What we liked about it:
- Pleasing camera performance for its class
- Exclusive BeautyLive feature
What we didn’t:
- ZenUI still needs more refinement
- Average build quality
There’s a new Zenfone in town and since there is already a number of Zenfones from mid-range to high-end, ASUS’ new phone is positioned for the lower market. Not only that, it’s also marketed to a niche community fond of the latest trend online – live streaming. Here’s our review of the ASUS Zenfone Live.
Design and Construction
The Zenfone Live is a smartphone with a 5-inch display topped with a smooth 2.5D curved glass. Above it is the earpiece, the front camera and a soft light LED selfie flash. Down below are three capacitive buttons for navigation with no backlight.
On the right, we have the volume rocker and the power/lock button while on the left is the hybrid SIM tray. There’s no dedicated microSD card for the Zenfone Live.
Up top are the headset port and the secondary microphone.
Down below are the loudspeaker, the micro-USB port, and the primary microphone.
Flip it on its back and you’ll see the 13MP main shooter and LED flash. There’s also a shiny ASUS logo coated in chrome.
The Zenfone Live may look premium with its metallic color finish and false antenna lines on its back but, it’s mostly polycarbonate. Still, it feels solid and light enough to comfortably hold when taking selfies or doing handheld live broadcasts, which the device is designed for.
Display and Multimedia
The phone’s display is a 5-inch IPS LCD packing a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. This gives us a pixel density of 294ppi. That’s sharp enough for a phone this size and should be fine for viewing content. We do notice the panel to be of higher quality in terms of color and brightness than other similarly priced handset.
Since the phone is mainly marketed for broadcasting, ASUS put in enhancements for the microphones and loudspeakers. It’s got two noise canceling microphones and stereo recording for a clear audio capture. As for the speakers, ASUS markets again its 5-magnet audio system. Indeed, during our test live stream, the phone was able to capture our voices.
OS, Apps, and UI
Another Zenfone means another handset running the ZenUI. Since the release of ASUS’ skin on top of Android, we never really became a fan. Still, the latest ZenUI 3.0 managed to keep the bloatware at a minimum.
Not much has changed since we last saw the ZenUI 3.0 based on Android Marshmallow and it’s nice to have Google apps set as default. It still gives the handset a unique ASUS touch in the sea of Android phones, especially in the budget segment. You get additional features built-in including the animated lock screen widgets, blue light filter, phone manager, and more.
Since we unboxed the Zenfone Live, we were able to receive a couple of OTA updates mostly for bug fixes and security patches. There’s no mention of Android Nougat for this, though, so we’re a bit skeptical about that. With the phone’s 16GB storage, you get 9.91GB left for your own use. Also, you get free 200GB for two years on Google Drive.
The BeautyLive app from ASUS is currently exclusive to the Zenfone Live. It’s for live streaming beautification with simple controls from level 1 to 10. It allows you to broadcast live on YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook. Using the live beautification feature will show a more vibrant, smooth face. If you’re already doing the live broadcast, you can still adjust the beautification level by just clicking on the app’s floating widget.
One of the main aspects of the Zenfone Live is its camera. Since this one is made for broadcasting content despite sitting in the budget segment, we have some above average expectations for its shooters. On paper, it’s got a 13-megapixel rear autofocus camera with a f/2.0 aperture and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera with its very own LED flash.
Using the ZenUI camera launcher, you have a number of options to choose from the so-called PixelMaster modes. We’ll be sticking with Auto for the samples to let the phone think on its own. The rear camera is a capable shooter, especially for its class. Certainly, the main concern of the camera is to capture bright stills. With a good amount of light, we’re able to get vibrant shots.
As for the front-facing camera, it also captures bright selfies. When indoors or low-light environment, though, it tends to soften the details which result to smudgy stills.
With beautification (around Level 3)
Video recording capabilities max out at 1080p with a steady framerate of 30fps. Software stabilization only works at 720p and below.
We must say, we’re pleased with the overall camera performance of the Zenfone Live for its price point.
Performance and Benchmarks
The phone is powered a Snapdragon 410 quad-core CPU clocked at 1.2GHz and has the Adreno 306 GPU to handle graphics. These are then paired with 2GB of RAM. It’s a modest setup that’ll be able to handle everyday tasks smoothly. No signs of lag during our use but there some noticeable longer loading times.
When it comes to gaming, it can run casual games easily. Even graphic intensive games like Asphalt: Extreme gets steady frame rates even in high settings. As for the likes of NBA2K17, you’d have to keep things in check. You can get a smoother gameplay when in low settings.
As always, here are the benchmark scores we’ve got:
- AnTuTu Benchmark v6.2.7 — 27115
- Geekbench 4 —499 (Single), 1231 (Multi)
Author’s note: For unknown reasons, PCMark and 3DMark crash every time we try to run the apps. Vellamo, on the other hand, seems to be unsupported.
Call Quality and Connectivity
The two microphones mainly designed for capturing audio for live streaming also works well with voice calls, thus, the noise canceling microphones helps produce clearer calls over the network. The earpiece is also audible even in busy environments.
The phone has 4G LTE connectivity, and according to ASUS, the particular model of the Zenfone Live for the Philippine market supports the latest 700MHz band of local telcos. It also has single-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS.
The phone has a 2650mAh battery that’s sealed inside the plastic chassis of the phone. It may be small by today’s standard but, surprisingly, it was able to last for 8 hours and 15 minutes on PCMark Work 1.0 battery test.
While we wrap our review, we can’t help but conclude that the Zenfone Live, sans the BeautyLive feature, is what could have been the latest Zenfone Go. Nonetheless, we’re glad to ASUS opening up live streaming to the masses. If only ASUS partnered with a telco to sponsor the data costs, it would have been a complete package.
The ASUS Zenfone Live retails for just Php6,995. Aside from the live streaming prowess of the handset, it’s also a good starter phone or a secondary one.
ASUS Zenfone Live (ZB501KL) specs:
- 5-inch IPS LCD @ 1280 x 720 pixels, 294ppi
- 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad-core CPU
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB internal storage
- Expandable via microSD, up to 128GB (uses SIM2)
- 13MP f/2.0 autofocus rear camera w/ LED Flash
- 5MP front camera w/ LED flash
- 4G LTE (700MHz support)
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
- Bluetooth 4.0
- GPS w/ a-GPS, GLONASS
- FM radio
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow w/ ZenUI 3.0
- 2650mAh non-removable battery
- 141.2 x 71.74 x 7.95 mm
- 120 g