The Asus ZenFone 5 looks like an Android iPhone X, with added AI smarts

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Asus has unveiled a trio of new ZenFone 5 handsets, promising that at least two will arrive in the UK this year. Here’s everything you need to know about the new ZenFones.

Why should you care about the ZenFones?

The new ZenFones come in three flavours: the ZenFone Lite, ZenFone 5 and ZenFone 5Z.

The ZenFone Lite is set to be the most affordable of the three, but is unlikely to launch in the UK.

The ZenFone 5 is the main handset and is set to be a mid-range phone on a par with the OnePlus 5T. The Z is a premium variant of the device whose base version is all but identical to the main ZenFone 5, apart from its use of Qualcomm’s snazzy new Snapdragon 845, plus increased RAM and storage options.

You can see a full rundown of all the specs we currently have for the three ZenFone 5s in the table below.

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Asus ZenFone 5 specs

Phone ZenFone 5 Lite ZenFone 5 ZenFone 5Z
Screen 6-inch, 18:9, Full HD+ IPS 5.8-inch or 6.2inch(UK) 18:9, FHD+, IPS, 500 nits, full DCI-P3 coverage 5.8-inch or 6.2inch(UK) 18:9, FHD+, IPS, 500 nits, full DCI-P3 coverage
CPU Snapdragon 630 Snapdragon 636 Snapdragon 845
Memory TBC 4GB 4-8GB
Storage TBC 64GB, microSD up to 2TB 64GB / 256GB, microSD up to 2TB
Camera 16-megapixel rear, 20-megapixel, 120 degree wide-angle rear front. Secondary 120 degree wide-angle camera at both front and rear Dual-lens combining 12-megapixel f1.8 Sony 363, 6 element lens with secondary 8-megapixel f2.0 wide angle rear. 8-megapixel front Dual-lens combining 12-megapixel f1.8 Sony 363, 6 element lens with secondary 8-megapixel f2.0 wide angle rear. 8-megapixel front
Battery TBC 3300mAh 3300mAh
Software Android Oreo with ZenUI. Android Oreo with ZenUI. Software update to 2018 version confirmed Android Oreo with ZenUI. Software update to 2018 version confirmed

ZenFone 5 preview

I caught an early look at a pre-production version of the regular ZenFone 5, and from what I’ve seen, it’s a pretty swish handset.

The base design is similar to Asus’ 2017 flagship, the ZenFone 4. It has a metal frame with a glass back and front. The USB-C socket and 3.5mm headphone jack are positioned in the same place, along the phone’s bottom edge. The fingerprint scanner remains top-centre on the ZenFone’s rear panel. Power up the ZenFone, however, and you’ll realise it’s a completely different device.

Taking a page out of the iPhone X playbook, Asus has designed the ZenFone to have a near edge-to-edge display. This isn’t anything new at the top end of the market, but it’s an innovation that’s yet to appear in the mid-range that the ZenFone 5 is targeting. Asus has also done a good job to ensure that the notch that houses the front camera doesn’t impact usability. According to Asus, software works around the notch, so you apps’ UIs will be neither hindered nor obstructed.

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Asus Zenfone 5

Sadly, the screen isn’t AMOLED. As a result, blacks aren’t as inky, and the phone doesn’t meet mobile HDR standards. But from what I saw, the IPS screen is still pretty darned impressive. Whites were clean and colours were nicely vibrant by IPS standards.

I didn’t get to accurately check if the panel does indeed meet Asus’ quoted 500 nits max brightness, but with the screen set to 60%, it was cornea-scorchingly bright. If Asus’ claim that the screen covers the full DCI-P3 DC colour gamut is to be believed, it will also be one of a select few phones with accurate enough colour representation for detailed photo touch-up work.

The edge-to-edge design makes the ZenFone 5 one of the prettiest mid-range Android phones I’ve ever seen. Although, as with the ZenFone 4, the glass rear is a smudge magnet and ended up looking like a fingerprint collage after only a few minutes’ use during my demo.

I’m pleased to see that Asus has made some minor improvements to the ZenFone 5’s camera specs.

The hardware sees an update, with the ZenFone 5 featuring a newer Sony IMX363, f/1.8, six-element lens and secondary 8-megapixel f/2.0 wide-angle rear lens. But what’s more impressive still is the back-end work that Asus has done. For starters, the company has made minor tweaks so that the rear camera uses both sensors to increase control over depth of field. In addition, it’s also worked hard to add a load of AI features to the camera.

The software wasn’t final on the demo phone I saw, so I can’t comment on how well the camera and its AI features work. However, according to Asus, both the ZenFone 5 and 5Z will be able to automatically detect the type of photo you’re taking and manually adjust the camera’s settings. The Asus rep on hand said the camera will be able to detect 16 different types of photo, under the headings of Nature, Sunrise, Food and Portrait.

Asus Zenfone 5 Lite

It will also have an intelligent gallery app, which will track your edits to photos on the ZenFone and eventually offer to do the work for you automatically.

Asus isn’t the only company experimenting with AI optimisations, however. HTC and Huawei have also been pushing the tech for a while now. But if the features operate in the way that Asus is claiming, then the ZenFone 5 could carve a unique place for itself in the mid-range market, where currently camera performance is still very hit-and-miss.

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ZenFone 5 price

Asus hasn’t confirmed pricing for any model of ZenFone yet. A representative confirmed the main ZenFone 5 will target the mid-range segment of the market, however.

ZenFone 5 release date

None of the new ZenFones have a confirmed release date. All we know is that they’ll arrive at some point this year.

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