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Asus ZenFone 2 Laser ZE500KL Smartphone Review

Nino Ricchizzi, Stefanie Voigt (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 01/13/2016

Curvy, not skinny. A Snapdragon 410 SoC processor and 2 GB of working memory are under the hood of the ZenFone 2 Laser (ZE500KL), hidden beneath a 5-inch HD panel. It runs with Android 5.0. Overall, we can expect a solid total package.

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For the original German review, see here.

The ZenFone 2 Laser (ZE500KL) appears in an elegant design, and aims to place itself in the upper mid-range. Equipped with a 5-inch screen and Corning Gorilla Glass 4, it attempts to discourage the competition with its robustness. It comes with a Snapdragon 410 SoC processor, 2 GB of working memory, a 16 GB flash memory, dual-SIM support, and Lollipop (Android 5.0) operating system. This total bundle is currently available for 230 Euros (~$250) in seven different colors.

We consult worthy rivals for validating the qualities of our review sample. Motorola's Moto G steps in with a similar configuration for 250 Euros (~$272). Samsung's Galaxy J5 is in the same price range as our smartphone. We add the stronger and also 40 Euros (~$44) more expensive OnePlus' X based on a Snapdragon 801 for testing the processor's power.

Asus Zenfone 2 ZE500KL (Zenfone Series)
Graphics adapter
Memory
2048 MB 
, LPDDR3
Display
5 inch 16:9, 1280 x 720 pixel, capacitive, IPS, Corning Gorilla Glass, glossy: yes
Storage
16 GB eMMC Flash, 16 GB 
, 10.13 GB free
Connections
1 USB 2.0, Audio Connections: combo audio, Card Reader: micro-SD, Sensors: accelerator, G-sensor, E-compass, proximity, ambient light sensor, Hall sensor
Networking
802.11 b/g/n (b/g/n), Bluetooth 4, WCDMA/TD-SCDMA/TDD-LTE/FDD-LTE, 3G WCDMA: 850MHz(5)/900MHz(8)/1900MHz(2) /2100MHz(1), 4G FDD LTE: 2100MHz(1)/1900MHz(2)/1800MHz(3)/850MHz(5)/2600MHz(7)/900MHz(8)/800MHz(20), LTE, GPS
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 10.5 x 144 x 71.5 ( = 0.41 x 5.67 x 2.81 in)
Battery
2070 mAh Lithium-Ion, removeable
Operating System
Android 5.1 Lollipop
Camera
Primary Camera: 13 MPix Auto Focus, Wide View, LED Flash
Secondary Camera: 5 MPix Auto Focus
Additional features
Speakers: mono speaker, Keyboard: virtual, 24 Months Warranty
Weight
140 g ( = 4.94 oz / 0.31 pounds) ( = 0 oz / 0 pounds)
Price
230 Euro
Note: The manufacturer may use components from different suppliers including display panels, drives or memory sticks with similar specifications.

 

Case

Asus presents the ZenFone 2 Laser as highly robust and intricately processed. Thanks to the use of Corning Gorilla Glass 4, the 5-inch display should withstand drops from one meter (3.3 ft). The contrast between the glossy front and the matte, rubber-coated back looks very elegant. However, we have to deduct points here: The back cover's surface is soon covered with minor signs of use. Therefore, not only the device no longer looks as good, it also looks much older than it actually is after just a few days.

Moreover, we doubt the generously advertised robustness of the smartphone due to the plastic build. Furthermore, during closer inspection, we noticed slight irregularities in the transition of the front and back parts.

Unlike the rivals' slim build, Asus now relies on a curved casing with rounded corners. This is to provide some grip, making it safe to hold the handset. However, we find it rather too slippery due to the back's sleek surface.

There are no buttons on the sides apart from the power button on the upper edge. Thus, Asus could achieve a slim 3.5 millimeters (~0.14 in) on the sides as well as a flyweight of 140 grams (~5 oz). Volume control button is situated on the back and the 13 MP camera is situated directly beside it. A second 5 MP camera is installed on the front.

