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As more people are fed up with smartphones that cost well over $600, some manufacturers are taking notice. ASUS brings us the ZenFone 2, a $299 phone with internal specs that easily trump its competitors. But to get the price that low, surely cuts had to be made somewhere? That’s what we’re here to find out.

Be sure to read until the end to find out how you can win an ASUS ZenFone 2 for yourself.

Specs

  • Price: $299 from Amazon
  • Processor: 64-bit 2.3Ghz Intel Atom Quad Core Z3580
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 64GB
  • Screen: 5.5″ Full HD 1080p LCD
  • Size: 6in x 3.04in x 0.43in  (152.5mm x 77.2mm x 10.9mm)
  • Weight: 170g (6oz)
  • Cameras: 13MP rear-facing, 5MP front-facing
  • Battery: Non-removable 3,000mAh

Note: there is a $199 version that substitutes a 1.8Ghz Z3560 processor, 2GB, and 16GB of storage — but we have not reviewed that model.

Hardware

zenfone-8

In a nutshell, the ASUS Zenfone 2 is big and plasticky.

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With a 5.5″ screen, it’s easily in phablet territory, but it’s the 10.9mm thickness and 170g weight that really make this thing feel big in the hand. For a weight comparison, the 5.1″ Galaxy S6 (our review Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and Gear VR Review and Giveaway Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and Gear VR Review and Giveaway Samsung sells more Android devices than any other manufacturer, and thanks to some aggressive marketing, the Galaxy brand is almost synonymous with Android. Read More ) weighs 132g, and even the all-metal 5″ HTC One M9 (our review HTC One M9 Review and Giveaway HTC One M9 Review and Giveaway Metal design? Check. Expandable storage? Check. All the most powerful internals? Check. On paper, the HTC One M9 is one beast of a phone. Read More ) weighs 157g.

zenfone-2

However, the device does have a nice curve to it. It’s much thinner along the sides and feels nice in the hand, despite the large size. The power button and headphone jack sit up top, but that placement definitely makes it awkward to hit the power button one-handed. You’ll most likely either be wielding this thing with two hands, or using the double-tap feature to wake and sleep the device (which we’ll get into more later).

zenfone-3

The micro-USB port is along the bottom, and there are no buttons on the sides of the ZenFone 2 at all. Instead, ASUS has gone with a button layout that is clearly borrowed from LG (see our review of the LG G3 LG G3 Review and Giveaway LG G3 Review and Giveaway Read More as an example). The volume buttons are on the back of the phone.

zenfone-6

Honestly, this is a design choice you’re either going to love or hate. For me, I actually found that I adjusted to them pretty quickly. They’re certainly easier to feel for than the buttons on the LG G2 or G3, simply because there is no power button in the middle of the volume rocker. It’s also a small benefit to be able to hold the side of the device without worrying about pressing buttons.

zenfone-7

And while the brushed metal design looks nice, it’s really just a nicely dressed-up plastic. As far as plastic goes, it is better looking than most and doesn’t collect fingerprints.

The camera and flash sit at the top, just above the volume rocker. Along the bottom of the back is the speaker grille, which provides for decently-loud audio, though it’s not particularly amazing. The placement on the back of the phone can make it a bit awkward to hear while holding the device.

zenfone-5

The backplate is removable with a bit of prying, which is where you’ll find the two micro-SIM trays and the microSD card slot.

zenfone-1

The front of the device is basic. ASUS has managed to keep the bezel at the top pretty small, but the sides are a bit thicker than most phones, and there’s a thick bumper at the bottom beneath the three capacitive keys.

zenfone-4

The keys you get down here are Back, Home, and Recents — though they don’t light up like Samsung’s buttons do, so you might miss them a few times if you’re using the phone in the dark.

All in all, it feels pretty bulky and cheap. It certainly won’t be challenging any high end phones with its design, though the internals might be a different story.

