Reviews

ASUS ZenFone 5 Review: Getting back on track

It’s priced lower than its predecessor and that’s what counts

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Another year, another ZenFone. This time though, ASUS made the new ZenFones available to the public earlier than usual. The ZenFone 5 was first announced at MWC 2018, and that’s just six months after the previous ZenFone launch. ASUS dropped the bomb early since the ZenFone 4 did not get much positive reaction from consumers and critics alike.

Can the ZenFone 5 redeem the popularity of ZenFones especially in the midrange segment where the competition is getting tougher every year? Let’s find out in this review.

First, let’s dive into the physical aspect of the phone.

It has a 6.2-inch Full HD+ display

Undeniably an iPhone X lookalike similar to most

The infamous notch arrives on the ZenFone

It houses the earpiece, notification light, front sensors, and selfie camera

Almost borderless but there’s still some bezels below

Having a chin is common among “bezel-less” Android phones

The physical buttons are on the right

Made of the same metal as the phone’s frame

The hybrid card tray is on the left

Sadly, ASUS won’t let you have three slots

There’s not much on top because…

Just a tiny hole for the noise-canceling microphone and a couple of antenna bands

… everything else is at the bottom end

Here we have the USB-C port, 3.5mm audio port, loudspeaker, and main microphone

The back has a familiar ZenFone design…

The fingerprint reader is the center of attention at the back

… but the iPhone X inspiration is still there

Vertical rear camera alignment is apparently a thing

It’s all about rounded corners and circles

Design-wise, the ZenFone 5 is not that different from previous ZenFones. Since the ZenFone 3, ASUS has stuck with the sandwiched glass design for its higher-tier ZenFone offerings. Having a glass front and back with a cold metal frame is a premium combo.

Compared to the OPPO F5 and Vivo V9, the ZenFone 5 feels more expensive in hand. Although, it’s just on par with the Huawei P20 Lite in terms of build quality. The phone is easy to grip and handle despite the large screen size thanks to its edge-to-edge display. The rear fingerprint reader is reachable with the index fingers — just as it should be.

Going to the display, I will not talk much about the notch because there’s something else about the display of the ZenFone 5 that catches my attention every time I use the phone: the curved corners.

The curves give better ergonomics and appeal better to the eyes, but I find them to be a bit intrusive when viewing content since most apps are designed to run on an angular rectangular display. While some phones have curved corners as well, they’re not as wide as on the ZenFone 5. While it’s not that big of a deal, maybe you guys will notice it too after using the phone for some time.

Performs like a true midrange phone

The ZenFone started to become a midrange offering from ASUS three years ago, and it still sits in the same segment today — at least for the main variant. Using the latest Snapdragon 636 processor from Qualcomm, the ZenFone 5 can run virtually everything with ease. The Snapdragon 636 might not be the best processor in the market, but it can perform well in all scenarios. If you want to have a really powerful processor, there’s the more expensive ZenFone 5Z — the flagship variant of the new ZenFone series.

Paired with an ample 4GB of memory and 64GB of expandable storage, the ZenFone 5 is a worthy upgrade if you still don’t own a midrange smartphone. What’s great about the new ZenFone is the more polished and user-friendly ZenUI 5.0. The new ASUS custom skin is now based on Android 8.0 Oreo which is still the latest available version. It’s such a relief that ASUS didn’t throw in bloatware and just relied on core Android apps. The result is a more fluid interface plus it’s easy on the memory and storage, too.

Performance-wise, I don’t have any complaints. Everything has been buttery-smooth and I never encountered any major hiccups or lags. The 4GB memory is more than enough to handle extensive multitasking. I can also say the same about gaming since I get high frame rates with most games I play on the phone. May it be my favorite Asphalt Xtreme or the latest Marvel: Strike Force, there are no issues with gaming performance. The popular PUBG Mobile is also on my list of test games and it runs well on medium graphics settings.

According to ASUS, AI also plays a role in keeping the ZenFone 5’s performance in tiptop condition. The deep-learning capabilities of the processor understands how to handle the demanding apps running and also those in the background. Users will sow the benefit of this in the long run, so it’s too early to tell now if it truly works or is just a gimmick.

