[Review] Asus Zenfone 2 Laser (ZE550KL).

Asus Zenfone 2 Laser Review

Simple Yet Powerful

Asus Zenfone 2 Laser was launched sometime last month. The one that we will be covering in this review will be the 5.5 inch version which is currently sold in Asus Store Online for RM 799. We are mentioning this at the beginning itself because we do not want you to be confused with the 5 inch model (ZE500KL) which was just launched about a week ago.

What are the differences between the 5.5 inch and 5 inch version?

  • Price. 5.5 inch version is being sold for RM 799. The 5 inch version is sold for RM 150 cheaper, at RM 649.
  • The battery capacity of the 5.5 inch version is 3000 mAh. The 5 inch version comes with 2070 mAh battery. Well, if you have a powerbank, probably that will be fine.
  • The 5.5 inch is slightly bigger on your palms. It is also about 30 grams heavier than the 5 inch version.

Other than those mentioned above, the rest are all same. The processor is the same. Both comes with 16 GB of internal storage and 2 GB of RAM. So if you are okay with the disadvantages above (especially the battery capacity) and want to save RM 150, you may consider the 5 inch version.

Also, take note that there is also a 6 inch version coming soon. More information about the 6 inch version HERE.

Zenfone 2 Laser vs previous gen Zenfone 2.

Which one is better?
We were also wondering on which one is better, the current Zenfone 2 Laser (ZE550KL) or the previous gen Zenfone 2 (ZE550ML) which had a same price tag. The previous gen Zenfone 2 was running on Intel processor. Other than that, it didn’t have a laser autofocus beam. Based on our experience with the previous gen Zenfone 2, it had 2 GB of RAM but somehow it tend to lag too much no thanks to Intel processor. The battery was also a little bad and probably that is why the previous model did not stay too long. The current Zenfone 2 Laser (ZE550KL) is smooth and didn’t have terrible lags like the previous one. Battery life is also quite good (or at least better than the previous one).

Now let’s take a look at the specifications :

Key spec of Asus Zenfone 2 Laser (ZE550KL) :
  • 5.5 inch HD (1280 x 720) IPS display with 267 ppi.
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 4 with anti fingerprint coating.
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 (MSM8916) QuadCore 1.2GHz processor.
  • 13 Megapixel main camera with dual LED flash and 5 Megapixel front (selfie) camera.
  • Asus SonicMaster audio.
  • 4G LTE capable (both SIMs 4G capable).
  • Dual SIM dual standby.
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the box.
  • 16 GB internal storage. Option to add Micro SD card up to 128 GB.
  • 2 GB RAM.
  • 3000 mAh battery.

 

UNBOXING

 

More photos inside :
Below are the items that you will find inside the box :

  • Asus Zenfone 2 Laser.
  • Battery.
  • Standard charger.
  • USB cable.
  • Warranty card and user guide.

There is no handsfree inside the box. The charger’s output is 1A.

 

EXTERIOR

Basically the phone looks exactly like Zenfone 2. The only difference is the back area near the camera where the LED flash has moved to the side of camera and there is a laser autofocus beam now. Phone is solid overall. No complaints.

The 3.5mm jack, microphone and power button is at the top. There is nothing on the right. On the left bottom, there is a place where you can place your fingernails to pull out the battery cover. The micro USB port and another micrphone is at the bottom of the device.

At the front top, there is proximity / light sensor, earpiece, LED indicator, front camera. At the front bottom, you will ind the the touch sensitive keys. They are not backlit but they are reflective. So you won’t have issues using them unless it is pitch dark. Well, by then you will get used to the positions.

Under the cover, there is a removable battery. We don’t know if a removable battery has any advantage in short term because if you realise, the previous gen Zenfone 2 had a non-removable battery. The only time we will probably find this useful is probably two years later once the battery has worn out.

However, there is a disadvantage with the removable battery (kind of). On Zenfone 2 (previous gen), you can insert both your SIMs without restarting or switching of your phone. On this Zenfone 2 Laser, your SIM 1 slot is only accessible if you remove the battery. Well, the SIM 2 slot is still accessible without removing the battery. So we don’t really have an issue with this.

