Asus ZenFone 5 2018 Is Beautiful and Powerful: I Just Hope Asus Prices It Competitively

On Thursday - February 22, 2018, our friends from Asus Philippines gave me an opportunity to play with their 2018 Hero Android smartphone, the all-new Asus ZenFone 5, several days before the handset's official announcement at Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, Spain.

Let me share with you my initial impressions of the product.

Updated Look, Larger Screen

The first time I held the device, I was instantly smitten.

I mean, regardless of the viewing angle, ZenFone 5 is simply gorgeous. It also it has reassuring heft and gives off that well-crafted feel in the hand.

As the successor to the Asus ZenFone 4 of 2017, I would say this model represents a clear upgrade in terms of looks as it comes replete with design elements that are more or less expected from a 2018 flagship or name-bearer handset.

Sure, the phone's glass-metal-glass build and rectangle-with-rounded-corners footprint are practically the same as that of last year's model -- but the notched all-screen face and the redesigned camera module at the back will immediately tell you that this is a 2018 mobile device.

Now, I know what you're thinking.

Yes, at first glance, Asus ZenFone 5 2018 does look like the Apple iPhone X.

However, if you look more closely, you will see glaring differences.

For one, ZenFone 5's display is larger at 6.2 inches while iPhone X's is only 5.8 inches across. Also, Asus gives you more screen space on the face as this handset's bezels are even thinner and the notch on top is slimmer.

To be specific, ZF5's screen-to-body ratio is 83.6% versus just 82.9% for the iPhone X.

At the back, if you notice in the image above, the camera module is flat unlike the one on the iPhone X, which protrudes. ZenFone 5 ZE620KL also has a Fingerprint Scanner located on this panel just about the Asus logo. And of course, it has that familiar concentric circle pattern underneath the glass back plate -- something you won't find on the iPhone X.

Smart Camera, Intelligent Interface

ZenFone 5 2018 has two cameras at the back with phase detection autofocus.

One is a 12 MegaPixel shooter with f/1.8 aperture, 24 mm focal length, 1/2.55" sensor, and 1.4 µm pixel size. The other has 8 MegaPixel resolution, f/2.0 aperture, wide-angle 12 mm focal length, smaller 1/4" sensor, and 1.12 µm pixel size.

From what I observed, this module works almost the same as that of the Asus ZenFone 4 but with slightly better low light performance and more vivid colors -- even when using the wide-angle secondary camera, which is usually ignored by other brands.

But perhaps the best thing about the camera is that it's now smarter, thanks to this phone's AI capabilities.

Smart in what way, you ask? Well, for one, it can automatically figure out what's in front of the lens and adjust imaging algorithms to deliver the best shots. For example, if you point it at the beautifully presented meal on your plate, it will automatically see it as "food" and adjust the colors instantly to make the shot look more appetizing. It's quite cool.

And what's great is that this Artificial Intelligence benefits so many other aspects of the device including the display temperature and the hardware performance -- and I was told that that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Capable Internal Hardware, Smooth Performance

I believe Asus will release multiple versions of the ZenFone 5 with varying sets of innards. Some more powerful than others -- but also more expensive.

I think the one that I tested is in the middle of the pack but I have a hunch that it's also going to be the hero model for the Philippine market.

As you can see, this particular Asus ZenFone 5 variant runs its ZenUI-skinned Android 7.1.1 Nougat operating system with the energy-efficient 14nm Krait-based Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor, has 4GB of RAM, and comes with 64GB of internal storage.

I watched Asus' presentation at MWC on February 27, 2018, I saw that they are going to release ZenFone 5 Z, which runs on the flagship-level Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor. That will be the most powerful variant in the bunch, delivering top-notch performance.

Nonetheless, the version that I played it was certainly no push-over when it comes to running 3D games and providing a stutter-free touch experience. I mean, it was a pre-production unit but I saw that it can easily run Mobile Legends, which is the most popular mobile game in the Philippines currently. Also, in the hour or so that I spent playing with the device, I didn't encounter any annoying lags when browsing through the interface.

Alright! That's it for now. I'll let you in on more details about the Asus ZenFone 5 as soon as I get to play with it for a longer period.

Off hand, I think it's a gorgeous 2018 Android smartphone that has a lot of useful features. I'm just hoping that Asus PH would give it a very competitive price to entice more consumers. If you ask me, I think less than Php 20,000 would be good for the Snapdragon 636 powered variant.

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