Asus unveiled its high-end ZenFone line of Android smartphones last year at CES. At this year's show, it's building on what came before with two new premium phones: the ZenFone 2 and the ZenFone Zoom. Both devices run on Android 5.0 Lollipop, but where the ZenFone 2 iterates on last year's model, the Zoom has a bigger, badder camera.
The Zoom has a bigger, badder camera
The ZenFone 2 is certainly on trend when it comes to size; the device sports a 5.5-inch, 403ppi Full HD display, putting it in the same class as phones like the iPhone 6 Plus. It also looks great, featuring the same brushed aluminum finish as previous Asus devices but in a variety of colors. Under the hood, there's a quad-core 64-bit Intel Atom processor and a big 3000mAh battery that Asus says will provide for more than a full day's use. The phone runs Asus' ZenUI skin of Android Lollipop, which the company now touts for its customizability.
The Zoom, on the other hand, is effectively the ZenFone 2 but with more serious photographers in mind. Where the ZenFone 2 features a 13MP camera, the Zoom's 13MP shooter has a 10-element lens, 3X optical zoom, and optical image stabilization. Design wise, the device definitely recalls the Nokia Lumia 1020 — which isn't a bad thing.
Update: Unfortunately, Asus wasn't showing off the ZenFone Zoom on the show floor — but we did get a chance to look at the ZenFone 2, and our first impression is that it's a compelling package. Despite a large, 5.5-inch screen, the phone nestles nicely into your hand by using some design cues found in the Moto X — the edges themselves are extremely thin, but the phone is more substantial in the middle without ever feeling thick or terribly unwieldy. If you're a fan of big phones (and who isn't these days?) you'll likely enjoy how the ZenFone 2 feels in your hand. One dubious design decision we must point out — the power button is at the top of the phone, an absolute no-no for any phone of this size.
From a software perspective, it's running Android 5.0 with Asus's custom Zen UI skin on top. There's some superfluous animations, and I don't like that Asus isn't using onscreen keys, but overall it seems like a skin you can live with pretty easily — there is plenty of Lollipop's DNA still found in the device. Of course, you'll probably want to avoid most of the custom apps that Asus included and use standard Google apps like Chrome and Gmail.
All in all it's a fast, fluid, and seemingly powerful device. We'll need to spend more time with it to really put it through the paces, but at a first glance it's a pretty compelling large-screen Android option, particularly at the $199 price point.