A Summit To Sea Review of the ASUS Zenfone 2 Laser
Most people who knew me well knows too well that sophisticated smart phones (or any high tech hardware) is not my cup of tea. They’re just too… high tech and sophisticated and catching up with the rapid-developing mobile phone trend feels like an everyday struggle.
The ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser however is a different story. This machine comes loaded with awesome features that make travelers and photographers cringe. I did. And its flagship f/2 aperture feature is only the tip of the iceberg. To explore its full potential, I brought the camera phone on a series of adventures, trying to push it beyond its limits and find out how the ZenFone 2 Laser will perform in demanding environments.
This review breaks down the nitty-gritty details of what gives the ASUS Zenfone 2 Laser a striking edge among other mobile phones on the same line. Let’s begin with probably one of the most crucial factors on a mobile phone – it’s juice.
Regularly finding a power outlet while on the road is as critical as finding a needle in a haystack especially if you’re headed down the off beaten track. But with an ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser, you’ll worry more about taking pictures and worry less about running out of juice.
On a three-day hike in the country’s highest point, Mount Apo, the ZenFone 2 Laser managed to keep up. Three days of heavy usage on camera, GPS, music, flashlight and the ZenFone’s Glove Touch feature, and it still had about 20% of battery life when I got back to Kapatagan jump-off point. Powered by a 3000 mAh LiPo battery, it seems that the ZenFone 2 Laser has more energy left than I had.
To prolong battery life even further, switch to Super Saving Battery Mode which lowers battery consumption very efficiently.
Design & Build
Physical look is least of a concern when I look at mobile phones. But I just can’t help notice the ZenFone 2 Laser’s classic minimalist front panel accentuated by the futuristic concentric circle design of the ASUS ZenFone line. It’s stylish yet ergonomic. The curved back panel polished in non-slip matte coating provides an easy but firm grip on the phone.
ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser is one snazzy cellular phone designed to look elegant but equally built to withstand punishment. So how tough is tough? First, the 5-inch touch-screen IPS display is equipped with a Corning Gorilla Glass 4 which makes the ZenFone 2 Laser difficult to crack or break on accidental drops and scratches. Second, while many electronic gadgets tend to malfunction in extreme temperatures, the ZenFone 2 was able to tolerate mild heat exposure and bone-chilling colds – and I happen to be on the right place to find out.
During the Mount Apo hike, the ZenFone 2 Laser walked the talk in both instances. First, it underwent several bumps here and there while I scrambled on the challenging segments of the climb, such as The Boulders and 90 Degrees. Yet the phone came out from my side pocket scratch and dent-free. Tough enough? Here’s case #2. On our sunrise summit assault, a fellow climber’s smart phone experienced power failure due to the freezing cold while my only worry was how to compose my photographs. Now that’s a tangible difference between an ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser and a popular smart phone.
The ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser was used, abused, yet delivered on a tough setting. It so tough I might consider using it as a door stopper in my room at the backpacker’s lodge or an underwater camera while snorkeling in Coron – sealed on a Ziploc bag of course.
Large aperture is power.
In photography, having a lens equipped with wide apertures gives photographers a definitive edge, most of the time, in low-light situations and fast-moving scenarios. This is where ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser’s PixelMaster 2.0 rises above the rest. The ZenFone 2 Laser features an 8MP rear camera with a fast 5-element Toshiba lens that opens as wide as f/2 which basically means you’ll get more crisp and clean images even in dim-lit environments. Push the pixels further as much as 52 MP by switching to Super Reslution Mode to get maximum clarity and reduced noise especially on high ISO levels. The PixelMaster 2.0 can somehow deliver DSLR-quality images without the bulk and heavy load.
But the ZenFone 2 doesn’t stop there. The top shelf f/2.0 lens comes with lightning-fast auto-focusing technology using an infrared laser which allows you to shoot dead on target in a blink of an eye regardless of distance. Whether shooting close-ups or vast landscapes, the ZenFone 2 gives quick and precise focusing at any given situation.
Be In Charge
Control takes you a step closer to perfection. The overall ability to control the amount of light makes the DSLR an ideal camera for serious photographers. Most point and shoot and camera phones lack this creative control which may not bring satisfyingly artistic results – but not the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser. Switch to Manual Mode and obtain maximum control over ISO, shutter speed, metering, white balance, auto-focus modes and exposure value. Plus, the camera is also equipped with a horizon level to make sure horizon is straight obviously, and a histogram chart to monitor the shadow and highlights, a vital tool for every photographer. These essential tools brings your vision into a frame perfectly the way you want it. The ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser allows almost full control over exposure and the overall output like a powerful DSLR on a pocket-sized machine.
But if you want to convenience, there’s always the Auto Mode and several creative modes that makes the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser flexible to any lighting scenarios this awesome camera phone is called for.
Devil Is In The Details
ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser is packed with an incredible set of built-in features that I find highly usable and reliable when on the road, on the beach, on the mountains. These features perform its task very well and not just for show, just like the ZenMotion Touch Gesture, my personal favorite, and the following features listed below:
ZenMotion Touch Gesture
Get quick and direct access to applications with a stroke of a finger tip using the ZenMotion Touch Gesture. You could instantly launch and activate the camera simply by swiping “C” on the large screen. This feature comes handy in street photography and photo-journalism situations where things happen in a snap and there’s just no time to unlock the screen, browse through the app folder, and open the camera. The ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser has an f/2 aperture, 2GB RAM, laser-guided focusing, and quick access to the phone’s camera – talk about FAST.
