Asus' new ZenFone 5 is here - or rather it will be when it launches later in 2018 in the UK and elsewhere. We don't have a price for it as yet, but we reckon it will be less than £400 SIM-free.
In fact, Asus is also going to have a flagship handset in the form of the ZenFone 5Z, due in the late Summer or Autumn of the year. That phone will have a flagship level spec running on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 platform and will cost £500. But it isn't at Mobile World Congress.
Asus also announced a more compact 6-inch version of the ZenFone 5 called the ZenFone 5 Lite, although that won’t be coming to the UK.
The mid-range ZenFone 5 is at Mobile World Congress - as are we - and we grasped the opportunity to get hands on with it before Asus' press conference at the show. The only difference between it and the upcoming 5Z is the silicon, the memory and the storage. The externals are the same and so is the camera.
Asus ZenFone 5 design
The so-called notch makes an appearance at the top of the screen, leading to inevitable comparisons with other handsets already out there. According to Asus, it’s because users are demanding bigger displays and we’ll be seeing a lot more phones feature notches this year. The company couldn't help but point out that it's 26 percent smaller than Apple's notch.
This 6.2-inch phone has a 90 percent screen-to-body ratio, which is admirable compared to the iPhone X (around 81 percent). Both front and back are glass, but there's no wireless charging as with other glass-backed phones. It's lightweight, too, at 155g.
There's no physical button on the front - as with the ZenFone 4 - now the controls are on screen and the fingerprint reader has been moved to the back underneath the camera.
The ZenFone 5 colours are midnight blue (which looks quite black to us) and meteor silver.
Asus ZenFone 5 specs
The ZenFone 5 is based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 platform, which has been Qualcomm's product for mid-range phones. Qualcomm has today also introduced the Snapdragon 700 for mid to high range phones so that might have been in this handset. The upcoming ZenFone 5Z flagship features the top-end Snapdragon 845.
As well as 4GB of memory, the ZenFone 5 also features 64GB of storage - not inconsiderable specs. As you'd expect, the Snapdragon platform supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0 (with aptX audio) and NFC for Google Pay. Charging is via USB-C while there's also microSD expanable memory plus support for dual-SIM cards, too.
The display is actually 19:9 in terms of aspect ratio but only 2,220x1,080 FHD+ in terms of resolution. Asus says the aspect ratio is so you can watch video without the notch becoming a problem. But we can't help but feel the display could do with being higher resolution. But, of course, that would mean a higher price.
Asus has worked hard on the integrated stereo speakers, which are quite decent for a handset of this level; each speaker has its own NXP amp. The bundled ZenEar S headphones are also tuned by DTS (there's DTS HeadphoneX support) and are compatible with High Res Audio (as is the phone). You also get an FM radio, too.
Cleverly, the ringtone volume can learn to change its volume depending on your environment.
Asus ZenFone 5 camera
The ZenFone 5 features Sony’s latest flagship 12 megapixel IMX363 image sensor in the main rear camera (1.4µm pixels and f/1.8 wide-aperture). 4K video recording at 60fps is supported. There's also portrait mode using the main camera. The second rear camera is a 120-degree wide-angle lens.
The camera also has a flexible Pro mode with support for RAW and shutter speeds from 1/10000 to 32 seconds.
As for the 8 megapixel front camera, it has a f/2.0 aperture plus a 84-degree field-of-view, too. You can also use Face Unlock, although Asus is quite clear that it believes the rear-mounted fingerprint-reader is by far the more secure option.
Asus ZenFone 5 AI and software
The ZenFone 5 runs Asus' own ZenUI 5.0 running on top of Android Oreo. Asus priomises that doesn't mean you get loads of boatware; it says there are no duplicate apps and the only third party apps preinstalled are Facebook and Instagram.
ZeniMoji are Asus' take on Animoji and you can live stream your face with the affects applied to your face.
The ZenFone 5 makes use of several technologies which use AI to learn more about how you use your phone. These include 16 mode scene detection (so food, landscapes, animals and so on), learning adjustments you make to your photos and applying them automatically (called “photo learning”) plus AI Charging.
This is designed to reduce the effect of age on the 3,300mAh battery by adjusting the charging rate depending on how you charge your phone overnight. Asus says this can potentially double the lifespan of the battery.
The ZenFone 5 won't be to everyone's taste, but the design is excellent and there's some great tech at work here. We're expecting it to be competitively priced, too.
In many ways we think Asus has made a cracking phone here, it's only the display resolution that really disappoints. And that's probably because we've been spoiled by high res flagship handsets - there's so much to like with the ZenFone 5.
Check out all the other new phones from Mobile World Congress 2018.