AI-powered cameras

Like with the ZenFone 4, the ZenFone 5 has dual rear cameras — one standard for low-light photography and portraits, and another for wide-angle shots. The main shooter has a 12-megapixel sensor with a bright f/1.8 lens while the wide-angle one has an 8-megapixel sensor. Banking on the capabilities of the built-in neural engine, the ZenFone 5 uses AI to capture the best-possible photo depending on the subject. It’s like a different level of auto mode.

Here are the photos we took using the phone’s rear camera:

And here are a couple of photos using the wide-angle shooter:

Overall, I am impressed with the photo quality of the ZenFone 5. It’s not the best in class but my eyes appreciate the color balance and level of clarity. It’s worth noting that the camera takes its time to focus in dim-lighted environments, something that ASUS should address with their next release.

Of course, there’s portrait mode on the ZenFone 5 that can isolate the subject from the background. Surprisingly, the images look pretty good, albeit the warm skin tones.

For selfies, there’s an 8-megapixel f/2.0 front-facing camera with AI beauty and portrait or bokeh mode available. Check out the samples:

Even with AI already working on the camera, the beauty mode of ASUS still needs to keep up with OPPO’s and Vivo’s. But if you’re not into beauty filters, the regular selfies of the ZenFone 5 are perfect to show your natural looks. The bokeh effect also works fine with the front camera which is ideal for shooting portrait-quality selfies.

I almost forgot about the ZeniMoji — ASUS’ version of Apple’s Animoji and Samsung’s AR Emoji. There’s nothing positive to say about this; it’s laggy, has limited characters, and doesn’t look cute enough. Hopefully, ASUS gives more attention to this supposedly fun feature with future updates.

As long-lasting as ever

With all the phones the GadgetMatch team is reviewing, long battery life is a must to impress us. Thanks to the phone’s 3300mAh capacity, I didn’t have to worry about running out of juice in the middle of the day — even if I am a heavy user. A fully charged ZenFone 5 was able to last 15 and a half hours on average and that’s with almost six hours of screen-on time. I have constant connection to the internet through Wi-Fi or mobile data, yet the ZenFone 5 holds up pretty well. It’ll definitely last longer with light or moderate usage.

I can’t say that I’m impressed with the charging times of the phone — at least with using the bundled 5V=2A charger in the box. A quick 20-minute charge is able to fill up the phone to 22 percent, but a full charge can take more than two hours. This is with AI charging mode turned on though, which dynamically adjusts the charging rate depending on previous charging behavior.

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A true ZenFone fan will be proud of the fifth-generation ASUS smartphone. If you still own a ZenFone 2 and are in need of a worthy ZenFone upgrade, the ZenFone 5 will not disappoint. A ZenFone 3 owner could also consider to upgrade already since the ZenFone 5 offers a near-borderless display and dual rear cameras.

As for non-ZenFone users looking for a new smartphone, the ZenFone 5 should be part of their list in this range. It’s not a perfect phone, but it’s a device that learned a lot from its past. It has a well-built body, good cameras, and a processor that can keep up. While, I’m not fully sold on the AI features of the phone, I should still spend more time with the phone to let its AI work.

The ZenFone 5 is priced competitively at just PhP 19,990 or roughly US$ 385. It’s a good deal, so you might want to consider it this is your ideal price range.

SEE ALSO: ASUS ZenFone 5 Unboxing: Collector’s Edition?!

Gaming

ROG Zephyrus G15: Lean, mean, gaming machine

And it’s a looker too

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Zephyrus G15

One of my favorite things about getting to try many new gadgets is that I learn more about myself and my preferences. The ROG Zephyrus G15 (2022) GA503 – which henceforth will just be referred to as just Zephyrus G15 – did just that for me and what I want in gaming laptops. 

For context, I have been sparingly using my ROG Flow X13 for most of my general Windows and PC gaming needs. It’s a great device, don’t get me wrong. But having to prop up the laptop itself along with the XG Mobile to reach its full potential can be quite cumbersome.

It’s a huge contrast to the Zephyrus G15 where I simply fire it up and it just works in a jiffy. And all the ports I normally use are right there, ready to use. I’m a big fan of convenience so I absolutely love it when gadgets just work without much friction. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Based on this introduction, I’m sure you already have some idea on what I generally think about the Zephyrus G15. But allow me to discuss it further. 

