Asus ZenFone Live ZB501KL Review: A Failed Attempt
Asus ZenFone Live ZB501KL Detailed Review
When Facebook first announced its livestreaming ambitions, many hailed the move as revolutionary. True, livestreaming on the Internet is undoubtedly the fastest way to get the world’s information, and livestreaming on Facebook or YouTube can give television a run for its money. And that’s what Taiwan’s OEM Asus is betting on. The company’s new phone, the Asus Zenfone Live, is “the world’s first livestreaming smartphone.”
Now, before going to the Asus Zenfone Live review, one important question needs to be answered:
Why / How is it a livestreaming phone?
The “livestream” part of Asus Zenfone Live starts and ends with an app inside the phone. It’s called Asus BeautyLive and it does what many beautification apps have done before. As the name suggests, the app makes your face look beautiful when you go live. It has a simple interface, including a slider that lets you choose between one and 10 beautification levels. The BeautyLive feature is also available for videos taken with the front camera
To launch a beautiful video, you simply open this app, choose the level of beautification, and tap on Facebook or YouTube options to go live. Tapping on these options will actually open the corresponding app and the rest of the livestreaming process is normal. Asus is currently launching with these two apps, but also plans to add support for Instagram and Periscope.
The beauty of this app is like any other beautification app. Although not for live video, there are apps like this before. The goal is to brighten up the photos and make the skin tone look better
Does it help?
The answer will not be in one word. Asus’s algorithm (s) softens skin tone to hide blemishes and brightens the background a bit. There is a slider that lets you choose between 1-10 levels of beautification. With each, the overall radiance increases slightly and the skin tones become softer. But, in doing so, the phone loses almost every detail of your face, making it look quite unnatural.
That, to be honest, is frustrating. For the only strategy the phone had to offer, I expected a lot more. Asus’ BeautyLive app is basically a beautification app which does not work very well. There’s nothing really new or innovative about it, except to connect with Facebook and other apps. Live videos, on the other hand, are often done through the rear camera, where the Asus app is only extended to selfies, which means its usefulness is limited at the beginning.
Asus has a 5MP front camera for selfies and videos. The pixel size is fairly large here, but the image quality is nothing special. In fact, Oppo, Vivo and other companies have dual-cameras
Up front, don’t make all this impression. Of course, Zenfone Live is much cheaper, but even the Nubia M2 Lite (which is in this price ballpark) has a better camera. Asus added a “soft-light”
Flash the front for better measurement, but like any flash, it doesn’t make much of a difference.
Although the beautification is set to level 0, the images look smoky and unnatural. Pushing them up to 10 will delete almost all details. Color reproduction is also limited, meaning the overall effect of the selfie is nothing out of the ordinary. Again, you would expect the front camera to be even better on this type of smartphone.
The same goes for the 13MP rear camera. It can take usable shots in good light, but is often shaky. Too much light causes too much noise and detail damage and the colors almost always look dark. We also saw coarse grains when clicked in well-lit conditions, and the degree of contrast was lower than normal. The rear camera is reasonably useful when shooting with enough time in your hand, but it often loses focus even when you tap to focus.
Construction and design
The Asus Zenfone Live has a plastic body, but it is well designed and light. The power on / off button and volume rocker are on the right, with capacitive buttons for home, back and recent at the bottom of the display. This is a traditional candy bar design, but still fascinating. Zenfone Live is easy to use with one hand and it does not feel uncomfortable in your pocket. It would even qualify as interesting.
On the other hand, we found some problems with build quality. First, the body has a small amount of flex, if you try to put pressure on it. More importantly, the SIM slot (at least in our review unit) will not come out. The inserted PIN has unlocked the SIM tray, but instead of exiting it as it should, it is sitting there limping.
Now, things here are completely isolated. You’ll expect a phone for livestreaming that will support the best LTE standards possible and provide the fastest user experience it can. The last thing I want when going live is to push a phone backwards or make Facebook’s already heavy app feel heavy. But that’s exactly what happened at Asus Zenfone Live.
The Zenfone Live runs on the Snapdragon 400, which Qualcomm now classifies as a wearable chipset. The two-year-old chipset supports speeds up to Cat4 (downlink), which means it’s not really up to modern standards. Not that you will feel the difference in practical terms.
Geekbench 4 single core
Geekbench 4 multi core
Use it regularly wherever you feel like it. Asus Zenfone Live looks stagnant and lags quite easily. It has only 2GB of RAM, which again puts the phone back in this price range Multitasking is certainly not its powerful suite, but whether it’s gaming or using the phone for simple tasks, it doesn’t seem as fluid and fast as today’s smartphones. No warming up, but the phone slows down when browsing Google Chrome, scrolling through your Facebook news feed, or launching one app after another.
A lot about Zenfone Live, including the display, seems to be two years old. On the one hand, the color and sharpness are adequate, but the weak viewing angle makes it difficult to use. I often stream movies on my phone, holding it up against something. This is difficult to do here, since the colors are quite easy to see.
On the front, the screen looks decent and the colors are quite balanced, much like other Asus smartphones. Personally, I prefer deep black, but the color tones look natural and admirable. The display is also dim, meaning the visibility of sunlight is sub-optimal.
On paper, the Zenfone Live’s battery isn’t too much, and you wouldn’t expect too much here. However, with regular use the phone will last you about one working day. With an hour or more of streaming on Amazon Prime, some social networking, lots of IM and about five calls, the phone lasted about 10-12 hours on a full charge. It lasts just under 8 hours of PC Mark battery testing, keeping it close to industry standards today.
The last row
In short, Asus Zenfone Live has failed to achieve the goals of the Asus mind. Its BeautyLive app is nothing out of the ordinary and has many smartphones with even better front cameras. Similarly, the rear camera is not great either. This, and the phone is remarkably slow, means better than the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, Redmi 4, Lenovo K6 Power and most other smartphones, even for live streaming video.
Plus, Zenfone Live has only 16GB of storage, which is always a deal-breaker in our book. It also has no fingerprint sensor and nothing to consider against competitors.