Earlier this year, ASUS brought to market a great device at a great price. This was the ASUS ZenFone 2 which brought with it a ton of great specs at a price which firmly cemented itself in the mid-range price spectrum. Not to mention, ASUS released a couple of variants of the device which differed in the level of RAM and storage and which made the accessibility of the ZenFone 2, even more affordable. Last week, ASUS in conjunction with AT&T, released another variant of the ZenFone 2, dubbed the ZenFone 2E. This is an even more affordably priced device which is available exclusively on AT&T's GoPhone Prepaid plans. In fact, the price on this one is only $119.99 out the door. So what do you get for such a small price?
The price alone makes it clear that the ZenFone 2E is a budget device and this means that it comes with a number of more budget ranged specs than its more well-known predecessor. That said, for $119.99, the specs are not that bad. On offer with the ZenFone 2E is a 5-inch display which comes with a 1280 x 720 resolution. Inside, the ZenFone 2E comes loaded with 1GB RAM and powered by Intel's Atom Dual-Core Processor. In terms of storage, there is 8GB internal storage as standard, although there is also a microSD card slot for expanding the storage where needed. Moving to the cameras, and this one comes packing an 8-megapixel rear shooter which is coupled with a 2-megapixel front facing option. The usual suspects are on offer, including WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, 4G LTE. Everything is powered by a 2,500 mAh battery and the ZenFone 2E comes running on Android 5.0 (Lollipop), with ZenUI on top.
Design & Hardware
On initial inspection, the ZenFone 2E does look a lot like the ZenFone 2 in appearance. The same sort of form factor is in place and as such the device does look pretty good. Especially when you factor in, that this is essentially a $100 device. The back of this smartphone is made of the similar plastic we find on the ZenFone 2, although it is presumed there are compromises in the quality. The most obvious seems to be the absence of the brushed metal effect on the normal ZenFone 2. The current model makes it clear that it is plastic. That said, the back does adopt the same sloping sides of the ZenFone 2 and as such adopts a much more premium form factor than you might expect from a device at this price point. In fact, the more you look at the device, the more the design takes very clear cues from the bigger ZenFone version. The camera positioning is the same, the utilization of the twin volume rockers on the back are the same.
As is the rear facing speaker vent which covers the width of the bottom portion of the back cover. The only noticeable differences between the 2 and the 2E on the back, is that the flash has been moved from the top on the ZenFone 2 camera to the side of the camera on the ZenFone 2E. That and the fact the ASUS logo has been replaced with the AT&T logo and the "Intel Inside" logo has been replaced with "ZenFone". Otherwise, the phone from the back looks much the same.
In terms of the sides of the device, due to the back placing of the volume controls coupled with the sloping nature of the back cover, there are essentially no side aspects to note. Moving to the front of the device, and again, very little had changed. Aesthetically, this is the ZenFone 2 with the same identical display on offer, the same logo positioning, same back, home and recent buttons and the same camera and speaker positioning The only notable differences between the display on the ZenFone 2 and the ZenFone 2E is the drop in quality which comes with the lowering of the 1080p resolution screen down to 720p.
In terms of control positioning, as mentioned, the volume rockers are back positioned while the microUSB charge point is on the bottom of the device. The microSD card slot is located underneath the back cover along with the SIM card port. Although this is a little inconvenient, depending on how often you remove the microSD card slot will determine how much of an issue the positioning is. Both the power button and headphone jack are positioned on the top of the device and as such, it does make taking screenshots a little more difficult due to the position of the volume down and power button. However, again, no more harder than it is on the ZenFone 2 due to the identical positioning.
Software & UI
Depending on your experience with an ASUS device will largely determine the familiar of the software to offer with the ZenFone 2E. This does come with their standard company skinned version of Android, known as ZenUI and in fact, aesthetically is again identically to what is encountered on the ASUS ZenFone 2.
Therefore, if you have used the normal ZenFone 2 you will be right at home with the ZenFone 2E with the same Lollipop inspired interface on offer, identical icons and an almost replica look and feel throughout.
Once again, there are the familiar ASUS customisation options on offer, which allow you to adjust certain minor cosmetic aspects. In fact, when you consider the price point, the level of customization is pretty good. It does not offer the level in use with the main ZenFone variant, however, on the ZenFone 2E you can change up the wallpapers, Icon packs, and other minor aesthetical aspects.
