ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro In-Depth Review – Double Selfie Goodness
- AMOLED 5.5" Full HD Display
- 16-Megapixel Rear Camera
- 24-Megapixel Front Camera
- Premium Build and smooth UI
- Battery Life
- Uncreative Design
- terrible light sensitivity (front camera)
- MicroUSB Port
- no dust or waterproofing
The ASUS ZenFone journey started out in 2014 with their first attempt in an Android smartphone. It became a budget smartphone that grew into the ZenFone 2 family of devices. They did well on the ZenFone 2 series though. They became the budget smartphone family that we liked from every angle. It was not hard to see why the ZenFone 2 device is so likeable as well. It was relatively cheap to own, it has a solid build quality that rivals even the flagships, it works just as well as it said it would and more, and it was reliable (to a certain extent). Then came the ZenFone 3 – ASUS’ first attempt to breakthrough into the world of high-end smartphones.
We all knew how that turned out though. At least in Malaysia, the ZenFone 3 series looked like something of a marketing disaster. It was thought to be overpriced even for a premium built smartphone with cutting edge features. I personally have to admit that I quite like the look of the ZenFone 3 though. It looked so sharp that even the re-sharpened favourite kitchen knife in my kitchen looked dull. The swirls at the back of the device add that sorely needed character that differentiates it from the rest of the pack in the smartphone industry. Its rectangular fingerprint sensor that is oddly placed at the back of the device is not the best ever, but it sits so perfectly flush in the back of the device that it looks as if it belongs to be there. It was a sleek device, it was a lovely device, it was the device that missed the mark just by that much though.
Fast forward to 2017; specifically August 2017. The stage in Taiwan is set, ambassador at the ready, fans lined up, weather warm. The highly anticipated ZenFone 4 series was launched. It was on the 17th of August, 2017 and I remembered it because I was there. There was little hype around the device before its launch – Gong Yoo stole most of its light obviously being a high-profile ambassador to the Taiwanese giant. But as the show starts the ZenFone 4 stole back the limelight.
It looked the part. It looked like the show stopper that we all finally deserved. It looked just as good if not better than the ZenFone 3. It pays homage to its older predecessor with that iconic “ASUS Swirl” at the back of the device. That swirl reflects the lights in ways we could not explain. It looked so pretty in the light, you wanted it as soon as your eyes looked at it.
I have to apologise at this point for wasting that few minutes of your life describing the ZenFone 4 though, it looked so good. I have to apologise because its availability in Malaysia is not even confirmed. We do not know when or whether it is even coming to this part of the world. Sad? I know it was a hollow day to walk away knowing that we may never see that little beauty on the streets of Malaysia. There are other devices however.
There were the ZenFone 4 Max Pro, Selfie, and Selfie Pro that is coming to Malaysia. That is, so far what was confirmed at the launch anyway. We had the pleasure, courtesy of ASUS Malaysia to have a go at the supposed local ASUS champion; the ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro.
So what about this device then? The lower specced counter part of the highly anticipated ZenFone 4. You may start looking at it with a scorn at this point; but do not be swayed away first by its seemingly sub par positioning. It is still a Snapdragon 600 series you are looking at here. It even packs 4GB of RAM which is nowhere near low-end hardware. It even sports a Full HD display with AMOLED technology. Its party piece is a dual-camera set up aiming at you packing 24-Megapixels which means that this is no slouch either.
But is it any good? Could this non-flagship champion for the Malaysian market cut it? Could it replace the void left by the absence of ASUS ZenFone 4 (the ZenFone 4 flagship is still rumoured to be coming to Malaysia in September though, by the time of this writing; ASUS has not denied nor confirmed the existence of the flagships in the region) in the region? Well, only one way to find out.
If we have to use one word to describe the ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro it would be familiar. It looks familiar when you look at it from the front. If we are being honest, we think that it plenty resembles another device we have reviewed before (ahem OPPO, ahem). In fact put side by side, the only way we could tell it apart is when you see two front facing cameras staring back at you. It has almost exactly similar sort of dimensions as one another which makes it all the harder to differentiate at a glance. At some point I personally took out the wrong device just because of that. The proportions are so similar it is uncanny. But that is when you view it from the front of the device.
