|ASUS Zenfone 4 Review: First In Line|
We first encountered the ASUS Zenfone 4 last June 30 during the media exclusive sneak preview of the Zenfone series and the Zen UI.
During that time, we managed to get our hands on at the Zenfone 4, but we never really had time to give it a proper review. Luckily, after more than a month after its official released, we now have plenty of time to experience it.
The Zenfone 4 is the front-liner of the Zenfone family and the cheapest for only Php3,995. It packs a 4-inch capacitive touchscreen display powered by a 1.2GHz dual core Intel Atom Z2520 processor with Hyper Threading technology coupled with 1GB of RAM. It also has an 8GB of internal storage, which is expandable up to 64GB via micro SD card.
The lower part of the front has nothing on it and it is a bit shiny, a consistent feature of all the Zen series. Above it are the back, home and recent apps capacitive keys, there is no menu button here. At the upper part, you have the notification light, the earpiece grill, secondary camera and the hidden proximity sensor, below them are the 4-inch display.
The back has a metallic-anodized look, but it is actually a plastic. The Zenfone and Intel logos are located at the lower part while the camera, loudspeaker grill and ASUS branding are all located at the upper part.
|Back without cover|
The back cover is removable, once removed you will find the 1200mAh battery. The micro SD slot is placed on the left side of the camera module while the two micro SIM slots are in the lower right side, these placements allow you to access them even the phone is turned on.
The micro USB port can be found on the left side while the power button and the volume rocker are both located at the right side.
The top houses the 3.5mm audio jack while the bottom holds the primary microphone.
The Zenfone 4 has a waistline of 11.5mm, which is considered to be thick, however, the curvy back makes it more comfortable to hold. Design wise, it also inherits the concentric circles found on other Zen products, which adds a more striking look.
The number 4 on its name corresponds to its screen size, which is 4 inches, it is the smallest among all the Zenfone series. It uses a regular TN panel, which limits the viewing angles due to its contrast-shift issue. On the other note, it supports up to 10-point touch which is pretty rare for a smartphone, especially for this size.
The phone has an accelerometer and proximity sensors, both are working properly. Sadly, there is no ambient light sensor, which means the screen brightness is adjusted manually.
|Antutu - 15359|
|Quadrant - 6884|
|NenaMark2 - 59.3|
|Vellamo, Browser - 1352, Multicore - 886 & Metal 546|
The benchmark scores are impressive for a dual core device, especially in Antutu and Quadrant wherein the registered results are comparable to a quad core MediaTek device.
The Zenfone 4 runs on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean with Zen UI on top, which, according to ASUS provides more than 1000 enhancements. There is also a promised KitKat update, however, there is no advise yet when it will be available.
Upon first boot, you will be greeted with the Set-up Wizard, it will ask you to choose the phone language, internet connection, ASUS account and your time zone. There is no skip button, so you need to finish it all the way.
The lockscreen offers neat and clean look, it shows the usual digital clock, time and weather. In addition, you also get the quick access to the camera, telephony and messaging. It also supports lockscreen widget, a flick from the right will launch the camera while a flick from the left can be assigned to calendar, Gmail, etc.
The homescreen has three pages by default, which you can increase up to nine. You can add widgets, apps and folders on the homescreen. There are five shortcuts docked at the bottom, the middle always opens the app drawer while the other four can be customized based on your preference.
Default Apps & Widgets:
There are 48 apps installed by default, none of them can be removed without the root access. You can display all or choose to show only the downloaded or the frequently used apps. Meanwhile, the default widgets cover 8 pages or a total of 47 widgets arranged in 2 by 3 layout.
Notification & Quick Settings:
|Notification and quick setting|
Unlike most Android phones, the Zenfone 4 has a separate drop-down menu for the notification and quick setting, a set-up most common on tablets. To access the notification, you need to swipe from to upper left while accessing the quick settings you need to swipe on the upper right. You can also choose which settings you want to appear in the quick settings by going to the System Settings>ASUS customized settings>ASUS quick setting list.
|Dual SIM card settings|
The Zenfone 4 supports dual micro SIM cards, you can set which SIM to use for a specific function by going to Settings>Dual SIM card settings.
