ASUS ZenFone 4 Pro Review – A class behind

ZenFone’s are well known for their midrange Smartphone, but ASUS is throwing their hat in the high end with the ZenFone 4 Pro. Highend Smartphone components are getting more expensive which is driving the price up of the handsets, there is no way around it. If you want the fastest processors with the best RAM you're going to have to pay for it, let's find out if the ZenFone 4 Pro is the complete package.
by Nicole on November 1, 2017
Positives
  • Good quality camera
  • telephoto lens is useful
  • all day battery life with standard use
  • 3.5mm headphone jack with high end audio
  • MicroSD Card slot or Dual SIM
Negatives
  • too expensive
  • low light photo quality is average
  • camera app is slow to respond when lighting conditions aren't ideal
  • design is outdated

Design

A good looking phone that looks more midrange than high-end

  • 2.5D Gorilla Glass surrounds this handset on the front and back

Postive

  • It really is a great looking well-built handset.
  • Comes with clear plastic cover.

Negative

  • The spun metal ZenCircle design that appeared on previous handsets is now gone.
  • Glossy finish is prone to fingerprints
  • Large bezels at the top and bottom
  • It’s very slippery, constantly almost sliding off the table or out of my hand, this means you have to use the case and it hides the sleek look and feel. There is actually a minor bump on the bottom of the phone, this must have happened one of the time I left it on the table and it slid right off
  • The bumper of the 4 Pro is great looking phone, however, lacking the edge to edge display found on most premium handsets it is competition with because of it’s very high price point. Though it is a great looking phone, it’s bezels at the top and bottom are much to large to be considered anything but midrange.

Hardware

Positive

  • MicroSD card up to 256GB
  • Very fast and reliable fingerprint sensor. ASUS claims 0.3sec to unlock in 3 weeks of use we only noted half dozen time it didn’t read properly

Negative

  • Not waterproof

ASUS ZenFone 4 Pro Specifications

Display
  • 5.5-inch AMOLED
  • 1080 x 1920 pixels, 16:9 ratio (~401 ppi density)
  • 70.3% screen-to-body ratio
  • Gorilla Glass 5
Processsor
  • Qualcomm MSM8998 Snapdragon 835
  • Octa-core (4×2.45 GHz Kryo & 4×1.9 GHz Kryo)
  • Adreno 540
RAM LPDDR4x 6GB
Internal Storage UFS 2.1  64/128 GB
Rear Camera Dual 12 MP (f/1.7, 25mm, OIS, 4-axis, PDAF & laser AF) + 16 MP (50mm), 2x optical zoom, Sony IMX351 image sensor
Front Camera 8 MP, f/1.9, 22mm, 1.4µm pixel size, phase detection autofocus, 1080p. Sony IMX319 image sensor
Operating System Android Oreo 7.1 (Oreo Update confirmed), Asus ZenUI 4.0
Battery Li-Ion 3600 mAh battery – Quick Charge
Network
  • Slot 1: 2G/3G/4G Nano SIM card

    Slot 2: 2G/3G/4G Nano SIM Card, or the MicroSD card (supports up to 2TB) at a time

    Both SIM card slots support 3G WCDMA / 4G LTE network band. But only one SIM card can connect to 3G WCDMA / 4G LTE service at a time.

  • LTE Cat12: UL 100 Mbps / DL 600 Mbps World wide version

    LTE Cat12: UL 150 Mbps / DL 600 Mbps (US/CA/BR/CO/JP/IN version)

    FDD-LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 17,19, 20, 28)

    TD-LTE (Bands 38, 39, 40, 41 (2545~2655MHz))

