I have to admit, one of the perks of being a blogger is getting nifty gadgets to review. But what's even better is when that gadget turns out to be something that I genuinely end up liking. Case in point? The newly launched Asus ZenFone 5.
At first glance, the Asus ZenFone 5 comes packed with plenty of juice: It has a sleek, minimalist design, array of features and perhaps most importantly, its budget price tag makes it an extremely attractive choice.
For S$219 - you can purchase it directly online from ASUS newly-minted ASUS ONLINE STORE - you get a 5-inch HD IPS display with scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass, quad-band 3G and 2G, expandable memory up to 64GB (8GB onboard) and a 8MP camera on the back.
The great thing about the ZenFone 5 is that it supports dual SIM cards, which makes it really handy for people who have 2 mobile lines. Or should you want to keep your personal roaming line and a local data line for Net surfing while on holiday, the Zenfone 5 will appeal.
As a smartphone, it feels neatly-built, with its back cover sitting flush with the rest of the body. Personally, I felt extremely comfortable holding it in my palm, thanks to its curved edges. The little brushed aluminium trim at the bottom of the phone adds some flair to the phone, keeping it in line with the Zen-series design DNA.
The phone also features ASUS' all-new, exclusive mobile user interface, the ASUS ZenUI which is a huge departure from the previous versions. The new interface is touted to have more than 200 enhancements over the stock Android operating system. The new theme follows a flat look for all the icons and I love it. The redesigned icons and the change of fonts have contributed to a much more enjoyable experience.
Of note is the inclusion of two features called What’s Next and Do It Later.
What’s Next manages one's daily schedules, consolidating information such as appointments, reminders and weather updates into one single app.
So instead of having to view information from different apps (like calendar, reminders, weather apps), What's Next automatically pulls all these information and displays them on the lock screen, home screen and in the notification drawer. This definitely made it extremely convenient for me to see what is going on at a glance.
The intelligent thing about What's Next is that it is also able to remind me when I have a missed call and unread emails or text messages. There was one time when I was going to be late for an appointment, and the app actually prompted me to send out a text or give a call to the other party to let them know I will be late!
The other feature about What's Next that I found to be really useful is the countdown timer placed beside the next event on the lock screen. This may be minor, but it provided a handy way for me to keep track of my next appointment.
Besides creating a To-Do list, the Do It Later app allows one to defer tasks to later time and date. For example, you may choose to reply to an SMS that was sent to you earlier in the day by selecting the 'Reply Later' option when reading the SMS. This will add the task into the Do It Later app, where you can click the 'Reply Now' button for a quick reply. The app works for missed calls and for articles or websites you want to read at a later time too.
As can be seen above, the tasks or reminders are listed as cards in the Do It Later app, which I can easily swipe away once I am done with them. An absolute gem of an app, if you ask me.
And in this day of social media, what would a smartphone be without a competent camera? Featuring an 8-megapixel camera, the ZenFone 5 boasts ASUS' PixelMaster Camera technology which combines hardware, software and optical design to deliver superior quality images in most scenarios.
For outdoor shooting with good lighting, the camera fared reasonably well and yielded me impressively-detailed shots.
Indoors-wise, finer details were also properly captured in the photo below.
But the most fun aspect of ASUS PixelMaster has got to the whole slew of features in the Camera app. Or at least that was what enticed the monkies most.
Notable ones include a depth-of-field effect, panorama, tilt shift, and HDR.
|Tilt Shift Mode|
The Depth of Field Mode allows one to capture photos with sharp, isolated subjects set against a blurred background. Two images will be captured after the shutter button is pressed, and this is the result. Not too shabby.
|Depth of Field Mode|
And for selfie addicts, great news - you can use the the rear camera on the ZenFone5to snap a selfie in the Selfie Mode. All you have to do is indicate the number of people in the photo (up to 5) and once the camera has automatically detect the selected number of people are in the frame, it will begin a series of beeps before taking three photos. Yes, three because having the option to select the best shot is a must.
For me though, the best aspect of the camera has go to be its Low Light Mode. And it is extremely impressive! The mode allows one to to take pictures in really dim conditions, without the need of a flashlight.
As a comparison, I used the Samsung Galaxy S4 to snap a photo of Ash's LEGO Mixel in a dimly lit room. And this was what I saw... or could not see.
For the ASUS ZenFone 5, I enabled the Low Light Mode and this was what I got.
I am utterly bowled over! The photo, while grainy, was way much clearer and brighter than the previous photo. Here's a video of its Low Light Mode in action, just to prove that everything is as good as I have made it out to be.
The monkies though, were fixated on another mode - the GIF Mode. This allows them to capture simultaneous shots (up to 30 at one go) and the camera will automatically stitch them together... often to hilarious effect.
Overall, the ASUS ZenFone 5 offers great value for its price. If I did not know of its price beforehand, it would have been fairly easy to convince me that the phone would sell for twice its asking price, or more. The ZenFone 5 impressed me with its hardware and software. Battery life was decent too, with it able to last a day of average usage which included surfing, messaging, and using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Simply put, if you are on a budget and especially need dual-sim functionality (and do not mind having a camera with awesome features!), the ASUS ZenFone 5 is definitely worth a look.