Launching in Asia first, the ZenFone marks Asus' foray into the "cheap and good" line of dual-SIM smartphones which began arriving in recent months, starting with the $169 Xiaomi Redmi in February.
Asus chairman Jonney Shih told Digital Life that this was Asus' biggest effort to address the mainstream smartphone market. "We want to drive down the cost and still provide the best experience for consumers," he added.
Unlike other Android phones which are powered by ARM-based processors, the ZenFone 5 uses the Intel Atom chip, which has been largely untested in the smartphone arena. It turned out fine, with the phone lasting just over six hours in the DL battery life test (we looped a 720p video at full brightness and audio, with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned on). That is average but comparable to devices such as the Redmi and the Xiaomi Mi 3. High-end phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S5, Sony Xperia Z2 and the HTC One (M8), scored over nine hours.
In actual usage over one week, I found the ZenFone 5's battery good enough to last 10 to 12 hours for an average user like me. Each day, I would watch a short video or two, send about a dozen WhatsApp messages, check my e-mail and Facebook regularly and use the phone for about an hour of calls.
While its specs are no match for the S5 and the One (M8), the ZenFone 5 has enough oomph to get the job done for Android smartphone fans.
It is as light as the S5 and even lighter than the Z2 and One (M8). Its 720p screen resolution is lower than the typical 1,080p of high-end phones but with the 5-inch screen size, you cannot really tell the difference. Its display is sharp and offered excellent visuals for watching high-definition videos, complete with powerful speakers to match.
The ZenFone 5 has other cool features, including the PC Link software, which lets you view your phone on the PC and even control the phone using the mouse and keyboard - great for users who want to control both devices from a common interface.
It can take low-light shots (the photos turned out grainy, though) and it has interesting photo features, such as the rear camera to take selfies of up to four people in a group.
Between this and the Xiaomi Redmi, my vote goes to the ZenFone 5, though it costs $80 more. Both its SIM card slots are 3G-capable (there is only one 3G slot in the Redmi) and the ZenFone 5 looks sleeker and is lighter even though it has a larger screen.