No One Saw it Coming !
It was like a surprise when Asus suddenly released this upgraded version of the popular Zenfone 2 Laser smartphone. No one really did expect this one coming, as most of us were already focused on what Asus had in store for its consumers with the upcoming Zenfone 3 lineup. Thankfully I was sent a review unit, thanks to Asus Philippines, for me to try it out and share to you guys what my thoughts are about this enhanced Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5 S.
First off, what are exactly upgraded on this version of Zenfone Laser 5.5 S from the original variant?
Those are the RAM (from 2GB now 3GB) , Processor (from quad-core Snapdragon 410 now an octa-core Snapdragon 615), and Internal Storage (from 16GB now 32GB). And then the rest are basically the same. Those are only three specs you may say, but hey those are key specs of a smartphone and their power are really felt on this Zenfone Laser 5.5S version.
Asus Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5 S (ZE550KL) specs:
- 5.5" HD IPS Display
- Gorilla Glass 4, 267ppi
- 1280 x 720 resolution
- 1.5GHz Octa-core Snapdragon 615 Processor
- Adreno 405
- 3GB RAM
- 32GB internal storage
- Supports microSD card up to 128GB
- 13MP PixelMaster Rear Camera with Laser Autofocus
- 5MP Pixelmaster front camera with wide angle lens
- Android 5.0 Lollipop OS with ZEN UI
- WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS
- 152.5 x 77.2 x 10.8 mm
- 170 g
Design and Looks
From the outside, nothing has changed. The looks and even the dimensions are very much the same of those last year's Zenfone 2 Laser and other Zenfone smartphones. On the back is still the same nice curved panel with brushed metallic finish, though it's actually plastic, that does not make the device look and feel less premium. Its arc design on the back, in addition to the brushed design and lightness of the device, makes the Asus Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5 S very easy to hold and not easily slept off of one's hand. And because of the texture, fingerprints and smudges are not going to be seen anywhere that if they even get to stay there, scratches are hard to spot either.
The back panel of the Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5S is a quite busy one as it houses a few functionalities that we use most of the time with our smartphones. As you can see in the image above, there is the main camera dominating the scene. This is a 13MP shooter with Asus' own PixelMaster technology that really makes the quality of photos far greater than other smartphones' within the same category range. And as the device's name suggests, that rear camera is assisted by the Laser Autofocus feature which is sitting next to the camera on the right and a Dual-Tone LED flash on the left. Right below the camera is the metallic-looking Volume Rocker sporting Asus' signature concentric circles. Then of course there is the Asus logo.
The action does not stop there, right at the bottom part is where you can find the ZenFone branding and the speaker grills which is situated very nicely. And not far from there is the microUSB port. Does it support USB OTG functionality? The answer is a big YES! However, the packaging does not come with a USB OTG connector unlike the Zenfone Max. This feature is a lot of help to me as I really do transfer different files from one phone to another and one USB storage to the next. USB OTG support is very convenient especially when I do not feel like using my laptop or computer for moving files and documents.
Back on the front panel, is also a very familiar-looking face. Right at the chin part, the Back, Home and Multitask unlit buttons are placed. Move a little lower them, is also the same concentric texture that adds more aesthetics to the phone. The Asus Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5 S, as you may have already guessed sports a huge 5.5-inch HD IPS display, which I think is a pretty standard screen size now for a smartphone. Up top is again the Asus brand logo together with the speaker for calling and the 5MP secondary camera also powered by PixelMaster technology.
What about the Power/Lock button and the 3.5mm jackport? See image below.
Now in case you are also asking, yes the box also comes with the pair of beautiful audio quality-producing ZenEar earphones.
Performance, Interface and Internals
While design and physical materials of a smartphone are important to many users, the innards and performance is yet another story that a lot of consumers look forward to. I have been using this Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5S for weeks now and I can definitely say that this upgraded version is performs better than what I actualy expected, thanks to the additional RAM and a much powerful octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor.
Right out of the box, the Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5S is running on Android 5.0 Lollipop. However, due to Asus' great after-sales support and love for its supporters and users they have just rolled out the much-anticipated Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow update. And as of this writing, my unit has already been updated to this latest generation of Android OS resulting to much more optimized mobile OS.
The navigation experience on this device is pretty fast and snappy, especially when switching from one app to another. Even when I have multiple apps running in the background, the phone continues to work as if it was just newly booted. Basically, the handset has improved a lot in terms of operations. The colors on the display is pretty impressive too, very clear even though the device only has HD display. But sometimes, pixels a bit noticeable depending on the quality of the image and video you are looking at but for the most part, this is not going to bother you and affect your viewing experience. Asus even included its own app called Splendid that lets you adjust the color temperature of the display. I always choose the Bluelight Filter to protect my eyes and avoid eye strain even when using the phone for longer periods of time, especially for reading text content.
My only complaint so far is the brightness of the display is not that bright compared to other Zenfone devices, even when the level bar is set to full. I can s till see what's on the display but it's just not as bright as the original Zenfone 2 and Zenfone Max that I also have. Zenfone Max is the brightest actually, I definitely use the phone even in broad daylight witout affecting my viewing experience.
There are also a ton of pre-installed apps in the phone when you first turn it on, most likely you are not going to use so many of them, that might be annoying as they all consume space and RAM memory when left activated even if not in use. The good thing though is we can either uninstall or deactivate them. That's what I do, I remove every app I can remove that I think I won't ever use and I deactivate and hide those other apps that cannot be uninstalled, and I am very happy that way.
