The Asus ZenFone 2 is one of the very pleasant surprises unveiled at CES 2015. Asus really outdid itself in its signature value-for-money territory, outing a phone with 1080p display, 13 MP camera, fast 64-bit processor, and a hearty battery for two Benjamins in starting price.
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Taking a little cue from LG, the ZenFone 2 sports a volume rocker placed fair and square on the back of the phone. By the company's own calculations, its phablet has a screen-to-body ratio of 72%, which falls in the middle as far as 2014 devices are concerned, and offers the passable dimensions of 6 x 3.03 x 0.43 in (152.5 x 77.2 x 10.9 mm), though nothing extraordinary like the G3, for instance.
The ZenFone 2 has a chassis with a brushed metal texture, which again reminds strongly of the G3, and the dual tone flash on the back does nothing to disperse this impression. Asus is not being unoriginal, though, and promises a number of special Transfusion and Illusion models with rather unique shells – the former line combines two colors, while the latter offers some odd patterns to go with the phone's shell.
The Zenfone 2 display is a Gorilla Glass 3-protected, 5.5-inch panel with a flagship-standard resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels, returning an excellent 403 pixels per inch count, and offering 400 nits of brightness. There's really nothing to stand out in the screen specs department here, but for this starting price Asus's offering is more than generous, and will fit most everyone's needs.
Processor and memory: first with 4 GB RAM and 64-bit mobile Atom
Asus has a long history with Intel's mobile processors, and the ZenFone 2 isn't breaking that trend, though it is now a trailblazer for the new 64-bit frugal Atom silicon. Namely, it sticks with the LTE-enabled Intel Atom Z3580 processor with four cores that can reach frequencies of up to 2.33 GHz, and a PowerVR G6430 GPU with OpenGL 3.0 support. This processor is proven to be both fast and frugal, so you won't have any issues running the latest and greatest Android software on the ZenFone, including heavy 3D games.
The company's biggest surprise with the handset is left for the memory department, though. The ZenFone 2 might start you off with 2 GB of RAM in the basic version, but the more expensive ones will come with 4 GB of RAM, making it the first smartphone announced with more than 3 GB of RAM, which the native 64-bit Android support, and the new 64-bit processors make possible now. Asus claims seven times faster gaming performance than the previous ZenFone edition, which has to count for something.
The camera at the back is a 13-megapixel unit with 5 element, f/2.0 aperture lens, complemented by a dual-color Real Tone LED flash. At the front, we are looking at a respectable, 5-megapixel selfie snapper with wide-angle (85-degree) lens, and an option to shoot selfie panoramas.
Asus also made it clear over and over again that its PixelMaster software is available with both cams and offers goodies such as a low light shooting mode that can supposedly snap photos that are up to 400% brighter, though the digital noise at this level will likely be pretty visible, too.