1. Golfdriver97's Avatar
    The ASUS ZenFone 2 review

    First I would like to thank Android Central/Mobile Nations, and ASUS for the opportunity to review this device.

    Specification refresher:
    -OS Lollipop 5.0
    -Chipset Intel Atom Z3580 Quad Core 2.3 GHz
    -4 GB RAM
    -64 GB Internal storage
    -SD card up to 64 GB
    -5.5" IPS screen 1080x1920
    -Li-Po 3,000 mAh battery

    I received this phone on June 1st, and to this day on June 12th, has been my daily driver since. My prior device being the HTC M8.

    The Good:
    Screen: Based solely on how the screen looks, this is very similar to my M8. On my device, whites are very accurate. I have no color tint at all. The icons are very sharp, and crisp.
    Speakers: For rear facing speakers, they aren't bad. I had streamed music from Google Play and the sound was clear, pleasant to listen to, and after placing it on my desk for a few minutes, I forgot I wasn't listening to the M8.
    User Input: In regard to touch response, this is fast. For a few days I left all the animations on stock, and it is still a snappy device. Turning the animations down made it a tiny bit faster. I am guessing the 4 GB of RAM helped out here. There were a couple hiccups in the ROM itself, but that was upon initial set up, nothing a reset couldn't fix, and things I haven't seen since.
    Other: Clear method of rebooting into recovery. Without looking online, I got into recovery quite easily. There were no excessive extra button presses, or combos. No tilting your hand to 35.7 degrees on the right solar zenith on the first Wednesday after the first Tuesday of the month (ok a little extreme on the sarcasm, but I have seen recoveries that are painstaking to get into).
    Quick Charge: This is my first device that is capable of it. It is a very nice feature to have.
    Tap to wake: Had this on my M8, and it is so nice! Good move here.


    The Neutral:
    Power button: The top center is very cumbersome to use. However, with a screen off widget, I was able to bypass the need to reach it. With the tap to wake, this reduces the need for the power button almost entirely.
    Back plate: It is nice and tight. Very comforting snap as it sets into place. Conversely, there is a little more effort to remove it than other devices with removable backs that I have used.
    Recovery speed: Not too surprised after the Nex5 and M8. Cache clear and resets were a little on the slow side, but nothing too surprising.
    Power button in plate: This doesn't quite sit too well with me. The plate with the button has a small foot, and that presses the actual power area. However, to play Devil's Advocate, this design might be aimed at wear and tear on the button so that it reduces the actual breaking to something easily replaceable.

    The Bad:
    Battery: Surprisingly, this is somewhat disappointing. There is a 3,000 mAh battery in the ZF2, versus the 2,600 mAh in the M8. My M8 is showing it's age in terms of battery, meaning I am starting to notice some degradation, and my M8 lasts as long as the ZF2, doing roughly the same activities. Devil's Advocate on this though is I can make it through a roughly 13 hour day and not need to rush to a charger. I am however, a Medium light user. Very few video intense games, and my screen time is a couple hours.
    Kernel: Looking at GSAM battery stats, the Kernel is working overtime. I am inclined to believe this is part of the under performance in the battery. I am also inclined to believe part of this is related to the Intel chip.

    The Ugly:
    Hardware buttons: I am not against these, although it has been a while since I have used a device with them. They do not illuminate, which is not fun in lower light situations. Response of the buttons is hit and miss. It almost seems like the sweet spot is quite small.

    Summary:
    For someone reading this looking to get an overview of this device, something to keep in mind is this device is priced at $300 at most. No contract, just a straight $300, and you have a very solid device. A low price like this and you have:
    -A respectable amount of storage
    -A higher end chipset, regardless of the power drain
    -A relatively up to date version of Android out of the box

    This is a device that has some room for improvement, but it isn't horrible out of the box. Would I suggest this as a daily driver? Probably not, depending on your use. As for emerging markets, this might be the overall goal of the ZenFone. Is it a good backup device? Very. I can easily see this as a solid backup device.

