Goondu review: Asus ZenFone 5 goes for the tried and tested

June 6th, 2018 | by Wilson Wong
Goondu review: Asus ZenFone 5 goes for the tried and tested

The ZenFone 5, launched in Singapore a couple of months ago, is a phone that follows the tried and tested so much that it does not stand out enough.

It has the same silhouette as the Apple iPhone X, right down to the notch and the camera placement, making you wonder if Asus is even trying to be different.

The signature concentric circle has always been Asus signature’s look and it blends well with the circular fingerprint scanner. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

So, it is a good thing that Asus followed some of its instincts, such as the concentric circle design. At least, in that, it has stuck to the innovation that it had displayed in earlier phones and tablets.

The ZenFone 5’s specs are what you expect from a mid-range $488 phone. There’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage that is expandable with a MicroSD card.

The 3,300mAh power pack is enough to juice the phone for a day of moderate use and the 6.2-inch Full HD+ LCD screen ensures the battery is not used up as fast as a sharper one.

One thing I am surprised by in such an inexpensive phone is its own face recognition software. It works well to unlock the phone and is pretty quick and accurate.

From afar, it looks like the iPhone X. notch and all. It has a good size though and is comfortable to hold. I have no complaints with the screen too which is easy on the eyes. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

When it comes to the cameras, the ZenFone 5 does better. It features a 12MP colour sensor with f1.8 24mm equivalent wide angle lens and an 8MP color sensor with f2 12mm equivalent super-wide-angle lens. On paper, the ZenFone 5 seems to be a great phone to use as a landscape camera.

One of today’s better user interfaces for cameras that is on par with Nokia’s concentric circle design. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

The camera prowess is not exactly earth-shattering but the features will satisfy the casual snapshooter. It tends to oversaturate a bit too much for most shots. This is is fine for landscapes but quality will suffer when it comes to portraiture.

I would love the super-wide-angle lens to have a much higher pixel count for its sensor as the 8MP is just barely enough. Things get worse when you crop in, leaving you with only 5MP to work with.

Shot handheld with HDR setting switched on. Pretty good details if you don’t pixel peep. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

Using a tripod, I shot this at ISO 25 with 1.3 seconds of shutter time. My aim is to see the details of the clock face. This is pretty good for general sharing but details are murky when looking up close. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

The super-wide angle is certainly fun as it gives you a perspective that is different from the normal wide-angle lens. The distortion gives a sense of scale too. I attempted this shot with HDR so I can get as much detail from the surrounding buildings, but ISO1600 is really beyond most smartphone cameras’ ability to hold details. The in-camera processing has to be more complex to handle such scenes. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

This is the cropped 5MP ultra-wide angle shot from the 8MP colour sensor. This is already at ISO50 which is pretty low but the details are lost with the painted effect pretty evident. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

The Asus Zenfone 5’s skin tone seems a bit too “manufactured”, giving the model here a hot pink look. Though some may like it for selfies, I’d prefer more accuracy. The hands have a bit of green hue on top. Not the best, definitely. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

Given enough light, the details are good. Can still show some crispness though. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

Saturated colours work best on food sometimes. The green of the spring onions pops well against the earthy colour of the bak kut teh claypot and crispy beancurd skin. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

Asus shouldn’t have cropped the 8MP sensor’s photo to hide the lens distortion, which results in the even smaller 5MP resolution for wide-angle shots.

I have to force the camera to use 8MP at 4:3 ratio to see the original ultra-wide-angle shot via the settings menu. Expect lens distortion to happen.

If you are in the market to find a capable mid-range smartphone without breaking the bank, the ZenFone 5 will surely pop up at a shop as an option.

However, do pare down expectations when it comes to the camera performance. The phone isn’t shabby – it’s just that there are better shooters out there in this competitive segment. If you can spare about S$100 more, look to the Honor 10 and Nokia 7 Plus.

To be honest, I rather miss the Asus of old. Back in 2012, it had come up with a phone cum tablet gadget with the original Padfone, for example.

That innovative spark seems missing in the ZenFone 5. Instead, Asus has resorted to designs like the notch (as are many Android phone makers, sadly) and struggled to keep up with rivals such as Huawei and Nokia in terms camera prowess.

The Taiwanese company needs a more competitive phone that can challenge in the mid-end segment that has become a cut-throat business.




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