ASUS ZenFone 5 ZE620KL review - Sleek and smarter Midrange ASUS AI cameraphone
Hailed by DxOMark as one of the better midrange cameraphones with a score of 90 (on par with the Google Pixel), ASUS are coming back in a big way with an affordable midrange smartphone that not only takes great pictures but looks great and performs with AI or Artificial Intelligence functions as well. We see how well ASUS managed to do this in our review of the ASUS ZenFone 5 ZE620KL below.
Design - Return of the shiny Zen concentric circles
Originally, ASUS brought the ZenFone range to the masses to offer nicely designed devices that looked good, so it is great that the ASUS ZenFone 5 ZE620KL looks very good too with the Zen concentric circles pattern on the flat glass backside. Offering a large 6.2-inch fullview display in a smartphone body that originally used a 5.5-inch screen (yep, it's the same size as the ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom) the ZenFone 5 ZE620KL is compact, lightweight and comfortable to hold.
Granted, the front display now has a notch for the 8MP front camera and the speakers but it still looks good. Pressing the screen beside the notch reveals a drop down bar of all the notifications. Held together by a solid metal frame with rounded corners, the shiny flat back turns heads in a good way but like most shiny glass backed devices, it does attract smudges and fingerprints, so best slap on the bundled free case as soon as possible.
The ASUS ZenFone 5 ZE620KL is nearly all screen with a 6.2-inch display in a 5.5-inch body
The shiny Zen concentric circles are making a comeback on the flat glass back
A 3.5mm audio jack, USB Type-C port and the 5 magnet speakers
The power button and volume rocker on the side of the rounded metal frame
The SIM slot tray
The 12MP + 8MP dual rear camera hump only juts out a little on the ASUS ZenFone 5 ZE620KL
On the bottom there is a USB Type-C port, the bottom speaker grill and a 3.5mm audio jack. The phone also packs in NFC for future smart payments perhaps but this isn't readily apparent from the flat glass back.
The phone offers a hybrid SIM though, so you will have to make a choice if you want to add on a microSD with a SIM card or if you want dual SIM cards running at the same time. Both slots support 4G LTE regardless.
You'll have to choose between a microSD or SIM card for the hybrid dual SIM slot
Tech specs and features - Upper midrange tech specs with improved ZenUI
Here are the ASUS ZenFone 5 ZE620KL tech specs:
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 chipset with A.I. capabilities
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB storage + up to 2TB microSD
- Measures 153 x 75.6 x 7.85mm, weighs 155g
- 6.2-inch Fullview FHD+ display (19:9 aspect ratio, 2246 x 1080 pixel resolution)
- 12MP (Sony IMX363 sensor, 4K video recording, slow motion, super-resolution, time-lapse) + 8MP (120-degree wide angle) dual rear camera | 8MP front camera (f/2.0, 84-degree wide angle)
- Features Face and Fingerprint unlock, Hi-Res Audio, USB Type C port, A2DP / aptX
- Supports 4G LTE (for both SIM slots), 802.11ac WiFi, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0
- 3300 mAh battery
- ZenUI 5.0 based on Android 8.0 Oreo (upgradable to Android P in the future)
The ASUS ZenFone 5 ZE620KL uses the latest midrange Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor
Stand-out tech specs for the ZenFone 5 ZE620KL include the notched 6.2-inch fullview display and the 12MP dual pixel + 8MP wide angle dual rear cameras as the Sony IMX363 dual pixel sensor really lets you take better shots in nearly all situations. For this reason, ASUS have spared no expense at offering a whole range of camera features including 4K video recording, 240 fps slow motion video, 120 fps HD video and 18:9 aspect ratio FHD+ video recording (for the 8MP front camera too!).
Camera features include the usual Super Resolution, Beauty, Pro mode, Panorama and Slow motion from the PixelMaster set while for the front camera there is selfie panorama and beauty mode as well. There don’t seem to be any options for stabilization, but ASUS assures us that it is there and is thus always on. This time around it also packs in an AI scene detection feature which automatically adjusts camera settings by identifying 16 different objects, allowing for easier to get and more vibrant shots than before (although it would be nice to be able to turn it off if necessary).
Plenty of camera options for both photos and videos
The dual rear cameras still offers ASUS PixelMaster camera options
All the important Selfie camera functions are available too
While it shares the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 chipset as the ZenFone Max Pro M1, the ZenUI really brings out the most from the chipset by leveraging the AI capabilities. Although ASUS have practically renamed nearly all their features with AI (AI Power, AI Charging, AI Call) we did find that AI Boost was intelligent enough to launch and suggest you turn it on when we played games or ran benchmarks.
Thankfully, Game Genie is still there and has been updated with options for full HD recording, recording audio from the source and not the microphone and more. ZenUI has been suitably trimmed with no useless bloatware included. Audiowizard fans should be happy then as it is still there to bring the most out of the 2nd gen NXP amplifier and 5 magnet speakers. The face following ZeniMoji is available in the Selfie Master app, but we think it could need a bit more work as it lags a bit when talking.
