Asus Zenfone 5 LTE #ZentasticXmasWe've not had much luck with phones in our house recently and Ian has been struggling with a smashed screen on his for quite some time so, when the opportunity came along for him to have an early Christmas present with a brand new Asus Zenfone 5 LTE for review we grabbed it with both hands..
We know Asus, we've owned two of their laptops and always been really pleased with them, but neither of us had any clue that Asus made phones. I was definitely curious about how I would find this new piece of Asus kit.
Out of the box. First impressions always matter, I always look at how a phone looks and, while that isn't the main criteria for choosing a phone, it's always great to have one that looks the part. The Asus Zenfone 5 LTE certainly does that. It's a large phone with a 5 inch touchscreen. The back is gently curved with a matt black finish that feels really nice in the hand.The power button and volume controls have a pleasing textured finish which looks good too. All in all, it is a really good looking phone that got a few 'oooohs' when I took it to a blog event yesterday. . First impressions - great.
Next, the interface. I'll hold my hands up, I'm a Windows Phone user so I tend to lose the plot a little when faced with Android and iOS devices. They just don't do what I want them to! I decided to come at the phone from the point of an unfamiliar user and found that it took me a little while to get used to the menu system. After around 48 hours of use I was starting to find it more intuitive and to understand more fully how the operating system works together. Result. Ian is a long term Android user so had no difficulty at all getting to grips with the Asus version of the interface. You'll find a fair few Asus programs bundled in with the operating system under their own Asus shortcut on your home screen. Some of these seem really interesting, I liked the Auto Wizard which allows you to switch between different modes for phone use quickly and easily, depending on what you use your phone for most. Definitely worth exploring further. You'll also find the usual calendar, notes, calculator and dictionary menu here too, as well as your contacts under 'people'.
As it is an Android device there's also a Google menu and you click through with this to find Google+, Chrome, Drive, YouTube etc. This is quite a handy way of splitting the most used apps on the home screen and, of course you can add your own apps (like Instagram, for example) by holding down the app icon on the menu and pinning it to the start. Simple.
From the lock screen you can access your camera, calls and messages without actually having to unlock the screen fully. I liked this shortcut as, on my current phone I have to swipe to start doing anything. This cuts out that step. As on most phones you can access your notifications by swiping down from the menu bar at the top. I found that, sometimes, I got a 'Quick Settings' shortcut menu instead, I think this happens when you swipe down from the time on the menu bar, rather than the notifications icons but it can be easy to miss this when you're in a hurry. A small point to get used to though.
Calls are clear and easy to hear and network connection seems good. The LTE in the phone's name means that it uses 4G LTE which offers faster data speeds than 3G. I've noticed that it is quick to get online and I've found the interface generally quicker than my current phone. This was especially useful when trying to find Ian and the car in the rain yesterday using Google Maps to find an unfamiliar street in Manchester City Centre!
I've been using the camera a good deal and, as I use my phone to take so many photos, it's an important part of any phone for me. I think Asus have put a lot of thought into this mode with a low light mode and selfie mode set up. I wanted to love the low light mode but I found the LED flash a little intense and it bleached my photos. I think, with more time I will get used to the settings more and work this out but, when using it at the moment I have found myself taking a photo in low light mode then switching it off and taking it again. I actually think that the camera does OK in lower light without the flash, as this photo shows.
There are two cameras included, the main rear camera is 8MP and the forward facing is 2MP. Both perfectly adequate. Another nifty feature is the ability to press and hold your shutter and take multiple photos then choose to save the best examples. This is great when trying to photograph children. Auto focus is really good and I've found this much better than my current phone's version of this. A simple press on the screen gives crystal clear focus, especially in good light.
The Asus Zenfone 5 LTE is equipped with a function that I've not seen on a phone before - Glove Mode - that can be switched on and off from the aforementioned 'quick settings' menu. This allows you to operate your touchscreen while wearing gloves. We've all been in that position in the cold weather where you have to take your gloves off to use your phone, either that or you've had to buy touchscreen gloves (which are always dark and boring in my experience). Glove mode promises the ability to use your touchscreen without having to remove them. Genius. Does it work? Yes! I was very sceptical about this and was quite sure it would be gimmicky and ineffective. I decided to put it to the test with my thickest, woolliest gloves and... it works! I found I had to apply slightly more pressure than the usually quite whizzy touchscreen needed but not too much more. The phone was still responsive and easy to operate. A very clever feature and, while it's not a deal breaker as far as selecting a phone is concerned, it's a very good idea!
I think the Asus Zenfone 5 LTE is a great phone in it's price range. A quick Google reveals that it can be bought sim free for under £200 and I think that this would represent really good value for money. I think, based on usage so far, that it is an excellent, competitive phone in this price range.
Disclosure: We received this phone for review purposes.