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ASUS aims to step up its game this year, as it announced the newest iterations of its popular Zenfone lineup. Today, we’ll focus on the ASUS Zenfone 5Q, which is supposedly the most affordable of the lot.

Don’t be fooled by the word affordable though, as this device packs a Snapdragon 630 SoC, an 18:9 display, and four cameras, Not something you’ll commonly find in a smartphone at this segment. So the question is, can it walk the talk?  we were able to try it out, and here are our thoughts.

Unboxing

ASUS Zenfone 5Q Specs:

  • 2.21GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 octa-core processor
  • 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage expandable via microSD card
  • 6-inch 18:9 FHD+ display with 2.5D glass
  • 16MP (f/2.2) + 8MP (f/2.4, 120° wide-angle) rear cameras, PDAF, 4K video recording
  • 20MP (f/2.0) + 8MP (f/2.4, 120° wide-angle) front cameras, Softlight LED Flash
  • Fingerprint Sensor, NFC, Dual SIM, Triple Slot Tray, 4G/LTE
  • ZenUI 4.5 on top of Android 7.1.1 Nougat
  • 3,300mAh battery

Design and Build Quality

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The first thing that you’ll notice with this phone is the different take on the display. Despite having an 18:9 screen, the device keeps the top and bottom bezels. Unlike the vanilla ZF5, you won’t find any fancy notches here, but rather a standard layout, except that they’ve managed to fit in a 6-inch screen on its 5.5-inch body, to the benefit of handling.

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All the buttons are on the right side, while the left side houses the triple slot tray, Unlike the glass front and back, the sides are very easy to grip, that means you can easily pickup the phone when needed.

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The dual camera section at the rear slightly protrudes, and no, the lens cover isn’t retracted. In short, a case would be nice. Oh and the rear panel is also a smudge magnet. The device sticks to a standard microUSB port, which is kind of expected to keep costs down.

Zenfone 5Q 12

Speaking of the display, the 6-inch IPS panel has FHD+ resolution, and shows deep blacks, plus the vibrancy that I loved in the Zenfone 3. Only now, Splendid is missing. That means you won’t be able to manually adjust the color temperature.

General Performance

Throughout the time I had with the phone, I didn’t encounter any problems using it. Apps open quickly, swiping through the UI is smooth and fluid, and there was no sign of heat buildup even when I was continuously taking photos.

Camera

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For the rear camera, details aren’t as good as I expected, but overall quality is decent along with accurate colors. The depth of field effect looks refined, with no signs of pixelation. I did have to get really close to the subject in focus to get it right though. Oh and focusing speed can be slow at times.

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Wide angle shots are just as decent, giving you a larger field of view to include more subjects in each shot. You can actually enable Portrait Mode even when using the secondary lens, but it’s often a miss.

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The front camera is better at taking portrait mode shots, correctly identifying areas that should be blurred, and those that shouldn’t.

Software

At the time of writing, our review unit was running on ZenUI 4.5 on top of Android Nougat. Apart from the more minimalist theme, you also get the usual goodies such as being able to customize the look of just about everything on your home screen, along with gesture controls, Game Genie, and the SelfieMaster app, which integrates everything selfie-related such as the Camera and BeautyLive apps into one hub.

Facial recognition is now integrated into ZenUI, and while it does work, it also tends to be a bit inconsistent and perhaps a bit too slow to respond at times.

Initial Verdict

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The Zenfone 5Q offers a vibrant display, a beautiful design and premium build quality. Its front camera is also quite a performer in just about every aspect, showing significant improvements to portrait mode.

On the flipside, the rear camera definitely needs some work in terms of overall detail. Some features like facial unlock, are also inconsistent. Hopefully, these issues can be resolved with a software update.

The Zenfone 5Q is expected to launch sometime in April, and I’m hoping that it gets a good price. We’ll be doing performance benchmarks, as well as gaming and battery tests to see the extent of what this device can do. Stay tuned for our full review.

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Author

Emman has been writing technical and feature articles since 2010. Prior to this, he became one of the instructors at Asia Pacific College in 2008, and eventually landed a job as Business Analyst and Technical Writer at Integrated Open Source Solutions for almost 3 years.

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