Asus has launched a full family of Zenfone 4 devices and it's serious about gaining some traction for these devices in the UK and across Europe.
Different devices are launching in different territories and while the UK is slated to get the Zenfone 4 and the Zenfone 4 Max, it's the Zenfone 4 Pro that's the real star of the collection.
Zenfone 4 Pro preview: Design
- 156.9 x 75.6 x 7.6mm, 175g
- Gorilla Glass front and back
- Black or white colour options
There's a design theme running through the whole family of Zenfone 4 devices, so there's little to really differentiate the Zenfone 4 Pro from the regular Zenfone 4. Both have a metal core with Gorilla Glass front and back and they both have a 5.5-inch display on the front so are similar sizes.
The quality of the build of the Zenfone 4 Pro is impressive. Although Asus isn't as widely known for its phones as established players, the quality of design and build is us there with the best of them. It's not as exciting as the latest Samsung devices, opting for that conventional display with forehead and chin above and below the display.
Asus has also been keen to point out that there are no protrusions on the phone, so the cameras sit flush and don't make a bump and overall there's a good quality fit and finish to the phone. It also retains the 3.5mm headphone socket, you'll be glad to hear, with Asus putting a lot of support into the audio side of things with DTS X Headphone and aptX for enhanced Bluetooth quality.
Zenfone 4 Pro preview: Hardware and display
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 6GB RAM
- 64GB storage + microSD
- 5.5-inch ALOMED display, 1920 x 1080 pixels
- Gigabit LTE + 802.11ad Wi-Fi
- 3600mAh battery with fast charging
It's in the hardware that the Zenfone 4 Pro gets really interesting. It's powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 platform with 6GB RAM which sets this at flagship level, although those specs match the OnePlus 5. That will ensure that this phone is fast, but it's fast in more ways than one, because it's also equipped with Gigabit LTE (where supported), as well as offering super-fast Wi-Fi with the latest 802.11ad standard. When Qualcomm stepped on stage at the We Love Photo event in Rome to help introduce this phone, they confirmed that you could get Wi-Fi speeds of up to 4.6Gbps. That's fast.
There's a 3600mAh battery that supports fast charging too. That's a generous battery capacity of a 5.5-inch device and it's likely to last a long time because the AMOLED display is only full HD, or 1920 x 1080 pixels.
That's something of a set down from top-level devices like the HTC U11 which offers a 2K display, at 2560 x 1440 pixels. That said, the use of AMOLED will be popular as it will increase the potential for this display to really shine. It's not the brightest display at 500 nits, but first impression are that it's nice and vibrant. The reduced resolution might mean that it's not as gloriously sharp as the best phones out there, but at the same time, it should reduce the battery drain too.
Asus Zenfone 4 Pro preview: Packed full of cameras
- Main camera: 12MP, 1.4µm, f/1.7, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS
- Secondary camera: 16MP 2x zoom lens
- Front camera: 8MP, 1.4µm, f/1.9, AF
Asus is serious about smartphone cameras. It knows that a great camera will sell a phone and on the Zenfone 4 Pro it has opted to use high quality Sony sensors across all the cameras. The message is a little unclear, however, because the second rear camera on this model is a 2x zoom lens - like the iPhone 8 or Samsung Galaxy Note 8 - rather than the wide-angle lens that it puts on the normal Zenfone 4.
That gives you an inconsistency across this family, and while the zoom function appears to operate exactly as you'd expect, switching instantly for a closer view and then offering a further 10X zoom that's less downgraded than straight digital zooming, we can't help feeling that it's less fun than the wide-angle lens on the lower-spec Zenfone 4.
Aside from that zoom camera, there's a regular rear camera that's loaded with the hardware to give it loads of potential. A big sensor, big pixels, wide aperture and optical image stabilisation means there's ability to capture a lot of light, so it should work well in low light conditions. Much of the performance, however will come down to how well the captured data is processed - something we couldn't assess in our brief time with the phone.
The front camera boasts a full range of live beauty improvements and also uses a high-quality sensor. If you're serious about selfies, then Asus wants to grab your attention, giving you the option to live broadcast yourself with those beauty enhancements in place too.
We like the design and the feel of the Zenfone 4 Pro and the hardware certainly paints in impressive picture. There's some side-stepping you might have to do to tame Zen UI, although Asus has also reduced the bloat in its Android skin - while also promising that there will be an Oreo update coming down the line too.
The thing about this phone is that it's very much in the now and Asus needs to get this to market before the hardware goes stale and we start to see more powerful handsets appearing, which is likely to happen early in 2018. At the moment there's no word on whether this phone will come to the UK or how much it would cost you.
There is an unfortunate benchmark already set by the OnePlus 5, however, which costs £449 and has already been on sale for a number of months. With the regular Zenfone 4 priced at £449, our fear would be that the Zenfone 4 Pro would be a little too expensive if it did hit the market in the UK.
Still, it looks like a great phone. Good job Asus.