- Long lasting battery
- Laser-guided camera autofocus
- Dual SIM and dual standby capable
- Expandable storage to 128GB
- Low speaker volume
- Rear-located volume controls
- ZenUI bloatware can’t be uninstalled
- Back, Home and Menu buttons are not backlit
The Asus ZenFone 2 Laser is a modest Android smartphone with a great price-to-performance ratio. It's flaws are minor compared to its favorable price.
The Asus ZenFone 2 Laser, is now available in the U.S. from $199 off contract. That’s cheap, rivaling the impressive Moto G in terms of price and specs. Not to be mistaken with the ZenFone 2, which was released internationally earlier this year, the Laser boasts improved camera functionality with laser autofocus and dual-SIM capability. Has Asus put forth a handset worth pocketing? Read on to find out.
Build & Design
Palming the ZenFone 2 Laser for the first time is an experience not unlike one you’re already familiar with. That is to say, the Laser isn’t exactly a revolution in smartphone design – but by now, we’ve all pretty much come to know what to expect of the standard handheld mobile. In that regard, Asus has done nothing remarkable aside from delivering a sleek-looking mobile device.
The ZenFone 2 Laser body is lightweight and slender, weighing an even 6 ounces with the battery installed. That’s a bit heavier than the 5.5-ounce Moto G, but a hair below phablets like the iPhone 6s Plus and Galaxy Note5 that top 6 ounces. It’s also not what anyone would ever call a brick.
Android-standard Back, Home and Menu capacitive navigation buttons adorn the bottom of the front face – however for some reason Asus has chosen not to make these backlit, which can make quick navigation in poorly lit environments a minor challenge. Along the upper end of the face is where you’ll find the phone’s front-facing camera, notification LED, and receiver.
The edges of the smartphone are ultra-thin, measuring just 3.9mm. Its profile deepens around its curved back, reaching 10.8mm in thickness. This curved design is explained as a purposeful choice for effective ergonomic handling, but adding to that a height of 6 inches and width of 3.04 inches makes it somewhat unwieldy for one-handers and requires the use of both hands to operate. This isn’t unusual for large screen phablets, though.
Owing to its super thin design, there are no buttons or ports on either edges of the device, save for a small fingernail groove for easier removal of the back cover. The volume rocker is situated on the device’s back side, just below the rear camera, which could present a bit of a learning curve if you’re migrating from a smartphone with side-located volume controls. Smartly, the volume buttons have been recessed into the body, which prevents you from accidentally altering volume settings anytime you set the phone down on its back. The speaker grille is also located on the bottom end of the back side, which can result in significant muting when it’s laid on certain types of surfaces. The top edge of the smartphone is home to a 3.5mm audio jack and power button. Along the phone’s bottom edge is where you’ll find the micro USB port and microphone.
The ZenFone 2 Laser ships in five different colors – Osmium Black, Sheer Gold, Glacier Gray, Glamour Red or Ceramic White – and comes with 16GB of internal memory, with the option to expand up to 128GB by way of a microSD port located inside the battery/SIM compartment. There is also a 32GB version of the same phone available for $249 as of this writing.
Display & Speakers
The ZenFone 2 Laser has a fully laminated 5.5-inch screen and a 72 percent screen-to-body ratio, which basically makes the screen look bigger than it is by virtue of the fact there’s less physical real estate surrounding it. The display is a 1280 x 720P IPS HD (with 267 pixel-per-inch density), which Asus claims offers viewing angle capability of 178 degrees.
Colors are vibrant when streaming video or viewing images, and glare is relatively minimal. Manufacturer specs indicate the Laser can achieve 72 percent of the NTSC color gamut. Its 267 pixels per inch are well below the flagship rivals, which top 500, but in line with phones in its class. The bottom line here is that even budget smartphones have excellent displays, so users won’t be disappointed. Scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 4 adds additional display protection.
According to Asus, their proprietary TruVivid technology imbues the phone with not only added brightness, but also increased touch responsiveness. This is accomplished by shifting from a traditional four-layer display design to a two-layer design that brings the display closer to your eyes and fingertips – but it’s also nothing revolutionary, as this is something that Apple has also accomplished, most recently with the iPad Mini 4.
As we mentioned before, the smartphone’s speaker grille is positioned on the bottom of the back panel, which revealed itself as a problematic design decision after we discovered a substantial muting effect occurs when you set the unit down on any surface that doesn’t reflect sound back – such as your lap or your palm. Speaker volume is also poor, even when cranked to 100 percent, and volume performance was not improved when listening via earbuds.