ASUS Zenfone 5z Review: An excellent attempt to rival OnePlus 6

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An 'Okay' flagship

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review

ASUS Zenfone 5Z is a stunning piece of tech, available in India below 30K price margin. The smartphone carries the topmost hardware with decent software on the board. It is a perfect choice for budget-flagship buyers and a great rival to OnePlus 6. Read the complete review below.

  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery Life
  • Camera
  • Value For Money

Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer ASUS recently announced the company’s latest flagship smartphone in the Zenfone lineup, ASUS Zenfone 5Z. The smartphone comes with the flagship-level hardware specifications onboard, that costs even lesser than the OnePlus 6. The device does not bring any industry breakthrough technology, like Vivo or Samsung smartphones. However, as the company’s tagline says, the ASUS Zenfone 5Z just reinvented the term flagship.

ASUS is no more the old, outdated brand which launches smartphones in certain markets which many among them fail. Probably after a realization about the smartphone market trend, the Taiwanese company does seem to be on the way to a more significant change. There are entire changes in many aspects, from design to the performance. The manufacturer already proved their capability in capturing the market with budget-friendly smartphones with the Zenfone Max Pro M1. The ASUS Zenfone 5Z is no different than the atter, which almost beaten down the flagship killer OnePlus 6 smartphone in India.

About the Review

ASUS Zenfone 5Z released in the country back in early-July. We have been using the smartphone for several weeks, and we are confident that it is the optimal time to review it. We received a Midnight Blue 6GB, 64GB version of ASUS Zenfone 5Z, carrying the model number ASUS Z01RD. The smartphone also comes with a higher variant, having 8GB RAM and 128GB internal storage. Check the full review below.

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Full Specifications

 

 Display6.2 inches, (~90% screen-to-body ratio), FHD+ (1080×2246), 18:7.9 ratio (~402 ppi density), IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors.
ChipsetsQualcomm Snapdragon 845, Octa-core 2.7 GHz Kryo 385 Gold and1.7 GHz Kryo 385 Silver, Adreno 630GPU
 RAM 6GB RAM.
 Storage 64GB internal storage ~ Expandable via microSD slot up to 512GB.
 Rear CameraDual: 12 MP (f/1.8, 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, 4-axis OIS, PDAF) + 8 MP Wide-Angle (f/2.0)
LED flash with a color temperature sensor
 Front Camera8MP, Gyro-EIS
 BatteryNon-removable Li-Po 3300 mAh battery, Quick Charging
 Connectivity Dual SIM (Hybrid), NFC
 SoftwareAndroid 8.0, ZenUI
 PriceRs. 29,999
 ColoursMidnight Blue, Meteor Silver

 

What’s in the box?

The flagship smartphone by the Taiwanese manufacturer comes in a standard rectangular retail box, which is of medium quality. The box is elegant that there is only the device model and iconic Zenfone series logo is added to the front. While opening it, a small box containing some paperwork welcomes you. We pulled it out to see the smartphone just below. The company provides a Quick Charge supported Wall charger, a USB Type-C Cable and a pair of earphones with extra two ear tips. The company also offers a clear rubber case within the box, which is enough to keep your smartphone body away from dust and scratch.

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review Inside the Box
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Design and Build

ASUS follows an uneven design pattern with the latest Zenfone 5 series smartphone. As usual, every device in the same fifth generation of Zenfone lineup looks the same, from ASUS Zenfone 5 to Zenfone 5Z. The rear camera department seems inspired by Apple’s iPhone X, which most of the 2018 Android flagship smartphones follow. Just below to the dual camera, it holds the dual-tone LED flash with a temperature sensor. I would really appreciate ASUS for such a great attempt to mount the camera sensors in a sleek way.

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review Rear Glass
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The rear panel is completely made out of 2.5D curved glass, which houses a metallic glowy finish within. During everyday usage, the back glass panel does not feel much premium or like a higher grade flagship. The glass feels more plastic than the Vivo X21, whereas the OnePlus 6 and Samsung Galaxy S9 has robust glasses. The company only started putting the fingerprint scanner on the rear panel by 2018. Still, they did it well. The conventional scanners perform well and easily accessible. Due to the lightweight materials and quality materials, the smartphone does not feel much heavier than its opponents.

