Review: ASUS Zenfone 2

In Phones by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

(UPDATE, April 21: We spoke to ASUS Philippines country manager George Su on the sidelines of the Zenfone 2 launch in Jakarta, Indonesia, and here’s what he said about the handset.)

(UPDATE 2, May 16: The ASUS Zenfone 2 is now official in the Philippines. Even better, it’s available on Lazada Philippines’ mobile app. Pricing starts at P9,995 for the 2GB RAM variant, while the 5-inch model costs P7,995.)

Weeks ago, we wrote about scoring a retail unit of the ASUS Zenfone 2 (ZE550ML) well ahead of its official release in the Philippines, chiming in with our initial impressions and doing an unboxing video for YouTube. You know what comes after that: our review of what is likely the most important device from the Taiwan-based manufacturer after 2014’s wildly successful Zenfone 5.

Case in point: ASUS bumped up its 25 million sales outlook for the year, believing it can ship 30 million handsets globally — enough for a top-10 finish among smartphone makers — and everything hinges on how well the Zenfone 2 will be received by the public.

Right off the bat, we’ll say that the company has every reason to be optimistic about its fortunes in 2015. Because despite the all-too-likely possibility that the larger ASUS Zenfone 2 will cost more than its 5-inch predecessor (TW$5,990 or about P8,600 in its native Taiwan, more than a thousand pesos higher than the Zenfone 5’s suggested retail price of P6,995) when it finally lands in the Philippines, the follow-up to last year’s ASUS top-billing smartphone offers greater value for money.

And that speaks volumes not only about how far the Taiwanese outfit has come in a year, but also about how much of an upgrade the Zenfone 2 actually is, especially when you consider the genius of the Zenfone 5, as well as its impact on the Philippine market. (Our conversations with ASUS executives suggest that the company has leapfrogged to sixth place among local players, largely as a result of the overwhelming demand for the Zenfone 5.)

That said, this year’s release would have to be nothing short of a near-perfect effort to fill the role left by the original. And is it? Read on to find out, or watch our video below.

Specs of the ASUS Zenfone 2 (Price of the ZE550ML model, which is what we have: TW$5,990 or about P8,600):
* Dual-SIM (primary SIM slot offers 3G and 4G/LTE speeds; secondary SIM slot supports 2G only)
* 1.8GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3560 CPU
* PowerVR G6430 GPU
* 2GB RAM
* 16GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 64GB)
* 5.5-inch IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 13-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 3,000mAh battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RypWLWiz1P0″ width=”560″ height=”315″]

Watch our ASUS Zenfone 2 review

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: The Zenfone 2 follows the same design principles as the smartphones ASUS built last year, only this time the result is something more refined and less bulky (well, not in the strictest sense, as you’ll find out soon enough.)

Like so many other phone makers before it, the company has opted for evolution rather than revolution, building on an already solid foundation by way of a few, small cosmetic improvements, as opposed to cramming a hundred new ideas into one sequel. The bezels around the 5.5-inch display are slightly thinner this time around. The double chin below the screen doesn’t seem to stick out as much, too, though we wouldn’t mind ASUS dropping it in favor of a more compact form.

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But that’s not to say the Taiwanese firm has stopped listening to new ideas altogether. One thing we’re particularly fond of is the placement of the volume rocker around the back, close to where your index finger naturally rests, which makes for easier access and allows you to hold the phone any way you like without worrying about your fingers pressing any buttons.

ASUS has opted for evolution rather than revolution, building on an already solid foundation by way of a few, small cosmetic improvements.

Reaching the relocated power button perched on the top edge of the device requires some finger gymnastics to pull off, though. The design choice comes across as both surprising and unfortunate, especially considering how wide the phone is, and we couldn’t help but think that maybe ASUS should have stuck to what feels natural. LG has, and thus its current smartphone line features rear-mounted controls that are a joy to use.

Thankfully, you don’t need to press Zenfone 2’s power key to wake or lock the screen, as double-tapping the display performs the said function. There are other screen-off gestures you can execute under the ZenMotion feature, such as drawing a “W” to launch the stock browser or a “C” to trigger the camera app. Including double-tap to wake, there are seven gestures in total, six of which can be configured to launch a preferred app. It’s a neat, if familiar, trick. But more importantly, it works well.

