An AI-Powered Zenfone

The first Asus Zenfone 5 undoubtedly help put the mobile division of Asus on the map when it was first released in 2014. At that time, the Taiwanese company offered a good balance between price and performance; winning over a good amount of people, which translated into great sales in the region. It was another home run for the follow up device — the Zenfone 2 — but a significant price hike for the units after that release saw the once faithful crowd, turn their backs. This year, Asus goes #Backto5; possibly wanting to recapture what made their devices some of the most sought smartphones in the country. Before we dive in for a full review, let’s have a quick look at the device to see what’s new with the Zenfone 5.

Asus Zenfone 5 Specifications

  • AI-powered Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor
  • 4GB RAM +64GB storage or 6GB RAM/64GB storage
  • 6.2-inch Full HD+IPS display; 19:9 aspect ratio, 2246×1080 resolution, DCI-P3 wide color gamut
  • 12-megapixel main rear camera, Sony IMX363 sensor, f/1.8 aperture, Night HDR, OIS, Dual Pixel PDAF, RGB sensor
  • 8-megapixel secondary rear camera, 120-degree wide angle view
  • 4G, LTE
  • Dual SIM
  • WiFi, Bluetooth
  • GPS, A-GPS
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • Facial Recognition
  • USB Type-C port
  • 3300mAh battery with BoostMaster and Smart Charging
  • Android Oreo with ZenUI 5.0

Initial Impressions: Going All-In on AI

We’ve already mentioned this in past articles containing leaks for the Zenfone 5 but its really hard not to bring it up again. It looks like an iPhone X and there’s really no getting around that fact. Is that a bad thing? Well, some love the notch and others could really do without it. While its looks may be polarizing, there’s certainly no doubt that it feels premium in hand with a metal frame sandwiched by glass panels plus it delivers on the current trend of giving consumers more screen real estate.

Let’s take an obligatory tour around the device to see its button and port layout.

On the right side is where you’ll find the power button and volume rocker.

Access to the SIM tray can be found on the left.

You’ll find the headphone jack, USB-C port, and speaker grille on the bottom of the phone.

Flip the phone to show its back and, yes, it still looks like an iPhone X but, unlike Apple’s flagship, the Zenfone 5 has a fingerprint scanner on the back of the device. Tucked away in the upper left-hand side is the device’s dual rear cameras in a vertical orientation. You have a 12-megapixel main camera at an aperture of f/1.8 armed with a Sony IMX363 sensor. You have an RGB sensor and phase detection autofocus plus OIS and EIS as well. The secondary rear camera is an 8-megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens, which is standard in most devices from the Taiwanese brand.

The front of the Zenfone 5 is dominated by the 6.2-inch Full HD+ IPS Display at a 19:9 aspect ratio; giving you a screen-to-body ratio of 90 percent. While it is an IPS display, Asus has given it a wide color gamut for our viewing pleasure with great color saturation and has 500 nits of brightness as well; making it solid for use outdoors. The notch above the screen is significantly smaller than that found on the iPhone X but still manages to house the sensors, the front camera, and another speaker; giving the Zenfone 5 a really impressive auditory experience.

Under the hood of the Asus Zenfone 5 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor with an NPE to give the device AI and machine learning capabilities. While there are a few devices armed with this SoC, this is the first in the world to be released with the neural processing engine. Aside from helping  the machine run smoothly, the NPE also helps with photography with AI scene detection to help tweak the settings in your image to get you the best results possible with AI Photo Learning.

What we like about the implementation on the Zenfone 5, however, is that it can learn your preferences by giving you options when you open up the gallery and asking if you prefer the original setting or the one’s it has tweaked. You can bet that we’ll be testing out the camera on this device as much as we can to see if the baked in AI functionality really makes a difference. There are a more ways that the dedicated NPE will come into play but we’ll discuss it further in a separate article.

Asus will offer two variants of the Zenfone 5, one with 4GB of RAM and the other with an ample 6GB. Both devices will have 64GB of storage and can support a microSD card up to 2TB.

Powering the device is a 3300mAh battery with BoostMaster and Smart Charging; yet another way the system flexes its AI muscle by detecting charge patterns so it knows when you need more juice faster or when to dial it down for prolonged wall-hugging sessions when you turn in for the night. This will result in the battery health being extended by up to twice than a normal smartphone; or so the company says.

The phone runs on Android Oreo and still has the company’s latest UI overlay, ZenUI 5.0, that has been optimize for all the AI baked in into the device.

That’s pretty much for this quick look at the Asus Zenfone 5. Sadly, Asus hasn’t released the exact price for the base model yet but if the Asus Zenfone 5Z starts at €479 or Php 30,177 then we can expect it to be priced significantly lower than that given it’s running a 600 series SDM chip. For now, we wait for its local launch.