Asus Zenfone 2 Deluxe Review - Even though it has its flaws, an overall impressive smartphone







Asus started its journey into smartphone landscape last year with the launch of Zenfone series which not only received a lot of critical acclaim but also sold widely across the country. Earlier this year, the company upped the ante and launched Zenfone 2 in a number of variants to boost its smartphone sales. And even before we could get a heads up on the sale numbers of Zenfone 2, Asus has released 3 new models, Asus Selfie, Zenfone 2 Laser and Zenfone 2 Deluxe all claiming to excel in some or the other attribute. Today, we have the Zenfone 2 Deluxe with us for review. The company has tied up with Flipkart for the registration sale model for these new breed of smartphones, pre-orders begin on 19th August and the smartphones would be delivered within 1 month of ordering. The price for Zenfone 2 Deluxe starts from Rs. 22,999 and it is available in two variants based on internal storage, one with 64 GB and the other with 128 GB. The one we are reviewing today is 64 GB version. So lets go ahead and check out the review.

You can take a look at the news of launch of these three new smartphones along with a couple of tablets and the preview of a fourth smartphone here:

Before doing the review, let us take a look at the specifications of the device.

Specifications of Asus Zenfone 2 Deluxe

Model: ZE551ML - 6J337WW, ASUS_Z00AD
SIM Card Support: Dual Micro SIM, Dual standby, Dual call
Display: 5.5 inches IPS capacitive touchscreen, 1080 x 1920 pixels, Full HD IPS Display, 16 M colors, ~70.8% screen-to-body ratio, ~401 ppi pixel density, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
RAM: 4 GB RAM
Internal Storage: 64 GB (Review model), 128 GB also available
Expandable Memory: 128 GB via microSD card
Processor: 64-bit Intel Atom processor Z3580, Quad core 2.3 GHz
GPU: PowerVR G6430
Front Camera: 5 MP
Rear Camera: 13 MP, 4128 x 3096 pixels, autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash, Geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, panorama, HDR
Video: 1080p @ 30fps
Battery: Non-removable Li-Po 3000 mAh battery with Asus BoostMaster fast-charging technology
OS: Android 5.0 Lollipop wrapped under new Zen UI
Weight: 170 gms
Dimensions: 152.5 x 77.2 x 10.9 mm
Connectivity Options: LTE, HSPA, GSM, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Hot spot, Wi-Fi Direct, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, Beidou
Bluetooth: Version 4.0, A2DP, EDR
USB: microUSB 2.0
Sensors: Accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, compass
Radio: FM radio with RDS
Warranty: 1 year

Unboxing and Contents

Asus Zenfone 2 Deluxe comes in the customary white-colored side sliding cardboard box. The smartphone is neatly wrapped with plastic cover to prevent it from scratches. Inside the box, you will find data cable, charger and some documentation. We could not find earphones and we are not sure if that is because we have a review unit in hand or if they are actually not bundled with the smartphone. At this price point, we do expect Asus to throw in a pair of headset though but we are not sure about it, our unit does not have it. We reviewed Zenfone 5 last year and there has been no change whatsoever in the packaging from the last time. Still, the packaging is tidy though we believe that Asus should now step into the premium zone and start delivering something extraordinary.





























Design and Build Quality

Asus has picked up from where it left the first Zenfone series and has used similar design language in Zenfone 2 Deluxe. It seems like a strong smartphone and the build quality is good.

The phone has a thin bezel on both the sides of the display. Even the bezel on the top of the display is thinner than what we are used to. Asus seems to have wanted to embed as large a display as possible in as small a chassis as it can. There is a small speaker grille, the camera lens as well as the Asus logo on the top, while the bottom has three touch sensitive buttons for back, home and recent apps. We like the fact that these buttons are marked clearly in silver color and you do not need to touch the buttons for them to light up before making out which one stands for what. Below these buttons is the usual textured metallic chin that we find on Zenfone.

Looking at the edges, the top edge houses the 3.5 mm audio connector port, the Power/Sleep button and a tiny hole for microphone. The placement of the Power key is peculiar and if you have small to medium hands, you'l need to hold the device from the top to reach the Power key with your first finger. This even means you can lose the grip on the phone with the danger of dropping it. Moreover, the Power button is too recessed into the chassis and provides almost zero feedback. You'll need to look at the screen to make out whether you have successfully pressed it or not. Though Asus has tried to change the design philosophy here, we still feel the Power button on the side of the device is easier to reach with lesser chances of a slip up. The left edge and right edge have no buttons while the bottom edge houses the microUSB 2.0 connector for charging. The right edge also has the groove to remove the back cover which allows you access to SIM card and microSD card slots.

The back of the device has a lot of peculiarities too. Its made of plastic and has a diamond mosaic design which we have never seen before in any other phone by any other brand either. We find it a bit too flashy. The back also houses the dual-tone LED flash, the camera lens as well as the Volume rocker button. Again, the placement of the Volume rocker even though being different is very strange. We always needed to look at the back of the device to see if our finger is placed correctly to reach for the Volume rocker. The rocker is also completely recessed into the back but does provide ample feedback to know that the keys have been pressed. There is also an Asus logo as well a long row of holes for the speaker. After removing the back cover, we get access to the slots as mentioned above. The SIM cards and microSD card slot are all well-marked to see how you need to insert them.

