The Asus Zenfone 5Z comes from one of the largest manufacturers of computer hardware in the world. Our last test of an Asus smartphone was in 2015 and a lot has changed at the manufacturer since then. If you first look at the data sheet, you get an amazingly well equipped smartphone for 520$. The Asus Zenfone 5Z doesn’t have to hide from a Xiaomi Mi 8 or a Oneplus 6. In this review we found out whether Asus is really ready to compete with the smartphone manufacturers’ flagship elite.
Versions and order
We ordered our Zenfone 5Z directly from China, as usual you should pay attention to the designation “Global Version”. A short manual and an EU power plug are included in the package. ASUS presented already the new 5Z flagship in Barcelona. The price should be around 580$-640$ and therefore the device is the perfect alternative to the Oneplus 6. When buying the phone, have a close look at the model number: The ZS620KL stands for the Asus 5Z and ZE620KL is only a Zenfone 5 with significantly weaker specs.
Design / Build quality / Scope of delivery
The scope of delivery of the Asus Zenfone 5Z is extremely positive. The blue box with golden accents contains a power plug, charging cable and labeled paper as well as a silicone protective cover and headphones with 4 different attachments. Delivering a standard cover directly is simply a great thing, which many manufacturers are now doing. If you have any special requirements regarding the cover, you will find a large selection of accessories such as display protection films on Aliexpress.
Weighing 167g and measuring 153 x 76 x 8mm, it is as compact as a Xiaomi Mi8. The huge 6.2-inch display has a notch at the top end and the bezels left and right are kept small at 2.5mm. The notch measures 26 x 8mm and is therefore much more similar to the small notch of the Oneplus device (20 x 8mm) than to the huge notch of the Xiaomi Mi 8 (38 x 8.5mm). Thus, also battery percentages and an alarm clock animation find their place in the additionally won display area. The premium material choice is glass and a stable metal frame. The rear is a magnet for fingerprints and the risk of breakage is twice as high as with normal smartphones. You are compensated by real flagship haptics, unless you use the supplied protective cover. All in all, the build quality is flawless. All transitions from glass to metal are clean and hardly noticeable. The rear camera protrudes so little from the rear cover that you can’t even feel it on a table – the Asus Zenfone 5Z lies flat on the table without wobbling.
A notification LED is integrated in the earpiece and shines in different colours. However, it does not shine pleasantly pulsating, but very hectic and fast. Unfortunately, the LED is not particularly bright either. The Zenfone 5Z is controlled by on-screen buttons, which can also be freely configured once the setting has been found in the system. A jack connection on the bottom side (many manufacturers dispense with it in the high-end range) and a real hybrid slot will surprise you. Therefore, you can expand the memory by 200GB (according to Asus, even 2 terabytes are no problem!), if you can do without dual SIM. Of course, a modern USB-Type-C port at the bottom is a must.
In addition to Face-UNLOCK, a fingerprint sensor is also available on the rear. Unfortunately, it is placed a bit too high for my little hands. My index finger does not reach the sensor with my normal mobile phone grip, so I have to slide up and then back again. For a better call quality you will find 3 microphones in the frame, but more on connectivity later. The Asus lettering is discreetly placed on the rear side, which shines in the light. Our blue version looks more like black and alternatively a silver version is also available. From the fingerprint sensor, a light play of cones is created, exactly like on the advertising photos.
The Asus Zenfone 5Z convinces and surprises very positively in this category. Hybrid slot and headphone connection are not available with all flagships. The build quality, choice of materials and scope of delivery are also excellent. The compact notch is also quite nice and Asus also includes 100GB of Google Drive memory for 1 year in the package.
The Asus Zenfone 5Z displays content on a 6.2-inch IPS LCD with a FHD resolution of 2246 x 1080 pixels. In the modern 19:9 ratio, this results in a pin sharp pixel density of 402 pixels per inch. The viewing angle stability is excellent and the brightness is pleasantly high at 550 cd/m². In daily use, good legibility is guaranteed even in direct sunlight and automatic brightness control works precisely and quickly. In the options menu you will find numerous settings for the display, so you can show or hide the notch, deactivate the notification LED and configure the navigation bar (the on-screen buttons). A blue light filter can be scheduled and colour representation and temperature can be customized. The option “wide colour gamut” provides very strong colours, which are already known from AMOLED displays. This function is also comparable with HDR. The contrast is good, but if you hide the notch, you can still see the difference between the black on the IPS display and the black of the frame.