    I really wanted to love this device. I can see so much potential for it. I think once ASUS can figure out the kernel issues, it can be a stellar device for the price point. I was ecstatic upon unboxing it, and the first few days I had to remind myself that the battery needed to break in. It did take a little over a week before seeing some battery improvements, and realizing it was the same type of battery as the M8, I automatically ignored the battery life until last Monday.
    06-12-2015 10:56 AM
  2. Almeuit's Avatar
    Note: This is on the 4GB/64GB Internal Storage version with the 18W Charger included in the box.

    The Good:
    • Fast - This thing is pretty fast. I was actually kind of stunned on how fast it was out of the box. The hardware specs do not lie even though it is priced as a "mid-range" device. I was able to go through daily tasks without much hassle at all. It flew threw my apps, my heavy streaming sessions, and my duties that I perform here on AC (either the app or in Chrome).
    • Battery Charge Speed - WOW. It takes Quick Charge to another level. I was able to consistently get my device full in 30 mins or less (depending how low I got it). The fastest I saw was a 40 min charge where it went from 2% to 100%. This will definitely be useful for those times you need a quick boost in juice and don't have a lot of time.
    • Screen - The screen on this is very nice. I was able to enjoy all the content I watch and when turning up to full brightness it was more than adequate to watch my shows on it.
    • Updates - Odd pro huh? It reminds me of a Nexus in a way. In the time I have had this phone it has already received 2 OTA updates. That shows the ASUS is committed to squashing bugs and pushing the updates to us ASAP.


    The Bad:
    • Battery Charge Rate - I get what you're saying .. But you said this was a PRO.. it is but it is also a CON at the same time. The pro side is this thing can fly through a charge in no time but the con part is the heat. When charging the device GSam would record 120-122 degrees Fahrenheit which I think is a tad too hot for batteries to get to every time they charge. I worry after using the phone for an extended time you will need to replace the battery due to heat damage.. and since the battery is stuck in there this would mean a repair shop or sending it into ASUS.
    • App Compatibility - This can change with time but right now most of my video apps didn't work. I was able to watch some shows by placing them on the device themselves but things like my Xfinity app didn't work. Actually most show apps didn't. I assume in a little while the developers will update this but at the moment it hurts for people who use that.
    • Battery Life (not related to charging) - The battery life on this device is "OK". It isn't horrible but it isn't great either. For my device idle time was fine (I even had as low at 0.7% an hour) but once that screen was on ... say good-bye to the battery! I could get about 2-3 hours of SoT before it hit rock bottom. Bad? No but now a days a lot of people enjoy more SoT so they can use their phone heavily and last an entire day at the same time. The charge time (listed in the "PRO" section) could help fight this for those who do have access to a charger throughout the day.
    • Cache / Reset Speed - As Golfdriver said .. The cache wipes and FDR (Factory Data Resets) take a little longer than they should. I did a FDR the other night and it took about 20 min + to fully erase everything and reboot back to the "Welcome" screen I saw when I first got the phone. Not sure what caused it to take a long time since I didn't have that much on the phone (maybe 10 GB of shows then apps .. and I had the 64GB Version).
    • Lock Button Placement - This one can be tossed as a "meh" more than bad. For me it was really annoying though. The lock button being on the very top of such a tall device can make it a pain for locking. Unlocking the phone is a breeze with the double tap to wake it up but once I wanted to lock it / put it in my pocket... UGGGHHH!



    Summary
    All in all -- Would I recommend this phone to someone? Yes - depending on the user. For a $300 phone (4GB/64GB Variant) you can't really complain. I mean... we could but it isn't fair to compare it to a $700 retail phone and wonder why it doesn't perform exactly like that other expensive phone. The phone performs very well and is snappy when going through the UI and daily tasks.

    If you're a heavy user you will notice the battery drain pretty rapidly. It just depends on your needs if this is a deal breaker or not (I know not all of us can charge during the day). I would recommend this phone to someone who is on a budget but wants a phone that is close to the other "top phones" -- As long as they accept a few of its short-comings.
    06-12-2015 03:34 PM
  3. Raptor007's Avatar
    I have to agree and should add to my thread, this is a $300 phone, its not a $1000 Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, that said if you look at a Samsung Galaxy J1 which is in the price range of $235 retail this is what you get Samsung Galaxy J1 - Full phone specifications

    4GB of ROM
    512MB RAM
    480x480 display

    Does this sound appealing to you, thought so. So if you are looking for a solid phone in the $300 OTD range this is the one!
    Golfdriver97 likes this.
    06-16-2015 07:55 PM
  4. B. Diddy's Avatar
    Thanks to the good folks at ASUS and Android Central, I’ve been using the top-of-the line Zenfone 2 ZE551ML for the past 6 weeks or so as my daily driver, and have collected the following thoughts. This is the model with the 2.3 GHz quad core Intel Z3580, full HD display, 4 GB RAM, and 64 GB internal storage, which normally retails for $299.

