ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser Review: Affordable, Unlocked, Great Camera
ZenFone 2 Laser Hardware, Software Camera
The ZenFone 2 Laser incorporates a curved back cover, which tapers towards the edges and makes the phone appear slimmer. In fact, the edges are as thin as 3.9mm. The back cover has a brushed aluminum look for a more premium appearance, and the finish did a good job at avoiding fingerprints.
There is a small bezel surrounding the 5.5-inch 1080p display. ASUS opted to put the standard Android control buttons (Back, Home, Recent Apps) below the display. This makes the phone a bit taller than some, but also lets you use the full display while still having controls easily accessible. The phone measures 6 x 3.04 x 0.43 inches and weighs approximately 6 ounces.
We felt the color saturation and brightness of the ZenFone 2 Laser’s display was on-par with other smartphones equipped with 1080p displays. When viewing the Home screens, you’ll see four customizable icons (Phone, Messages, Browser, and Camera) as well as an icon for the Apps menu. Above the display, you’ll find an ASUS logo and speaker. The front-facing 5-megapixel camera is located to the right of the logo.
Because ASUS used a tapered and curved design for the ZenFone 2 Laser, there isn’t a lot of room for buttons or ports on either edge of the phone. As a result, both are completely clean. The top edge of the phone contains a microphone, a slightly raised power button, and a 3.5mm headset jack. At the base of the phone, you’ll find a microUSB port. On the back are the rear-facing camera with LED flash, a recessed volume rocker, ASUS logo, ZenFone logo, and a speaker grill. We should also mention that the ZenFone 2 Laser’s speaker sounds about average for a smartphone.
In addition to some of the features you’ll notice when you pick up the phone, ASUS has incorporated some additional things that might be overlooked at first glance, such as dual active SIM capabilities, with the ability to select which SIM is used for LTE data connectivity. With the dual active SIM functionality, users can consolidate two phone lines into a single device which could be extremely useful for frequent travellers.
Both of the phone’s SIM card slots as well as the micro SDXC expansion slot are located above the battery. The rear cover of the phone was slightly difficult to remove, but we see that as a good thing. In fact, the cover felt more durable than some we’ve seen recently. Once removed, you’ll notice the stacked SIM/microSDXC expansion slots directly above the battery. A second SIM slot is located to the right of the volume rocker.
ASUS layered its own ASUS ZenUI 2.0 on top of Android 5.0. While we didn’t feel like we were gaining a lot from this UI, it didn’t interfere with most of our regular activities on the phone, so we don’t have a lot of complaints about it. ASUS announced plans in November to offer an update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow for the ZenFone 2 Laser but that update has not yet been released.
You’ll find the typical Google apps on the ZenFone 2 Laser including Chrome, Drive, Gmail, Maps, Play Music, Play Movies & TV, YouTube, Photos, and Hangouts. ASUS has also included its own ASUS Mobile Manager and ASUS Support along with an AudioWizard, Clean Master, Dr. Safety, File Manager, FM Radio, Laser Ruler, MiniMovie, Quick Memo, Themes, ZenCircle, ZenTalk, and others on the phone. There are quite a few apps that come pre-installed, and while you can disable them, you are not able to completely uninstall them without installing a custom ROM. Because this is an unlocked phone, you won’t find any of the standard carrier present, however.
The ZenFone 2 Laser has a 13-megapxiel rear camera with a wide-angle F/2.0 aperture lens composed of 5-elements. One of the new features on the ZenFone 2 Laser -- as its name implies -- is laser auto-focus. For low-light shooting, ASUS uses a dual LED real tone flash. During our time with the camera, it was very quick to focus by tapping on a selected area. A long press of the focus will lock a focus area.
ASUS included plenty of camera controls and shooting modes on the ZenFone 2 Laser. Shooting modes include Auto, Manual, HDR, Beautification, Super Resolution. Low Light (3M), Night, Depth of Field, Effect, Selfie, GIF Animation, Panorama, Miniature, Time Rewind, Smart Remove, All Smiles, Slow Motion, and Time Lapse. Some of these modes such as Effect have a sub-menu that lets you select additional options.
ASUS also incorporated a number of extra features and technologies such as PixelMaster to improve the quality of photos. PixelMaster technology automatically adjusts the contrast of an image and improves the detail in darker areas of a photo. The ZenFone 2 Laser's Super Resolution mode uses Multiframe Fusion technology to create an image that’s up to 4x sharper than a single original image. It does this by capturing and combining four 13MP photos to create a single image. For selfies, ASUS incorporated a panoramic selfie mode that can capture up to 140 degrees by stitching multiple shots together. The rear-facing flash is actually a dual-LED Real Tone flash that combines yellow and white light to give better color accuracy.
In manual mode, you’ll have the ability to control the camera’s white balance, exposure, ISO, shutter speed, and focus range (distance to macro). You can also control the saturation, contrast, sharpness, noise reduction, backlight, detail enhancement, resolution, image quality settings, and much more from the Camera Settings menu. The number of options ASUS includes with the ZenFone 2 Laser’s camera is really quite impressive. We wish more phones today would offer controls such as ASUS has done here with the ZenFone 2 Laser.
Overall, we were very pleased with the images captured using the ZenFone 2 Laser. Indoor and outdoor shots were crisp and clear with good brightness, saturation, and contrast. After using this camera for a time, its obvious ASUS put a lot of time and focus into optimizing its performance and the user experience. ASUS’ new laser-autofocus feature does a good job at reducing blur and improving image stabilization by using a laser beam to measure distance and focus more quickly.