The touch screen of the Asus Zenfone 5Z works excellently. All entries are precisely recognized and implemented very quickly. Up to 10 points of contact are detected simultaneously. The display can also be easily operated with gloves (glove touch). So you won’t need special touchscreen gloves for the winter. Asus advertises with the brand name Corning Gorilla, but does not indicate a direct version. The mobile phone easily withstood the scratch test with the screwdriver on both the front and rear. The “Zenmotion” option is basically the practical “double-tap to unlock” feature. In combination with the Face-Unlock especially this is very important for me personally. You can take the phone in your hand and tap twice on the dark display and you’re immediately in the system. The Face-Unlock is fast, but not as fast as the Oneplus 5T / 6 or Xiaomi Mi8. You can see the lock screen here before it is completely unlocked.
The Asus Zenfone not only has one of the best IPS displays in the price range, but also in general. I like the display better than the IPS display of the Mi Mix 2S, especially in terms of colours and brightness. If you are looking for a super beautiful display in notch design, the Asus Zenfone 5Z is the perfect choice.
System and performance
The Asus Zenfone 5Z is powered by the still fastest smartphone processor in the world. The Snapdragon 845 has eight Kryo 385 cores with a maximum clock rate of 2.8GHz in the power cluster. The economical 4 cores clock at a maximum of 1.8GHz. The processor is manufactured in 10 nm process and is therefore also very energy-efficient. No matter which demanding 3D game you start, the Adreno 630 GPU ensures perfectly smooth gaming experience. PubG on highest settings or Asphalt 9 also run perfectly on the Asus Zenfone 5Z. The heat development after one hour of gaming is kept within limits, but can still be felt at 38°C.
Besides the version with 6/64GB memory tested by us, there should also be a 4/64GB version, a 6/128GB and an 8/256GB version. With our 6GB RAM (15GB/s speed) multitasking already works perfectly and the 8GB can hardly offer any added value. Zen UI knows how to keep the apps in the cache without any problems and even if after 10-15 apps in the background one app is closed, you hardly notice it when opening an app. All apps open immediately and without delays, as you would expect from an SD845 device with UFS 2.1 memory chip. The internal memory provides excellent transfer rates of 750MB/s in reading and 178MB/s in writing. If you are looking for a smartphone for gaming, or if you are rather impatient, you can easily choose the Asus Zenfone 5Z. The benchmark results also rank the Asus smartphone in the top league.Antutu Result Geekbench Multi Result Geekbench Single Result 3D Mark Result
System – Zen UI on the Asus Zenfone 5Z
Asus’ own operating system for Zenfone 5Z is based on Android 8.0 and is called Zen UI. Once known as overloaded custom ROM with lots of bloatware, Asus seems to have changed a few things here. But one thing has to be said, you first have to find your way in the options menu. But in the end, all possible settings can be found somewhere. Under “Display”, for example, you can customize the navigation bar, which took me almost 30 minutes until I found the option under “Display”. Under “Advanced” you will find a bunch of “Zen” functions, which even include live streaming features for gamers or AI functions for smart use. The Google Guard is almost completely installed, some Google Apps can even be uninstalled, but some can only be deactivated. In terms of Bloatware, you can still find a few apps like the “Selfie Master” app.
The mobile security app is actually the largest pre-installed app and does not interrupt the performance. Widevine Level 1 is also available, so there are no limits to Netflix or Amazon in HD resolution. The system is damn fast, updated via OTA and I couldn’t find any obvious bugs or errors. In the test phase there were already 2 updates. Zen UI is nevertheless an optically strongly adapted system, similar to MIUI, Flyme or EMUI.
Xiaomi and Apple have already introduced the dual camera setup with double zoom and standard lens. Huawei also likes to use a native black and white sensor (e.g. Huawei Mate 10 Pro). Asus hopes to add value with a wide-angle lens. Thus, in addition to the obligatory bokeh mode, wide-angle shots with the second 8 megapixel sensor are also available. The main camera is a Sony IMX363 sensor with 12 megapixels with F/1.8 aperture and a pixel size of 1.4 µm.
The wide-angle shots with the second sensor are not only a nice gimmick and provide real added value. The pictures are of good quality, but in terms of detail they can be distinguished from the normal pictures and are also slightly darker. Asus delivers excellent images in bokeh mode. The separation of foreground and background is usually well done at the first try and the quality is convincing. For normal images, an Auto-HDR mode is used in addition to the AI, which is almost always activated. It is usually a good idea and the images are just below Oneplus 6- and Xiaomi Mi8-level. The camera occasionally has small problems with the exposure. The foreground is too dark and the background too bright. The Asus Zenfone 5Z shoots surprisingly well indoors and in generally poor lighting conditions. Image noise is kept low and the illumination is visibly increased. Here, of course, the OIS plays Asus into the handy, because the mobile phone camera does not forgive any jerking during low-light shots.
