The ASUS ZenFone 5 is perhaps one of the most notable devices to launch this year. It was a symbol of the company’s comeback from the mishaps of the previous generation. At the time of its launch, it offered specs that exceed what one would expect from a typical mid-range smartphone. A Snapdragon 636, an FHD+ display, and AI-assisted optics. Most of all, at PhP19,995, it was a properly priced device. In fact, ASUS has recently dropped its price to PhP17,995, making it accessible to more consumers.
Fast forward three months, and the mid-range segment is now more saturated than before. Just about every OEM is battling it out with their devices- each one squeezing in more features and horsepower at the most competitive price points.
As such, it’s become a question of whether the ZenFone 5 can still keep up with the other teams. Does it still have the spark and magic that it had when it was launched? and moreover, is it still worth your hard-earned money? let’s find out.
Specifications[table id=56 /]
Design and Build Quality
These days, just about everyone is pimping up their phone’s design to look as premium as they could be. Good examples would be OPPO with their flower petal pattern on the F9, and Huawei with their gradient colors on the Nova and P20 series. An it’s not a bad thing, it’s called moving with the times.
The notch itself has even had a makeover, and is getting smaller and smaller with each new phone that comes out. In fact, the one on the F9 is shaped like a tiny waterdrop, and rumors have surfaced about the notch on Vivo’s next contender having an even smaller one.
While the ZenFone 5 may have been left out in the “who has the smaller notch” game, I personally think that its design isn’t. In fact, I’d say that it’s still one the most beautiful looking devices out there. Its still one of those handsets that’s a breeze to use with one hand, and its display is still an eye-candy, even when compared to newer devices.
The ZenFone 5 runs on a Snapdragon 636, which is quite a common processor of choice for mid-range phones today. Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 5 has it, and even the more affordable ZenFone Max Pro M1 is equipped with it. And why not? it delivers a good balance of performance and efficiency, without bloating up the cost. (Hello, Snapdragon 660).
As a daily driver, the phone is still more than capable of taking on your activities – Social Media, Music, Videos, and more. And while the mid-range segment is starting to get phones with 6GB of RAM, 4GB should still be enough, depending on how many apps you actually use at the same time.
As for a gaming test, we pitted the ZenFone 5 with two of today’s newest mid-rangers, the Huawei Nova 3i and the OPPO F9, focusing on four games. Arena of Valor, Real Racing 3, Dragon Nest M, and of course, PUBG Mobile. We used GameBench as our benchmarking app to measure fps, along with cpu, memory, and battery usage.
Dragon Nest M
Real Racing 3
Based on our tests, the ASUS ZenFone 5 can go head to head with the competition across different genres. Of the three, it was even the only one which had the High Frame Rate setting for Arena of Valor, enabling it to reach 60 fps at certain points of the game. It’s not all roses though, as the phone clearly needs some work in terms of resource and battery management.
I found the ZenFone 5’s AI-assisted rear cameras to be more than decent at the time it was launched. And thanks to numerous feedback from users, it has received numerous updates that supposedly improves its performance.
Well, the good news is that so far, so good. It’s able to take photos with a good level of detail and sharpness. Its HDR mode in particular, is quite impressive, as most objects around the focal point appear well illuminated, even in less than ideal lighting conditions. It’s scene detection is more often than not, on point, and the depth of field effect looks more refined.
Since its launch, ASUS has really been at it, as far as updates are concerned. The ZenFone 5 has already received many of them, which could mean two things – The company is working hard to eliminate bugs and improve performance, or there were really that many bugs to begin with, and they’re just catching up with the fixes.
In any case, the new ZenUI 5.0 is a huge step in terms of overall performance, it runs smooth and snappy, it seems to be a whole lot lighter, it’s a joy to use, and it’s packed with features that aren’t there for show, but are really useful – OptiFlex, Game Genie, AI Charging, Splendid, Audio Wizard, Face Unlock, and more.
If there’s anything I’m disappointed at with the new updates, it has to be with what they’ve done to the audio department. The ZenFone 5 sounded really great with headphones when it was launched, but after a certain update, the maximum volume was reduced, and the overall sound quality took a hit. Now, even at normal settings, the treble is just too sharp, and its sound now lacks the warmth and detail that it originally had.
From our first review, the ZenFone 5 clocked in at 8 hours and 50 minutes in PC Mark’s Work 2.0 battery test, which simulates numerous tasks from basic video editing to data manipulation.
To see it there’s an improvement in battery, I ran the same test again. And guess what, it now clocked at 9 hours and 50 minutes. Not that an hour more of battery life is that big of a deal, but more uptime is still more uptime. Of course, that translates to even more hours in a real life usage scenario. This phone should last you at least a full day with light to moderate use. .Charging time is pretty much the same – 0 to full takes shy of 2 hours when using a QC 3.0 charger.