ASUS ZenFone 5Z Review – OnePlus 6 Killer

ASUS has unveiled the best of ZenFone, the ZenFone 5Z at the MWC 2018 and now it’s finally in India to race against OnePlus. OnePlus devices have been the flagship killer most of the times, but now it has got a contender that offers as much and comes at an eye-popping price. The ZenFone 5Z has the fastest Qualcomm chip, Snapdragon 845 packed with a chunk of storage and memory that goes up to 8 GB RAM and 256 GB storage no wonder it’s covered with glass and aluminum frames and sports a dual camera on board. Here’s our ASUS ZenFone 5Z review.

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What’s in the Box

  • ZenFone 5Z with built-in battery
  • Type-C USB Cable
  • 18W Power Adapter (9V, 2A)
  • ASUS ZenEar Pro Hi-Res earphones with microphone
  • SIM Ejector Pin
  • User Guide and Warranty Card
  • Clear Soft Silicon Case

ASUS ZenFone 5Z Specifications

  • Display: 6.2-inch Super IPS+ display, Full HD+ resolution (2246 x 1080 pixels), 19:9 aspect ratio, 90% screen-to-body ratio, 550 nits brightness, 96% NTSC color gamut, supports DCI-P3, 10 points multi-touch panel, Corning Gorilla Glass protection (front and rear)
  • Software: Android 8.0 Oreo, ZenUI 5, AI-Powered, upgradable to Android P
  • Fingerprint Scanner: Yes, at the back
  • CPU: Octa-core Kryo 385 processor, Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC, 10nm LPP FinFET, 64-bit, AI Boost
  • GPU: Adreno 630
  • Memory: 6 GB or 8 GB RAM, LPDDR4X
  • Storage: 64 GB or 128 GB or 256 GB UFS 2.1 internal, microSD card to 2 TB (SIM2)
  • Main Camera: Dual Cameras (12 MP + 8 MP), 12 MP (RGB), f/1.8, 1.4um, Sony IMX363, 4-axis OIS, 5x high light sensitivity, 0.03s Dual Pixel PDAF, AI-powered, RAW support, 8 MP f/2.0, wide-angle 120-degree FOV, OmniVision OV8856, dual-tone LED flash
  • Selfie Camera: 8 MP, f/2.0, OmniVision OV8856, 83-degree wide-angle FOV
  • Cellular: 4G LTE network, X20 LTE gigabit modem, Dual VoLTE-enabled, 2x Nano SIM (GSM), SIM2 as microSD
  • Connectivity: USB Type-C, 3.5 mm jack, FM Radio, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz + 5 GHz), Bluetooth 5.0, GPS (A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS)
  • Audio: Dual speakers with NXP 9874 Smart AMP, Hi-Res Audio, DTS Headphone: X for 7.1 channel surround sound, dual microphones
  • Battery: 3,300 mAh, ASUS BoostMaster fast charging (18W), AI Charging
  • Colors: Meteor Silver, Midnight Blue
  • Dimensions: 153 mm x 75.65 mm x 7.7 mm
  • Weight: 165 grams (5.82 ounces)
  • Price: Rs 29,999 (6 GB RAM & 64 GB Storage), Rs 32,999 (6 GB RAM & 128 GB Storage), Rs 36,999 (8 GB RAM & 256 GB Storage)
  • Availability: Available exclusively on Flipkart from July 9
  • Offers: ₹3000 off when purchased using ICICI Debit and Credit Cards, No-cost EMI starting at Rs 3333/month, Flipkart Complete Mobile Protection at ₹499, Rs 2,200 cashback and 100 GB additional data from Reliance Jio

Design, Build & Ergonomics

The ZenFone 5Z is concealed in glass body with metallic frames, the front and rear side offers Corning Gorilla Glass protection. I would say the construction is strong and feels well build. It doesn’t feel bulky, it’s light in weight and fits in well in the hands.

The front offers an 8 MP camera while the back has dual cameras of 12 MP + 8 MP with wide angle lens. Moreover, there’s face unlock to unlock your phone with your face and a fingerprint that works for gestures like swiping on it to drop the notification panel.