I am not into mobile games so much, but I did try playing the Asphalt 8: Airborne on this Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5 S. I was quite surprised that, in addition to the game itselft that played smoothly even after playing it multiple times, the back panel did not really get so hot. Of course the device gets a little warn due to this activity, but you will only notice it when you intentionally try feel it on your hand. I know heating up or getting a device hotter when running power-hungry and demanding applications is an issue with many phones in this mid-range category especially with a Snapdragon processor. But with the Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5S, it's not really going to bother you at all.
As you can see, I finished the race above only at 2nd place, not really a good one at it. But the smartphone is capable of delivering the gaming experience that most of us want regardless how simple or complicated the game is and how much power it needs from our device. Apart from playing the car racing game, I also play Temple Run, Alto's Adventure, and Deemo whenever I have free time to do so. And now that Pokemon Go is officially out (though not in the Philippines yet) and a lot of Pinoy users are finding it so fun and interactive to play, I will most likely to download this game on this device and play it when it is formally released in the Philippine market. I heard it's coming very soon.
Would you like me to try some other games on this device as well? Please use the comment section below and recommend your games, I will create a video gameplay and upload it on my YouTube channel so we can see which games work perfectly with the Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5S and which ones are to avoid. : )
Front and Back Cameras
Below is a quick sample video I took with the phone using the back camera.
I am actually happy with the video and audio quality of the videos produced by this Asus smartphone. I now use it more frequest than my Zenfone Max when recording videos. And it becomes even more satisfying when I received the Marshmallow update. I am not saying it's the perfect mobile device you can get for photo and video capturing, but for its price tag of less than Php9K, it's definitely the one to consider.
For video recording, you can capture clips with up to Full HD (1920 x 1080) quality. You can also lower the video resolution to HD (1280 x 720) or even lower to 640 x 480. Video stabilization is available but only with HD resolution which is not really bad.
As mentioned above, the Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5S is equipped with 13MP rear camera and a 5MP front-facing shooter. These two are powered by PixelMaster tech which enables the lenses to capture more light (up to 400%) producing high quality and bright images even if captured in very low-light scenes. In addition to that, this handset's camera department also comes with a ton of camera-related and enhancing modes and features catering to diffferent needs when it comes to immortalizing moments. Auto and Manual modes are still present in this device, so in case you are fond of using those two popular camera modes, you are covered with this Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5S.
This device is equipped with a Laser Autofocus functionality on the back which Asus claims can focus on a subject as fast as 0.03 seconds, and while I have no way of measuring how fast the autofocus feature actually is, I can assure you that the rear camera can really focus so fast on an object most especially in very well-lighted conditions.
One more good thing I noticed on this phone is the addition of video/image switch key on the front camera mode. Before, when you activate the front camera, the mode is defaulted to "Beautification" and there was no Video Record button available upfront like the one found when the Rear Camera is activated, and in order for you to record videos using the front camera, you need to set first the mode to "Auto". But now, even if you are still in the Beautification in the front camera, you can switch to video recording mode pretty easily by just toggling between the two using a newly activated switch button on the screen. See image below.
What about the quality of photos? From the original Zenfone 2, Asus' new series of smartphones are known to producing great quality of photos whether they are taken in daylight or at night. And the Asus Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5S is no exception to that. The Zenfone devices just produce the quality of images that you will really be proud to share on social media sites with your friends like on Facebook and Instagram. See a few photos below I took using this device.
Sound and Memory
Storage is one of the upgrades this handset has received earning the additional "S" in its official name. Now offering 32GB from the initial 16GB right out of the box. Out of this 32GB, 24GB is available to users. That's about 8GB of space reserved for the system and for fuuture software updates. That 24GB is already big enough for average users, and in any case they will need more, users can add more space via microSD card up to 128GB. For the RAM, most of the time I have available 1GB of random access memory which is always ready to be used anytime. More free RAM you have means lesser for your device to experience slowness or lags when being used heavily.
|LEFT: 1.9GB free RAM at boot. RIGHT: 24GB free storage upfront|
Battery and Charging
Keeping the lights on on the Asus Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5S is a massive 3,000mAh battery. With my usage pattern, on an average it lasts me the whole day. I work during regular office hours, and all this time I always have the cellular data turned on for social media access as well as some light playing of games on the phone. For me to fully enjoy this device again the next day, I make sure that I charge it the night before. Unfortunately, it does not have its own fast charge tech and that makes recharging a little longer, about 3 hours from zero percent. However, recharging it every night is not bothering me as the phone is capable of delivering the performance I want. And in the event I run out of battery in the middle of the day, I have my Zenfone Max with me as well that serves as a powerbank (one of its features).
I am not sure if it's still being asked up until today, but the battery pack on this handset is removable. See image below. And since that we are already here, let me also remind you that this phone holds two SIM slots and a microSD card slot. The SIM 2 slot is accessible anytime, while the SIM 1 will require you to remove the battery first before you can remove or replace the SIM.
The Asus Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5 S is officially priced at just Php8,995. For this price tag, it is already a steal and I think you won't regret buying this phone simply because of how it is made and what kind of performance you will get out of it. It is not a perfect device and has some let downs just like any other phones out there but it is definitely one of the best out in the wild too for its category and price sticker. From consuming digital content, mobile photography to audio listening. You are covered. It's thin ang light which means you can binge watch your favorite TV series or a newly discovered one, even your all-time movie flicks without the need to worry about numbing your hands and arms.
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