There is an Easy Mode in play on the ZenFone 2E which does allow with the swiping on function a complete overhaul to the way in which the phone looks. For those new to this, Easy Mode will essentially lock the phone down to a very user-friendly mode in which icons, apps are much limited and adopt a much greater sized icon on the homepage. These are all customizable of course and so you can choose the core apps that you want to be shown. The same Easy Mode look applies to the settings menu too.
In terms of pre-installed apps, this is where you get more than your value for money with the ZenFone 2E. There are quite a few ASUS pre-installed apps on offer although no more than what you find on the ZenFone 2. However, as this is an AT&T device, it does come preinstalled with a bunch of AT&T apps as well. This won't come as much of a surprise to those who are used to AT&T devices. Interestingly, the level of third party pre-installed apps is much lower on the ZenFone 2E compared to other devices, although there are one and two thrown in for good measure
Overall, with a device at this price point you are not going to get a fully fledged and action packed software UI. However, what you do get with the Zenone 2E is a really nice and easy to use software experience. If you are looking for an option which seems lightweight (in spite of being skinned), then this is a good option. Customizations are limited, but the UI is easy, colorful and is Lollipop.
Like a number of the features of the ZenFone 2E, the camera is another area which has seen a number of aspects reduce to make the low cost of the device possible. As such, the MP count on both the front and rear cameras sees a significant drop. On the back, the camera is down to an 8-megapixel option while the selfie camera adopts the lowered 2-megapixel count. Likewise, the software is also much more basic than on the main ZenFone 2. This includes the look of the camera software which is much more limited and squared off and also the number of features on offer. That said, in spite of the reduction in performance and features, this is still a reasonably featured device. The ZenFone 2E does come with a decent number of modes including Auto, HDR, Night, Low Light, Panorama and Time Rewind, to name only a few. As a result, there is plenty to play with here.
In terms of the quality of these images, well, considering this is an 8-megapixel rear camera, the quality of the images are reasonably good. Images were clear when tested and generally taken to a sufficient level first time. As to be expected, with a 2-megapixel selfie camera, the quality of the selfies on offer are far more basic, but again, for quick selfies to add to Snapchat, you could do a lot worse.
You can see a selection of the images taken with the ZenFone 2E in the gallery below. All images were taken with the camera in the out-of-the-box mode.
On the surface of it, the battery in the ZenFone 2E is much smaller than you would have on any of the other big model devices, including the ZenFone 2. The battery on offer here is a 2,500 mAh battery. However, in truth and when testing, the battery was not that bad. The resolution on the screen is lowered, as is the size of the screen and as such, the battery was relatively speaking, decent enough. Screen on time was limited to just over two hours of general use and bouncing between 4G and WiFi. But for the level of user and budget the ZenFone 2E is aiming towards, there were no noticeable issues in this respect. In fact, the device comes with a pretty decent battery monitoring system which allows you to instantly switch between battery saving profiles, see what's draining your battery and clear apps which may be causing a problem. So although the battery is limited, it is not bad and there is a decent level of control on offer.
Overall, the ASUS ZenFone 2E is a nice phone.
This is, essentially the best description of the device. If this was coming in at the $800 dollar price and was being pitted against the rest of the flagship bunch, then there would be a lot to complain about. However, this is a $120 costing device. For that price, the user interface is extremely easy to you. It is limited, but it is easy. The design of the device is nice and very much takes all the design cues offered on the ZenFone 2. Interestingly, these design cues received some criticism on the ZenFone 2, due to the lack of metal or 'premium' aspects. That same criticism is unlikely to be leveled at the ZenFone 2E and the design is overall pretty good. Not to mention, you have the added customization of a black and white colored back included in the box. The camera is acceptable and the performance of the device is fairly decent. If you are in the market for a very affordable priced device, which is not on contract and can provide you with a decent level of performance for non-demanding usage, then the ZenFone 2E would be a good option to consider. Likewise, if you were looking for a nice first phone for someone younger, then this would also be a great choice to go for. For $119, this is definitely a device worth your consideration if you are looking for a cheap and cheerful device.