ZenFone 4 review: superb audio and image-taking capabilities elevate Asus' sleek new smartphone

The ZenFone 4's dual-lens camera system, DTS Headphone:X audio playback, and slick supporting software help this classy Android phone punch above its weight

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T3 Verdict

If you are a camera connoisseur then the ZenFone 4 is going to absolutely blow you away. Taking photos with this phone is just heavenly, with its dual-lens camera system delivering in EVERY situation, no matter if it epic landscapes or intimate selfies. The fact that it delivers this on top of a solid core spec, excellent audio credentials, and an innovative software suite just makes us love it more.

Reasons to buy

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    120° wide-angle lens

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    DTS Headphone:X audio

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    4K UHD video recording

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    Long-lasting 3300 mAh battery

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    Innovative software suite

Reasons to avoid

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    Display only Full HD resolution

Over the past few weeks T3 has been playing around with Asus ZenFone 4 and now, post glamourus launch in Rome, Italy, we bring you our official review of the handset.

The quick take-away is that while its raw hardware specification is good but not great, with many rival devices offering a similar package, the two camera system installed in the ZenFone 4, as well as some top audio credentials, along with a general sense of style and class, make this a attractive proposition for those shopping for a new phone on a non-flagship budget.

ZenFone 4 review - design and build quality

Straight off the bat you notice that the ZenFone 4 is a well built smartphone. Its one-piece aluminium frame, as well as flush Corning Gorilla Glass back and front - the back's smoothness not even being interrupted by a protruding camera bezel - mean that the handset feels premium in the hand.

It doesn't have a distinctive look at first and, in all honesty, you'd have to tell someone what you were using more often than not as it doesn't scream look at me. But that isn't really Asus' bag now is it. When you get closer though small touches become noticeable, like the neatly refractive back panel that sprays light around the centrally located Asus logo, and these make it feel quietly unique.

A non-clickable home button sits bottom centre, which also acts as a rapid fingerprint unlocking pad.

 ZenFone 4 review - specification and speed

The ZenFone 4 comes with a 5.5-inch Full HD, 1920 x 1080 screen - this is undoubtedly not specifically sexy on paper. In reality though it is a good fit for the phone's Snapdragon 630 CPU and Adreno 508, as anything more would have left the phone underpowered at its core.

This CPU/GPU pairing is partnered with 4GB of RAM and a what now seems to be increasingly standard 64GB of internal storage. For most people that will almost certainly be enough, however, if you do demand more then the ZenFone 4 does cater to your needs, with a microSD card slot taking cards up to 2TB in size.

ZenFone 4 tested specification

Internal storage: 64GB

MicroSD card: Up to 2TB

Dimensions: 155.4 x 75.2 x 7.5 mm

Weight: 165 grams (5.82 ounces)

Display: 5.5-inch IPS screen

Resolution: FHD (1920 x 1080)

CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 630

GPU: Qualcomm Adreno 508

RAM: 4GB

Battery: 3300 mAh (non-removable)

Main camera: 12MP F1.8 aperture 25mm focal length

Wide-angle camera: 8MP 12mm focal length

Video recording:  4K UHD (3840 by 2160) 30fps

This hardware is juiced by a non-removable 3300 mAh battery, with fast-charge capability, meaning than 50 per cent charge can be achieved 30 minutes. This translated to rock solid battery life when on test, with us certainly not running to a charging point every few hours.

Combined these components, which are nicely balanced for the tier, produced pleasing responsive and fast usage. The new ZenUI 4.0 user interface that Asus has equipped the new ZenFone 4 with is a lightly skinned version of stock, and we know there are those who dislike any tampering, however we thought the kid gloves approach was a success, being snappy and responsive, while looking hyper modern.

 ZenFone 4 review - camera and video

This is where the ZenFone 4 absolutely knocks it out of the park and proves, once again, that big megapixel numbers do not a good camera system make. It's a dual camera system that delivers both a 12MP F1.8 aperture 25mm focal length main camera, as well as a secondary 120-degree wide angle camera. Both cameras are HDR capable and, thanks to some fancy tech, the former can output 48MP images by enabling Super Resolution Mode. Both cameras have also been optimised and refined for superior low-light photography.

ZenFone 4's camera system also allows shooting in RAW, slow motion, and even time-lapse, while the handset can also capture UHD 4K video. By enabling the phone's "Pro" camera mode, the user also gets access to a suite of - for a smartphone - handy manual adjusters for those who like to tinker to get the perfect shot.

Simply put, shooting photographs of any type with the ZenFone 4 was a very pleasant experience while on test, both thanks to the advanced lens hardware and, as we will shortly come to, software also.

 ZenFone 4 review - audio and software

If the ZenFone 4's camera system was the lead act, then its excellent audio credentials are definitely a worthy contender. The phone comes equipped with High Resolution audio compatibility, DTS Headphone:X, and a nicely designed and genuinely useful piece of software called AudioWizard that lets you neatly tune and tweak the music or speech you are listening too. With the fidelity of high-resolution audio and the volumetric soundspace delivered by DTS Headphone:X, listening to anything on the ZenFone 4 is a pleasure.

In terms of software, the real take-away, asides from the aforementioned AudioWizard, is Asus' SelfieMaster app. This app has been purposely created to make the most out of the phone's excellent cameras and allows you to beautify in various increments any selfies. We've seen this tech on a few phones now, however, we liked the speed and design of SelfieMaster, which made taking and touching up any selfies or wefies very easy.

ZenFone 4 review - price and availability

The ZenFone 4 will be available to pre-order from October 6th through Asus eShop, Amazon and Carphone Warehouse for £449.99.

 ZenFone 4 review - verdict

In many ways Asus has inherited the position that HTC once filled in the smartphone market, in as much as it is overtly ambitious and produces innovative, well-built phones with a few killer features that, despite flying under the radar when compared to the big players in the smartphone market, lead to great mobile experiences.

The ZenFone 4 is testament to that. In terms of raw specs the ZenFone 4 cannot compete with, say, the Samsung Galaxy S8, but that's a largely unfair comparison to make as we're not even talking the same ballpark in terms of pitch or financial outlay. When you compare ZenFone 4 to similar-tier and similar-priced Android phones though, such as the OnePlus 5, Honor 9 and Huawei P10, then its class become evident.

The phone's photo-taking credentials are absolutely top-drawer, its ZenUI 4.0 user interface snappy and intuitive, and thanks to its built-in DTSHeadphone:X capability and genuinely useful supporting software, listening to music or watching movies a pleasurable experience.

Overall then, while we're sure that the ZenFone 4 won't eat into that elite top, top tier market, we definitely think it has legs to make a major impact in the mid-tier.

A classy mid-spec phone that excels in picture taking and audio playback.