Asus’ Brazen Attempt To Make An iPhone X ‘Notch-Off’
Asus Introduces Top Notch Zenfone Lineup At MWC
Well, It was a loaded week for all the geeks and media houses covering Mobile World Congress from Barcelona. Same as previous years, this time around we saw a whole bunch of new interesting and also non-interesting concepts and releases from mobile companies all across the world. While the whole world had Its eyes fixed on Samsung unveiling Galaxy S9, some others presented something equally surprising or rather shocking.
Asus has seen rough years in the mobile space till now, to say the least, they’ve not been very popular for their efforts in the mobile arena, as much as they are praised in their other businesses. Asus looked somewhat desperate this time around at MWC, looking to bombard customers with the one thing that’s benchmark for success in the industry, yeah you got it right, Apple and the coveted iPhone X.
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Asus Zenfone 5 and 5Z
Asus launched Zenfone 5 and 5Z, which are pretty much iPhone X clones without the $1000 price tag but the odd-notch up top. Asus tried to provide solace to its fanbase and others yelling ‘copycat’ by telling that the notch is way smaller than the one on iPhone X. So Zenfone 5 and 5Z huh, let’s know more about’ em.
Design & Build
Asus is not the first to get ‘strongly inspired’ by Apple. Nonetheless, copying also takes a lot of efforts and Asus has really upped their game in design with Zenfone 5. Asus Zenfone 5 features a 6.2-inch IPS LCD display which goes edge to edge, pretty standard for a 2018 smartphone.
In its bid to be a modern smartphone, Asus has fit in a couple of sensors, collectively AI Display. Now I don’t find anything ‘AI’ about an automatic color adjustment sensor similar to True tone on iPhone and a sensor which keeps the display on while you are looking at it.
The display is pretty impressive though, with a resolution of 1080 x 2246 pixels at 18.5:9 ratio making a pixel density of ~402 PPI. The display isn’t an OLED like the one on iPhone X or the recently launched Galaxy S9 but Its still a decent one.
The build quality is dazzling, with all metal brushed finish, the phone looks a lot more premium than it aims to be. With the vertical dual camera organization on the back and the notch up front, you can eventually fool someone for this being an iPhone X. The fingerprint sensor at the center of back kills it though. It is a fingerprint magnet and looks very durable.
Yeah, no surprise Asus believes in Face unlock now, and we do have one on the Zenfone 5 but It is nowhere close to iPhone X and just unlocks your smartphone when It sees you or your image for the fact. As a fallback, we have the ever-resilient fingerprint sensor at back. It tries to be an edge to edge in its pursuit of being the best iPhone X knockoff, but the big chin throws it away.
Talking about the internals, Asus Zenfone 5 is not a flagship, at least not in our view by Its specs. It features a Snapdragon 636, which is an octa-core, Kryo-260 based chipset by Qualcomm, backed by either 4 or 6GB of RAM.
On the memory front, we have a limited 64GB onboard storage. For the graphics workloads, Adreno 509 is there to meet your demands. Its pretty clear that Asus is not hitting the flagship point with Zenfone 5, rather It is looking to compete in the upper middle segment, one where the likes of OnePlus 5T are already firing.
Let’s focus on the camera, shall we? Zenfone 5 features a dual camera organization, surprise surprise! With a lot of ‘AI’ claims, which don’t look very sincere. The big thing here is the 1.4micron pixel size on the 12MP (f/1.8) sensor, much like the HTC U11. The camera is impressive and Asus has to be commended for exceeding our expectations with the camera. The second sensor is a wide-angle 8MP (f/2.0) one, meant for depth detection for bokeh shots. Unfortunately, it doesn’t touch the expectations set by the main sensor.
Portrait shots are not that good, with poor edge detection and well depth information is irregular causing weird blurs. But Asus tries to compensate with AI-powered Scene detection mode, which sets the balance, exposure, brightness on itself to get the best shot. That’s probably where I felt that Asus is not all funny about Its so-called AI first approach with this smartphone.
The camera has decent low-light performance, which may not be the best but certainly holds up to its price tag. For selfies, we have an 8MP (f/2.0) sensor in that notch which is again a decent performer if not the best one.
The device runs on Android Oreo, which is pretty much a no-brainer in 2018. It's not stock though, we have Asus’ Zen UI 5.0 up top which has some bloatware by Asus, however Its swift and responsive.
Other Features: Audio, Battery, and Charging
One more thing that stands out about this smartphone is the audio system. It's loud, punchy and impressive. It is not as high end as you’d expect but Its certainly one of the best at the price. It supports high-quality audio with AptX and LDAC. And to the relief of many, It retains the headphone jack.
With the 3300 mAh battery on the device, It should last 7-8 hours at best, which again is something I expect smartphone manufacturers to improve upon, no one wants to keep charging their phone over the day. 3300 mAh doesn’t seem enough for the device, given that giant 6.2-inch display to power.
A couple of more ‘AI’ abuses Asus has done with this smartphone include - AI Charging which essentially charges your phone up to 80% and then halts it there until you are about to get up and then it continues the charging up to 100%. It basically charges phone after learning your charging habits to supposedly prevent battery wear off.
The other one is AI boost which is meant to put your smartphone on steroids, so apps and games get faster and more responsive, though we didn’t see a noticeable change in performance.
The device itself is available in two colors, midnight blue, and meteor silver, I am still figuring out what’s midnight and meteor is all about, do tell us if you know. Weighing around 155 grams, Asus Zenfone 5 is comfortable to hold and fits nicely in hand, one-handed operation is out of the window, even if you have big hands.
Other Variants: Zenfone 5Z and Zenfone 5 Lite
If you are thinking why Asus limited this phone to not have flagship grade specs, don’t push your neurons. Asus launched a beefed-up version of Zenfone 5, called the Zenfone 5Z which looks absolutely similar (you can’t escape the notch, Jedi ) but runs on a Snapdragon 845 chipset, accompanied by a top of line Adreno 630 GPU with a maximum of 8GB of RAM.
The Zenfone 5Z will come in 2 configurations as we know of now. A 128GB internal storage 6GB RAM version and another 256GB internal storage with 8GB RAM. Apart from this, the smartphone is a carbon copy of Zenfone 5 in every other aspect.
Asus Zenfone 5 and 5Z Price in India and Release Date
Early reports suggest that Asus is planning to release Zenfone 5Z before public sometime around in June at a price point of sub $500, which roughly translated will fall somewhere in the sub ₹ 35,000 categories in India. The pricing is somewhat what we expected but there are no clues, If this device will even show up in India, for all the Asus fans in the house, we hope it does and creates some momentum for the company in India, were its ebbing away.
I would like to end this post with a great saying -
I think Apple is a great company and iPhone transcends the word successful, but they’ve been there by taking risks and not submitting to user trends. If Asus is looking for the same spotlights, It has to start with not blatantly copying Apple. I admire Apple, and one can take a lot of inspiration from the Cupertino guys but the notch isn’t one of them. Nonetheless, Asus has done a decent job with Zenfone 5, If you are an Android fan with some soft spot for iPhone X, Asus Zenfone 5 is just for you.
What are your views on Asus Zenfone 5 and 5Z (2018)? Do you think these can be the breakthrough devices Asus was waiting for? Will these be able to create some thrill in the sub 30-35k category, given they reach Indian shores? Do tell us In the comments.
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