The removable back cover is an important feature that allows battery replacement. Both SIM card slots and the micro-SD card slot can be accessed after removing the battery. The storage can be expanded to 128 GB.

Connectivity

Upper edge: Power button, audio jack
Upper edge: Power button, audio jack
Lower edge: USB 2.0 port
Lower edge: USB 2.0 port

The limited interface diversity is not surprising: a USB 2.0 port on the lower edge and an audio jack on the upper edge. Although many smartphones support USB OTG for connecting a mouse or keyboard, our review sample only identified storage devices. App2SD is supported, making it possible to move apps to the memory card. The ZenFone also features two SIM card slots for dual-SIM operation.

Software

Asus' ZenFone 2 Laser is equipped with Android 5.0 (Lollipop). In addition to the software, we also find some third-party software on the review sample. However, they can be uninstalled if not needed.

It has to be mentioned that this is not the latest Android version on the market. We will have to wait and see if Asus will be providing an update here.

GPS: indoors
GPS: indoors
GPS: outdoors
GPS: outdoors

Communication & GPS 

More than one communication option is installed. Firstly, via a Wi-Fi connection that supports the 802.11 b/g/n standard. Devices can also communicate via a Bluetooth 4.0 connection. However, probably the most important medium is mobile data transmission. Up to LTE C4, which can theoretically achieve download rates of 150 Mbps (up: 50 Mbps) is used.

Localization is possible via the installed GPS module. Multiple standards are available for this (GPS, GLONASS, AGPS, and BDS). It takes some time for connecting indoors, but a strong and stable reception quality is achieved within a few seconds outdoors.

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Telephone & Call Quality

The test call reminds us of an old analog connection. It sounds as if the person is far away. However, the contact hears a good voice quality, and the installed speaker renders speech clearly.

Cameras & Multimedia

A 5 MP camera for selfies and snapshots is installed on the front. It fulfills its purpose. The rear-facing 13 MP camera definitely ensures better quality. It produces color-rich photos alongside the auto-focus and LED flash. A relatively good photo quality can be seen based on our example pictures. In sufficiently bright surroundings, the familiar color noise occurs late.

Image Comparison

Choose a scene and navigate within the first image. One click changes the position on touchscreens. One click on the zoomed-in image opens the original in a new window. The first image shows the scaled photograph of the test device.

Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3
click to load images

Accessories

In addition to the instructions, a charging cable and headset are included. The manufacturer also offers some interesting items on its page: A dual-LED flash (LolliFlash) for improving the picture quality are presented in different colors. Beyond that, a flip cover and in-ear headsets can also be purchased.

Warranty

A 24-month warranty with pick-up and return service from date of purchase is included. Unfortunately, no further information about warranty or other optional upgrades are found on the manufacturer's page.

Input Devices & Handling

Asus uses its own virtual keyboard. The user can create a dictionary so that personal abbreviations are also displayed in word suggestions, making it easier to type. Impressive: Handwriting is also detected. The thickness can be adjusted, but this function can only be used in special apps (SuperNote). The keys are large in both landscape and portrait mode. The available space is used perfectly. We could type quickly and smoothly.

Landscape mode
Landscape mode
Portrait mode
Portrait mode

Display

The stable 5-inch HD panel has a resolution of 1280x720 pixels. This equates to a pixel density of 294 PPI. Seen purely subjectively, the brightness looks rather dimmed. However, it reaches a very good rate of 460 cd/m² in the tests. It will be seen whether this dimming is caused by a grayish tint further below. 

By comparison: Samsung's Galaxy J5 with the same pixel density cannot outshine our handset with its brightness of 353 cd/m². It looks even worse for the Full HD panel in OnePlus' X.