ASUS has kept the capacitive keys of the original, making no changes whatsoever to how they are arranged and how they react when you press any of them. Which is to say the navigation buttons still lack backlighting, making it difficult to continue using the Zenfone 2 once the lights have been dimmed or turned off.

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Our unit’s curved back cover has a soft-matte finish in red — and in the same shade as previous Zenfones. If red isn’t your thing, there are other color options to choose from, including white, black, silver, and gold. The latter two, we understand, is exclusive to other, more expensive variants.

The rear panel feels natural in the hand and doesn’t pick up fingerprints easily. You do get a bit of flex when pressure is applied to it. Removing the plastic casing gives you access to two SIM card slots (the primary SIM slot offers 3G and 4G/LTE speeds, whereas the secondary SIM slot supports 2G) and microSD expansion for cards up to 64GB in capacity. The 3,000mAh battery is fixed, so you can’t slot in a replacement when it conks out all too soon.

One thing we’re particularly fond of is the placement of the volume rocker around the back, close to where your index finger naturally rests.

The Zenfone 2 offers a choice of 5- and 5.5-inch versions (up to 1080p), and ours is the latter. The extra real estate means a superior experience all around: quicker typing on a virtual keyboard, less squinting when reading emails, and immersive video-watching on a bigger screen.

And videos look great on this ASUS, even at 720p resolution. Sure, the pixel density (267ppi, to be exact) seems fairly low on paper — jagged lines and individual pixels are out there, if you look hard enough — but the quality of the IPS panel is much better than what we’re used to seeing in the segment. Not once did we find ourselves wishing for a higher pixel count.

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Contrast, color reproduction, and viewing angles are all impressive, with hardly any color shifting when viewing the screen at extreme angles. Black levels are about as deep as they get on LCDs. Another attraction is Corning Gorilla Glass 3, which dominates the front of the device and makes the cover glass less vulnerable to keys, change, and other hard objects in your pocket. The phone even comes with its own display-calibration app, which allows you to adjust color temperature, hue, and saturation to your liking.

Jagged lines and individual pixels are out there, if you look hard enough — but the quality of the IPS panel is much better than what we’re used to seeing in the segment.

Also on board are 13- and 5-megapixel rear and front cameras, along with an expanded camera suite ASUS built into the default camera app. Besides the usual options — HDR, panorama, beauty, night, and depth-of-field (read: bokeh) modes — there’s an excellent manual mode on tap for advanced photographers who want full control over the main shooter. Oh, and the front-facer takes selfie panoramas with a 140-degree field of view, which basically means you can fit a lot of people in one frame, photobombers be damned.

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Then there’s ASUS’ trademark low-light mode for shooting in, well, low light and churning out serviceable shots indoors or in borderline-pitch-black darkness sans flash. The tradeoff, unsurprisingly, is a lower megapixel count and more digital noise. Still, we found ourselves enjoying both cameras. But are they any good?

[minigallery id=”372″ prettyphoto=”true”]

Photos taken with the ASUS Zenfone 2. Click on and expand each picture for the high-res version.

Well, that depends on what time of day you’re using them. Images taken outdoors, under a bright sun, came out crisp and detailed, with realistic colors and skin tones. However, image quality drops just as soon as the light dims, despite the Zenfone 2’s low-light mode kicking in.

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Low-light photos taken with the Zenfone 2. Low-light mode on (left) and off (right)

It also bears noting that the cameras are capable of fast shutter speeds, though you may not be able to tell as much at first glance. That’s because the phone automatically retouches your photos immediately after the fact, except when you’re shooting with manual controls. Our advice: Turn off image optimization in the camera settings menu.

