Asus chose to surprise the mass with the competitive pricing set for the first Asus ZenFone series last year. Rated as our favorite smartphone in 2014, the Asus ZenFone 5 clearly held the edge over the others, especially for the camera. But that doesn’t mean it fared bad in other aspects. The company continues to keep the devices powered by Intel chipsets, and the latest budget device from them, the Asus ZenFone C is quite a steal for the price.
A quick look at the specs list, the Asus ZenFone C comes with a 4.5-inch display with FWVGA resolution, and the device is powered by Intel Z2520 dual-core processor clocking at 1.2 GHz, and 1GB RAM gives it the support along with PowerVR SGX544 GPU. It has the 5-megapixel shooter on the back, but interestingly, Asus has given the PixelMaster technology here as well. Android KitKat OS runs in the ZenFone C, layered by the Zen UI, which is as always, interesting.
Design, Form Factor
One of the reasons why we loved the ZenFone 5 last year, was the way Asus had designed it. You already get an idea of how we might appreciate the design of the ZenFone C, as it is almost the copy of it with only the smaller size. The metallic rim on the front bottom gives the device a premium look, with the semi circular rings reflecting the light source. The back cover is removable, and the battery is accessible as well. The only issue with the black unit is that it doesn’t resist fingerprints, and there are smudges noticed as well. Sometimes, it is as bad that you might see the entire fingerprint clearly on the back.
The chrome buttons on the side are solid and tactile, while there is nothing extraordinary apart from that, about the build of ZenFone C. There is nothing bad too, although the phone feels and looks quite big for a 4.5-inch screen device.
Display wise, although the resolution seems too low for the size and there is clear pixelation seen, the display isn’t bad at all. The color output seems very good, there is no saturation seen with odd colors and the only problem is with reflectiveness of the screen.
Even on full brightness, it is hard to read the content against a bright light source. Sunlight readability thus gets affected, just like we had seen with the previous ZenFone devices. When the user is given no much choice, there are not much they can complain about. That is the case with ZenFone C’s display.
OS, User Interface
Asus has the Android 4.4 KitKat running in the ZenFone C, layered with Zen UI, which is intuitive, useful and something no user would feel confused while navigating through it. I always like and admire the way Asus keeps the lock screen simple, with time and weather information, shortcuts to the most important apps – camera, phone and messaging.
Zen UI is probably one of the interfaces from a Chinese brand, that has a full fledged app drawer and multiple home screens. At the same time, Asus is the same brand known for pre-loading a lot of apps, which might be annoying for a few users who don’t like bloatware. Even more annoying, most of these apps cannot be deleted easily.
The pre-installed apps in the ZenFone C include Do It Later, Power Saver, File Manager, SuperNote, WebStorage, AudioWizard, Splendid, Clean Master, Amazon Kindle Store, Zinio, Data Transfer app, FM Radio, FlashLight, Party Link, PC Link, MicroFilm, Omlet Chat, Quick memo, Remote Link, Share Link and the big list of Google Play apps. Yes, that big is this list of applications pre-installed in the device – deal with it.
Quick Settings section is something always interesting and fully loaded, and one might feel the “Boost” button much handy, as it frees RAM by switching the background apps off. There are several other handy quick toggles as well, including that of Auto-sync, GPS, Do not disturb, Wi-Fi hotspot, Smart saving, Auto-rotate and PlayTo. These can well be edited and changed in position.
The UI is swift, good and well responsive. The view mode can be customized for the app drawer, and these can be grouped. Disabling, hiding and locking apps is possible as well.
Talking of actual performance, there are some problems with multitasking. This is very much evident when playing games and you receive a call, as it takes more time than usual to show up even the call screen, while the ringtone was already playing. Reminds me of the TouchWiz UI which sometimes has the same issue. For someone who isn’t looking for a device for gaming and just for standard stuff, including calls, social networks and such, you won’t see the ZenFone C breaking a sweat for this.
The ZenFone C doesn’t fare bad with the benchmark scores as well, but things don’t rely only on these scores. They are more about how powerful the specs are, but for the actual user experience, the ZenFone C should do a fare job.
The 5-megapixel camera can take neat captures, and while we can easily say it is better than other 5MP shooters out there, you have some better camera phones even for this low price range. The Redmi 1s from Xiaomi with 8MP camera could take pictures with lesser noise and better sharpness. The captures seem very good on the low resolution display of the phone, but when transferred to a larger screen, it clearly shows the lack in details.
Colors don’t come out decently well, and there is a lack of sharpness in almost all conditions, but comparing the quality with the cameras on Moto E and such with 5MP ones, the Asus ZenFone C seems quite better in overall quality. Low light captures aren’t blown off, thanks to the high ISO given by the Asus’ own PixelMaster tech. The front-facing 2MP camera has nothing special to talk about.
One good thing about the ZenFone C is its battery. 2100 mAh battery on the back did take quite some space, but that is only good as the phone easily lasts for a day, with over three hours of screen on time, nearly 45 minutes of calling and occasional use of Wi-Fi and data network. The standby time is good as well, and the battery of the device could well be one of the factors why we’d recommend the Asus ZenFone C.
For someone looking at a decent interface, good battery life and a well build phone in the budget range, the ZenFone C serves all these. The camera, although good, isn’t the best you see in this price range, and the phone doesn’t have a display that might impress you. You better know what you are buying this device for, i.e. as a secondary phone for normal usage, or a primary smartphone if you are someone newly getting into the smartphone territory.