ASUS Zenfone 2 Laser review
+ Solid build quality
+ Ergonomic button placement
+ Smooth overall performance
+ Long battery life
+ Battery is removable
+ Loudspeaker is loud and clear
+ Audio output is good, and customizable with the AudioWizard app
+ Laser autofocus is fast
+ Manual camera controls are easy to use
+ IPS screen is bright with wide viewing angles
- Heavy 170 g weight
- 720p on 5.5" is so 2012
- Snapdragon 410 insufficient for performance hungry users
- Navigation buttons are not backlit
Back in April, we attended the launch of the ASUS Zenfone 2 in Jakarta. We were very impressed by its performance and specifications, and on May 9th we also attended the Zenfone 2’s launch event in Malaysia, and we were even more impressed when we got to know the official pricing of the Zenfone 2 series in Malaysia. We finally published the review of the ASUS Zenfone 2 on May 17th, awarding it a Gold Pokdeward for its great performance, largely thanks to the Intel SoC and 4GB of RAM, an unheard of amount of RAM for a relatively affordable smartphone. Heck, even flagships like the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy S6 are limited to 3GB of RAM. It was then followed in September with the ASUS Zenfone Selfie, which sports a 13MP camera in front for those who want to ensure their friends on Instagram and Facebook get high quality shots of their awesome good looks. Moving forward, we were invited to a media-only gathering to meet the latest member of the ASUS Zenfone family, the ASUS Zenfone 2 Laser. Does it match or exceed the high bar set by its older siblings? We got it back to our labs to test it.
UnboxingARVE Error: need id and provider
The Laser is shipped in a packaging similar to previous models, an inner tray which contains all the goodies in a hard paper sleeve. As soon as you slide the tray out you will get to lay your eyes on the Laser. Take out the phone, and under it is another compartment, where you will find the power adapter, USB cable and some documentation. ASUS left out the earphones with this model though.
All the good things we had to say about the Zenfone 2 still stands for the Laser. It has the equally ergonomic curved back, as well as the unconventional rear-mounted volume buttons. The brushed metal pattern on the rear cover is replaced with a unique UV soft-touch coat for both the black and red variants. I am not sure about the black variant, but the red color on mine reflects light quite exquisitely. It shimmers when you move it under light. The photos below aren’t doing the back any justice at all. The main visible difference with the older Zenfone 2 models are the addition of the laser autofocus sensor beside the camera, with the LED flash moved from above the camera to opposite the laser sensor. This change has been observed since the launch of ASUS Zenfone Selfie. I thank ASUS for not triggering my OCD for symmetry.
The front is exactly the same as the original Zenfone 2. Our model is the 5.5″ variant, which will be followed by a 5″ and 6″ variant later. ASUS has still kept the capacitive buttons around, and sadly they are not backlit. The trademark Zen concentric circles chin is still here, which allows it to stand out a little from the sea of flat glass slabs.
|CPU:||Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 64-bit (4 x A53 @ 1.2 GHz)|
|Display:||5.5″, HD (720p) IPS LCD with ASUS TruVivid technology|
|Storage:||16GB internal (expandable with microSD up to 128GB)|
|Camera:||13MP f/2.0 Toshiba sensor, 5 element lens (rear)
5MP f/2.0 (85° wide-angle)
|OS:||Android 5.0.2 with ZenUI enhancements|
|SIM:||microSIM (dual SIM support, both with LTE support)|
|Battery:||3000 mAh Li-Po (removable)|
The Snapdragon 410 inside is meant to bring LTE support and 64-bit capabilities to mainstream affordable devices, thus this isn’t going to be the king of the hill when it comes to synthetic benchmarks. But when paired with 2GB of RAM, it does offer a good user experience even with the limited raw processing horsepower, which we will talk about later.
Battery life is a strong point with four low-power A53 cores running at 1.2 GHz and the Adreno 306 GPU. The ASUS Zenfone 2 Laser is capable of staying away from a power source for 1 day and 6 hours with its 3000 mAh battery. Charging times are quite slow in an age of fast chargers, and it will fully charge up from empty in less than 3 hours.
In fact it lasted so long I was kinda annoyed, as I usually charge my phone at night, but with around 45% charge remaining I was not sure to charge or not to charge. Yup, I am most probably the first person to be annoyed by too much battery life.
Internet speeds on LTE are dependent on your coverage, and for me, I managed to hit my usual speeds with this phone. WiFi is also fast with strong signal acquired throughout my house, but then that is also dependent on your router. All in all, the network performance is faultless.
The first thing you will realize when you use this phone is its 170 g weight. The weight lends an air of sturdiness, and some might appreciate the solid feel of it in their hands, but I personally prefer my phones lighter. The entire phone is put together very well, with no wobble or wiggle detected from the back cover as well as the buttons. The curved back also sits perfectly in the curvature of my palm, offering a very good grip. All that and with the matte soft-touch coating the rear of the Laser, you must have some pretty well lubricated hands for it to slip out of your hands.
The buttons on this phone are tactile and produce a nice audible click, so much that I have actually started clicking the buttons on the Laser as an alternative to clicking my pens during class. Speaking about buttons, I really like the location of the power button on the top, as it is a lot harder to accidentally press it. The volume buttons on the rear needs some getting used to, but once you get used to it, you will start to question why other phones don’t have volume buttons on the back. It is just so comfortable as you just have to shift your index finger to press it, instead of re-positioning your entire hand so that your thumb can read the volume buttons on the side.