Image quality drops just as soon as the light dims, despite the Zenfone 2’s low-light mode kicking in. It also bears noting that the cameras are capable of fast shutter speeds

Now, for the elephant in the room: Is the ZE550ML model — the one this review is based on — running Android Lollipop 5.0 on a 64-bit, quad-core Intel processor and 2GB of RAM, powerful enough to challenge the usual suspects at the top of the Android hierarchy? The short answer is yes. Its peak performance is comparable — albeit a step slower — to our Qualcomm Snapdragon 801-based Sony Xperia Z3, which is to say it can handle just about anything you throw at it.

And while benchmark numbers don’t usually tell the whole story, our Zenfone 2 has put up impressive numbers on AnTuTu Benchmark (43,790 points) and Geekbench 3 (753 on single-core tests; 2,372 on multi-core tests), even beating scores posted by 2014 flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S5, the HTC One M8, the LG G3, and the Huawei Ascend Mate 7.

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ASUS Zenfone 2’s Geekbench 3 score (left) and AnTuTu Benchmark score (right)

We imagine the higher-end variant of the Zenfone 2 to be a more fearsome beast of a phone. Let’s hope the higher pixel density and double shot of RAM don’t come at the cost of battery life. Speaking of which, our unit typically gives us a day and a bit’s worth of moderate use on a single charge. Of course, battery life takes a significant hit if you’re connected to a 4G LTE network and browsing the Web at breakneck speeds, provided your carrier supports faster connections, or when you’re doing something processor-intensive, like playing Asphalt 8: Airborne on high settings.

All things considered, we think the ASUS Zenfone 2 belongs to a rare group of devices that make a strong case against ponying up top money for a top-shelf product, or at least its 5.5-inch variant does. It’s a genuinely compelling piece of hardware that ticks most boxes on our wish list.

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Though it’s not perfect package just yet, as there are a few nitpicks that prevent us from recommending it to anyone in the market for a new smartphone. For one, some might find using a 5.5-inch touchscreen to be discomforting. But handling aside, it comes as close as anything else to offering the kind of user experience that, until recently, you’d only find in the premium segment.

Even if you think the ASUS Zenfone 2 is not your next smartphone, we’re positive it will make at least a slight impact on the one you will eventually end up with.

Quite simply, ASUS’ latest effort represents unprecedented value for money, and it’s products like the Zenfone 2 that will lead the next generation of industry favorites and alter the landscape to meet our expectations. And change is coming fast. So even if you think the Zenfone 2 is not your next smartphone, we’re positive it will make at least a slight impact on the one you will eventually end up with. For that alone, it is worth a hypothetical standing ovation.

Alleged models, prices of ASUS Zenfone 2 in PH

In Phones by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

(UPDATE 1: According to Abe Olandres, the ZE500CL will retail for P7,995, while the ZE551ML will have three sub-variants in the Philippines, starting at P9,995 (1.8GHz Intel Z3560 with 2GB RAM and 16GB storage). The most expensive model in the ZE551ML series (2.3GHz Intel Z358 with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage) will reportedly sell for P14,995, and the middle-of-the-pack unit will be priced at P12,995.)

(UPDATE 2: We’ve received word from ASUS Philippines about the prices of the Zenfone 2 variants, and we’re publishing it in full: “Prices that Abe posted are not yet final and are still subject to change. So, yes, Abe’s post is not true.”)

(UPDATE 3: Our source from ASUS Philippines says the company “will try its best to bring the 4GB RAM model of the Zenfone 2 by Q2 2015, as originally planned.” Our advice: Hold on to that Zenfone 2 money until the second week of May. By then we’ll know the release dates of all sub-variants, as well as their exact prices.)

If, like us, you’ve been waiting to hear official details about the ASUS Zenfone 2 for months now, today’s the day, people. The Taiwanese company finally dropped the word on which variants — there are a lot, actually — will land in the Philippines in May. Well, sort of. Two models have been listed on ASUS Philippines’ official website, namely the ZE500CL (aka the smaller, entry-level Zenfone 2 rocking a 5-inch display) and the ZE551ML (aka the one with a 5.5-inch 1080p display and a whopping 4GB of RAM).

