ASUS ZenFone 5z Review: Yet Another Flagship Killer?

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It’s 10K/$187 more expensive than the regular version, but is it worth it?

It’s been quite a few weeks since we first took possession of ASUS’ budget flagship, the ZenFone 5z. Since then we’ve spent quite a bit of time with it, along with the phone’s other budget competitors in extensive real-world tests and usage.

After all the time spent with the ZenFone 5z in both in the Philippines and Vietnam, is it the definitive version of the new ZenFone series that you should buy?

Asus Zenfone 5Z Specs
  • AI-powered Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor
  • Adreno 630 GPU
  • 6GB RAM
  • 128GB of storage
  • 6.2-inch Full HD+IPS display, 18.7:9 aspect ratio, 2246×1080 resolution, DCI-P3 wide color gamut
  • 12-megapixel main rear camera, Sony IMX363 sensor, f/1.8 aperture, Night HDR, OIS, EIS, PDAF, RAW capture
  • 8-megapixel secondary rear camera, 120-degree wide angle view
  • 8-megapixel, f/2.0 front camera
  • 4G, LTE
  • Dual SIM
  • WiFi, Bluetooth
  • GPS, A-GPS
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • Facial Recognition
  • USB Type-C port
  • 3300mAh battery with BoostMaster and Smart Charging
  • Android Oreo with ZenUI 5.0

What is it?

The ZenFone 5z is essentially a souped-up version of the ZenFone 5 released earlier this year. The phone has the same outward appearance and much of the hardware of the more affordable version with a big difference: a flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor plus loads more RAM and internal storage. We’d wager it’s the definitive version of the Taiwanese company’s breakout phone, and the one to get if you can spare the extra cash.

How does it feel?

It looks and feels exactly like the ZenFone 5. You can head on over to our earlier review of that particular phone here, but the short version is you’re getting a premium device under Php 30K. The phone is covered in glass both front and back, with the rear panel of the device getting ASUS’ trademark concentric Zen circle finish to give it a visual pop.

The camera modules stick out a few mm from the rear and are stacked vertically, with the flash unit right below it. The fingerprint scanner is on the rear as well.

All the controls are on the right of the phone, with the USB Type-C connector, speaker grille and 3.5mm jack located on the bottom.

Overall the phone’s design isn’t groundbreaking and has a lot of similarities to other Android phones already out in the market, but let’s be real here, what phone doesn’t?

Buyers of the ZenFone 5z might be annoyed at the fact that the phone doesn’t have any external difference to the cheaper model. This decision to run the exact same components on the outside is one of the reasons why the 5z is so affordable, but the tradeoff is that it and the ZenFone 5 impossible to tell apart at a glance without checking the hardware running them.

Is the display notched?

Yup, just like the ZenFone 5, the ZenFone 5z’s display is also notched to allow for a greater 19:9 aspect ratio. The notch is there to accommodate the front-facing camera, proximity sensors plus the earpiece. Unfortunately, there’s no way to turn off the notch via software, so you’ll have to live with it. Thankfully apps are coded to run with that notch up there, as it doesn’t interfere with Facebook and YouTube when they’re running in portrait mode.

As for the actual display quality? It’s exactly the same as the one in the ZenFone 5. You get the same crisp image with it, along with good color reproduction.

How’s the performance?

Pretty wicked. Despite the phone being an almost carbon copy of the more affordable ZenFone 5 on the outside, it’s quite a different story on the inside. For starters, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 chipset is replaced by a flagship Snapdragon 845 processor – top-tier hardware for today’s flagships.

That’s topped off with a generous serving of both RAM and storage, coming in at 6GB and 128GB respectively – putting it in the same league as its other budget flagship competitors.

In fact, the ZenFone 5z is the most affordable of all the Snapdragon 845-equipped phones that have 128GB of storage – both the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s and the OnePlus 6 only has 64GB of storage for the base variant.

That means the ZenFone 5z is able to handle all apps, big and small, without any issues. Lag-free gaming under 30K.

How’s the rest of the phone?

You’ll have to get used to wiping the back of the phone religiously if you decide to run it naked, as it collects smudges and fingerprints like crazy. Take note that the glass is scratch-resistant and not scratch-proof, and will collect micro-scratches like crazy if you run it naked.

There’s no wireless charging on board, which is a bit of a downer considering the phone has a glass back. Its closest competitor, the Mi Mix 2s has induction charging (aka wireless charging) via the Qi standard which kind of justifies the scratch-prone glass back.

The sound is pretty loud but loses definition at higher volumes.

ASUS’ ZenUI is still present, but at its present iteration, it’s not that much of an eyesore (or battery hog) as it was previously. We still want pure Android on the phone, but honestly, that’s us just being nit-picky.

How are the cameras?

Aside from the exterior of the phone, the ASUS ZenFone 5z also shares the same camera as its more affordable brother. The rear cameras are a combination of a 12-megapixel main rear camera, Sony IMX363 sensor, f/1.8 aperture, Night HDR, OIS, EIS, PDAF, RAW capture and an 8-megapixel secondary rear camera with a 120-degree wide angle view.

The phone certainly takes a lot of good photos during the day. Low-light performance is good, as you can still make out a bit of detail in the shot with the many cafes. Highlights tend to get overpowered a bit though in some of our daylight shots.

How long does it last

Roughly around a day. Our PCMark battery benchmark crashed during testing (we’re doing another run) but for what it’s worth, the phone managed to give us roughly a day’s worth of battery life while running around Vietnam, running a Viettel Mobile SIM card on their 4G network. There’s also fast charging once you run out of juice via Qualcomm’s QuickCharge tech, though as previously mentioned there’s no wireless charging.

Should you buy it?

The ASUS ZenFone 5z looks like a killer deal on paper, considering it’s from a company that’s not exactly known for their affordable flagships. With a decent set of cameras, powerful hardware and good-looking exterior, the ASUS ZenFone 5z is a solid choice if you’re looking for a flagship that won’t go past 30K.

The ZenFone 5z though has a lot of competition in the price bracket, as many other affordable flagships have been announced by other brands. The Honor 10 is several thousand pesos lower though it’s not powered by a Qualcomm processor. Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 2s is, and has wireless charging to boot but internal storage is just 64GB for the official version sold in stores at Php 27,990. The OnePlus 6 is another possible alternative, though you’re paying for 1K more and getting less storage, at just 64GB.

(unbox.ph, http://bit.ly/2KgvPon)

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