Asus Zenfone C Review
Is it worthy to be the Zenfone’s entry-level successor? The Asus Zenfone C, first unveiled in Malaysia in January, is set to follow the Asus Zenfone 4 in being the Taiwanese tech giant’s budget smartphone king. Is it something worth considering? Read on to find out.
Asus is no stranger to creating bang-for-the-buck smartphones. We’ve seen how they shook the local market with the release of the Zenfone 4, 5 and 6 last year, and the company is poised to take it once again with the new Zenfone 2, officially arriving this May. The Zenfone C is also set to take on the entry-level slot as the Taiwanese company embarks to release the device real soon.
(If you’ve read our First Impressions a few weeks back, you may skip the Design and Construction part and head over to Display and Multimedia.)
Design and Construction
The unit we received for review does not come with any accessories. The device also has a huge sticker at the back bearing its controls, as it is said to have come from their main headquarters.
To give you a quick roundup, it has unlit capacitive keys printed in a metallic silver finish on the front, and the textured metallic power and volume buttons are found at the right side with corresponding symbols engraved beside them. On top lies the 3.5mm socket for audio equipment. Down under the device are the microphone and the microUSB port.
Flip the device over and we’ve got the 5MP rear camera at the top-center, accompanied by an LED flash just underneath. The long speaker grills are seen at the bottom part. The polycarbonate back shell in a white matte finish looks respectable, but is susceptible to fingerprints and smudges. Inside the shell are the removable 2,100mAh battery and slots for two SIM cards and a microSD card.
The Zenfone C looks pretty much like any other Zenfone out in the market right now. It looks solid and feels great to hold. Despite its chunky appearance, it provides a comfortable grip, thanks to its arched back, and the lifted chin that can be useful when using in landscape mode.
It doesn’t really look that distinguishable from its siblings, as it sports the same design language seen on most Zenfones like the trademark concentric rings design at the bottom which catches light no matter which way you position it. Its bezels are thick for today’s standards, but is something that can be ignored given its budget price point.
Overall, the device exudes a great build, something amiss from most budget smartphones where construction and design are compromised to create cheaper devices.
Display and Multimedia
The display of this entry-level Asus smartphone seems to be underwhelming. The Zenfone C utilizes a 4.5-inch IPS LCD display with a 854 x 480 resolution at 218ppi with support of up to five multitouch points. While the phone offers good contrast, the colors are dull and the whites offer a warm-like tint. It’s pretty legible when used outdoors, and that’s with the brightness setting turned to maximum.
The display also has some gripes to boot. The main screen is glued away from the outer glass cover, so you may notice a small gap when you view your device sideways. The crispiness of the images are not as good as other Zenfones, and its viewing angles are limited especially when viewed from the top and bottom when in portrait mode.
Multimedia playback is good with the Zenfone C. The stock video player stuttered when we played a video the first time, but was able to play all of them smoothly afterwards.
Similar to Asus smartphones we’ve reviewed in the past, the speaker grill is quite deceiving as the speaker only represents a smaller fraction of its length when the back plate has been removed. Nevertheless, it is able to produce decent sound quality and its loudness can fill up a small, quiet room.
OS, UI and Apps
ZenUI, the interface skin Asus has put over Android 4.4 Kitkat, has been a joy to use. It’s user-friendly as the controls and toggles offer simplicity and intuition. It also has an Easy mode to boot, which aims to present a more straightforward menu with bigger icons and more straightforward controls that can be useful for the elderly.
Asus also installed a ton of additional apps in the device. Aside from the plethora of Google’s suite of apps, there’s Zinio, Amazon’s Kindle, an app link to over 50+ games, and Clean Master. There are also a ton of Asus apps installed on the device.
These apps are uninstallable, but can be disabled. Clean Master also offers redundancy, as the ZenUI has a built-in boost on its toggles section. That leaves around 3.7GB of free space for other apps you might want to install.
Like other Zenfones, The Zenfone C’s camera software is something not to be underestimated. Despite the budget-level premise, the software allows the user to capture photos on different modes. Time Rewind, Tilt-Shift, Macro, and the 2-megapixel low-light mode are some of the modes worth using.
The photos, however, tell a different story. The photos are somewhat dull and grainy, and even got worse when we tried on some of the modes available. Even when resized, the grains are still prominent. Here are some sample photos taken using the smartphone:
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The device can take Full HD videos at 28 frames per second. Like how photos were, the video colors are dull and seem unrealistic at times. It doesn’t look like it’s HD at all. Here’s a sample clip:
Performance and Benchmarks
As for its performance, the system seemed to be fluid, except in instances when hardware-intensive apps are being ran on the device. As such, the Zenfone C suffered moderate lags from graphic-heavy games such as Hungry Shark Evolution, Eternity Warriors 3, and Smash Hit. We tested the device on various benchmark tests, and here are the scores we got:
3DMark — 2,856 (Ice Storm Extreme)
AnTuTu — 18,775
Nenamark 2 — 58.7fps
Quadrant Standard — 7,145
Vellamo — 1342 (Chrome), 851 (Multicore), 589 (Metal)
Connectivity and Call Quality
Connectivity isn’t an issue with the Zenfone C. We used it to connect to a bunch of our own networks and mobile data services, and we can say that it worked well. Other wireless functions such as Bluetooth worked fine as well. The phone was able to capture HSPA and HSPA+ mobile signals easily.
Call quality is acceptable on the smartphone too. The receiving speakers were able to transmit well-reproduced sounds. There are a few background noises, and the voice was synthesized to the point that it sounded robotic a few times, nevertheless it’s still audible enough to be understood by the other party.
The battery life can be seen as average, at the very least. While it still manages to last up to a full day of moderate activities of calls, texts, and WiFi browsing, our standard battery tests pits the device at almost six hours — that’s with a 1080p video looped on MXPlayer’s H/W video decoding with the device at Airplane Mode, GPS turned OFF, and 50% display brightness and volume with headphones plugged in.
The Zenfone C is a decent entry-level smartphone with an adequate performance. Marking itself as one of the most affordable Intel-equipped smartphones in the market today, its lauded design and build also seen on its other siblings, the increased screen size and battery capacity, and the software skin that is of the ZenUI are some of its great points not to be missed out.
The device, however, offers something very minimal of an upgrade if we’re looking at the budget device it will succeed. Not to mention the unlit capacitive keys, the sub-par camera, and the app bloatware that rendered a smaller usable internal storage space. With almost the same internals under the hood at sub-Php5k range, the price increase from the Zenfone 4 could be justifiable if we’re talking of an additional screen space and battery capacity.
ASUS ZenFone C specs:
4.5- inch IPS LCD with Oleophobic Coating, 800 x 480 @218ppi
Intel Atom Z2520 1.2GHz dual-core processor with HyperThreading Technology
PowerVR SGX 544 MP2
8GB internal storage
expandable up to 64GB via microSD
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
5MP rear camera
VGA front-facing camera
Android 4.4 KitKat
136.5 x 67 x 10.9 mm, 149g
Colors: Black, Red and White
What we liked about it:
*Great build and design
*Screen is legible and visible outdoors
*Offers a bigger display and battery capacity than ZenFone 4
What we didn’t like:
*Display doesn’t appear to be good when viewed on some angles
*No backlight on capacitive keys