Before you buy the new Asus Zenfone 2, it is best to educate yourself on the perplexing marketing tactics of this Taiwanese handset maker.
There are actually five versions of the phone and their differences go beyond memory capacity.
The ZE500CL ($249) and ZE550ML ($299) have 5-inch HD screens, and use different Intel processors and camera sensors.
The top-end ZE551ML model comes with a 5.5-inch full-HD display, a faster Intel processor and with either 2GB or 4GB of RAM. The 4GB RAM model also comes with either 32GB or 64GB of internal memory.
But every one is named the Asus Zenfone 2.
So do be careful when you choose a model from this range. Asus seems to be using laptop- based marketing for peddling its phones, but it is creating more confusion.
The model we reviewed is the ZE551ML with 32GB of memory and 4GB of RAM. It is a pity that Asus has not made things easy for consumers, because this particular model is good for its price.
Design-wise, it shares a lot with LG devices. The curved rear panel can be removed to access both SIM card slots, but the battery is fixed in place and cannot be swopped out by users.
The power button is on the top edge of the phone and volume controls are in the rear, just under the camera. Like on LG phones, this allows you to use your index finger to change the volume without requiring you to reposition the phone.
The 13MP rear camera snaps fairly decent shots with natural colours, although HDR and some other functions can be sluggish, as the phone pauses in between shots.
The full-HD screen is a big plus, especially for watching videos and reading off the screen.
Asus has carved a niche of its own in the smartphone market, although its continued use of Intel chips, forged through its personal computing arm, has not exactly paid off.
There were performance issues in the games I played on the phone. I suspect that this is because most of the games are optimised for Qualcomm processors.
Asus may also want to relook its bloatware. After a week of use, the phone notified me that I had more than 30 pending updates. About 20 of them were apps by Asus, which I do not use and quite frankly, are unnecessary.
The Zenfone 2 packs great features at a nice price. Just make sure you pick up the correct model.
Price: From $249
Processor: 1.8GHz/2.3GHz Intel Moorefield Atom Z3 series quad-core
Display: 5.5-inch full-HD 1,920 x 1,280 IPS Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Operating System: Android 5.0 Lollipop with ASUS Zen UI
Camera: (Rear) 13MP, f/2.0; (Front) 5MP, f/2.0
Memory: 32GB/64GB (expandable microSD slot up to 64GB), 2GB/4GB RAM
Battery life: 3/5
Value for money: 4/5
This article was first published on May 13, 2015.
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