​Asus' ZenFone 2 arrives with optical zoom camera sidekick, and new Windows hardware

Following on from last year's ZenFone trio, Asus has released a single 5.5-inch ZenFone 2 as well as a super slim 3X optical zoom camera phone.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
The Zenfone 2.
Image: Asus
Asus has launched its second generation ZenFone, a 5.5-inch display smartphone that packs more grunt than the budget trio it launched a year ago.

At last year's CES, Asus launched the ZenFone 6, ZenFone 5, and the PadFone 4, three phones with low off-contract pricing of $99, $149, and $199 respectively. According to the company, the threesome were selling at a rate of 1.5 million units a month in the last quarter of 2014.

This year Asus has once again used CES as its launch pad, but this time it's whittled down its lineup to two devices: a single 5.5-inch display flagship, the ZenFone 2; and a camera-focused companion, the ZenFone Zoom.

Asus has given the ZenFone 2 considerably higher specs than its predecessor, including a Full HD IPS display at 1920 x 1080 pixels, promising sharper images thanks to its 403ppi pixel density.

The device is running on Android 5.0 Lollipop with Asus' revamped ZenUI, and unlike the first generation handsets, the ZenFone 2 includes LTE Cat 4 support. Aimed at fast-growing markets such as India, the device will come with dual-SIM capacity.

Other core features of the device include its 13-megapixel rear camera and five-megapixel front-facing camera with the obligatory selfie tweaks, such as Selfie Panorama, which allows self portraits to be taken with up to a 140-degree field of view.

The device is available in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models while the 3000mAh battery in the Zenfone 2 marks a significant boost on the 2050mAh battery in last year's ZenFone 5.

Asus has also made marked improvements to processor and RAM. While the Zenfone 6 had a higher capacity 3,230mAh battery supporting its 2GHz Intel Atom Z2580 processor, the ZenFone 2 is powered by a 2.3GHz 64-bit Intel Atom processor Z3580 and has 4GB of RAM. Asus claims its fast charging technology will allow the battery to be given a 60 percent charge in 39 minutes.

ZenUI features that come with the ZenFone 2 include its collection of touch gestures under the ZenMotion brand, SnapView to keep personal and business information apart, and Trend Micro built in to the ZenUI browser.

The one detail Asus hasn't revealed yet for a fair comparison on last year's models is the price. Given the overhaul in specs though, it wouldn't be surprising to see a slightly more expensive device than the first generation.

The devices will be available in grey, black, red, white, and gold. The company hasn't provided a release data yet and for the US the device still needs to be authorised by the Federal Communications Commission.

While Asus has made improvements to the camera on the ZenFone 2, it's saved its most powerful camera features for the ZenFone Zoom. At 11.95mm thick, the device is billed by Asus as the world's thinnest 3X optical zoom smartphone. Samsung's K Zoom is about twice as thick but offers 10X optical zoom.

Like the ZenFone 2, the ZenFone Zoom has a 13-megapixel rear camera but it also features 10 element lenses, 3X optical zoom, and up to 12X digital zoom. It also offers optical image stabiliser and a fast focus feature. Other core specs are the same as the ZenFone 2, except for colour options: the Zoom is only available in black or white. Storage capacity on the device is also yet to be determined.

In addition Asus has launched a new Windows-based range of hardware. The line, known as the Asus Transformer Book Chi Series, includes the 12.5-inch display two-in-one T300 Chi, the 10.1 inch display T100 Chi tablet with attachable keyboard, and the 8.9-inch display T90 Chi.

Again, the focus is on thin, with the T300 Chi coming in at a 7.6mm deep, offering a WQHD IPS display at 2560 x 1440 resolution. Other core features include either a 1.2GHz Intel Core M 5Y71 processor or the 0.8Ghz Intel Core M 5Y10 variant. The device comes with either 54GB or 128GB of solid state storage and either 4GB or 8GB of RAM.

The T100 Chi packs Intel's Bay Trail processor with 1GB or 2GB of RAM, and 32GB or 64GB of storage. The Full HD IPS display is at 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution.

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