Since its debut with Zenfone brand of smartphones, ASUS has managed to receive decent response and has also been able to develop a fan base in such a quick succession of time. Unlike other smartphone manufacturers, ASUS prefers to stick to the Intel Atom branded SoC's, which claim to deliver better performance and battery life.
Recently, the brand launched its latest smartphone Zenfone 2 in several variants. For the smartphone, ASUS has taken a big stride in every segment. Apart from featuring the latest OS, ASUS has revamped its homemade user interface ZenUi inside out and also revamped the design language to impress a larger audience.
We received the ZE551ML edition of Zenfone 2, which packs 4GB RAM memory with best of the hardware features at ₹22,999. The Zenfone 2 is available in four other variants, which comes in different price range and hence packs distinct specification.
Design and Build Quality
The Zenfone 2 ZE551ML features an all plastic body with metallic finish. The back features a curvy brushed metal finish featuring the camera sensor at the top middle and dual-tone LED flash just above that. The volume rocker button has been placed just below that. On the lower part, the Intel inside logo has been engraved following the ZenFone logo. The speaker grille has been housed just below that.
Opening the back cover reveals two Micro SIM and Micro SD slots featured on the top of the non-removable battery.
ASUS has left both the sides unoccupied and placed the power switch on the top of the device. In the front, there are 3 capacitive buttons placed below the display. Unfortunately, the buttons are not backlit hence might be a tad challenging to operate in the dark.
Though it's an all plastic device, the Zenfone 2 ZE551ML sports great quality material and hence feels quite rugged yet comfortable in hand. Only issue with the ZE551ML is its power button, which is quite weird to access during single handed use. However, ASUS features few new gestures like double tap to sleep/ wake and single-handed operation menu.
[Read More: ASUS Zenfone Tips and Tricks]
The ASUS Zenfone 2 ZE551ML boasts a 5.5-inch display on the front of the phone with 70.1% screen to body ratio. The display features 1080x1920 pixels resolution with 403ppi pixel density count. For added protection the display comes overlaid with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection.
In real life, the display is quite sharp in nature with crisp text and icons. We were fairly impressed with the colour balance and contrast level of the display. Colours were vibrant and well balanced, contrast levels were decent and ASUS appears to have done a decent job by calibrating the display nicely.
ASUS features a colour calibration mode, which allows users to change the colour temperature and also set screen colour according to usage pattern.
Operating system and software
ASUS Zenfone 2 ZE551ML runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop overlaid with ASUS's homemade custom UI ZenUI skin.
Apart from the cosmetic interface of Android 5 Lollipop, we like the stock Android much better as it helps bringing the Android update much quicker than the rest. But in case of ZenUI, we liked the design overhaul of the latest interface for its features and gestures.
Unlike many other smartphone makers, ASUS retains the app drawer and enhances it by introducing more features. The interface allows users to download more themes, icon packs and fonts for overall customisation of the device.
ASUS has loaded the Zenfone 2 ZE551ML with Atom Z3560 processor clocked at 1.8GHz and 4GB RAM.
Benchmarking the Zenfone 2 ZE551ML, the smartphone scored 47,473 in AnTuTu Benchmarking 5.7, 907 single-core and 2653 multi-core in GeekBench 3, 1218 metal and 2930 browser score on Vellamo.
The scores are more or less similar to the last year's flagship killer smartphone OnePlus One. Interestingly, both the devices are also priced almost similar, which makes it a decent competitor of OnePlus One.
That said, with real world use we found the Zenfone 2 ZE551ML performance was good overall. Navigating menus and opening apps was smooth and the Zenfone 2 ZE551ML was noticeably bug free hence offers a stutter free experience.
The only performance problem with Zenfone 2 ZE551ML we noticed is that, like many other smartphones, the device gets heated when we played any graphic heavy games like Clash of Clans, WWE Immortals or Asphalt 8: Airborne in it.
However, there weren't any other issues.
We didn't like the back firing speaker as it suppress the audibility level of the speaker when the device is kept front faced. As far the audio quality, the Zenfone 2 ZE551ML in-built speakers is audible enough but not as loud as we expected. Still it's good enough when used inside any room. The audio quality is decent and usually remains distortion free.
ASUS packs a 13MP sensor for the primary camera needs and a 5MP camera for the front. The 13MP camera offers f/2.0 aperture and performs decently outdoors. The images clicked outdoor offers great detail with ample presence of nicely balanced colour.
In indoor shoot, the images suffer a tad of noise while cropped to 100%. But in reality they appear usable enough for posting on social media or printing in regular sizes.
The camera also lacks the much required 4K video recording capability and sticks to 1080p recording. ASUS has designed the UI pretty well and will definitely help users get good results without much tweaking. Find our test shots appended at the bottom of the review.
Storage and Battery
The 3000 mAh non-removable battery of Zenfone 2 ZE551ML offers a decent battery life.
Burning the battery by playing a full HD video file on loop with keeping the screen brightness to the maximum, the Zenfone 2 ZE551ML discharged at an average of 17% per hour.
With regular use the device lasted almost one and half days before dying. Regular use involves listening to music while commuting, few hours of call incoming and outgoing while keeping the phone connected continuously to 3G or Wi-Fi network. However, we noticed the battery drains quite fast while streaming music to any Bluetooth speaker.
ASUS offers 32GB of internal storage and you can add 64GB more through the Micro SD card. ASUS also offers 5GB of lifetime ASUS WebStorage free with every phone.
The ASUS Zenfone 2 ZE551ML is currently available for ₹19,999 exclusively through Flipkart. Placed in the mid range smartphone market, the Zenfone 2 ZE551ML offers good value for money. The Zenfone 2 ZE551ML packs a great hardware, hence offers a butter smooth performance. Looking at the price and performance we feel, the Zenfone 2 ZE551ML offers great value for money and is worth every penny you spend on it.