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(Pocket-lint) - The Asus Zenfone 4 is a mid-range handset that comes with the addition of dual cameras on the back of the phone. Asus is shaking things up in the smartphone race, bringing a second wide-angle lens to the party.

The Zenfone 4 has launched in a number of different guises in a number of different territories, but we got our hands on Asus' new phone at its We Love Photo launch event in Rome, as the company looks for inroads into the European market. This model, the Asus Zenfone 4 will be launching in the UK, joining the big battery Zenfone 4 Max.

Asus Zenfone 4 preview: Design

  • 155.4 x 75.2 x 7.5mm, 165g
  • Gorilla Glass front and back
  • White, Mint green and black colours

The Asus Zenfone 4's most distinguishing design feature is on the back. While the front looks like any number of devices that sport a 16:9 display and a front fingerprint scanner - like the HTC U11 or the OnePlus 5 - it's the rear of the phone that garners the most interest.

The front and back are glass, creating that glass sandwich effect that seems to be en vogue in this post-metal unibody world. The Zenfone 4 adopts the sort of premium design that you'll find on the ZenBook, with a concentric ring design that sees reflections shimmering across the surface as you manipulate the phone.

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There's an aluminium core to this phone, with the Gorilla Glass providing that depth of finish that imparts a quality finish. There's a tight fit and finish across the device, with 2.5D curves to the edges of the glass leading into a precise diamond-cut chamfer at the sides. It feels great and it looks great, although this is the standard you need to reach in the modern world of smartphones. 

There's a combined SIM and microSD card tray, giving you an either/or option, so you can expand the storage or take advantage of dual SIM functions if you prefer. 

The Zenfone 4 turns to USB Type-C, sitting on the bottom alongside the 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can connect any pair of headphones you choose.

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All in all, this is a smartphone that speaks of quality, albeit in a slightly traditional way. There's no move to embrace the latest trend in smartphones and that's a wider display aspect. That results in a front that carries the forehead and chin, but at least gives you the convenience of that front fingerprint scanner. 

Asus Zenfone 4 preview: Display 

  • 5.5-inch IPS LCD display
  • 1920 x 1080 pixels, 401ppi 

Asus sticks to a Full HD display with a conventional 16:9 aspect and 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution for 401ppi. That brackets this phone in the mid-range rather than the flagship that will often see devices with a 2560 x 1440 pixel display. For those interested, it's the same resolution as the iPhone 8 Plus, although Asus slims down the bezels for a more manageable size of device. 

That resolution doesn't pose a problem, it's every bit as sharp as it needs to be to present your apps, movies and for everyday tasks. There are a number of features to the display including the option for a blue light filter to relieve strain on the eyes in the evening and the opportunity to change the colour balance and saturation of the display.

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This will let you do some tweaking to get the display to your preference, although first impressions are that this isn't the most natural display out there. We need to spend more time with it to fully appreciate how well it performs.

Asus says that it's good for 600 nits brightness, so it should handle bright conditions well enough, although the orientation of the polarising layer isn't practical for those wearing polarising sunglasses: it blacks out in portrait, so you'll have to remove your sunglasses to see the display.

Asus Zenfone 4 preview: Power and hardware

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 630
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB storage with microSD
  • Cat 12 dual SIM
  • 3300mAh battery 

Sitting at the heart of the Zenfone 4 is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 with 4GB RAM, although there are different versions of this phone (we currently don't know exactly which versions will be available to the UK). This is a mid-range chipset, with the older 14nm architecture and an octo-core arrangement. 

We've not had the time to really push this platform to gauge the performance, but we'll be updating with a full review once we've spent more time with the Zenfone 4. First impressions, however, suggest that there's plenty of power on offer.

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There's a generous 64GB of storage and as we mentioned above, you have the option to use the dual SIM functionality or expand the storage via microSD, with up to 2TB expansion supported.

There's a 3300mAh battery at the heart of the Zenfone 4 and Asus is promising that you'll get over a day of use from it, while also supporting BoostMaster fast charging that will see your phone charged in just over an hour. Of course, we'll be testing this to the max to see how it performs.

Asus Zenfone 4 preview: A focus on the camera

  • 12MP, 1.4µm pixels, f/1.8, OIS, PDAF rear camera
  • 8MP, 120-degree rear wide-angle camera
  • 8MP, f/2.0 front camera

When you throw an international launch event called We Love Photo, it's pretty clear where your priorities lie. The Zenfone 4 is a smartphone that wants you to take notice of its cameras. There's dual camera on the rear, joining the likes of Apple, Samsung, Nokia, Huawei, Honor, Motorola, well, everyone really.

The combination of a regular and a wide-angle camera here sits most closely to the line that LG is taking with the G6 and the V30. We think this is a lot of fun and much as we like the zoom offered by Apple and Samsung, we prefer the creative options offered by wide-angle lenses.

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The pairing here gives you a regular camera that's boasting all the performance specs you want it to: it has large pixels to let in more light, it offers phase detection autofocus so it's nice and fast, there's a wide aperture and optical image stabilisation too.

There's also a host of pro options to give you complete control over the camera, something that we'll test to the limit in the coming days. First impressions are that it's nice enough to use, although switching from regular to wide angle is billed as instant and seems to take a little more than an instant to happen.

The wide-angle camera takes a step down in specs with an 8-megapixel sensor. What's most impressive is how much you can get into the frame. Just like LG, it's loads of fun and offers plenty of potential to capture shots that you just can't get from regular cameras or from apps. We'll be sure to share some of our results when we've tested it a little more.

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On the front is an 8-megapixel camera for your selfies. As you can probably guess, Asus is a little selfie obsessed so there's loads of options for taking selfies, not only giving you skin smoothing but with complete face distortion. We might spare you our test shots of those.

First Impressions

What really stands out with the Zenfone 4 is the quality of the build. This is a good looking phone, in many ways similar to the sort of thing we've been seeing from Honor over the past 12 months. With that in mind, the Honor 9 is likely to be this phone's biggest competitor and with a £379 price tag on the Honor 9, you can see that Asus has its work cut out for it.

A lot will hang on the camera experience, so we'll be sure to test it to the max to see exactly what it offers.

The Asus Zenfone 4 will cost £449.99 when it launches in the UK. It will be available from Carphone Warehouse, Amazon and the Asus Store online. Pre-orders will open on 6 October.

Writing by Chris Hall. Originally published on 20 September 2017.