Monday 15 December 2014

#ZentasticXmas Asus Zenfone 5LTE Review

The chance to review a brand new phone doesn't come up very often and so when I agreed to review an Android phone, I was some what setting myself the challenge of getting to grips with Android Software. I am a self-confessed Apple Geek and have always firmly steered clear of anything containing Android software as I have previously found it hard to get to grips with. To be completely sexist, it does seem that in many households I know of (mine included) the boys covet their Android devices, whilst the girls geek out over their apple devices.

I was sent the Asus Zenfone 5 LTE to review, with the brief of focusing on the set up and overall functionality of the phone, along with a Christmassy spin by focusing on the camera's low-light mode which is perfect for taking pictures of all of the wonderful Christmas Lights adorning our homes at the moment. The Asus Zenfone 5 LTE is one of the first 4G Lte Smart Phones of its kind. Here are some of my thoughts on the phone.

Sim and Battery Life
One for the bug bears with my current phone is how quickly it runs out of battery. I charged the Zen phone up and didn't have to charge it again for almost two days. This is longer than most other phones I have owned. There is also a smart saver mode on the Zenphone, which offers three options for battery charging. This enables your battery to stay alive for longer. The phone takes a Micro Sim as do many other smart phones, and so I was easily able to transfer the Sim from my own phone to this one.

The Asus Zenfone 5 Lte is labelled as a "budget" smart phone. However, the handset has the look and feel of it's more expensive competitors. The overall look is very sleek and professional, although I have to say that the phone does not have much grip, but this could be rectified with a case of some kind. The bezel metal buttons on the side are not something you would expect to see on a handset costing around £200. These make a great addition to the phone and are a nice touch which add to the overall appearance. One downside might be that the physical buttons on the Zenfone 5 Lte appear at the bottom of the screen and actually bump up the overall size of the phone, whereas on other more expensive Asus models, the buttons are built into the software as part of the screen - allowing for a slightly bigger screen and a slightly smaller phone overall. However, given the budget price, you can't have everything, and for me, this did not detract from the appearance of the handset.

For someone who has never used an android phone before, I was surprised at how fantastically simple and easy the initial set up was. The phone has a basic wizard which links straight into your google account, bringing across all of the settings from existing applications. One consideration to be aware of though - when the phone was set up, there were several system updates which needed to be done, both on the Asus side and also the google side, which wasn't necessarily immediately obvious, and so this took a little bit of time. The phone was very simple to get to grips with and use quite quickly. I wouldn't say I am overly techie when it comes to phones, and so the fact it was so simple to use is testament to Asus, that unlike other phones, you don't need a degree in computer science to set up the phone, and it really is accessible to everyone.

The Software
The Zenfone is running Android software, but Asus have added their own layer of software which governs how the screen is presented, Unlike Iphone, each manufacturer adds their own layer of user interface. The Asus version is known as "Asus Touch". One of the features of Asus Touch is the "What's Next" feature. This feature gives a quick referencing timeline which instantly shows appointments, to do's and any other important events you want to set up like birthdays or reminders. As a busy Mum and someone who works for myself, I absolutely love this feature as it means that I can add everything that needs to be remembered in one place. I will definitely be utilising this feature of the phone.

Asus have cleverly set their software to be separate from google's software in the default view. There is a folder of Asus Software and a folder of Google software, making it easier for the user to separate which application they would like to use. Some Android phones don't offer this function, and so it is a valuable one to have as it can become a bit confusing deciding between some applications which might do the same thing.

We tested the Zenfone for functionality, and here is what our testing software came up with:
CPU - Good, supports large apps and multi -tasking
RAM - Excellent,
2D Graphics - Good
3D Graphics Good
Fluently supports most games. However, the processor is only 1.2ghz, and so it's performance in gaming may not be up to parr with more expensive models.

The Screen
The screen, whilst only displaying 720p rather than 1080p is very good quality. The image quality is fantastic. The text quality on screen is also sharp and readable - which is good for a five inch screen of this size for the price. Although other phones of this size have higher resolution displays, like the LGG2, and Sony Experia Z2  this handset is around half the price of other phones and can easily compete with screen quality. The screen is also very responsive for touch gestures and it did what I asked of it, without diverting to other applications.

