A new travel companion: the Asus Zenfone 2

My Nexus 4 started sputtering the Saturday before Mother’s day, and finally gave up on the 11th. I was phone-less, and while I prefer to have it repaired and keep on using it, I know I may have to look into buying a new phone. But which one to buy? With a limited budget (I’ll be going on a trip soon, so no big purchases), I’m pressed to find one that meets my needs, and has a UI that will not bug the hell out of me.

The last part is what endeared me to the Nexus line. It’s Android as Google intended it to be, and it does not have bloatware: apps that you don’t use, but cannot uninstall. The interface is clean and straightforward, and it’s very easy to find your way around it. After my experience with other Android phones from other manufacturers, I wasn’t too excited to finding a phone to replace Miss Satsuki.

The problem was taken out of my hands when I was given an Asus Zenfone 2 to review. I love you, Universe.

First impressions

Asus Zenfone2
The Asuz Zenfone2 in the midst of my desk clutter

Like most smartphones coming out in recent years, it’s sleek and shiny. It has a curved back that makes it comfortable to hold, which is a feat, since it’s a huge phone. The back cover comes in four colors: black, grey, red, and gold. There was a bit of a struggle taking the cover off, which may or may not be because of my short nails. I was able to finally pry it off, and was elated that there are two slots for sim cards: I won’t have to bring an extra phone when I travel! If I’m buying a local sim at my destination, I can just slip it into the first slot, and move my Globe sim to the second sim card slot.

Aside from the size difference, the power button control for the Zenfone2 wasn’t on the sides, like it was in other phones I’ve used. It’s right smack in the middle, which actually makes sense, since it’s easier to reach, no matter which hand you’re using to operate the phone.

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Set up

Asus Zenfone2
Tap & Go

Upon turning on the phone, I was informed that the Zenfone can copy any Google Accounts set up in another Android phone simply by tapping the two phones together (possibly via NFC transfer). It’s a nifty tool, but since I’m starting from scratch, this wasn’t an option for me.

When I was trying to resurrect my Nexus 4, I did a factory reset (after making sure my phone is backed up). After the phone has been set up again, I just tapped on Restore, and all my apps are downloaded and installed on the phone.

While there is no such option in the Zenfone2 (the most it can do is to restore the backed up settings and data once you have installed an app. Good enough. I can live with that.




User experience

Asus Zenfone2
My homescreen. You can see my priorities

The ZenUi is very clean, and does not feel clunky at all. Less is more for me, so I’m very happy with the interface. If you love customizing your phone, you can select from their preloaded themes (or buy additional themes). You can also change the font faces and the font sizes, which I know some appreciate. Personally, I’m happy with it as is.

There are of course, preloaded Asus apps, but I’m not too bothered with them, and some are actually quite nice to use. I especially love the Calculator, Flashlight, and their Weather app.

Asus Zenfone2 Screenshots
Reduced screen size for easier use

Since it’s a big phone, most of the time, you need two hands to use it (unless you have giant hands). However, if you’ve no choice but to use it one-handed, you can just double tap on the home button, and the screen with shrink down, making all buttons within thumb reach. Similarly, you can also set the Recent apps button to take screenshots, so you wouldn’t have to do the awkward Power button + Volume Down press, which does not work for me all the time.

There’s also an extended menu when you swipe down twice from the top of the screen. Here you can easily switch off the wifi, switch to airplane mode, or turn on the flashlight.

Asus Zenfone2 Screenshots
Extended menu

Asus also boasts of their screen’s sensitivity, which claims that you can use the phone, even if you’re wearing gloves. I dug up a pair of gloves from storage, and tried it out. It works! It’s not as smooth, but at least you can still use it to take pictures without having to remove your gloves and risk frostbite just for a selfie. It might be better with a glove designed for touchscreen phones, or maybe it depends on the glove’s material as well.

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Camera

Since I travel with a laptop again, I try to limit the gadgets I have because it’s just too heavy. I gave up my DSLR, because it’s too bulky and cumbersome to bring, so I’m limited to a point and shoot and my phone for the blog and social media postings.

The Asus camera app comes with some really nice presets, so you can just select the mode you need for the photo you’re taking, and it will adjust the settings for you.

Some photos from Intramuros Pasyal last May 17. Aside from resizing, cropping, adding the watermark, and optimizing the file size for web viewing, the photos are left as is, straight from the camera. Flickr may have further degraded the quality.

Intramuros Pasyal
Ayuntamiento de Manila
Intramuros Pasyal
Plaza Maestranza
Intramuros Pasyal
Selfie mode with beautification filter that erased all our pores. With Lilliane, the Wanderlass.
Intramuros Pasyal
Tug life. Auto shooting mode.




Intramuros Pasyal
Manila sunset. Auto mode.
Intramuros Pasyal
HDR Mode
Intramuros Pasyal
Night mode
Biko
Close up mode

For social media postings, the camera is good enough. Then again, I just found out that I was only shooting at 10MP, so it might be a different story if I was shooting at 13MP.

Price

The Asus Zenfone2 comes in three variants: the 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. The specs are all the same, except the 16GB only runs at 1.8 GHz, has 2GB of RAM, does not come with the BoostMaster fast-charging adapter and only has a 7W adapter, while the 32GB and 64GB runs at 2.3 GHz, has 4GB of RAM, the BoostMaster fast-charging technology, and a 18W BoostMaster adapter. The 16GB model costs Php 9,995, while the 32GB is priced at Php 13,995. Just add Php 1,000 and you get the 64GB model for only Php 14,995. If you feel that 64GB isn’t enough to contain all your selfies, there’s an SD card slot for extra storage.

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Thoughts for now

It’s a pretty nice phone — I love using it, and I love that it’s red. I’m really liking the interface and the ease of use. Two days of usage isn’t really enough time for me to completely test it, but so far, I enjoy using it. The size takes some adjusting, especially if you’re coming from a smaller phone. I do love the bigger screen though, which lets me put more shortcuts in the home screen and have bigger widgets.

Setting up my Google Drive on the Asus Zenfone also gave me 100GB of free space for 2 years! After seeing 80% full on my Gmail inbox for the better part of 3 years, this was a relief! Of course, two years is just enough time to get you addicted to all that space, and would probably encourage you to pay Google to pay for extra storage. Still, not a bad deal.

For the price this phone is going for, it’s a pretty good buy, and I would have considered it for my next phone purchase (nothing over Php 20,000 for me…I can buy a plane ticket that can take me far far away from here for that price).

Thank you so much for Asus and Stratworks for this opportunity!

Article by Nina Fuentes

Nina doesn't aim to travel to every country in the world -- she just wants to travel to the places that means the most to her. She started traveling in 2006, and hopes to travel for as long as she can. Her travel blog, Just Wandering won the Best Travel Blog in the 2010 Philippine Blog Awards and in the 2011 Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards.

This Article Has 6 Comments
  1. Josephine says:

    Wow nice phone

  2. Khursten says:

    My mom’s got this and when I was playing with it, I felt a bit of phone envy given that my phone was an XperiaZ. It’s good and it takes great photos on the fly. Not bad for a cellphone and a point and shoot swap. Not even bad for some food photos, to be honest.

  3. Ang ganda ng photos, Nina. Serves you well, that freebie. Hehe. BTW, I love the new and clean blog look. Finally, you were able to revamp it!

  4. Tina says:

    Great phone at very affordable price. The pictures looks great as well.

  5. […] even when just running errands around town. Its capacity of 10050 MAH means that I can charge my Asus Zenfone at least three times before the unit is drained. .u07e3bdc774853052ecefe065a4d67d60 { padding:0px; […]

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