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Screenshot of ASUS Philippines’ website

We’ve reached out to ASUS to confirm if another variant will arrive eventually, but it’s safe to assume we won’t be seeing a third option given the relatively negligible price difference between the various editions of the Zenfone 2. As you may have gathered, pricing for the hotly anticipated Android Lollipop smartphone remains up in the air at the moment. For now, we’ll keep our ears and eyes peeled for that elusive information.

Specs of the ASUS Zenfone 2 (ZE551ML):
* LTE
* Dual-SIM
* 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 CPU
* PowerVR G6430 GPU
* 4GB RAM
* 32/64GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 64GB)
* 5.5-inch IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (1,080 x 1,920 resolution)
* 13-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 3,000mAh battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

Specs of the ASUS Zenfone 2 (ZE500CL):
* LTE
* 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Atom Z2560 CPU
* PowerVR SGX544MP2 GPU
* 2GB RAM
* 16GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 64GB)
* 5-inch IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 8-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash
* 2-megapixel front camera
* 2,500mAh battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: ASUS made the smart move by limiting the Philippine-bound Zenfone 2 variants to just two because there are a million of them. (Okay, they’re not that many, but there are a lot.) Having more than two editions that are a couple of thousand pesos apart would be counterproductive for the company. It may also result in some units getting little to no attention from consumers, regardless of how reasonably priced they are. As appealing as the idea of bringing Zenfone 2s for every budget may sound, the folks at ASUS Philippines chose correctly by going with two models that will most likely appeal to fans of previous-generation Zenfones.

ASUS Philippines chose correctly by going with two models that will most likely appeal to fans of previous-generation Zenfones.

The ZE500CL is designed for Zenfone 5 (and Zenfone 4) owners who don’t want to step up to a 5.5-inch display and live with the compromises that come with the generous screen real estate. The higher-end Zenfone 2 is aimed at power users who see value in a massive touchscreen.

RELATED VIDEO

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xjtu7rLPO3w” width=”560″ height=”315″]

Our unboxing of the ASUS Zenfone 2 (article here)

(Thanks to this tweet, we were able to monitor ASUS Philippines’ website and social media accounts.)

What we know so far about the LG G4

In Phones by Revu TeamLeave a Comment

The successor to the impressive LG G3, which, as we noted in our review on Yahoo, is “as delightful as smartphones get,” is set to debut on April 28, according to The Verge. And with the aptly named LG G4 due to launch a few weeks from now, we thought today would be a great time to post a cheat sheet based on what we know so far about the top-billing Android challenger from the Korean manufacturer.

Design

Case-maker Spigen has all but confirmed what the G4 looks like by showing off a bunch of cases designed for the handset and listing them on its digital store and on Amazon U.S.

Judging from the product shots, it seems the phone has more in common with the LG G Flex 2 — which we saw at the 2015 International CES in Las Vegas — than its predecessor, though the photos also suggest the return of the rear-mounted power button and volume rocker, laser-guided auto-focus, and brushed finish on the back. An earlier teaser also hints at a leather or faux-leather back cover, which may imply the mobile has more than one variant.

As is the case with previous LG smartphones, the G4 will most likely embrace software navigation buttons that make Android easier to navigate, as opposed to backlit capacitive keys.

Display

LG has announced that its new 5.5-inch Quad HD LCD panel will be used in a “forthcoming flagship smartphone to be unveiled at the end of the month,” which clearly indicates the company is talking about the G4.

The display size and resolution are the same for both the G4 and G3, but if we are to take LG’s marketing talk about the strides it has made on the display-technology front seriously, this year’s top-shelf G smartphone should deliver clearer, brighter, and more vivid images without blowing a huge hole in the phone’s battery life.

Don’t expect a smartphone with a flexible display, though; that won’t appeal to mainstream users, and LG knows that all too well.

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZdWPqpVbEk” width=”560″ height=”315″]

LG G4’s official teaser video

Camera

The LG G4 is said to have a 16-megapixel rear camera featuring f/1.8 aperture, barely edging out the f/1.9 lens of the Samsung Galaxy S6. The wide aperture should allow you to shoot in low light at a faster shutter speed, as well as blur the background with a shallow depth of field effect. The front camera has been supposedly bumped up to 8 megapixels because people clearly love taking selfies — and who wouldn’t want sharper mugs on Instagram?

