Asus is doing a quite well in the smartphone industry. Since entered, Asus has gained a whole lot of attention among people. Asus has introduced three new handsets quite recently during Computex 2016 in Taiwan. Among those three devices (Zenfone 3, Zenfone 3 Deluxe and Zenfone 3 Ultra), we’re going to take a look at the new Zenfone 3 – one of the gorgeous device made by Asus. But is it worth for that big price tag? Well, we’ll check that out in our full review of the Asus Zenfone 3. So, without any further delay, let’s start the review.
Till Zenfone 3, Asus used to have the same and boring design every time. But this time, it all changed with the Zenfone 3’s new design language. All the way from plastic and metal to the new complete glass and metal body. We just love how it feels in our hands. It’s just the best design I’ve ever seen.
If we look at the bottom of the device, we get our microphone, USB Type-C port, and speakers. Well, on the top, we’ve our 3.5 mm audio jack along with a secondary microphone. The right side features the volume rockers and the power button which are textured and differentiates from the metal side whereas the right side has the SIM and microSD tray. So, you can use dual SIMs or single SIM and a microSD. In the front, we get an earpiece, notification LED, proximity sensor and our 8 MP front camera whereas the bottom features our familiar Asus’s capacitive buttons which aren’t backlit again. Taking a look at the back, the device features a vertically rectangular shaped fingerprint sensor, the 16 MP rear camera (with a small bump outwards), the laser focusing system and the dual tone flash and also to the bottom, the Asus branding.
The phone has 2.5D glass in front and back. On the sides, we get a metal running on the sides with smooth and elegant curve finishes. Having a glass makes the device beautiful but also slippery too. So, make sure to have a protective case on top of it if you’ve slippery hands. Apart all of that, I would say this is the best design I’ve ever seen (at least for me). But, if you consider the big pricing of this phone, they made a great design offering under this price since you a paid a whole lot.
Under the hood of Asus Zenfone 3, is a Qualcomm MSM8953 Snapdragon 625 Octa-core Cortex-A53 chipset clocked at 2.0 GHz (a bit outdated compared to 820 at that price) coupled with Adreno 506 and 4 GB of RAM. The combination is good enough to ensure a smooth performance even with multiple apps running in the background. I didn’t remember facing any major lags during our usage, and graphic-intensive games like Assassin’s Creed: Identity, Asphalt 8, N.O.V.A 3, Dead Trigger 2, Pokemon Go, etc. were handled with relative ease. The Zenfone 3 comes with 64 GB of built-in storage of which around 43.24 GB is available out-of-the-box, all because of the bloatware. You can, however, use a microSD card to expand the storage up to 256 GB. Here are the benchmark scores. Well, the Antutu benchmark is far away less when compared to the OnePlus 3’s 1,39,060 score which is available at the same price.
The fingerprint sensor becomes very responsive in day to day usage and unlocks the device in just less than 0.2 seconds. In comparison with the OnePlus 3, Zenfone 3’s fingerprint scanner doesn’t unlock that fast enough.
The front panel of the device has 2.5D glass, which gives it a rather premium feel. It’s a 5.5-inch HD Super IPS+ display. I should say that I am quite impressed with the display of Zenfone 3. The touchscreen response is very fast too and gives a smoother feeling.
The brightness level automatically adjusts when switching between indoor and outdoor. The color reproduction is also excellent when playing games and watching videos on the device. It gets perfect in your hands and does come with one hand operation mode too if you’ve small hands. If we check the display options, we’ve balanced mode as default but we have also got the vivid option as well if you prefer more saturation. Otherwise, I am very impressed by the display.
We get a 16 MP rear camera with dual tone LED flash. The camera itself features f/2.0 aperture, laser/phase detection autofocus (which isn’t that fast compared to previous Zenfone devices and also OnePlus 3 which offered at the same price), 1/2.8″ sensor size, 1.12 µm pixel size and HDR support. I’m quite impressed with the resultant images. For example, just take a look at the image below. What can you say about it? I would say, it’s just gorgeous and beautiful.
The low-light shots from the primary camera were decent as well though we noticed some noise at the edges. As we kept taking more shots at night, we realized that the ZenFone 3 isn’t the best choice for low-light shots. In some shots, we saw grain and loss of detail.
The Asus Zenfone can record videos at 4K which is a great option to have. Leaving that, Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) and Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS) are nice features and come in handy for taking still shots and videos respectively. We were, however, surprised to see the default camera resolution set at 12 megapixels rather than 16 megapixels. One can, however, change the resolution from the camera app’s settings.
Asus claimed that Super Resolution mode is a unique feature of the ZenFone 3. The images we took in this mode had a bit more detail and less noise than regular ones. We were impressed with shots that were taken with HDR mode enabled as well.
The 8-megapixel front camera on the ZenFone 3 took sharp images and definitely surprised us with its quality. Selfies were clean with a decent amount of detail. The low-light results were also not bad. There are several tweaking options including Beautification for enhanced selfies. The front camera can record videos at Full-HD resolution.
We’ve got some samples of the front camera and rear camera’s images and video too. Take a look at them below (One thing to mention that, we’ve scaled down the images a little bit but that doesn’t make a big difference at all).
As I reviewed already on the Zenfone Max, the phone runs on the same Android Marshmallow 6.0 and on the top of it there is the Zen UI skin. Unlike the other Chinese UIs, the ZenUI is relatively light when you compare it to some of the Chinese counterparts, and offers a lot of customization options as well. It comes with an app drawer too which I didn’t expect at all. One of the big issues with the UI though is the sheer number of preloaded Asus apps on the smartphone.
To give you an idea, when we started the smartphone for the first time, the Play Store had to update almost 20-30 apps. The company has separate apps for most of the functions, including a dialer, clock, camera and contact list to name a few. And that being said, it gives the phone a better efficiency over that. There are also few tweaks out there like the One Handed mode, Glove mode and much more done to the Lollipop. The Zen UI works very smooth as hell and I don’t have any complaints over here. Great work Asus! But please do try to remove that bloatware if you can. Sorry to say but, it annoys a lot. One notable thing I mostly liked about the Zen UI is the illustrations that show up at the setup screen.
Under the hood, we have a 3,000 mAh battery which isn’t removable. I ran for around 22 hours approximately in our day-to-day usage. For a power user like me, we got 14 hours almost. We made some calls as well as used apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter, and streamed music while running other everyday tasks. We also used the camera occasionally. All went perfectly without much drain except for one game – Pokemon Go, obviously, it would be. While recording 4K videos and playing hardcore games, we noticed a considerable amount of heat around the back too.
Many many thanks to quick charge too, Asus claims that with just 5 minutes of charging, the handset can deliver up to 2 hours of talk time. We noticed that the ZenFone 3 took around 90 minutes to charge fully from zero, and we easily got to the 30-40 percent charge level in just 20 minutes, which is much handy.
At Rs. 27,999, the Asus ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL), it competes with OnePlus 3 directly, which is far away better than Zenfone 3 and has also received great ratings and is one of the best phones under Rs. 30,000 price tag.
The ZenFone 3 will have a tough fight ahead of it in the Indian market, but this phone scores a lot in terms of design and display quality. I just love how the device is built, I should give 12/10 for design and quality. But, if you’re into performance rather than into design and quality, then you’ve better option, the OnePlus 3.