Zenfone Zoom (Read Review) was the most expensive smartphone launched by Asus in India in January this year. Before Zoom, the company concentrated on entry-level & mid range smartphone segment managing to roll out some popular devices such as Zenfone 5, Zenfone 2 (Read Review), Zenfone 2 Laser ZE550KL (Read Review), Zenfone Max ZC550KL (Read review) and few more.
With Zenfone 3, Asus tries to get into premium and upper mid-range segment again with a brand new sleek & premium design which is a major improvement over earlier Zenfone devices and the company has priced the 3 GB variant at Rs. 21,999. In this review, we check out how good the new Zenfone 3 is and is it worth your money? The variant that we reviewed comes with Model No. ASUS_Z012D ( ZE552KL) White color, with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB internal Storage.
We have used Zenfone 3 as our primary device for almost three weeks & counting and this review is based on our experience during those days.
Zenfone 3 Technical Specifications
- Display: 5.5 inch Full HD, 77% BTS ratio, 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass front/rear
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
- GPU: Adreno 506
- OS: Zen UI 3.0 based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- RAM: 3 GB/4 GB
- Storage: 32 GB /64GB
- Camera: 16 megapixel rear camera Sony IMX298, Pixel Master 3.0, Tritech AF 0.03s AF, Laser Focus, Phase Detect AF, Continuous Focus, Dual LED Flash, 4K UHD recording, 4 Axis OIS, EIS (Electronic Image Stabilizer) and 8 megapixel front shooter with 85 degree wide angle,
- Security: Fingerprint Scanner at back
- Battery: 3000 mAh
- Connectivity: WiFi, 4G LTE, Bluetooth, Dual SIM, GPS, AGPS, GLONASS
- Dimensions: 152.6 x 77.4 x 7.7 mm (5.5”)
- Weight: 155 grams
Design and Build Quality
With Zenfone 3, ASUS has changed the design and build quality of the smartphone drastically giving it a much needed premium design and it is stunning if you compare it with earlier variants. Instead of going for an unibody metal design, Zenfone 3 comes with comes with 2.5D curved Corning Gorilla Glass both on the front and rear with a metal frame holding it together gives glassy elegant look. Thanks to the glass design though, it is slippery while holding. It may slip even from a slightly inclined surface. We would have preferred some texture at the back to give it a better grip. The camera at the back is bumped up a bit yet it doesn’t look odd. Asus claims that a sapphire lens provides protection from any type of scratch to the camera. The fingerprint sensor comes in the shape of vertical rectangle placed below the camera and may feel odd while using it initially. There are no visible Antenna lines, which run along the bottom and top.
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. It is 7.69 mm thick, yet looks sleek and weighs 155 grams.
The menu buttons at the bottom of the screen are not back-lit which is always the case with Asus smartphones and makes it a bit uncomfortable to use in dark surroundings.
It sports a 5.5-inch full HD IPS Display with a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels with a pixel density of 401 ppi, brightness rating of 600 nits and 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass both on front & rear. The display appears crisp, clear and is one of the best displays that we have seen in mid range smartphones. 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. 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.
Performance and Benchmarks
Zenfone 3 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 along with Adreno 506 GPU and 4 GB RAM. Thanks to 4 GB RAM and a mid range CPU, it runs everything smoothly that we could throw at it including heavy graphics intensive games, multitasking and what not. You wont feel any 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. But yes, the performance is not that great if you start comparing it with devices powered by Snapdragon 820 with 4 GB of RAM.
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 a bit of 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.
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 from speakers were crisp, clear and much louder from earlier devices such as Zenfone 2. THe retail unit also comes with a premium earphone which gives you some great sound while using it.
The Antutu benchmark score for Zenfone 3 comes out to be 60,768+ which is decent enough for a device priced in the range of 25k INR, but we have seen much better scores for devices such as LeEco Le 2 priced just 12k.
Zenfone 3 comes with 16 M rear camera with Sony IMX298 sensor backed up by Asus Pixel Master 3.0, Tritech AF 0.03s AF, Laser Focus, Phase Detect AF, Continuous Focus, Dual LED Flash and supports 4K UHD recording. It also comes with 4 Axis OIS, EIS (Electronic Image Stabilizer) support for the main rear camera. Whereas on the front, a 8 MP front shooter with 85 degree wide-angle camera is provided.
We clicked many pictures under different lighting conditions. The pictures turned out to be great with good color reproduction, saturation and exposure even under artificial lighting or low light condition. 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.
The Professional (manual-settings) mode though is an exception and comes with whole lot of options that you can adjust based on the surrounding and your own requirement. But unless you are aware of how to manage those settings, you should stay away from it and stick to the default mode. The default mode can click some amazing pictures. Under low lighting, even though some noise starts to creep in yet it is not as much as we saw in earlier devices from Asus.
The front 8 MP camera performed great and produced some good pictures / selfies. It’s more than good enough to click some selfies with wide viewing angle. The Pixel master 3.0 comes with some great options under beautifications and other modes. The good thing, these options are available for both front and main rear camera.
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.
Zenfone 3 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, it was fast and unlocks the device instantly.
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 finger print 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 performance has always been a positive aspect of Asus Smartphones and Zenfone 3 is no exception. Even though it is backed by 3000 mAh Lithium Polymer non removable battery, yet performance of the battery was better than what we had expected. Under normal average usage the device lasts for almost two days, whereas with moderate use with dual SIMs( 4G + 2G) with always on data connection, it easily last for more than one day. We managed to get a full day of battery life with even after making the Zenfone 3 as hotspot for full day of office usage which is exceptional. You can easily get a screen on time SOT of 4-6 hours depending on your usage.
The other good part is, ZenUI comes with some great battery modes 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.
We did expected fast charging / quick charging support with Zenfone 3, which unfortunately is not available.
Operating System and UI
Zenfone 3 is powered by Android 6.0 Marshmallow based operating system with ZenUI 3.0 on top. It comes with support for gestures using which you can open applications without even unlocking the device. You can customize the gestures as per your need quite easily. You can customize the toggles in the notification area as per your needs.
The interface is same as any other ASUS smartphone and we have talked about it much detail in our reviews. 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 good thing though, you can uninstall most of the bloatware without rooting the device.
The ZenUI otherwise is great and comes with some great apps such as Applock which can help you lock your apps on the smartphone without installing any additional app.
Zenfone 3 turns out to be a great all in one package with great design & build quality, good camera, great battery life and decent performance. All these make it a great smartphone in spite of some drawbacks. Yes, we do think that Asus priced the Zenfone 3 a bit high, yet the device stands out on its own in the crowded mid range smartphone segment. The pricing puts the device in competition with some popular flagship devices such as OnePlus 3, Mi 5 and hence may find it tough to get going.