Having reviewed three of the ZenFone 4 variants — the Max, Selfie, and Selfie Pro — it’s about time we give our take on the base model. 

Positioned as an upper-midrange smartphone, the ZenFone 4 (not to be confused with the same-name ZenFone 4 from 2014) is by no means the blandest of the bunch. In fact, many would agree that it’s actually the fanciest-looking of all the models — even nicer than the more expensive ZenFone 4 Pro.

But what exactly makes the plain ZenFone 4 stand out if it doesn’t have the large battery of the Max, improved front cameras of the Selfie pair, and high-end specs of the Pro? That’s what we need to figure out in this review.

Let’s begin with the aesthetics.

We have a 5.5-inch 1080p LCD in front

Colors have a lot of punch to them and the screen is sharp enough

And a flat glass panel at the back

Incredibly prone to smudges and sliding off tables, but using the bundled case can prevent those

The fingerprint scanner is now below the display

It’s fairly fast, but not as quick as those from Huawei, OPPO, and Vivo

The two rear cameras are totally flush on the surface

No awkward wiggles on a table, but it makes the phone even more slippery

There’s an audio port and USB-C — yay!

Sadly, only a single loudspeaker pushes all the audio

So, how well does it perform?

The ZenFone 4 comes with either a Snapdragon 630 or 660 processor, which are two of the newest midrange chips by Qualcomm. Our review unit has the faster Snapdragon 660, which has already proven itself to be an excellent chipset in previous reviews. We expected no less from the ZenFone 4, and were actually fully satisfied with the performance.

Along with the 6GB of memory, operation was super smooth during our tests. Lag and stutter rarely reared their ugly heads during day-to-day usage, and even heavy-duty games like NBA 2K17 and Asphalt Xtreme posed little challenge for the ZenFone 4 on the higher settings. We also had 64GB of storage to fill up, with the potential of even more space when a microSD card is inserted into the hybrid card tray (one nano-SIM and the choice of another SIM or microSD card).

What is perhaps more interesting, however, is how much cleaner the interface is. Now leaner than ever before, ZenUI 4.0 removed most of the bloatware that made the past versions so unbearable. The apps ASUS did decide to keep are mostly useful, such as the Selfie Master app (for instant beautification), Mobile Manager (to monitor your storage and internet usage), and a handy file manager.

The latest ZenUI also let go of the cartoony look that hadn’t aged well in this era of flat designs. The whole interface, from the notification shade to the quick settings and menus, feels more in line with the Android 7.1.1 Nougat it’s based on. It took ASUS a while to get this right, but we’re glad it’s finally implemented.

Can the cameras take nice photos?

We’ve talked a lot about the looks inside and out, but the ZenFone 4’s main attraction has to be its dual-camera setup on the rear. Of the different types of implementations, ASUS chose to make the secondary 8-megapixel camera shoot extra-wide-angle photos to complement the 12-megapixel main shooter.

See just how wide it can go:

 

 

As you can see in the comparisons, there’s noticeable loss in image quality when you go for the wider-angled lens. The colors lose their pop, while balance is sometimes off, and noise is more apparent in the darker regions. Still, the secondary camera definitely has its purpose, like when you want to shoot a large group and simply can’t take another step back.

The 8-megapixel selfie camera is on its own, but does a decent job at presenting detail when the lighting conditions are just right. Like with their Selfie phones, ASUS includes beautification settings and a portrait mode in the pre-installed camera app, which help make your pictures seem a little cleaner at the expense of looking a bit artificial.

There are some of the best photos we took:

Can it last longer than a day?

Cutting down on useless apps and utilizing a highly efficient processor does wonders for any smartphone, and the ZenFone 4 is no exception with its own recipe. The standby time (when you leave the screen turned off) in particular is excellent. Combine that with an average of 4.5 hours of screen-on time on a single charge, and you can easily get over a day’s worth of usage without connecting a charger.

Better yet, the ZenFone 4 supports fast charging, so you can fill up its 3300mAh battery in less than two hours. During our own tests, it took one hour and 40 minutes to hit a hundred percent using the included charger.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

ASUS got so much right with the base model of the ZenFone 4, but unlike its more affordable alternatives, the pricing could have been handled much better.

Although international prices start at US$ 399, other regions have it tougher. The Philippine unit we have here costs PhP 28,995, which translates to US$ 570 when converted. That’s dangerously close to the US$ 599 retail price of the much faster ZenFone 4 Pro.

At this range, you’re already competing against the likes of the Xiaomi Mi 6 and OnePlus 5, two of the most powerful handsets in any category — and they also come with dual cameras.

If you must have the latest ZenUI and a super-wide-angle camera, you may also consider the much cheaper ZenFone 4 Max. It even has a larger 5000mAh battery and triple-card tray for two SIM cards and a microSD card at the same time.

At the end of the day, the ZenFone 4 is a solid all-around phone with a gorgeous back. The entire thing is snappy and the secondary camera truly makes a difference. Just wait a few months for the price to go down.

SEE ALSO: ASUS ZenFone 4 Max review

SEE ALSO
ASUS ZenFone 4 Max review