Tale of the tape

Zephyrus G15

Specs and benchmarks never tell the whole story. But specs are a good place to start. Here’s what our review unit is packing: 

  • AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS
  • 15″ WQHD (2560 x 1440) 16:9 240hz Pantone Validated 100% DCI-P
  • RTX 3070 TI 8GB GDDR6
  • 16GB DDR5 on board  + 16GB DDR5-4800 SO-DIMM
  • 1TB M.2 NVM PCIe 4.0 SSD
  • Moonlight White

Some standout stuff from the information provided above are the new processor, the Pantone Validated display as well as the RAM available. This isn’t even its highest configuration. There’s a variant that runs RTX 3080. You can upgrade your RAM up to 48GB and there’s another SSD slot so you can expand your storage. 

Zephyrus G15

That means there’s plenty of room to up the ante down the line should you choose to do so. That’s not something that you can say for every gaming laptop. 

Immaculate look and design

I love that ROG sent over the Moonlight White version for us to try. Black is great, don’t get me wrong. But it’s refreshing to see gaming laptops brimming with power come in other colorways that could appeal to people that are kind of just over with black. 

The magnesium-aluminum lid and chassis also maintain the Zephyrus look giving it a sleek and tough exterior, while keeping the ROG Zephyrus identity. And you don’t have to worry too much about it picking up dust and dirt. In the few weeks I spent with it, it stayed pristine looking despite little to no wiping maintenance. That’s thanks largely to the wear-resistant coating which works exactly as advertised. 

Zephyrus G15

Adding to the overall functional design is the ErgoLift Hinge. This is one of my favorite things about ASUS laptops. The ergolift hinge not only allows a 180° for more flexibility, it’s also just ultra satisfying to move and look at. 

It looks fresh, feels tough, and is relatively compact making it easy to carry around. It’s a looker with some bells and whistles in the right places.

Ports, keyboard, and trackpad

Zephyrus G15

Speaking of those bells and whistles, the Zephyrus G15 is packed with possibly all the ports you’ll need. Whether that’s for a remote setup or one that’s neatly tucked into a home office desk. 

Zephyrus G15

Here’s everything it has to offer: 

  • USB3.2 Gen 2 Type-A (2x)
  • USB3.2 Gen 2 Type-C(supports DP 1.4 & 100W PD Charger), (2x)
  • LAN RJ-45 jack (1x)
  • HDMI 2.0b (1x)
  • Micro SD Card Reader (UHS-II), (1x)
  • 3.5mm Audio combo jack (1x)
  • Kensington Lock (1x)

 

Zephyrus G15

The Stealth Type keyboard was a curious choice but one that I welcome. I was of the impression that the gaming demographic skews more towards the clickity clack of mechanical keyboards. But the one equipped on the Zephyrus G15 is about as quiet as they come. No complaints here though, as it didn’t distract my at-the-moment entanglement in slumber as I toiled away over late night labor. 

Zephyrus G15

One of the best trackpad experiences on a Windows Gaming laptop.

The trackpad, too, was such a pleasant surprise. Perhaps it’s also in conjunction with Windows 11 but using a trackpad on Windows now doesn’t feel as laggy as it used to. On days that I only worked using the Zephyrus G15, I never felt the need to connect a mouse. That feels like a breakthrough as I have never been able to say that for any of the Windows laptops I’ve reviewed in the past. 

Plays like a console

Yes, I paired a DualSense controller with the Zephyrus G15

Alright, before any PC gaming enthusiasts come at my throat, what I mean here is mostly the quality of life things. When I got the Zephyrus G15, I didn’t tweak it very much. Heck, I even opened Armoury Crate less than five times during my time with it. Despite this, it had no trouble running the games I attempted to play. Some of which are even very demanding AAA titles. 

Zephyrus G15

I’m a big fan of tech that just works. Especially with my current workload, the less time I have to figure something out, the better. And that’s the case with this gaming laptop. I simply fired up Steam, downloaded the games, and played to my heart’s content. 

Zephyrus G15

Teen Gohan vs Cell is a classic.

Naturally, I checked the settings on some of the first few games I tried like Control, Genshin Impact, and Dragon Ball FighterZ. Everything was consistently on the highest settings right off the bat. Lags and stutters? I don’t know them. Not with the Zephyrus G15 in tow. 

To better understand where I’m coming from, I own an ROG Flow X13. The one that comes with the ROG XG Mobile. It’s a great machine, no doubt. But to get the most out of it, I still have to hook up the XG Mobile to the Flow X13. Whereas with the Zephyrus G15, I simply have to turn the laptop on. That’s an underrated level of convenience that may or may not mean much for some of you. 

