I believe that ASUS ZenFone 5Z, first shown on this year’s MWC 2018, is a very important smartphone for the company. This is their ticket to big leagues. Everything that came before was decent enough for some, but there were no real flagships. Finally, ZenFone 5Z has it all: top specs, top hardware and the ability to turn heads.
ASUS ZenFone 5Z – Prices and rivals
Even with these specs, ASUS ZenFone 5Z is an affordable phone, which might make it very desirable for potential buyers. In Ukraine ASUS sells only models with 8 GB RAM and 256 GB of storage. The price of 20 000 UAH is more than fair. Huawei P20 Pro is much more expensive.
In Eastern Europe the usual price is about 500 euro. This is why ASUS ZenFone 5Z can compete with any phone. In terms of price, its direct rivals are Xiaomi Mi 8, OnePlus 6, and the new LG G7 ThinQ.
Read also: ASUS ZenFone 5 Lite review
What’s in the box
We have a test sample of ASUS ZenFone 5Z, which means there’s no box to speak of. Still, I can predict that packaging will include: a cable, a power adapter, a SIM eject tool and manuals. There can also be some accessories and a transparent soft protective case. The power adapter is no joke – 18 W with quick charge function.
Design and materials
Let’s talk design. I’ll be frank: there’s nothing to write home about. Sadly, this is a trend for 2018.
ASUS ZenFone 5Z will surprise no one with the notch and a double rear camera. We all know whom to thank for these.
The front panel is near identical to iPhone X, only the notch is slightly smaller, and the area below is slightly larger. Why is that? Why don’t you ask me in the comments?
There’s glass on both sides, and a metal frame that surrounds the phone around the perimeter. So trivial – this combination of elements can be seen in almost all of this year’s flagships. Still, holding ASUS ZenFone 5Z in hands is a treat – I just don’t want to let go. The metal is pleasantly cold. The build quality is excellent.
We tested the futuristic Meteor Silver model, which looks dashing. There’s no reason to describe it, the photos speak for themselves.
The bezels are very small. The steely grey colour gives the device a noble and premium look. The matte steel frame plays nice with the glass back with its usual radial pattern.
You can also buy the “Midnight Blue” model.
Elements’ Configuration and Ergonomics
There’s nothing unusual about the elements’ configuration – all ports and the main speaker are at the bottom, an additional microphone is located at the top, the buttons are on the right, the slot is on the left. The notch above the screen has the usual set of an earpiece speaker and the sensors. In addition, there is an LED indicator.
Thanks to thin bezels, ASUS ZenFone 5Z feels compact despite its sizable screen. It feels nice in hand – you can use only one hand you of want – it’s difficult, but possible.
- Dimensions of the smartphone: 153 x 75.7 x 7.9 mm
- Weight of the device: 155 g
Naturally, the device is slippery, so it’s better to use cases just to be safe.
The glass on the back is susceptible to getting dirty since there’s no oleophobic coating.
The hard buttons are located in their right places - on the right side. They are easy to find and press.. In general, the my impressions are mostly pleasant - the smartphone is compact and convenient, made of premium materials. And only the lack of dust and moisture protection is frustrating, but what can you do.
The smartphone has a large 6.2-inch IPS-screen. The screen aspect ratio is 18.7:9, the resolution is 1080x2246, the pixel density is 402 ppi, and the ratio of the screen area to the front panel is 83.6%
At first glance, the screen is nice: good colour rendering, contrast, sharpness. It behaves well on a sunny day, and the minimum level of brightness is comfortable for use in the dark.
But very soon you start to notice the main drawback of the display - at a deviation of about 130 degrees, the white background begins to turn pink.
Perhaps this is a feature of our test sample. We’ll take a look at commercial devices.
Automatic brightness works correctly. In the settings, you can activate the blue filter to protect of eyesight. The filter turns on manually or automatically and adjusts the temperature and colour mode of the screen. There’s also a winter mode if you’re using gloves.
The display performs admirable in any task, be it reading text, watching video or playing games. The only drawback is a pink tinge, but it does not particularly bother me.
In the settings, you can also hide the notch, if you don’t want to feel like you’re using an Apple device.
ASUS ZenFone 5Z is a very fast smartphone, which is not surprising since there’s Snapdragon 845 processor inside.
- CPU: Qualcomm SDM845 Snapdragon 845, 8-core, 4 2.7 GHz Kryo 385 Gold & 4×1.7 GHz Kryo 385 Silver
- GPU: Adreno 630
- Memory versions: 4/64, 6/128, 8/256 GB, support for memory cards up to 512 GB
We tested the junior version of the smartphone with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB of storage. You can also buy other versions: 6/128 GB and 8/256 GB, so in terms of memory, the smartphone will be able to satisfy the most demanding users. Do not also forget about the support for memory cards, although you’ll have to sacrifice the second SIM.
In general, speed and smoothness of the interface are not a problem even for the weakest model, and swiping, scrolling lists and animations are all smooth. Multitasking is excellent and switching between tasks is fast, the smartphone holds about 5-7 applications in memory.
Naturally, gaming on this device is great: ASUS ZenFone 5Z can run anything you throw at it.
Results in benchmarks:
- AnTuTu = 271363
- GeekBench CPU Single Core = 2434
- GeekBench CPU Multicore = 8867
- GeekBench COMPUTE = 14258
- PCMark Work 2.0 = 8324
- 3Dmark Sling Shot Extreme = 4270
- 3Dmark Sling Shot Extreme Vulkan = 3806
The smartphone has 2 main camera modules. The first is a “usual" 12-megapixel, and the second is wide-angle, 8 megapixels.
