Earlier this year when ASUS first made an appearance at MWC2018 and announced the ZenFone 5 family of devices, we got a glimpse of what the ZenFone 5z will have – and we have the opportunity to test it in our lab too. The ASUS ZenFone 5z is the one smartphone from ASUS this time around that will have the most powerful specs that the market has to offer – other than the upcoming ROG Phone, that is.

We will skip many parts of the ZenFone 5z review since it is mostly identical to the ZenFone 5 that we reviewed here. We’ll also briefly go through the similarities between the Zenfone 5 and 5z.

Unboxing

The ASUS ZenFone 5z comes with the same packaging design – dark blue box with the ZenFone 5z logo debossed at the front. Instead of having reflective light blue debossing like the ZenFone 5, the ZenFone 5z has reflective golden debossing instead. Adds a little premium feel to it, honestly.

ASUS ZenFone 5z

The golden debossing can be seen throughout the entire packaging design. Let’s take a look through all the layers in the unboxing process.

Opening up the box reveals the same contents and packaging style too. You get an accessory box that has the included TPU case and user manual, the ZenFone 5z itself, a charger, USB-C cable, and the earphones.

ASUS ZenFone 5z

Things do look the same. The case is exactly the same, and the color of the ZenFone 5z that we have for review is the same as the ZenFone 5 that we have. Words can’t describe the amount of times I picked up the wrong phone, thinking it was the ZenFone 5z.

The charger is a different for the ZenFone 5z, though it looks the same. More on that later.

What’s the same with the ZenFone 5 and ZenFone 5z?

Well, many things, actually. Let’s talk about them rapid fire style.

Design

Identical. Like I said, I can’t count how many times I picked up the ZenFone 5 and thought it’s the ZenFone 5z.

ASUS ZenFone 5z

The TPU case is the same as well. It has the little bumps inside, which prevents direct contact of the case and the phone itself. This can prevent scratches if any debris got in between.

Connectivity & ports

Identical as well. It has NFC, 5GHz WiFi support, and most important of all, a 3.5mm audio jack. I think it’s worth mentioning again that the earpiece also works as a speaker together with the bottom-facing speakers, although it doesn’t sound particularly good like the Galaxy S9.

The ZenFone 5z also has the same SIM1 + combo SIM2/microSD slot. It still has NFC like the ZenFone 5 that we reviewed here. Nothing special here – except when you look at other smartphones with Snapdragon 845 in the market.

The OnePlus 6 and Mi Mix 2S both have specs similar to the ZenFone 5z. However, only the ZenFone 5z has a microSD card slot – even though it already comes with 128GB of UFS 2.1 storage. More on that later.

ASUS ZenFone 5z

Another thing to highlight is that the ZenFone 5z has triple microphones – just like the ZenFone 5.

Screen

The same as well. The ZenFone 5z is using the same, beautiful IPS LCD screen found on the ZenFone 5. It’s a 6.2-inch screen with 2246×1080 pixels and has a top-notch, like many other smartphones of this year.

Honestly, I love the colors produced by this screen.

ASUS ZenFone 5z

One more point to add regarding the ZenFone 5 and 5z’s screen – the rounded edges’ radius is a little too big. This caused a few elements in games to be cropped a little.

Camera

Ah, the biggest question from everyone. How is the ZenFone 5z’s camera? Is it any good?

ASUS is using the exact same cameras from the ZenFone 5 on the ZenFone 5z. We’ve already reviewed the ZenFone 5’s camera in-depth here. We’re going to show you some pictures taken with the ZenFone 5z too.

As usual, you can visit out Flickr album here for the full resolution of all the pictures shown.

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I do realize that with the ZenFone 5z’s faster processor and storage, loading gallery and editing the pictures are a lot faster as well. Taking and processing HDR pictures are instantaneous as well.

Software

It’s the same too. All the AI features found in the ZenFone 5 are in the ZenFone 5z as well. They’re both using the latest ZenUI 5.0 which you can learn more about it here.

Minimal bloat but the settings menu with all of ZenUI’s features are getting more cluttered. Still, it’s good for everyday use.

What are the differences between the ZenFone 5z and ZenFone 5?

