Asus normally shies away from having a big presence at MWC. It does launch phones – the ZenFone 4 launched at last year’s MWC was one of our favourites – but it doesn’t usually perform a big song and dance the way, say, Samsung and Sony do. Perhaps Asus thinks it may not be able to compete with the usual smartphone big-hitters?
But not any more. This year’s MWC was particularly special for the Taiwanese firm, which launched its first flagship since the – dare I say disappointing – ZenFone AR. Rest assured, the ZenFone 5Z is so much better, and if there’s a proper Samsung Galaxy S9 competitor at MWC, this is almost certainly it.
Asus ZenFone 5Z review: Design, key features and first impressions
It’s barely six months since the ZenFone 4 arrived in shops, but the ZenFone 5Z isn’t its successor. Oh no, where the fourth-generation ZenFone was an excellent mid-ranger, this is nothing of the sort. Asus has set its sights much higher, launching a flagship smartphone at, well, an almost flagship price.
And you can tell just by looking at it. Available in either dark blue or silver, the ZenFone 5Z’s aluminium construction is stunning, with a similar light-reflecting concentric circle design as the firm’s Zenbook series of laptops. It’s beautifully subtle and isn’t as in your face as, say, HTC’s Iron Man-like U11.
On the front is Asus’s excellent 19:9 display. Yes, you read that right: rather than an 18:9 aspect ratio as we’ve recently seen on the Galaxy S9 or Sony Xperia XZ2, this display takes up much more space on the front, and comes complete with an iPhone X-like notch at the top. And it’s a lovely display.
It’s a FHD+ (2,160 x 1,080) panel, with a maximum brightness of more than 500cd/m2 and 100% DCI-P3 coverage. It also has glove touch support, so you can use the screen without getting your hands cold in the winter weather. The screen’s colour temperature also automatically adjusts according to the ambient lighting, just like Apple’s True Tone technology.
Confusingly, there are two different variations of the phone. The first and the most impressive is the ZenFone 5Z, which comes equipped with Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 845 processor, which is found in most of 2018’s flagships, along with 8GB of RAM and a generous 128GB of storage.
The second, slightly cheaper model is the regular ZenFone 5, which features a Snapdragon 636, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. There’s also a “Lite” version, with low-powered internals, although this won’t be available in the UK.
As for the camera, the ZenFone 5Z has a wide f/1.8 aperture 12-megapixel snapper on the rear, along with a 120-degree wide-angle camera. Both are equipped with phase-detect autofocus and four-axis optical image stabilisation. This is just like the setup on the modular LG G5, which launched two years prior.
Interestingly, the phone also does some AI optimisation to help improve battery life. Essentially, the phone learns when you usually go to sleep and wake up, and charges the phone up to 80%, holding it there up to an hour before you wake up.
Asus ZenFone 5Z review: Early verdict
While Asus might not be a big name in the smartphone race, last year’s ZenFone 4 proved the Taiwanese firm has the credentials to create a phone that really stood out. And now that Asus is reinventing its flagship range, it’s pushing those credentials even further.
The ZenFone 5Z is a truly exceptional smartphone on first impressions. It’s just as well equipped as its flagship alternatives, sure, but it’s a good deal cheaper, too. Starting at just £500, the ZenFone 5Z undercuts both the Galaxy S9 (£739) and Sony Xperia XZ2 (£699) by a wide margin, and this is a really big deal.
Credits | ExpertReviews