Camera

Though advertised as having a 13MP rear-facing camera, that resolution is only available if you want to shoot in a 4:3 aspect ratio. If you switch to 16:9, you’re looking at a 10MP resolution. This might seem small in comparison to the 16MP Galaxy S6 or 20MP One M9, it still manages to take quality photos (and don’t forget that the iPhone 6 has a very capable 8MP camera). Sometimes it’s worth looking past the megapixels What Is A Megapixel? What Is A Megapixel? Megapixels are one of the most common ways of advertising the quality of cameras, especially relatively low-end cameras aimed at the mass market likes the ones in typical smartphones. Read More .

sample-regular-10mp

Above is a photo I took using the automatic settings on an overcast day. In general usage, it was just as good as any other flagship camera out there today.

zenfone-7-1

In addition to the usual camera features, however, the ZenFone 2 has preset modes of different kinds of shooting, like a high-resolution mode that can stitch together a 51MP 4:3 photo, an HDR mode, a depth of field mode, and more. The most useful, however, was the lowlight shooting mode.

not-lowlight

Above is a photo I took in the automatic mode of a pair of shoes sitting inside with dim lighting — just overcast lighting coming in from a window around sunset. You can barely even see the shoes.

lowlight

However, with the lowlight mode turned on, it looks as if there was some decent lighting on these shoes. They don’t look too falsely lightened, and I have to applaud this camera for its performance in less-than-ideal lighting conditions. When it senses that your subject is dark, it will even pop up a little notice to ask you to switch to lowlight shooting.

Software

On the software-side of things, ASUS has put their ZenUI Android skin Android Skins Explained: How Do Hardware Makers Change Stock Android? Android Skins Explained: How Do Hardware Makers Change Stock Android? Hardware makers like to take Android and morph it into something that is entirely their own, but is this a good or a bad thing? Take a look and compare these different Android skins. Read More overtop of Android 5.0 Lollipop Android 5.0 Lollipop: What It Is And When You'll Get It Android 5.0 Lollipop: What It Is And When You'll Get It Android 5.0 Lollipop is here, but only on Nexus devices. What exactly is new about this operating system, and when can you expect it to arrive on your device? Read More . The result really isn’t too bad.

zenfone-4-1

As you can see above, the homescreen has some rounded, colorful app icons as well as some bloatware under the Apps4U groups. Overall, though, the ZenFone 2 mostly comes with limited bloatware — just a lot of ASUS-branded apps for things like transferring media, using their cloud storage, etc.

The Recents panel (above right) has mostly stayed the same, only with some confusingly-labeled quick access buttons at the button. They are the running apps button, pinning button, and remove all button respectively. There’s also a search bar up at the top, though search can also be accessed by holding the home button and then swiping up.

zenfone-5-1

The notification panel has been colored white with mostly light blue accents. The green accents are for the tools like flashlight and calculator, and all of those are customizable.

Notifications appear on the lockscreen, as is customary in Lollipop, but you also get three quick access buttons that you can tap and swipe away from to access (mine shown above are Camera, Google Now, and Facebook Messenger).

Double-tapping anywhere on the lockscreen will put the device to sleep, as well as double-tapping on the status bar from any screen. Waking the device can also be done with a double-tap anywhere on the screen.

zenfone-1-1

The phone app has been stylized with a photo of snowy trees, which doesn’t seem to be customizable, and the trees get blurred out once you enter a call. It’s a nice design, just a bit random.

Overall, the user interface manages to stay out of the way while making the phone a bit uniquely ASUS. I don’t think it offers anything particularly useful, but it also doesn’t hinder the experience — though it does mean you might be waiting a while for a 5.1 update.

Connectivity

ASUS’ website states that the ZenFone 2 supports 4G LTE, including the bands necessary to work on the major GSM carriers in the US like AT&T. However, even after going into a store and talking to an AT&T employee, I wasn’t able to get more than HSPA+ speeds on the phone.

This may have been a fluke, and HSPA+ speeds aren’t awful, but it was disappointing not to be able to get 4G LTE speeds. Obviously, your mileage will vary with this one based on your location and carrier.

Battery Life

With a 3,000mAh battery, this phone has a lot in common with the OnePlus One (a phone with its own pros and cons Top Six Best Features Of The OnePlus One -- And One Drawback Top Six Best Features Of The OnePlus One -- And One Drawback I've been living with the OnePlus One for a few weeks now, and it's amazing, but it's not perfect. Let's run through some of the best features -- and one downside. Read More ). Considering the great battery life I get on my OnePlus One, I was expecting great things from the ZenFone 2.

