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Asus' OnePlus Rival Arrives August 13 for $499

Six months after its unveiling at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Asus’ OnePlus killer is finally headed for our shores.

Pre-orders for the Snapdragon 845-powered ZenFone 5Z have just gone live on Amazon. The handset is priced at $499 — the same as the Honor View 10 and $30 cheaper than the base model OnePlus 6 — and comes in two colors: blue or silver. It will start shipping August 13.

The ZenFone 5Z was one of the first phones to copy the iPhone X's notch, housing the earpiece and front facing camera. However, U.S. customers have had to wait half a year to get the opportunity to buy one, even though the device has been available in Asia for months.

Since the ZenFone 5Z’s unveiling in February, we’ve been treated to two high-profile handsets with notches: The OnePlus 6 and LG G7 ThinQ. The rest of the world has even more choices, including the triple-camera Huawei P20 Pro and phones from Oppo, Vivo and Nokia.

In other words, the ZenFone 5Z could have made waves as the poor man’s iPhone X, if Asus’ competitors didn’t beat it to the punch. And that’s a shame, because the hardware underpinning the ZenFone 5Z really is special.

Customers get a generous 8GB of RAM to go with Qualcomm’s premium system-on-chip, which indicates the ZenFone 5Z should wind up being one of the fastest phones of 2018. It’s even more enticing when you consider that OnePlus charges $579 to get the same amount of memory in the OnePlus 6.

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That’s not to say there aren’t a few areas in which the ZenFone 5Z has us a little concerned. Asus is relying on LCD technology to power the phone’s display, rather than OLED as in the OnePlus 6, Galaxy S9, Pixel 2 and iPhone X. Additionally, the company’s ZenUI front-end for Android has really hampered its otherwise solid hardware in the past, with poor aesthetics and an overwhelming number of gimmicks.

That said, the ZenFone 5Z figures to offer the best performance-for-dollar value of any smartphone we expect to see this year. That immediately puts it on our radar, and should land it a spot on yours, too.

It’s worth noting Asus is also planning two less-expensive midrange alternatives called the ZenFone 5Q and ZenFone 5. Check back in the coming weeks for our reviews of all of Asus’ upcoming handsets.