Hot on the heels of rivals Huawei and ZTE, Asus has launched its first mass-market 4G phone, the Zenfone 5 LTE Edition.
Externally, the new Zenfone 5 looks and feels just like the original Zenfone 5, but there are several variations internally which make it different.
The first big change is that the new phone supports faster 4G connectivity, instead of just 3G in the previous model.
However, it now offers only one slot for a SIM card, instead of the previous two.
This eliminates the main reason that it works so well as a spare phone to switch to when abroad.
Having two SIM card slots means you can buy a pre-paid SIM card issued by a telco in the country you are visiting to take advantage of the cheaper data access fees, instead of paying data-roaming charges. You can put your Singapore SIM card into the other slot, so that you remain contactable when people call you on your usual number.
Asus has dumped the Intel Atom processor for the more common Qualcomm Snapdragon, but there is little difference in performance, as swiping the screens of both phones still feels smooth and fast.
There is now a greater choice of colours and models. The basic model (1GB RAM/8GB storage) costs $249; $20 more will get you 2GB RAM. For $299, you get 2GB RAM and double the storage space at 16GB.
All three models come in black, white and red. Gold is available only for the highest-end model.
Apart from hardware changes, the new Zenfone 5 has the same features as the original.
The ultra low-light mode in its camera lets you shoot photos in the dark, but the images are usually quite grainy.
In selfie mode, you can shoot as many as five people in a group, using the higher-resolution rear camera.
Just indicate how many people will be in the photo, aim the rear camera at the subjects, wait for a series of beeps to alert you that the camera has locked on to them and is in the process of shooting the photo.
The Zenfone uses the Asus' ZenUI, which has a clean look and minimalist design. Asus has been expanding its stable of Zen UI devices, which includes its MeMO Pad and Transformer Pad tablets, as well as other Zenfone devices.
This article was first published on Oct 1, 2014.
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