Just like the OnePlus 6, it has no IP ratings and ASUS doesn’t claim any water resistance on the phone. Also, its glass design doesn’t mean that it supports wireless charging, there’s no wireless charging on board. You don’t expect it at this price.

Connectivity options include a type-C USB port and 3.5 mm headphones jack right at the bottom. You will find a total of three microphones, one at the bottom, one at the top and the third one on the left side alongside the hybrid SIM tray.

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Display

The display on the ZenFone 5Z is a 6.2-inch Super IPS+ with bezel-less 19:9 screen using a resolution of Full HD+ (2246 x 1080 pixels). Then there’s the notch that looks similar to what we saw on the iPhone X. The ZenFone 5Z is one of the early adopters of the notch which was actually unveiled in February at the MWC 2018 right after the iPhone X brought it to us. It is worth mentioning that there is now a chunk of Android smartphones carrying a notch which makes the ZenFone 5Z look like the others. Take the notched enabled phones for an instance, the OnePlus 6, Vivo X21, Honor 10, and a few more have notched display.

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It also supports full screen for apps, a shortcut will appear in the on-screen navigation buttons. However, the notch may encounter and it is recommended that you keep it in default mode to keep the content without crop.

We tried the full screen on various apps including YouTube, some social apps, and games and it comes as no surprise, the notch will cover the area. You can also allow the full screen inside the display settings.

For those who don’t like the notch, the notch area adds a black bar while the corners aren’t curved on the lower side. We expect it to be resolved in the future updates.

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Full Screen For Apps

Software & User Interface

ZenFone 5Z runs on Android 8.0 Oreo with the ZenUI 5 interface which is the new interface from ASUS and it packs a lot of stuff inside starting from the AI. The ZenUI 5 is based on the Android 8.0 Oreo with AI features like AI Camera, AI Display, AI Ringtone, AI Boost, AI Charging, and AI Photo Learning.

There are plenty of features you have on the ZenFone 5Z, but since the ZenUI 5 is a customized Android, it takes as much hardware resources which is unlike heavier than the ones based on the stock interface. Users who prefer pure Android or nearly stock interface, you may want to consider phones from Google, Motorola and OnePlus.

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Can’t Remove Bloatware

Thanks to AI, the ringtone volume intelligently changes depending on the environment, the AI Charging extends the battery life by adjusting the charging rate, AI Boost boosts the performance of the device to run heavy applications. The cameras also have a bunch of AI features to offer which we will cover in the coming camera section.

Also added is the ZeniMoji, similar to Apple’s Animoji but works with video calling and live streaming. You can view your emoji avatar on social media apps while you make video calls and stream live videos. BeautyLive is also another feature that lets you add beauty effects during live video streaming on popular social media platforms.

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AI Features
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ZeniMoji
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ZenMotion Motion Gestures, One-Handed Mode

The fingerprint scanner is very fast and works just like the others, it might be as fast as on the OnePlus 6 too. The fingerprint scanner supports the notification gesture to open the notification panel. Another way to unlock the phone is the face unlock that unlocks it quickly, while not as fast as we have seen on the Vivo phones. Also, during low light the face unlock may show its weakness, it isn’t reliable when there’s low light.

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DTS Surround Audio

Hardware, Performance, & Gaming

On the performance side, the ZenFone 5Z packs the most powerful Qualcomm chip, the Snapdragon 845 can also be found on the top-of-the-line smartphones like Samsung Galaxy S9+ (US variant), OPPO Find X, LG G7 ThinQ and others. The ZenFone 5Z was globally announced earlier at the MWC 2018 and was the first device to offer a Snapdragon 845. OnePlus 6 is the primary competitor featuring a Snapdragon 845 chip.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 consists of eight Kryo 385 cores clocked at 2.8 GHz maximum and it is laced with up to 8 GB LPDDR4X RAM. Yes, the ZenFone 5Z comes in 8 GB RAM variant as well. Furthermore, you get a storage as big as 265 GB UFS-type with options to expand via microSD up to 2 TB.

The phone boots in exactly 13 seconds (tried and tested) and it is just as claimed by the company. The boot time is definitely faster than any other Android phone as of now. There’s a feature called AI Boost which can be accessed from the notifications panel. It boosts the performance of the phone for running resource heavy apps and graphic-intensive games. Do note that the AI Boost may slightly affect battery usage time.

