has an AI-assisted auto color temperature feature, which adjusts to certain tasks or ambient lighting.
When watching videos or playing games, the ZenFone 5 doesn’t like the frame past the notch area. Instead, you get a straight border at the bottom of the notch, essentially emulating an 18:9 screen, which is not really a downer. Overall, it’s a pleasant screen to look at and provides the user with a good viewing and gaming experience.
Audio-wise, we get a pretty loud dual speaker setup that maintains clarity at max volumes. Mids and highs are good, but lows are somewhat lacking. Still, it’s an impressive speaker setup that manages to be even louder than the Google Pixel 2, which also has dual front-facing speakers, and even more so when compared to phones with a single-speaker setup. It will be more than enough for gaming, casually watching videos, or listening to music.
The Zenfone 5 is equipped with dual 12MP + 8MP rear cameras and an 8MP front camera. The second rear camera serves as a wide-angle shooter with a 120-degree field of view, while the main rear camera is equipped with a Sony IMX363 sensor with an aperture of f/1.8. The front is your standard 8MP shooter with an f/2.0 aperture. To stay true to their “Intelligent phone” claim, ASUS equipped the Zenfone 5 with AI photography.
Basically, the phone’s cameras have AI Scene Detection, AI photo learning, real-time portrait mode, and real-time beautification. As for features, the rear cameras have Beauty, Depth Effect, Super-Resolution, Panorama, Time-Lapse, Auto, Pro, GIF animation, Slow Motion, and a set of filters. The front camera, on the other hand, has fewer options, namely Beauty, GIF animation, Auto, Selfie Panorama, and a set of filters.
The main 12MP shooter is quite the performer. Shots taken with it have great detail, color reproduction, accuracy, and sharpness. Automatic exposure also adjusts itself very well. Low-light performance is also commendable, as it was able to brighten up the scene and keep shakes to a minimum thanks to 4-axis image stabilization. The same cannot be said for the 8MP wide-angle shooter, as shots, while still good in detail, are quite noisy, even in well-lit conditions. Colors are also not as punchy.
Main camera shots:
Secondary camera shots:
As for the front camera, it’s a decent performer. Selfies have good detail and beautification provides just the right amount of adjustment. Manually maxing out the beauty options makes changes look eerily artificial, though still at acceptable levels. Users may want to take advantage of the SelfieMaster app to get access to BeautyLive and ZeniMoji.
When it comes to video, the ZenFone 5’s main camera can shoot at up to 4K at 30fps. Quality is sharp with accurate colors and good contrast. Camera shake is evident, though to a lesser degree thanks to the 3-axis stabilization. The secondary camera, on the other hand, can only record up to 2160 x 1080 resolution at 30fps. Overall quality is workable, but shots are quite noisy, giving a more dirty look.
Main camera sample video:
Secondary wide-angle camera sample video:
OS, UI, Apps
Handling the software department is ASUS ZenUI 5.0 on top of Android 8.0 Oreo. The UI uses a combination of multiple home screens and a drawer (accessible by swiping up) to organize your apps.
The areas of the screen on either side of the notch are reserved for displaying network status, the clock, and battery levels. Tapping on it reveals a thin bar underneath, which gives you an icon-based overview of your notifications. Swiping down will reveal the shortcut keys and a full view of your notifications.
The ZenFone 5 comes loaded with features:
* Page Marker – a Chrome-friendly tool that allows you to download complete web pages and read them later anytime.
* Twin Apps – allows you to have two accounts for one app like Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and YouTube.
* Game Genie – helps you stream your mobile gaming to your YouTube or Twitch account.
* ZeniMoji – lets you use an animated character to replace your face during a video recording or video call.
* ZenUI SafeGuard – lets you quickly make an SOS call or SMS during emergencies, or report your location.
* OptiFlex – makes apps launch faster.
* Kids Mode
* Easy Mode
* Fingerprint Gesture
* ZenMotion – gesture-based commands
Pre-installed apps are present but kept to a minimum which is one of the best things to happen with ZenUI 5, as previous iterations were notorious for being riddled with bloatware. Most of them are from Google, with only a few from ASUS, like Mobile Manager, Selfie Master, and Themes. All in all, you’re getting 52GB of usable space out of the 64GB, which you can expand via microSD card or USB OTG.