And I was disappointed.

zenfone-2-1

On an average day, I could make it from morning to night with minimal usage (minimal for me is two hours of screen on time or less). Considering that I could get four hours of screen on time and still make it through a day on the OnePlus One, or over three hours on the HTC One M9, that’s nothing to write home about.

Most notably, look at how much battery the Android OS itself is draining. Whereas the screen is normally the biggest drain on any device, ASUS’ version of Android was actually wreaking the most havoc on my battery. Even following our most thorough instructions on how to improve your battery life 9 Proven, Tested Tips To Extend Your Android's Battery Life 9 Proven, Tested Tips To Extend Your Android's Battery Life No matter how long your phone's battery life lasts, there are ways that you can definitely make it last longer. Let's take a look at some different ways. Read More and keep your battery healthy Keep Your Android's Battery Healthy With These Tips Keep Your Android's Battery Healthy With These Tips Software and apps can only go so far -- what about how to charge and discharge your battery? Learn all the tricks here. Read More , I was getting less-than-stellar battery life.

And then this happened:

zenfone-3-1

I woke up around 7am, and by 9:30am, my phone was halfway dead, with less than half an hour of screen on time. A restart seemed to snap it out of this rapid drain, but that wasn’t the only time this phone drained fast. Some days it did okay, and other days it would die before I got home.

The point being: if the 3,000mAh battery had you excited about its lifespan, you should lower your expectations.

Performance

In case you didn’t notice, this phone has 4G of RAM. That’s an insane amount of RAM for a phone. In fact, that’s more than a lot of computers. Do you really need that much RAM?

Well, probably not.

Most flagships are shipping with 3GB of RAM nowadays, though even phones on 2GB are chugging along just fine. 1GB seems to be on the line of where you’ll run into issues. 4GB is certainly overkill, but it also means that you’ll never have problems multitasking, no matter how many apps you pull up.

In addition to that, the Intel processor is fast and able, even though Intel is playing catchup in the mobile processor world Jargon Buster: The Guide to Understanding Mobile Processors Jargon Buster: The Guide to Understanding Mobile Processors In this guide, we'll cut through the jargon to explain what you need to know about smartphone processors. Read More . The ZenFone 2 even has 64GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot, so you’ll never run out of storage here.

Should You Buy It?

That really depends on your needs. If you’re looking to buy off contract phones Never Buy a Phone From Your Carrier! Buy Unlocked Phones and Save Hundreds Never Buy a Phone From Your Carrier! Buy Unlocked Phones and Save Hundreds Never buy a smartphone from a carrier—ever. Most consumers don't know that they can purchase their phones from retailers and pay less than if they did from the carrier. The key word that you're looking... Read More , then this phone really should be on your radar. For the price, it packs some incredible specs.

However, the disappointing battery life is a big drawback, and phones of comparable price and quality do exist that might be better alternatives, like the OnePlus One or Moto G.

Our verdict of the Asus ZenFone 2:
Buy it if you really want a lot of storage for a cheap price as well as a large screen. Don’t buy it if you’d prefer a smaller, lighter device with better battery life.
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ASUS ZenFone 2 Unlocked Cellphone , 64GB, Silver (U.S. Warranty) ASUS ZenFone 2 Unlocked Cellphone , 64GB, Silver (U.S. Warranty) Compatible with GSM Networks including AT&T, T-Mobile and cellular network providers utilizing GSM network such as: Straight Talk, Walmart Family Mobile, MetroPCS, Simple Mobile, Brightspot, Net10, h20 Wireless, and Cricket Wireless. Buy Now At Amazon $279.00

Asus ZenFone 2 Giveaway

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact James Bruce for further details.

  1. Milinda Ranawaka
    July 6, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    How is the winner.

    • Milinda Ranawaka
      July 6, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      Sry. Who is the winner??

      I love to win this.

  2. Jenica Hawk
    July 5, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    Whose the winner?
    When are you gonna tell?

  3. Dexter Cruz
    July 5, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Who is the winner?

    • Jenica Hawk
      July 5, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      Yeah,whose the winner?

