Our Verdict

The Asus Zenfone 5’s great-sounding hardware doesn’t seem fully exploited here, but you do get a lot of phone for your money.

For

  • Large, bold screen
  • Good value
  • Glass-metal design with Asus twist

Against

  • Mediocre low-light image quality
  • Inconsistent camera
  • Iffy fingerprint scanner

The Asus Zenfone 5 is a bit like the OnePlus 6. It looks and feels similar to a more expensive phone and has impressive tech inside, but is fairly affordable.

You get a rich 6.2-inch screen, a mid-range Qualcomm chipset and generally capable cameras that let you take normal and ultra-wide shots.

Its night shooting performance could be better, and it needs some stability fixes, but this phone represents great value. However, given that the OnePlus 6 and others exist it has got some competition.

Asus Zenfone 5 price and availability

  • Costs £349.99 in the UK
  • Other prices and availability TBC

We don’t yet have worldwide prices for the Asus Zenfone 5. In the UK it costs £349.99 (around AU$620). That’s the same price as the Nokia 7 Plus, a little less than the Honor 10 and significantly less than the OnePlus 6.

Based in the US? Importers will sell you the phone for around $410. Again, it sits in a similar position relative to competitors from other brands.

We think this is probably the most attractive phone in Asus’s new line-up, but there’s also a more powerful version, the Zenfone 5Z. It's set to cost £500 (around $700, AU$885), but swaps the Snapdragon 636 chipset for a high-end Snapdragon 845.

Key features

  • Dual-lens camera is good but not great
  • A big 6.2-inch screen with a notch

Asus talks up the Zenfone 5’s camera as its key feature. It has a 12MP main rear sensor with an 8MP wide-angle secondary lens. This sits in place of the zoom camera many high-end phones offer.

The main sensor is large, and it’s stabilized with optical image stabilization (OIS) too. This is a good camera, just don’t overload your expectations. The Zenfone 5’s night images are not much better than the best at the price, including the Nokia 7 Plus.

Elsewhere, you get a mid-range Snapdragon 636 chipset, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. There's also a 3,300mAh battery that lasts a solid day, or a day and a half if you go easy on the Zenfone 5.

Its screen is large at 6.2 inches, but as it has a notch this handles like a traditional 5.5-inch phone. It is big rather than gigantic, and those extra screen inches make games more enjoyable.

Design

  • Metal and glass build
  • Relatively slow fingerprint scanner
  • ZenBook-series design touches

The Asus Zenfone 5 is, like so many phones of 2018, a mix of aluminum and toughened glass. There’s glass on the front and back, metal along the sides.

All edges are smooth, rounded-off, but the Asus Zenfone 5 is not all that curvy. It’s a 3D rectangle, with no major tapering on either side.

This is not bad as such, but does make the phone feel a little larger than some, particularly as the screen is big too. We switched from the LG G7 ThinQ to the Asus Zenfone 5, and the Asus feels, and is, substantially bigger.

There’s nothing to complain about in the numbers, though. The Asus Zenfone 5 is 7.7mm thick. As it has a slim border and notched design, it’s very pocketable and easy to handle for a device with a 6.2-inch screen. 6-inch phones used to feel like phone-tablet crossbreeds. This is definitely a phone.

It also has a design touch or two used in Asus’s ZenBook laptops. A layer that plays with reflected light sits under the rear glass, making it look as though beams fire out of the back fingerprint scanner in all directions.

This is a shiny, almost dazzling finish, but it’s nowhere near as reflective as the Honor 10, another top pick at the price. The glass blurs reflections, avoiding the mirror-like finish some phones have.

It’s a good look. The Zenfone 5’s rear design has a characteristic Asus appearance, while maintaining the standards set by other top-end phones.

It also doesn’t try anything too off-putting. There’s still a headphone jack, there are no superfluous buttons, just a volume rocker and power button, and while 64GB of storage is enough for many of us, you can also add a microSD card to the SIM tray.

The fingerprint scanner is one of the Asus Zenfone 5’s weak points, though. It sits on the back, a slightly recessed circular pad.

It’s unusually unreliable. Sometimes it works fine and is just a little slow compared to the best. At other times it repeatedly fails to recognize your finger, making you input your PIN or password instead.

The Zenfone 5 likely uses scanner parts similar to those of other mid-range phones, so this is most likely a problem with the software rather than the hardware. However, it is annoying. And as you’ll see through this review, all of the phone’s issues are down to similar lapses in optimization.

Screen

  • 6.2-inch 1080 x 2246 IPS LCD screen
  • Larger than average notch
  • Customizable color profiles

The Asus Zenfone 5 has a 6.2-inch 19:9 screen with a notch. This is a great screen, for the most part.

It’s a 1080 x 2246 LCD, with great sharpness. You can see the mildest bit of pixelation if you look very close. But you do have to try.

The Asus Zenfone 5’s default color mode is very well-saturated, but this is because it aims for the deep DCI-P3 color standard, used by video color graders. We find it just slightly too punchy, but switch to the 'Standard' color mode and the overexcited look is gone completely.

Some of you may find these two modes a bit too rich and undersaturated respectively. Standard is an sRGB mode, the screen equivalent of 'no added sugar' chocolate. We like it, but many of you will want some more energy.

A custom screen mode lets you choose the exact saturation level, along with the color temperature. It’s a near-perfect spread.

However, the main issue we found is that there’s no compensation for parts of the phone that need accurate color. Choose a saturated color mode and your photos will appear oversaturated, even though they won’t when you upload them to Instagram.

For the most accurate read of your photos, use Standard screen mode.

The Asus Zenfone 5 has a screen similar to the OnePlus 6. It’s 6.2 inches across, but as it has a notch and a 19:9 aspect ratio it’s nothing like the 6-inch screens of years ago.

This is a larger phone, but not a gigantic one. Its notch is also larger-than-average too, though. The difference is clear, swapping between the Zenfone 5, LG G7 ThinQ and OnePlus 6.

Part of this is just a thin visual issue. However, it also means fewer notification icons fit in the notch alcoves. You end up with a '…' icon, meaning you really have no idea of what your notifications are. You just know they are there.

The clock display also isn’t well-optimized, seeming to get too close to the edge of the display. However, like the OnePlus 6 the Zenfone 5 also lets you block-in the notch with black, so you can only tell it’s there in a dimly lit room. This solves the clock issue, if not the notifications one.

We class these issues as little quibbles, not major disasters, in a phone that focuses on value and camera tech above other concerns.