Specs and software

If previous generations of the G lineup are any indication, LG’s G4 will likely ship with the latest and greatest Qualcomm Snapdragon chip for mobile devices. In this case, it’s the Snapdragon 810 processor, the same one inside the G Flex 2, but nothing has been confirmed yet. Storage and RAM configurations should go all the way up to 32GB and 3GB, respectively, similar to the second-gen G Flex and last year’s G3. As for the G4’s operating system, we’d bet our bottom peso it runs Android Lollipop out of the box. (RL)

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: Since the days of the Optimus G, LG has been treating us to impressive flagship phones year after year, and I’m positive the G4 will be just as memorable, if not more so, than its predecessors. The electronics giant is building on an already excellent device in the G3, after all.

I’m positive the LG G4 will be just as memorable, if not more so, than its predecessors.

With a ludicrous screen density, beefier specs, and a more souped-up camera that uses lasers (yes, lasers!), the LG G4 could provide serious competition in the mobile segment.

I’m hoping LG hasn’t reached its ‘Samsung Galaxy S4’ moment just yet.

ALORA UY GUERRERO’S TAKE: Has LG reached its “Samsung Galaxy S4 moment,” aka that time a phone-maker starts to bore you? Because HTC has with the M9. Or is LG still far from reaching the peak? I’m hoping for the latter. The more money-worthy handsets there are on the market, the merrier. The stiffer the competition, the better for consumers. Let’s all cross our fingers and toes, shall we?

 

Cheaper Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge now on Lazada PH

In Phones by Revu TeamLeave a Comment

Lazada Philippines is now selling 32GB and 64GB editions of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge ahead of their official Philippine launch on April 18 — and at lower prices, mind you. About 10 percent lower than their suggested retail pricing.

The online retailer has listed the 32GB Galaxy S6 at P31,999 and the 32GB and 64GB variants of the Galaxy S6 Edge at P36,999 and P42,999, respectively. You may use your BDO credit card to purchase any of the phones on installment plans of up to 24 months, albeit with corresponding interest rates depending on the payment period.

Keep in mind, though: The units will be shipped from overseas (likely Hong Kong) by a parallel importer, so they won’t be covered by Samsung Electronics Philippines’ warranty policies. Never mind that the estimated delivery date is May 1, which is a couple of weeks after the handsets’ local debut. But if you’re willing to wait and roll the dice on Samsung’s failure rate, you can swing by this page and order the latest and greatest from the Korean electronics giant from the comfort of your couch. (RL)

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 A screenshot of Lazada Philippines’ website

Specs of the Samsung Galaxy S6 (Official prices in the Philippines: P35,990 [32GB] and P41,990 [64GB]:
* LTE
* Fingerprint sensor, heart-rate monitor
* Octa-core Exynos 7420 processor (2.1GHz quad-core Cortex-A57 and 1.5GHz quad-core Cortex-A53)
* Mali-T760MP8 graphics
* 3GB RAM
* 32GB/64GB internal storage
* 5.1-inch AMOLED display with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 (1,440 x 2,560 resolution)
* 16-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 2,550mAh non-removable battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

Specs of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge (Official prices in the Philippines: P41,990 [32GB] and P47,990 [64GB]:
* LTE
* Fingerprint sensor, heart-rate monitor
* Octa-core Exynos 7420 processor (2.1GHz quad-core Cortex-A57 and 1.5GHz quad-core Cortex-A53)
* Mali-T760MP8 graphics
* 3GB RAM
* 32GB/64GB internal storage
* 5.1-inch AMOLED curved display with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 (1,440 x 2,560 resolution)
* 16-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 2,600mAh non-removable battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

ALORA UY GUERRERO’S TAKE: I don’t see any other reason for you to take this offer other than you are short of cash or are naturally kuripot.

Getting a high-ticket item from the gray market approximately two weeks AFTER it officially goes on sale in the country is a no-no in my book. You don’t know if it’s really going to arrive on the published delivery date, and you will have problems when you need support because the local office won’t honor the warranty. Sucks, right?

