ASUS Zenfone 4 Selfie Pro Review – So Close Yet So Far

Every year, Asus launches an entire new line-up of its smartphones, and in 2017, the news is pretty much the same. Back in August, Asus launched the new Zenfone 4, Zenfone 4 Selfie and Zenfone 4 Max, plus the Pro versions for each model. In this review we will be taking a look at the Zenfone 4 Selfie Pro (what a name!). With a retail price of RM1799, it is a mid-range smartphone, sliding in the gap between the Zenfone 4 Selfie and the regular Zenfone 4. The idea of the Selfie Pro is to include a noticeable spec bump from the Selfie with a dual front-facing camera setup. So, is the final results as good as we’d think? Let’s find out.

Unboxing

A classy white packaging is what the Selfie Pro comes in, along with gold writing which reflects the colour of the device. Once the cover is lifted away, a small box is immediately presented with a transparent soft case in it. Below that is the device itself, and the rest of the box contains some paperworks, a USB wall adapter, a microUSB cable and a pair of earphones.

Design

Since the Selfie Pro is a mid-range device in the entire Zenfone 4 line-up, Asus has given the Selfie Pro a more understated design. It spots a different design when compared to the regular Zenfone 4 and its Pro counterpart. The Asus’s usual design cues are still there, with some updates to make the Selfie Pro looks fresh. With that said, the design of the Selfie Pro is a little too generic, which isn’t the greatest especially when competing with hundreds of devices in the same price bracket. The Selfie Pro definitely does not stand out in the design department. But at least they got the proportions right. The Selfie Pro fits nicely in your palm, and with a thickness of only 6.9mm of thickness, it’s not bulky to carry around.

Like other mid-range device, the Selfie Pro is made from premium materials. To start, a Gorilla Glass 5 can be found on the front to protect the AMOLED display. It looks and feels premium, and is a nice touch. Asus does not include a screen protector to go with that, so you are on your own to keep the glass looking new. The rest of the device is metal unibody design. It does feel very nice and premium, and feels like it will hold up pretty well. The construction of the device feels solid, and with a weight of 147g, its acceptable as well.

Taking up most of the space of the front panel is a 5.5-inch display, and above the display is the Selfie Pro’s party trick – a dual-camera front-facing setup, which is next to each other towards the right of the earpiece. The sensors and LED notification light are towards the left. Below the display continues the usual Asus setup, which contains a fingerprint reader in the middle which is also the home button, and 2 capacitive touch Android navigation controls on both sides.

A removable hybrid SIM tray is located on the left, and is removable using the included tray removal tool. In it contains a slot for a nano-SIM card and a secondary hybrid slot, which either takes a secondary nano-SIM or a microSD card for storage expansion. So you do need to choose between storage expansion or dual-SIM functionality. The top of the device is clean except for a microphone.

The usual volume and power buttons are located on the right at a convenient location, with a special texture on the power button, which is a premium touch. The bottom is where the rest of the ports are located, including a 3.5mm external audio jack, an old-school microUSB port for charging and data transfer and a bottom-firing mono speakers.

For the back, Asus has kindly added chamfered edges towards all 4 sides of the device to try to liven it up, as well as adding 2 clean antenna lines that runs across the device. The rear 16 camera lives at the centre, with an LED flash next to it. There’s really nothing much going on at the back, apart from an Asus logo below it and some regulatory information at the bottom.

You can pick your Selfie Pro in 3 different colours – Sunlight Gold like our review unit, Deepsea Black and a rather tasty Rouge Red.

ASUS Zenfone 4 Selfie Pro Exterior Photos

Specs and Performance

It seems like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625 is probably the most favourite processor among mid-range smartphone manufacturers, as there are quite a lot of smartphones at this price point is packed with this processor. In fact, here at MDROID, we’ve reviewed lots of devices with this processor, and the Selfie Pro is no exception. The numbers are the same, with 8-cores clocked at 2.0GHz, and is based on 64-bit architecture. Even though it has a rather high clock speed, the cores are low-powered and is designed to be as efficient as possible by quickly spreading work load to all cores. The Snapdragon 625 in the Selfie Pro is a significant upgrade from the Snapdragon 430 found in the regular Selfie. In Malaysia, the Selfie Pro also benefits from 4GB of RAM, while the little brother only comes with 3GB.

The last device we’ve seen with this similar setup is Asus’s own Zenfone 3 Zoom, and we are rather impressed by its overall performance, if not a little insufficient for heavier tasks. In the Selfie Pro, the story is pretty much the same if not better. Since the processor focuses on spreading workload to all cores while keeping the speed low, it has no problem handling normal tasks. Asus has been hard at work to keep their user interface as light and simple as possible. There are just times that we ran into some minor slowdowns, but that’s pretty much the same as other devices with the same processor. Demanding tasks can be a slight problem, especially when all 8-cores are fired to the max, but it’s not unbearable. On the other hand, we noticed that there’s no huge impact on battery life, and while the metal unibody does get a little warm, there’s no signs of thermal throttling. The 4GB of RAM is sufficient to keep necessary amounts of apps running in the background.