You can switch between the modules by using the on-screen button. The wide-angle camera allows you to make wider coverage of the scene and that makes for interesting pictures. For example, it allows you to capture more objects of urban architecture or a large company of friends. Also, both modules are activated simultaneously when the portrait mode is turned on and while shooting with the depth effect (bokeh).
- The first module: 12 Mp (f/1.8, 24 mm, 1/2.55", 1.4 μm, PDAF)
- The second module: 8 Mp (f/2.0, 12 mm, 1/4 ", 1.12 μm)
- Phase autofocus
- Electronic stabilization
- Flash: two-tone LED
- Both modules have electronic stabilization, phase autofocus and HDR. There is a PRO-mode with manual adjustment. Theoretically, RAW-format is supported. It was officially announced and some of my colleagues say they saw the function in action. In the gallery there’s a "Show pictures in RAW, shot by the main camera" option. I just couldn’t find the way to use it in my device, so the question remains open and we must wait for the commercial release.In addition, there are filters, as well as an incomprehensible "Super Resolution" mode, which programmatically makes 49 MP photos. Why use it I have no idea. You can also activate the camera from the standby mode by quickly double-clicking the volume key.
The manufacturer promised us the trendy artificial intelligence, which enhances the photos. It automatically recognizes the scene and helps you to select the optimal shooting parameters. You cannot disable AI in the settings. In general, its functionality is not clear – you just see a small icon in the corner of the screen (greens, animals etc.), that’s it.
As for the main camera, I’m still not sure. I mean I can’t complain – it’s more than good. Still, is this camera flagship-worthy? The potential is there, but is it realized?
The details of the photo are excellent, especially at medium and short distances. The cameras works great even in bad lighting. But the camera itself is not fast, both in terms of focus and shutter speed. Often the autofocus is wrong and the camera messes the exposure in conditions where it is already light (manual reduction helps, but still). Dynamic range is clearly not enough, despite the default Auto HDR mode. See the examples below.
In general, the impressions are as follows: technically, the camera is excellent, there are matrices and optics with good light output, but the software is simply subpar. All of this is still a good step forward - the camera is the best of all ASUS smartphones I’ve tested. But there’s still a long way to the top.
As for making videos, the quality is normal, maybe even excellent. But there are problems with stabilization. A full-fledged optical stabilization is sorely missed.
The smartphone shoots video in the maximum quality of 4K; there is a slow-motion mode. All available modes of shooting videos: 2160p @ 30fps, 1080p @ 30/60 / 120fps, 720p @ 240fps.
The front camera has a resolution of 8 megapixels (f/2.0, 24 mm, 1/4 ", 1.12 μm), there is electronic stabilization, support for shooting video at 1080p. The camera performs well, but doesn’t really impress. There is a traditional facial enhancement function and a mode for creating gif-animations.
ASUS ZenFone 5Z is equipped with a non-removable battery with a capacity of "only" 3300 mAh. However, the smartphone lives long enough on one charge. The Snapdragon 845 processor allows for good power-saving options. Naturally, if you actively use camera, game, watch videos online and surf the Internet, then prepare to charge the device a lot. However, most often the device survives until the night; this means 5 hours of active screen. In power-saving mode the phone can survive for a couple of days.
In the settings you can choose the Power Master program to prolong the phone’s battery life.
Unfortunately, we didn’t test the charging time since there was no bundled adapter and cable. But the manufacturer claims support for the standard or fast charging of the 3rd generation. No wireless charging.
- Battery Li-Ion 3300 mAh
- Result in PCMark Work 2.0 battery test = 9 hours 21 minutes
The smartphone has a 3.5 mm audio jack, which is rare nowadays. The sound in the headphones is excellent and the volume level is good.
- Sound chip: support for 24-bit / 192kHz sampling
- Sound Enhancement: DTS Headphone X
In addition, a special Master Audio utility allows you to adjust the audio effects and the equalizer. The application is useful and performs its functions well.
The main speaker is excellent and loud, with a good frequency range. It’s located on the lower edge. You can easily muffle it with your hand. There is support for stereo mode via the earpiece speaker. And it's also really loud - probably the loudest on the market. True, the frequencies are mostly medium and high, but the final result is excellent for games and watching videos.
And here is an example of recording sound during a concert, which I simulated by listening to loud music in the car:
I did not detect problems of any kind. There’s your Wi-Fi with 5-gigahertz range, Bluethooth (the latest 5 version), NFC for contactless payments and a USB Type C port. Everything you might need is here.
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
- Bluetooth v5.0, A2DP, LE
- Location: A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
- USB: 2.0, Type-C 1.0
Firmware and software
ASUS Zenfone 5Z is running Android 8.0 and the proprietary Zen UI shell. In general, the interface is fast and functional. There is support for customizing and built-in high-quality applications. In short, everything you need - even FM radio!
The smartphone supports all modern functions, such as split screen, pop-up notifications and face recognition.
The fingerprint scanner is fine and quick; in addition to the main function, it also understands gestures, for example, you can open the notification curtain with a swipe down.
ASUS ZenFone 5Z is, undoubtedly, the greatest flagship of the Taiwanese company. It’s really attractive, considering the price of its rivals. You can easily recommend it to cost-conscious buyers who don’t trust the Chinese brands.
Pros: Compact size and a big screen, perfect build quality and premium materials. Yes, the design is nothing new, but that’s not critical for most of the potential buyers.
There’s also powerful hardware, different memory options, the newest Android and a good shell with lots of features. The sound is excellent and the camera is good enough, although there are some tiny shortcomings that can be fixed. The battery life is also alright.
Cons: The phone’s not water resistant, and the screen tends to get pink when watching under certain angle. The screen itself is great, so that’s not a biggie. Maybe this little problem will be fixed in commercial models.
Overall, the smartphone boasts great quality-to-price ratio. Recommended.
All photos of the device in the review are made on Huawei P20 Pro