The front is dominated by the Gorilla Glass 4 glass panel, with the Zen concentric circles chin on the bottom portion. The oleophobic coating on the Laser is pretty effective as it helped me keep the screen clean easily even with my usually grubby hands touching it all the time.
The speaker on the rear is a five magnet speaker system, and is plenty loud enough to wake me up in the morning. The audio quality produced is acceptable as long as you don’t push it to the maximum volume, but definitely lacks bass, a common issue with loudspeakers. The loudness is also sufficient for me to hear my notification tones in almost any environment. Another thing to note is that the actual speaker under the grille is off-centered as you can see in the image below, thus placing it on the table will not muffle the audio, but actually allow the sound to reflect off the surface it is laid upon towards you. I plugged my Piston v2 as ASUS has apparently forgotten to include a headset in the package, and music sounded as good as it ever could with these earphones.
With the back cover off, you will also notice that the battery is removable. While the battery life is actually long enough to not require a battery swap in the middle of the day, but those who intend to use this phone for many years will be pleased to know they can swap out the battery if its worn out. Something not many smartphones can claim to offer. Also worth noting is that the ASUS Zenfone 2 Laser is actually the first member of the Zenfone family to feature a removable battery.
While the Snapdragon 410 isn’t the fastest processor out there, it is already sufficient for general everyday usage. When I say everyday usage, I mean Whatsapp, social networking, music listening and some Web surfing thrown in. The Laser doesn’t bat an eye at these workloads, and while opening apps may take a heartbeat longer than on my Padfone S, but after the apps are open, the experience is almost equally smooth. I must also mention that I have used certain phones with the beefier Snapdragon 615 processors that weren’t nearly as smooth as the Laser, so it must definitely be due to some of ASUS’ magic in optimization.
Now that we are talking about ASUS’ magic, ASUS’ touch throughout the UI is really nice to use as well. Improvements like AudioWizard for audio output adjustments, Splendid for screen calibration, and also various other preloaded apps are quite useful too. While there is some bloatware here and there, most of them can be uninstalled. Besides, with 16GB of internal memory in addition to the ability to move your apps over to the SD card, you shouldn’t worry about running out of space for your apps.
The double tap to wake should solve most users’ beef with the power button located at the top of the Laser, as one only needs to tap the screen twice to turn on the screen. The other gestures can be customized to open apps other than the preset ones when triggered, but you cannot create new gestures.
Now, let’s move on to the highlight feature of the ASUS Zenfone 2 Laser. The camera. The camera is identical with the one on the original Zenfone 2, a Toshiba 13MP sensor behind a 5-element lens, but has been improved by the addition of a laser autofocusing system.
Laser autofocus does make a difference, and after using it, I really think every phone should have either laser autofocusing system or hybrid phase detection AF. Focus lock is achieved much faster than any phone with basic contrast detection AF systems are capable of. Shutter lag is also non-existent to me.
The camera UI is quite neat, with lots of scene modes, including a manual mode where you gain control over the ISO, shutter speed and focus. A horizon line and exposure graph is available in manual mode to help you frame the best shot possible. A nice touch is instant exposure preview in the viewfinder before you take the shot, so inexperienced photographers like yours truly can judge the exposure from the viewfinder without having to try and get the right exposure via trial and error. For those more interested in the front camera, there is a Beautification mode, which allows to both hide your flaws and make yourself look a little thinner. That should be quite appealing to members of the fairer sex.
You can judge the camera for yourself, I personally think that it is pretty good.
Better image quality can be found in the Xiaomi Mi4i, but the Mi4i lacks the nifty low light mode as well as quick laser focus. If you want to scrutinize the photos further, full resolution camera samples can be found here.
Moving on, the 5.5″, HD (720p) IPS LCD with ASUS TruVivid technology along a ridiculously named GFF (which stands for G Film Film) touch sensor offers bright and vivid visuals and 60ms touch response times, I really have nothing much to complain about the screen.
The only thing I could complain about the Zenfone 2 Laser is the 720p screen, but even with only 921,600 pixels distributed over 5.5″ for a ppi of 267, I didn’t actually find it an issue when using the Zenfone 2 Laser. Sure, when I put it beside my Padfone S which has a 5″ 1080p display I can see a rather apparent difference in sharpness especially when looking at text on webpages, but the Laser’s screen is fine if you aren’t comparing directly against a higher resolution display.
The screen is bright with wide viewing angles. Little to no color shift is observable even when looking at the phone from extreme angles that no normal person will ever see their phone from, which is a good thing. Colors are bright but not to the point of oversaturation, and whites are without a color cast.
The Zenfone 2 Laser is quite an appealing mid-range smartphone at RM799. With improved camera hardware over its older brethen, a good IPS screen, a unique and ergonomic design with good build quality as well as seriously long battery life, I think you will fall in love with this smartphone quite easily, especially if you aren’t the type who needs top-of-the-line performance, but will appreciate the camera’s quality and fast autofocus speed. So whether does it match or exceed the high bar set by its older brethen? I would say in terms of the camera, it has already surpassed the original Zenfone 2, but the processor is a step down in terms of raw performance.