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If you’re familiar with ASUS in North America, you more than likely associate them with computer parts, tablets and laptops, but ASUS (pronounced Eh-Sus) is a major player in the smartphone market in countries like India, Philippines, Japan and other Asian countries. Now, they hope to tap into the lucrative, yet difficult market of North America with their first flagship phone, the Zenfone 2. At an event last week in New York, they officially unveiled the Zenfone 2 and announced it’s availability the next day. I was fortunate enough to attend, and went home with the new Zenfone 2 64GB/4GB Memory model.

Design

Out of the box, the Zenfone 2 looks ready to compete with other phones on the market. The device looks premium from all angles, the front display has a very large screen to body ratio and the back looks like brushed metal – granted, it’s plastic. The power button at the top is quite tucked in there, making it less easy to click, but the Zenfone 2 screen activates with a double tap on the screen. The volume rocker is located on the back middle of the device, much like the LG G Series have, which may take some getting used to if you’re used to a side rocker. The device back is easy to hold onto, but even still I would certainly recommend a case.

Display

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The display on the ASUS Zenfone 2 is a full 1080p IPS LCD 5.5″ screen, putting it on par other phones on the market (or just slightly behind as we move towards 1440p). The screen looks vibrant and bright, colours pop off the screen and both white and black are pretty accurate. That said, compared to the iPhone 6, and Samsung Galaxy S6, it’s not nearly as bright and doesn’t perform as well as those two devices in direct sun, but it is brighter than both Note Edge and LG G3.

Battery

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A major point of contention I have with the ASUS Zenfone 2 is the battery life. Packing a 3000mAh battery seems like it would be more than enough to power the device for the day seeing as many other phones on the market share this same battery capacity – however, I found that battery would drain rather quickly, often in under 7 hours with a lot of use. That didn’t make any sense to me though, so I went through my phone and disabled/removed a bunch of the apps that come preloaded on the device. I immediately saw an improvement on battery life up into the 8+ hour range. I believe once the phone is updated to a newer version of the OS, there will be further improvements as I’ve read about battery drain problems on early releases of Android 5.0.

Battery life concerns aside, the charging in the ASUS Zenfone 2 is outstanding! The phone features a BoostMaster charger, which takes the battery from nearly dead to roughly 60% in about 40 minutes! That is amazing. The battery takes about 75 minutes total to get up to 100%. That’s a truly impressive feat and should negate battery life concerns.

Camera

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Low Light Shots

The camera on the Zenfone 2 performs pretty well and stands up among competitors. In all my tests I found it to provide crisp shots, whether doing close up macro style or broad nature shots. On looking at them individually, I thought they looked fantastic with great colour and detail – so that really is the experience you will have with it. However, I wanted to compare shots to other phone cameras. The result was that while the Zenfone 2 held up, the colours were just not as vibrant and the picture not as crisp. Again, this was under extreme zoom and comparison, which is a completely foreign experience that no one except for photographers would ever do. I should add that the Zenfone has a slew of camera functionality and control that I didn’t even touch. I wanted it to be the experience that 99% of people have – default/auto. Night shots on the Zenfone 2 are quite amazing though as you’ll see in the above image.

Performance

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The Zenfone 2 performs more fluid than any device I’ve had, when playing high intensity games there was nary a stutter or instance of FPS lag. Even running a couple dozen apps in the background and then playing games resulted in nearly no slowdown. 4GB of memory means it has more raw power to handle all the tasks one could ever do. I am sure that over time, as the development of more high end apps/games/programs come out and combined with age of the device, performance will drop, but for now this device is a well oiled machine. The Intel Atom chip is the one question mark about performance. Intel has been playing catch up on the mobile chip market, so we shall see!

Price

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It’s hard to argue the price – in fact, it’s impossible. For a phone that is 95%+ every other phone on the market, at a price of $299 (US) / $379 (CDN), I think that ASUS has a major winner on their hands. The average consumer cares about the features, the screen, the camera and the battery – but ultimately, they pay for the device with money, and when a phone is 50% less than everything else on the market, that’s a major reason to buy.

The Zenfone 2 can be purchased from a variety of retailers in Canada.

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