  4. Milinda Ranawaka
    July 4, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    10 Hours left.
    Please choose me as your winner.
    I love this phone.
    Pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

  5. Milinda Ranawaka
    July 1, 2015 at 2:21 am

    I Want Samasung Galaxy S6 Edge Please.

    My Birthday is july 11th. Please give it as a birthday gift.
    Please

    Ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppplllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

    Please Please Please Please.

    Zenfone 2

    Thank you.

    • Milinda Ranawaka
      July 1, 2015 at 2:23 am

      Sorry sorry sorry not S6 Edge.
      I want Asus zenfone 2 Only.
      Please Please Please.
      I want zenfone 2

  6. Milinda Ranawaka
    July 1, 2015 at 2:14 am

    I want to win this super mobile.
    Please its my dream.

    I want to win this please.

    Thank you.

  7. Janet Lance
    June 29, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    I am not getting my 2 extra entries a day when I go into "makeuseof" site as it says. I go in, take a look at items I might be interested in, and when I log out, I can't get the "continue" button to work. I have to "cancel" out.

  8. Si Nadel
    June 28, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    awww, i'm so exited with this product..
    i hope i can get one for this..

    • Si Nadel
      June 28, 2015 at 7:32 pm

      i just using Galaxy mega 5.8 in 2 years, i want to feel something new.. ><

  9. Edward L. Young Jr.
    June 28, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Better than my Galaxy S3. Hope to win

  10. ardan purwanto
    June 27, 2015 at 6:41 am

    I hope smartphone

  11. Darrell Rose
    June 25, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Bodhi dharma would be saddened to think that a device with the name “Zen” was not received with much anticipation!
    Understanding the relationship between RAM and Processor Speed, Volume Control placement, Mega Pixel rate and Internal Storage capacity, makes this mobile phone something to be desired for its capabilities rather than energy longevity.

    ASUS surprises us with innovation e.g. ASUS 7” 32GB 3G Fonepad Tablet etc. Entering the Mobile Arena is not an easy game – we have lost Nokia (Bought out by Microsoft) and we all thought they would be around for more years to come.

    I have similar Specs using my Samsung Galaxy S5 and I would expect this. Under the circumstances I Play Games, Text and receive make calls and receive and run Bluetooth all Day for my Smart Watch.

    Considering that to many Apps (Bloat Ware) can and will drain your battery without you even knowing it. Why not remove the one’s you don’t use, I did and it made a big difference.

    Focus on what you need – Not, What you want.

  12. PRINCE MONGA
    June 25, 2015 at 8:23 am

    Hope I get this one, fingers crossed :)

  13. rice2hard
    June 25, 2015 at 4:31 am

    Waiting for WI-FI charging.

  14. ??????? ?????
    June 24, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    ???????? ?? ?????? ???????? ??? ????????.

  15. Azize Unallan
    June 24, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    I hope I get rid of mindless phone

  16. Prabhath Kaushalya
    June 24, 2015 at 4:35 am

    I love to win this...thanks

  17. Tam Niall de Guzman
    June 24, 2015 at 3:45 am

    Sweet! Thank you!

  18. Glenn Shirley
    June 23, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    Everyone should take the comparison with the OnePlus One's battery life with a grain of salt.

    My OnePlus One gets similar if less life than the author has mentioned for the Zenfone - definitely seems variable amongst other One owners I have talked to as well with plenty of them having a lot less life than the author mentions for the One.

    • Riley J. Dennis
      June 24, 2015 at 1:40 am

      true, battery life is weird and people have very different experiences with it. all i can do though is record my experiences!

  19. Baldo Sanfilippo
    June 23, 2015 at 10:17 am

    liked and shared

  20. Al?ks K?aøs
    June 23, 2015 at 7:18 am

    Specs looks like a notebook... very nice.

    • Riley J. Dennis
      June 24, 2015 at 1:41 am

      right ?!?! 4GB of RAM is insane for a phone

  21. Archit Kaushik (Tech BOY)
    June 23, 2015 at 6:13 am

    Love this fone wish to win... thanks for giveaway.

