It was a little over two months ago that ASUS surprised almost everyone in the tech fraternity by launching a brand new mid-range smartphone that almost no one saw coming. The Zenfone Max Pro (M1), as this handset would eventually would be known, was targeted specifically at the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro. We did manage to review this much-talked-about phone at the end of which I came out impressed. Not only did the Zenfone Max Pro prove itself to be as capable as the Redmi Note 5 Pro, it also undercut its archrival by a significant margin on the pricing front. With the success of the Max Pro under its belt, ASUS decided it was time it officially brought its flagship class handset for 2018, the Zenfone 5z to India. I have been using the Zenfone 5z as my primary smartphone for the better part of last week and thought today would be a good time to talk about the handset now that the prices and the launch dates have been announced. I will follow this article up with a detailed review in the days to come.
ASUS Zenfone 5z: First Impressions
The first thing that came to my mind after unboxing the Zenfone 5z and placing it in my hand was how incredibly lightweight it felt! A quick glance at the spec sheet revealed that the 5z weighed a little over 165 grams. This was quite a bit lighter than both the Huawei P20 Pro (180 grams) that I have been using for a while and the OnePlus 6 (177 grams). The handset looks premium and is made of premium materials as well. I did not, however, particularly like the sharp edges of the display and the rear panel. The notch is significantly larger than the ones on both the Vivo X21 and the P20 Pro that I have been using recently, and yes you can turn the notch completely off in case you do not want it there. The build quality of the phone is on par with the competition, and while it may not be a head turner, the Zenfone 5z is definitely a handsome little device.
ASUS Zenfone 5z: What I liked
Excellent Audio Quality, customizability
The Zenfone 5z is a flagship-class handset and digging a bit deeper into the settings menu clearly demonstrates this. Thanks to the dual NXP amplifiers and the fact that the Zenfone 5z is a DTS Headphones X certified device, the music connoisseur in you will love this device. The phone ships with a comprehensive AudioWizard app that lets you fine-tune the music output from the headphones. There are several audio modes and equalizer options. The part that completely blew me away was the ‘Optimize Headphones’ section within this app that lets you customise the output for your choice of headphones. Almost every major headphone/earphone manufacturer and their important models are listed in this section. To check if this was just a gimmicky feature, I tried it with my old Bowers & Wilkins P3s, and the output from the over the ear headphones sounded fuller, with a wider soundstage. If you are an audiophile on a budget, the Zenfone 5z will certainly appeal to you.
Even though the Zenfone ships with ample internal storage, I love the fact that ASUS gives the consumer the option to use a microSD card. I did, however, miss the triple SIM/SD Card slot that was present on the Max Pro.
Getting AI features at the price of the Zenfone 5z is pretty common these days. However, most of these features usually turn out to be gimmicky in nature. The Zenfone 5z, however, comes with a bunch of useful AI features. One of them being the AI charging option that can help the user extend the life of your phone’s battery. AI charging, when turned on, analyses your battery charging habit and optimizes the charging speed. This essentially means that the handset can charge at a slower rate (which is actually good for the battery) when you do not require the phone to charge the battery quickly using Quick Charge 3.0.
The IPS LCD panel used on the Zenfone 5z is one of the better LCD panels that I have used. Only when you look at the blacks is when you realise that this is an IPS display. In case you like the saturated colour tones associated with AMOLED panels, you will surely love the display on the Zenfone 5z
ASUS Zenfone 5z: What I did not like
My major gripe with ASUS over the years has been its ZenUI interface. Over the past year, however, ZenUI is less intrusive and has also become much faster. However, even on the Zenfone 5z, the UI and the animations suffered from the occasional lag. Having used the OnePlus 6 briefly, the ZenUI feels a bit clunky and laggy. I even turned off the animations from developer options to make things a bit better. Tha said, this was a review unit, on pre-production firmware and there is good chance that the UI speed would get better on the final firmware.
The Flagship Killer – Killer?
Now that the official prices of the ASUS Zenfone 5z are out, it has become clear that ASUS is going all guns blazing against the OnePlus 6. The latter, until now, was the most affordable Qualcomm Snapdragon 845-toting handset you could buy in India. With its incredible pricing of Rs. 29,999 for the entry-level version, the ASUS Zenfone 5z has now usurped that crown from the OnePlus, and that too by a significant margin. The base variant of the OnePlus 6 costs Rs.34,999. This is a whopping Rs.5,000 premium over the base version of the Zenfone 5z. Both these versions get 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. In case you’re wondering, here are the prices of all the versions of the Zenfone 5z compared against the equivalent versions of the OnePlus 6.
ASUS Zenfone 5z 6GB + 64GB: Rs. 29,999 (Rs.5,000 lesser) OP6 – Rs. 34,999
ASUS Zenfone 5z 6GB + 128GB: Rs.32,999 (Rs.7,000 lesser) OP6 – Rs.39,999
ASUS Zenfone 5z 8GB + 256GB: Rs. 36,999 (Rs.7,000 lesser) OP6 – Rs. 43,999
With this incredible pricing, there is little doubt in my mind over the fact that the Zenfone 5z is the new flagship killer. Even with some of its flaws – minor ones if I may add – the Zenfone 5z makes for a great choice. I will talk about the Zenfone 5z in more detail once I complete my detailed review soon.
The Zenfone 5z will go on sale starting July 9, 2018, as a Flipkart exclusive. You can read our launch article here.