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ASUS Zenfone 2 30-Day Review: Killer Phone at a Killer Price

ASUS Zenfone 2

A Month with the ASUS Zenfone 2

We’ve been heavily using the ASUS Zenfone 2 (2.3GHz, 4GB RAM, 64GB Storage) as our primary device for the last few weeks and we can already say that this is a strong contender for our smartphone of the year award. As of this writing there is nothing in the market that can beat it when it comes to value for money. It delivers rip-roaring performance in a sleek and beautiful body complete with all the bells and whistles that you would expect to get from a premium flagship device twice its price. Perhaps our only major concern is the battery life but we’re hoping that the upcoming Android Lollipop fix by Google for the memory leak will fix that. We also had initial reservations with the camera but in real world day-to-day use the issues we spotted weren’t really as bothersome as we thought they would be.

Before we move on to the actual review, let’s have a quick refresher with the specifications of the ASUS Zenfone 2.

ASUS Zenfone 2 ZE551ML (Top Model) Spec Sheet

  • 64-bit Intel Atom 2.3GHz Z3580 quad-core processor
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 5.5-inch full HD IPS display with Gorilla Glass 3, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 64GB of storage, expandable via microSD up to 64GB
  • 13-megapixel rear camera, f/2.0-aperture, 5-element, auto-focus lens with dual-color Real Tone flash
  • 5-megapixel front camera, f/2.0-aperture, wide-angle 85-degree lens with Selfie Panorama
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, NFC
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop with ZenUI
  • 3000mAh battery
  • SRP: Php14,990

Intel’s 64-Bit Atom 2.3GHz Quad-Core Processor is a Beast

If there’s one thing that was consistent throughout the time we’ve been using the ASUS Zenfone 2, it’s how buttery smooth the user experience has been thanks to Intel’s 64-bit Atom 2.3GHz quad-core processor combined with the generous serving of 4GB RAM. All the core services and features had no issues, especially after we ditched the ZenUI and went for our current favourite launcher — Google Now Launcher.

The Zenfone 2 was no slouch in gaming as well. Be it NBA 2K15, Clash of Clans, or Bard’s Tale 2, the ASUS Zenfone 2 gave us a gaming experience that we usually got from smartphones priced at the Php30,000 level. It was really surreal getting this kind of performance in a smartphone that’s just priced at Php14,990.

Nakaka addict 'tong COC!!!
Nakaka addict ‘tong COC!!!

Multi-tasking was also superb. We had no problems whatsoever jumping from app-to-app. In fact we’ve found ourselves multi-tasking a whole lot more with the ASUS Zenfone 2 thanks to the flawless experience.

So to sum it all up in a sentence — the ASUS Zenfone 2 truly does give you a near flawless Android experience that premium flagship devices offer at half the price.

Body Design: Slim, Sleek and Sezzy

There’s no going around the fact that LG G3 users will probably think that ASUS copied the design of their devices once they see and hold the Zenfone 2. The volume buttons at the back reminds us a lot of the Rear Key technology of LG save for the Power Button (ASUS put theirs at the top).

While there are truly several similarities, ASUS has an upcoming line-up of back cover accessories that they showed during the PH launch that promises to set it apart from LG’s G series. Other than that there’s also “ASUS Zenfone chin”. That’s the strip at the bottom of the front with ASUS’ concentric circles design, hehe.

Ultimately we feel that this was the best design decision ASUS has made lately. The device really feels light and easy to hold. It also looks much more expensive that it actually is which is always a great thing when it comes to gadgets.

Sound trip!
Sound trip!

Perhaps our only major issue with the design is that the external speakers are relatively weak compared to a lot of other smartphones. You’ll really need to connect this to either speakers or headphones if you want to enjoy music or videos.

External speakers aren't that great
External speakers aren’t that great

Full Connectivity that you Get from Top-tier Flagships

Dual-SIM? Check. NFC? Check. Bluetooth? Check. LTE? Check. Yep, pretty much everything you want is here.

Battery Life is a bit Bothersome

ZenPower is a must
ZenPower is a must

We were expecting the ASUS Zenfone 2 to deliver phenomenal battery life but as it turns out it’s just at par with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. We get roughly 3 hours and a half of screen time with both devices. This is below average as other flagships are easily over 4 hours and can go up to 5 hours screen time.

We reached out to ASUS regarding this and apparently the main culprit is the Android Lollipop memory leak issue. The good news is that this is a software problem. Let’s just hope for now that Google will be able to roll out a fix that ASUS can use and then push out to all Zenfone 2 users so that they battery life will significantly improve. Until then we recommend you guys pack with you a Power Bank or bring the ASUS quick charger with you wherever you go and just top up mid-day.

