It was one of the big surprises during the Mobile World Congress: the Asus Zenfone 5Z. A relatively affordable high-end smartphone with and notch. We are now almost half a year further and is available. Has this Zenfone stood the test of time? You read it in this Asus Zenfone 5Z review.
The Zenfone 5Z is not alone: it has a somewhat less gifted twin brother in the form of the Zenfone 5. It costs more than € 100 less and was extensively discussed by colleague Jelle. In this review, I focus on the more expensive 5Z, which must compete with affordable high-end devices such as the OnePlus 6 and Honor 10.
Good combination between functionality, design and price
His secrets weapon in that fight? Artificial intelligence, if we can believe Asus. The Zenfone 5Z is full of it, although many of those functions are not as intelligent as the name suggests. The true strength of the Zenfone 5Z is therefore more its good combination between functionality, design and price.
With a Snapdragon 845 chipset, 6GB memory, a long full HD + screen and a double 12-megapixel camera, the Zenfone 5Z is in no way inferior to the other top smartphones of the moment. There are two things he lacks: wireless charging and a watertight housing. On the other hand, he just has an audio jacket.
Not original, but beautiful
The design of the Zenfone 5Z is actually exactly as you might expect in 2018. A relatively handy device with a 6.2-inch screen that is so large thanks to a cut-out at the top. That notch is slightly larger than with most devices, but that is not really a problem. It houses a speaker, light sensor and front camera, the latter of which also works great as a face recognition
You can hide it if you want by making the sides black, but then you have to do it with a sharply cut top edge that contrasts sharply with the large round corners at the bottom of the screen. That does not look exactly good.
More than most Android devices with a notch, the Zenfone 5Z looks like the Apple iPhone X. That has to do with the camera placement, dimensions and shape of the notch. The biggest difference is that there is a somewhat larger chin at the bottom of the screen. Whether that is a benefit or a disadvantage naturally depends on your own perception, but it is certainly not very original.
Nevertheless, the Zenfone 5Z is beautifully finished, uses neat materials and fits comfortably in the hand. There is a fingerprint scanner on the back and the back is made so that light reflects from the fingerprint scanner in a kind of ray pattern. Looks nice; in that respect, the design of the device is absolutely fine. At the bottom is an audio jack and the device swallows two SIM cards, also handy. Disadvantage: the Zenfone 5Z is not waterproof or water-repellent. Many competitors do that better.
Hardware as it should be
Internally, the hardware of the Zenfone 5Z is exactly as you would expect in a high-end smartphone. It has a fast Snapdragon 845 chipset, which together with 6GB of memory and well-optimized software ensures that the phone works very smoothly. Only downside in terms of performance: the camera sometimes does not start up or sometimes crashes. A strange bug that Hopefully will resolve quickly.
The colors are vivid, the contrast is great and the white balance is okay
The battery of the Zenfone 5Z has a capacity of 3300mAh. He knows how to make good use of it, but certainly not brilliant either. With my fairly intensive use, the device generally comes through the day with a screen-on-time of just under 4 hours. That is about average
The screen also meets expectations. It is not a super flashing amoled screen, but it still looks good. The colors are vivid, the contrast is great and the white balance is okay. It is set a bit too bluish by default, but you can easily fix that in the settings. Or you can choose to let it color with the ambient light, then the problem is also solved.
The speaker has more spirit than that of most smartphones
The speaker above the screen works together with the one on the bottom for a powerful sound that Asus is quite proud of. I have to say that the device sounds a bit tinny, but the speaker has more spirit than that of most smartphones. Quantity above quality, but a little quantity never hurts.
AI for everything
Artificial intelligence is the buzzword of 2018 and that has not gone unnoticed at the Asus headquarters. Almost everything in the Zenfone 5Z is improved with AI according to Asus. The camera can recognize what is being photographed and improves the settings accordingly. The device sees if you look at it to leave the screen on when that is the case. Or how about AI app suggestions and AI charging? The device even has AI ringtone
Not all those extras really have a lot to do with artificial intelligence and most are anything but new. Fortunately that does not mean that it is of no use to you. Some functions, such as the AI charging that extends the life of the battery and the AI screen that stays on when you look at it, are pretty handy. And you don’t notice that much from many functions, but that is also not new to the entire AI story and by no means unique to Asus.
Software is completely wrong
Asus has not been serious on the European market for very long and you can tell by the software. The ZenUI is relatively busy for Western standards and very colorful. To call it a fairground interface goes a bit too far, but it is going that way. Also not really a success: Zenimoji. A kind of copy of Apple’s Animoji, but then rather woody and jerky. Should not have been necessary, but fortunately it is not too prominent.
There are handy extras and it is great to work with
The software is based on Android Oreo, that’s great. Whether you have to expect many updates afterwards is difficult to say; Asus has not yet built up an extensive reputation and information about updates to the Zenfone 5Z is scarce.
Dat alles wil niet zeggen dat de software van het toestel slecht is. Er zitten wat handige extra’s in en er is in de praktijk prima mee te werken. Maar als een gelikte software-ervaring met updategarantie jouw ding is moet je niet hier zijn.
Dual camera op z’n best
De Zenfone 5Z heeft twee camera’s, net als de meeste smartphones tegenwoordig. Op zich dus geen big deal. Maar Asus maakt als een van de weinigen wel gebruik van de beste opstelling wat mij betreft. Namelijk: een gewone camera en een camera met een groothoeklens. Die laatste is erg handig om bijvoorbeeld groepsfoto’s te maken of op vakantie gebouwen op de foto te zetten. Bovendien kun je portretfoto’s met een vervaagde achtergrond maken dankzij de tweede camera.
Qualitatively, there is something to be found on that wide-angle camera. The photos that come out are not very sharp when you zoom in, slightly less in terms of colors than those of the main camera and, above all, strongly distorted. Everything on the edges of the image is rather warped. Moreover, the resolution of the second camera with 8 megapixels is on the low side.
Fortunately the quality of the main camera is good. The 12-megapixel camera shoots photos with a good dynamic range and beautiful colors that are still acceptable even in the dark. Here too, some blur is visible when you view the photos in full format, but it is not very disturbing. All in all, the camera lags behind the real top of the market. For the € 499 that the smartphone costs, that is not surprising and for the majority of smartphone photographers, the device will be fine.
Selfies makes the Zenfone 5Z in 8-megapixel resolution; filming does “ie standard in full HD. 4K is available; even with 60fps. Also good: even with that high resolution and frame rate, the films are still fairly nicely stabilized. Top! Apart from that, the results of both the selfie camera and the video camera look grea
Great concessions for such an affordable device
For € 499 you get a device that is not inferior to the real top of the market in most areas. It is lightning fast, has a beautiful design and the camera records beautiful pictures. Moreover, the second wide-angle camera is very handy. On the other hand, it is not waterproof, the software could have been better and wireless charging is missing. But on the face of it, these are great concessions for such an affordable device.
It is not without reason that the Zenfone 5Z made a great impression during its announcement last spring. The only problem: a lot has changed in the meantime on the smartphone market. For € 75 more you get a Galaxy S9, € 20 extra and you can buy a OnePlus 6. A device such as the Honor 10 that is not that much too short costs € 100 less than the Zenfone 5Z.
Nevertheless, the Zenfone 5Z is a great device that I can heartily recommend. But the lack of distinctive features in combination with the well-priced alternatives that meanwhile mean that the 5Z is not the hit that it appeared to be at the announcement.