The dial pad supports smart dialing, you can enter numbers or name, then select a matched contact to call. When you have an incoming call, you can opt to decline, answer or reject it with a message. While you are on a call, you can also take down important notes by pressing the center circle (above the red circle). The call quality is clear and loud, both parties can hear each other properly.
The call logs shows all the calls happened in and out of your phone, you can filter the items by the type of calls or the SIM card used.
The phonebook supports both contacts and groups, they can be synced with your online accounts seamlessly. For contacts you can opt to display all or filter only from which accounts, each contact can contain multiple information.
The messaging app displays messages based on the latest time of arrival, if you have unread messages, there will be a number on the right side which corresponds to the number of unread messages that you have. In a specific conversation, your message is on the right side while the recipient message is on the left side.
You can attach almost anything on a message and if you do, it will be converted to MMS. In the "To" space you can enter name, number or choose from your contacts, if you are ready to send a message just press the SIM1 or SIM2 icon on the right side.
The phone has both generic email app and Gmail app, both are easy to set-up and very intuitive to use. They also support multiple accounts and you can decide how often you want to sync your emails.
The gallery display all the photos and videos on your device whether they are stored in the phone storage or in the micro SD card. You can also opt to display items from the cloud storage and online accounts. Photos and videos are displayed with their thumbnails, however, for those unsupported files, they will appear blank. Another neat trick is the Face detection, which place the face of the person in the center of each thumbnail. Each item in the gallery can be shared locally, email or via online accounts.
There is also a photo editor app built in the gallery, for the video editing tool, you can use the Movie Studio apps.
To play a video, you need to go either in the file manager or in the gallery. The player is very simple, there is a time scroll at the bottom and just the pause/play button. It also has a very limited codec support, it can only play .mp4 and .3gp files up to 1080p resolution. If you need a more powerful video player, there are tons in the Play Store which you can download.
The music player list all the supported audio files on your device, you can filter them by albums, artist, songs, genres, composer or folder. You can also play musics from your cloud storage such as ASUS WebStorage or Google Drive. The player displays album art if there is any, below it are the song title, artist and album. Far below you have the time scroll just above the control buttons.
The FM Radio needs a wired headset to work and you also need to manually select the channels, you can add up to six favorite channels.
Camera and Video:
|Camera and video|
The camera and video offer tons of filters as well as shooting modes to choose from, 10 and 12 respectively to be exact. Using them is very simple, although not all works perfectly as they should, still they are very good features. Most notable modes are the "All Smiles" an enhanced burst mode, which you can switch faces, "Smart Remote" which is another burst mode that allows you to remove moving objects in the background and "Miniature" which makes the output images to appear smaller.
There is also another built-in app in the camera, the Party Link, it allows you to share pictures instantly with a group of people after you took them. People should be nearby and belong to the same group, wherein one person should create a group and the others will join.
At the back of the phone is a 5MP auto focus camera, the output images are surprisingly good. Even though it does not have flash, pictures taken during low-light conditions appear to be usable. Close-up photography is also possible, it can focus on a subject at about 2-3 inches away.
Its camera is far from being perfect, there are times that images are over saturated or under exposed, but it is still better than other 5MP-equipped smartphone that we reviewed, let say Lenovo A680.
It can record videos of up to 1080p resolution, in real world use, the quality is not bad either. There is also a stabilization mode for those who have shaky hands.