Visual and Audio Quality
The quality of video streaming is very good. I tested Netflix, Youtube and BBC IPlayer and was able to get a great picture from all of them. Audio quality on video is very loud without being distorted. However, the speaker is on the back of the unit, and so you need to make sure you don't cover up the speaker whilst holding it, or the sound quality is compromised.

The actual phone call quality was as good as you would expect from a modern phone, although this seems to be less of a concern to people these days, versus other aspects such as camera functionality and internet usage.

I have to admit that as I have quite large hands, I did find it a little hard to type due to the small size of the letter keys. I also found typing with the default keyboard a little tricky, as the keyboard did not understand some more specialist words I was hoping to use. However, this lack of keyboard functionality can be rectified by downloading a different keyboard from the Google Play store such as "Swift Key" where you can change the size of the keys.

In terms of the applications, youngest loved the "Ok google" mode which is quite simple to use on an Android device She soon started asking Google questions, which included how long until Santa comes!! I was very surprised that I found it so easy to get to grips with where everything was and how everything worked. I can see myself becoming an android convert potentially!

Camera Features:
  • A500KL has two built-in cameras
  • Main 8-megapixel PixelMaster camera for professional-looking photos.
  • Backside-illumination (BSI) sensor and wide-aperture f/2.0, 5-element lens 
  • Exclusive ASUS PixelMaster technology to capture images that are on par with most standalone digital cameras.
  • 2-megapixel front camera comes with an f/2.8 lens. 
  • PixelMaster technology improves camera performance 
  • Features like Selfie and Low-light modes

Camera Modes
As an avid instagrammer, I only ever use my phone for taking pictures. I don't seem to have the patience for a DSLR camera, and so the way my camera phone operates, and the quality and variety of images it can offer really matters to me.

The 8mp camera on the Zenfone 5LTE is backed up with a very ambitious camera software, which may partly be more suited to a higher spec camera, but which also works well on the some of the modes. I got some really good photos from the camera, but there was varying degrees of success depending on the subject and the camera mode. Some of the modes worked brilliantly, and others left the image a little blurry.

As part of my review, I was asked to focus on the Low-Light Camera mode of the Asus Zenfone Lte. With so many lovely Christmas lights around at the moment, this was the perfect opportunity to take some truly christmassy pics. The Low Light mode which I was focusing on works really well, and is a real strength of the camera. Without the right lighting conditions, camera phones can be a bit hit and miss in low light, and so it is a real selling point that this mode produces great results.

Take a look at these pictures all taken in low-light mode - they definitely show the capabilities of the low lighting mode.

Aswell as the low lighting mode, we also loved the "Time Rewind" camera feature. This is a lifesaver for parents with children like mine who can't keep still to get a decent image. The minute I point a camera at them, they start jumping around and make the picture blurry. Time Rewind Mode takes three seconds worth of photos, and then allows you to swipe back though them, locate the best picture and save that one - great for trying to get that all important shot with the kids.

Hubby, as a long time Android user was surprised that the camera features on the phone were so robust - much more functional than his more expensive android handset. He was especially impressed with the panorama view, the selfie mode using facial recognition, the low light mode, the time rewind mode and depth of field modes. There is even a mode for making gif animations - none of these feature on his phone. He is in fact quite jealous of my new phone and the functionality which the camera has!!

Added Extras
Glove Mode! It has glove mode!! Another bug bear of mine with my current phone with this cold weather at the moment, gloves are a must, and so the fact that you can use your phone with gloves is absolutely amazing. I will definitely be holding onto this handset throughout the winter if I can use my gloves with it!

This Smartphone would make a fantastic Christmas gift, for adults and older kids alike. It is a really good all-round smart phone at a low price. You are getting all of the features of a £400 handset, (with some technical downgrades) to allow for a cheaper price. The phone retails at around £199.99. My impressions are that the Asus Zenfone 5 Lte it is a brilliant phone with some great features for a very reasonable price. I love the camera mode, I love the glove mode, and I also love the look and feel of the camera. Although not as technologically loaded as other phones, this phone definitely gets a thumbs up in my book!!

Disclosure: Zenfone offered in consideration for review. 

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