    Pros:

    1. Frequent system updates, which means ASUS is paying attention and listening to feedback. To date, I’ve gotten 4 system updates in the span of about 6 weeks. An added bonus is that you can easily see the detailed release notes for system updates in the ZenTalk Forums, which ASUS includes as a preinstalled “app” (which is actually just a browser link).
    2. ZenUI has nice customization options. Compatible with all standard icon packs, as well as limited theming. There are many options for homescreen appearance, transitions, Quick Settings toggles (including a Mobile Data toggle--more manufacturers need to include this!), and the app drawer. The interface is generally very smooth. I find myself not missing the Google Now Launcher.
    3. Performance is generally good, as long as power saving mode is set to Performance. No real lag in this mode. But if you set it to Balanced Mode, then some UI jerkiness becomes noticeable.
    4. So much RAM, so much storage! 4 GB of RAM seems way more than enough (although it’s not a guarantee that recent apps you were using won’t close out of RAM when you switch apps--I see this happen with MLB At Bat, for one). Having 64 GB of Internal Storage (actually 54 GB free after accounting for OS and nonremovable bloat) along with a microSD for media storage should satisfy all but the most demanding user.
    5. The presence of a microSD slot should make many users happy. Hopefully it doesn’t corrupt cards easily. The phone also allows the user to “move apps to SD” (which of course only means a portion of the app).
    6. Good full HD screen, with crisp images and natural colors that aren’t oversaturated. The range of brightness could be wider, though--it seems the lowest brightness is still too bright at night, while the highest brightness still looks a bit dim outdoors.
    7. Main speaker has good volume (but no bass whatsoever).
    8. Camera is a mixed bag. Daytime shots show vivid color. Depth of Field shots are fantastic. Full Manual mode for photo buffs. Plenty of other modes that I never use. Focus is reasonably quick, although I’ve seen quicker. Also see Cons.
      Ambassadors ZenFone 2 Review-boats.jpg Ambassadors ZenFone 2 Review-flower-depth.jpg Ambassadors ZenFone 2 Review-buddha-depth.jpg
    9. Double tap to wake is a popular feature, but can accidentally wake screen when in pocket. Other touch gestures may be useful--you can program certain drawing gestures to launch specific apps. There’s a one-handed mode for those with smaller hands, which reduces the size of the screen and offsets it to one side.
    10. Build quality is good. The phone has a nice heft, but doesn’t feel heavy or bulky. No danger of torquing or bending. I was afraid that it would be too big of a phone for the pocket, but it actually fits nicely in my front pants pocket.
    11. Able to access stock recovery and wipe cache easily (takes 5-10 min, like the Nexus 5).
    12. Dual SIM, for those into that kind of thing.
    13. ASUS Cover allows for a windowed flipcover case to show various information in the circular window while the cover is closed, like Samsung’s S-View case.
    14. Quick Charging works very well, usually taking about an hour to charge from around 30% to full. This offsets some of the battery gripes I have (see Cons).


    Cons:

    1. Soooo much ASUS bloat that can’t be removed, and a lot of it can’t be disabled. Granted, some of these apps are actually pretty good, but I still don’t use the vast majority of them.
      1. ASUS Email
      2. ASUS Do It Later (an odd task deferral app, not sure of its utility)
      3. Share Link
      4. ASUS Calendar
      5. ASUS Splendid (screen color optimizer)
      6. ASUS Camera
      7. ASUS Browser
      8. ASUS Weather
      9. ASUS Sound Recorder
      10. ASUS File Manager (decent)
      11. ASUS Quick Memo (can share to your Google account, but doesn’t sync)
      12. ASUS Gallery
      13. ASUS Calculator
      14. MiniMovie-Slideshow Maker
      15. ASUS Keyboard
      16. ASUS What’s Next (multifunction agenda, only integrates with ASUS apps)
      17. ASUS PC Link (mirrors phone on PC)
      18. ASUS Flashlight
      19. ASUS Music
      20. ASUS SuperNote (Quick Memo and SuperNote?)(also doesn’t sync with Google)
      21. ASUS Backup
      22. ASUS Support
      23. ASUS PhotoCollage
      24. ASUS ZenCircle (ASUS trying to create some new social photo sharing network)