Performance and Benchmarks
Powering the Zenfone 5 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 octa-core chipset, Adreno 509 GPU, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage. It can breeze through mundane tasks such as browsing, watching videos, and messaging. Both biometric security features in the fingerprint scanner and face unlock, are fast and responsive. Multitasking is also not a problem thanks to the hefty 4GB of RAM. Gaming is not an issue either, as the phone can run Tekken and PUBG Mobile with high graphics settings while still maintaining a high frame rate. Warming can be felt at the upper rear part of the phone during gaming sessions, but it doesn’t get hot enough to cause discomfort.
The ZenFone 5 also has a feature called AI Boost which you can activate or deactivate via the quick shortcut menu where the WiFi and Bluetooth toggles are found. With AI Boost, the phone allocates its resources towards better performance, which is great for gaming. Using the feature during our AnTuTu benchmark run, and the ZenFone 5 scored around 12K points more than with it off. Do note though that this feature will drain your battery faster, so don’t forget to switch it off when not necessary.
* AnTuTu – 136,645 (w/ AI Boost), 124,293 (w/o AI Boost)
* Geekbench – 1,326 (Single-Core), 4,893 (Multi-Core), 5,007 (RenderScript)
* 3DMark – 949 (SSE – OpenGL ES 3.1), 760 (SSE – Vulkan)
* PCMark – 5,749 (Work 2.0), 6,389 (Work 1.0)
* AndroBench – 281.08 MB/s (Read), 203.73 MB/s (Write)
Connectivity and Battery
For a mid-range smartphone, the ZenFone 5 packs solid connectivity features, which includes 4G LTE, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, and GPS. Call quality is good thanks to noise canceling, while mobile data is fast as long as the area has a good signal. GPS also works as advertised and never had an issue with apps like Google Maps, Grab, and Waze.
The ZenFone 5 is equipped with a 3,300mAh battery which is a decent capacity for a mid-ranger. So far we’re getting a solid 10 hours of use when mostly connected to WiFi with heavy social media use, moderate photography, and light gaming. The PC Mark battery test rates it at 12 hours and 9 minutes, while our video loop test yielded 12 hours of playback, which is good.
Users can further extend their battery life by using PowerMaster, which can manage auto-starting apps, provides you with battery-saving options, as well as four battery modes. When it comes to charging, it takes around 2 hours and utilizes a feature called Smart Charging which activates fast charging during the day or while in use, but at night time, it slows it down for overnight charging.
The ASUS ZenFone series first earned its reputation by having phones with good specs at reasonable price tags. The ZenFone 5 (ZE620KL) is certainly one of those devices. For under Php20K, it offers a large high-resolution display, powerful Snapdragon 636 chipset, 4GB of RAM, good dual-rear cameras, and Android Oreo out of the box. The company may have flopped with the ZenFone 4, but with the ZenFone 5, it looks like they’re getting back on track.
ASUS ZenFone 5 (ZE620KL) specs:
6.2-inch FHD+ (2246 x 1080) IPS 19:9 display, 402ppi
2.5D Gorilla Glass
Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 1.8GHz octa-core processor (w/ multi-core AI)
Adreno 509 GPU
64GB internal storage
microSD up to 2TB (uses SIM 2 slot)
12MP Sony IMX363 1.4um, 1/2.55″, f/1.8 Night HDR, OIS/EIS, PDAF main camera
8MP 120-degrees wide-angle secondary camera, LED flash
4K video recording (RAW file support)
8MP f/2.0 front camera
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
Dual speakers with Smart Amp Audio Wizard
Android 8.0 Oreo with Zen UI 5.0
3,300mAh battery with BoostMaster & Smart Charging
153 x 75.7 x 7.9 mm
What we liked:
* Good design
* Large high-resolution display
* Good cameras
* Good performance
* Android Oreo out of the box
* Above average battery life
What we didn’t:
* Mediocre performance from the secondary camera
* No dedicated microSD card slot