Affordable, stylish, and high-performing: The Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5 S delivers

I guess you could call me a "tech rebel". I had a Zune while everyone else was listening to their iPods, prefer to use a heavy laptop over a Mac Air, and swapped a brand new 4S for an older version Android after complaining about iOS for a week. I did, however, miss the effortlessly pretty pictures the iPhone took! Since I started working with Project Vanity, however, I realized that no level of photo editing was going to improve my sucky phone camera attempts at product photography.

Fortunately, ASUS Philippines sent over their Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5 S, a sleek smartphone which had been touted as an SLR that can fit into your pocket! But before we go into that, let's quickly go over how it looks. The first thing you'll notice is the HUMONGOUS display. In fact, 72% of the entire phone body is just the touchscreen area, which is absolutely perfect for watching Project Vanity's latest videos (wink!) in incredible detail. I love minimalist designs so the three tiny buttons at the bottom keep the look sleek.

The unit I received came in Sheer Gold - admittedly not as pretty and feminine as the rose gold iPhone, but that's honestly not my style. The muted sheen of gold looks classy and sophisticated with the brushed metal backing. The phone designers also really put a lot of thought into user experience: the power button is located at the top of the phone while the volume rocker is at the back right below the camera. This makes everything accessible regardless of which hand you're using, so the phone is apparently quite a hit among lefties!

Inside: USB cable, plug, earphones, and rubber covers

Inside: USB cable, plug, earphones, and rubber covers

One of reasons why I'm extremely loyal to Android is its ability to let you customize your phone display and processes to your heart's content, and with the Zenfone's built-in Zen UI, managing all that personalization has gotten so much easier. This is a major point for me as I generally have to keep track of a million things all happening at the same time, and I rely on my phone to help me stay on top of the chaos. With the Zen UI, you can easily select and apply pre-made themes, program motion-triggered shortcuts to your most used apps, create distinct work and play user profiles, and take advantage of the various security features. The Android Lollipop 5 platform makes sure that everything runs smoothly and no lags occur even if you switch between multiple apps. 

CUSTOMIZED HOME SCREEN. I'm currently using the Earth Day icon pack (free from Zen UI) and this cute photo I found in their extensive Wallpaper collection. Clock and weather widget comes with the phone while the calendar is by Simple Calendar.

CUSTOMIZED HOME SCREEN. I'm currently using the Earth Day icon pack (free from Zen UI) and this cute photo I found in their extensive Wallpaper collection. Clock and weather widget comes with the phone while the calendar is by Simple Calendar.

I've never been the type of person to take a lot of pictures, and this phone helped me realize why. How many times have you experienced reaching for your phone to snap a memorable moment, only to have it lag and capture a series of unidentifiable blurs? A good number of my photography attempts with old cameras looked like that: backs of heads, after-jump shots (when people have already landed!), moving objects suddenly too far away to recognize.

The Zenfone's Laser Auto-Focus feature has finally remedied that! Instead of having to waste precious seconds, the camera almost instantly focuses on your subject with an ultra fast (non-detectable to the human eye) laser beam. It sounds like something sci-fi, but that's how sophisticated the technology is. The phone's PixelMaster 2.0  camera automatically adjusts in just 0.03 seconds, even when shooting in low light situations.

NATURAL LIGHT. Got my Project Vanity Girl Boss Glam Kit! This photo is completely unedited -the sky was overcast so it looks a bit dark, but you wouldn't have guessed phone camera given the level of detail and overall quality!

NATURAL LIGHT. Got my Project Vanity Girl Boss Glam Kit! This photo is completely unedited -the sky was overcast so it looks a bit dark, but you wouldn't have guessed phone camera given the level of detail and overall quality!

LOW, LOW LIGHT. It was actually much darker out when I took this photo but the camera's auto adjust made it look brighter. A bit grainy still, but impressive considering that there was barely any light.

LOW, LOW LIGHT. It was actually much darker out when I took this photo but the camera's auto adjust made it look brighter. A bit grainy still, but impressive considering that there was barely any light.

Fancy features aside, the 13MP rear camera takes pretty great shots while the 5MP front camera does a decent job of helping your #selfie game. If you're more into groupfies though, the Zenfone has a Selfie Panorama mode so you don't need to "compress" to fit into the frame. I'm still figuring out the best ways to use the camera but there are 12 different shooting modes to choose from, including Slow Motion and GIF Animation, which certainly make photography a lot more fun! And because the phone runs on a 3000mAh battery and supports up to 128GB external memory, you should be able to take a lot of great shots before you need to plug in.

If you're looking to take better photos with your phone camera, you should definitely consider getting the Zenfone 2 Laser 5.5 S. And I've saved the best part for last: this phone is just P9,000! I was stunned when I saw the price tag on this one - with all that cool tech, I was sure it was somewhere in the 5-digit price range but it's apparently a pretty fantastic yet affordable option. My "search for the incredible" ends here.

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