ASUS has been making gains in the smartphone market, and although they’re one the biggest manufacturers globally and a notable option considering how much attention LG and Samsung get, they’re somewhere in the middle among buyers. So, if something like the Zenfone 5Q can’t beat the competition on brand recognition then there’s always the potential of undercutting them—if you can tolerate some noticeable compromises.
This is supposed to be a mid-range flagship phone, and it shows in many ways. Based on looks alone though, it certainly has a sharp appearance all its own. ASUS doesn’t go crazy and sticks to a 6-inch display.
Because the front of the 5Q is mostly screen with some bezel, a lot of the necessary bits occupy the side and rear area. A fingerprint sensor is prominently situated directly on the back, while a dual camera sensor sits above it. As you’d expect you get a headphone jack on top with speakers on the bottom, with is also unusual underneath is the choice of sticking with a decidedly low-tech micro-USB port. The right edge houses the power button with a volume rocker above it. The left side is where the SIM cards (yes, this is a dual setup) and SDXC memory card holder resides.
The external layout of the Zenfone 5Q is straightforward but it’s really the fit and finish that’s well done. The body is machined in contoured glass, with an eight-layer optical coating process. Of course, the craft appearance doesn’t reach the levels of the 5Z, but it is pretty. ASUS also knows that a body like this is highly prone to getting cracked up, so they thoughtfully included a transparent cover to preserve its beauty.
Specs and Performance
In order to not outshine the pricier 5Z, internal components on the 5Q are equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 CPU, Adreno 508 GPU, 64GB storage and an 4GB amount of LPDDR4X RAM. It’s reasonably quick and produced respectable benchmarks among other competitors in the midrange category.
But the optimization features such as AI Boost which can give you increased power by allocating more resources for resource-heavy apps, and OptiFlex technology that prioritizes frequently used apps faster. Battery usage is smarter too, with the phone incorporating charging presets—as well as an option to customize and adapt power habits based on your schedule, allowing you to choose how you would want to optimize the battery drain.
The AI charging is interesting in that its smart enough to adjust itself to avoid charging stress and diminished health, a very real problem that prolonged charging can inevitably cause. During my daily activities the 3300mAh battery was able last for most of a standard weekday of 20 hours with another 28% to spare, good work ASUS.
How does all of this play out when using the 5Q every day? Well, it’s a nice phone to live with and Android 7.1 is adequate with an 2160×1080 Super IPS LCD and 18:9 aspect ratio. Although it’s not technologically advanced (like say an AMOLED) the image quality and viewing angles are relatively detailed. The blacks are deep and colors tend to pop with agreeable range, this probably has a lot to do with the active color temperate sensor and it’s better-than-average response to ambient light. So yeah, the screen seems to work wonders when it needs to.
The camera is solid with a 16-megapixel lens and f/2.2 aperture. Focus happens quickly and gets the exposure just right in most scenarios, even standing toe-to-toe against the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Xperia XA2. The photos look great, capturing good detail and stellar color accuracy. The edge detection is noticeably accurate. In some instances, and night photos with the AI Scene feature does a excellent job, decreasing shutter speed along with night view and minor visual noise.
A lot of this clarity is sourced from Sony and their IMX363 sensor with optical image stabilization, it’s a fantastic lens and does great things when HDR is enabled. It’s not quite perfect elsewhere when wide-angle shots are taken as pictures exhibit a blurring effect with weak contrasts, and a decent reproduction of selfies in portrait mode. You can always take matters into your own hands and switch over to the Pro settings with plenty to customize, but the navigation and slider menus means a lot more work than your Instagram pictures may require.
ASUS attempts to balance performance and features with the Zenfone 5Q. It’s a mid-tier choice that is very careful not to undermine the relatively upscale 5Z I reviewed, but does so in questionable fashion. Things like the archaic micro-USB connectivity and somewhat dated reliance of Android N (ZenUI) system feels forced and holds this smartphone back in areas where it shouldn’t. The consolation is that the 5Q is surprisingly cheap and works well enough for the everyday grind, even if the polish is only skin-deep.