Can the memory card (micro SD) be removed without removing the battery? We don’t know because we don’t use an external memory card and we discourage you from using one (on any phone) because it can make the phone slow and sometimes even cause some app to go haywire when you temporarily remove the card from the device (based on our personal experience on many phones, different brands). Even if you need to use one, please make sure that you turn of your phone before removing the memory card and put it back in before turning your device on as some apps automatically use the memory card to store their files.

 

THE BASICS
Call / SMS / MMS etc – All good. No complaints in this aspect. It is a dual SIM device (both micro SIM). Fortunately, both SIMs support 4G LTE. For us this was definitely very useful as we tend to use data on both SIMs and we prefer switching the internet without taking out the SIM cards.

The device is not dual-active like previous gen Zenfone 2. Dual active allows you to receive call / SMS on your second SIM while you are e.g. on a call on your first SIM. This may not be that important (or at least not very important for us). As such, we don’t really mind not having this feature.

Notification Light – There is a notification light on Zenfone 2 Laser as well which works exactly as how it is on previous gen Zenfone 2. Only 3 colours are supported and you can’t select your preferred notification colour. Basically it is fixed where red indicates low battery, orange indicates that the phone is being charged and green indicates that you’ve received a message, missed calls etc. While charging, the green indicator also means that the battery is fully charged. We are not complaining but we wish it had more colours and option to customize.

 

DISPLAY & CONNECTIVITY

Display – This device is using HD display (720p) with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 panel. It was good. We didn’t feel the difference with a full HD display. Overall the display was sharp and clear. There is an option to activate blue light filter, change the warmness etc. As on Asus’s premium devices, this Zenfone 2 Laser also has double tap to wake / off the device and other gesture (ZenMotion) related feature e.g. draw W while the screen is off to straight go to the web browser.  
4G LTE / Internet – No complaint. Everything is good. Both SIM slots are 4G capable. Out of many other brands that we’ve used, Asus has a very good signal quality compared to the rest. There is less fluctuation and the reliability is better.

Of course, 4G penetration in Malaysia is not up to the mark yet. So don’t put the blame on the phone if your 4G reception is not very stable.

Other Connectivity – There is no NFC on this device which makes sense due to the price point but it has all other connectivity like Bluetooth, USB on the go, WiFi, and all kind of sensors – G-Sensor / E-Compass / Gyroscope / Proximity / Light Sensor / Hall Sensor.

So connectivity wise, you will not have anything to complain. As for NFC, we personally don’t use that feature extensively. Majority of us will not find NFC useful, thus not having it will be a wiser option because that brings the price down.

 

PERFORMANCE
Gaming & Multitasking – Asus Zenfone 2 Laser performs well when it comes to gaming. We tried many popular games and did not have issues. Of course, the phone gets a little hot when your are maximizing the usage of your device but well, the heat is acceptable and for your info, device getting hot during active usage is normal. We are just mentioning this because some of you may be concerned about the device getting extremely hot.
Audio & Video Playback – The speaker was very loud. Unfortunately it is not a stereo speaker like the 6 inch Zenfone 2 Laser. Well we are not complaining because we are still happy with the overall loudness. Compared to the sound quality in Zenfone 2 (ZE550ML), this one seems to lack a little bit of bass. The beat is softer but you can customize the sound with Asus AudioWizard. There is an equalizer which you can fiddle with and adjust the music to your liking.

Somehow in the previous Zenfone 2 (ZE551ML), the phone frequently hangs and lags terribly. Probably Intel processor was resource hungry and 2 GB of RAM was not sufficient. Fortunately you don’t see that problem in Asus Zenfone 2 Laser (ZE550KL). Everything is quite smooth. There are occasional lags and app crashes but they rarely happen. So this device definitely won’t make you feel frustrated with slow performance etc.

 

USER INTERFACE (UI) & BATTERY LIFE
User Interface (UI) – The UI in Asus is all the same. We have tried many Zenfone devices and overall there is no difference. The Zen UI is definitely a nice UI but if you are coming from Xiaomi or Honor, you will find the Asus Zen UI to be a bit complicated and messy but don’t worry, you will get used to it.

