When Asus launched the affordable Zenfone series last year, it became a surprise hit in Malaysia and the region, with Asus carving out a rather healthy 724,868 phones sold across the range in Malaysia that consists of the entry level Zenfone 4, the midrange 5 and high end 6, making them, according to numbers boffin IDC, in the running as one of the top three performing phone brands in Malaysia. Not bad for a phone that made its debut last year.
The ZenFone’s successor, the ZenFone 2 aims to up things a notch with a slimmer chassis, more pixel crunching punch, better battery life, fast charging and a much better camera. Externally, the new ZenFone 2 is made with a brushed aluminium finish that comes in five different colours, or ten, if you count the more exotic and limited Transfusion and Illusion paint jobs (more on that later) and measures in at a light 3.9mm thinness edge. What makes the design distinctive is that they’ve elected to place the usual volume key rocker on the back where your index finger usually is just under the camera lens– a novel alternative that’s also more intuitive and caters to southpaws and righthanded folk alike. The front hardwired back, home and menu key are retained at the base of the touchscreen display with the power button and 3.5mm audio jack up top.
Like what we’ve seen at MWC, the ZenFone 2 comes in several different variants depending on regional markets. All variants will run Android Lollipop 5.0. Unlike the previous naming convention that had different screen sizes, the ZenFone 2’s subvariants are delineated with code numbers though they all have a similar appearance throughout the range with slightly different backplates for entry level models and different specs naturaly. The lowest end variant, the Zenfone 2 ZE500CL has a 5-inch 720P IPS display, an Intel Atom 1.6GHz Z2560 processor, 2GB RAM and 16GB of expandable storage as well as a single SIM card slot and 4G LTE. The ZE500CL has a modest 8-MP rear camera and a front 2-MP camera with both beefed up with the latest version of their PixelMaster engine for better low light snaps. The onboard 2500mAh battery is non removable.
Higher up the foodchain is the ZenFone 2 ZE550ML. This variant is a midrange workhorse with an Intel Atom Z3560 1.8GHz processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB of expandable storage and a 5.5-inch 720P touchscreen. The rear comes with a 13-MP snapper beefed up with Asus’ Pixelmaster tech for better low light shots along with a 5-MP snapper that’s similarly enhanced with PixelMaster tech. The phone also packs a larger 3000mAh non-removable battery.
The top of the line ZenFone 2 ZE551ML ships with one of two Intel Atom processors, the Z3580 2.3GHz or the Z3560 1.8GHz and either 2GB or a whopping 4GB RAM. Storage options range from 16GB, 32GB all the way to a 64GB variant with all versions getting 5GB of free lifetime Asus cloud storage as well as microSD card slots that support up to 64GB cards. All variants will also have dual micro SIM card slots and Cat 4 LTE connectivity. In terms of the display, the ZenFone 2 will come with either a 5.5-inch 1080P IPS display or a similarly sized 720P variant. The rear 13-MP camera will come with a f/2.0 five element lens, a rear dual-tone flash and a front 5-Mp camera, with both front and rear cameras beefed up with Asus’ PixelMaster tech. Other mod-cons include 4G LTE, dual SIM active slots though only the first SIM card slot supports LTE with the second supporting 2G connectivity and fast charging tech to juice up the onboard 3000mAh battery from zero to 60% in just 40 minutes.
For those who want a more unusual look, the ZenFone 2 can also be had in a unique gradiated Transfusion finish that sees the base brushed aluminium striated with brushed shades of metallic yellow, red or blue. There’s also the Illusion series that knocks up the phone with an unusual geometric textured finish or with a faux wood grain. No word on if the Transfusion or Illusion series ZenFone 2 variants will hit Malaysia but the phone, in its various hues should be available in Malaysia on 9th May when Asus Malaysia will have their own local launch on 9th May.
Asus also showcased a number of new accessories. An optional addition to the phone is a Zenflash Xenon flash accessory that attaches to the back of the phone with suction cups and has a built-in flash that feeds off the ZenFone 2’s battery via a micro USB port that’s 100X brighter than the built-in flash for better shots.
Another accessory bundled with the ZenFone 2 is the unusually named Lolliflash accessory that bungs into the 3.5mm audio jack up top and has a dual-toned flash for better selfies and which comes in a variety of vibrant colours.
In terms of casings, the new ZenFone 2 range sports a flip casing with a round cutout front to take in information like the time, missed calls and other titbits of information at a glance.
No word on the price of these accessories or which variants of the ZenFone 2 will be available in Malaysia but Asus will have an Incredible Zenday consumer launch at KL Live on 9th May. To register, swing by bit.ly/incredible-zen-day