ASUS ZenFone 2: What a difference 4GB RAM makes
Overview, Design and Features
When the ZenFone 2 was first announced in CES 2015, there was a major detail that many probably missed: 4GB of RAM. Now that it’s actually out in the world, the fuss over it still isn’t great, but it sure is something that many can appreciate. But what about the rest of the phone? Is the ZenFone 2 a one-trick pony that is placing its bets entirely on being the phone with the most RAM, or are there other features that the company can boast about? Let’s find out.
Before we start however, it is worth pointing out that there are many variations to the ZenFone 2. There are two model numbers: the ZE550ML that comes with a 5-inch 720p HD screen and generally lower specs, and the ZE551ML that has a 5.5-inch Full HD display. There are variants to each model number as well, but too keep things simple, the ones that come with 4GB RAM has ZE551ML tagged on them, one with 32GB internal storage and the other gets 64GB. The one we have is the former.
Design and features
In the name of ergonomics, the back of the phone is curved laterally. This makes the sides of the phone fairly thin. The curved back makes it fit nicely in your hand, but makes it quite wobbly when you put it down on, say, a table. This is especially so if you like skinny jeans and have the habit of emptying your pockets before sitting down, and putting all of your stuff on one pile, with your phone at the very bottom.
The phone is plastic, but the back cover does give off a brushed aluminum look (and feel), which is fine when it’s new. With some use, the signs of wear and tear do make it kind of obvious that it is in fact plastic.
While we’re here, the back is also where you’ll find the speakers at the bottom, the 13MP camera and the LED flash. Sitting below the camera are the volume buttons, much like those you find on LG’s G2 and its subsequent successors. The difference here is there isn’t a power button hiding in between them; the said button is found at the top of the phone, beside the 3.5mm audio port.
Beneath the back cover are two MicroSIM card slots, the first of which supports your 2G, 3G and 4G bands. The second is limited to 2G, so if you intend to make use of both, remember that only the first will let you use your mobile data. Above them is the microSD slot that supports a card up to 64GB in capacity. Under all three is the 3,000 mAh battery which is, unfortunately, not removable despite being clearly visible.
Moving back towards the front, we have the 5.5-inch Full HD display. On top of that is the ASUS branding and the earpiece, and towards the right is the secondary camera. Down below are the usual three capacitive buttons, and below them is ASUS’ pretty much signature concentric circle design which can also be found on the power and volume buttons. Finally, at the very bottom of the phone is the Micro-USB port.
When you first turn on the phone and experience the ZenUI, you’d think, this looks and feels quite smooth. That’s probably because it actually is. Then you sign in to your Google account and you see what could be over 30 application updates are being queued for download. Be ready to wait for a significant amount of time if you intend to get all of the ASUS apps updated, especially if you have a slow connection.
Despite the bloatware, the whole thing runs smoothly. This might have something to do with the 4GB of RAM being put to good use. You will really need to have a lot of background applications running before you start to feel the sluggishness kick in. We haven’t. Not yet anyway.
Since the power button is located at the very top, it’s going to be quite troublesome to reach it if you want a strictly one-handed-use experience. Remedying this is the fact that you can doubletap the screen when the phone is inactive, and doing the same while the phone is active will turn off the screen, just as if you pressed the power button. You can also use gestures to launch certain apps straight from the powered down screen. This feature is called the ZenMotion, and it’s exclusive to the ZenFone 2 for now. We elected to turn all of these off after awhile however, because the phone kept coming to life on its own while sitting in a pocket.
You also get a few other things to play with like Simple Mode which simplifies the UI, to the point where you’d think you’ve went a few years back in time. This might probably work for folks who are not as in touch with the advancements of technology, but for the rest of us, it ends up being more restrictive than anything else.
The ZenFone 2 also allows you to change the font of your system. Granted, this isn’t something new, especially if you’re used to rooting your android phones, but for the rest who don’t, the ZenFone 2 now gives greater levels of customizability without needing to get too technical. You also have the usual themes to change between.