It has been pitched right against the bestselling Moto G

We’ve always loved Asus’s experiments with Intel Atom processors – the Fonepad series has been one of our favourite mid-range tablets of all times. It’s simple, honest and is good value for money. Now the Taiwanese gadget maker has decided to make a big return to the smartphone market, starting with the most competitive segment – the sub-₹15k range.

The Asus ZenFone series was unveiled earlier this year at CES, with screen sizes ranging from 4 to 6 inches, and the essential specs being the differentiators, such as camera and screen resolutions, memory, processor etc. We decided to take a closer look at the ZenFone 5, as the specs and pricing pitch it right next to the bestselling Motorola Moto G, and Lenovo’s S660 and HTC’s Desire 516.

Design and build

For a device that’s priced below the ₹13,000 the ZenFone 5 has a really appealing design. The back’s all plastic, but of a good build quality. The device feels very sturdy, and with a curved back design it offers a firm one-handed grip too. The 5-inch display is surrounded by a slightly thick bezel – on the sides it offers enough space to avoid accidental touch responses, but on the top and bottom the extra real-estate feels a bit pointless.

The home, task menu and back button are offered as dedicated capacitive touch buttons, instead of on-screen buttons, freeing up more of the display. There’s also a design element at the bottom, a metallic strip which has the concentric circle design etched on it, in sync with Asus’s laptop family (we usually see this pattern on Asus’s laptops’ lids and on the tablets’ back panels). Adding to the sturdiness is the Corning Gorilla Glass 3 on the fascia, protecting the device against most scratches. Overall, we feel this is one of the best designs in the segment and also one of the sturdiest.

Specs and performance

Asus has something that differentiates the ZenFone from the rest of the lot – the processor. While other phones in this segment have opted for Qualcomm Snapdragon or MediaTek processors, the ZenFone 5 packs in a 1.6GHz, Dual-core Intel Atom chip. This is complemented by a 2GB RAM, the highest in its class. The device runs on Android 4.3 out of the box, with an overlaid skin. Normally we prefer the raw Android feel, but the ZenUI skin has some nice widgets and the pull-down notification/control menu makes living with the phone very convenient.

We found that this combination results in effortless usage, with the general apps one would use for everyday usage. The performance numbers too speak for themselves. On the Quadrant Benchmark test the ZenFone 5 clocked in 8,750 points on an average, very close to the Moto G’s 8,900 points.

The 5-inch IPS panel supports a 1280x720 pixels resolution, and offers good brightness and colour reproduction. For its price, this screen size, coupled with a satisfactory resolution, offers brilliant video consumption. The sound, however, isn’t extraordinary – that’s not to say it’s disappointing in any way.

The rear 8MP camera produces good images in both well-lit and under-lit conditions. There are some really interesting camera modes, like the Turbo burst mode. The front 2MP camera too, is quite satisfactory. We got a battery life of nearly 12 hours of mixed usage, which is very good for this class.

Verdict

Asus offers two variants of the ZenFone 5, based on internal storage space – 8 and 16 GB. You can take a pick depending on how many apps you would like to load your device with – we’d obviously recommend more memory. The only problem that we have with the device is that it heats up during prolonged video consumption and on long calls, and that it has an older version of the OS. Asus claims that the 4.4 KitKat update will be here soon, so we’re somewhat optimistic. The device definitely offers a better value for money proposition over the Moto G, in terms of expandable memory, a good design and a bigger screen.

₹9,999 (8GB), ₹12,999 (16GB)

Love – Brilliant performance; great design and build

Hate – Older version of Android; minor overheating

(This article was published on July 16, 2014)
XThese are links to The Hindu Business Line suggested by Outbrain, which may or may not be relevant to the other content on this page. You can read Outbrain's privacy and cookie policy here.