ASUS ZenFone 5Z Review
ASUS won back the crowd with their revitalized ZenFone 5 series, starting with the mid-range ZenFone 5Q and titular ZenFone 5. Now, we’re taking a look at the real star of the show, the ZenFone 5Z. Is it just the ZF5 on steroids or is it more than that? Let’s find out in our full review!
Design and Construction
The ZenFone 5Z looks like, in every way, the ZenFone 5 — down to its front notch up to its glossy glass back. That’s not a bad thing at all as the looks of its siblings are not too shabby and actually quite elegant. The back panel has that signature Zen Circle touch which adds a lot of flair especially when reflecting light.
Port placement is also the same, we have the volume rockers and power button on the right side and the sim tray slot on the left. The buttons are clicky, tactile, and provide good feedback.
The rest of the squad, which are the audio port, USB Type-C port, and loudspeaker, are found lined up down below.
The 5Z is relatively thin and light and is easy to hold with one hand. The only concern we had was that the glass back panel is really slippery and a smudge-magnet so we recommend getting using the silicon case that came in the box.
Likewise, the protruding rear camera module makes it difficult for the device to lay flat on a surface and tends to wobble a bit. Not a big issue really but it’s an engineering challenge for many device manufacturers actually.
Display and Multimedia
The phone comes with a large 6.2-inch Full HD+ (2246 x 1080) IPS display in an unusual 18.7:9 aspect ratio. It’s a weird aspect ratio but that provides the display with a generous 90% screen-to-body ratio and a pixel density of 402. In addition, the quality of the display is impressive; the colors are punchy and accurate, while details and viewing angles are great. The brightness is high enough for outdoor use and low enough for comfortable nighttime reading.
Surprisingly, the ZenFone 5Z is actually equipped with dual speakers. It’s not your usual composition as the phone uses its speakerphone (the one on the notch) as a secondary speaker. The secondary replacement is not a full blown speaker though and is only there to compliment the main one on the bottom. It can get pretty loud while maintaining clarity at max volume.
Listening to music and watching movies was an enjoyable experience as mids and highs were on point and lows are actually present and can be felt. Of course, it’s not near a dedicated speaker with a subwoofer but it can be used to fill a small room with jams.
The ZenFone 5Z houses the same camera set-up as the ZenFone 5 — a dual 12MP (f/1.8 aperture with EIS and OIS) + 8MP (wide-angle) rear and a single 8MP front. ASUS’ “Intelligent Phone” philosophy carries over to the 5Z, which means it’s equipped with AI photography. We get all the same AI gizmo we had with the 5 such as AI Scene Detection, AI photo learning, real-time portrait mode, and real-time beautification.
For the rest of the 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.
Main Camera shots (some shots taken with the ZenFone 5):
Having the exact same sensors and setup that the 5 has, we expected the 5Z to have the same performance. In fact, it did as shots, like with the 5, had great detail, color reproduction, accuracy, and sharpness. Even low-light performance is impressive as shots remained bright and with good detail. Of course, by having the same setup the 5Z also took the downsides of the 5’s camera, which is its 8MP secondary wide-angle shooter. Shots taken by the secondary, while still good in detail, are quite noisy and have dull colors.
Secondary Camera shots (some shots taken with the ZenFone 5):
The front camera is a decent performer. Selfies have good sharpness and clarity and capture facial details well. Beautifications provide just the right amount of adjustment although maxing them out will make changes look eerily artificial. Either way, it’s more than enough for social media uploads and creative selfies.
When it comes to video, the ZenFone 5Z’s main camera, like the 5, can shoot at up to 4K at 30fps. Quality is sharp with accurate colors and good contrast. Thanks to the 3-axis stabilization camera shakes are less frequent but they are evident. The secondary camera, on the other hand, can only record up to 2160 x 1080 resolution at 30fps. Overall quality is not bad, but shots are a bit noisy and muddy.
(Note: Video samples were taken with the ZenFone 5, which has the exact same camera)
OS, UI and Apps
Running the software department is ASUS’ ZenUI 5.0 on top of Android 8.0 Oreo. The UI is actually really clean and is almost stock android thanks to the minimal pre-installed apps. This includes Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and a few homebrews by ASUS.
Tapping on the notification bar will reveal an icon-based overview of your app notifications. Swiping down will open up the full notification view and the shortcut keys. Like the ZenFone 5, the ZenFone 5Z 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
Other pre-installed apps include Google’s standard set, add those up with the aforementioned apps and the system storage and you’re left with about 114GB of usable space. A huge chunk from the initial 128GB but still plentiful.
