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First Impressions: ASUS ZenFone 2 – Loads of RAM, brilliant camera and some interesting accessories

zenfone2

ASUS’s latest contender to the premium-but-affordable smartphone war is none other than the Zenfone 2. It made headlines being the first equipped with the biggest amount of RAM you could find on a smartphone.

In terms of looks, the Zenfone 2 looks pretty much like the rest of the family with its metallic back and general styling, with the smartphone coming in at a 3.9mm thickness at its thinnest point. They’ve also deviated a bit from its flat rectangular back to a slightly curved design that is supposed to be easier and more comfortable to hold and therefore harder to lose your grip. Also new is a rear mounted control just underneath the camera that can be used to snap selfies or adjust the volume.

There are 3 distinctive versions of the Zenfone 2 that are hitting the market, with the higher end Zenfone 2 (ZE551ML) being home to a 5.5” full IPS screen, monstrous 4GB RAM, quad-core 64-bit 2.3GHz Z3580 Atom processor, 32GB storage and a 13 MP f/2.0 rear cam and 5 MP front snapper with a generously sized 3,000 mAh battery on top of dual SIM capabilities. There’s also a larger 64GB storage version available if you must have that extra storage.

The Zenfone 2 (ZE550ML)’s slightly lower end sibling is just a notch below with a 1.8GHz Z3560 quad-core processor, 2GB RAM and a 5.5” 720p IPS display but otherwise shares the rest of the phone’s qualities. Both phones will be running Android 5.0 Lollipop with ZenUI 2.0 on top and will get an extra 5GB ASUS web storage.

At the lower end of the spectrum, there’s the ZE500CL which comes with a smaller 5″ HD 720p display and it runs on an older 1.6GHz Z2560 processor that’s powering the previous Zenfone series. The specs internally are a notch down with a 8MP main and 2MP front cameras, while the battery is smaller as well at 2,500mAh.

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zenfone rear

While the phone itself isn’t something ridiculously innovative, it does have a few aces up its sleeve. Aside from having a crazy amount of RAM that would no doubt make it capable of handling high load apps, it also has one of the better cameras we’ve seen on a smartphone. It’s got enough modes to satisfy any shutter bug and the HDR mode makes quick work of photos that would otherwise look overexposed in bad lighting. For demanding situations, there’s a Super Resolutions mode where it combines 4x 13MP photos to produce a clearer picture with greater detail while reducing noise.

The Zenfone 2 has officially launched in Malaysia and they are priced as follows:
ZE500CL (5″ HD, 1.6GHz Z2560, 2GB RAM, 8GB ROM) – RM599
ZE550ML (5.5″ HD, 1.8GHz Z3560, 2GB RAM, 16GB ROM) – RM749
ZE551ML (5.5″ FHD, 1.8GHz Z3560, 2GB RAM, 32GB ROM) – RM899
ZE551ML (5.5″ FHD, 2.3GHz Z3580, 4GB RAM, 32GB ROM) – RM1,099
ZE551ML (5.5″ FHD, 2.3GHz Z3580, 4GB RAM, 64GB ROM) – RM1,299

zenfone2 covers

Also launched alongside the ZenFone 2 earlier in Jakarta is a few new accessories that aren’t the same steak and potatoes you usually see when it comes down to cases and camera goodies.

For starters assortment of optional back covers are certainly a breath of fresh air, taking full advantage of textures and shapes to make some rather unique covers both visually and physically. The shapes are available in five designs, with two symmetrical patterns and three asymmetrical patterns to choose from.

Speaking of covers, they’ve also released an updated version of their flip cover, called the View Flip Cover Deluxe which has a larger view port than its predecessors and pretty much functions in such a way that you can go about your business without having to open the lid for basic functions. It’s essentially the same as the original View Flip Cover, with the exception that the cover seems more snugly fit to the phone and you can access more features via the ring of commands accessible from the window.

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Some might find the cover very convenient with the added bonus of saving power by not having to utilize the entire screen but for functions besides what is available (like settings, camera, music and so on) you will still have to pop it open.

Accessories

The recent regional event also saw the launch of two new camera accessories as well as a powerbank; namely the ZenFlash, LolliFlash and the ZenPower 10050mAh powerbank.

zenflash

The aptly named ZenFlash is a rear mounted camera accessory that supposedly is able to turn your ZenFone 2 into a high end DSLR-like camera. It attaches via a set of suction cups which in turn sticks to a special sticker you attach to the rear the ZenFone, and the Xenon flash is 100x times brighter than the ZenFone 2’s own LED flash. It does give a huge boost to the details of photos taken in low lighting conditions and connects to the phone via the microUSB slot.

lolliflash

Accompanying it is the circular LolliFlash which we hope is named after it’s similarity to a colourful lollipop, that affixes to the headphone jack of the phone. Its purpose is to act as a dual-toned LED torch to get more natural toned selfies, but also comes with a set of three colour filters in white, blue and purple that also function as protective covers for the device.

The LolliFlash is priced at 119,000 Rupiah (about RM 33) which makes it a really cheap plug in flash for your phone that hardly puts a dent in your wallet, while the ZenFlash will retail for about RM 67.

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About the size of a business card, the ZenPower powerbank is not just small but it can juice even bigger devices thanks to a higher 2.4A output that charges quicker than standard 2.1A based powerbanks. The only thing we’d say is missing is a dual USB charging setup but for something this small being able to hold enough juice (10,050mAh) to power up your smartphone multiple times a day, it sounds pretty good to us. The powerbank is unfortunately only available for the Indonesian market at the moment, but it would be great if they make it available over the entire region given that it could make for a good competitor for Xiaomi’s super affordable powerbanks of the same capacity. In Indonesia, the ZenPower costs 269,000 Rupiah which is about RM75. Of course, prices could be very different if they get a local launch in Malaysia.

It’s hard to say how well exactly the ASUS ZenFone 2 will perform without real-world testing but overall it does well in both the performance and the looks department, because for those prices, what’s not to like?