ASUS ZenFone 5Z Key Specifications

  • Display: 6.2-inch Super IPS+ display, Full HD+ resolution (2246 x 1080 pixels)
  • Software: Android 8.0 Oreo, ZenUI 5 Skin
  • CPU: Up to 2.8 GHz octa-core Kryo 385 processor, Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC, 10nm LPP FinFET, 64-bit, AI Boost
  • GPU: Adreno 630
  • Memory: Up to 8 GB, LPDDR4X
  • Storage: Up to 256 GB, UFS 2.1, microSD card up to 2 TB
  • Battery: 3,300 mAh (non-removable)
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CPU-Z

Talking about the performance of the device, it tops out in the benchmarks and is at par with OnePlus 6 and other Snapdragon 845 powered devices. The performance is better than the last year’s flagships – Google Pixel 2, Samsung Galaxy S8, Sony Xperia XZ1, and others. The scores it achieved are 263,699 points on AnTuTu, 2,419 points (single-core CPU), 8,921 points (multi-core CPU), and 14,067 (GPU) on Geekbench 4.

AnTuTu Benchmark

  • 263,699 points

Geekbench 4

  • 2,419 points (single-core CPU)
  • 8,921 points (multi-core CPU)
  • 14,067 (GPU)
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AnTuTu
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Geekbench 4 (CPU)

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Geekbench 4 (GPU)

Nothing can compare when it comes to the gaming on the Adreno 630, it’s the most powerful mobile GPU on Androids and no wonder the ZenFone 5Z can run almost any game you throw at. It is 30% faster than the predecessor Adreno 530 found on the Google Pixel 2, OnePlus 5T, Sony Xperia XZ1, and Samsung Galaxy S8 (US variant). No, it did not heat up while gaming, the temperatures remain normal.

Games Tested on ASUS ZenFone 5Z

  • PUBG Mobile
  • MARVEL Future Fight
  • Sky Force Reloaded
  • Need For Speed No Limits
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MARVEL Future Fight

Storage & Memory

There are a total of three variants of the ZenFone 5Z, one with the 6 GB RAM and 64 GB storage variant, the second one with the 128 GB storage with the same amount of RAM, and the last being the top variant having 8 GB RAM and a massive 256 GB storage.

Not just that, the ASUS ZenFone 5Z also hooks up a microSD card slot (on SIM2) which can expand up to 2 TB. No microSD support is provided on the OnePlus 6 due to which you need to rely only on the internal storage.

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Free 100 GB Google Drive

The internal storage on the ZenFone 5Z is actually a fast UFS-type which is equivalent to the ones you see on the top-end smartphones like Samsung Galaxy S9+. The UFS 2.1 storage can achieve speeds of more than 750 MB/s (read), faster than you thought, eh? Here’s the storage benchmarks below that shows you the read and write speeds on the ZenFone 5Z.

Due to the ZenUI 5 (which is now lighter and faster than the previous ZenUIs), it still takes about 3 GB+ RAM on idle. While it depends on the apps you have installed, our usage indicates on the first boot with no additional apps installed. The user gets around 2.6 GB of free RAM or more which is sufficient for most apps and games.

A1 SD Bench

  • 767.91 MB/s (Read)
  • 0.0 MB/s (Write) – N/A
  • 14,984.97 MB/s (RAM Copy)

AndroBench

  • 743.82 MB/s (Sequential Read)
  • 188.89 MB/s (Sequential Write)
  • 123.28 MB/s (Random Read)
  • 22.13 MB/s (Random Write)

Memory Usage

  • 3.6 GB RAM Used
  • 2.4 GB RAM Free

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Memory Usage (First Boot)

Cameras

For imaging, the dual-camera is what ZenFone 5Z has to offer, there is one 12 MP camera with f/1.8 aperture and 0.03s Dual Pixel phase detection AF. The second camera is of 8 MP with f/2.0 aperture and uses a wide-angle lens snapping 120-degree wide-angle shots. The 12 MP uses the Sony IMX363 image sensor while the secondary 8 MP uses the OmniVision OV8856 sensor. The selfie camera here comes at 8 MP with again a wide-angle lens (84 degrees).