You don’t know if it’s really going to arrive on the published delivery date, and you will have problems when you need support because the local office won’t honor the warranty.

Majority of those who are planning to get high-end gadgets like the Samsung Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge can probably afford to cough up a few more thousand pesos to get units from official sources. For the rest, you know you can always opt for installment. Even telcos Smart Communications and Globe Telecom offer up-to-24-month installment plans (go to this page for Smart’s S6 offer; this one for its S6 Edge plans; and this site for Globe’s), so take advantage of any of them.

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: Unless you absolutely need to get your hands on the Samsung Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge, I recommend waiting things out. Resellers tend to offer better prices at the expense of local warranty coverage, anyway, so Lazada won’t be alone in selling the handsets at a huge discount.

Two weeks is too long of a wait for a product that will likely see a full rollout by May 2015.

And let’s not downplay that long waiting time. Two weeks is too long of a wait for a product that will likely see a full rollout by May. Regardless, that should give you enough time to think about whether or not you want to purchase the latest Galaxy flagship from an importer, as opposed to getting it from an official source.

VIDEO YOU MAY WANT TO WATCH

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggL_yLCC2a0″ width=”560″ height=”315″]

We’re breaking the rules of online publishing…

In Business, Cars, Games, Apps, and OS, Laptops, Phones, Tablets, Wearables by Alora Uy GuerreroLeave a Comment

Who are crazy enough to soft-launch a site that’s so bare?

My writing partner since my Mega Publishing days, Ramon Lopez, and I are.

We have disregarded the first, second, and third rules of online publishing: You do not launch a website unless it’s packed with articles, or as my former boss, Summit Media president Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng, would call it, puno.

Surprisingly, we’re okay with breaking “those rules.” First, we already bought two phones so we could write about and take videos of them. Second, we couldn’t bear to watch our clips just sitting on our computer for weeks. Sayang. Third, it’s our way of forcing ourselves to write stories every day.

What you’ll see here are bite-sized gadget reviews and commentaries on Philippine and international tech news. Each article comes with our opinion — what we think is working and what could probably be improved on. Our goal is to keep you informed of the latest in technology.

And we encourage you to chime in. Share your thoughts with us. Come on, come along for the ride.

On behalf of the Revu team,

Alora Uy Guerrero

Deal alert: Cherry Mobile Nova 2.0 ‘buy 1, take 1’ promo

In Phones by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

Heads-up, bargain hunters. Cherry Mobile announced on Facebook yesterday that it will be having a “buy one, take one” promotion for the Nova 2.0 this Wednesday, April 8. The dual-SIM Android Jelly Bean smartphone is currently priced at P3,999, meaning each unit will essentially run you P2,000, which is a very low price — even for an older model. Granted, the Nova 2.0 may never get a taste of sweet Android KitKat, much less Lollipop.

Still, for the price of a pair of Nike sneakers, you’re looking at not one, but two well-specced handsets featuring a 4-inch IPS touchscreen and a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor backed by 1GB of RAM and 4GB of expandable storage. You also get 8-megapixel and VGA rear and selfie cameras, a 1,800mAh battery, and a bunch of connectivity options, including WiFi, Bluetooth, and 3G.

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Those interested will be happy to note that the one-day offer will be rolled out nationwide, across all Cherry Mobile concept stores and kiosks, to make sure that everyone gets a fair chance at it. Here’s hoping there will be a limit to the number of units each person may purchase. Happy hunting, everyone!

Specs of the Cherry Mobile Nova 2.0 (Price at launch: P3,999):
* Dual SIM
* 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor
* 1GB RAM
* 4GB internal storage
* microSD card expansion
* 4-inch IPS display (480 x 800 resolution)
* 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* VGA front camera
* Android Jelly Bean 4.3
* 1,500mAh battery

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: Though I won’t be waiting in line to get a pair of second-gen Cherry Mobile Novas this Wednesday, I still think you’re looking at a very good deal. P4,000 for two Android Jelly Bean smartphones powered by a quad-core Snapdragon processor and 1GB of RAM is as good as it gets right now. If your absolute ceiling is in that price range, that is. And being limited to dated software doesn’t bother you at all.

