The recently announced Zenfone 2 Deluxe comes with a same model number, i.e., ZE551ML, which was of the 4GB variant model of Zenfone 2. There are only a few differences between these two devices with same model numbers; one is the back panel while second is that it comes with 3000mAh battery, as well as it only comes in 64GB and 128GB models. There is also a special edition announced by the company with 256GB Internal storage, which is the highest storage space on any smartphone yet.
Note: We have updated the Asus Zenfone 2 Review to reflect it as the Asus Zenfone 2 Deluxe. The difference in experience has been reflected in the content. Since, most of the hardware and software on new Zenfone 2 Variant is same, as the original Zenfone 2 introduced earlier this year in April.
Asus has almost been doing everything right, in the budget range segment of smartphones. But to move to the higher level, they needed something special to show. Not even a year since the company entered the Indian market, it has made its mark with the ZenFone 5, and some variants having different sizes and inclusions. The ZenFone 2 is something that will always be in the books carrying “first device to.” notes. Now it’s torch being carried by the Zenfone 2 Deluxe. It indeed stunned most of the rivals with the 4GB RAM inclusion and its design, but is that justifying enough to call Asus as a strong contender in the price range it is selling at? Let’s find out.
When Asus makes an announcement, it isn’t about a single device standing tall. It is an army of phones, even this time. But with the Deluxe model, you get 4GB of RAM, 1080p display, and the option of 64GB and 128GB internal storage. That’s it, no different set of chipset or anything.
Design, Form Factor
While we did like the way ZenFone 2 Deluxe is designed, taking cues from its predecessor for the metallic front rim, we can safely say that the placement of buttons is inspired by LG’s top-end series. Buttons placed on the back is what we have seen from LG G2 and several smartphones from LG after that. But again, it isn’t totally the same and Asus has placed the power button on the top, making it an actually bad position that is hard to reach and the metallic button is not really responsive always.
The back panel on the device is a combination of over 500 tessellated triangles giving it an attractive look. But it isn’t easy to hold in a way because of the large screen and the sharp edges, as you tend to hold it tight due to the curvy back. No big advantage of having a removable back cover, as it just exposes the SIM card slots and a MicroSD card slot, but the battery is inaccessible.
The ZenFone 2 Deluxe isn’t easy to hold and use with one hand, although there are ways to help you out. The back ensures that the user doesn’t see a fingerprint, smudge or any mark. The presence of navigation buttons below the screen makes the phone larger, and that should’ve been a part of the display itself.
On the back, everything is placed in a vertical order. The Dual LED flash, 13-megapixel camera and the single volume rocker button towards the top, and the Intel Inside + Zenfone branding, and speaker grill towards the bottom. On the front, the navigation buttons are not backlit; thus you might need to have the haptic feedback on, to find if you are touching the right areas for the function.
Gorilla Glass 3 protects the 5.5-inch 1080p display, and that is quite an upgrade from the 5-inch 720p display on the ZenFone 5. While it doesn’t come close to being called a good display, you still get the options to reduce color saturation, which looks overly done and thus over-saturation is seen by default.
Balance, Reading, Vivid and Custom modes are available to change the saturation and temperature on display, and while at it, you can personalise the way you want to see the color output by using the custom mode. The screen is very reflective, and unless you always crank up the brightness to maximum, it isn’t easily readable under bright light.
Not so high but still a noticeable loss of color saturation is seen when viewing the screen from side angles. Though, that doesn’t worsen the experience if you are viewing it alone and not sharing it with someone to view the screen from a side angle.
Interface, Apps, ZenUI
ZenUI over Android 5.0 Lollipop is a treat. It wasn’t comparatively that good on MIUI as most of the Lollipop-based animations were hidden, but here, you get to see some, including the merged notification panel and quick settings. Again, it isn’t entirely Material design UI, as major elements are from what Asus has in its previous devices.
The lock screen shows notifications, and you can set priority based on the app. Dragging the notification panel down will show just the notifications initially, and a second drag will show up the quick settings. That’s the case even when there is no pending notification; you still have to drag twice for quick settings. Though, a double finger drag will directly give the access to those settings.
Now let’s talk about the bloatware on Zenfone 2 Deluxe. Asus is probably the one packing the highest number of apps, which the user could have downloaded when needed, as most are available in the Google Play Store. Clean Master, TripAdvisor, Dr. Safety, Amazon Kindle, Zinio, 50+ Games! App, Data Transfer, Do it Later, MiniMovie, Mirror, MyASUS, Party Link, PC Link, PhotoCollage, Remote Link, Share Link, SuperNote, WebStorage, What’s Next, ZenCircle and some other system apps, apart from the Google Play services applications.
