Asus ZenFone 4 review: first look
The ZenFone 4 sits at the bottom of Asus’ recently announced smartphone range, but it packs in a pretty serious bang for every buck of its $99 asking price. With Intel’s CloverTrail+ platform powering Android 4.3, and pretty much all the essentials you’d expect of a budget phone, the ZenFone 4 is gunning for the attention of cash-strapped smartphone buyers far and wide.
Asus has had to scrimp and save to get the price down, but the ZenFone 4 doesn’t need to hang its head in shame. There’s an Intel’s 1.2GHz Atom Z2520 processor and 1GB of RAM powering proceedings, and while there’s only 4GB of onboard storage, the presence of a microSD slot makes the limited storage far less of an issue.
The display has to make do with a basic 480 x 800 panel, but there was some confusion surrounding the type of panel Asus has actually employed. While Jonney Shih’s exuberant presentation revealed the ZenFone 4 to have an IPS display (something of a coup at the price, it has to be said), the specifications over on the demonstration stand listed the panel as a WVGA TN panel.
Given our hands-on time with the phone, we’d be inclined to think it was a TN panel – the viewing angles are fairly narrow, and brightness dropped off substantially when we viewed the screen away from head-on.
Physically, we were rather taken with the ZenFone 4. It weighs only 115g, is available in five colours, and while the body is plastic, it doesn’t feel overly cheap. The curved back fits nicely in the hand, and while the phone’s matte casing seems to attract grubbiness and fingerprints, we’re confident it will last the course. There’s something familiar about the design, certainly, and we couldn’t help seeing a likeness to Apple’s iPhone 4 in the ZenFone’s front panel.
Wireless connectivity has to make do with single-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4 but, perhaps unsurprisingly, only 3G, rather than 4G, makes the cut. Intrestingly, though, there are dual Micro SIM slots. Finally, there’s a modestly-poportioned 1,170mAh lithium polymer battery powering the whole show, and the 5MP rear camera is joined by a front-facing 0.3MP snapper.
The big news, of course, is that Asus has done the unthinkable and put an OS-wide skin over Android 4.3. Everything from the lockscreen to the camera app has been given the Zen UI overhaul, and while Android purists will be frothing, we’re quietly optimistic. It’s certainly attractively simple and stripped down, looking a little like a half-way house between Windows Phone’s tiled interface and iOS’s flattened, simple aesthetic.
Regardless, many will be cheered by the promise of a forthcoming update to Android KitKat 4.4. We certainly are.
It’s difficult to see the bad side to such an inoffensive $99 smartphone. If it manages to sneak in near the £80 mark in the UK, we’d expect it to sell very well indeed. The question, as ever with the budget smartphones of this world, will be whether poor battery life or terrible screen quality end up souring the appeal.