Another Look at the Camera Capabilities

Picture picture!
Picture picture!

The camera of the ASUS Zenfone 2 has been hit with a lot of harsh criticisms by the local and international tech community. We agree that the software optimisation features are able to improve visibility in low light conditions and the trade-off is that the camera does have issues with producing really fine photos. If you zoom in very tightly on a photo taken with the Zenfone 2 you’ll notice that the lines blur a bit.

Update: The recent software update was able to minimize the issue we had with the “watercolor” lines when you zoom in. It’s not totally eliminated but it’s bordering on negligible already unless you super love zooming in to all the photos that you take.

Having said that, we still think that this isn’t a deal breaker for the ASUS Zenfone 2 at all. It will really boil down to how a person uses that camera that will determine the beauty of the shot. To prove this point we covered the local launch of the Zenfone 2 using a Zenfone 2 for photos and it turned out pretty okay.

Just the same here are a few new shots we took with the ZF 2 for your reference:

Cereals :o
Cereals 😮
Tagaytay again!
Tagaytay again!
I have no idea what this is!!!
I have no idea what this is!!!

Final Verdict: It’s a Premium Flagship Experience for Half the Price

So what’s our final verdict? The Zenfone 2 is a phenomenal device that delivers exceptional value for money. We regularly review the top tier smartphones from global brands here at Unbox and we can honestly say without a shadow of a doubt that we never felt that we were using anything less than a P30k flagship when we were using the Zenfone 2 in the last month. The device gives you almost the same experience and even does better in some aspects like multi-tasking.

The ASUS Zenfone 2 has proven that you don’t need to pay a lot to be able to get a lot. We hope other brands take notice and follow because as of this writing there is no phone that comes close to what the Zenfone 2 is able to give at the price level that it’s currently at.

We highly recommend the ASUS Zenfone 2 to everyone. It’s a sure winner (just don’t forget about the battery thing and the speakers).

Carlo Ople

Carlo is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Unbox.ph. During daytime he’s the Managing Director and Partner of a Digital Marketing Agency in the Philippines and by nighttime he’s living out his passion as a gadget enthusiast and story teller through Unbox.

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    1. The phone feels good in the hands due to the curved back. Compare it to some phones from Sony/other phones with sharp edges.

  1. just a suggestion. please check the article before publishing. some readers may have been confused about They and The for instance.

  2. Perfect review, i got my 64g 4g ZF2 at the launching too.
    The battery life is not what im expecting i wish it wld last abit longer but then again good thing u mentioned it is a software issue… and theres a powerbank nman so it will do till google patches things up.
    Asus do update their software too already had 2 updates so good to see they have support! Unlike other companies … bahala na si batman.
    Iove my ZF2 worth the wait over other choices iwas considering and the hellish commute to the launch has paid off.
    Love the sample pics too… id probably use my zf2 cam on my toys too and yes my cat too.
    Keep up the great work.

    1. battery issue…due to the software?
      hmmm I think the reason for the disappointing battery of zf2 is the hardware specifically the x64 intel cpu.
      Just like the intel cpu of zenfone 5
      I bet hindi parin optimize ang intel cpu for the android software which is originally intended for arm cpu
      just my opinion

  3. 8k devices can basically do everything these days. i find it hard to part with hard earned cash para lang maki-uso. i would rather save my money and spend it on something else.

  4. meron akong asus zenfone 5 T00j A501cg intel atom 1.6ghz 2 cores physically at dahil sa hyper-threading technology parang 4 cores sya. kaka update ko lang sa Lollipop. sana itong zenfone 2 na intel din ay di tulad ng fone ko na umaabot sa 55 degrees Celsius ang init sobra, likod at pati screen. nag update ako ng os nabawasan ng konte ang init ng screen. para sa akin lang bago kayo bumili ng zenfone tiyakin nyo nde sya iinit ng sobra na halos ayaw mo hawakan ang fone mo. btw Clash of Clans palang yung nilalaro ko sobrang init na ng device ko. Selling na nga fone ko eh. mag 2 months palang fone ko at isa lang nilagay ko dito since binili ko clash of clans lang. ^^

      1. Ok na magtagalog, kesa naman dyan sa English mong pang tanga. Trying hard mag English. Really annoying.

    1. pareho lang tayo nilalaro umiinit talaga yan pag addict gaming ginawa mo walang patayan gaya ng coc tapos sasabayan mo pa ng charge, brightness 20 above, mobile data pa gamit mo..mag oover heat talaga yan… 0 mo btughtness tapos 15 sec. off display wifi din gamitin mo connection wala kang problema