Overall, we have not been able to get accustomed to the small changes like placement of Power and Volume rocker buttons and hence don't approve of the design much. Even the back is too flashy for our liking.

Display

Its the bright and colorful display of Zenfone 2 Deluxe that catches your attention at the very first go. The color contrast is fantastic and the color gamut used seems to be on the higher end of the spectrum. There is zero pixellation whatsoever. Reflection is not a major problem on this screen and the text appears as sharp as it can. We simply loved watching Youtube videos on this smartphone just for the sharpness and the realism of the portrayed colors. Moreover, even the sunlight visibility is legible and the smartphone is quite usable under bright sunlight too. We do give Asus a thumbs up for the display quality. 

Operating System and Software

Asus Zenfone 2 Deluxe comes with Android 5.0 Lollipop wrapped under ZenUI. We were quite impressed with ZenUI last year and the same continues for the new ZenUI as well. The typography is sharp and the icons used impart a sense of uniformity throughout the OS. The colors used are not over the top or too flashy.  The icons, fonts and animations are all easy on the eyes. The phone comes bundled with Asus' proprietary apps like Power Saver, SuperNote, WebStorage, Splendid, PC Link, Remote Link, Asus ZenFlash, ZenCircle, ZenTalk etc. Other than that, all Google apps like Chrome, Maps, Youtube etc. and a few third-party apps like Amazon Kindle, Zinio, TripAdvisor etc. are bundled too. We do find that the bloatware from Asus has increased manifold and they should keep a check on the same in future phones as these apps can eat a lot of internal storage. Moreover, consumers almost always have substitutes for these apps that they like to use. If Asus continues to increase the bundled bloatware apps at the rate they are doing, they can find a number of users moving away from their brand.

The home screens are infinitely scrollable which means you do not need to come back to the first screen to go in a backward position. We also found a new Bluelight Filter setting which further allows you to set Color temperature and also provides four screen color modes - Balance, Bluelight Filter, Vivid and Customized. These can be very handy for anyone who wants to tweak the display settings and wishes to customize it to his heart's content. The OS also has some inbuilt smart gestures which take you to the particular app without pressing the Power key, like if you draw 'C' on the display while the phone is in sleep mode, it would automatically take you to the camera, we found this to work very well and it never lagged. All in all, the new ZenUI is easy on the eyes as well as easy to use. 

Camera

The camera app offers a number of settings like white balance, exposure value, metering, ISO etc.. These can help semi-professional users who are not averse to using smartphone cameras to click and customise their pictures the way they like to. Let us take a look at these 2 pictures taken from the rear camera at default settings to see how it performs.












































In both the pictures above, the post-processing has imparted a greyish-greenish tinge as you can easily make out in the sky in the first picture and the wall in the second picture. Even the yellow color of the lamp seems to be faded and slightly washed. Moreover, grain and noise is quite visible when clicking pictures in low light conditions. However, the details have been picked up nicely due to the high resolution of the camera. We feel the rear camera is just above average and can be improved upon specially in low light conditions and during the post-processing. The front camera has an inbuilt beautification mode and very strangely, there is lesser noise in front camera selfies than were produced by images from the rear camera. Overall, we would call the cameras usable but not the best that we have seen in smartphones.

Performance

This is a scorcher of a device. Probably the 2.3 GHz processor coupled with 4 GB RAM serves it just right. Right from unlocking the screen all the way up to running multiple apps, you would not be able to find any lag or latency. Try opening the dialer app and inputting a number, the phone would register inputs as fast as possible. We played a few games like Asphalt 8: Airborne and Temple Run 2 also and the device did really well in this department too. You could switch back and forth between apps and multitask as much as you like. The phone did not heat up either as much time we used it for. The speaker produces clear sound but since its located at the back of the device, you might need to keep the volume levels high while watching movies or playing games. The call quality is loud, clear and crisp.

Battery

Zenfone 2 Deluxe has a 3000 mAh battery which gives it ample amount of usage time. To check for battery time, we charged the battery to 100% and then started using the phone in medium use cases. We used it for downloading and installing a few apps and games, a bit of browsing, some calling and Whatsapp messaging along with playing a few games, watching videos on Youtube and throwing in very little amount of standby time too. We basically used it as our primary phone. We were able to use the smartphone for somewhere close to 11.5 hours with everything thrown in. This phone will definitely serve you one day of charge whatever your use case be like, medium to heavy. 

Rating

3.5 stars out of 5

Bottomline and Verdict

Though the Zenfone 2 Deluxe comes with its fair set of flaws in our opinion, like wrong placement of Power and Volume rocker buttons, a flashy back panel design and rear camera noise in low light pictures, we are still quite impressed with the overall package specially in terms of display, battery and performance. The phone has a definite appeal for people looking to buy mid-range smartphones and should sell quite well in the market. It provides high end specifications for a mid range price and does not show any lag in performance. We hope that in a future iteration, Asus brings back the buttons to their normal place and improves camera post processing slightly, which would mean people like us would surely enjoy the phone much more. Yet, we find this phone impressive.

That's it for our review of Asus Zenfone 2 Deluxe. Do hit the 'like' button if you liked the review and share the word across. You can also like our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/technodivide to keep yourself updated of latest technology news, reviews and tweaks. If you have any suggestions regarding the review or the device, feel free to leave us a comment below. Stay tuned since we have many more such reviews coming up in the near future.


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