Glove Touch Mode
The Glove Touch Mode may not be an everyday essential tool in a tropical climate like in the Philippines but when you’re on mountainous regions like the Cordilleras, or Mount Pulag to be specific, where temperatures can potentially plummet to below zero, you’ll thank ASUS for coming up with this idea. Switching to Glove Touch Mode heightens the sensitivity of the touch-screen display which is certainly convenient when an element lies in between your fingertips and the smart phone – like a glove apparently, or maybe a protective case like a dry-pouch (perhaps useful whenever you feel like texting while surfing or snorkeling).
Melatonin is a sleep hormone and an antioxidant that slows the progression of diseases such as cancer. Regular exposure to blue-light (like screens of electronic gadgets) at night suppresses melatonin which can lead to unhealthy sleep, depression, and worse, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers. ASUS come up with a solution to reduce blue-light emissions with the ASUS Splendid Blue-Light Filter which works like a color balance filter in Photoshop, restraining the blues in the color spectrum. This allows you to watch and read longer without worrying of the harmful effects of blue light. ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser provides users with a healthy and happy smart phone experience.
I installed Strava on my ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser to track my hike and bike activities. This free app heavily relies on Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to measure actual distance traveled and elevation reached. Thus, it needs to be supported by heavy-duty satellite systems to give precise results. ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser is powered by three: Global Positioning System, the Global Navigation Satellite System or GLONASS operated by the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces, and the Chinese’ BeiDou Navigation Satellite System or BDS. This ASUS feature gives me fast, actual, and accurate location even when I’m hiking deep into the forests and woodlands where GPS signal fluctuates most of the time. Maybe I should try this while spelunking in Sagada.
Music is my bestfriend when traveling solo and an mp3 player has always been part of my traveling essentials. The ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser goes beyond an average MP3 device But this isn’t only about its built-in 16 GB internal storage capacity that can store an average of 2,000 – 3,000 songs or about 8,000 minutes of music. The ZenFone 2 is all about quality. How? Let’s just say, an average phone has 1-3 magnet speakers, the ZenFone 2 has 5 magnet speakers which means improved clarity, and detailed audio output. Plus, the pre-installed Audio Wizard 2.0 allows you to adjust automatically or manually the output of sound to any kind of environment. Finally, the package comes with a light and compact earphones called ZenEar. The earbud-type earphones gives you far richer audio output and awesome bass depth compared to average earphones free with other mobile phones. Combine all these and you get quality listening experience anytime, anywhere, and anyhow. Hear it to believe it.
Built-in flashlights on mobile phones are one of those features I don’t really expect much from. They brighten up a dark environment, but not bright enough. ASUS , on the other hand, decided to amp up these feature a notch brighter. I don’t talk Lumens but it certainly was bright enough to illuminate the pitch-black dirt road from Maquinit Hot Spring to Coron Sea Port when I decided for a night walk instead of paying P400.00 for a 10-km tricycle ride, back and forth. Besides being a plain flashlight, the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser’s flashlight features an SOS Morse Light Mode that could come very handy in emergency situations. Having the ZenFone 2 Laser on my pocket during outdoor trips would somehow increase my chances of being found when lost or in emergency situations. For me, the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser can serve as a lifeline if things go south.
Like a multi-tool pocket knife that serves more than just a cutting tool, the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser functions beyond what this mobile phone was built for and it performs excellently in the aforementioned departments. The itsy-bitsy awesome features were included to be used, and not some mediocre add-on just to make smart phones look smart. The ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser is smart and is smart to have whether traveling, trekking outdoors, camping on an island, or getting lost in the urban jungle.
Aside from my DSLR camera, my travel essentials include a multi-tool pocket knife, a meter of thin rigid cord, a trash bag, a travel mug, and a red ragged lucky shirt – now, I’m adding the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser to my travel must-bring kit.
My friends joke about me getting “Jed-proof” items simply because I have a tendency to break electronic and non-electronic things a lot – sometimes accidentally, sometimes intentionally. Clumsy and my DSLR camera was never an exception. This is why I need my gadgets to be tough, for real.
Now, the ZenFone 2 Laser just came on the line of wrath.
Before I came up with this review, I’ve been using the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser for about a month and this smart phone has reached the summit of Mount Apo in Davao, to the surf & skim city of Mati and a tiny island in Baganga – both in Davao Oriental. It traveled by sea and explored the famous destinations in Coron to Busuanga’s remote beaches. Also, I occasionally, intentionally, tap the touch-screen glass to rocks and edges of the tables, to name a few, just to find out how tough the Corning Gorilla Glass 4 really is. And yes, I tried using it as an underwater phone camera on a Ziploc bag while snorkeling. It’s a Ziploc bag, not a designated casing, obviously, it will result to blurred images (but it worked perfectly fine underwater).
I used the ZenFone 2 Laser, pushed its limits as far as I could, and it delivered excellently in environments where there’s no room for flimsy and feeble.
However, there are certain things we have to keep in mind.
First, time alone can tell toughness. So far, after 23 days of using the ZenFone 2 Laser, I encountered no serious problem except for the lag when 10-12 apps were simultaneously opened which is apparently normal in most mobile phones, tablets, or laptops with 2GB RAM (fortunately, there’s the pre-installed Clean Master to remind me of heavy CPU/RAM usage). Now the question is, how long can the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser hold up? We all just have to find out eventually and hopefully, not so soon.
Second, in terms of photography, same laws of light and shooting pictures apply. The ZenFone 2 may have a top-of-the-line lens, laser-fast focusing, full manual control, and all that technical enchilada, but in the end, the outcome still depends on your technique, approach, style, and how you understand the behavior of light which is a universal truth in the art of image capture.
Finally, for one tough smart phone packed with high tech features and pre-installed useful applications and best of all, priced somewhere around Php 7,700 only, you get more than what you bargained for.
The following photos were shot from Nov 8-30, 2015 using an ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser. #SeeWhatOthersCantSee #ZenFone #ZenFoneLaser #asusphilippines