    2. CleanMaster preinstalled? Really? At least it can actually be removed, and not just disabled.
      1. And what the heck is Dr. Safety? Also removable.

    3. Android OS battery drain. This is what is keeping the phone from being truly great. It routinely accounts for 30-40% of total battery usage by the time the battery itself is down to around 30%--that means it’s responsible for half or more of all battery usage. I never saw this on the Nexus 5. The Zenfone 2 typically drains 2-3% per hour on idle, which is significantly worse than the Nexus 5. Screen-on time is usually about 3.5 hours at best (Nexus 5 with its weak battery was usually around 2.5 hrs), but the idle drain means I still have to recharge each night. Asus has pushed 4 system updates since I got the phone--the first 3 didn’t address this issue, but the 4th just got pushed a couple of days ago, so I’m still evaluating it. Stay tuned.
    4. No wireless charging. What am I gonna do with my 3 charging pads?
    5. Camera--low light photos are generally grainy (1st photo below), which would have been fine if ASUS hadn’t boasted about its low light quality. HDR photos show ghosting, since the two images that are taken in succession to account for the exposure range seem to be taken with too much delay in between (2nd photo below--look at the rope the gibbon is hanging from). HDR processing is also not as good as the Nexus 5--exposures aren't balanced as well (3rd photo below).
      Ambassadors ZenFone 2 Review-lowlight.jpg Ambassadors ZenFone 2 Review-gibbon-hdr.jpg Ambassadors ZenFone 2 Review-lights-hdr.jpg
    6. Power button is stiff and doesn’t have a nice tactile click, although at least it isn’t easy to press accidentally while in a pocket.
    7. Back is overly difficult to pry off. Scratched up the plastic a bit already, using both my nail and a coin. Users report different experiences--some have units where it’s easier to take off.
    8. The faux brushed metal finish of the back is slippery and feels cheap. It makes me appreciate the rubberized plastic back of the Nexus 5.
    9. Earpiece speaker seems to rattle or vibrate subtly when volume is high.
    10. Main speaker has very poor bass.
    11. Bluetooth connection can be spotty with my Zenwatch--even when right next to each other, the phone and watch would randomly buzz because of brief disconnection. This didn’t happen with the Nexus 5.
    12. Although it’s nice to see that ASUS is paying attention and sending out lots of system updates, it also suggests they rushed things for the initial launch.
    13. Nitpicky, I know, but there are some glaring grammatical errors in system menus and messages. For example, “Glove mode: Increase touch sensitivity when you wearing the gloves.”
    14. Various app glitches and force closures at first, including system apps and Google apps. It’s difficult to say if this was due to firmware errors or the Intel processor. Things have been more stable after the multiple system updates.


    Overall, I would say this is a very good phone, and definitely an excellent value given the $299 price tag, but it just seems that it could be a ridiculously great phone after a few more tweaks and bugfixes. I’m hoping that ASUS continues its diligent updates and ultimately addresses the remaining issues.

    06-21-2015 12:00 AM
  5. Blaize19's Avatar
    Excellent and thorough reviews. Thanks.

    Just want to remind everyone that this phone also has tap to sleep, no widget necessary. If using the Asus launcher double tap on any blank space on any home screen, or on the notification bar while in an app. If using a third party launcher, you can still double tap on the notification bar to sleep.

    Also, pretty sure the high Android OS battery drain issue is a problem of Lollipop origin, not Asus, which will hopefully be corrected when Asus releases their 5.1.1 build (she said, crossing all fingers and toes).

