Asus delivers Android 4.3 with ZenFone smartphone family (hands-on)

CNET goes hands-on with the colorful Asus ZenFone smartphone family, which all sport an Intel Atom processor, Android 4.3, and expandable memory.

Lynn La Senior Editor / Reviews - Phones
Lynn La covers mobile reviews and news. She previously wrote for The Sacramento Bee, Macworld and The Global Post.
Lynn La
3 min read

LAS VEGAS -- While Asus' recently announced ZenFone smartphones may not exactly have us channeling inner peace, the handsets do sport enough decent specs that'll make our ears perk up. Unveiled at CES 2014, the ZenFone comes in three different sizes (with 4-, 5-, and 6-inch displays), and a wide array of colors.

Aside from the different screen resolutions, sizes, and color offerings, the three ZenFone handsets understandably look the same. All of them have an attractive, minimalistic design with soft-touch rear sides. This coating does trap fingerprints, however, but a simple wipe-down works well to clean the oils off.

The ZenFone 6, as its name suggests, has a 6-inch HD, IPS display with a 1,280x720-pixel resolution. As the biggest handset of the trio, I found this 'phablet' to be too wide and unwieldy; operating it with just my thumb was out of the question. However, it's understandable that someone with bigger hands than mine will find the 6 more comfortable.

Meet Asus' ZenFone smartphone line (pictures)

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Meanwhile, the ZenFone 5 has the same resolution on a 5-inch display. Due to its much more manageable size, this is the ZenFone I would get. Weighing in at a bit over 5 ounces, however, the device is notably heavier than most phones its size. Though, I didn't find its weight to be too much of detriment during my brief time with it.

Lastly, there's the 4-inch variant. With its 800x480-pixel resolution, the smartphone has the "grainiest" display of the three. I couldn't like it after handling the other two sharper handsets, but if you're on a budget, the ZenFone 4 would be the way to go.

Core components and features
All three handsets launch with Asus' Zen user interface and Android 4.3, but the company reports that users can upgrade to 4.4 KitKat later on. They also are HSPA+ enabled and have 1GB of RAM. MicroSD card slots that are expandable up to 64GB, and dual micro-SIM ports are included as well.

Other than that, however, the devices do differ in terms of specs, in certain ways. The ZenFone 6, for instance, is the most high-end. Powering its innards is a 2GHz Intel Atom Z2580 processor and a 3,230mAh battery.

Asus PadFone 6
Sporting a expansive 6-inch screen, 2GHz processor, and 13-megapixel camera, the ZenFone 6 is the most advanced member the series. Josh Miller/CNET

For photo capturing and video recording, users can operate its 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, as well as its 2-megapixel front-facing shooter. The handset also comes with Asus' SonicMaster audio technology, which reportedly enhances sound quality. It will be available in black, white, red, and gold.

Though it has the same CPU and glove-touch capabilities, the ZenFone 5 has a less powerful 2,050mAh battery.

The ZenFone 5's camera equipment has also been scaled back. Namely, the rear-facing camera has been decreased to 8 megapixels, while the front-facing camera has a 2-megapixel lens. The ZenFone 5 will have also have an additional blue model.

Lastly, the PadFone 4 is powered by a 1.2GHz Intel Atom Z2520 processor and a 1,170mAh battery. On the back you'll find a 5-megapixel camera and the front features a 0.3-megapixel camera. It will be available in black, white, red, blue, and yellow.

Asus ZenFone 6
The ZenFone 6 includes a 13-megapixel camera. Josh Miller/CNET

As of now, Asus has not mentioned any information about US pricing or availability. The ZenFone 4, 5, and 6 will launch in Asia in the next few months, with unsubsidized prices equivalent to about $99, $149, and $199, respectively.

That range is pretty inexpensive, considering that big handsets in the US, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the LG Optimus G Pro run about $99.99 to $299.99 with a carrier contract. If the ZenFone does ever make it to the US and keeps these price points, it will definitely be an edge for Asus.

Check out more of CNET's CES 2014 coverage.