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Asus adds laser autofocus to ZenFone 2, drops Intel chip (hands-on)

The company refreshes its ZenFone 2 phone by adding laser autofocus for the camera as well as removable batteries.

Aloysius Low/CNET

It's been barely six months since the Asus ZenFone 2 hit the markets, but the Taiwanese electronics giant will be phasing out Intel-powered Android smartphones in favor of a new range of devices equipped with Qualcomm processors instead.

The first thing you'll notice about the Android Lollipop-powered ZenFone 2 Laser, is of course, the lack of sharks with lasers mounted on their heads. Instead, the phone comes with a laser autofocus system to help the camera focus on a subject faster. Apart from this addition, Asus has also made the battery removable.

The phone feels and handles just like the ZenFone 2 and ZenFone Selfie , with the volume controls located below the camera on the rear. The power button is still awkwardly placed right at the top, making you stretch your fingers to reach it, although you can switch the screen on with a double tap. It also comes with a shiny metallic red rear, which is nice if you like your devices standing out from a sea of black or white phones.

More importantly, however, is the switch to using Qualcomm processors for the phones instead of the Intel chips that were on the earlier ZenFone 2s. The Intel chipsets offered decent performance for a slight premium, but switching to Qualcomm feels like a downgrade, especially when you consider that the 5.5-inch ZenFone 2 Laser is only running on the Snapdragon 410, while the 6-inch model gets the Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 treatment.

While I usually have no issues with phones powered by these processors, especially the Snapdragon 615, I worry that the ZenFone's bloated Zen UI software could lead to a sluggish performance that will hamper the user experience. This was the case with the ZenFone Selfie, which uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 615, as I pointed out in my review .

Otherwise, the ZenFone 2 Laser has respectable specs, though it's really dependant on which version you get. Asus has six different models of this phone, with three different screen sizes ranging from 5 to 6 inches. The highest-end one is the only one with a 6-inch full-HD 1,920x1,080-pixel display, while the rest sport HD -- that's 1,280x720 pixels -- screens.

To help you out, I've made a table below with the specs as well as its recommended retail pricing in Asia. Do note that there's no word yet on when these phones will hit other markets, such as the US, but I've included a US dollar conversion for the prices we do have.

DisplayStorageRAMProcessorPrice
ZE500KG5-inch (HD)8GB/16GB2GBQualcomm Snapdragon 410 (1.2GHz)NA
ZE500KL5-inch (HD)8GB/16GB2GBQualcomm Snapdragon 410 (1.2GHz)S$239 ($170)
ZE550KL5.5-inch (HD)16GB2GBQualcomm Snapdragon 410 (1.2GHz) / 615 (1.7GHz)S$279 ($200)
ZE551KL5.5-inch (HD)16GB/32GB3GBQualcomm Snapdragon 615 (1.7GHz)NA
ZE600KL6-inch (HD)16GB/32GB2GB/3GBQualcomm Snapdragon 615 (1.7GHz)S$329 ($235)
ZE601KL6-inch (full-HD)16GB/32GB2GB/3GBQualcomm Snapdragon 616 (1.7GHz)NA

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