Connectivity
  • WiFi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • Bluetooth®: BT 5.0
  • NFC: Ja
  • WiFi direct
  • USB-Anschluss: USB Type-C™ 3.1
  • USB-Funktionen: Aufladung, MTP, Tethering, DisplayPort, Audio, Power Delivery, OTG
Sensors
  • Live fingerprint sensor (0.3 seconds unlock, supports 5 fingerprints)
  • Accelerator
  • E-Compass
  • Gyroscope
  • Proximity sensor
  • Ambient light sensor
  • RGB sensor, Laser sensor
Audio
  • 3.5mm headphone
  • 5-magnet speaker with TI Smart Amp for up to 40% better performance
  • Hi-Res audio 192kHz/24-bit standard that is 4 times better than CD quality
  • DTS (Digital Theater System) Headphone:X™ 7.1 virtual surround sound for headphone support
Weight 175 Gramm
Dimentions 156.9 x 75.6 x 7.6 mm
Details
  • Glasrückseite
  • Dual-SIM
  • Kein Wireless Charging
IWhat’s in the Box
  • ZenFone 4 Pro

  • ASUS ZenEar Pro earphone with microphone

  • Type-C USB cable

  • Ejector pin (SIM tray needle)

  • USB power adapter (18W)

  • Documentation (user guide, warranty card)

  • Clear soft bumper (optional)

Camera

ZenFone 4 Pro, you get the same main camera behind a brighter f/1.7 lens, but this time the second camera does 2X optical zoom. Again, the secondary camera isn’t as good in low light — a common thing for dual-lens phones — with its f/2.6 lens. But you do at least get a hardware-enabled portrait mode in the ZenFone 4 Pro.

PixelMaster camera modes:
Auto (with low light and HDR features)
Beauty
Portrait
Selfie Panorama
GIF Animation
9 various filters
Video Recording
4K UHD (3840 by 2160) video recording at 30 fps for rear camera’s shake-free videos
1080p FHD video recording at 30 / 60 fps
720p HD video recording at 30 fps
3-axis electronic image stabilization for selfie and rear cameras
Slow Motion video (1080p at 120 fps / 720p at 240 fps)
Take still photo while recording video

Postive

  • Dual Camera set up with 2X zoom fast and in good lighting produces photos
  • Good Selfie camera, wide angle for grofies (group selfies) is the same quality as the standard
  • Colour representation is good, photos are not over saturated

Negative

  • Portrait mode works very poorly in low light and can take such a long time to take the photo that you’ve moved the phone causing an artistic and abstract photo.
  • The 2X Zoom quickly loses detail when the lighting is anything less than idea
  • ZenUI Night time mode is gone, previous versions of the ZenFone were able to take photos in virtual darkness. You had to select the mode, it would never use it automatically (a prompt suggesting a mode switch would have been cool), but it could take usable photos in virtual darkness, and did make the ZenFone one of the better low light smartphones around. That feature is missing and low light in Pro and Auto aren’t very good and the photos are usually very noisy.
  • shutter speed slows down in relation to how dark it gets, the darker the subject, the longer it takes to react. Not something you expect from a Snapdragon 835 and 6GB of RAM.
  • Does not handle backlight very well

Here are some sample photos:

Standard

2X Zoom

5X Digital Zoom

low light. photo quality quickly starts to degrade

2X Zoom looks more pixelated than good lighting conditions

Standard

Here are some low light samples, it performs well, the shutter speed is often very slow, even with HRD off, we’re disappointed because the Snapdragon 835 should be powerful enough for snappy low light performance.

These were taken in Pro mode and took several shots to reduce the noise. The ZenFone 4 Pro is capable of decent low light photos, just not in Auto.

Photo take in Auto at in a bar, if you’re looking for a low light point and shoot, this isn’t the phone for you.

The dual lens set up also allow for a portrait mode, in normal lighting it is acceptable, the edges are fairly accurate. However, we should note that what you see in the preview is way worse than what the photo looks like. This makes the phone feel much less premium and much more midrange, these kinds of UX details are what is starting to separate the top tier from the midrange.

Portrait mode in low light is very slow, so slow that I decided to include a sample photo of holding the phone for 3 seconds, thinking it was done and then realizing that it wasn’t. If there isn’t enough light the software has a hard time differentiating the edges and the results are not great. All phones have this problem, but most give you an indication that the photo is still being taken.

