ASUS has only just got done releasing the ZenFone 2 — an Intel-powered 5.5-incher that arrives in the U.S. starting at a surprisingly affordable $199 price point. But that's not the end of ASUS' mid-level smartphone lineup for 2015. Just like last year, it seems the Taiwanese company will field ZenFones in varying sizes with mixed hardware across the board. And this week at Computex 2015 in Tapiei, we got a look at 5-inch and 6-inch variants of the ASUS ZenFone 2, with Intel chips and laser autofocus.
The new 5-inch, Qualcomm-powered ZenFone 2 — not to be confused with the Intel-powered 5-inch ZenFone 2, already on sale in Taiwan — downsizes to a smaller display with a 1280x720-resolution display. Externally it's identical to its Atom-powered sibling, except for a couple of important changes around the back. A range of glossy, matte and "metal effect" color options were on show at Computex, but for the most part this is just a smaller version of a device we're already with.
Firstly, the Intel branding is gone, and secondly the Snapdragon model packs a laser-assisted autofocus, like the new ZenFone Selfie. The CPU powering this whole assembly is believed to be a Snapdragon 410, the company's entry-level 64-bit chip, however ASUS reps weren't able to confirm this.
As far as performance goes, we didn't notice much of a difference compared to the other ZenFone 2 models — the software's mostly smooth and responsive, and ASUS' ZenUI provides a wealth of features, though through a UI that leaves something to be desired in terms of overall aesthetics.
At the other end of the spectrum we have a new 6-inch ZenFone 2, powered by an octa-core 64-bit CPU from Qualcomm. Again, nobody's talking specific parts, but it's likely ASUS is sourcing the same Snapdragon 615 processor used in its ZenFone Selfie. Once again, the Intel branding has disappeared, and the 6-incher now boasts the same laser autofocus technology as the other Snapdragon-powered ZenFones. ASUS wasn't showing off any working units at Computex, but the two we got to play with briefly — red and dark grey models — gave the impression of a design that mostly scales pretty well to a larger form factor. The big complaint, for us, is still that top-mounted power key. It makes even less sense on a 6-incher than a 5- or 5.5-inch phone, and it's not at all easy to reach up top and press it without drafting in a second hand. The in-hand feel isn't horrible, though, and the ZenFone's angular sides gives it a secure feel in the hand.
So to recap, we now have at least four main ZenFone 2 variants: Intel-powered 5- and 5.5-inch models, and Qualcomm-powered 5- and 6-inchers.
It's not clear if these Qualcomm-powered ZenFones will ever see any kind of Western release. Indeed, even in its own home territory ASUS seems content to focus on the 5- and 5.5-inch, Intel-powered models. Regardless, new additions like laser AF for faster low-light autofocus show that the company's serious about camera tech, emerging as the second OEM (after LG) to put lasers in the back of a smartphone.