For web browsing, you can use either the stock browser or the Google Chrome, both are very powerful, fast and easy to use.
|Dead Trigger 2|
|Heroes of Order and Chaos|
I installed several games like Despicable Me, Dead Trigger 2, Asphalt 7 and Heroes of Order & Chaos. All are playable, however, there are times that you experience lags or hiccups not to mention the loading times are longer than usual.
|Move to SD|
The device has 8GB of internal storage, however, only 4.61GB are available to users, thankfully it is a consolidated/unified storage and also apps can be moved to SD card.
|3G & Dual Tethering|
The phone supports dual 3G, but only one at a time, if SIM 1 is on 3G, SIM 2 is on 2G and vice versa. You can share this connection via WiFi hotspot, Bluetooth or USB Tethering. You can also manage your data consumption via the Settings>Data Usage.
The WiFi connection is also OK, it can detect signals at a few meters away and no dropped signal experience when in use, the Miracast function works like a charm too.
There is also no issue on Bluetooth connectivity, it can pair on different devices without any problem.
The micro USB port of the Zenfone 4 also supports OTG functions, external flash drive and wireless peripherals worked flawlessly.
When you connect it to your computer, you can either choose MTP or PTP, I recommend the former since you can transfer/copy/move files to and from your device easily. Lastly, the 3.5mm audio port works with CTIA compliant headset.
|Do it later|
The usual productivity and organizing tools are installed by default such as calculator, calendar, clock and sound recorder. Meanwhile, file manager and to do applications got more functions, they are now integrated with cloud service such as One Drive or DropBox. There is also an app called SuperNote, a note-taking app that allows you to doodle, sketch or write freehand.
The GPS able to have a satellite lock in less than 10 seconds when A-GPS is enabled.
I looped a video continuously and it managed to last 3.5 hours before the 15% battery warning came out. I also did another video and it able to last about 4 hours before the battery died. When playing games, it only managed to last around 2 hours.
There are lots of Google apps installed, there are 16 in total including the Play Store and Gmail.
The Audio Wizard app lets you to choose to different sound modes to achieve your preferred output while the Splendid allows you to tweak display parameters such as color temperature, hue and saturation.
|Recent App Key|
The Zenfone 4 has no physical menu button, what it has a recent apps key, but you can set it to show the menu when you press and hold it by going to Settings>ASUS customized settings>Recent apps key.
|Power Consumption Table|
Under the system settings, you can find the power management, it consists of the Power Saver (Smart Saving) and Power Consumption Table apps. The former lets you optimized battery usage while the latter displays all the apps used and their corresponding share in battery consumption.
The Share Link is similar to that of the Play Link found in the camera app, but instead of just pictures, you can share applications and almost any files.
The What's Next is the ASUS version of Google Now, it reminds you what to do next or advise you some important task you need to do.
The other apps installed by default are Kindle, Mirror, Omlet Chat, Weather and WebStorage. Like what I mentioned earlier, you cannot uninstall them without root access.
The ASUS Zenfone is really a value for money device, for only Php3,995 you get a capable Intel processor, pretty decent camera and well-rounded performance.
However, there are things that could make it better - IPS panel and slightly bigger battery. These two could be the biggest concern for potential buyers.
1.2GHz dual core Intel processor
1GB of RAM
8GB of ROM
Capable main camera
No light sensor
Below average battery performance
- Quad band 2G/3G
- Dual SIM (micro) dual standby
- 4-inch capacitive WVGA (800x480) touchscreen display
- Dimensions: 124.42mm x 61.44mm x 11.5mm
- Weight: 115g
- Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, ASUS Zen UI
- 1.2GHz dual core CPU, PowerVR SGX544MP2 GPU, Intel Atom Z2520 chipset
- 1GB of RAM
- 8GB internal storage, expandable up to 64GB via micro SD card
- 5MP main camera without Flash,
- VGA secondary camera
- Multimedia Player
- FM Radio
- GPS with A-GPS and GLONASS
- 3.5 Audio Jack
- WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
- Micro USB 2.0 with OTG function
- Bluetooth v4.0
- 1200mAh battery
- Sensors: accelerometer, proximity
- Notification light
- Price: Php3,995