455
cd/m²
474
cd/m²
450
cd/m²
460
cd/m²
467
cd/m²
454
cd/m²
462
cd/m²
465
cd/m²
455
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 474 cd/m² Average: 460.2 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 95 %
Center on Battery: 467 cd/m²
Contrast: 1557:1 (Black: 0.3 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 3.28 | 0.4-29.43 Ø6.2
ΔE Greyscale 1.89 | 0.64-98 Ø6.5
Gamma: 2.21
Asus Zenfone 2 ZE500KL
Adreno 306, 410 APQ8016, 16 GB eMMC Flash
OnePlus X
Adreno 330, 801 MSM8974AA, 16 GB eMMC Flash
Motorola Moto G 3. Gen 2015 XT1541
Adreno 306, 410 MSM8916, 8 GB eMMC Flash
Samsung Galaxy J5
Adreno 306, 410 MSM8916, 8 GB eMMC Flash
HTC Desire 626G dual sim
Mali-450 MP4, MT6592, 8 GB eMMC Flash
Screen
-99%
-36%
-44%
-72%
Brightness middle
467
312
-33%
418
-10%
349
-25%
497
6%
Brightness
460
314
-32%
407
-12%
353
-23%
483
5%
Brightness Distribution
95
91
-4%
95
0%
93
-2%
90
-5%
Black Level *
0.3
0.49
-63%
0.67
-123%
Contrast
1557
853
-45%
742
-52%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
3.28
6.28
-91%
3.92
-20%
5.22
-59%
6.88
-110%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
1.89
8.24
-336%
3.81
-102%
3.96
-110%
6.11
-223%
Gamma
2.21 100%
2.12 104%
2.27 97%
2.08 106%
1.78 124%
CCT
6734 97%
8145 80%
7361 88%
7308 89%
6820 95%
Color Space (Percent of sRGB)
86.5458

* ... smaller is better

Subjectively, black looks relatively saturated as long as the brightness is not at maximum. The black level of 0.3 cd/m² also confirms this, and can be considered quite good. The resulting contrast not only ensures good rates in the specification sheet, it also produces nice and strong images on the screen. Motorola's handset cannot keep up with its black level of 0.49 cd/m² in this case, either.

We examine the deviations in colors and grayscale via the CalMAN analysis. A good rate of 1.89 is ascertained in the grayscale levels in factory state. 

The colors present 3.28, which place our review sample slightly above the average. The rivals look rather bad against that. Neither OnePlus' X (6.28) nor Samsung's Galaxy J5 (5.22) can compete with our review sample.

We measured a color temperature of 6734 K in our ZenFone. This rate only deviates slightly from the ideal (6500 K).

CalMAN Saturation Sweeps
CalMAN Saturation Sweeps
CalMAN Grayscale
CalMAN Grayscale
CalMAN ColorSpace
CalMAN ColorSpace
CalMAN ColorChecker
CalMAN ColorChecker

Of course, outdoor use is of great significance for a mobile device. The ZenFone does not let us down in this regard. While the glossy screen could get annoying, the screen's brightness compensates some shortcomings.

In daylight on a cloudy day
In daylight on a cloudy day
Outdoors on an overcast winter day
Outdoors on an overcast winter day

The colors do not distort no matter from what direction we look at the ZenFone.

Viewing angle stability
Viewing angle stability

Performance

Clock behavior in the benchmark
Clock behavior in the benchmark

The ZenFone is equipped with a Snapdragon 410 SoC processor that clocks at 1.2 GHz and features four cores. In combination with the Qualcomm Adreno 306 GPU, it is situated in the mid-performance category. A 2 GB LPDDR3 memory supports that. A glance at the rivals shows that such a large memory is not a matter of course. Motorola's only has half the working memory.

Now for a look at the performance outcomes in the benchmarks: Overall, the installed SoC is on the expected level, and is almost on par with the equally built rivals. A glance at the clock rates in 3DMark reveals that the CPU clock rate never remains stable over ann extended period of time.