Results obtained from our usual Geekbench 4 benchmarking app is rather expected, with single-core score at around 866, while achieving 4228 for multi-core score. Pretty close to the results obtained from the Zoom.

A 64GB eMCP storage is the only option offered on the Selfie Pro, and it provides a good amount of storage for most users. Read speeds are well over at 200MB/s, while write speeds settled at over 100MB/s. So speed isn’t a problem here. There is an option to expand the internal storage with a microSD card, and the Selfie Pro will take cards up to 2TB. With the latest Android operating system, you can increase the size of the internal storage with the microSD card.

As for connectivity options, the Selfie Pro does not pack the latest and greatest connectivity options, considering the fact that this is a mid-range device. Like the Zoom, an 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz Wi-Fi is only available with no support of 5GHz. Hotspot and Wi-Fi direct functionality are also available. Bluetooth 4.2 is thrown in as well. 4G and LTE are standard, and while both slots do support LTE, only one can be connected to it for cellular data functionality. The Selfie Pro also lacks behind when considering the fact that it has to deal with microUSB port, which means the lack of fast charging or speedy file transfers.

Rather conveniently, Asus have moved the fingerprint reader back to the front, and it is the same across the entire Zenfone 4 range. The fingerprint reader in the Selfie Pro works rather well, with fast and rather accurate scans, especially considering that the reader isn’t a matte surface. During our testing, we do sometimes bump into issues where there the reader does not respond to any finger input, and we had to wake the device up first.

Display

The display is the part where it crawls back points for the Selfie Pro. It measures 5.5-inch, which is a sweet spot for most manufacturers. Once again, the number 401 pixels-per-inch comes to mind with the Full HD (1080 X 1920) resolution. Like other devices with the same setup, our comments are still the same – it is impressively sharp and adequate for most users.

Like the Zoom, the Selfie Pro also benefits from an AMOLED display panel, which is an improvement over the IPS panel that they are offering in the Selfie or even the regular Zenfone 4. It’s not a Super AMOLED panel like on the expensive phones, but this standard AMOLED panel is still impressive, and provides the experience that we are really looking for. With AMOLED’s deep blacks nature, colours are vivid, accurate and pleasing to the eyes, as they are not over-saturated like on the Super AMOLEDs. It provides more colours than an IPS panel but still able to keep it natural. So it is a good mark for the Selfie Pro. Like always, it has a good amount of brightness, so it isn’t a problem the use the Selfie Pro under bright sunlight.

Like other Asus devices, the Selfie Pro comes with software enhancements and adjustments for the display. It defaults at Super Colour mode right out of the box, but you can also take your pick between Bluelight filter, standard and customized. In standard mode the colour is dull and does not shine, and Asus offers a number of adjustments in customized mode, including colour temperature, hue and saturation.

Speaker

A bottom firing mono speaker is the only setup found in the Selfie Pro. It’s the same unit found in the Zoom, and coupled with NXP Smart Amp to make it sound better. For a mono speaker which isn’t aimed at hard-core media consumptions, it sounds decent, and we are impressed with how the speakers cope with loud music even at max volume. It could use a little more clarity and bass, but at this price point, there isn’t much to complain about.

The Selfie Pro also comes with software enhancements for both the speakers and external audio output. Apart from a few modes and an outdoor mode, the AudioWizard apps allows you to tune the audio to your liking, so there are lots of settings to play with on the Selfie Pro, and can pretty much replace an external amplifier. Asus has also included DTS Headphone X audio enhancements for headphone or earphone users.

Camera Performance

As the name suggests, the Selfie Pro is aimed towards people who are serious with their selfie game, which is a pretty common thing among youths these days. Which is why Asus have put all their effort to the front-facing camera, which is the primary camera for the Selfie Pro. In accordance to Asus’s goal to offer dual-camera systems on all of their devices, the Selfie Pro benefits from dual-cameras at the front, which consists of a 12-megapixel sensor and an 8-megapixel sensor. The 12-megapixel sensor has lots of technology going on in it, and their good relationship with Sony allows them to make use of their IMX362 Dual-Pixel sensors and combining that with Asus’s SuperPixel Engine. While Asus like to talk about how it takes 24-megapixel photos, it basically utilizes two 12-megapixel sensors and upscaling it to 24-megapixels. The secondary sensor is simply just a 120-degree wide-angle camera which is there for the group selfies, where Asus claims twice the field of view.

Alright, enough of names and numbers, let’s see how the Selfie Pro’s party trick performs in the real world. We have some high expectations for the Selfie Pro, and it delivers some of them. Like all cameras, it performs the best in well-lit conditions. The colours are well balanced, with vivid colours, but not overly done. It was able to produce photos with good amount of sharpness, and adequate amount of details.