The side frame is of the aircraft-grade aluminum metal, with antenna lines on the top and bottom edges. It is very light weighted and stronger than the conventional aluminum frames. It feels more like carbon fiber while using without a smartphone case.

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review Side Metal Frame
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Coming to the front, we can also see the same 2.5D glass on the top of the display, which is used for the rear panel. The major highlight in the design changelog is the new notch and the narrow bezel. The device has a little beefy notch at the top chin, which only combines the proximity sensor, NFC, speaker, and camera. Other rivals already have shown us the similar setup in a smaller notch. The bezels on both edges, sides of the notch are trimmed out to hairline narrow. The bottom chin is also justifiably narrow. We also noticed a black shadow-like tint around the notch on the display. This somehow blocks a seamless smartphone experience to most of the users.

 

The SIM Card tray is located at the left edge. Zenfone 5Z has a hybrid dual-SIM support. So, you can use a SIM and an SD Card at once or two SIM Cards simultaneously. Also, we can find the major ports (headphone jack, USB Type-C) at the bottom along with the speaker and microphone. The smartphone also has noise reduction and video microphones at the top portion of the device body. Only physical buttons, volume rockers, and power button are located at the right frame. They are not easily clickable, but not some old jammy ones. Even though they are carved out of metal, they do not give out such a premium feel.

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review Side Buttons
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With the glass back panel and no waterproofing mechanism, you will be solely responsible for the complete protection of your smartphone from drops, water, and dust. ASUS Zenfone 5Z is one among the smartphones that need extreme care while using in order to prevent easy damages.

Display

ASUS Zenfone 5Z smartphone comes with a 6.2-inch Full HD+ IPS LCD screen, with an uncommon ratio of 18:7.9. This makes the device even taller than it supposed to be. Also, the thicker notch takes part in the display ratio change. The LCD panel is not so vibrant, and also color levels are not impressive.

Comparing it with the Super AMOLED panels, which most of the smartphones in the same category carry, the smartphone still lags behind in producing true color and saturation. The display got a little temperature by default, which some users find helpful. But, the pure white is not be seen in pure due to the presence of extra temperature on display. Also, the ASUS Zenfone 5Z does not showcase an impressive performance in display backlit brightness. The lowest and highest parameters got a lot more room for improvement. However, the screen is visible in sunlight with full brightness. Also, the adaptive brightness method works perfectly.

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review Front DIsplay Notch White
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Luckily, for those who want to change the display parameters and settings, the company adds an additional display color mode. You can manually change the temperature, saturation, contrast, etc. Also, some preset also available including Normal mode and Wide Color Gamut (WCG). The WCG is the best option to see the images with wide color variance and vibrancy. The images shot with the smartphone is seen in true color through the display is a major highlight.

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review Front Display Brightness
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Concerning the physical characteristics of the display unit, we did not get what we expected. As mentioned above, the notch occupies a larger space and even drops a shadow on the screen around it. It more seems like it is made up. Also, the corners are curved too much. So, when you see apps in full screen or playing games, it is highly likely to miss the pixels on the corners which sometimes may affect the full vision.

Camera

ASUS tried to work well with the camera department this time. It seems they have succeeded to an extent, but not a perfect implementation. The rear camera setup pairs two lenses. One with MP normal vision, whereas the other one has a wide angle lens, housing an 8MP sensor on the board. The front camera sensor is also 8MP with fixed focus.

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review Camera App Macro Focus
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The main camera sensor, which is of 12MP works alone. So, the dual-camera setup does not help in normal photography. The company uses a larger lens with an aperture of f/1.8, which is very lesser than the most other opponent smartphones in the industry today. In normal daylight condition, the camera performs normally. But, the company keeps it under the flagship segment. We could only experience a ‘midrange’ performance from the camera overall.