The multitasking screen has options to go to RAM Manager, close all background apps, and options to pin screen any particular app. Screen pinning is the feature where you can view a particular screen and cannot switch to anything else until you unpin it. The ZenFone 2 Deluxe also has a Theme manager app that lets the user personalize and change themes for a different look and feel, though, most of them seem to be rather funky, and the default one seems the best of them.
For the enhanced experience, the ZenFone 2 Deluxe comes with features like Easy Mode, Interruptions (more like Do Not Disturb mode on other smartphones), ZenMotion with touch and motion gestures, glove mode, quick trigger for one-handed mode, SIM Manager for proper naming of SIMs if both the slots are having active SIM cards.
Overall, the UI of the device is made for heavy users with a lot to do with long-term usage. Although we’d have liked it more if many of those apps weren’t pre-installed, nevertheless, no storage woes here with the 64GB model we’re using. There’s a standalone app named Kids Mode, for users who wanted to give restricted access to kids.
On this particular unit, powered by Intel Atom Z3580 processor with four cores clocking at 2.3 GHz, we are more than just happy with the performance. To add to it, although the 4GB of RAM sometimes seem a lot for a smartphone, it adds to the experience when you are spending a lot of time multitasking and have a high-end game you were running and want it to stay where you switched from, in the background.
While the interface doesn’t seem loaded with animations and thus, feels a bit dull, the actual app usage gives results for us to conclude about the performance. High-end games played flawlessly, and switching between those games barely took some time as the device never broke a sweat. This is where all the three departments – CPU, GPU, and RAM come into play, and it is a perfect combination Asus has given here in the ZenFone 2 Deluxe.
Let’s face it. We’ve all wondered if 4GB of RAM in a smartphone makes sense. It seemed odd for some time, but while using it for few days, we felt this to be perfectly normal and very handy to have that excess RAM, which can handle several apps without a problem. The thing is, you aren’t being charged a huge amount for that in this case.
Does that mean the ZenFone 2 Deluxe’s performance gives the best experience? No, it heats up while gaming, to an extent when you might want to stop gaming and let the device cool down for a while. The speakers on the back of the phone don’t have a great output, but that is enough to get your attention in crowded areas, and the placement isn’t appropriate as the sound gets muffled when placed on flat surfaces.
Camera, Capture Samples
Initially, the camera on the ZenFone 2 Deluxe seemed not the best and not much better than the ZenFone 5’s camera when it comes to PixelMaster technology. It does seem have the same noise in low light captures but given how Asus has been doing very well when compared to other smartphone cameras in this price range.
This is a 13-megapixel camera on the back, with a Dual LED flash and some excellent modes to play around with, but at the same time, the 5-megapixel shooter although have a good software support with capture options, it doesn’t come out with good quality selfies. Especially with the sharpness being too high, this usually isn’t impressive as you tend to see natural and odd-looking pictures. You can see the captures below.
Safe to say that the Asus ZenFone 2 Deluxe, although has a powerful 3000 mAh battery, it won’t be sufficient when you do what you got to do with that internal specs. Multitasking, gaming, apps in the background and lot more, does drain out the battery before the end of the day.
Gaming and data connectivity with continuously active screen drains the battery pretty quickly, though, while we had some apps and games in the background not running much, it was well optimized not to eat up battery during that time. There are power saver modes, such as optimized mode and the Ultra-saving mode, when you see a very low percentage left and wanted the device to stay on for calls for a few hours.
While one SIM supports 4G LTE connectivity, another one is limited to 2G. That isn’t bad, still, considering we are yet to see proper 4G coverage. On 3G, the voice and video calls were good (video calls on Skype to be specific), and the data connectivity was quick and stable, and the device didn’t quickly jump between networks even when low on signals.
The Asus ZenFone 2 Deluxe is a complete package in a price that doesn’t burn a hole in the pocket. Considering the 64-bit processor, 4GB of RAM and a 13-megapixel camera, this device at Rs. 22,999 is a real tough contender to the OnePlus 2, Meizu MX5, and other high-end flagship devices of this year. It is a future-proof device with all that is needed for a user, in the long run, having a storage expansion slot for those who love entertainment and large games, and support for quick charging when there are low power and less time to charge the device.
The device has enough to challenge even the likes of Honor 6 Plus from Huawei, and similarly priced devices from other brands, as well as which are much pricier than the ZenFone 2 Deluxe. It doesn’t have the sharpest and best of displays but has enough power to keep the user experience at its best for the long run.