With the average selling prices (ASP) of smartphones increasing in India, Taiwanese manufacturer ASUS has unveiled its "ZenFone 5Z" -- aggressively pricing it in the Rs 30,000-Rs 40,000 premium segment where Chinese player OnePlus currently dominates.
ASUS ZenFone 5Z comes in three variants -- 6GB RAM + 64GB internal storage for Rs 29,999, 6GB RAM + 128GB for Rs 32,999 and the 8GB RAM + 256GB storage variant for 36,999.
In comparison, the latest OnePlus 6 is priced at Rs 34,999 for the 6GB RAM+64GB storage variant while the 8GB RAM+128GB variant is available at Rs 39,999.
The flagship devices from both ASUS and OnePlus are powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipsets.
The price-sensitive smartphone market in India definitely takes note of even small differences but not so much in the mid-range as it does in economy segment.
ASUS appears to have realised this trend -- driving on the back of its Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered systems to market ZenFone 5Z which runs a faster Android Oreo 8.0 operating system.
Let us see what works for the phone. (We reviewed the 6GB RAM + 64GB internal storage variant.)
When it comes to look and feel, the ZenFone 5Z is nothing out of the world as the ultra-thin bezels, the "notch" or all-metal, glass-covered body that the device features have become all too common in this range. However, that cannot blur the fact that it is a beautiful phone in its own right.
The phone with rounded edges and 6.2-inch Full HD+ display with 19:9 aspect ratio weighs just 165 grams. Even if someone finds the phone bulky, navigating it with one hand is hardly an issue as the phone has a feature that allows one to squeeze the display on the screen to their liking.
The multi-window feature allows one to watch videos and chat on an app simultaneously. Among the other useful features that the phone offers is the ability to enhance touch sensitivity so that one does not face any problem using the device even while wearing gloves.
One area where the phone stands out is its good audio system and "SuperIPS FHD+" display technology that makes streaming videos and playing games a delightful experience.
Powered by the dual "NXP" amplifiers, it features dual 5-magnet speakers that put out loud stereo sound.
To dissipate heat and maintain good performance during heavy use, the device is packed with four 0.06mm-slim carbon cooling pads.
After full charge, the 3300mAh battery did well to run the phone for a day on moderate usage. Heavy users, however, need not worry as the device comes with the Qualcomm "QuickCharge" 3.0 fast-charge technology.
The power of AI backs even the fast-charging system as it works intelligently, activating only when users need it, in order to extend the battery life. In normal course, it took about one-and-a-half hours to charge the phone to nearly 100 per cent.
The highlight of the device is its AI-powered 12MP + 8MP dual camera system powered by Sony IMX363 sensor at the rear which clicked decent pictures even in low-light conditions.
We found the fingerprint sensor at the back to be fast and accurate. The face unlock feature worked well in good light conditions.
What does not work?
The device was found wanting in its ability to click high-quality selfies with the 8MP front shooter, especially in low-light settings.
The primary camera, which the company claims gets better with use because of the AI-powered system, fell short of expectations for a phone in this price range.
With its 16 MP+20 MP rear camera and a 16MP front shooter, OnePlus 6 has a clear advantage over the ZenFone 5Z.
Conclusion: ASUS ZenFone 5Z definitely lowers the cost of owning a mid-range smartphone for the new generation of buyers while offering stellar display and good performance. But selfie lovers may find it tad disappointing.
(Gokul Bhagabati can be contacted at email@example.com)