For those of you who want a phablet smartphone but don’t want to spend more than $220, you may be in luck as ASUS has introduced the ASUS ZenFone 2 to the market.
There are two versions, a 4GB model with Atom Z3580 at 2.3Ghz and a 2GB model with Atom Z3560 at 1.8Ghz processor. I got the cheaper 2GB version which is essentially same but slower and with 2gigs of RAM.
The ZenFone 2 comes with a 5.5-inch 1080P IPS LCD display, 13MP back camera, and 5MP front camera with 1080P video recording for both back and front camera. This isn’t the world’s fastest smartphone nor does it have the best camera. But for $220 USD, the ZenFone 2 may be the best deal for a phablet-size Android smartphone this year.
The size of ZenFone 2 is actually slightly narrower and shorter than the Note 4 and the phone feels very good in the hands with a curved back, similar to Nexus 6. The volume buttons are on the back of the phone, similar to the LG G3 and G Flex 2, which I really dig but the power button is placed on top. The build quality is pretty good, the front of the device is very nice while the back of the phone is a removable plastic back cover. The back cover is made from some cheap material as I scratched it within few hours of using the phone(and the scratch is permanent) but for the price you pay, you can’t expect too much from this phone. Besides that, you probably won’t be looking at the back of the phone much, it’s the front of the phone that matters more.
Of course, the ZenFone 2 is also a dual-SIM device, meaning you can have two micro-SIMs operating at the same time with two numbers on two different carriers. I was able to successfully run both my AT&T and T-Mobile networks and this was really cool feature since I could receive phone calls from both of my numbers. Now, there is one catch though, you can only get cellular data (4G LTE/HSPA) from the first SIM card, so you will have to manually switch out the SIM cards if you want to switch data. But this is also pretty seamless as you can deactivate/activate the SIM cards right on the phone without powering off your phone. For 220 dollar, a dual-SIM capability can go long ways, especially for those of you globetrotters, you will be able to use SIM cards on two different countries without swapping them out.
The software on ZenFone 2 is very solid and fast. Although my benchmark scores on Antutu were not as high as I expected around 42,000, the UI is super-fast, apps run faster than many flagship phones, and I was rather impressed at the software ASUS has threw on there. As a long time user of ASUS laptops, I can really see that they have done many of same software development into the ZenFone 2. Now the 4GB model with 2.3Ghz CPU is supposed to be much faster(with Antutu scores of 50,000) and that may be a good buy for those of you looking for even faster performance.
Now, the only thing I worry about ASUS Android devices is rooting and custom ROMs. ASUS in the past have had horrible open-source experience due to locked bootloaders and whatnot. With this device, I fear that rooting and custom ROMs may be hard to come by and that could pose a problem for flasholics out there. If you want custom ROMs, OnePlus One may have a big advantage over the ZenFone 2.
Overall, the ZenFone 2 is very impressive, especially the price you pay for a 5.5-inch phablet device. If you are looking for the best Android smartphone without spending more than $250 USD, this may be the device to get. I should have a full review next week but in the meanwhile, this is definitely a great phone to get for students and anyone looking for a budget phablet smartphone.
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