Geekbench 3
32 Bit Multi-Core Score (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 2 ZE500KL
1492 Points ∼5%
OnePlus X
2570 Points ∼8% +72%
Motorola Moto G 3. Gen 2015 XT1541
1563 Points ∼5% +5%
HTC Desire 626G dual sim
2395 Points ∼8% +61%
ZTE Blade V6
1807 Points ∼6% +21%
32 Bit Single-Core Score (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 2 ZE500KL
504 Points ∼11%
OnePlus X
913 Points ∼19% +81%
Motorola Moto G 3. Gen 2015 XT1541
528 Points ∼11% +5%
HTC Desire 626G dual sim
435 Points ∼9% -14%
ZTE Blade V6
626 Points ∼13% +24%
3DMark - 2560x1440 Sling Shot OpenGL ES 3.0 (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 2 ZE500KL
52 Points ∼1%
OnePlus X
710 Points ∼11% +1265%
Samsung Galaxy J5
53 Points ∼1% +2%
Motorola Moto G 3. Gen 2015 XT1541
49 Points ∼1% -6%
Allview E4
286 Points ∼4% +450%
GFXBench 3.0
off screen Manhattan Offscreen OGL (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 2 ZE500KL
1.8 fps ∼0%
OnePlus X
8.6 fps ∼0% +378%
Samsung Galaxy J5
1.8 fps ∼0% 0%
Motorola Moto G 3. Gen 2015 XT1541
1.7 fps ∼0% -6%
Allview E4
4.2 fps ∼0% +133%
ZTE Blade V6
2.8 fps ∼0% +56%
on screen Manhattan Onscreen OGL (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 2 ZE500KL
3.8 fps ∼0%
OnePlus X
10 fps ∼0% +163%
Samsung Galaxy J5
3.8 fps ∼0% 0%
Motorola Moto G 3. Gen 2015 XT1541
3.7 fps ∼0% -3%
Allview E4
8.6 fps ∼0% +126%
ZTE Blade V6
5.8 fps ∼0% +53%
Smartbench 2012
Gaming Index (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 2 ZE500KL
3179 points ∼69%
OnePlus X
4069 points ∼88% +28%
Samsung Galaxy J5
3197 points ∼70% +1%
Motorola Moto G 3. Gen 2015 XT1541
3234 points ∼70% +2%
Allview E4
4225 points ∼92% +33%
HTC Desire 626G dual sim
3490 points ∼76% +10%
ZTE Blade V6
3985 points ∼87% +25%
Productivity Index (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 2 ZE500KL
4675 points ∼25%
OnePlus X
9286 points ∼49% +99%
Samsung Galaxy J5
4944 points ∼26% +6%
Motorola Moto G 3. Gen 2015 XT1541
4962 points ∼26% +6%
Allview E4
4376 points ∼23% -6%
HTC Desire 626G dual sim
4009 points ∼21% -14%
ZTE Blade V6
4797 points ∼25% +3%

Legend

 
Asus Zenfone 2 ZE500KL Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 APQ8016, Qualcomm Adreno 306, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
OnePlus X Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 MSM8974AA, Qualcomm Adreno 330, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
Samsung Galaxy J5 Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 MSM8916, Qualcomm Adreno 306, 8 GB eMMC Flash
 
Motorola Moto G 3. Gen 2015 XT1541 Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 MSM8916, Qualcomm Adreno 306, 8 GB eMMC Flash
 
Allview E4 Mediatek MT6753, ARM Mali-T720 MP4, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
HTC Desire 626G dual sim Mediatek MT6592, ARM Mali-450 MP4, 8 GB eMMC Flash
 
ZTE Blade V6 Mediatek MT6735, ARM Mali-T720 MP2, 16 GB eMMC Flash

Asus' ZenFone 2 Laser also proves competitive in the browser benchmarks. The results correspond with the subjective browsing speed. Occasional stutters cannot be avoided and only occur when opening more intricate pages.

