Hands On with the Asus Zenfone 5 / 5z
Updated: Added 5z info.
Asus today announced the Zenfone 5, its flagship handset for the year. The Zenfone 5 takes a lot of cues from some well-known competing devices complete with a notch in the display. The 5z is a version in the same exact body with upgraded internal specs. It's a premium device thanks to glass surfaces, metal frame, and high-quality cameras. Here are our first impressions.
I'm a bit flummoxed. The Zenfone 5 is a shameless and shameful rip-off of the Apple iPhone X. I can't understand why any phone maker would copy the competition quite so thoroughly.
It's one thing for there to be a slight resemblance, it's something else for the Zenfone 5 to have a notch on the screen and a vertical camera assembly positioned in exactly the same spot as on the iPhone X. You could easily mistake one phone for the other. I wouldn't be surprised if Apple filed a lawsuit.
The Zenfone 5 is a handsome piece of hardware. The curved glass is appealing and it is set tightly into a metal frame. I like that the frame has a rounded shape in order to help it fit comfortably in your hand. It is smooth, smooth, smooth. The glass has a pattern on the back that shimmers in the light. Too bad it collects fingerprints as though that were its job.
The front of the phone is practically all screen. Asus filled the face with display in an odd 19:9 aspect ratio. The notch interrupts the look along the top edge, and there's a small chin below the display. There are no buttons. The screen is full HD+, which means approximately 2,200 by 1,080 pixels. It looked nice in the demo space. Viewing angles aren't great, but the phone does put out plenty of light. Everything looked sharp.
Buttons are kept to a minimum. The screen lock button and volume toggle are both on the right edge, with the screen lock the lower of the two. The profile is a bit low, and travel and feedback felt a smidge mushy to me. Same goes for the volume toggle. There are no controls along the left edge. The headphone jack is on top and the USB-C port is on the bottom. You'll also spot some drilled holes in the metal frame for the speaker.
Asus put a tiny fingerprint reader in the usual spot on the back. I didn't have any trouble finding it. It has a textured feel to it and can be used to swipe through certain UI elements. The dual camera array is in the upper left corner and sticks out just a bit.
It's a nice piece of hardware. I simply wish Asus hadn't borrowed so much from Apple.
As for the software, there are few things worth talking about. The phone runs Android 8 Oreo with ZenUI 5 on board. The UI takes AI to the extreme, and builds predictive behaviors throughout. For example, the AI Ringtone will automatically adjust the ringtone volume to account for noise or quiet spaces. The camera bakes in AI modes to detect up to 14 different scenes.
Asus also made sure to put the notch to work. It reduced the size of the status icons that sit either side of the notch. This helps more fit in the space. When there are are lots of notifications, three dots appear that signal their availability. Tap on the dots and the notifications will drop down in a way that's easy to see what's going on.
The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 636 processor and it comes with either 4 GB or 6 GB of RAM. The only storage configuration offered is 64 GB, but it does support memory cards. I like that it has a 3,300mAh battery, NFC, Bluetooth, high-end stereo speakers, and so on. Asus didn't say how much the phone will actually cost. The phone goes on sale in April.
There's also the 5z, which Asus says looks exactly the same as the 5, but has a top-end Snapdragon 845 processor inside, along with up to a whopping 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, which should make it a performance beast. According to Asus employees, even they can't tell the 5 apart from the 5z; there really is no external difference at all.
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