The ZenFone smartphone series put ASUS on the smartphone map last year, pushing over 10 million units globally. Not bad for a brand known for its PC motherboards and notebooks. In Malaysia, ASUS was the Top 3 smartphone brand with close to 14% marketshare in 2014. Following the tremendous success, ASUS has released the latest ZenFone to the Southeast Asian market --- ZenFone 2. The highly-anticipated device was unveiled at the Experience 2Morrow regional press event in Jakarta.
The key to the ZenFone's success was its outstanding features, design, Intel-powered performance and down-to-earth pricing. It didn't just win consumer hearts but hearts of judges and publications worldwide, picking up over 238 awards all over the globe.
With the new ZenFone 2, ASUS has upped the ante further while preserving the ZenFone's 'affordable luxury' proposition. The new device touts premium design and build, and has since picked up another design award, this time the 2015 iF Design Award.
ASUS' trademark brushed metal finish with concentric circles returns, embedded on an ergonomic curved body reminiscent of the LG G3 series. It tapers down to an astonishing 3.9mm at its thinnest point and tops out in the weight department at 170g. The curved back makes it great to hold, and because it's got minimum bezel width to fit its 5.5-inch display, it's also as compact as a 5-inch phone. That's a 72% screen-to-body ratio if you're curious.
ASUS has also built-in a rocker button at the back of the device, which functions as volume control or camera shutter.
See what others can't see
The entire launch event materials centered around the theme "See what others can't see" which doesn't take a genius to figure what it's all about. The first generation ZenFone boasted impressive camera optics for the price point. Its impressive low-light performance embarrassed even more expensive smartphones.
The new ZenFone 2 isn't any different. The new 13MP f/2.0 shooter with Real Tone Dual LED flash enhanced with ASUS' famed PixelMaster 2.0 technology makes an appearance again. PixelMaster tech boosts light absorption by up to 400%, giving you better, brighter, less noisy phones in low light conditions.
With Low Light Mode, you literally "see what others can't see" even in stark darkness. It's a sight to behold. Not since the Lumia 1020 or Lumia 1520 has a smartphone camera performed so well in conditions starved of light.
There's also HDR and Super HDR modes that cleverly balances out exposure for super contrast and stark conditions.
If you prefer finer controls, there's Manual mode which gives you more DSLR-like control over ISO, shutter speed and more.
It's all about performance
Powering the new ZenFone 2 is the latest Intel Atom --- either the quad-core Z3580 (2.3GHz) or quad-core Z3560 (1.8GHz). This is mated to a multi-core PowerVR Series 6 - G6430 GPU which delivers blazing performance in 3D applications.
By the way, the ZenFone 2 is the world's first smartphone integrated with 4GB RAM, letting you do more without lag, stutter or out-of-memory situations.
In internal benchmarks, the new Atom SoCs even outperforms chip platforms with more cores.
The ZenFone packs either a 5.5-inch Full HD (403PPI) IPS display or a 5.5-inch HD IPS display protected by Gorilla Glass 3. Featuring a 60ms Touch Screen Response Time the display is repsonsive, and with GloveTouch support, you can use the ZenFone even with gloves on.
What is moving visuals without good sound? ASUS made sure audio performance is top notch with the inclusion of Sonic Master technology matched with 38% larger audio chambers and improved speakers. This translates to 4x more powerful sound output, 4x deeper bass and 2x higher pitch.
With all the performance and multimedia capabilities of the internals, ASUS made sure to integrate a sufficient battery. A 3,000mAh battery with ASUS BoostMaster fast-charging technology ensures all day battery life. Fast-charging enables you to charge up to 60% capacity in just 39 miniutes. Note that the BoostMaster Charger is only included in the 4GB model).
The Zen experience
ZenUI is a refreshingly fluid, light and minimalist user interface that rides atop Android 5.0 Lollipop. The ASUS launcher gives you plenty of opportunity to customise your device with new wallpaper, icons and now fonts.
There are over 30 ZenUI apps available for download from Google Play, so go crazy. Thankfully ASUS didn't bloat the phone with too many pre-loaded apps.
ZenMotion is great, giving you touch gestures to do different tasks with your phone. Double-tap the display to wake the device or swipe different letters to launch different apps (e.g. swipe 'C' to launch camera). You can also gently shake the phone to 'Do It Later.'
With the new ZenFone 2 comes plenty of accessories to boot. ASUS brings the View Flip Cover Deluxe, premium Transfusion and Illusion back covers, ZenFlash, Lolliflash, ZenEar and ZenEar S headphones, as well as ZenPower powerbanks.
Pricing and availability
Pricing for the Indonesian market (with Malaysian estimated pricing) is as follows:
- ZenFone 2 (ZE550ML) - 5.5" HD, 1.8GHz Z3560 / 2GB RAM / 16GB storage - IDR2,699,000 (RM759)
- ZenFone 2 (ZE551ML) - 5.5" FHD, 1.8GHz Z3560 / 2GB RAM / 16GB storage - RM2,999,000 (RM843)
- ZenFone 2 (ZE551ML) - 5.5" FHD, 2.3GHz Z3580 / 4GB RAM / 32GB storage - RM3,999,000 (RM1,125)
- ZenFone 2 (ZE551ML) - 5.5" FHD, 2.3GHz Z3580 / 4GB RAM / 64GB storage - RM4,499,000 (RM1,265)
- View Flip Cover Deluxe - IDR159,000 (RM45)
- ZenEar S - IDR699,000 (RM197)
- ZenEar - IDR79,000 (RM22)
- ZenPower - IDR269,000 (RM76)
- Lolliflash - IDR119,000 (RM33)
- ZenFlash - IDR239,000 (RM67)
Available colours include Glacier Gray / Osmium Black / Glamour Red / Ceramic White / Sheer Gold (ZE551ML); and Osmium Black, Glamour Red, Ceramic White (ZE550ML).
The ZenFone 2 will debut in Malaysia on 9 May 2015, at the "Incredible ZenDay" user/fan party at KL Live, Kuala Lumpur. Official local pricing has not been revealed but expect it to be circa RM1,300 plus 6% GST. Accessories will be available in selected markets only.
Stay tuned for updates and hands-on reviews!