Sunspider - 1.0 Total Score (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 2 ZE500KL
Adreno 306, 410 APQ8016, 16 GB eMMC Flash
1414.4 ms * ∼16%
Samsung Galaxy J5
Adreno 306, 410 MSM8916, 8 GB eMMC Flash
1021.9 ms * ∼11% +28%
Motorola Moto G 3. Gen 2015 XT1541
Adreno 306, 410 MSM8916, 8 GB eMMC Flash
1573.1 ms * ∼17% -11%
Allview E4
Mali-T720 MP4, MT6753, 16 GB eMMC Flash
1605.6 ms * ∼18% -14%
OnePlus X
Adreno 330, 801 MSM8974AA, 16 GB eMMC Flash
1509.1 ms * ∼17% -7%
Octane V2 - Total Score (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 2 ZE500KL
Adreno 306, 410 APQ8016, 16 GB eMMC Flash
3012 Points ∼6%
Samsung Galaxy J5
Adreno 306, 410 MSM8916, 8 GB eMMC Flash
3038 Points ∼6% +1%
Motorola Moto G 3. Gen 2015 XT1541
Adreno 306, 410 MSM8916, 8 GB eMMC Flash
3296 Points ∼7% +9%
Allview E4
Mali-T720 MP4, MT6753, 16 GB eMMC Flash
3177 Points ∼6% +5%
OnePlus X
Adreno 330, 801 MSM8974AA, 16 GB eMMC Flash
4810 Points ∼10% +60%
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 - Total Score (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 2 ZE500KL
Adreno 306, 410 APQ8016, 16 GB eMMC Flash
14680 ms * ∼25%
Samsung Galaxy J5
Adreno 306, 410 MSM8916, 8 GB eMMC Flash
14074 ms * ∼24% +4%
Motorola Moto G 3. Gen 2015 XT1541
Adreno 306, 410 MSM8916, 8 GB eMMC Flash
11843 ms * ∼20% +19%
Allview E4
Mali-T720 MP4, MT6753, 16 GB eMMC Flash
13148.9 ms * ∼22% +10%
OnePlus X
Adreno 330, 801 MSM8974AA, 16 GB eMMC Flash
7264.1 ms * ∼12% +51%

* ... smaller is better

Games

The installed hardware in Asus' ZenFone 2 Laser will not reach the peak of gaming performance. Nevertheless, casual games like "Angry Birds" are rendered smoothly. Games like "Asphalt 8 Airborne" are more difficult: Permanent micro-stuttering has to be accepted. Reducing the graphics settings to minimum when possible can remedy that.

"Angry Birds"
"Angry Birds"
"Asphalt 8 Airborne"
"Asphalt 8 Airborne"

Emissions

Temperature

We observe the review sample's temperature development while running the Stability Test for one hour.

Under load, only one hot spot reaches 41 °C (~106 °F). Otherwise, the rates remain constant with 31 to 35 °C (~88 to 95 °F). However, this scenario will rarely occur.

The smartphone remains uncritical with 30 °C (~86 °F) while idling. This is similar to the rivals.

Max. Load
 34.1 °C
93 F
31.4 °C
89 F
31.6 °C
89 F
 
 34.4 °C
94 F
32.1 °C
90 F
33.6 °C
92 F
 
 41.1 °C
106 F
31.7 °C
89 F
32 °C
90 F
 
Maximum: 41.1 °C = 106 F
Average: 33.6 °C = 92 F
30.3 °C
87 F
31.3 °C
88 F
37 °C
99 F
29.7 °C
85 F
31.5 °C
89 F
36.6 °C
98 F
30.3 °C
87 F
31.6 °C
89 F
34.9 °C
95 F
Maximum: 37 °C = 99 F
Average: 32.6 °C = 91 F
Power Supply (max.)  33.2 °C = 92 F | Room Temperature 21 °C = 70 F | Voltcraft IR-350
(±) The average temperature for the upper side under maximal load is 33.6 °C / 92 F, compared to the average of 33.2 °C / 92 F for the devices in the class Smartphone.
(±) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 41.1 °C / 106 F, compared to the average of 35.7 °C / 96 F, ranging from 22.4 to 51.7 °C for the class Smartphone.
(+) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 37 °C / 99 F, compared to the average of 34.2 °C / 94 F
(+) In idle usage, the average temperature for the upper side is 27.8 °C / 82 F, compared to the device average of 33.2 °C / 92 F.