      1. lahat ng sinabi mo ganyan dati settings ng zf 5 ko, kulang lang dyan eh yung splendid binawasan ko pa yung saturation para nde gaanong matakaw sa battery at nde gaanong maginit ang screen, pero ganun parin ang problem. nabenta ko na zf5 ko dahil nakita ko sa cpu z na yung cpu ng zf5 kahit naka standby lang sya yung 4 cores nya 800 Mhz each, nde tulad ng ibang cpu pag standby or idle lang 1 core lang gumagana around 700+Mhz, yan yung isang reason bakit battery and heating ang main problem ng zf5. ewan ko lang dyan sa zf2 na intel din. anyway may bagong intel cpu na naman para sa mga smartphones intel atom X3. ^^

  5. nice review, ang problema ko na lang kung saan ako makakabili ng zf2 4/64 ng hindi lumalagpas sa srp nya. mag iisang buwan na nung na launch ito locally pero mukang pinapataas pa presyo ng 4/64 version. ayaw ko namang mas pasayahin pa ang mga abusadong tindero neto.

    1. Ung sa akin sa lazada ko binili, tapos ginamitan ko ng voucher kya medyo duscounted ung nabili ko na zen2 64gb, free shipping naman nayun, ung zen6 ko 6mthns k n gamit etong zen2 1 mnth plang sa akin so far wala akong na encounter n problema

  6. Ok sya sa performance pero sana next time wala na masyadong bloatware at sana umiilaw na yang capacitive buttons.

  7. nung ag tatanong ako sa mga mall n malapit sa amin (sta lucia, robisons metro east, gateway SM Cubao) lagi nila siasabi na wla pa daw zf2 4GB RAM sa September p daw mg re2lease?
    any recommendation kun san mkkbili nito? ty

    1. Tried visiting sm san mateo this weekend to pay bills and saw an asus stall and asked for prices. They used to have the 551 in 2.3ghz/4gb/64gb config but unfortunately they were sold out during the week. They still have 2.3/4gb/32gb config for P14999. According to the sales man the 64gb version is just a thousand pesos more. And fortunately they bundle all zf2 variants with a 32gb sd card…sweet. now im leaning to getting a zf2 thru official asus stall than some online seller. Hoping the top end variant re stocks this week.

  8. I’m planning to buy one but the heating and battery issues are still bothering me. I heard about a firmware update that fixed the battery issues, is it true? also what brightness level are you using when you test the battery life? TIA.

  9. Normal lang ba tlga sa phone nato na kahit walang apps na tumatakbo, di ka naglalaro o ano pa jan is umaabot ng 1.8-2gb ram used? napaka annoying nya tingnan. or wala lang tlga siguro ako alam. haha thanks sa sagot,

  10. Meron po ba kayong issues bout sd card? Hindi po kc nareread ung king com 16gb class 10 ko..anu po ba dapat gawin or gmiting mmc..zenfone2 2gb ram user here..tnx for the reply..

  11. I have a Zenfone 6 and had a busted speaker after 2 months (November 2014) that we bought it. It didn’t fell nor spilled with water/liquids. You are very right to point out that Z2 has indeed a weak external speaker coz my phone does. Their service center sucks. They only give words to your concerns. Until now my phone doesn’t work coz there is no stock for my speaker.

  12. you mentioned “ditched the ZenUI and went for our current favourite launcher — Google Now Launcher.” any way to get rid of unwanted Zen Apps??? Totally taking lots of memory space…

  13. Yo! im also using zenfone 2 paired with an ipega controller and/or google cardboard. DAMN THIS IS A GAMING BEAST!!! Have not experienced any lags. Battery is crap though. Heating is tolerable. 15k well spent.

  14. ayaw gumana back camera.. black screen lng.. pero ok naman front camera.. halos 1 month palang.. hindi naman nabagsak..

  15. I got mine having a lot of issues when I purchased it but after getting all the updates from asus, the whole experience has gone beyond superb! I love the phone it might not be a match for the other flagships but if you value money and you want to have something decent na hindi nakakaiyak kapag naholdap then better grab this phone hehe

  16. Just bought mine a week ago and I’m having a blast because this phone is a competent mobile gaming machine! My only issue though is the battery. 3-4 hours lang ubos na. Pero at least 1 hour lang i-charge. Okay na Okay siya!

    On the pictures naman, wag mo na lang i-zoom in hehehe…

    Sana may Marshmallow update to kaagad. Now na!

    Merry Christmas Unbox!

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