You’re looking at a very good deal. If your absolute ceiling is in that price range, that is. And being limited to dated software doesn’t bother you at all.

However, you should take note that as is usually the case with fire sales in the mobile segment, Cherry Mobile practically giving away the Nova 2.0 marks the phasing out of older models in its stable to make way for newer ones, the majority of which will likely run Android Lollipop out of the box. And who wouldn’t want to experience the latest Google has to offer, right?

We unbox the ASUS Zenfone 2

In Phones by Revu Team110 Comments

(UPDATED) Yesterday, we bought a retail unit of the ASUS Zenfone 2, which, based on the positive buzz it has been generating since its introduction at the 2015 CES in Las Vegas, is one of the most anticipated smartphones this year. Naturally, we made an unboxing video of the spiritual successor to the Zenfone 5 (and Zenfone 6?), seeing that we’re still a month away from its Philippine debut.

Unfortunately, as much as we would have loved to bring home the higher-end Zenfone 2 with 4GB of RAM, we had to settle for the 2GB RAM model, because apparently, the former is hard to find even in its native Taiwan.

As usual, our first-hand impressions are below. Oh, and if you have questions about the device, please do chime in. (RL)

Specs of the ASUS Zenfone 2 (Price of the ZE550ML model, which is what we have: TW$5,990 or about P8,600):
* Dual-SIM (primary SIM slot offers 3G and 4G/LTE speeds; secondary SIM slot supports 2G only)
* 1.8GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3560 CPU
* PowerVR G6430 GPU
* 2GB RAM
* 16GB internal storage
* microSD card slot (up to 64GB)
* 5.5-inch IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 13-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 3,000mAh battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xjtu7rLPO3w” width=”560″ height=”315″]

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: Before going further, let me be clear: I don’t recommend buying electronics from gray-market resellers if you’re not in the publishing industry. The risk is simply great, even more so for smartphones that have all sorts of built-in components. If you can wait for the Zenfone 2 to officially arrive in the Philippines in May, ASUS may make it worth your while. We heard that local pricing will be lower than in other regions, just like last year’s Zenfones.

Now for some quick thoughts on the phone. Our unit flaunts a matte-red battery cover. With the exception of the rear-mounted volume keys, the back bears a striking resemblance to the Zenfone 5’s. You probably can’t tell by looking at the pictures, but even the shade of red used on the Zenfone 2 (ZE550ML) is identical to its predecessor. That’s not a knock on the hardware itself — the paint job on the back stands out nicely — though it clearly lacks the brushed-metal treatment I had hoped for. That’s exclusive to the 4GB RAM model, I suppose.

In terms of dimensions, the 5.5-inch Zenfone 2 stands 152mm and measures 77mm wide, making it significantly larger than the Zenfone 5. It’s thicker, too, at almost 11mm. Needless to say, if you feel the Zenfone 5 — or any other phone with at least 5 inches of screen size, for that matter — is too unwieldy for everyday use, then this device is just not for you.

What we find so far points to a likely verdict: ASUS has another winner on its hands. Look out, everyone else.

Finally, if you’re wondering about benchmark results and real-world usage, we’re still in the process of arriving at a conclusion, though it’s looking very promising. Our unit posted impressive numbers in the latest versions of AnTuTu Benchmark (43,790 points) and Geekbench 3 (753 and 2,372 points in the single- and multi-core tests) — performance on equal footing as top-billing handsets from the previous year, such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8. What’s also notable thus far is its 3,000mAh battery, which gives us a day and a half of moderate to heavy use on a single charge. All these point to a likely verdict: ASUS has another winner on its hands. Look out, everyone else.

ALORA UY GUERRERO’S TAKE: You know I’m excited about a gadget when I search for it come hell or high water way before its official launch in the country. With the Zenfone 5 putting ASUS on the “phone brands to watch for in the Philippines” list, I’m predicting another hit in the Zenfone 2. Based on our initial handling of the handset, it processes tasks fast and won’t die on you in just a few hours, after all — and we’re talking “only” about the 2GB version here.