But unfortunately, here’s where the good news ends. Being a selfie-centric device, you would expect the front-facing camera to pack with basic stuff like auto-focus, but it doesn’t. While it is still easy to get your face in focus, basic necessities like these is still a must. Also, we expect higher details, and it tends to play around with exposure a little too much. Under low-lighting conditions, this is where both the front sensors really struggle. There’s noticeable amount of noise, lack of details and inaccuracy in colours. The primary sensor works alright at bringing the ISO up, but it leads to all the problems mentioned above. Thankfully, there is a built-in softlight to brighten up your face. Really, it is too much to expect the Selfie Pro’s front-facing camera to perform like any other rear-cameras from other devices for portrait photos.

The secondary wide angle camera is good to include more people in a photo, but it won’t perform as good as the primary camera would. Even in sufficient lighting conditions it does lack details. Don’t even expect it to work well in low-light conditions at all, as there is unbearable amount of noise, and there’s even a notification to ask you to switch to the main camera.

Luckily, the rear cameras aren’t too bad, which is awkward for a “Selfie Pro” device. The 16-megapixel Sony image sensor with Asus’s SuperPixel engine performs well in well-lit conditions. Colours are still rather vivid even though it is slightly toned down, but it is still on the natural side. There are plenty of details and good amount of sharpness. In most cases, HDR will kick in, but it works extremely well to adjust over-exposed and dark areas. In darker conditions it is hard at work at bringing noise level low and keeping the colour accurate. It’s still not the best, and we wished for a larger pixel size to allow more lighting.

ASUS Zenfone 4 Selfie Pro Samples

Both the front and the rear cameras will shoot videos at 4K resolution, and even includes a 60 frames-per-second option for 1080p videos. Videos are sharp in 4K resolution, and it stayed pretty consistent at 30 frames-per-second. You do lose some details if you switch to 1080p resolution in favour for 60 fps recording, but that’s a small compromise. It is what it is in lower lighting conditions. While there are no built-in Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), there’s still electronic image stabilization which works rather well at keeping the videos stabilized.

The camera app that is included in the Selfie Pro is clean and simple, with the usual shortcuts on the left, and the standard controls on the right, which includes the shutter, preview, record video and Pro mode. Swiping up and down on the viewfinder reveals more modes and filters. Included in the camera app is Portrait Mode, which applies blur to the background of a person’s face. The pro mode is a nice touch which allows you to play with ISO, shutter speed, EV, white balance and focus point.

For the Selfie and Selfie Pro, Selfie Master app is also included which allows you to play with the beautification settings and collage.

Software

ASUS Zenfone 4 Selfie Pro Screenshots

Previous Asus devices are well known for operating systems with older design, and are cluttered with huge amount of bloatwares. Luckily, Asus has promised less bloatwares and an overall lighter and faster OS. The Selfie Pro comes with Android 7.1.1 Nougat right out of the box, with Asus’s customization. Compared to previous versions, the Seflie Pro performed noticeably well, even when compared next to the Zoom with the same OS but older design. Asus has also updated on its overall design, and now it looks a lot cleaner with less bloatwares. Still, previous Asus owners are still going to be familiar with the way the OS works as most of the functionalities are still the same. As for software updates, Asus has promised regular updates for the Selfie Pro, and even guarantees Android Oreo update.

Battery life

A 3000mAh non-removable battery can be found in the Selfie Pro. Using our usual testing methodology, our day usually ended with around 25-30%, which isn’t bad at all. It will go on for a few more hours before it can’t hold its drink anymore.

While Asus claimed that the Selfie Pro comes with “Fast Charging”, it’s actually a regular fast charging with can be achieved with any charger that are able to supply 5W/2A. Currents. It can take a flat battery to around 30% in 30 minutes, and a full charge will take around 2 hours.

The Bottom Line

Leaving the selfie feature aside, the Selfie Pro can be considered as a decent phone for the price, packing the right specs and features. Even when putting next to its competitions, there’s still reasons to choose the Selfie Pro. However, it’s not the best when it comes to what it should be doing the best, and the whole selfie-oriented setup and features is a little gimmick. Not to say it’s bad, but it isn’t as good as what we’d expect with the big name. Asus still has a lot to work on if they are really serious about the whole selfie game – especially on its cameras.

Recap:
5.5-inch AMOLED display, 1080 X 1920 resolution, 401 ppi
Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, 8x 2.0GHz Octa-core processor
4GB RAM, 64GB internal storage, microSD card support up to 2TB
16-megapixel rear camera, up to 4K video recording
12-megapixel (or 24-megapixel DualPixel) front-facing camera + 8-megapixel wide angle camera
3000mAh battery

Pros Cons
Design is not offensive Selfie features not as good as it says
Overall experience is pleasing No real fast charging technology
More lightweight user interface Low-light performance is not so good
Solid performer in the price range Lack of 5GHz WiFi
Battery life holds up pretty well Fingerprint reader does not respond to any inputs at times