Battery Life – The battery life of Zenfone 2 Laser is definitely very much better compared to the previous Zenfone 2 (ZE550ML). In fact it is also a little better compared to Zenfone Selfie (not much, just slightly). We can easily go through a day with a full charge and our usage are more towards social networking and chatting e.g. WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook, Twitter, Google Chrome browser etc. We also take several photos everyday and navigate once in a while. So based on our usage, the battery was quite good. Most of the time, the 3000 mAh battery can last for about 27 hours or so. Charging time with the default charger took us about 3 hours. It might take longer if you use your phone a lot while it is charging. 

 

CAMERA

This part will be the highlight of the device. Even if you check on Asus official website, the camera will be the main thing that Asus will be focusing on. The camera on Asus Zenfone 2 Laser is definitely made of great hardwares. It has 5p Largan Lenses and using Toshiba sensor with an aperture of f2.0 for both cameras. The laser auto focus does a great job especially in low light condition. The camera even has blue glass filter and other nice features such as dual LED flash to make sure that your image has a natural colour.

We personally feel that apart from the hardware, the software need to be good as well to produce great photos. That is where the Asus PixelMaster kicks.  To be frank, we have a mixed feeling with the photo quality BUT let’s not forget that the camera hardware on this device is as great as in other Asus flagship devices such as Zenfone Selfie. So if the photo is not up to the mark, the software is to be blamed. At first, the photos were very bad in quality. We were shocked to see that the photos are so terrible. However, after performing several updates (firmware as well as PixelMaster app), the photos got much better. Night photos could be a little more better. They look blur and dark but before we performed the software update, the night photos were very bad. The photos were over processed and looked too fake. After the update, the photos have greatly improved but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

The photos from the main camera are very much similar to Asus Zenfone Selfie and Zenfone 2 (ZE551ML). So if you’ve read our review regarding that phone, you will have a good idea of how the photos look like. As for the front camera, they take good photos as well. The beautification mode works nicely where it removes your pimples / scars. If your face is round, you can also make your face look thin and beautiful. Again, the software plays an important part. So if for any reason you find your photos to be bad, blame it on the software. Well, of course, you also need to play with the settings because the default setting might not be suitable for everyone.

The camera photos that we’ve shared below is merely to show on how the quality was before the software update was done and how the quality is after performing the update.

Before update :

  

 

 

After update :

 

 

  

Below are some extra photos that were taken using the Asus Zenfone 2 Laser. These photos were taken while we were moving in a car, just to see how fast the laser could focus certain objects that we were quickly passing by. So please ignore the reflections :p.

 

 

 

 

FINAL VERDICT & SCORE

For RM 799, we feel that the device made enough justice. It has a great camera (depending on the software) and overall, the performance is good. Everything works consistently well and there is no issue in general. The Asus Zenfone 2 Laser (ZE550KL) is definitely a worthy successor of previous gen Zenfone 2 (ZE550ML)

Why do we like this device?
  • Affordable.
  • Looks and feels expensive.
  • Has most of the necessary functions that you will need.
  • Photos taken using this device are good (but not the best).
  • Laser auto focus makes focusing much faster and accurate even in low light condition.
  • Smooth performance.
  • Good battery life.
  • Both SIM slots are 4G LTE capable.
  • The SIM slots are not ‘spring type’ as in Zenfone 2. We find this type of SIM slot to be more durable (our personal opinion).
  • Removable battery (but this is not really an advantage for us so far).
  • Able to use some of Zenfone 2 accessories such as Zenflash etc.
Some of the things that could have been better.
  • Limitation in notification lights.
  • No handsfree out of the box.
  • No fast charging..
  • Not the best audio quality when listening to music via handsfree (software related).
Our score for Asus Zenfone 2 Laser (ZE550KL) :

Summary

81.3%
  • Design / Outlook (90%)
  • Features (80%)
  • Camera (84%)
  • Hardware Performance (77%)
  • Software / UI (80%)
  • Battery Life (77%)
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