Asus had stayed away from expensive premium flagship smartphones till they launched Zenfone 3 Deluxe and Zenfone 3 Ultra last year. Before these two devices, Zenfone Zoom (Read Review) was their most expensive smartphone, even though that was priced much lower than Rs. 50,000. With Zenfone 3 Deluxe and Zenfone 3 Ultra, Asus is making an entry into premium expensive smartphone category. We received a review unit of Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe ZS570KL which is the lower variant of Deluxe powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 with 64 GB of storage priced at Rs. 50,999, while there is a higher variant of Deluxe powered by Snapdragon 821 with 256 GB of storage priced at Rs. 62,999.

Zenfone 3 Deluxe - Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe Review

In this review, we check out if Zenfone 3 Deluxe is worth the money spent and how it competes with other popular flagship devices in same price band, such as Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, OnePlus 3T and few more. The variant that we reviewed comes with Model No. ASUS_Z016D ( ZS570KL) Gold color, with 6 GB RAM and 64 GB internal Storage.

As we do with any other smartphone review, We have used Zenfone 3 Deluxe as our primary device for more than a week and this review is based on our experience during those days.

Zenfone 3 Technical Specifications

  • Display : 5.7-inch Full HD 1080p Super AMOLED display, Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection
  • CPU : 2.15 GHz Quad-Core Snapdragon 820 MSM8996
  • GPU: Adreno 530
  • RAM : 6 GB
  • Storage : 64 GB, expandable with microSD card
  • OS : Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) with Zen UI 3.0
  • Main Camera : 23 MP rear camera with dual-tone LED Flash, Sony IMX318 sensor, f/2.0 aperture, 6P Largan lens, 4-axis OIS, 3-axis EIS, Laser AF
  • Front Camera : 8 MP,  f/2.0 aperture 85-degree wide-viewing angle
  • Misc : Fingerprint sensor, Hybrid dual SIM, Dual Five-magnet speakers, NXP smart amplifier, Hi-Res Audio (HRA)
  • Dimensions: 156.4 x 77.4 x 4.2 ~ 7.5 mm
  • Weight: 170 gm
  • Connectivity : 4G LTE with VoLTE, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5 GHz), Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, USB 3.0 Type-C
  • Battery : 3000 mAh with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 and BoostMaster Fast Charging

Design and Build Quality

With Zenfone 3 series, ASUS has changed the design & build quality of their smartphone drastically. With Zenfone 3 Deluxe, it’s all metal build instead of glass at the back in case of Zenfone 3 (Read Review). The unique feature of Zenfone 3 deluxe design is the absence of Antenna lines and Asus has managed to keep Antenna lines invisible which is rare.  If you look closely though, you can barely see some Antenna lines embedded into the chamfered bezel. The phone weighs 170 grams and feel a bit heavy sometimes, though you will get used to it. Thanks to a 5.7 inch display, it feels big and not comfortable for one hand use.

The build at the back panel is a bit curved at sides and you can feel the curves while holding it. There is a small camera bump and the vertical rectangular fingerprint sensor located below it may feel a bit odd initially. On the front, you can see the metallic circular design (concentric circles) at top & bottom bezels, while there is negligible bezels at sides. The physical navigation menu buttons are backlit.Overall the phone looks premium, though it is surely not the best one.

The Power & Volume rockers buttons on same side place and look great with concentric circles design on them. Dual Sim card with Hybrid SIM tray is on the other side and can be accessed using the ejector pin. The 3.5 mm audio jack is at the top while the USB C type port is at the bottom.

Display

It sports a 5.7-inch Full HD 1080p Super AMOLED display with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection, with a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels. Thanks to Super AMOLED display, it produces crisp, clear, saturated and bright images. It adjusts itself well even full bright sunlight and you can use the device outdoors without any issues. The color reproduction is great with rich and vibrant colors. But a Quad HD display would have been better considering the 50K price point. A blue light filter is present under the notification toggles letting you use it effectively during the night. The viewing angles are great and you wont face any issues while watching videos on the phone. Thanks to negligible bezels, the display is a treat for browsing or watching videos.

Performance and Benchmarks

Zenfone 3 Deluxe is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 along with Adreno 540 GPU and 6 GB RAM. Thanks to this high-end flagship configuration of SD820 and 6 GB RAM, it runs everything smoothly that we could throw at it including heavy graphics intensive games, multitasking and what not. There are no issues in term of performance, heating or any kind of lag or crashes during normal day-to-day usage. You can play heavy graphics intensive games such as Asphalt 8 and others quite smoothly on the phone. With Zenfone 3 Deluxe, you will never have to worry about performance of the phone.

There is negligible heating of the device while playing intensive games, multitasking or using the device for too long. Similarly, if you are recording 4K videos that it is capable of doing, you may feel a bit of heat during recording and even extra battery drain.

It comes with 64 GB internal storage with support for expandable memory using Microsd card. The only issue though, you can either use two SIM cards of use one SIM card with Microsd card, thanks to the hybrid SIM slot instead of a dedicated Microsd card slot. For a high-end device, consumers may want a dedicated SD card slot, though for most users 64 GB is good enough if they want to use two sim cards.

The call quality during voice calls was pretty clear without any issues. The dialer app also gives you an option to record calls without installing any additional app or rooting the device. By default, this feature is turned off and you need to enable it if you need to record your calls. The sound output was good and much better than any other smartphone that we have tested.

