Technophile

Pro photography for budget phablet fans

Visvaksen P | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on August 26, 2015

bl27_tech_zenfone2laser.jpg

bl27_tech_zenfone2laser.jpg

The Zenfone 2 Laser fills a unique niche in the large-screened budget phone category



After overseeing a veritable Zenflood over the past few months, Taiwanese electronics manufacturer ASUS now has a phone available at every conceivable price point between budget and mid-range, each with multiple configuration options. The Zenfone 2 Laser, the cheapest of the lot, features a laser-assisted focusing mechanism for the camera as its headlining feature. It also becomes ASUS’s first release in a while to ditch Intel’s Atom processors in favour of Snapdragons from Qualcomm.

Design

The Zenfone 2 Laser, in accordance with its cost, is an all-plastic affair. It is hardly likely to stand out in a crowd with its simply and understated design cues unless you have chosen one of the flashier colour options. The device features a removable back cover with a user accessible battery, a feature which most smartphones seem to be moving away from despite how popular it is with users. This move comes with an obvious tradeoff in terms of thickness. ASUS' marketing material claims a fairly skinny 3.9mm, but the center is a lot bulkier than the edges.

ASUS’s button placement, with the volume controls on the rear and the power button on top, helped achieve those thin edges but is also incredibly awkward. The inconveniences are relatively minor, but they are present and constantly felt. The volume buttons double as shutter buttons for the camera, which is a solid use case that goes some way towards mitigating the annoyance.

Hardware & performance

The 5.5 inch IPS display on the Laser is capable of a supporting a 720p resolution and has a pixel density of 267 ppi. Full HD would have been preferable considering the screen size, but the current panel performs adequately. Colours and viewing angles are good and readability doesn't take too much of a hit under direct sunlight.

The Zenfone 2 Laser comes with two different Qualcomm processor options- the quad-core Snapdragon 410 and the octa-core Snapdragon 615. Both variants come with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage space. A micrSD card slot is available for augmenting internal storage.

We tested the lower-specced Laser and found benchmark performance to be on par with the Nexus 4. Despite being a 2 year old phone, the Nexus 4 can run most common Android applications and multi-task between them fluidly and the Zenfone is no different. But gaming performance has a definite upper limit which we managed to hit quite quickly with a cocktail of N.O.V.A and Real Racing.

The battery on the Laser has a rated capacity of 3,000 mAh, which we found sufficient for a day’s usage with 3G always on, constant emails and IM conversations, approximately 20-30 minutes of talktime and an hour and a half of music playback in addition to occasional web browsing.

Camera

The 13 MP PixelMaster rear camera on the Zenfone features a Toshiba lens with an f2.0 aperture. The laser-assisted focusing mechanism which gives the device its name is really quick and combined with lightning fast shutter response, the Zenfone 2 Laser has a very fast camera. The 5 MP front camera is a standard selfie shooter.

Detailing and colour reproduction is pretty solid in daylight, but in low light you’re faced with the usual choice of noise or reduced detail. But we were pleasantly surprised to see that images shot using ASUS’ low light mode are not as aggressively over-processed as in other cameras we’ve used.

The camera software on the Laser is very usable. All the effects and filters are packed into a single button beside the shutter release and advanced options such as custom ISO and exposure are available via a cog on the top left. We noticed no lag during our usage and launch time was minimal as well.

Despite the name and whatever the good folks in ASUS’ marketing department might tell you, this is not a phone meant for a camera enthusiast. It is a middling effort in the grand scheme of smartphone camera hardware.

But in this price cateogry, the presence of laser focus and capable camera software definitely puts it head and shoulders above its competition.

Software

The Laser comes with ASUS’ heavily customised ZenUI flavour of Android 5.0.2. It features some extremely useful features such as user selectable quick settings toggles, ZenMotion touch gestures, easy mode for the extremely old and kids mode for younger users.

It also features the ability to customise display and sound profiles and switch between 4 different preset battery profiles.

Uninstallable bloatware is present and accounted for as with most custom Android implementations. However, some of these apps such as SuperNote and Do It Later are actually fairly decent attempts at augmenting Android’s rather basic stock functionality in certain departments.

ASUS’ Launcher is highly themeable and has an option to download additional icon packs. Its attempts to organise all newly installed apps into folders can get a little annoying, but overall the ASUS experience is attractive enough that we did not feel the need to replace it with Nova Launcher during our testing.

Bottomline

If you’re in the market for an oversized budget smartphone, the Zenfone 2 Laser’s prime competitors are the Lenovo K3 Note and the Yu Yureka Plus. If overall value is what you’re after, we’d suggest waiting to see if Xiaomi manages to bring the Redmi Note 2 to India.

The three currently available contenders have very specific strengths. The K3 Note has a better processor in the Snapdragon 615 while the Yureka has a better OS in Cyanogen. If neither of those are as important to you as taking photos on the go, the Laser is the phone for you.

Love: Camera, ZenUI

Hate: Button placement

Price: ₹9,999

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Published on August 26, 2015
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