The back of the device is a totally different story though. The brand is clear as day; the ‘ASUS’ moniker stands out but is not oversized. It sits perfectly in the top-mid section of the device, almost directly below the 16-Megapixel camera module. The smooth aluminium back feels premium to the touch whilst looking as good as it is. It has that air of familiarity as you put it side by side with its rivals. Most of them are fitted with aluminium backs like this one. Except the layout on this Selfie Pro is a little different. Its camera is placed on the central part of the device’s top half. The 16-megapixel camera module is a little protruded too so that might not allow the device to sit flush on the table. The camera module that disturbs the clean, smooth aluminium at the back of the device also features machined patterns which does add a little drama to the device.
It may look plenty similar to some of its competitor’s products but that does not mean that it is a bad thing. The combination of the familiar clean front on the device and the premium aluminium back makes this look the part of a premium device. That said, we do think that this is still a handsome device; it may not be the most unique looking device, but it still does look good.
The ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro is not considered a flagship in the ZenFone 4 family. It is the highest specced ZenFone 4 that Malaysia will currently be getting though. If you think about it then this could be considered as Malaysia’s ASUS ZenFone flagship. It packs the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 paired with 4GB of RAM though so it is still no slouch.
Because it is not actually a flagship though it does not get the rear dual-camera set up that the ASUS ZenFone 4 flagship gets. Instead it comes with a dual-camera front facing set up that packs 12-Megapixel each to make 24-Megapixel images. The rear camera is not slouch either though with 16-Megapixels packed under that lens. Then there is the 1080p Full HD that you get on the Selfie Pro which adds to the value of the device itself (not many devices in the same price range gets 1080p Full HD displays). With that sort of resolution you could be forgiven thinking that this is a flagship device. The only bummer that comes with the device, on first glance was the lack of USB Type-C.
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 (8 Cores)
Octa-Core @ 2.0GHz
Expandable with MicroSD (Up to 256GB)
|Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)||Adreno 506|
5.5-inch (~535 ppi)
1080p Full HD (1,080 x 1,920 pixels)
Corning Gorilla Glass 4
|Operating System||Android 7.1.1 Nougat with ZenUI 4.0|
|Battery||Non-Removable 3,000mAh Li-Ion
Wi-Fi IEEE802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
4K Video recording (30fps)
Dual 24 – Megapixel f/1.8
120o Wide-angle lens
4K video recording (30fps)
The latest from ASUS of course comes with the latest Android 7.1.1 with the ZenUI 4.0. The ZenUI 4.0 came a long way from ZenUI 3.0. It looks even cleaner than before and it is. It has less bloatware than ever before which helps in letting Android do its own thing. The clean looks of the ZenUI 4.0 almost resembles a stock android experience though, save for the part where the app drawer button is still around sitting at the center part of the bottom of the display at homescreen. The quick launch apps beside the app drawer button represented by 6 dots can be customised and changed at anytime. You can even put groups there. The notification screen is slightly different compared to a stock Android’s. It is admittedly busier than the stock Android’s notification tray but it is at least functional. You get more quick settings access when you pull the notification tray down another time. From here you can turn the brightness down and up, turn your WiFi on or off, turn data on or off, and a whole slew of the usual quick settings like the usual things you get from Android.
As mentioned, the new ZenUI is plenty cleaner than the already clean-looking ZenUI 3.0. It even comes with less bloatware than before which makes processes run faster. It looks good too; icons do retain the same Android round icons and everything can be placed into groups. You can do that in the app drawer which swipes from left to right or vice versa too, giving it more flexibility compared to stock Android.
As a mid-range device the ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro reacted and performed slightly better than what we expected it to do. Benchmarks rarely tell the full story of a device though so we do have to remind you to take the benchmark scores with a pinch of salt. In real life, your smartphones are working in different environments all the time. They have to work in different conditions too for that matter. Benchmarks do not take plenty of that into account.
The ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro is ASUS’ current champion for the Malaysian market. It does pack a good punch with the 600 series Snapdragon processor. As we have seen before with the mid-range processor, we were well surprised with the sort of punch it packs. Of course with a brand new processor, we expect only good things from the Selfie Pro.
Call Quality and Connectivity
As with any modern smartphones the ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro packs all the usual bells and whistles as well. It packs the usual 2G, EDGE, GPRS, 3G HSPA+, and 4G LTE. There is the usual WiFi antennas as well. Bluetooth comes in a 4.1 flavour. Maps is covered by GPS and Assisted GPS. Because it is not a high-end device though it is not equipped with the almost standard USB Type-C. That little disappointment though is cured by its fast charging capability. Of course, it has a 3.5mm jack still.
I have equipped the ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro with Celcom’s XPax network throughout our review period. As usual we made several calls from the smartphone. A few times using the loudspeakers instead of the speakerphone, because I was driving; I am a responsible driver (konon-nya, Malaysian slang for “as if”). Of course the loud speakers were not only applicable when during driving conditions. Of course there were the usual messaging through WhatsApp and the regular messaging app as well. Then there is the regular 4G LTE data connection.
The device was a bliss in the test period though. There is nothing unusual about the device’s connectivity. It kept a strong signal throughout the test period. There is even a time when the device remains in strong signal when other device’s signal dropped. We have to note that other devices are on different carriers though. There was one other device that was on Celcom’s postpaid line though and even then its signal was not as strong as the ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro. Of course, there are those certain dark spots when signal drops for no reason like when you enter an underground parking.
Dropped calls are rare, almost never in fact. The only time when calls are dropped were when we entered parking buildings or underground parking. Then again these places are no strangers to dropped signals and calls. Calls made are usually clear as long as the signal is strong enough. When the signal drops to a single bar, calls are still possible but do not expect crisp and clear calls; though we were pleasantly surprised most of the time when we made calls in these conditions. With the noise cancellation mic, the other person reported calls to be as clear as it can be. Of course loud environmental noise is still noticeable at times but it is not so distracting that it ruins the phone call; most of the ambient noise is cut out. Even in noisy areas the noise cancelling mics did its job and cut out most ambient noise that I was clear to the other person on the other side of the line. The speakerphone can sound quite weak by default out-of-the-box though so you might want to turn up the volume a little.
Using any smartphone for teleconferencing is never the best idea. Sometimes though you have no choice but to use them for exactly that. If you are in a small discussion room that can fit around four people the ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro might still work for you if everyone is seated closely together. If one decides to go to on corner of the room though that particular person might miss the conversation completely, though the phone is still audible.
Despite the slightly weak performance when used as a loudspeaker though you will appreciate that you will hardly miss any phone calls with the Selfie Pro. The ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro’s built-in speakers are actually quite loud. Even if you stuff the device deep in your backpack you will hardly miss a call.
Of course with 4GB RAM you do expect that the ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro to perform well when it comes to multitasking. Supported by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 Octa-core processor, of course it does perform well. With more than 10 apps open the device does not show any signs of slowing down. In fact we could open more apps and the device still handles all the background processes like a champ.
As usual, I have about 10 – 20 tabs open on my Chrome browser most of the time and do a clean up (closing tabs) as little as once a week to once in a few months (We did not have the Selfie Pro for that long though; so in this case we did not close any of the tabs until we did a factory reset). The smartphone still handles the load well enough that there was no noticeable lags during our tenure with it. The browser did not even slow down to catch a breath when we quickly switch between apps and tabs.
We do suspect that this was due to the major revamp that ASUS did with their ZenUI 4.0 though. They did overhaul their launcher to be as clean as possible to lighten its load on the processor and RAM of the device. True enough, there is always more than 1GB of RAM at light loads. If you do load up plenty of apps at the same time, you might dwindle that down to less than 1GB but never less than 500MB. We do think that the UI is doing something to suppress some of the background apps though. That also help extend its battery life in some ways.
We remembered the time when gaming on a mid-range device was deemed to be impossible. We also remembered the time when mobile gaming was still acceptable on a mid-range device, but that still gives you a dreadful experience. Games tend to lag and slow the device down so much that you would have to reboot the device to turn the game off, or to have it function for that matter.
