We'll be covering the Windows, Android & Chrome Transformer Pads, tablets & laptops in future articles, but for now we're concentrating on the new ZenFone range, which, unlike some other manufacturers, will be available very soon indeed.
First of all, let me say that while absolutely lovely products, the three phones launched tonight, the ZenFone 4, ZenFone 5 & ZenFone 6 (depicting their screen size), are not being pitched as absolute top-of-the-range Android devices. Their screens aren't QuadHD; their cameras aren't 20 MPix; their mass isn't 5 grams. However, what they are, are immensely usable, functional, very nice to hold, premium quality, fully specified handsets with the majority of features you would expect to find on the average Samsung, Motorola or HTC device.
Asus are very much an Intel house. What this means is that they generally don't produce any device, be it a phone, laptop or tablet, which contains any processor other than an Intel chip. Subsequently the majority of the ZenFone range runs on the latest Intel quad-core Atom processors, tied to Android 4.4.2, ensuring not only excellent performance ratings, but also an exceptional range of available applications from the Play Store as well as all-important stand out battery life.
It is worth noting however, that the Intel SOC doesn't yet support LTE, so any 4G Asus handsets are forced to use a "more traditional" ARM-based SOC, usually a Snapdragon processor.
There is another side-effect, or more accurately a benefit, of Asus producing Intel-only devices - they get somewhat preferential pricing from Intel. What this mean to us, the consumer, is that we get to enjoy Asus' excellent products at rock-bottom prices! The ZenFone range starts at only £99.99 inc VAT! That's not an "on contract" price - that's the unsubsidised RRP for the ZenFone 4 in the UK!
The ZenFone 4 and ZenFone 6 are available only as 3G (intel Atom based) handsets, while the ZenFone 5 is available as either a 3G (intel Atom based) or 4G (Snapdragon 400 based) handset. The entire range are available as dual-SIM handsets (this is apparently region dependent, but there's no mention of which regions it applies to) and have from 8GB internal storage on the ZenFone 4 up to 16GB on the ZenFone 6. All come with an external microSD card slot.
The ZenFone 5 & 6 have Asus' PixelMaster technology which improves low light and other performance from the camera, which is 8MPix on the ZenFone 5 and 13MPix on the ZenFone 6.
While it was fairly hard to get meaningful hands-on impressions last night, due to the phones not having SIM cards or configured wireless connectivity and the venue being in nightclub mode (so no meaningful pictures I'm afraid) the handsets all felt well made and solid in the hand, while the displays were bright and vibrant.The ZenFone 4 felt a little portly, mainly due to it being the same thickness (if not slighly thicker) as the ZenFone 5 & 6, which in turn felt more balanced and generally well rounded. To my mind the ZenFone 5 is the sweet spot of the range and certainly the one I think will sell in the largest numbers.
UI response was smooth and fast, with Asus' additions and alterations to stock Android not detracting from the overall experience. There was some bloatware installed, but it didn't seem overly intrusive and was the usual Asus fare found on many other of their devices.
The camera was nice to use, having been re-skinned from the stock Android camera to something similar to the latest Samsung camera offering. One interesting feature, if only by name, was that turning the flash to permanently on was described as "low light mode".
The ZenFone range is available to pre-order from 21st August and will be shipping from 1st September 2014.
The ZenFone range are priced as follows:
ZenFone 4: £99.99
ZenFone 5: £149.99 (£179.99 for the ZenFone 5 LTE)
ZenFone 6: £249.99
More information is available on Asus' website as listed below. Please note that some of the links on the ZenFone 6 page aren't curently working correctly, you'll need to add the page name to the end of the URL already in your address bar. (you'll get the idea)