There are quite a few differences, actually. Firstly, the ZenFone 5z comes with upgraded core specs. It’s a true flagship smartphone with flagship specs.

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
  • Adreno 630 GPU
  • 6GB LPDDR4X RAM
  • 128GB of speedy UFS 2.1 storage

It’s not only the SoC that is upgraded – but also the storage chip. The ZenFone 5z is without any compromises when it comes to the hardware technology.

Performance

Of course, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 is the big highlight here. Speaking of the differences isn’t going to do it justice. Take a look at these benchmarks.

ASUS ZenFone 5z 3DMark benchmark ASUS ZenFone 5z Geekbench benchmark ASUS ZenFone 5z VRMark benchmark ASUS ZenFone 5z Antutu benchmark

As you can see, the ZenFone 5z is powerful. However, the downside here is obviously the immense heat and high battery consumption – which the phone can get uncomfortably hot with or without the included TPU case.

While ASUS did promote the “AI Boost” function that is also found in ZenUI 5.0 and literally nags you to turn it on to get better benchmark scores, I found out that there is no impact. The difference is minuscule and within the margin of error of our benchmarks. I really wonder what it does. This is also true in our review of the ZenFone 5 from nearly two months ago.

ASUS ZenFone 5z Antutu comparison benchmark

Let’s not forget that the ZenFone 5z also uses UFS 2.1 storage instead of slower eMCP storage chip. The difference is quite immense and it definitely makes a difference while working with videos and loading large sized games. ASUS is really transparent about this too. Props to them.

ASUS ZenFone 5z Androbench benchmark
The ASUS ZenFone 5z’s storage chip speed is comparable to Samsung Galaxy S9 and Huawei P20.

Gaming

So what about gaming? Just like any other smartphones with the highest end specs, the ASUS ZenFone 5z can run the latest and greatest games without any issue at all. That includes games like Darkness Rises and Honkai Impact 3 in the highest graphical settings.

Battery life

With upgraded hardware, the battery remained the same as the ZenFone 5 at 3,300mAh only. The Snapdragon 845 is going to chew through without an issue within a few hours. That said, the PCMark battery life test is only telling you how’s the battery life on continuous variable workloads – not gaming non-stop. Hence, the result we have is more or less the same as the ZenFone 5.

ASUS ZenFone 5z battery life benchmark

Charger

When it comes to the charger, the ZenFone 5z’s charger looks similar to what we have seen before. It’s the same white brick – but upon closer inspection, it’s actually longer.

ASUS ZenFone 5z

The ZenFone 5z’s charger can output a maximum of 9V 2A. That means it supports fast charging. What’s a smartphone with flagship specs without fast charging, right? Either way, the charging speed of the ZenFone 5z is as below. We use 15% battery as our starting point.

ASUS ZenFone 5z battery charging curve

Using the 9V 2A charger, it can reach 50% of battery around 20 minutes and reaches 75% battery at around 40 minutes before the charging speed starts plateauing. Learn why it plateaus here.

For the slower 5V 2A charger, the ZenFone 5z reaches 50% battery at about 29 minutes and reaches 75% of battery at about 50 minutes.

Wrapping up the ASUS ZenFone 5z review

While most of the parts of the ASUS ZenFone 5z is identical with the ZenFone 5, I think it’s a rather great alternative to other flagship smartphones in the market. This smartphone right here is the cheapest phone with Snapdragon 845 and you get zero compromises in terms of hardware.

ASUS ZenFone 5z

For those who are already going to fork out money to get other phones with Snapdragon 845, take a look at this instead. There are going to be two variants in the market, and the pricing is as follow:

  • 6GB RAM + 128GB storage : RM1,899
  • 8GB RAM + 256GB storage : RM2,299

I have to say, the 6GB RAM + 128GB storage that we have for review here is already sufficient enough for day to day use. If you’re a trigger-happy person when it comes to taking pictures and lazy to clear out your internal storage, then you can get the 8GB RAM + 256GB storage variant as well.

By the way – let’s not forget that the OnePlus 6 and Mi Mix 2S doesn’t have microSD card slot – but the ZenFone 5z does.

It’s honestly the most affordably flagship smartphone in the market right now. OnePlus can’t even match the ASUS ZenFone 5z.