It’s always fun getting your hands on a new piece of technology to test, so when the team at Tots100 announced they were looking for a number of bloggers to test out a new smartphone I put my name forward, and was delighted to be told I’d been selected. As the geekdaddy has been starting to make noises about wanting a new phone recently I secretly hoped the mystery phone would be something with which he could replace his now-aging Samsung Galaxy Note 2. We were told in advance that we would be receiving the new Asus Zenfone 5 LTE, and I did a little bit of research online to see what we might expect. One of the first things I spotted was that this was a very inexpensive phone – I found it available to buy outright (no contract) online for anything between £150 and £200, which is a lot cheaper than many modern smartphones I can tell you! So when it arrived I was expecting a budget phone rather than something high end, and I must confess I wondered if the geekdaddy would find it good enough to switch to.
What’s in the box?
There’s not just a phone in that box. Supplied with the Zenfone 5 LTE you’ll also find a space saving USB UK plug, a USB cable and a pair of earphones (with a selection of earbuds). The space saving plug is very nifty – the third pin tucks away neatly when not needed which makes the whole thing that much smaller. And the geekdaddy tells me the earphones are good, and he’s happy with the sound he gets through them.
As far as the phone itself is concerned, it’s a good spec. It is large in size – 14.8cm tall, which is only a smidge smaller than the geekdaddy’s Note 2. It has a quad core 1.2 GHz processor, with 16Gb internal storage (8Gb and 32Gb models are also available) plus this can be expanded by installing a microSD card (up to 64Gb). Often the lower cost smartphones will make economies with their screens, but the Asus Zenfone 5 boasts a 5 inch, 1280 x 720 HD screen, which is sharp, bright and clear. It’s made out of Gorilla Glass 3 (which is apparently a Good Thing), and also has a handy “Glove Touch” mode, which allows you to operate the phone with your gloves on. We were asked to test this feature particularly as part of our review.
The phone arrived with charge in the battery, so the geekdaddy was able to start using it right away. Initial setup was a breeze – we connected the phone to our WiFi with no issues. As the geekdaddy already has an Android phone all he had to do was log into his Google account and all his apps started downloading right away. The phone very quickly started to look like his old phone, at least in terms of his apps.
We did have a couple of issues with error messages when some of the Google apps were installing. The messages were in regards to app compatibility. We put this down to the Zenfone 5 LTE being so new that the apps hadn’t yet been marked as compatible in the Google Play Store. The geekdaddy made sure to update all his apps to the latest versions, and that seemed to sort the problem out.
After a couple of hours of exploring the Zenfone 5, the geekdaddy swapped his SIM into it, and started using it as his actual phone. Maybe it would be good enough for him after all…
I must come clean at this point and say I really don’t get on with the Android operating system. I’m an Apple girl through and through when it comes to phones. However there’s no doubting that Android is getting better, and each release feels a little easier to use. The Zenfone 5 LTE is supplied running Android 4.4.2 (KitKat), which, whilst not the latest version, is only one version behind, which is perfectly reasonable. There are a few Asus customisations, but they aren’t intrusive, and the whole thing feels very slick. We particularly like the “Quick Settings” menu – accessed by dragging down from the top right hand side of the screen. This menu gives access to functions you might want to get at frequently – the torch or calculator apps or turning airplane mode on for example.
I’ve been surprised how well I’ve managed to navigate myself around the phone – it really is the easiest Android phone I’ve ever used. I’m still quite happy for the geekdaddy to use it day to day though!
As far as battery life is concerned, the geekdaddy’s experience is that the battery has generally lasted the day (although he did manage to flatten it completely when he took loads of photos with it at a rock concert! He admits this was probably at least partly his own fault as he had overridden the default setting to allow photos to be uploaded to Google+ over the cellular network as well as WiFi). In general with smartphones we’d like more battery life than we get, and he and I are both in the habit of carrying a backup battery when we go out and charging our phones whenever we can. His behaviour hasn’t changed in this respect when using the Zenfone 5.
One feature I was pleased to see on the Zenfone 5 was 4G data. Whilst this hasn’t been rolled out completely across the UK at the moment, it does make a huge difference when you can get it, and I would definitely not buy a new phone nowadays that didn’t have this feature.
The Zenfone 5 has the standard configuration of front and rear-facing cameras. The front facing camera is 2.0 megapixels, whilst the rear facing one is 8 mega pixels with autofocus and an LED flash. The camera has a basic “auto” mode which seems to cope well with most situations (we even found it automatically shooting one picture in HDR mode when the lighting was very bright!). Then there are a whole host of other modes you can select, including a selfie mode where you tell the phone how many people you are expecting to be in the photo, and it automatically takes the picture for you when it detects that many faces – no more fumbling for buttons whilst waving your phone at arm’s length! It even takes three photos and allows you to pick the best one. We also enjoyed playing with the “beautification” mode, which allows you to make changes to the appearance of any face as you take the picture – this includes enhacing the eyes or even thinning the cheeks!
The geekdaddy was impressed with the Depth of Field feature, which allows you to take close up shots with a beautiful blurry background. He had fun experimenting with that whilst we were out enjoying a curry lunch – I’ll turn him into a food blogger yet!
And here’s the photo he was taking:
And so we get to the feature that we were particularly asked to focus on – glove touch. Now I’m used to operating my iPhone with gloves on – I received some special touch screen gloves for Christmas last year, and as long as I have my fingers at just the right angle I can rather clumsily still operate my phone.
It’s not at all like that with the ASUS ZenFone 5 LTE. This phone has a glove mode that increases touch sensitivity so you can use the device while wearing ANY gloves.This sounded too good to be true, so we dug out a standard pair of woolly gloves and tried it. Glove mode is switched on via the quick access menu (and you’ll need to take your gloves off for that bit), and you know what? It works. It really works! We were impressed with how easily the geekdaddy could navigate and scroll on the screen despite having his gloves on. So this phone is perfect for the cold, Christmas season in that regard!
For the money, we think the Asus Zenfone 5 LTE is a really good buy. It feels sturdy and well built, and the glove touch feature is a really big bonus. If you’re looking for a large, modern Android phone at an affordable price we don’t think you’ll find anything better. Yes, there are better featured Android phones out there, but they’re a lot more expensive.
For me, the most telling thing of all is that, even now I’ve written this review and he’s under no further obligation, the geekdaddy is showing no signs of moving his SIM back into his old phone again.
Disclosure: I was provided with an Asus Zenfone 5 LTE for review purposes. All words and opinions are my own. All information correct at the time of publishing.