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Asus at MWC 2018: ZenFone 5 hands-on and more

Asus has had a tough time of breaking into the UK market, but the newly unveiled ZenFone 5 looks like a seriously compelling smartphone with the potential to win people over.

Asus ZenFone 5 hands-on

There’s no beating around the bush, the ZenFone 5 bears more than a passing resemblance to Apple’s flagship iPhone X in some places. Its distinct new design is dominated by an expansive and punchy 6.2-inch 19:9 aspect ratio display that grants the phone an excellent 90 percent screen-to-body ratio. There’s a slightly thicker bezel running along its bottom edge and a familiar notch that cuts into the display along the top. Together they house a pair of front-firing stereo speakers, plus the phone’s 8-megapixel front-facing camera.

Flip the ZenFone over and you’re presented with the same distinctive micro-etched, concentric-circle that so many of Asus’ products are known for. It catches the light beautifully but the Gorilla Glass protecting attracts fingerprints just as readily. As well as a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, this generation of ZenFone once again sports a dual rear camera module. This time it’s vertically aligned and protrudes slightly, making the resemblance to Apple’s top blower all the more apparent.

The camera itself is a strong iterative improvement on its predecessor’s with Sony’s top-notch IMX363 sensor running the show. Most of the time you’ll use the main 12-megapixel main snapper, which sports optical image stabilisation (OIS) and an f/1.8 aperture. The secondary 8-megapixel sensor lets you push out to a wide-angle view with a 120-degree field of view.

On the software side, Asus’ camera app offers automated scene detection, allows for manual control with RAW capture, HDR shooting (even at night) and animated GIF creation. Its standout Super Resolution shooting mode is back too. This combines multiple snaps from the main 12-megapixel sensor to create a huge 49-megapixel final image.

One of the biggest improvements we noticed in our first encounter was the reworked ZenUI 5 user experience. Running atop Android 8.0 Oreo, Asus has trimmed some of the fat from its previous crowded and convoluted user experience. It still heavily detracts from a stock Android UX but the number of duplicate apps has dropped significantly. Despite the reworking, the interface still allows for rich customisation and supports some interesting features like its integrated Game Genie live-streaming tool.

Despite the flagship-class Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor remaining reserved for the ZenFone 5Z due later in 2018, the mid-tier Snapdragon 636 powering the 5 appeared to offer a perfectly smooth experience without complaint, no doubt helped by the generous amount of RAM the phone packs in.

Asus ZenFone 5 hands-on

Screen 6.2-inches, Full HD+ (2160 x 1080), 19:9 aspect ratio, IPS LCD, DCI-P3 colour space support, one-handed mode
Audio Hi-Res Audio support, front-facing stereo speakers, Hi-Res Audio-capable earbuds in-box,
Weight 155 grams
OS Android 8.0 Oreo w/ ZenUI 5
Front camera 8-megapixels w/ f/2.0 aperture
Rear cameras 12-megapixels w/ f/1.8 aperture, OIS + 8-megapixels w/ f/2.0 aperture, 120-degree wide-angle lens
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 636
Memory 6GB RAM
Storage 64GB
Battery 3300mAh w/ fast-charging
Colours Midnight Blue, Meteor Silver
Extras Dual SIM w/ 4G + VoLTE support, AI Boost performance optimiser, Charging battery overcharging protection technology, Game Genie, face unlock, blue light eye care mode

Asus Zenfone 5 pricing and availability

Asus is yet to confirm UK or even European pricing, with only an approximate launch window of April, 2018.