It has been a while since I reviewed an ASUS smartphone, so it’s good to revisit this brand that I once loved. Zenfone series have been consistently releasing updated smartphones with different specs to cover the mass market. There will usually be the flagship model, the premium model, an ultra-max model, a lite model, and some cases, a selfie model. Sometimes, you can guess the spec from the model name – like Zenfone Max Pro. Others, not so clear, like the Zenfone 5Q (ZC600KL).
In other markets, the Zenfone 5Q is known as Zenfone 5 Lite, which makes it a lot clearer. Retailing in Singapore at S$468, here is what to expect from Zenfone 5Q:
- Snapdragon 630, Adreno 508 (SDM630)
- 3GB RAM, 64GB ROM
- 6-inch Full HD+ (2160 by 1080) IPS display
- Front main camera: 20MP Sony IMX376 image sensor, f/2.0, 85.5° field of view
- Front wide camera: 8MP, f/2.4, 120° field of view
- Rear main camera: 16MP f/2.2, 80° field of view
- Rear wide camera: 8MP, f/2.4, 120° field of view
- Video recording: 4K UHD (3840 by 2160) for main rear camera, 1080p (30/60 fps) for the rest
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4 & 5GHz, NFC, FM Radio, micro USB port
- SIM tray: triple slots: dual SIM and microSD card up to 2TB
The Zenfone 5Q is covered with 1 year local warranty, and all smartphones enjoy free pick up and return service.
I have tried many midrange smartphones that felt like they run on premium specs. The Zenfone 5Q is one of those that performs poorer than what it’s priced. On deeper assessment, the premium that the Zenfone 5Q commands is not on the processor, but the 4 cameras, NFC, triple SIM slots.
Design and UI
The Zenfone 5Q recycles the previous generation Zenfone 3 design, with glass back and brushed aluminium sides, giving it a premium feel. The ZenUI offers slight changes to the earlier versions, while still retaining the signature features. Improvements include the ability to edit wallpaper effects, capture long screenshots, slide up to reveal apps drawer, more shortcut icons at notification drawer. Features like the Mobile Manager and battery modes allow user to manage the phone app and power usages to some good effect, while OptiFlex lets you store selected apps in the memory for faster load times.
Running on Snapdragon 630, the Antutu benchmark reveals a moderate 86938 score. Using the phone over the week, the performance is evident in every action. While I do not experience any excessive lag, the whole phone UI feels like merely a walk in the park. Even the fingerprint sensor takes almost 1 second from scanning to the screen turning on. Facial recognition works faster.
Camera and Quality
Zenfone 5Q has a front camera that is better quality than the rear. The front main camera is a Sony IMX376 sensor with f/2.0 aperture and 20MP, while the rest are unnamed sensors. While this sensor spec is matched against other midrange phones I recently tested, the quality is not impressive.
Zenfone 5Q camera app comes with a shooting mode shortcut, where you can choose one mode which will appear as an icon shortcut to the left of the shutter button. This is really convenient. I also like that when shooting in selfie mode, you can activate self-timer by sliding the shutter button upwards, and the higher you slide, the longer the countdown is. Really convenient.
Choosing between normal and wide camera can be toggled just above the shutter button. However, when doing digital zoom, the cameras do not switch over to each other. For instance, if I were to use the wide angle camera and zoom in, it does not switch to the normal camera. The other wide-angle smartphone brand, LG, does that.
Although the Zenfone 5Q wide angle camera is 120-degree, similar to LG V30+, the distortion is more than the LG, which one could use it to their advantage to create quirky fish-eye kind of images.
Generally, the cameras do fine when the scene is evenly lit with moderate dynamic range. In challenging lighting conditions, you either get over-exposure or under-exposure (for instance, shooting landscape). The way to get around this is to always tap the subject on-screen to focus and get accurate metering. Another issue is that when the subject is metered correctly, the other areas will be over-exposed. To overcome that, turn on HDR, which merely enhances the image slightly. Unfortunately, Zenfone 5Q does not have auto HDR, and leaving HDR mode on lengthens the image capture time.
Under low light, the white balance struggles to get it right. Often, the images turn up with poor shadow details, and the backlight easily confuses the camera.
My impression of the Zenfone 5Q camera is that it seems to progress very little in image processing. 3 years ago, such image quality might be acceptable as “average quality”, but today, other players have already pushed forward in delivering exceptional image processing, in terms of metering, sharpness, contrast, colour tones, and shooting modes. The “average” has gotten better, leaving Zenfone 5Q has “below average”. Perhaps ASUS has saved the best features for their other better phone models?
I was surprised that the Zenfone 5Q battery life is no better than the faster processors which theoretically consumes more power. Based on the battery usage stats, the major utilisation belongs to the Android system and not third-party apps.
The ASUS Zenfone 5Q comes with a unique selling point, which is the 4-camera ultra-wide setup. But my hands-on experience shows that the quality is unable to match with the other midrange smartphones. With smartphone users getting more and more selfie-crazed, it would be hard to recommend this phone for beauty portrait.
On the other hand, the Zenfone 5Q is the most affordable smartphone with multiple cameras as well as ultra-wide lenses. I love wide angle photos because they create a field of view that is uncommon. You get a sense of wideness when you are actually very near the subject. For that, the Zenfone 5Q offers the view very few other smartphones can offer. With good lighting and some post-processing, images can work out.
As a smartphone, the Zenfone 5Q performs average, and thanks to the avail of NFC, it could be a good backup phone for use in cashless transactions and for wide-angle photography.
- Wide-angle front and rear camera allows wider view capture of scenes
- Mobile Manager helps to manage battery and apps utilisation
- Premium feel with front and rear glass panel
- Camera tends to underexpose with too much contrast
- Relatively slow performance for the price value