The ASUS ZenUI has been streamlined
While the AI Boost does activate automatically you can turn it on or off as well
Game Genie returns with more options
In my honest opinion, the best new ZenUI update has to be the built-in photo editor which can resize images (95% quality but still, better than some dedicated apps) and video editor which can trim videos with no loss to the video quality. We’d really like it if ASUS took this a step further, so we’d get native video and image editing apps with every ZenFone. I personally still miss the ASUS Email app but if GMail is there it is rather redundant.
While the Face Unlock is certainly fast, it doesn't always work fast, sometimes it won’t work in dark locations too. The pick up mode which “intelligently” puts the phone on standby is somewhat too sensitive as well, turning on at the slightest movement (like in your pocket or bag). Most AI features do work but like this feature they perhaps might need a little bit more polishing or fine tuning.
Cool, a built-in image editor and video trimmer!
The ZeniMoji works but lags a bit
Performance - Surprisingly Superb
I have to say, that after ASUS announced all their AI features, I felt very skeptical but the overall performance is much better than I expected. Call and WiFi quality are good, battery life on just the 3300 mAh battery is about 1 day and a half and charging back to 100% takes just a bit longer than 2 hours, so maybe there is something to all these AI ASUS features.
Overall performance was better and smoother than the ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 (surprisingly!) with better gaming on PUBG Mobile and most of our benchmarks. In normal mode AnTuTu scored about 123884 but with their AI Boost on, this got bumped up to 138625 with a slight boost for gaming performance as well. Our normally demanding Asphalt 8: Airborne got played lag free but PUBG Mobile set the ZenFone 5 ZE620KL at medium settings initially.
Smooth lag-free performance in Asphalt 8: Airborne
Fairly good performance in PUBG Mobile
The AI Boost offered a higher performance in AnTuTu on the left compared to the normal performance on the right (which is still plenty good all the same)
Similar boosts in GeekBench 4 thanks to the AI Boost means that it is working
While the notch does offer more screen and can be deactivated, the fact that in landscape mode one side is flat and one side has rounded corners does make it seem a bit less symmetrical. For most people this isn’t an issue as this can only be seen in 18:9 aspect ratio media and most people don't watch that type of media anyway.
When watching full HD 1080p 16:9 media both sides are straight and the screen is nice, bright and detailed, making it just as good for movie watching as a display with no notch. Audio quality is nice and loud as well thanks to the built-in HiFi Audio amplifier and 5 magnet speaker but with the right A2DP / aptX headphones, audio quality is even better.
You can see that one side has rounded corners for this 18:9 aspect ratio video
For full HD 1080p content, both sides are straight
Camera quality is awesome with the AI Scene Detection making colours pop more and images becoming more vibrant. We know this might not sit well with those who want the more realistic shots but taking great looking shots on a ZenFone with both the front and rear cameras has never been easier.
The option to take wide-angle shots at any time is also nice, if a bit slow to switch sometimes, but when you do get the shot, image quality is just as top notch as the normal version thanks to the AI Scene Detection. Shots reliably and regularly turn out well in both low-light and daylight situations while motion shots are just as clear as always.
Auto, 8MP wide angle
Auto captures all the details even in motion (but it was so clear we had to black out the license plate too)
Auto, plenty of details here too, see the ants?
Depth of Field or Bokeh effect blurs out the back but keeps the front details clear
Video recording is smooth even on higher frame rates and resolutions but sometimes when there is some calculation required the cameras do lag somewhat (something we hope the ZenFone 5Z can solve when it comes) making the ZenFone 5 ZE620KL a more complete AI-powered cameraphone. It helps that the Pro mode lets you capture some really good shots too but for the most part the dual pixel rear cameras work well in nearly every condition.
You may need a tripod for the trickier or darker shots though but if you practice holding your breath and using your stomach ledge or a nearby structure, this isn't that much of an issue. Selfies look good too while the depth of field effect or portrait mode works good enough as well.
Auto, works well even in a darkened tunnel underneath sharks
Auto ~ great low-light performance captures all the colours
Auto ~ to get all the details you may need to hold your breath or use a stomach ledge
Auto ~ the front camera works just fine
Portrait mode works well too!
With Pro mode you can capture minute details like a spider web in daylight
Haha! Caught you! ~ using the Pro mode
Conclusion - A smarter and much improved AI-driven ZenFone midranger
So, did ASUS manage to pull off an AI-driven cameraphone for the midrange? With a super affordable price of RM1299 for the ASUS ZenFone 5 ZE620KL the short answer is a resounding YES! Thanks to the better rounded video features and new AI Scene Detection the ZenFone 5 ZE620KL delivers a more complete AI-driven cameraphone experience but again it is something that could still do with a bit more fine tuning (something ASUS could probably do with coming updates).
The closest midranger with similar camera-centric AI-driven features is the RM1599 Honor 10 but the ZenFone 5 ZE620KL is difficult to beat in the same below RM1.3K price range. The free casing helps to add a bit more value to the phone and keeps those smudges and fingerprints away from the shiny glass back but the ZenFone 5 ZE620KL is an excellent AI-driven midrange cameraphone for Malaysia’s masses especially if you’re looking to take photos as well as do video recording.
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