It’s hard not to see parallels between the ZenFone 2 and the OnePlus 2. They both come at a time when we’re just entering the age of the affordable value smartphone. One might even suggest that OnePlus was one of the heralds of this era. Let’s see how each of these forerunners stack up when they’re pitted against one another.
Disclaimer: I used the ZenFone 2 for 8 days during the review period, and I’ve been using the OnePlus 2 as my daily driver for 7 days at the time of this article.
Let’s break this down category by category, then we’ll circle back around to take a look at the big picture.
In terms of build, I think it really just comes down to preference. Not one device has a serious leg up over the other in terms of the build quality, but I do prefer the feel of the ZenFone 2 in the hand over the colder feel of the OnePlus 2. The OnePlus 2’s metal frame certainly gives it heft and makes it feel premium, but the sharper corners don’t sit as nicely in the hand as the rounded back of the ZenFone 2. This round goes to the ZenFone 2.
As the silicon battle wages on, Intel is still struggling to make it into the mobile market. In this pairing, it’s going up against the latest and greatest from Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 810. While the benchmarks are a clear win for the 810, there are a few other factors to consider. For one, I experienced a lot more lag on the OnePlus 2 than I did on the ZenFone 2. When typing in particular, it often stuttered on me, and many animations did as well. The 810’s heat issue on the OnePlus was negligible. It got hot, sure, but no more than most other high end phones, and it cooled quickly. Despite having had a better experience with the ZenFone 2 in this department, on paper, the winner is clear: the Snapdragon 810 in the OnePlus 2.
In terms of overall hardware features, there are lots of tradeoffs. As an active Google Wallet user and a forgetful human, I use NFC on my mobile device often. It’s a huge deal for me that it’s not present in the OnePlus 2. Other users may not find that a necessary feature, it all depends on usage. What the OnePlus 2 has that the ZenFone 2 doesn’t have is a fingerprint reader.
While it’s a great fingerprint reader, I don’t know that it was the right move. Android 5.0 and above doesn’t have the standardized biometrics APIs that Marshmallow will have, which means that some apps won’t work with the reader. For example, Lastpass doesn’t work on the Oneplus with the fingerprint reader, but the S6’s reader works great. This is a dealbreaker for me. If I’m going to get a device with a fingerprint reader and forego NFC, it better work with everything I want to use it with, not just be a little convenient nicety. Not to mention, the hardware home button missed taps frequently enough for me to be frustrated with it.
Again, the same goes for USB-C. As great as it is to have a reversible plug, I don’t think its worth the tradeoff of not having fast charging, which is something the ZenFone 2 does incredibly well, and the battery on the OnePlus 2 could use.
Combine all that with the stronger vibration motor, dual SIM slots and SD expandable storage on the ZenFone 2, and I’ve got to give it to Asus here.
These screens are very difficult to pit against each other. Similar sizes and resolutions mean the pixel density is about the same (only 2 ppi off in favor of ZenFone). The color and contrast are strong on both displays, as are the viewing angles, though the OnePlus 2 is just a tad brighter. I think here it comes down to the options, and Asus provides an app to tweak the hue, saturation, and color temp. Got to give this one to the ZenFone 2.
The camera module on the ZenFone 2 is fine. It’s great for the price, but when you pit it against the camera on the OnePlus 2, it’s not even close. The results really do speak for themselves. The laser focus on the OnePlus 2 is fast, and the software is closer to stock without quite so many options, but those aren’t features I missed too much. Despite the nicer wide angle front facing camera on the ZenFone 2, this one goes to the OnePlus 2.
Battery life on both devices were alright. Neither was particularly impressive, but for different reasons. The ZenFone 2 suffers from being built on Android 5.0, which plagues it with bugs from that era. The Android OS chews through anywhere from 30%-40% of the device’s battery when it goes haywire. That said, the OnePlus Two battery wasn’t phenomenal either. It was better than the ZenFone’s when the juice is being guzzled by the OS, but it wasn’t as good as the ZenFone’s when operating at full capacity. The fact that Asus is working on an update combined with the ZenFone’s fast charging means it gets the win here from me.
This one is easy. Asus throws the kitchen sink at you. This one is not close at all. OnePlus’ Oxygen OS is the right kind of spin on Android. Add things, improve things, stay light, update frequently. Though some features like shelf are mediocre at best, it doesn’t suffer from the amount of bloat the ZenFone exhibits. Point One Plus.
ZenFone 2 $300 for 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.
OnePlus 2 $389 for 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.
Winner: ZenFone 2
Neither phone is perfect, but between the two, my choice goes to the ZenFone 2. The biggest compromise that it makes is with its really difficult to swallow software, and that is largely mitigated by taking advantage of many of the customization options Android has to offer. It was close, but the OnePlus just doesn’t feel like it offers as much bang for the buck as the ZenFone does. I’m really excited to see how next years’ entries turn out from each of these two manufacturers.
What do you guys think? Have you used both devices? Which do you prefer? Let us know what you think in the comments and if you have any more questions about comparing the two I’ll do my best to keep up with the questions.
When you think about high end affordable smartphones, I’m willing to bet Asus isn’t the first brand that comes to mind. They’re looking to change that with a high end device at an affordable price.
Asus clearly takes a lot of pride in the build quality of the Zenfone 2, and with good reason. This thing is a delight to hold in the hand. It feels strong, has a bit of heft, and the curved back makes it really just nestle right in. Not only that, but it’s not so curved that it can’t be comfortably used when laying flat, which is a pleasant surprise.