Hands-On

ASUS ZenFone 5 First Impressions

Back and better than before

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It was only six months ago when the ASUS ZenFone 4 series launched, but here were are, trying out a radically different successor in the ZenFone 5.

Not to be confused with the original ZenFone 5 that came out in 2014, the model we have here is not an entry-level handset by any means. In fact, it has the makings of a series-defining product.

ZenFone 4 (left), ZenFone 5 (right)

For this generation, ASUS chose to focus on artificial intelligence to optimize every aspect of the phone from the battery usage to the cameras. But why only make AI a big deal now? According to ASUS, it’s because the technology is now ready for it, and it’s more practical in everyday gadgets.

And while there are multiple variants to take note of — ZenFone 5, higher-end ZenFone 5Z, and ZenFone 5 Lite to start — they all share the same mantra ASUS has been pushing for years: empowering luxury.

ASUS gave us a preview of a pre-production unit of the main ZenFone 5, and these are my initial impressions.

A trendy design

There’s no doubt the ZenFone 5 takes inspiration from its competition, from the chunk bitten off the top of the near-borderless display to the placement of the dual rear cameras. ASUS claims this design is essential to providing a large screen without compromise.

What really stands out is the edge-to-edge IPS LCD up front. It’s 6.2 inches in diameter and has an unusual 19:9 screen ratio, but this combination feels natural in my big hands. The chin was kept a little thick so the navigation buttons at the bottom are more accessible.

The panel itself has a 2246 X 1080-pixel resolution and 90 percent screen-to-body ratio. That puts the ZenFone 5 near the top of the most bezel-free phones available today.

Although very light when held, the phone’s curved edges make gripping the body comfy. The signature circular design on the glass back also makes a return, and the fingerprint sensor can be found near the center.

Intelligent software

ASUS calls the ZenFone 5 an intelligent phone beyond anything else. There’s artificial intelligence throughout the handset, from the display and ringtone, to the camera and overall performance.

For the ringtone, the volume dynamically adjusts depending on the room’s ambiance, and there’s this feature called AI Boost, which lets you choose between optimizing your Android experience for faster performance or longer battery life (whichever you find more important).

We weren’t able to truly test all these features and how they enhance the user experience, but we can tell the ZenFone 5 is much more intuitive than previous generations.

This is also credited to the new and improved Android interface, ZenUI 5.0, on top of Android Oreo. It’s cleaner and less cluttered by duplicate apps from third-party companies, but we’ll have to wait for a retail unit to say just how much smoother the software is.

Smartest hardware yet

The brains behind all these AI tricks is in the new Snapdragon 636 chipset and its neural processing engine (NPE). This part of the processor performs tasks in a more efficient and dynamic way that gets better through time, and it comes with up to 6GB of memory and 64GB of expandable storage to boot.

One of the best AI implementations within the ZenFone 5 is on the cameras. Using the 12-megapixel main camera and 8-megapixel wide-angle secondary shooter, the camera app can automatically detect what type of scene you’re looking at and intelligently adjust settings accordingly. There are 16 preset types in total.

Up front, we have an 8-megapixel selfie camera that uses AI once again to help beautify your portraits. And since there’s no longer a fingerprint reader in front, the front camera can also handle face recognition duties for quick logins.

Other useful features are stereo speakers (making good use of the notch on top) which are quite loud, a large 3300mAh battery with smart charging, and the inclusion of a physical audio port for headphones and external speakers.

Impressions so far

It’s difficult to provide a solid verdict given the short time we had with the pre-production model, but I’d say the package has promise with its greater focus on optimization and user experience.

We’ll have a full review once a retail unit lands in our office. Till then, be sure to follow us on social media and visit GadgetMatch.com daily to catch every update.

Hands-On

Xiaomi Mi 9 Hands-On: 2019 Flagship Killer?

BEAST!

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Top of the line specs, amazing cameras, and high-speed wireless charging. MWC hasn’t even officially started yet, so it might be premature to say this, but has Xiaomi just unveiled the 2019 flagship killer?

We recently got to spend time with Xiaomi’s latest flagship and this is our hands-on video.

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Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy M20 hands-on: Give the users what they want

Awakening of the sleeping giant

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Samsung has been the smartphone market leader for half a decade now, and its flagship phones continue to be an inspiration for everyone. However, while the brand is dominating in developed markets, it has taken a massive beating in the developing ones.

Thanks to players like Xiaomi, the South Korean brand has consistently lost market share in countries like India. Samsung slowly prepared itself to change strategy by the end of last year and intends to go hard in 2019. It announced the new Galaxy M-series lineup of phones in the budget segment and the M10 and M20 are the first ones to roll off the shelf.

The M20 has been launched in India for INR 10,990 (US$ 154) and comes with 3GB RAM and 32GB internal storage. The option with 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage costs INR 12,990 (US$ 182). The phone goes up against the Redmi 6 Pro, Realme U1, and even the Mi A2.

To start with, Samsung has opted to go with a basic design, consisting of a plastic body that is curved at the edges and is pretty glossy. The phone is extremely comfortable to hold, and the build quality is top-notch. Even the buttons are very tactile and bezels are smaller.

On the front is a 6.3-inch TFT display with a Full HD resolution and small water-drop style notch on the top. This is the first Samsung phone to feature a notch, and the display quality is surprisingly good. The color production is vivid and satisfying, while the viewing angles are perfect. It is easily visible even under direct sunlight.

For authentication, a fingerprint scanner is located on the rear and it is fast enough. You also have the option of face unlock and it works quickly in well-lit conditions. It has dual-SIM support and there’s a separate slot for microSD card, as well.

Powering the phone is an octa-core Exynos 7904 processor, which is considered to be on par with the Snapdragon 636. It is a very power-efficient processor with more emphasis on the cameras. Day-to-day tasks are handled smoothly and games like PUBG are playable with low graphics.

It has a dual-camera setup on the rear, consisting of a 13-megapixel primary shooter and a 5-megapixel wide-angle sensor. The pictures clicked during daytime are decently saturated but lack sharpness. Even focus tends to get slow in low-light conditions. The wide-angle lens works best in bright surroundings only and is a very handy tool. For selfies, it has an 8-megapixel shooter with built-in beauty enhancements.

It ships with Samsung Experience 9.5 out of the box and is actually well optimized. There is barely any lag and the UI offers a plethora of customizations and features. The company announced that the Android Pie update will be landing soon. Lastly, it has a massive 5000mAh battery that’ll get you through two days of usage.

Xiaomi has been successful because it offers users a balanced product that suits everyone’s needs. With the M20, Samsung goes down the same road. While the recently announced A-series phones were for photography enthusiasts, the M20 is good enough for everything.

The M20 is no disruptor, but an indication that Samsung is gearing up. And as a generation-one product, it’s performing fairly well.

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Cameras

Fujifilm Instax SQ20 hands-on: How good is it?

Trying out the new Motion Mode on doggies!

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Fujifilm’s sequel to their first ever digital/analog hybrid is here and it’s looking better than ever. The Instax SQ20 is one classy-looking instant camera but what can it do? With a set of built-in filters and new features like the Motion Mode, it looks like a promising device.

I finally try it out, with help from some doggies, on our hands-on video.

The SQ20 retails for US$ 199 in the US, PhP 12,999 in the Philippines, and SG$ 299 in Singapore.

In case you’re having trouble viewing, watch HERE.

READ ALSO: Fujifilm Instax SQ10 review

READ ALSO: Prynt Pocket unboxing and review: A printer that prints videos?

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