  22. Chris Wood
    June 23, 2015 at 5:08 am

    Excellent informative review and U -tube video. Shame about the excessive power consumption, hope ASUS can fix. Similar but not as bad with my ASUS PadFone S, I carry a power bank. Would love to win the ZenFone. Keep up the informative product reviews.

    • Riley J. Dennis
      June 24, 2015 at 1:42 am

      thank you! yeah the battery life was weird. i hope they can fix it too. cheers!

  23. Edmond Leung
    June 23, 2015 at 12:21 am

    . Wow, prize ASUS is fab. & splendid. 2 fingers snap. It is tight, fly & off the chain. Thank you for the awesomeness, the contest, and generosity. :) Pick me, pick me!

  24. Seamus Duffy
    June 22, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    Looks good, best of luck everyone.

  25. Karen Munro
    June 22, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Great product!! ... would love to win!!

  26. Kerry Sheila
    June 22, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Looks like a wonderful phone to use,and I love the giveaway.

  27. Linda Meranda
    June 22, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Great review and giveaway, Thank You!

  28. nikki morris
    June 22, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    awesome giveaway, fingers crossed!

  29. Dexter Cruz
    June 22, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Nice giveaway. Hope to win. Thanks

  30. Asad Khan
    June 22, 2015 at 9:24 am

    Nice

  31. Prabhath Kaushalya
    June 22, 2015 at 8:34 am

    great review pictures and the review....
    thanks for the chance.

  32. Aqimuddin Amrullah
    June 22, 2015 at 8:20 am

    Wow... The battery life is so bad. I hope firmware updates can fix it, also the already excellent performance would be beast if it's updated to 5.1.1 Lollipop.

  33. Christos Tsikrikoydis-tsikrikas
    June 22, 2015 at 7:52 am

    Great review !

  34. Steven D Purnell
    June 21, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    Great review as usual guys (Y)
    The ZenFone looks a pretty capable phone as long as a (near) future update does something for the battery life :)

  35. Necta Rodriguez Nelson
    June 21, 2015 at 5:34 am

    great review pictures and the review itself was wonderful thanks for the chance

  36. KrishnaChaitanya Ch
    June 20, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    Have been using the phone for a week now. Have awesome specs, UI of the phone is very smooth, best that I have seen for this price. PCLink app is the best one can ask for.

    Comes with loads of bloatware. very few of them can be disabled or uninstalled. others just keep consuming RAM and Processor even if you do not use.

    Major drawback for me only one SIM (Slot 1) supports data. 2nd SIM can only be used to make and receive calls and no option to switch between data providers without removing and swapping the SIM between card slots.

    after 2 days of usage, the phone keeps getting a pop that SIM 2 is not installed and the signal is not visible and becomes unusable. either we have to remove the SIM and reinsert or reboot the phone. Very Annoying. Contacted ASUS support and they asked to use the phone is Safe modr they have asked to go to Service Centre with invoice. In Bangalore there are only two service centre and for me they are very far :(

    http://www.asus.com/zentalk/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=7503&extra=page%3D1&page=13D7503&extra=page%3D1&page=1

  37. Praveen Nirmalkar
    June 20, 2015 at 5:21 am

    Please correct a mistake in the specs column 'Battery: Non-removable 3,00mAh', it should be 3,000mAh. By the way, it was a good review of the Zenfone 2, hope I win it via the giveaway.

    • Riley J. Dennis
      June 24, 2015 at 1:42 am

      corrected, thanks for catching that!

  38. Muhammad Rifqi Saifudin
    June 19, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    Hm... I thinks Asus zenfone 2 is very 'cucok' for my father. He's don't have smartphone anymore because it was broke. I think it'll be the great gift for him :)

  39. Sweta Kanguri Sonulkar
    June 19, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    super deal price and off contract phone with super camera and network connectivity is what i like in this phone

  40. afroz Mohammed
    June 19, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    the best review i have ever read about asus zenfone 2. I was looking for such an indept review of this product . very well explained , this is some kind of unconventional review which considers thorough and indept research into the product before making any points. thanks!!

    • Riley J. Dennis
      June 24, 2015 at 1:43 am

      thank you very much! that's super kind of you to say

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