You still have Armoury Crate but I didn’t feel the need to touch it as much.

It’s seriously making me consider trading up for the Zephyrus G15. And that’s just with the raw performance of games. I haven’t even talked about how good the display and speakers are. 

Eyes and ears candy 

Zephyrus G15

Its high-level performance is of course complemented by a stellar audio-visual experience. As indicated in the specs section earlier, this laptop sports a 15” WQHD 16:9 display with a 240Hz refresh rate. It’s also Pantone Validated which is great for color accuracy if you’re working on anything that involves visual media.

But all you really need to know is that it’s an absolute treat to the eyes. The 240Hz refresh rate on the panel is great for first-person shooters. Unfortunately, I am not great at first person shooters. I’d like to take this opportunity to whoever I played Valorant with because I totally dragged the team down. 

Zephyrus G15

This is a “Tomboy” fancam but listen to her album “MY” too!

 

It is a visual treat, no doubt. But like (G)-IDLE’s Miyeon, the Zephyrus G15 isn’t just a treat for the eyes. It also sounds hella good. I spent a good chunk of time watching Miyeon’s fancams on this thing and it’s just a fantastic overall experience. 

I also watched a few episodes of Netflix’s Business Proposal at the time of writing. Really, whatever type of content you consume, it’s bound to look and sound great on this thing. 

Zephyrus G15

Kim SeJeong is just adorable

One thing we did learn is that the display struggles a bit under really bright environments. When taking photos of the device, we opted to step out for natural light. But if you’re using this to work or play remotely, I recommend you find some place that isn’t too bright. 

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Zephyrus G15

The ROG Zephyrus G15 (2022) GA503 is easily one of my personal favorite devices that I’ve reviewed so far in 2022. It’s about as close as it can get to a plug and play PC gaming experience. And that’s not something you can say for many laptops and/or PCs. 

The Zephyrus G15 (2022) brings with it a distinct look, top-notch gaming performance, and a really solid audio-visual experience. As a gaming laptop, this is about as perfect as it gets and is something I can easily recommend especially if you’re willing to splurge for it.

Official pricing will be announced soon. We’ll update this space when it’s out.

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vivo X80 Pro Unboxing and Review

vivo’s best smartphone just got even better!

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The vivo X70 Pro+ was launched just several months ago. However, we’re already having a follow-up!

Unlike the X50, X60, and X70 series, the X80 series only consists of two models this time around.

Namely the X80 and X80 Pro — with the latter being vivo’s latest flagship smartphone.

But what makes it different from its predecessor? And what makes the successor a lot more exciting?

Watch our vivo X80 Pro Unboxing and Review now to find out more!

 

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Reviews

Samsung Galaxy S22+ review: Love at first touch

Can’t help but fall deeper

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Galaxy S22+

A cosmic pull. A supernatural attraction. These aren’t phrases one normally says on a smartphone review. And yet, here I am. Falling madly for the Samsung Galaxy S22+. 

However, this wasn’t the case from the get go. First, I saw it in photos and it was alright. Then, I saw the specs on paper. Yeah, that’s pretty good. It was just another flagship, I thought. 

But everything changed when it came to my doorstep and held it in my hands. 

(P.S. All of my subheadings below are taken from the song “One Touch” by Gabe Bondoc. You can play it while you read 🙂). 

One touch and I’m hooked and I am drowning

Galaxy S22+

I am completely aware how overly infatuated I’m coming off and will come off for the rest of this article. But, having been in this smartphone reviewing gig for close to seven (7) years now, I’ve become almost numb to the usual releases. 

Yes, every now and then I take a liking to a smartphone or two. But it has been a while since I really, really wanted to keep and/or buy a phone I’m reviewing. 

The Samsung Galaxy S22+ just felt perfect on my hands. The right width, the right length, and the right thickness. The heft of the device, its shiny metallic edges, and the clean premium finish of the back all scream premium. The material on its back has a smooth, matte feel and finish. It’s both smudge and scratch resistant.


I’m a fan of its button placements too. With both the power button and volume rockers flushed on the right-hand side. It’s easy to slide up and down to press what you need to press.

And the metal lining on the edges feels smooth but grippable and perfectly complements the flat display. 

Excuse me, I don’t mean to be staring

It’s no secret that Samsung consistently offers one of the best displays, especially in their flagship line. This remains true for the 6.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel equipped on this beaut. The colors are rich and crisp under favorable lighting conditions. But even in broad daylight, the display is bright enough (1750 nits peak) to be comfortably operated without having to squint. 

