Asus Zenfone 2 review

Android phone customizations on the very cheap

Asus Zenfone 2 review
Asus Zenfone 2 review

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No need to add grain via Instagram with the Zenfone 2. This 13-megapixel camera takes photos that are full of noise, especially in dimly lit locations.

Asus Zenfone 2 camera

Its tiny, iPhone 5-level 1/3.2-inch sensor size, made by Toshiba, requires ample amounts of light for passable photos, which only look good enough when zoomed all of the way out.

Shots in my local bar, for example, were grainy and muddy all around except for brightly lit neon signs that were completely overexposed. The bright, dual LED flash only does so much.

Asus Zenfone 2 review

Who'd thunk the pictures would be worse than my karaoke singing?

Asus Zenfone 2 review

Here's the same dimly lit bar, an everyday, but difficult location for photos, from the LG G4

Testing the Zenfone 2 outdoors isn't perfect either. Yes, sunlight improves clarity, but the colors are often oversaturated. Its depiction of an aqua blue sky stuck out next to photos of the natural blue, as seen in the Samsung Galaxy S6, iPhone 6 or even cheaper phones, like the Moto X and HTC Desire Eye.

Why are ASUS Zenfone 2 sky photos so aqua blue?

The true blue of this Samsung Galaxy S6 photo is closer to every other phone we tested

The 5-megapixel camera on the front was no better for selfies, and both cameras take 1080p video at 30 frames per second. Regardless, both lack the fine detail and crispness of today's standards.

There are some manual controls and modes, from ISO settings (50 to 800) to a selfie mode that takes three photos with the always-superior back camera.

Asus Zenfone 2 review

Even in bright light, the camera remains overexposed

Asus Zenfone 2 review

Here's the same shot from the iPhone 6. Notice the natural reds in the overhead lights?

This mode also lets you add the skin-smoothing beautification effect in post, which is nice because too much of that makes everyone's skin look waxy and fake.

More photos tests are needed in the full hands on, but so far, the camera isn't the reason to buy the Zenfone 2.

Battery life

Zenfone 2 contains a 3,000 mAh battery, which is larger than the iPhone 6 Plus, Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9 batteries, and it ties the LG G4 battery size.

Asus Zenfone 2 review

I can see the Asus Zenfone 2 battery, but for some reason I can't swap it out?!

But as we have seen from the poor LG G4 battery performance, a big juice pack doesn't always equate to all-day battery life. This Asus phone falls in the middle of the pack.

Our battery life tests prove that this Intel-powered device drained 23% while running a non-stop video loop. That ties with other last-generation flagship devices, like the Nexus 5 and the Sony Xperia Z3 compact.

The better news is that, when it really matters, this Zenfone packs a smart saving mode that balances the device's performance and battery usage.

Asus Zenfone 2 review

It also charges more quickly than other inexpensive smartphones out there, thanks to Intel's fast-charging functionality, which is equivalent to Qualcomm's QuickCharge 2.0.

Sadly, while I could see the battery by taking off the back cover of the phone, it is not user-replaceable. It just peaks out of the back like a big tease.

Matt Swider