The lack of aperture width affects the low-light photography and very bright condition. The sensor seems to be struggling to catch up with the environmental light most of the time. Even though the auto exposure and autofocus work fastly, the fixed exposure and white balance create lighting imbalance in most taken pictures. When we compare it with the OnePlus 6 and Vivo NEX, we could not find anything in the main camera that puts it above any of them. Noise levels are obsessively high in the indoor photographs. Taking photos using HDR Mode fixes it to an extent. Color reproduction is impressive in auto mode with a distinctive color balance. The in-built 4-axis OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) is enough to avoid small shakes while capturing pictures.

The Camera App also sports many modes – Auto, Beauty, Pro, Super Resolution, GIF, Panorama (after an OTA update), Slow Motion, and Time Lapse. The Pro mode lets you manually adjust parameters including shutter speed, white balance, exposure, etc. The slow-motion video captures very lesser light, but impressively good videos can be produced with the mode. Lack of sharpness is to be noted too. We can also adjust the slo-mo area in the entire video. The time lapse has an adjustable frame interval, which is very helpful. Portrait photography produces decent images, but the edge correction is not precise. Moreover, there is no option to change the focus after image capture.

The Video shooting mode also has EIS support along with the OIS. You can also turn the EIS mode off. Zenfone 5Z is also capable of shooting videos in 4K resolution. The camera app does not have many options for video shooting mode. So, customizing the video shooting settings is a difficult task. The company is expected to bring the fix to this in the next update.

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review Camera App Wide Angle
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And, here comes the secondary imaging sensor with a wide angle lens. ASUS could be the second most global brand to deploy their flagship smartphone with a Wide Angle lens on the rear after the Korean giant LG. The company has been trying out the secondary color/mono lens along with the previous models. But, the wide angle lens is revolutionary and much helpful than the most hyped 2X Optical Zoom lens. It lets you capture images up to 135 degrees wide on a single shot using the fisheye lens. So, you can even shoot videos which look like it shot on GoPro action camera. However, it is very fun playing with the wide angle lens, compared to the zoom lens. The image resolution is not up to the mark. It is a wide angle lens with No AutoFocus. So, the image quality would be like this.

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review Camera App Front Selfie Camera
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Let us talk about the selfie camera which the ASUS talks often on their smartphones. We can appreciate the image quality and color reproduction on the selfie snapper of ASUS Zenfone 5Z. The selfies are enriched with a much detailed amount of pixels and quality. The grains are found while shooting in low-light, but not blamable. The pictures sometimes get too exposed if the background light is little much intense. Other than this, we can say the smartphone has a decently performing front camera. Checkout the camera samples below.

Software

ASUS Zenfone 5Z is shipped with Android 8.0.0 Oreo Operating System, topping the company’s ZenUI ecosystem. The company already revamped the ZenUI which was blamed due to the usability issue on the previous version. Now, it is not the same old one in the all-new smartphone. You can get the well-optimized, highly customizable environment with new ZenUI. There are inbuilt options available to install themes, customize existing home screen with wallpaper, icon pack, and widgets.

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review ZenUI Customization AndroidHits
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The spaces on both sides of the notch are dedicated to the status bar. The icons are optimized to fit within the small space. Also, a gentle tap on the area expands the status bar with the complete icons. This is a great example of better utilization of the notch on displays. You can also hide notch from settings. The area will be covered by black, but the status icons in white.

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review Status Bar Notification Panel Quick Settings Drawer AndroidHits
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Though we expected a flawless experience from the new ZenUI design, several bugs kept coming up again and again. While triggering the Google Assistant by tap & hold the home button, the home screen icons and widgets came on the top of the Assistant popup. The home screen customization also gets mixed up sometimes. The same will repeat for several following tries. The only solution is to go to app drawer (swipe up) and come back to home screen. The company did not also fix the issue in any further OTA updates, which is disappointing. Also, we experienced some stutter in the device usage after a few weeks of continuous usage. Personally, I have been experiencing much buttery-smooth experience from the Vivo NEX even after a month. So, it is apparent that the ASUS did goof up with the software layer this time too.

