Talking tech since 2003

While Asus hasn’t made much of a splash in the smartphone market here in the United States, that all might change with the announcement of two new Android handsets at CES 2015 in Las Vegas yesterday. The company announced the Zenfone 2 and the Zenfone Zoom, two new Android smartphones that boast impressive specs and affordable prices, combining to possibly make Asus a serious contender.

To start, the Zenfone 2 is the first Android handset to offer a whopping 4 gigabytes of RAM – though it’ll also be available as a 2 GB model. The Zenfone 2 will feature a 5.5-inch full HD display at 1080p, and a 64-bit Intel quad-core Atom processor. In short, this thing will be fast no matter what configuration you go for. It also offers internal storage options ranging from 16 GB to 32 GB to 64 GB, with expandable memory up to another 64GB via Micro SD. It has a 4G LTE radio, a 13 megapixel rear camera and a 5 megapixel front camera, and dual SIM support – that last feature seemingly confirming it for non-US territories first and foremost, where that’s a more common detail in smartphones. Best of all, the Zenfone 2 starts at $199 – no word yet on pricing for all models, but even in its most modest configuration, that price is a steal for a lot of power and features.

zenfone-zoomMeanwhile, the Zenfone Zoom (right), with its 13 megapixel rear camera and 5 megapixel front camera, is being touted as the world’s thinnest smartphone with an optical zoom feature, measuring just 11.95 mm thick. The fact that it’s got a 3x optical zoom means that users can take some seriously good photos with this device; optical zooms change the focus and depth of the lens itself, rather than relying solely on a digital zoom, that decreases an image’s resolution while getting closer. Optical zoom is a mechanical feature, and as such requires more technical wizardry – and a higher price tag. The Zenfone Zoom will cost $399.

Like the Zenfone 2, it’ll also offer a 5.5-inch display with full 1080p HD resolution. It also will feature “up to” 128 GB of internal storage, but no specifics regarding its RAM. Chances seem good that it’ll have at least 1 or 2 GB, though.

Both phones will ship with Android 5.0, but will run the ZenUI version of the operating system. Like Samsung’s TouchWiz and HTC’s Sense UI, ZenUI is Asus’s twist on Android, meaning that it’ll have some bells and whistles that may or may not be to your liking. It’s one of the prices paid by Android fans; in order to have lots of hardware choices, we’re often subjected to the software whims of handset makers. I can’t say for certain whether or not ZenUI is more or less successful than the non-stock Androids found on other handsets, but if nothing else, these hardware features are intriguing enough that the Zenfone 2 and Zenfone Zoom are definitely worth a look.

Will either one come out in the United States? It seems as though you can buy quite a few unlocked Asus handsets from the likes of Amazon, but they don’t seem to be offered by US carriers. Maybe these two new phones will change all that. If nothing else, though, they both seem affordable enough that buying them without a contract shouldn’t break the bank. No word yet, either, on when they’ll be released. We’ll report on that information once it hits. Stay tuned…

[Asus Zenfone 2, Zenfone Zoom]

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