Speakers

The volume could be slightly higher, but that is the only complaint here. Otherwise, playback is very clear, making speech  quite audible. It should definitely be enough for short videos or Skype calls.

Energy Management

Power Consumption

Restraint is the motto of the installed components. Hardly more than 4 watts are consumed even under load conditions. Thus, the ZenFone 2 Laser consumes less power than its virtually identically built rivals.

Asus Zenfone 2 ZE500KL
Adreno 306, 410 APQ8016, 16 GB eMMC Flash
Motorola Moto G 3. Gen 2015 XT1541
Adreno 306, 410 MSM8916, 8 GB eMMC Flash
OnePlus X
Adreno 330, 801 MSM8974AA, 16 GB eMMC Flash
Samsung Galaxy J5
Adreno 306, 410 MSM8916, 8 GB eMMC Flash
Power Consumption
-7%
-5%
-104%
Idle Minimum *
0.5
0.4
20%
0.6
-20%
1.5
-200%
Idle Average *
0.9
1
-11%
0.91
-1%
2.2
-144%
Idle Maximum *
1.1
1.2
-9%
1.12
-2%
2.4
-118%
Load Average *
2.4
2.9
-21%
3.04
-27%
3.5
-46%
Load Maximum *
4.3
5
-16%
3.2
26%
4.8
-12%

* ... smaller is better

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0 / 0.1 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 0.5 / 0.9 / 1.1 Watt
Load midlight 2.4 / 4.3 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Runtime

As mentioned before, the ZenFone is equipped with a removable lithium battery with a capacity of 2070 mAh. We performed our Wi-Fi test that simulates Internet browsing at a brightness dimmed to 150 cd/m² on our review sample. Surprisingly, we did not even manage 5 hours.

The competition outperforms our review sample in this regard. The three opponents are roughly on par. Samsung's handset starts with 8 hours 15 minutes, Motorola's device lasts half an hour longer, and OnePlus takes the lead with almost 9 hours.

Battery Runtime
NBC WiFi Websurfing Battery Test 1.3
4h 27min
Battery Runtime - WiFi v1.3 (sort by value)
Asus Zenfone 2 ZE500KL
Adreno 306, 410 APQ8016, 16 GB eMMC Flash
267 min ∼49%
Motorola Moto G 3. Gen 2015 XT1541
Adreno 306, 410 MSM8916, 8 GB eMMC Flash
526 min ∼96%
Samsung Galaxy J5
Adreno 306, 410 MSM8916, 8 GB eMMC Flash
495 min ∼90%
OnePlus X
Adreno 330, 801 MSM8974AA, 16 GB eMMC Flash
549 min ∼100%

Pros

+ screen
+ dual-SIM
+ micro-SD slot
+ removable battery

Cons

- voice quality
- sensitive back cover
- very sleek back cover
- battery life in Wi-Fi test

Verdict

The ZenFone 2 Laser can certainly settle down in the mid-range. Its HD panel scores with strong colors and rich black. The smartphone's removable battery and storage expansion options hardly limit long-term use. We cannot complain much about the input devices, either. Fast typing and good responsiveness were impressive. The poor call quality has to be noted unfavorably. Besides that, the casing is very slippery and susceptible for signs of use.

The buyer could find a diligent, everyday companion in the ZenFone 2 Laser for little money.

However, power-conscious users should take a look at OnePlus' X.

Asus Zenfone 2 ZE500KL - 01/05/2016 v4.1(old)
Nino Ricchizzi

Chassis
83%
Keyboard
63 / 75 → 84%
Pointing Device
89%
Connectivity
48 / 60 → 80%
Weight
93%
Battery
87%
Display
87%
Games Performance
52 / 63 → 83%
Application Performance
29 / 70 → 41%
Temperature
88%
Noise
100%
Audio
59 / 91 → 65%
Camera
66%
Average
73%
82%
Smartphone - Weighted Average

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Asus ZenFone 2 Laser ZE500KL Smartphone Review
Nino Ricchizzi, 2016-01-13 (Update: 2018-05-15)