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review Assistant Bug AndroidHits
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Anyways, the visual experience and UI elements are highly user-friendly and materialistic. Any apps can utilize the taller display with notch area. While opening each app that supports the full-screen vision, you could see an extra button on the navigation bar at the button. By tapping it, you can elongate the app screen for much better visibility than the conventional screen sized smartphones. We would not recommend you to run social apps like Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat in full-screen mode as you will not get regular app experience. The Split Screen does not let you dock every apps side by side. Only the split screen supported apps are enabled to work with this. Also, you cannot resize the multiple window sizes.

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review Split Screen AndroidHits
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The quick settings panel and notifications panel can be drawn from the bottom to down, as usual. The overall icons sports material neon design. Besides, you can use the fingerprint scanner gestures to pull down the entire panel.

Time to navigate to the Settings panel. Menus and options are well-organized and easily accessible. There are no complicated options, but you can get the guidance to new features right within the app itself. There are some additional features added under the Assistive Tools section. The Page Marker lets you save web pages offline for later read. Also, it can load the same page feater with the local cache. The Game Genie is a game assistive tool. The options icon appears on the navigation bar whenever you open a game on the device. You can disable pop-up notifications, hide calls and avoid other disturbances while playing games. It also includes a performance booster. Another highlight of Game Genie is that you can add Macros to specific games. It will record your actions and continuously trigger the same action continuously whenever is necessary. Similarly, you can add multiple macros to multiple games easily and use whenever is necessary. Additionally, you can record gameplay, go live on social media with your voice and game sounds.

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review Assistive Tools AndroidHits
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The Twin Apps mode can replicate the social apps for you to use second accounts on any platform. Another feature in the assistive tools section is the BeautyLive that can use the AI Beauty Mode while going live on Facebook, Insta, Youtube, etc. ZenUI SafeGaurd can help you in emergency situations with SOS Calls/SMS and Instant Location sharing with contacts. If you have heard of the Apple’s Animoji on iPhone X, the similar clone by ASUS is called Zenimoji. Nearly a dozen 3D emojis can mimic your facial expression and save them as a video. You can also make video calls in Messenger with the same.

There is a new Kids Mode that you can enable while handing over the smartphones to children to avoid misuse. You can set a temporary PIN to get out of the Kids Mode. Plus, the Easy Mode enables a minimal smartphone interface with selected apps.

The Unique Selling Proposition of ASUS Zenfone 5Z is the AI (Artifical Intelligence) support on the smartphone software layer intensely. Major parts of the AI features in the smartphone are OptiFlex, App suggestion, AI Charging, Smart screen and AI ringtone It is not sure if we can consider all these features under Artifical Intelligence powered ones. The OptiFlex makes it easier to launch apps. It keeps some background tasks running and launched them much fastly. The AI in this feature lies in choosing the apps to bring under OptiFlex. The smartphone can also suggest you the apps based on your daily usage stats. The AI Charging simply learns how you use the device throughout the day and optimizes the charging rate according to it. The smartphone keeps the display on while you are holding it in the reading mode using Smart Screen. The AI Ringtone is also another gimmick that just detects the background noise level and adjusts the incoming call alert volume dynamically.

Performance

As the ASUS Zenfone 5Z comes with the most powerful smartphone chipset Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 with Adreno 630 GPU, there is no need for an introduction about the expected performance of the smartphone. Also, the 6GB RAM on board pairs up with the processor to maintain a great multitasking capability. The boot is really fast and it goes off likewise without a waiting time.

As we anticipated, the ASUS Zenfone 5Z showcased a smooth experience in the beginning. On the daily run, I personally liked the device as it could handle every single app and game without even a lag. But on a long run, many users of ASUS Zenfone 5Z complained about a slight lag in performance. We too experienced the same during the multitasking test. Sometimes, the apps we opened much earlier fails to resume from where we stopped, even when there was enough memory available. Unfortunately, we experienced a little lag (a couple of times only) right from the home screen itself, which never occurred anymore.

The gaming performance is so stunning. You can play high-graphics games like PUBG Mobile, Freefire, Asphalt 9: Legends, etc. at extreme quality with the smartphone easily. Sometimes you would feel some frame skip while playing PUBG Mobile. Don’t worry, it must be an issue with your network and we have confirmed the same with several tests.

