Take a look at the past 18 months and you would notice that while every major smartphone brand has come up with a major flagship offering, ASUS has been subtle with the offerings and while devices like the ZenFone AR were all good with the niche features, they cannot be a flagship for everyone. Take it forward to Feb 2018, we could see a revamp, a very good one, with three phones being announced and one of them did have so much that could attract the eyeballs of those who always have an attraction for feature-heavy phones. The ASUS ZenFone 5z is what we’re talking about, and yes, this is quite a promising flagship from the Taiwanese brand that had already shown the signs of changes with the ZenFone Max Pro M1 sometime back.
The ZenFone 5z is the most affordable Snapdragon 845 powered smartphone in the market, but we thankfully are not looking at a phone that wants to settle with that title. What the device offers is a good set of specs and a refined ZenUI, while keeping the pricing at its best.
While jumping into the review, I’ll break it down into what is good and what is not so good in the phone.
What’s good about the ZenFone 5z
The design, build, and looks
First things first. The phone looks gorgeous, which is the usual case with most of the glass-back devices but with the ZenFone 5z, what makes it different and good at looks is the fingerprint sensor area on the back, because from there the light reflection goes around in a circular pattern and that looks great. The phone is comfortable to hold and use, and it doesn’t really feel like a hefty one even though we are looking at a large screen on the front.
Well, it would’ve been a lot different if ASUS had not worked on the ZenUI. But they did, and to an extent where we feel that the performance of the ZenFone 5z is not hampered by the UI and it takes the full advantage of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor to deliver excellent performance, though with some exceptions that you’ll be able to read about below.
For the regular users and even for the ones with heavy usage, the phone doesn’t really give up and it manages things out pretty well, with surprisingly a UI that is really snappy this time and has very less bloatware as well as only a few important functions in the background.
The cameras, after the latest update
So, ASUS did the same with the ZenFone Max Pro M1. It was first a mediocre camera that was not able to well against most of the other mid-range phones but the company did learn from the feedback and pushed some updates to improve the camera performance, and that is the same case with the ZenFone 5z that has gone leaps ahead with the latest camera update that was pushed to make the dynamic range better, the images have proper exposure now, and there is more smoothness while capturing videos as well.
The rear camera of the ZenFone 5z has the 4-axis OIS support and EIS kicks in when you need high resolution videos, still doing a decent job. Well, if we are to compare this with the competition, it is almost close to the quality of pictures that OnePlus 6 was able to take, but I can’t call it a better cameraphone at this point of time. Still, ASUS has managed to do so well with the F/1.8 aperture on the primary rear camera and the low light captures are not bad at all, thanks to the large aperture and the support from OIS.
The bokeh pictures taken from the camera are appreciable but the only issue is that the level of bokeh seemed almost the same in most of the background, even though the different background objects are placed at different distances from the focused object. This, still, is an issue most of the phones come with so the ZenFone 5z is no special exception here.
All camera samples: Click here.
AI support for battery and quick charging
Before you judge me, I’d say I am not a fan of everything AI. Sometimes, it feels like the AI phrases are just pushed in to add to the features on the paper, but sometimes, some features are actually useful. One of them here helps in both, optimising the battery and making the battery life better, and the AI also here helps in fast charging of the phone.
The ZenFone 5z support Quick Charge 3.0 and that is speedy enough though not the fastest in the market, and ASUS has been working with its own BoostMaster technology to make the speeds better. While the charging speed is good, there is a certain heating that is constant while that happens. The AI system does work to understand whether you charge your phone overnight and tries to push the fast charge only if it is required, or it would do the regular charging speed so that the battery health doesn’t go down. For the time that I have used the phone, it was hard to understand how well it works, but on the paper, it does look good for the fact that it isn’t only the fast charging that is important but also the overall health of the battery.
The speaker quality is good
While the 5-magnet speaker on the phone might sound like something pushing out heavy audio out of the speaker grill on the bottom of the phone, that is not the case. The things are not blown out of proportion and the speakers are not the loudest, but thankfully, that has helped in a very good sound quality, nothing too hazy or distorted and the quality has been good.
ASUS has gone all-in with some very good connectivity options, which are not just good on the paper but they work well. The Dual VoLTE does help in markets like India where networks are picking up on the VoLTE connectivity and there is USB Type-C connectivity, dual band Wi-Fi, and also NFC.
What’s not so good on the ZenFone 5z?
Display should have been better
No, I’m not saying that it is a bad display. The LCD display that the company has offered here is good enough and viewable in most of the conditions, and ASUS has done enough to make the experience with the notch good, but with that, the ZenFone 5z still lacks a super colorful display that the competition has. May be, we are missing the Super AMOLED displays that some of the phones have, and for a flagship, display is one of the areas where they make a good mark.
With the lack of AMOLED display, ASUS couldn’t do much with the features like always-on display that should have been there to make the experience even better.
High-end gaming performance
While there are claims that ASUS has done so well to keep the performance at its best, it is not the case really with every game. I have taken my PUBG gaming addiction to a level where I spend at least a couple of hours every day and while switching from the OnePlus 6 to the ZenFone 5z for the PUBG gaming, I could see that the phone hasn’t done as well with some lags, and the heating makes it a bit more worse. I wish there was some optimising done on this part, and while the game is very much playable, there is always that lag you might notice if you are switching from any high-end phone.
Final Verdict – How does the phone really fare?
Let’s talk about the pricing first. The 6GB + 64GB variant is priced at Rs. 29999 and with some offers that you can easily use, the actual pricing would go down to Rs. 27000, which makes the phone absolutely the one you should buy without a lot of thinking if you don’t have a budget over Rs. 30000. The Nokia 7 Plus was one of the best in this range but the ZenFone 5z has a better camera, performance, and the support from AI in the needed areas.
The OnePlus 6 still rocks with a better display and camera but you have to cash out a few thousand bucks more for that, and had ASUS retained their previous ZenUI, it’d have never been the choice for me but the way it performs now, the ZenFone 5z is all worth the price, even for the higher variants.