Not these days though. Mid-range devices is not just acceptable anymore; most of them are actually very capable devices that could be compared to plenty of the flagships. Of course they are obliterated in benchmarks. We have insisted thought that benchmarks at plenty of times do not mean that much when it comes to actual day-to-day usage. Benchmarks may not mean a thing in fact when you are actually using your smartphone daily. Although benchmarks could be a good measure to a device’s gaming performance.
For the ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro we loaded up games like SkyForce: Reloaded (my personal favourite), Ninjump (we still think this is the most annoyingly the best way to spend your mindless minutes), Injustice: Gods Among Us, and Hearthstone. Ninjump is a simple enough game to play and simple enough game to load. Technically you should be able to play it on any smartphone; be it a cheap entry-level device to over-the-top flagships. No surprises here that Ninjump ran smoothly on the device.
SkyForce: Reloaded is another favourite of mine that, in theory should work on mid-range device onward. On the Selfie Pro, it worked well. There was no notice of frame rates dropping out of nowhere or stutters. The game took no longer than the usual few seconds to fully load and gameplay was as smooth as it gets. loading screens are no longer than what you get on flagships. Even Injustice: Gods Among Us worked very well on the device. We do notice a slight increase in heat after a while but it was nothing unbearable.
The heaviest game you can play on any mobile device at this point though (in our limited arsenal of games) could be Hearthstone. Despite that claim though Hearthstone loaded up quicker than expected and gameplay was better than what we anticipated it to do. There are of course still the occasional lags and stutters during gameplay but it was nothing that we have not seen before even on high-end devices. We do acknowledge however that there are now more graphic intensive mobile games out there in the field, we have not brought ourselves to play those games.
On this front ASUS shoehorned a 3,000mAh power pack into a super slim body of a device. 3,000mAh is a lot of juice for any device. Devices these days though are more power-hungry than ever which means that you should never expect your device to last more than a day. For the ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro, we are happy to report that it lasted for more than a day, albeit just.
In our test period we have used it to make multiple calls throughout the day, send a healthy amount of text through WhatsApp, go through emails, surf through FaceBook, played with its camera plenty (it is a selfie phone), Instagram plenty, Tweet a little, surf the web in short bursts (we do that plenty), and we used it for a small amount of navigation throughout the day. From a full charge in the morning at 8.00 a.m. we came home to about 10% of battery remaining at 11.00 p.m. which is pretty impressive in our books. The 10% charge could be carried to the next day if you leave the device on standby alone. We do recon that if we leave the device alone on standby, it might last about two full days; probably more.
That said the battery life do take a little bit of a toll when you fire up your games and when you do watch plenty of YouTube. Nevertheless the power drop is always at a predictable level and never at an alarming rate. If the Selfie Pro is your daily driver you really should expect your device to last you a full work day and probably more.
When you do run out of juice though the ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro comes with fast charging technology. That fully charges the Selfie Pro within two hours, from flat. It even has smart charging too which slows the charger down as it approaches full capacity. This would help prolong the battery’s long term durability as well.
The ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro comes with a 5.5-inch display boasting AMOLED technology. The AMOLED display features 1,080 by 1,920 pixels making it a Full HD screen as well. To keep the Full HD contained is a 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass layer on top. It even boasts brightness up to 500 nits. Then again its brightness should come as no surprise as AMOLED displays tend to be associated with its unusually pleasant brightness out-of-the-box.
AMOLED displays are also generally associated with highly saturated colours that just pops at you. Why should it be any different with the ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro. What did you expect anyway? It is an AMOLED display after all. Colours do pop at you and any images do look like how you would see it in real life; in some cases, even better than real life. Any images displayed on the Full HD display looks as good as they can be. If the display is a little too bright to your eyes there is the built-in eye-protection feature that cuts a little bit of Blue Light that strains your eyes.
The AMOLED display is amazing all around. Images look so good that they look almost alive even. The only issue right now with the AMOLED display is that once you get used to it, there is no going back to regular LCD displays. Of course AMOLED displays consume less power than regular LCD panels and that extends the all important battery life.
