Asus Zenfone 4 in-depth review - Intel power for £99

 Asus Zenfone 4 Review - Intel power for £99
3.5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,8/22/2014 11:39:39 AM

7

out of 10

Performance

8

out of 5

Look and feel

8

out of 5

Ease of use

6

out of 5

Features

8

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Good build quality | Powerful Intel processor | Attractive software

Cons:

Average rear camera | No front camera | Poor viewing angles

Announced earlier in the year but only just going on sale in the UK now, the Zenphone is a three-pronged Android smartphone series from Asus, comprising models with screen sizes of four, five and six inches. Here we look at the entry-level Zenfone 4, which costs £99.

Asus Zenfone 4: Look and Feel

All three models of the Zenfone range share a similar design language. The 4 has a matt, slightly rubberised back and sides, with glass on the front and a dark metallic bezel below it. there’s a microUSB port on the left, a headphone jack up top, and three chrome buttons for power and volume on the right.


By all accounts this is a fairly generic looking smartphone, with little in the way of design flare to make it stand out in a crowded marketplace. To Asus’ credit, the Zenfone 4 feels sturdy and well made, and while it isn’t particularly thin or light, it feels good in the hand and makes for a refreshing change compared to the enormous phones entering the market. Although our black review sample is rather nondescript, Asus also sells the 4 in white, yellow, red and blue as well.

Asus Zenfone 4: Screen

The 4-inch screen has a resolution of 800 x 480 producing a pixel density of 233 per inch. This isn’t much compared to most smartphones, but for just shy of £100 this is perfectly acceptable. Pictures and apps icons look sharp, and only the smallest text starts to suffered from jagged edges created by the lack of pixels. That being said, without scrutinising the screen too closely you’ll hardly ever spot the Zenfone 4’s lack of pixels.

Colours are strong but accurate, while the backlight is bright enough for most circumstances, although falls a little short when used outside. To be fair, most smartphones struggle with bright natural light and the Zenfone puts up a good fight considering its price.


Where the Zenfone 4 struggles is when viewed slightly off centre. Tilt the phone in any direction - down, imparticular - and the display becomes negative. A tilt up washes out the colours and makes everything pale. It’s a trait suffered by many cheap phones, but is something this Asus struggled with more than most.

Asus Zenfone 4: Software and Performance

The entire Zenfone range (apart from a 4G version of the 5) is powered by Intel Atom processors, a rarity considering almost all other handsets run Snapdragon processors by Intel.

Inside the 4 is a 1.2GHz quad-core Atom chip with 2GB of RAM. Both of these stats sound quite tasty for an entry level, sub-£100 phone and I’m pleased to say the Zenfone packs the performance to back them up.

Apps open quickly and even intensive games like Real Racing 3 play smoothly, albeit with graphics and a sense of detail not quite on par with larger, higher resolution and more powerful handsets. But the point is everything works, and works well.


The Zenfone 4 runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat with Asus’ own user interface modifications. This is the same system as we saw recently on the Asus FonePad 7 LTE and we think it looks really smart. Asus’ most obvious visual changes include the pull-down notifications and settings panel, as well as a few custom widgets, icons and Asus apps.

Storage is just 8GB as standard, but peel away the rear cover and you’ll find a microSD card slot to easily increase this.

Battery life is good, thanks to the frugal Intel chip and non-HD screen. We reckon you’d get two full days of light use out of the Zenfone 4, with this falling to a comfortable full day and night of average to high use.

Asus Zenfone 4: Camera

The Zenfone 4 has a 5-megapixel rear camera, but without a flash of any description it struggles to produce great photos without plenty of natural light. Indoor shots are okay, but darker areas suffer from excess noise, causing them to look grainy. The camera app is also quite slow, taking a few second to “optimise” each photo after it is taken. There is no front-facing camera - sorry, selfie fans.


Asus Zenfone 4: Verdict

A good entry-level phone with the newest Android software, a smart user interface by Asus over the top, high build quality and good performance. The Zenfone 4 is only let down by poor viewing angles, an average rear camera and the lack of a front one. Otherwise, for just shy of £100, this is a good value phone for those who want something that is both pocket- and wallet-friendly.