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ASUS ZenFone 5Z Camera Specifications

  • Camera: Dual Cameras (12 MP + 8 MP)
    12 MP (RGB), f/1.8, 1.4um, 5x high light sensitivity, 0.03s Dual Pixel PDAF, AI-powered
    8 MP f/2.0, wide-angle 120-degree FOV
  • Sensor: Sony IMX363 (12 MP), OmniVision OV8856 (8 MP)
  • Optical Image Stabilization (OIS): Yes, 4-axis
  • RAW Support: Yes
  • Rear Flash: Dual-tone LED flash
  • Features: Portrait, Wide Angle, HDR, Auto, Pro, Beauty, Super Resolution, GIF Animation, Slow Motion, Time Lapse, Slow Motion, Color Filters,
  • Video Recording: Up to 4K video @60fps, slow motion up to 1080p video @240fps
  • Front Camera: 8 MP with f/2.0 aperture and 84-degree wide-angle lens
  • Video Recording: 1080p video @30fps
  • Front Flash: N/A

The IMX363 is the new image sensor from Sony and is used by the 12 MP camera, the same you will find on the iPhone X main camera, Xiaomi Mi 8, Vivo NEX, as well as the ZenFone 5 carrying the Snapdragon 636. Being a flagship-level dual camera, you can rely on it, the portraits and stills turn out to be very good.

Speaking of the interface, it’s clutter-free, the left side has modes like Pro, Beauty, Super Resolution, Slow Motion, and on the right has the color filters. Digging more into the camera, you will find other camera options like selecting the megapixels of the camera, video capturing, watermark, timestamp, grid, instant camera shortcut key and more.

To my surprise, the Panorama mode was missing. Just because there is a wide-angle camera doesn’t mean you should remove it. Panoramas are able to shoot 360-degree photographs. We hope that it should be available in the coming software updates.

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The camera highlights a number of AI features to help you take better photos. There are phones out there with AI capabilities, the most recent ones we saw are HUAWEI P20 Pro and Honor 10, both assisted by AI (Artificial Intelligence). Well, the approach is fairly similar, it detects 16 different scenes and adjusts the parameters accordingly.

The camera is capable of detecting 16 different scenes which include the following.

  • People
  • Food
  • Flowers
  • Pets (Dog & Cat)
  • Sunset
  • Sky
  • Greenfield
  • Ocean
  • Tripod
  • Plant
  • Snow
  • Night view
  • Stage
  • Text
  • QR code

The camera can even distinguish between Dogs and Cats, primarily for the reason people snap the cats in action which applies a faster shutter speed while the latter with a different speed.

The AI portrait mode applies a bokeh effect to the background in real-time and it works not just for the dual cameras, you can snap selfies with bokeh effects too. It also uses the AI Beautification which is a part of its AI capabilities, is smart enough to detect the genders and apply digital makeup for women. BeautiLiv is another feature that lets you add beauty effects during live video streaming on popular social media platforms.

The dual camera is capable of taking very good and high-quality images, they are very detailed, you can clearly see the results we shared below, the images are vivid and bright in colors. We also shared wide angle shots to show you how wide is the view.

It is also capable of recording 4K videos. Even though the OnePlus 6 comes with a better slow motion feature recording up to 480 fps in 720p and 240 fps in 1080p, the ZenFone 5Z has the ability to record up to 240 fps in 1080p. Well, that doesn’t mean the ZenFone 5Z falls short, the camera is as good as what the current iPhones offer.

Unlike the Sony Xperias, Samsung Galaxy S9+, HUAWEI P20 Pro, they all are Pro at capturing slow-motion videos (960fps) but it does ask a premium price, right? The latter is fine for what the price it is offered. Believe me, this segment doesn’t even offer 4K recording at 60fps, take the Honor View10 and the Honor 10, they are stuck with the 120fps slow motion and 4K recording, but at 30fps.

ASUS ZenFone 5Z Camera Samples

Battery Runtime & Charging

Getting on to the battery performance, the ZenFone 5Z packs a decent 3,300 mAh battery with fast charging support and so as the OnePlus 6. Due to the AMOLED display, the OnePlus 6 could have a better edge. However, the ZenUI 5 is optimized well for the battery with different battery modes.