The phone comes with support for high-resolution audio through the headphones socket and comes with built-in DAC.The bundled ZenEar S headset are good in terms of quality and produces crystal clear sound.

The Antutu benchmark score for Zenfone 3 Deluxe comes out to be 140,000+ which is great for a flagship device and it reflects in the performance of the phone under different conditions. Oddly though, Zenfone 3 Deluxe scored much lower score of 125,000+ when the phone was in “Performance Mode” while we got the higher score in “Standard / Normal mode”.

Camera

Zenfone 3 Deluxe comes with 23 MP main rear camera with Sony IMX318 sensor and dual-tone LED Flash, with f/2.0 aperture, 6P Largan lens having 4-axis OIS (optical image stabilization), 3-axis EIS(Electronic image stabilization), Laser AF. While on the front, it comes with 8 MP shooter with f/2.0 aperture and having 85-degree wide-viewing angle for selfies.

The main camera of Zenfone 3 Deluxe is one of the best camera that we have ever seen on any Asus smartphone and produced some great shows in normal lighting & even low lights. We clicked many pictures under different lighting conditions. Under normal lighting or daylight, it produced shots with great details while shooting landscape and Macros. Colours are captured accurately and the sensor delivers a good depth of field effect in close-up shots. The ‘Auto HDR’ feature worked well without the need to switch manually to HDR based on conditions automatically. Thanks to continuous autofocus and OIS, Camera produced some great shots even while the subjects were moving. Even though the low light pictures are good, yet you can clearly see noise creeping in those images.

The camera app comes with loads of modes such as Low Light mode, Backlight (Super HDR) mode, Beautification mode, Professional (manual-settings) mode and more, just like most of the ASUS smartphones. It includes the Professional (manual-settings) mode with lot of options that you can adjust based on the surrounding and your own need.

But still, it is not the best smartphone camera that you can have when you are willing to spend 50K. Better options are available in same price range such as Samsung Galaxy S7 series.

The front 8 MP camera performed great and produced some good selfies. It’s one of the better Asus front shooters and produced much better selfies with wide viewing angle.

Camera samples

Checkout the images below taken under different light conditions and different modes. Click on the images to enlarge to original full size image. Click for full resolution images on Flickr.

Fingerprint Sensor

Zenfone 3 Deluxe comes with an accurate Fingerprint sensor which is rectangular is shape and during our review, it turned out to be exactly as per the claim. The sensor was accurate almost >95% times irrespective of how you are putting your finger. It was able to detect the fingerprint in almost all directions, pressed at any pressure or what not. Apart from the accuracy,We expected it to be much faster than what it is but it’s not.

Apart from locking unlocking, the fingerprint can be used for clicking pics and opening the camera App. Our wish list for fingerprint sensor though includes other features also that can be customised. Asus should try to put features which can help customise five fingerprints and map each fingerprint to perform a customised tasks such as :

  • Unlock the screen
  • Open Any custom app
  • Dial any number / contact that you set
  • Quick Capture

These features are already available in devices such as Coolpad Note 3 Lite.

Battery

Even though Battery performance had been one of the positive aspects of Asus Smartphones, yet Zenfone 3 Deluxe disappointed us with a below the average battery life. Even though, it is backed by 3000 mAh non removable battery, yet performance of the battery was worse than we had expected. Under normal average usage the device lasts just for the day, whereas with moderate use with dual SIMs ( 4G + 2G) with always on data connection it didn’t last for full day. The only good point about the battery is, support for Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 and BoostMaster Fast Charging which is needed the moment you start using the phone aggressively.

Another good part is, ZenUI comes with some great  battery modes as usual such as Performance mode, Normal, Power Saving, Super Saving and customised mode. All of these modes in fact work great and you can improve your battery life by almost 1.5 times just by moving to battery saving mode (works for most users) instead of normal mode. But when its a flagship phone, we expect a much better battery life without using these battery saving modes.

Operating System and UI

Zenfone 3 Deluxe is powered by Android 6.0 Marshmallow based operating system with ZenUI 3.0 on top. But while using the device, we got a OTA update to Android 7.0 Nougat operating system. In spite of using the Android 7.0 Nougat based operating system, ZenUI makes it dull and you wont notice a new operating system. Even though ZenUI has loads of features and powers all the ASUS smartphones, yet we feel Asus needs to reinvent the wheel. Our opinion of ZenUI remains same as it was earlier. And once again, ASUS needs to get rid of pre-loaded bloatware in their smartphones. it comes with loads of pre-installed apps and even installs few on its own the moment you connect to a WiFi network for the first time. There is no way to stop those apps from getting installed. It may irk many consumers like us.The bundled apps include Puffin, Truecaller, Amazon Kindle, SimCity and Need for Speed: No Limits. There are plenty of apps from Asus too, including PhotoCollage, MiniMovie, ZenCircle, etc, which you cannot uninstall even if you don’t need them.. The good thing though, you can uninstall/disable most of the bloatware.

Conclusion

ZenFone 3 Deluxe is priced at Rs. 50,999 and puts it in flagship devices category.  For such a high-priced phone, we expect a Quad HD display, better fingerprint sensor and most importantly, much better battery life. Till Asus can fix these issues, you have much better options if you are ready to spend 50K+ on a smartphone. Some of the options include Google Pixel, One Plus 3T or even Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. Zenfone 3 Deluxe would have been a much better option if it was priced aggressively.

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