The ASUS Zenfone 2 processes tasks fast and won’t die on you in just a few hours — and we’re talking ‘only’ about the 2GB, not the 4GB, version here.

But the company should price it right. The right local SRP in this case should probably be around P10,000 for the ZE550ML (5.5 inches, 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage) model and not more than P15,000 for the ZE551ML (5.5 inches, 2GB/4GB RAM, 32GB/64GB built-in memory) variant.

We don’t know if ASUS Philippines is going to roll out the ZE500CL (5 inches, 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage) — the cheapest among the lot at TW$4,990 or approximately P7,100 — in the country, but I think the Taiwanese manufacturer should. It’s something for those with small hands, as one-handed use is out of the question with any of the 5.5-inchers. The best part? Its price is the same as the Zenfone 5’s at launch, but this time, you already have an LTE phone. If that doesn’t scream “take me, take me,” I don’t know what does.

What’s special about MyPhone’s Rio 2, Rio 2 Lite

In Phones by Ramon Lopez2 Comments

In addition to showing off a new logo, Philippine tech company MyPhone just unveiled the Rio 2 and Rio 2 Lite, two budget smartphones running Android Lollipop — the first ones in the country outside of Google’s Android One efforts. Both devices offer similar specs and are built around MediaTek’s quad-core MT6582 chipset, though the Rio 2 has more screen real estate — protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3, mind you — to go along with a larger, 2,800mAh battery. The MyPhone Rio 2 also comes with software navigation buttons, just like the ones found in the company’s Uno, whereas the Rio 2 Lite has capacitive keys below the screen.

In typical Rio fashion, MyPhone’s latest devices offer a choice of several color options, including black, white, red, blue, and yellow. The Rio 2 and Rio 2 Lite are already available at select stores for P5,499 and P4,599, respectively.

Specs of the MyPhone Rio 2 (Price: P5,499):
* Dual SIM (3G)
* 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6582 chipset
* 1GB RAM
* 8GB internal storage
* microSD card expansion
* 5-inch IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 2,800mAh battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

Specs of the MyPhone Rio 2 Lite (Price: P4,599):
* Dual SIM (3G)
* 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6582 chipset
* 1GB RAM
* 8GB internal storage
* microSD card expansion
* 4.7-inch IPS display (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
* 2-megapixel front camera
* 2,120mAh battery
* Android Lollipop 5.0

[youtube link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpLTcg1v8oE” width=”560″ height=”315″]

RAMON LOPEZ’S TAKE: Props to MyPhone for bringing two seemingly worthy alternatives to the Android One phones in the Philippines. Android Lollipop is, far and away, the best iteration of Google’s mobile OS and is as good a reason as any to upgrade to a new smartphone.

If I’d have to choose between the two, I would pick the MyPhone Rio 2 because of its on-screen keys, which are completely tailored for the Android UI.

If I’d have to choose between the two, I would pick the Rio 2, but not because of its bigger screen covered in scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3. You won’t be able to enjoy it, anyway, due to the screen space taken up by the phone’s navigation buttons. My choice reflects my preference for on-screen keys that are completely tailored for the Android UI. (The petty side of me abhors seeing a menu button on new Android models.)

The icing on the cake is that the MyPhone Rio 2 supports a number of screen-off gestures, foremost among them is the double-tap-to-wake function, which has seen a surge in popularity. I can’t stress this enough: The double-tap feature popularized by the LG G2 is a godsend for those of us who check our phones every few minutes.

[minigallery id=”216″ prettyphoto=”true”]

Click on and expand the photos to see more of MyPhone’s Rio 2 and Rio 2 Lite

But regardless of which second-gen Rio you end up with, you’ll be treated to swappable back covers with a sandstone finish similar to the OnePlus One’s, which I absolutely love. It looks and feels nothing like the backs of devices from local brands I’ve tested so far, and I mean that in the nicest way. But don’t just take my word for it. You can check out the handsets for yourself at select MyPhone outlets.