The 3,300 mAh battery here should be sufficient for the daily tasks to run throughout the day and a little more than that. Our usage was pretty moderate running social apps like Facebook, streaming videos on YouTube, snapping pictures and recording 4K videos, and on a single 4G SIM and the results were quite good.

You don’t expect a long battery life since it has got the powerful Snapdragon 845, but it should get you a day and a half of the battery life if you are not using it more obvious. You may also stretch the battery up to 2 days if you can workaround with the battery modes and power saving traits.

We got 5 hours of screen-on-time with 1-day and a couple of hours of battery life on the ZenFone 5Z. It is surprised to see that while playing and streaming videos, the battery stayed longer than expected making it reliable for multimedia users.

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1-Day Battery, 5 Hours Screen-On-Time, Moderate Usage
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Battery Modes

Battery Charging

The charging is relatively quick. you get 50% battery in 30 minutes charge. As for the charging time it takes, we charged the battery using the provided ASUS fast charger rated 9V, 2A and it turns out that the charging took ~100 minutes to charge the battery fully which is fast enough. It supports BoostMaster fast charging support that seems to be based on the Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0.

Also, the ZenUI 5 is optimized with the AI charging that extends the battery life by automatically adjusting the charging rate on the previous charging behavior. For an instance, the AI charging slows down the rate when you leave it overnight while sleeping, the phone learns from your sleep cycles.

No wireless charging is offered and that won’t be a concern for many. Rivals still lack this support unless you are paying off for an iPhone or Samsung flagships.

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Takes ~100 Minutes To Completely Charge
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AI Charging, Battery Saving Traits

ASUS ZenFone 5Z Battery Test Results

Apps/GamesBattery usedRuntimeBrightnessWireless
1080p Video1%20 minutesAutoOff (Wi-Fi, GPS, Data)
4K Video1%20 minutesAutoOff (Wi-Fi, GPS, Data)
YouTube (1080p)2%20 minutesAutoOn (Wi-Fi)
PUBG Mobile7%20 minutesAutoOff (Wi-Fi, GPS, Data)
MARVEL Future Fight6%20 minutesAutoOff (Wi-Fi, GPS, Data)
Sky Force Reloaded6%20 minutesAutoOff (Wi-Fi, GPS, Data)
Music (Offline)1%1 HourScreen OffOff (Wi-Fi, GPS, Data)
Music (Online) -
Gaana
2%30 minutesScreen OffOn (Wi-Fi)
Facebook3%20 minutesAutoOn (Wi-Fi)

Verdict

ASUS has been working on with the ZenFone 5Z to defeat the unbeaten OnePlus 6, and they are quite successful with it. The ZenFone 5Z, offering the same specs, is Rs 5,000 less than the OnePlus 6 which makes it worthy opponent and for those who are looking for the best Qualcomm chip on a budget

The top variant has so much to offer, it’s almost 1/3 of the price of the iPhone X and half of the Samsung Galaxy S9+. Needless to say, the ZenFone 5Z has very aggressive pricing which is why it leaves most smartphones in the dust.

The ZenFone 5Z’s 8 GB RAM and 256 GB RAM variant is priced at Rs 36,999 which is about Rs 7,000 cheaper than the same-spec variant of the OnePlus 6 (currently available at Rs 43,999). Added benefits over the OnePlus 6 are the microSD card support, the AI perks and other software features like the Zenimoji and BeautyLive, wide-angle camera, stereo speakers, and of course the value for money. The ASUS ZenFone 5Z is clearly a OnePlus 6 killer and it is worth considering for the price it offers.

Rivals

Strength

  • Glass & Metal Design | Light in Weight
  • FullScreen | Bright & Crisp Display
  • Top Notch Performance (Snapdragon 845 & 8 GB RAM)
  • Oreo-based ZenUI 5 with AI Perks
  • Very Good Cameras | Wide Angle Shots | 4K Videos at 60fps
  • Decent Selfies with Bokeh Effects
  • MicroSD Support
  • Stereo Speakers | DTS Surround Sound
  • Value For Money

Weakness

  • None

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