Asus Zenfone 4 hands-on review

ROME: PC MAKER Asus has announced that the Zenfone 4, a dual camera-equipped smartphone that has its sights set firmly on the Honor 9, is coming to the UK.

The firm claims that the smartphone, which also boasts a premium design, a 5.5in IPS display and Snapdragon 660 internals, is “unparalleled” when it comes to its mobile photography credentials, and is no doubt hoping that the device will help it find its footing in the ever-competitive mobile market.

We spent some time with the device ahead of the Asus launch event on Thursday, so read on for our first impressions. 

Design
The Asus Zenfone 4 is, undoubtedly, a premium-looking device. The handset, like many of today’s smartphones, features a glass front and back sandwiched between a metal frame, which both feels and looks luxurious. This light-catching chassis, which employs Asus’ textured concentric finish, is reminiscent of firm’s high-end Zenbook laptops, while the phone’s cool metal edges are similar to those seen on the Apple’s iPhone 7 and newer iPhone 8. 

Unlike Apple’s newest flagship, the iPhone X, the Asus Zenfone 4 features a conveniently-placed home button underneath its display. This comes with a baked-in fingerprint sensor, which worked effortlessly every time we used it, and is and is flanked by two backlit capacitive keys.

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Around the screen, you’ll find what Asus is calling an “ultra slim” bezel. At 2.1mm-thick, it’s one of the slimmest we’ve seen on a ‘edge to edge’ smartphone and means that, unlike some handsets, the Zenfone 4 doesn’t feel immediately dated compared to the likes of the Galaxy S8 and LG G6. 

Size-wise, the Asus Zenfone 4 is plenty comfortable to use one-handed, although we sometimes struggled to reach the top corners of the 5.5in display. At 7.5mm thick, the handset slips comfortably into a skinny jeans pocket. 

Unfortunately, there’s no IP67 or IP68 certification on the Zenfone 4, so don’t go dropping it in the toilet, or something. However, the front and back do come protected by Gorilla Glass, so the handset should withstand the odd knock and tumble. 

Display
A 5.5in Full HD display sits at the forefront of the Zenfone 4. There’s no AMOLED, so colours seem a little lacking in punch compared to the likes of the Galaxy S8, but the onboard Super IPS+ technology does make for impressive viewing angles.

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Everything is plenty sharp and crisp enough, too, and we’re pleased to see that the phone also feature an iPhone-esque blue light filter for comfortable nighttime reading.

Software and performance
The Zenfone 4 runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat straight out of the box, but unfortunately comes skinned in Asus’ ZenUI, which makes the interface feel somewhat toy-like. There’s a lot of bloatware onboard too, with Asus shoving apps including, uh, ‘Selfie Master’, ‘Themes’ and ‘Web Storage’ onto the device.

Saying that, the software on the Zenfone 4 is far less frustrating than that seen on Asus smartphones of old, with the firm paring back the most extreme customisations. It’s still a far cry from stock Android, but it’s much better than it was. 

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Under the hood of the Zenfone 4, you’ll find a Snapdragon 660 processor, paired with a decent 4GB RAM and 64GB built-in storage, which can be expanded using the handset’s onboard microSD slot. It might not be on par with the likes of the Galaxy S8 and LG G6 performance-wise, but we noticed no issues with lag during our time with the phone. 

Camera
Asus is pretty excited about the dual camera setup on the Zenfone 4, which is made up of a 12MP Sony IMX362 sensor with f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilisation, and a secondary 8MP wide-angle lens that provides a “200 per cent larger view” than standard traditional smartphone cameras.

The main 12MP sensor features phase detection autofocus and Galaxy S8-like Dual Pixel tech for more reliable autofocusing. All of the above suggests the ZenFone 4 should perform well in low-light photography, and it absolutely does. 

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Meanwhile, the secondary camera lets you take 120-degree wide-angle shots. This a cool feature, but you do have to sacrifice on image quality and low-light performance compared to when shooting with the main 12MP sensor. 

Battery life
A decent-sized 3,300mAh battery sits under the hood of the Zenfone 4, which Asus claims will get you 30 hours of talk time – so it should make it through into a second day. We haven’t been using the handset long enough to come to a definitive conclusion on battery life, although the handset so far has managed to consistently out-live our iPhone 7. 

First impressions 
The Zenfone 4 is the best smartphone that Asus has made yet. While it’s middly specs might struggle to tempt some away from the big-name flagships, its high-end camera setup might just manage it. 

Check back soon for our full Asus Zenfone 4 hands-on review. µ

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