Hands on: Asus Zenfone 5 2018

Just like an Android-toting iPhone X

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

Asus has made an incredibly beautiful looking device here and if the pricing is right, it could be a flagship competitor to watch out for. That said, it does look like one particular phone already on the market

For

  • Great looking
  • Beautiful display

Against

  • Not top internals
  • Looks like a competitor

Asus has used MWC 2018 to reveal the new Zenfone 5 (not that one from 2014) to the world with a new design we haven't seen on any of the company's devices before.

It features an edge-to-edge display with an iPhone X-like notch at the top, and the elephant in the room is how much this looks like Apple's top-end handset.

That doesn't mean it's not a beautiful looking device though, and with generally high-end specs it looks like the Asus Zenfone 5 - along with the Asus Zenfone 5Z - may be one of the stand out devices of this year's top mobile phone show.

Watch our video hands on review of the Asus Zenfone 5 below

Asus Zenfone 5 price and release date

You won't be able to buy this phone any time soon. For some reason, Asus has announced this at MWC 2018 but it won't be on shelves until April for the Zenfone 5 and June for the Zenfone 5Z.

We know it's confirmed for the UK, but we've yet to hear any news about Australia, the US or any other markets. Exact pricing details are currently up in the air too, so we can't judge the Zenfone 5 too much yet.

Design and display

The Zenfone 5 is a stunning looking phone, but when we first saw it we thought it was an iPhone X. Whether that's an issue, is up to you.

On the front there's a 6.2-inch 19:9 aspect ratio Full HD+ IPS display. This was stunningly bright (over 500 nits) and the phone has a 90% screen-to-body ratio.

It's the same size as previous 5.5-inch Asus devices, so it really doesn't feel like a large screen device. Plus it's light at 155g without feeling like it'd blow away in a gust of wind.

There's a notch at the top to hide all of the camera tech and facial recognition tech, and the rear is glass.

In the center on the rear there's a fingerprint scanner - we found that easy to tap to unlock the phone, but it's unlikely you'll use this much if you set up the facial unlocking technology.

The camera placement again is reminiscent of the iPhone X though, so if you own this device expect people to question why the UI on your Apple device looks so different.

As for color, you'll have to choose between Midnight Blue and Meteor Silver, but both are bold and look great with a shimmery design on the rear that dazzles when you move it around in sunlight.

Specs

Although Asus has announced several phones in the '5' range, we've only had time to try the standard Asus Zenfone 5, which comes with Qualcomm's mid-range Snapdragon 636 chipset alongside 4GB of RAM. That's an AI chipset, so expect lots of machine learning features when it comes to optimizing performance and within the camera.

The upcoming Asus Zenfone 5Z though will feature the latest Snapdragon 845 chipset inside and up to 8GB of RAM.

This is what we have seen powering top-end phones like the Samsung Galaxy S9, so you can expect faster performance from the 5Z if you're looking for a powerhouse of a device.

You'll also get more storage here, with the base model of the Zenfone 5Z offering 128GB and the normal Zenfone 5 being restricted to just 64GB of space.

Everything else about the devices is much the same though, you'll have the same design and features on both, including Android 8 Oreo right out of the box, so you'll have all the latest features from Google's OS right away.

When it comes to camera, there's a 12MP Sony sensor on the rear with an f/1.8 aperture. There's also a second camera working alongside that for when you want to take wide-angle shots.

It's up to 120-degrees, and it should come in useful when you want to fit more friends into your photos or you want to get a beautiful photo of a landscape.

Within the software there's AI scene detection like we've seen on the Huawei Mate 10, which will notice if you're taking a photo of a dog or flowers for example and fiddle around with the settings to make the optimum photo.

We've yet to properly experiment with this feature, but if it works as well as on other handsets you can expect this to be useful when you're just using the phone's automatic mode.

There's also an 8MP selfie shooter on the front with an aperture of f/2.0. This camera comes with facial recognition tech so you won't need to unlock your phone with a PIN or fingerprint scan.

The Asus Zenfone 5 also has a 3,300mAh battery, which is a fairly typical size, but could stand out thanks to 'AI Charging', which automatically adjusts the charging rate based on your charging habits, to help reduce battery wear - we'll let you know how well that works in our full review.

Early verdict

There is no escaping the fact the Asus Zenfone 5 and Zenfone 5Z both look like the iPhone X. The notch, the screen and the camera placement all scream of Apple's handset, but if you want a device that looks like that and runs Android this may suit.

Without knowing the price we can't fully determine whether this will be one of the best handsets of the year, but we hope to find out and get one for a full review soon.

MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest exhibition for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2018 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone. 

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.