Performance and Benchmarks
This is where things take a turn for the ZenFone 5Z. Unlike its sibling the ZenFone 5, the 5Z comes equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 chipset and 6GB of RAM. It’s a huge jump in performance as it handled all tasks we threw at it, no matter how graphics-heavy or intensive.
Even gaming is a buttery smooth experience as heavy titles like Tekken 7, PUBG Mobile, and Asphalt 8: Airborne run like a charm with no noticeable stutters or lags even at max settings. Truth be told, the 5Z scored almost double in all our synthetic benchmarks compared to its sibling.
AI Boost is still present here, which allows the phone to allocate its resources to performance. Like what happened with the 5, the 5Z received a significant boost in performance while the feature was turned on. Again, while AI Boost gives off a big jump in performance it also drains battery faster.
- AnTuTu (v7) — 264,205 (w/o AI Boost), 270,034 (w/ AI Boost)
- Geekbench — 2,437 (Single Core), 8,670 (Multi-Core)
- 3DMark — 4,671 (SSE – OpenGL ES 3.1), 3,776 (SSE – Vulkan)
- PCMark — 8,117 (Work 2.0)
- AndroBench — 696.79 MB/s (Read), 204.1 MB/s (Write)
Call Quality, Connectivity, and Battery
The ZenFone 5Z packs a good set of connectivity features which includes 4G LTE, WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS, and OTG. Call quality is clear and good and GPS works perfectly for apps like Waze, Maps, and Grab. Signal reception was also good when we were in serviceable areas.
The ZenFone 5Z carries over the 5’s 3,300mAh battery, which is kind of low especially with the added weight of the SD845. Surprisingly though, even with the added power and maintained capacity, the device lasts about a day to a day and a half on light to moderate usage. Heavier usage, like gaming on WiFi, brings down batt life to about a day to half a day, which is still not bad. During our standard video loop test, the phone lasted a good 15 Hours and 22 Minutes, which is actually good.
The 5Z also comes with the PowerMaster feature, which can manage auto-starting apps and provide a wide range of battery-saving options. Either way, charging the device is not a problem as it takes only about 53 Minutes for the battery to go from 20%-80%, an impressively quick charging time. We still have Smart Charging here, which activates fast charging during the day or while in use, but at night time, it slows it down for overnight charging.
So is the ZenFone 5Z just the 5 on steroids? The answer is obvious. Almost all of the features of the 5Z are taken from its mid-range sibling, from software to design. While that’s not at all bad since the ZenFone 5 is a commendable device, we expected a little bit more for the added price.
Don’t get us wrong, we are pleased with the huge bump in performance brought about by the Qualcomm SD845 and even the improved battery life.
It’s just that we felt like ASUS missed the opportunity to add in a little bit more to their star of 2018. This also begs the question of, if the ZenFone 5 already has all that the 5Z can offer then why move up?
Sure the 5Z is powerful, but if you’re a user just wanting to experience all that the ZenFone 5 series has to offer, then the mid-range ZenFone 5 is more than enough. Then again, if you do want to have a little more oomph along with all the goodies of the series the ZenFone 5Z is still a good choice plus its one of those SD845 devices under Php30k.
Perhaps, this is is more about the timing of the release than the actual unit itself. From the get-go, a sub-Php30k smartphone running SD845 is a rarity these days. If the 5Z were released ahead of the 5, then that would make the Zenfone 5Z stand-out better against other flagship counterparts and also push the value of the much more affordable Zenfone 5.
The ZenFone 5Z is now available in ASUS concept stores and authorized retailers nationwide for Php 29,995.
ZenFone 5Z specifications
- 6.2-inch FHD+ 18.7:9 display @ 1080 x 2246 resolution, 90% screen to body ratio
2.5D Gorilla Glass
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 2.8GHz Octa-core processor
- Adreno 630 GPU
- 6GB RAM
- 128GB/256GB internal storage
- 12MP Sony IMX363 1.4um, 1/2.55” w/ f/1.8 Night HDR, OIS/EIS, PDAF main
- 8MP 120-degrees wide-angle secondary
- 4K video recording (RAW file support)
- 8MP f/2.0 front camera
- Dual 4G LTE
- WiFi 2×2 802.11ac
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Dual speakers with Smart Amp
- Fingerprint Scanner
- Face Recognition
- Android 8 Oreo with Zen UI 5.0
- 3,300mAh battery with BoostMaster & Smart Charging S
What we liked:
- Impressive performance
- Commendable battery life
- A good set of cameras
- Clean and sleek UI
- Elegant design
- Acceptable price
What we didn’t like:
- Smudge magnet and slippery glass back panel
- Mediocre wide-angle secondary cameras
- No noticeable big change from ZenFone 5