22 hours on a plane to Valencia, I looked much worse in person. Beauty settings on 25% strength.

Software

  • Android 7.1 with an update to Oreo that has been confirmed
  • Asus has completely reworked Nougat’s settings menu, loading it with more customisation options than can easily be counted. Some, such as Splendid, or the ability to create custom audio profiles are useful, but most of the changes feel fairly pointless and detrimental to the user experience.

Postive

  • Asus has radically decreased the amount of bloatware
  • Asus-specific services, such as WebStorage, are also neatly contained in a folder, making them easy to ignore and hide from the homescreen
  • Game Genie is a great program that is married well with ZenUI and the hardware, its life cast and screen record work perfectly.
  • The scope of the Zenfone 4’s customisation is impressive.
  • ZenUI Safeguard feature is also a worthy addition, offering a quick SOS alert to be sent to preferred contacts, as well as full location reporting.
  • Asus’ Customised Settings also delivers quite a few extra tools. You can sign in with two different accounts on the likes of Facebook, for instance, or stream your mobile gaming session straight to Twitch.
  • great wallpapers and very cool live wallpapers

Negative

  • There is so much customization in ZenUI it makes it overwhelming and is hard to navigate.
  • ZenUI is greatly improved, but we would have preferred stock Android.
  • We had trouble signing into some WiFi networks as the authentication option never appeared.

Sound

The dual-speakers aren’t good enough for serious music listening, but they’re clear and loud enough for some Netflix action. The addition of hi-res audio and DTS Headphone:X support are also a bonus for audiophiles and serious movie fans who want to experience virtual surround sound.

Positive

  • Loud clear sound. You can easily share video in a noisy coffee shop.
  • 3.5mm headphone jack comes with hi-res audio and DTS Headphone:X support
  • Hi-Res audio playback, for enjoying top-quality tracks.
  • Bluetooth 5 means you can hook up to two separate speakers or headphones at the same time, handy when traveling with a partner.
  • Asus has also served up some manual audio controls in the form of the AudioWizard, which can tweak the output based on your type of headphones and more.

Negative

  • Headphones that come in the box are very average, the bass is lacking lows
  • Though the audio from the speakers is loud and clear, the low tones or bass is lacking so vocals can often sound a bit empty when listening to podcasts or vocal heavy music.

Performance

Game Genie

  • Qualcomm MSM8998 Snapdragon 835
  • Octa-core (4×2.45 GHz Kryo & 4×1.9 GHz Kryo)
  • Adreno 540
  • 6GB LPDDR4 RAM

Apart from the camera lagging in low light, the ZenFone 4 Pro is a snappy beast.

  • The benchmarks are competitive with other high end handsets

  • The handset is snappy and the camera responds quickly, this is the main difference in performance between the mid tier ZenFone 4 which does experience some lag.

PCMark Work 2.0 7462
AnTuTu 176791
3DMark 3733
Geekbench single 1902
Geekbench multicore 6203
GFX Bench T Rex Offscreen
GFX Bench Offscreen

Price

The ASUS ZenFone 4 Pro is currently available on Amazon for $799 which is too expensive for a handset with an outdated design. The large bezels at the top and bottom combined with the average low light camera performance make this seem like it should have more a midrange price tag rather than a high end one. When you compare the Samsung Galaxy S8 or LG G6 which both have sleeker designs and better cameras.

Rating
Design / 7
Camera / 7.3
Sound / 8
Performance / 8
Battery Life / 8
Software / 7.5
Price / 6
Editor's Choice / 7
Hardware / 8.5
Display / 8
ASUS ZenFone 4 Pro

The ASUS ZenFone 4 Pro is a solid smartphone, it’s got a fast a decent camera that has acceptable low light performance. If we didn’t have to compare it to the top tier handsets because of the price tag it could be a phone that we would recommend. It’s got fast performance, good battery life, and a solid build, it’s a shame its design didn’t keep up with its competition.

7.5
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