    Posted via the Android Central App on my Asus ZenFone 2
    B. Diddy likes this.
    06-21-2015 09:21 PM
  6. Golfdriver97's Avatar
    Just want to remind everyone that this phone also has tap to sleep, no widget necessary.
    True. I am using Nova launcher though. I set up my device to have an icon for notification actions and quick toggles. With basic Nova (I haven't purchased Pro yet) there is a tap to sleep but it's in the status bar. The widget is in my dock to try to reduce my reach toward the top of the screen.
    06-22-2015 09:54 AM
  7. Raptor007's Avatar
    Nice writeup and the pictures came out really nice. Since I decided to shelve my GS6 Edge and keep going with the ZF2, I don't have comparison photo's but from what I am seeing its improved over the original software.
    06-22-2015 08:44 PM
  8. Blaize19's Avatar
    True. I am using Nova launcher though. I set up my device to have an icon for notification actions and quick toggles. With basic Nova (I haven't purchased Pro yet) there is a tap to sleep but it's in the status bar. The widget is in my dock to try to reduce my reach toward the top of the screen.
    Gotcha.

    Posted via the Android Central App on my Asus ZenFone 2
    06-22-2015 09:13 PM
  9. B. Diddy's Avatar
    Excellent and thorough reviews. Thanks.

    Just want to remind everyone that this phone also has tap to sleep, no widget necessary. If using the Asus launcher double tap on any blank space on any home screen, or on the notification bar while in an app. If using a third party launcher, you can still double tap on the notification bar to sleep.

    Also, pretty sure the high Android OS battery drain issue is a problem of Lollipop origin, not Asus, which will hopefully be corrected when Asus releases their 5.1.1 build (she said, crossing all fingers and toes).

    Posted via the Android Central App on my Asus ZenFone 2
    Double tap to sleep is a nice feature, but my primary homescreen doesn't have any empty areas, so I can't use it there!

    I'm not sure I can blame Lollipop for the OS battery drain, because I was comparing to my Nexus 5 (which, of course, runs as close to pure Android as you can get), which never reports the OS as using that much battery. Unless the Nexus devices for some reason suppress the reporting of the OS battery usage.
    06-23-2015 02:18 AM
  10. Blaize19's Avatar
    Double tap to sleep is a nice feature, but my primary homescreen doesn't have any empty areas, so I can't use it there!

    I'm not sure I can blame Lollipop for the OS battery drain, because I was comparing to my Nexus 5 (which, of course, runs as close to pure Android as you can get), which never reports the OS as using that much battery. Unless the Nexus devices for some reason suppress the reporting of the OS battery usage.
    So double tap on the notification bar.

    Your, and my, N5 has 5.1.1 which has supposedly fixed this issue, and I did have the issue on my N5 prior to that update...but I could still be wrong. Just my best guess.

    Posted via the Android Central App on my Asus ZenFone 2
    06-23-2015 09:08 AM
  11. B. Diddy's Avatar
    So double tap on the notification bar.

    Your, and my, N5 has 5.1.1 which has supposedly fixed this issue, and I did have the issue on my N5 prior to that update...but I could still be wrong. Just my best guess.

    Posted via the Android Central App on my Asus ZenFone 2
    I find that if I tap anywhere near the notification bar, it starts to bring down the notification panel. Does it still respond to the double-tap for sleep?

    I might have been lucky when my N5 was on 5.0.x, because I don't recall the OS issue, but I could be wrong as well. Regardless, I agree that it would be just fine if ASUS brings 5.1.1 at some point! But of course, I'd prefer M even more.
    06-23-2015 11:10 AM
  12. Blaize19's Avatar
    I find that if I tap anywhere near the notification bar, it starts to bring down the notification panel. Does it still respond to the double-tap for sleep?

    I might have been lucky when my N5 was on 5.0.x, because I don't recall the OS issue, but I could be wrong as well. Regardless, I agree that it would be just fine if ASUS brings 5.1.1 at some point! But of course, I'd prefer M even more.
    Yeah, you have to hit the bar just right, on a blank spot, to sleep rather than pull down the shade, but once you get used to it it works great.

    M would be fabulous, but I'll take 5.1.1 for now...

    Posted via the Android Central App on my Asus ZenFone 2
    B. Diddy likes this.
    06-23-2015 11:00 PM

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