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 2246×1080. 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 2160×1080 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.

Comments closed
    • moose17145
    • 2 years ago

    Headphone Jack, check.
    MicroSD Slot, check.

    If it had a user replaceable battery I would have just found my next phone…

    • Ultraman1966
    • 2 years ago

    I know this is a bit selfish but I don’t care. To date, none of the Asus flagships that were supposed to launch has reached the UK in a timely manner or at all. I tried to hold out for the Zenfone 3 Pro or whatever it was called but it never arrived and I can’t see that changing with the 5z.
    I also don’t think Asus do very well with OS updates unless I am mistaken?

    • dpaus
    • 2 years ago

    The biggest problem is using ROM for storage – I’ll never be able to save anything…

    • Major-Failure
    • 2 years ago

    Back when I was a kid we had 4:3 TVs and computer monitors. 1600 x 1200.

    In the 2000s, we lost some vertical space when 16:10 became the de facto standard. 1680 x 1050. This is very close to the golden ratio btw and a good split between productivity and entertainment.

    A few years later, 16:9 became more common, because movies. More vertical space gone. 1600 x 900.

    And now we’re moving towards 19:9, like with the iPhone X at 1125 x 2436 pixels and some computer displays going as crazy as 32:9 (Samsung C49HG90).

    What are your thoughts on and experience with these super wide ARs?

      • tsk
      • 2 years ago

      I like my monitors 3:2 and my phones 16:9.

      • Mumrik
      • 2 years ago

      “In the 2000s, we lost some vertical space when 16:10 became the de facto standard. 1680 x 1050.”

      Well, 1920×1200 was a thing 🙂

      “A few years later, 16:9 became more common, because movies. More vertical space gone. 1600 x 900.”

      Are we talking laptops here, because I don’t remember that ever being a super common desktop resolution?

      As for the wider ratios – I don’t really get it. It’s probably great for sim fans, but as far as I know human vision is much closer to being a sort of 4/3-ish oval.

      • DPete27
      • 2 years ago

      Well, you can blame cinema for the 21:9 aspect ratio. It just took monitors/TVs decades to adopt that ratio. Even still, I’d argue that >16:9 isn’t ideal for productivity work, so 16:9 isn’t going away anytime soon.

      32:9 is a niche ratio to simulate two 16:9 monitors without a bezel between them. It won’t catch on in any meaningful way.

      4:3 wasn’t ideal since our vision perceives significantly more horizontal space than vertical.

      Don’t expect phones to lead the way into new aspect ratios.

      • Voldenuit
      • 2 years ago

      I’m loving my 34″ 21:9 monitor. Cinemascope movies look great and are nearly 50% larger than on a 16:9 display of the same height. Games that support 21:9 look great, are immersive and give better situational awareness (loving Destiny 2 in 21:9).

      My older 27″ 16:9 monitor now feels “narrow”.

    • ronch
    • 2 years ago

    This notched screen design is just stupid. I want a plain rectangular screen. It’s just fine, there’s no need to fix it. Unfortunately once Apple starts something all the other phone makers will imitate them. Gotta wonder who the real Apple sheep are.

      • DPete27
      • 2 years ago

      Erm….the LG V10 (2015) was the first phone I know of with a “notched” screen. Don’t feed the problem. Apple didn’t invent the notch.

        • ronch
        • 2 years ago

        Nonetheless the industry follows Apple. No one cares what LG does. If Apple does it, it gets attention. So while Apple may not have done it
        first (like many other things), once they do it everyone else follows (as it is with many other things).

          • DPete27
          • 2 years ago

          Can’t argue that!
          Also, my apologies, I misinterpreted your first comment.

      • End User
      • 2 years ago

      lol

      [url<]https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2018/2/28/17064158/lg-g7-phone-leak-rumor-mwc-2018[/url<]

    • Captain Ned
    • 2 years ago

    You want me to buy? It’s simple. Wirelessly transmit lossless PCM 16/44.1 data at a minimum. I’d like 24/92, but I can’t get greedy.

      • albundy
      • 2 years ago

      so…chromecast audio? or is that compressed within the api before it hits the hockey puck’s optical out? i’m only asking since i still use an old airport express with optical out. the airplay protocol limits transmission to 44.1Khz as far as I know. The app for playback is also of concern since it could be resampling instead of passing through. So far it works well on my AllStream airplay app on my Samsung Galaxy S5 phone with the default Samsung music player. My Sony receiver does show PCM 44.1 when playing back FLAC files.

        • DancinJack
        • 2 years ago

        Chromecast can output lossless stuff, but it depends on the app and the source and the speaker and blah blah blah. It’s really hit or miss. I think Ned mostly wants BT headphones though (and the phone) with that capability though.

      • Airmantharp
      • 2 years ago

      Is there a FLAC-like streaming codec?

        • DancinJack
        • 2 years ago

        LDAC will get you pretty close. It’ll do 24/96 @ ~1000kbps. Conveniently built into Android 8.0. Good luck finding good headphones that support it though.

        [url<]https://www.sony.com/electronics/headband-headphones/mdr-1000x[/url<] That seems like one of the only decent options (LDAC is Sony's mojo so I think it's only Sony headphones that support it for now)

      • DoomGuy64
      • 2 years ago

      I’d rather have wireless charging, headphone plug, stereo speakers, and a removable battery. I know the removable battery is “controversial” among phone enthusiasts, but after dealing with battery issues, I’d like that feature to be available. Especially when I have to repair my phone with a cheaper provider that doesn’t offer repair services.

    • willmore
    • 2 years ago

    So, you’re saying it looks like the Essential Phone which came out before the Iphone X?

      • tsk
      • 2 years ago

      No.

      • DancinJack
      • 2 years ago

      No…it doesn’t.

      • tipoo
      • 2 years ago

      Oh come on now. The Essential shipped with a notch first, sure, but which ones notch is this closer in shape to? Which ones corners does it ape the rounding of? Even down to the orientation and bezel on the camera cutout.

      Furthermore, which ones design has more clout?

      [url<]https://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/sk3cfkbxmunifzm6tg1s.jpg[/url<] (and I actually think the Essential is the more attractive on the frontside here...But that's besides the point). I just don't get what people get from denying outright 98% derivatives of Apple designs that are readily apparent, looking past the Apple doesn't invent shapes herp derp and just /look at it/.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 2 years ago

        I don’t care who invented them; notches suck and I hate them. I think I could live with a slightly smaller screen to avoid them. But whatever.

    • tipoo
    • 2 years ago

    Does Android have SDK level awareness for notches, and of multiple different sizes and shapes from different vendors, or is everyone just rushing in with this before it’s ready? On Xcode at least it knows what it’s own hardware is, would this just be black bars in fullscreen apps?

      • nico1982
      • 2 years ago

      No notch awarness in Android whatsoever. I guess you can roll your own UI for that. The silly thing – IMHO – is that it looks like the notch is considered a feature by some manufacturers…

        • DancinJack
        • 2 years ago

        There is in API level 28 (Android P).

          • nico1982
          • 2 years ago

          Cool, I totally missed it. Can you point me to the API reference?

      • soccergenius
      • 2 years ago

      Not yet, but [url=https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-12/google-s-next-android-overhaul-is-said-to-embrace-iphone-notch<]Bloomberg reports[/url<] that Google is readying support for the mimicking.

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