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Asus Zenfone 4 review: A solid mid-range phone that’s a touch underwhelming

The Asus Zenfone 4 isn’t as hard a sell as its last handset, the augmented-reality-focused Zenfone AR. For one, the Zenfone 4 isn’t an £800 smartphone whose only gimmick is its AR capabilities, but it’s also a reasonably priced snazzy phone with a wonderful dual-camera setup.

Our review is still in progress, as we’d like longer to really give it a good going over, so check back for our full review and score soon.

Asus Zenfone 4 review: What you need to know

Asus’ numbered range of Zenfones represents the Taiwanese company’s efforts to undercut the flagship phones of competitors with a strong mid-range offering. Priced at over £200 less than the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S8 or Apple’s iPhone 8, Asus leverages the power of Qualcomm’s latest mid-range Snapdragon 630 processor to deliver a snappy smartphone. This is backed up with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage as standard, with the option to expand it with a microSD card too.

Asus has stuffed a Full HD 5.5in IPS display on the front, along with a pair of dual cameras on the back. The camera you’ll be using most of the time is a 12-megapixel f/1.8 snapper, backed up by an 8-megapixel camera equipped with a 120-degree wide-angle lens.

Asus Zenfone 4 review: Price and competition

Asus has announced it’ll be launching the Zenfone 4 at just £450, stacking up against the likes of the OnePlus 5 – which also costs £450. The £340 Xiaomi Mi 6 would also be a contender if it was easily obtainable in the UK, but the £380 Honor 9 could give it a run for its money.

Asus Zenfone 4 review: Design

The Zenfone 4 doesn’t really seem like much of a looker. It’s very slab-like in appearance, with Asus’ signature spiraled pattern adorning its rear. Asus offers up the Zenfone 4 in “moonlight white”, “mint green” and “midnight black” too.

The 5.5in screen dominates the front face of the Zenfone 4, with its front-mounted fingerprint reader. Along the side, you’ll find a slot for adding a nano-SIM and microSD card, as well as the volume rocker and power keys. There’s a USB Type-C port, 3.5mm headphone jack and a single speaker grille too.

Unfortunately, the Asus Zenfone 4 doesn’t come with an IP rating, meaning it’s not officially dust- and water-resistant at all. It’s not the end of the world though, as the OnePlus 5 also lacks this specification.

Asus Zenfone 4 review: Display

Asus has opted to keep the 5.5in IPS display at a Full HD resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels instead of bump it up to an ultra-high resolution like the Samsung Galaxy S8. There’s really not much to shout home about in the screen department. It’s not edge-to-edge nor has it got curved edges – this is just a standard mobile phone screen and one that’s actually somewhat disappointing.

In our benchmarks, the contrast ratio was at an acceptable level, with images popping off the screen. Maximum brightness reached a dazzling 614cd/m2 but unfortunately, colour balance and accuracy is more than a little off. Colours look a touch over-saturated and that’s the case in Zenfone’s “balanced” colour mode.

Asus Zenfone 4 review: Performance and battery

Powered by Qualcomm’s 2.2GHz Snapdragon 630 processor, backed up with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, the Zenfone 4 shouldn’t be too underpowered. Unfortunately, it’s actually on the lower end of the spectrum, clocking in slower than the Honor 9, Mi 6 and OnePlus 5.

I honestly expected the Zenfone 4 to perform better in our tests. But even if it can’t keep up with the competition, it’s not slow enough to make it hard to use for most of what you’ll use it for.

Battery life tests show that the Zenfone 4 can last a reasonable 13hrs 26mins. This sticks it around the middle mark for its completion, falling just short of the Xiaomi Mi 6 but outperforming the Honor 9.

The Asus Zenfone 4 comes with Android 7 Nougat as standard but is upgradable to Android 8 Oreo.

Asus Zenfone 4 review: Camera

As with the LG V30 and the G5 before it, the Asus Zenfone 4’s secondary camera takes the form of a wide-angle lens.

The main camera is a 12-megapixel f/1.8 snapper, which works with the 8-megapixel wide-angle camera capable of 120-degrees of view. As you can imagine, this allows you to squeeze more into your scene and is perfect for landscapes and group shots. Unfortunately, only the main 12-megapixel camera can make use of Optical Image Stabilisation.

We’ll come back with more extensive testing of the Zenfone 4’s cameras soon. But during our short tests, they seemed to deliver detail-rich images with brilliantly exposed shots, even in low-light situations.

Asus Zenfone 4 review: Early verdict

The Zenfone AR may have been too expensive to justify a place in your pocket, Asus has gone out of its way to make the Zenfone 4 an appealing mid-range phone in a crowded market. That said, it’s disappointing that it’s so surprisingly underpowered in our tests, but its camera seems promising enough – along with its price point – to still make it an appealing prospect.

Still, the Zenfone 4 has stiff competition to fight off. The OnePlus 5 is still our favourite flagship beater and, like others in the series of OnePlus’ phones, its cheap price point is hard to beat. If dual-cameras is your thing, both Huawei’s Honor 9 and the Xiaomi Mi 6 offer up dual-snappers at a more affordable price point.

The Asus Zenfone 4 is available for preorder from 6 October for £450 from Amazon and Carphone Warehouse.



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