07
Jan
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We just got back from a meeting at ASUS's CES suite, and we had a chance to go hands-on with the full portfolio of the company's new Android products (apart from Padfone X, which sadly sat walled off in a glass case). Of great interest to some of you, no doubt, are the company's new ZenFone handsets. Johnny Shih, ASUS's enthusiastic chairman, announced the ZenFone 4, 5, and 6, would be priced at $99, $149, and $199, respectively. With all three phones utilizing dual-core Intel Ivy Trail+ chipsets and powered by Android 4.3, that's certainly an attractive proposition. Were there any immediately apparent downsides, though?

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In the time Cameron and I spent with the phones, the answer seemed to be a pretty resounding "no." While the plastic rear casing is far from the most premium of materials you'll find phones made out of these days, it doesn't feel particularly cheap, and the design of the new ZenFones is actually pretty nice, if you're asking me. The simple aesthetics are contrasted nicely by ASUS's newly-minted Zen UI, which uses a lot of flat shapes and bright colors over white backgrounds (yes, it's a bit iOS-y), as compared to the largely-stock UI ASUS's phones have used to date.

Check out our hands-on video, narrated by Cameron Summerson, below:

Note: there is an erroneous statement in this video that the ZenFone 4 has a single-core processor, it actually has a dual-core.

The Intel chips in these phones don't fly along like a Nexus 5, by any means, but they did seem perfectly smooth in the basic tasks we used them for while playing with the phones. The ZenFone 5 & 6 share the same 2GHz Intel Atom dual-core processor, while the $99 ZenFone 4 has a downclocked 1.2GHz dual-core Atom. That said, the ZenFone 4 didn't feel sluggish, though it should be noted that its 840x400 display is a significant step down from the 720p panels on the 5 and 6, both visually and in terms of processor load.

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Overall, these phones actually seem pretty nice. However, despite the announcement of pricing in US dollars, ASUS would not comment on whether the phones would actually see availability here in the states. The reason for announcing pricing in dollars given was that it was "easier to convert" for countries with various currencies in Asia, which remains ASUS's #1 market.

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ZenFone 4

The ZenFone 6 will be the only model available with 2GB of RAM out of the three handsets, though buyers will have to opt for the 16GB model in order to get the additional RAM, meaning a price something above the $200 the 8GB version will cost you. Aside from a few specification differences, though, these phones are all remarkably similar, and as such, deliver very similar experiences.

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ZenFone 5

Again, there were no announcements regarding a release date for any of these devices, so we're not sure exactly when or where we'll be seeing the ZenFone trio pop up. ASUS's reputation in the smartphone market also remains largely untested outside of Asian markets, so it's hard to say just how these devices will stack up against budget handsets from other OEMs. But from what we've seen so far, these phones really do seem to impress for the price, and I was genuinely surprised that they really do plan on selling them so cheaply. Hopefully we'll have a chance to see how the new ZenFones do under a longer evaluation at some point in the future.

David Ruddock
David's phone is an HTC One. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, imparting a legal perspective on tech news, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Guest123

    probably won't be released for six months. . . then if they come to the US it will be ATT only or refarmed 1900MHz on T-Mo :p

  • Jasper Vinkenvleugel

    They look gorgeous. I'd like one of these if it had an ARM-chip. Intel means no ROMs, and that means no way to escape from the skin, sadly.

    • MrAngeles

      its also one of the thing that im considering with the zen4, i havent seen any in-depth review or benchmark for the processor. if it will be compatible to accessories like qx10, which i like to partner with the phone. Though I dont mind the zenui concept. asus are good with software tweaks. I'm not sure with the phones but i'm enjoying the tab. just hope they update it to 4.4.

      Though, the series, did prove that you can enjoy technology without breaking your bank. Hope to see more accessories along with their phone line up.

    • Whyzor

      Also may not be compatible with a lot of games and apps that use native code that runs on ARM architecture.

  • Tuấn Ankh

    That youtube icon...

    • Alberto

      I liked that old icon better than the new one :(

  • Stanley Chan

    Bad, really bad quality screens. Cmoan... We need better hardware here please...

    • Robert Alex Kibler

      It's a $100 and $200 phone. They can only cram so much expensive technology into a phone while keeping the price down.

    • Erica Mathis

      Bad, really bad quality screens? lol. You're falling for hype. My three year old droid X2 looks more than fine right next to my wife's Atrix HD and daughters iPhone 5, both of which have a 326 ppi compared to my Droids 256 ppi. In fact unless your face is literally 5 inches away from the screen you can't tell a difference at all. All reviews thus far have said the displays on both the ZenFone 5 and even the 6 look very nice.

  • Ror

    Whats up with the 4 and 5 having different icon sets?

  • jeffhesser

    I really had my hopes up for these being released in the US when I saw the pricing. =[ I didn't expect LTE but really hoped some competition in the market.

  • master94

    Im really digging the new ui and for $200 I can see this getting traction on the lower end market

  • Erica Mathis

    Smart phones are like any other electronics, eventually the prices come down. You can now get a really nice phone for $169 (Moto G) and now the ZenFone 5 which out specs the Moto G and has a bigger screen for $150 and the ZenFone 6 for around $200. These are off-contract phones. You can expect 2014 to be the year of the high-end-low priced smart phone. The really cheap off-contract smart phones will be in the $39-$69 range while $100-$200 is going to get you a really nice phone. We are there, the tide has turned.

  • Андрей МАЛАХОВ