Galaxy S22+

I had a grand time watching my favorite shows on the Samsung Galaxy S22+. I’ve had it for a while so I saw a few episodes of the Netflix K-Drama Business Proposal on it. I have also been catching up weekly on the HBO series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. For content that supports it, HDR10+ kicks in to elevate the visual experience. 

Galaxy S22+

The display looks so majestic that it prompted me to put the love of my life Momo Hirai of TWICE as my wallpaper. And then of course, there’s the dynamic refresh rate that goes up as high as 120Hz. This means the screen changes its refresh rate depending on what you’re doing. If you’re scrolling through socials and what not, it kicks into high gear to give you a smooth experience. When idle, the refresh rate lowers down to save battery. 

My heart won’t slow ’cause of you

The Galaxy S22+’s overall performance will really keep your heart racing. Normal, day-to-day interactions with your phone just feel extra sharp. The many features mentioned above coupled with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 powering this phone keeps it humming no matter what you do. 

Keeping up with the news in the morning, checking socials to see what you missed, using messaging apps to keep in touch whether for work or personal matters – all of these just feel like a breeze. And the ONE UI 4.1 skin on top of this Android 12 flavor definitely contributes to just how things flow when you use this smartphone. 

Galaxy S22+

I didn’t do a lot of gaming, though. To test it, I defaulted to my go-to which is a few hours of Call of Duty Mobile. As expected it runs without hiccups on high graphics settings. There’s a game manager of sorts here that I didn’t tinker with much. It’s not too different from the ones implemented in previous Samsung phones. Some key features include focusing the phone’s resources to gaming and limiting or completely blocking notifications. 

Battery life is also admirable. One afternoon, I used it to tune into a friend’s wedding via Zoom. The entire ceremony lasted roughly around two (2) hours. In that period, the Galaxy S22+’s battery went from 82% to 76%. 

Naturally, that isn’t the single indication of its battery performance. I generally start my days at around 9AM and end at around 8PM. On days that I’m glued to my laptop, with only occasional glimpses on the phone, I would end the day between 60% to 70%. On days that I’m out and about and rely on it a lot to get work done, my day ends with around 25% to 35% of battery left. 

You’re looking fine today, not that I only noticed now

Galaxy S22+

I have already done an entire separate article about the cameras on the Galaxy S22+. It’s one of the things that I enjoyed the most about the phone. It’s almost as if it’s impossible to take a bad photo with this on hand. 

Easily switching between lenses is great. But what’s even better is how the quality and color reproduction doesn’t vary much from lens to lens. Check these samples out.

Samsung Galaxy S22+

And you can even use 10X Zoom with barely any detail loss, especially if it’s a photo that you’re just uploading on social media. 

Samsung Galaxy S22+

That versatility is unmatched and is fantastic for quick, run and gun shoots like the one I did during the opening of the XM Studio in Singapore. 

I am thoroughly impressed and extremely satisfied with the quality of images it produces. And that’s saying a lot seeing as my regular daily phones include an iPhone 11 Pro and an OPPO Find X3 Pro. Both of which are excellent shooters in their own right.

Oh and yeah, “Nightography”. 

Samsung Galaxy S22+

You think there is a way that I can get you to stay?

You see, the thing about the Galaxy S22+ is that with just the first touch, you already know you’re in contact with something that you should hold onto for dear life. I can’t tell you how many oohs and aahs I got after letting other people hold it in their hands. It just has that effect.

Additionally, the phone is a smooth amalgamation of many other standout phones. It has the breathtaking display of Samsung phones, an overall footprint that feels like an iPhone 12/13 Pro Max, cameras that rival those that partner with notable camera brands, and much, much more. All of that comes in this package that looks and feels well-built on a phone that is easily an all-rounder performer. 

Truly, I never want to let it go. And that’s not something I always say about smartphones. So here’s to hoping that this high praise leads to the Galaxy S22+ staying with me more than a little while longer. 

The Samsung Galaxy S22+ 5G is still available today in Samsung stores near you, via online at Samsung.com, or at your preferred telecommunication service provider. Pricing information on our key markets are linked in the following: USA | Singapore | Philippines

I know it’s been a while since its release. Despite all the hype long gone, it’s still a phone you won’t regret buying.

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