On the security side, ASUS provides the smartphone with both fingerprint scanner and a face unlock feature. It is better to stick with the faster fingerprint scanner as the Face Recognition has a very poor performance. There is no IR blaster sensor to back the face unlock feature. Hence, it even fails to recognize the face in normal lighting conditions also.

Comparing the overall performance of the device with its rival smartphones, we witnessed the OnePlus 6 surpassing the ASUS Zenfone 5Z, both in gaming and daily performance. Test results from benchmarking sites like AnTuTu and Geekbenc also prove the same. Checkout the scores and results from various benchmarking platforms below.

  • Antutu
    • Overall: 267832
    • CPU: 90979
    • GPU: 106694
    • UX: 59317
    • MEM: 10842
  • Geekbench
    • Single-Core: 2423
    • Multi-Core: 9057

 

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review AnTuTu score AndroidHits
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ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review Geekbench score AndroidHits
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Sound

The Sound section is one among the areas the ASUS seems to have used its expertise on ASUS Zenfone 5Z. The smartphone comes with an awesome audio experience. The device focuses well on both the speaker output and headphone experience. The output sound is supported by DTS Audio (DTS Headphone X) virtual surround settings.

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review Earphones
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Apart from the main speaker at the bottom panel, the earpiece receiver speaker can also act as a secondary speaker or a stereo pair while playing music. We can enable or disable the feature form the AudioWizard options from the settings menu. The speakers also out boomsound-like experience with high bitrate audio files.

The company did not ditch the headphone jack to outsource the quality music with its AudioWizard. Both the speaker and headphone output can be adjusted using the equalizer presets and modes. Also, we can set the speaker output style to mono, stereo and surround with just a single tap. The same is available while plugging in headphones too.

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review AudioWizard AndroidHits
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There are many Headphone profiles available to listen to music in its real manner. The system lets users choose the headphone brand and model to listen to the music very elegantly. The speaker output is so loud so that you can hear the ringtone while you are even in between a crowd. The active noise cancellation is also implemented effectively with three distinct noise-canceling microphones.

Battery

The smartphone comes with a non-removable 3300mAh Li-Po battery back. Such a battery pack is not quite enough for a flagship smartphone, obviously.

On a daily basis usage, the smartphone managed to withstand up to 9 hours 23 minutes on a single full charge. It is quite decent, but standard users expect somewhat better from such a smartphone. Battery draining from 40% to 0% was very quick. Nonetheless, the fast charging capability with Quick Charge 3.0 technology helps in gaining much power back within a few moments. The smartphone takes at least 1 hour to boost up the complete battery pack from 0% to 100%.

ASUS Zenfone 5Z Review Battery Mode AndroidHits
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The battery performance of ASUS Zenfone 5Z shows a decent performance during standby. But, it is not a clever idea to keep the device locked with network enabled. Additionally, there are many power saving modes available. But, they are not much helping in stopping the battery from draining fast. We got 10 hours 41 minutes maximum in the video loop test.

Sensors and Connectivity

ASUS’s new flagship smartphone carries a bunch of helpful sensors and communication chips on board. The device has over 10 basic sensors a couple of other extra utility communication sensors including NFC.

Available Sensors: Fingerprint scanner, Accelerometer, Gravity Sensor, Light Sensor, Magnetic Field Sensor, Step Detector Sensor, Orientation Sensor, Proximity Sensor, GPS, GLONASS, Gyroscope, Compass, and NFC.

Final Verdict

ASUS Zenfone 5Z is a good-looking, one of the cheapest flagship smartphones available today. The device follows the current market trend and satisfies average user expectations despite some flaws in here and there. Overall, it feels like a flagship hardware fused inside a midrange setup.

If you are in seek of a great smartphone below Rs. 30,000, the Zenfone 5Z is a perfect companion. If the budget is not a big issue, you can add few more thousands and buy the OnePlus 6 with better performance, better camera and build quality. However, the 8GB, 128GB version of ASUS Zenfone 5Z is another good option, but you may find some issues which you face in the latter.

This is a great attempt by ASUS to launch a cheaper flagship smartphone on the market.