Video can be recorded at up to 4K and 60 FPS. The OIS and EIS work well together and ensure stable and presentable recordings. The number of details is excellent and the quality is high. Only the PDAF auto focus is a bit sluggish compared to a modern dual-pixel auto focus like you know it from Xiaomi in the mid-range.
The 8 megapixel selfie camera has an f/2.0 aperture and is able to capture beautiful bokeh selfies with the software. If you like to take selfies more often, you definitely can’t go wrong with the Asus smartphone. The front camera shots are sharp, rich in detail and well matched in terms of colour.
The Asus Zenfone 5Z also surprises very positively in the “camera” category. In particular, the shots of the main camera in less light are surprisingly good. The normal images on the other hand are not quite on OP6 or Mi8 level. Although the wide-angle shots have visibly fewer details, they are very nice to look at. Video recordings with traceable stabilization and decent sound quality (the voice stands out clearly, but there is background noise) are also not very common among smartphone cameras. And not all manufacturers deliver such good Bokeh shots. This makes the Asus device clearly recommendable for camera fans and an alternative to the well-known manufacturers Oneplus and Xiaomi.
Connectivity and communication
One of the strengths of the Asus Zenfone 5Z is its reception strength in the mobile network. Not only that all important bands in the 2G, 3G and 4G (LTE) range are covered, the Zenfone 5 does something that only LeEco has managed so far. In the changing room of my gym, usually no cell phone gets reception, except for the LeEco phones. Now I can add the Asus Zenfone 5Z to the list, because I was able to make a phone call from there.
For a good call quality, Asus uses 3 microphones, apparently to filter out background noise. It does not yet work as expected, perhaps for software reasons. The call quality is good, but when walking next to a road, the car noises are also clearly transmitted – a Redmi 6 already does a better job in terms of noise cancelling.
The WiFi with ac-standard transmits reliably in 2.4 and 5GHz networks with high data throughput and solid range (2×2 MIMO). Bluetooth 5.0 also works inconspicuously and performs all tasks reliably. You even have the opportunity to use NFC and Google Pay. OTG is also supported. Even FM radio fans are satisfied here. The GPS reception is excellent and also creates a fix in all buildings without any problems. In addition to GLONASS, Galileo satellites are also supported and the position is always determined to an accuracy of 2-3m. The navigation as pedestrian or in the car always worked without any incidents.
In addition to the 3 standard sensors (acceleration, brightness and proximity sensor), the Zenfone 5Z provides a gyroscope and a compass. Stereo speakers are another highlight of the Asus Zenfone 5Z. The auricle creates the stereo effect, which we already know from Mix 2S. “No compromises” is really the keyword here – the phone offers features that Oneplus omits completely and Xiaomi sometimes includes and sometimes not. The volume of the speaker is very good and also the spatial effect is convincing. Mid and high frequencies reach the highest level without distortion. However, bass is only basically perceptible. Using the 3.5mm jack connection, you get first-class and loud sound with good headphones.
The fingerprint sensor on the rear unlocks the smartphone reliably and extremely quickly from standby. 9/10 tests are directly successful. Alternatively, the Zenfone also offers Face-Unlock. As so often my brother can unlock the device, but a simple photo is not enough. If you’re really concerned about security, neither use fingerprint nor Face-Unlock should be used. If you only want to protect your smartphone from your boy-/ girlfriend, you can use Face-Unlock.
The Asus Zenfone has a moderately sized 3300 mAh battery, which can also be charged via quick charge using the Power Delivery 3.0 charging adapter (9V/2A) supplied. Charging time is 1.5 hours with the included power supply and therefore at a high level, although it is not at Oneplus or Xiaomi level. Using a normal QC 3 power supply, however, the charging time was significantly slower (30% after 25 minutes) than with the supplied adapter. Allegedly the AI also works during charging to optimize the battery life (the feature must be activated in the system). PD-capable power banks (such as the ZMI 20000mAh) or USB charging stations can also charge the Asus Zenfone 5Z very quickly.Battery lifetime Result Unit: hours
In daily use I got 1.5-2 days of use with a DOT (time with display switched on) of 5-6 hours. These are average values compared to the competition, which can also be seen with 6.5 hours in the PCMark battery test. The Asus Zenfone 5Z needs to be charged more often than an OP6 or Mi8, nevertheless, the battery will last for a day of heavy use.
Conclusion and alternative
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*Prices include shipping and toll. Intermediate changes of prices, ranking, delivery time and costs possible. Prices last updated on 12.12.2018