Battle of the unlocked smartphones



The Asus ZenFone 2 is the Taiwanese manufacturer’s newest smartphone lineup. Aside from the initial $199 and $299 versions with a 5.5-inch display, the company just announced 5-inch and 6-inch models at Computex this week, which are sure to broaden its appeal. But let’s step back for a moment and look at that original $299 handset, which matches up with the perennial-favorite OnePlus One in a number of ways.

Both devices have 5.5-inch, in-plane switching (IPS) liquid crystal displays (LCD) with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 panels, full HD screen resolution (1920 x 1080p), front and back cameras with the same camera apertures (5MP and 13MP with f/2.0 apertures, respectively), 16GB and 64GB versions, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. So on the surface, there are few differences between the two phones. But we’ll find them once we look a little closer.

The OnePlus One is slightly lighter — 5.7 versus 6.0 ounces for the ZenFone 2. While both phones have the same screen resolution, the ZenFone 2 ever-so-slightly edges out the OnePlus One in pixel density (403 ppi vs. 401 ppi). You’ll never see that in real life, of course, but it’s there.

Both front and back cameras of these two devices have the same megapixel count (5MP front, 13MP back). But the ZenFone 2 dwarfs the OnePlus One in camera features and settings; the ZenFone 2 has face detection, smile detection, touch to focus, geotagging, and a High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode. For its part, the OnePlus One supports 4K video recording and can record in HD up to 120fps.

Under the hood, the ZenFone 2 is powered by a quad-core, 2.3GHz, 64-bit, 22nm Intel Atom Z3580 processor with a PowerVR G6430 GPU and 4GB RAM. The OnePlus One contains a 2.5GHz, quad-core, 28nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with an Adreno 330 GPU and 3GB RAM. On paper, the OnePlus One has a slightly faster clock speed (2.5GHz vs. 2.3GHz), and the ZenFone 2 has an additional 1GB of DDR3 (not DDR4) RAM over the OnePlus One. Both the ZenFone 2 and OnePlus One have less-expensive 16GB models available: the 16GB ZenFone 2 has 2GB of DDR3 RAM, while the 16GB OnePlus One has the same 3GB of DDR3 RAM.

How does that all translate in real life? The ZenFone 2 tends to beat the OnePlusOne in benchmarks, but not by much. You shouldn’t notice much difference in day-to-day usage with these two phones.

The ZenFone 2 and OnePlus One both run Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google’s most recent major Android update. The ZenFone 2 comes laden with a heavy Zen UI layer, which may bother some enthusiasts, while the OnePlus One runs Cyanogen OS (although that will change on future OnePlus handsets); the OPO’s bootloader is unlockable and root is easy to get. There’s also a new official ROM from OnePlus called OxygenOS that users can install instead.

The battery sizes are similar, though the OnePlus One slightly surpasses the ZenFone 2’s (3,100mAh vs. 3,000mAh, respectively). Unlike the OnePlus One, the ZenFone 2 has a microSD card slot, so you can boost its existing 16GB and 64GB of onboard storage. The ZenFone 2 costs $299 for the 64GB model and $199 for the 16GB model; the OnePlus One costs the same $299 for 64GB and a higher $249 for 16GB. The ZenFone 2 has two SIM card slots, which you may find helpful if you travel often.

Both phones make a compelling case. Asus and OnePlus One have shown that you don’t have to “spec-settle” to get a great phone for a great price. With these two, storage options and OS flexibility will most likely determine which one you prefer.

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