ASUS ZenFone 5Z first impressions: the OnePlus 6 killer?

ZenFone 5Z 1

We are halfway into 2018, and it looks almost impossible for other brands to break into the Rs 30,000-Rs 45,000 range without worrying about the OnePlus 6. The OnePlus brand value and hype engine have reached hysterical levels in India and across the world. The OnePlus 6 is no doubt, the go-to choice for critics and end users alike. 

Also read: OnePlus 6 review: upholds its legacy of being the fastest phone on the planet

That said, I’ve been playing around with the new ASUS ZenFone 5Z for a couple of days and this phone could very well be the OnePlus 6 killer we’ve been waiting for. In fact, the Rs 29,999 pricing for the base variant is pure nuts. It is a smart decision from ASUS’ part to actually undercut the price of the OnePlus 6. 

ASUS ZenFone 5Z: refined all glass design with a stunning LCD screen

The moment you take the ZenFone 5Z out of the box you are bound to gawk at the 6.2-inch IPS LCD screen. This panel has a weird aspect ratio of 18.7:9 but the pixels pop out at you. It might be too soon to call, but I honestly think the 5Z’s full-HD display is probably the best IPS panel you’ll see in 2018. The display on the front is also protected by an unspecified version of Corning Gorilla Glass. 

Additionally, you also get the wide DCI-P3 colour gamut and a host of software features. So, that’s cool. What’s not cool is the notch. But, what can you do about it? It exists…learn to live it for now. And interestingly, ASUS was one the first Android phone-makers to jump the notch bandwagon.

Talking about the box, ASUS packs more than just a few accessories. Apart from the phone, you get a case, a massive charging brick, a USB Type-C cable, and the ZenEar in-ear earphones as well. 

The ZenFone 5Z itself is a big chunk of glass protected by a metal railing running along the edges. The flat back design coupled with the 155g weight of the phone feels extremely light, yet sturdy in the hand. It is a very conservative industrial design that emphasis on function over good looks. But, the glass on the rear is an unrelenting smudge magnet. 

ASUS uses the new USB Type-C standard on the ZenFone 5Z and includes a dedicated headphone jack as well. Let’s leave the rest of the analysis of the design for the full review, shall we?

ASUS ZenFone 5Z: going for the kill with AI across the system

ASUS is probably one of the few brands that shout across rooftops about the AI capability inside its flagship smartphone. Looking past all the snazzy marketing talk, I can tell you that the ZenFone 5Z uses AI across the system. And to do this, it uses the power of the Snapdragon 845 SoC with its third-generation neural processing engine for performing AI-related tasks faster.

Obviously, you have an AI-assisted dual camera, which detects scene modes by default. But AI is also a part of the gallery app on the ZenFone 5Z, where it creates folders automatically. Moreover, AI is also a deeply rooted into the software. The phone uses the power of AI to also improve battery performance and better RAM management. I will delve into the details — and if AI actually helps in daily usage — in my full review of the phone. 

One thing I have to mention is that the ZenUI seems to have evolved beautifully over the years. ZenUI 5.0 on top of Android Oreo 8.0 on the ZenFone 5Z feels rather nimble and agile. The bloatware has been cut down as well. It is a really refreshing take on skinning and there’s a lot underneath the surface that I will explore in my prolonged usage. 

As for the rest of the specs, the phone comes in three RAM/ROM combinations: 6GB/64GB, 6GB/128GB, and 8GB/256GB. Now in case you need more storage, you also get an additional storage slot for a memory card. There’s a fingerprint sensor on the rear and a Face Unlock alternative as well. There’s a 3,300mAh battery to power all these internals as well. What’s interesting is that ASUS has decided to add a dedicated NXP 9874 Smart AMP with support for 192kHz/24b-bit Hi-Res audio. The 5Z has two stereo speakers, one at the bottom and another that is a part of the earpiece. 

(Please note that all camera samples have been resized for the web)

In the camera department, ASUS has kitted the ZenFone 5Z with the latest Sony IMX 363 12MP sensor, supported by an 8MP secondary camera with a 120-degree wide angle lens. On the front, you get an 8MP camera with an 83-degree wide-angle lens. 

While it is too soon to talk about the camera performance, attached below are a few camera samples from the ZenFone 5Z. Incidentally, these samples are also a part of a camera comparison with the OnePlus 6, which we’ll publish soon. So, wait for that one. 


ASUS ZenFone 5Z: closing thoughts

My immediate reaction after using the ZenFone 5Z for a bit was one of contentment. I finally heaved a sigh of relief that the OnePlus 6 has a worthy opponent.

Whether this phone is actually better than the OnePlus 6 or not is something I will be able to find out in my full review. But until then, I am pretty damn sure that the ZenFone 5Z is definitely a great option under Rs 40,000.

Do let us know in the comments section below what you think about the ZenFone 5Z. 

Also watch our unboxing and first impressions video of the Asus ZenFone 5z here:


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Ershad Kaleebullah

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?