The party piece of the ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro is definitely its cameras. More specifically though the ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro’s party piece are its 24-Megapixel (12 +12) dual front-facing cameras (of course, it is named Selfie Pro after all). Both lenses feature f/1.8 aperture for a superb low light performance. Then there is ASUS’ in-house built SuperPixel technology that supposedly make photos even more detailed. It even records selfies in 4K if you really want to. For a group selfie you can switch to the 120o wide angle camera. Keep in mind that when you do that you only get 12-Megapixel with the shot. Then there is the 16-Megapixel camera at the back which also still shoot videos at 4K. It comes aided with an LED flash for extreme low light photography and of course ASUS’ SuperPixel image processor. Of course all those are theoretical things you might already know just by looking at its spec sheet we provided earlier (or their website). The most important thing here is the quality of the photos taken by the Selfie Pro.
We kick-off with their rear camera – we do think their selfie camera deserves its own section just because it is the main highlight. So do bear with us for one moment. Back to topic; the rear camera, the main shooter as we like to call the usual variants of rear cameras. Not in this case though, the rear camera is a tertiary camera instead (one main and one secondary camera up front). Sitting centrally with a small bulge disrupting the clean, smooth aluminium back it is still capable sensor. At 16-Megapixels it still is not what you would call a wallflower. It still works properly as a proper camera and can give some flagship device cameras a run for their money. Of course at some point it could be due to the camera app optimisation by the manufacturers instead. In that front, ASUS did a good job learning from the previous ZenFone 3 devices.
Of course with 16-Megapixel there is only so much detail you can have in a photo and there is always room for improvement. For some creativity flair there are 9 included filters built into the camera app. We did not try any as we do think that most of the time you would be shooting in normal auto mode with no filter. You still can add the filters later on anyway. You could go to Pro shooting mode if you are experienced enough with cameras but then again, we did not do that and left it in auto most of the time. We wanted a quick point and shoot anyway so we left it to its own devices. Photos from the rear shooter turn out to look sharp when you do get good lighting. There is a good amount of detail within the photos but there is still no beating a proper camera. Even close up shots (Macro) looks good with the rear camera. It may not be the main camera but it is still a highly capable camera capable of getting good photos.
Now, the star of the show. The highlight of the ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro; the dual lens front facing cameras. Combined, both the front facers capture photos at 24-Megapixels, which is way more than enough for your profile photos. At 24-Megapixels too you better hope that your pimples are gone because you can actually see it. The combination of the front facing cameras make the photos even more detailed than that of a single lens camera. At this point though I have to put up a disclaimer, we are not responsible for any medical conditions triggered or anyone fainting from looking at the seflies I personally took. We all know I take bad selfies and I cannot keep a straight face while taking self-portraits. There is light at the end of the tunnel (gallery) though.
There is also an app called selfie master for people like me. It does not give you a step-by-step guide on how to take the prefect selfie or become a selfie master yourself unfortunately. Which means by the time I was done with selfie master, I still take terrible selfies but at least I look better with the beauty mode. If you think that the beauty effect is making you look too dolly, you can turn it down by up to 10 notches.
The selfie camera has another mode though, the super-wide 120o selfie mode. This gives you extra width to capture either more things or more people behind you. It is a handy feature when you want to take a large group photo without any assistance. The only issue here is that you are reduced to only using 12-Megapixel rather than the full 24-Megapixel beans that you will be used to on normal selfie mode. That means also that you are getting less details on these wide-angle shots. Though they are good enough for social media sharing.
The ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro’s front facing cameras are great for plenty of things and are highly detailed in a lot of the photos. The one really nagging issue we found with the front facing cameras is getting the lighting right. If you do take photos under a shade in the outdoors, any form of light will look washed out and way too bright. Even if you take photos under fluorescent lights your background will be so white washed that you cannot make out where you take your photos. Good for privacy maybe.
Both the rear and the front cameras take 4K videos so if you do plenty of vlog, you might appreciate that. The video quality works just as well as they should with a slightly yellowish colour hue. To keep files smaller, you can record them in 1080p Full HD ot 720p HD format anyway.