Asus Zenfone 5 and 5Z take a page from the iPhone X's playbook

Do you loathe Apple but secretly adore the iPhone X? Alternatively, do you openly desire the $1000 device but find its price too dear for your means? If you're in either of those boats, Asus has exactly the phone for you. Just a bit ago at Mobile World Congress 2018, Asus announced three flavors of Zenfone 5: the Zenfone 5 Lite, the standard Zenfone 5, and the flagship Zenfone 5Z. While the Zenfone 5 Lite has a simpler design, the standard and 5Z models take obvious design cues from Apple's flagship handset.

Asus Zenfone 5Z

Starting from the top, the Zenfone 5Z is Asus' new flagship smartphone. It uses a 6.2" screen that takes up 90% of the front surface of the phone. According to Asus, thanks to the ultra-slim bezel, the 6.2" Zenfone 5Z is the same physical size as the Zenfone 4 with its 5.5" screen. The new phone uses a wide-gamut LCD with a resolution of 2246x1080. Asus says the display supports the DCI-P3 color space but makes no claim about its coverage. The resolution works out to a 19:9 aspect ratio, a number that sounds pretty wacky at first. However, like the iPhone X, some of the display is covered by a notch at the top of the screen that contains the front-facing camera and other sensors. Asus says notifications will wrap around the notch, which is smaller than that of Apple's handset. Videos will scale to the correct aspect ratio with black bars on the sides instead of playing behind the notch.

Asus will be shipping three variations of the Zenfone 5Z. The top-end model will come with 8 GB of memory and 256 GB of onboard storage. Stepping down a notch, you end up with 6 GB of memory and 128 GB of storage. The most affordable model has 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of storage. Whichever version one you choose, you still get the range-topping Snapdragon 845 SoC inside. There's a microSD card slot, and dual-SIM capability with dual VoLTE support.

Asus Zenfone 5

The glass back of the phone is pierced by the dual cameras and a fingerprint sensor. In its presentation, Asus remarked that you can use face recognition with the 8 MP front camera, or fingerprint recognition with the centrally-mounted sensor to unlock the device. The company says the sensor used in the primary camera is a 12-megapixel Sony IMX363 with an f/1.8 aperture while the secondary camera is a 120° wide-angle shooter. Asus says ZenFone 5Z has optical image stabilization (OIS), electronic image stabilization (EIS), and it can record 4K video. The software running the cameras includes "AI" automatic scene detection, a portrait mode, and a pro mode that lets users fiddle with most optical settings.

Bluetooth music listeners should have a fine audio experience with the Zenfone 5, as it supports Qualcomm AptX HD audio and Sony's LDAC. The handset supports DTS Headphone:X for virtual surround audio, too. Asus compared the Zenfone 5 and 5Z's dual-speaker setup to that of the iPhone X's and claimed superior volume and bass response.

Externally, the suffix-less Zenfone 5 is identical to its faster cousin. It has the same display, dimensions, and software. The primary difference is in the core specifications. The standard Zenfone 5 will come with a Snapdragon 636 SoC instead of the 845 of the flagship 5Z. It also tops out at 6 GB of memory and 64 GB of storage. Judging by Asus' press materials, the cameras on this handset lack OIS and EIS technology, too.

Asus Zenfone 5 Lite

The Zenfone 5 Lite is a bit different from its cousins. It has a 2160x1080 IPS LCD (18:9 ratio) that is flat on the top and bottom. The 5 Lite uses the extra space above the screen for a pair of front-facing cameras. It also has two cameras on the back. Both pairs of cameras are made up of a 120° wide-angle sensor as well as a high-end main sensor—20MP in the front, and 16 MP in the back.

Asus didn't say anything about battery life, but did note that all three Zenfone varieties have a 3300-mAh battery. Naturally, the new handets use USB-C for data connections and charging, but analog-audio holdouts like myself can rejoice as they also include a regular 3.5-mm headphone jack.

Despite the fancy cameras, it doesn't look like the Zenfone 5 Lite has all the AI photo wizardry that Asus packed into its higher-end cousins above. That's probably because it uses the Snapdragon 630 SoC that lacks the required AI-acceleration bits for said functions. The Zenfone 5 Lite will come with up to 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of onboard storage, and like its cousins it supports microSD cards and dual-SIM functionality.

Asus didn't give exact dates for the new phones, but said that the Zenfone 5 Lite will come first in March. The standard Zenfone 5 will follow afterwards in April, and the Zenfone 5Z will show up later still in June. Perhaps the most interesting detail of these phones will be the pricing. Asus only announced price for the 5Z, but said that the Snapdragon 845-endowed phone with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage will start at a pretty-affordable €479, or around $488 without VAT.

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