Asus ZenFone 5Z review: A cheaper and overall better alternative than India’s favourite OnePlus 6 smartphone
2018 is a make or break year for Taiwanese tech giant Asus as their last round of smartphones - the ZenFone 4 series - didn’t fare well.. It’s 2018 and Asus isn’t afraid to take the competition head-on. Earlier this year, in India, they launched their stock Android budget smartphone, ZenFone Max Pro M1 which is a worthy alternative to one of Xiaomi’s best-selling smartphone, Redmi Note 5 Pro, and cheaper.
Now, the company has brought in its ‘flagship killer’, the ZenFone 5Z to India. This time around, the company is taking on the best-selling premium smartphone, OnePlus 6 and once again, it is more than just one among the rest.
The 6GB RAM and 128GB storage variant of the Asus ZenFone 5Z is priced at just Rs 32,999. That’s cheaper than the OnePlus 6’s 6GB + 64GB variant by a good Rs 2,000. In fact, there is also a variant for Rs 29,999 (6GB+64GB). When looking at that model, it is Rs 5,000 cheaper than the exact same variant from OnePlus.
Asus has given itself a headstart by undercutting the competition with its aggressive pricing. The ZenFone 5Z comes with a notch, just like the OnePlus 6 and hasn’t shied away from a bold design.
I’ve taken the ZenFone 5Z for a spin for over a week and have come out impressed. If Asus got itself together with respect to its marketing, it could topple OnePlus 6 and be a favourite among the consumers.
The near bezel-less screen gives the smartphone a premium feel. In fact, the ZenFone 5Z feels more comfortable in-hand than any previous ZenFone smartphone. The glass back makes it a fingerprint magnet and it might be slippery for some, but you get used to it pretty quickly. It is lightweight and doesn’t take up a considerable amount of space in one’s pocket.
There is a fingerprint scanner that works as fast as what the company has to offer and even face unlock, which for all purposes, is only a tiny bit slower than the implementation on the OnePlus 6. In low-light though, the OnePlus 6 obliterates the ZenFone 5Z.
One need not worry about having to buy Bluetooth headphone as the ZenFone 5Z has a 3.5mm headphone jack. One has to worry about the smartphone getting wet as this phone is not water-resistant.
On the front, there is a 6.2-inch Super IPS+ display (1080x2246 pixels) with a 19:9 aspect ratio and Gorilla Glass 3 coating. It may not be the best display in the segment but it surely is quite good for day-to-day usage. One may be upset at the lack of an AMOLED screen, but with fantastic viewing angles and good colour reproduction, one cannot complain here.
One has to talk about the notch, right? Well, Asus has included an option to altogether hide the notch. It’s a wider notch than the one on the OnePlus 6, but with a simple tap on the left side, you can see all your notification icons.
Performance wise I’ve had no issues. No lag. The ZenFone 5Z is one of the cheapest flagship packing Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line Snapdragon 845 processor. In day-to-day usage, I had more than 30 tabs open in Chrome and switched between dozens of apps which included two games. The ZenFone 5Z rarely faltered. I noticed a few app closes, and even a random restart of the smartphone but it isn’t at all frequent enough to derail one's experience. The gaming did drag a little and some of the games’ resolutions were out of sync with the aspect ratio. That’s where I was most disappointed with this smartphone.
The smartphone runs on Android 8.1 Oreo and has been optimized pretty well by the company. Asus is a company with no proven record of consistent app updates but with the ZenFone 5Z that appears to be changing. Still, it is early days to make a final verdict.
The ZenFone 5Z has a 3,300 mAh battery under the hood and it’s the exact same capacity as the one in the OnePlus 6. The average screen time over the course of a week came just short of 5 hours. On my OnePlus 6, I constantly got five and a half hours. It’s not bad, but neither is it impressive. Asus 5Z has compensated its customers by including fast charging tech - with the company’s very own Asu BoostMaster technology. It’s no Dash Charger, but it is better than what rival companies are offering.
Last but not the least, the ZenFone 5Z boasts of a camera, that in most situations, outshines the OnePlus 6. The ZenFone 5Z has a dual rear-camera setup (12MP + 8MP) and in good daylight conditions, the camera does wonders. It is the night time shots where there is a lot of grain and noise in the photos.
The camera on the OnePlus 6 protrudes much more than on the ZenFone 5Z.
Here’s the thing with the camera. On the OnePlus 6 and even the Honor 10, the photos will have a lot more punch in them but will be more unrealistic to most. The ZenFone 5Z doesn’t produce those perfect “Instagram worthy”, instead showcases things as they are supposed to be. That’s a bonus in my books, if I may say so.
Just check out these image samples below.
Going by the trend in 2018, a lot of these “cheaper” flagships are getting noticed and being picked up by the consumers. Asus is continuing its turnaround in the country with its second great smartphone in the past couple of months. If only its marketing team would do a better job, the company would be higher up the list in all their Counterpoint and IDC reports.
Thanks to its ‘Make in India’ devices, Asus is able to provide smartphones at competitive prices. This is slowly starting to show results.
With a great camera - barring the noise in low-light photos - and above average performance and a display with good colour reproduction, the ZenFone 5Z comes out better than the ‘boring’ OnePlus 6.