Sometime in the middle of the last year, the smartphone world had its ears pointed in the direction of rumors that alluded to the possibility of Asus planning to launch the Zenfone 3 with 6 GB of RAM, along with specs that would dwarf other brands’ leading smartphones in terms of muscle power.
One other device that came into the limelight about the same time was the OnePlus 3. While at the time, most of us thought that this was another of those stories that may never come into existence, we also were anticipating the possibility of what if it did!
Since there was an air of uncertainty (read: palpable secrecy) around this device that normally lends credibility to the winds that the rumour rides on.
Well, behold – the Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe!
All our anticipation, doubts and indeed, interest have been answered with all of it being true!
I, for one, am amazed – let us face it, nobody would have given Asus a second thought when contemplating who would step the game up a few notches.
Ladies and gentlemen, Asus has done just that. It is absolutely mesmerizing to see a manufacturer upping its game to an extent where it becomes the industry-leader in terms of specs and technology.
The Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe has 6 GB, of RAM and offers you the Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 821 for the first time. The phone also has other top-end features – each of which we shall discuss in detail.
Let us find out if this device is the holy grail or is it yet anther impractical high-end device offering things we do not need.
The Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe comes with a 5.7 inch Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen with a 1080 p resolution with a pixel density of 386 ppi.
Now, for once, and I agree, the specs are not as “top-end” as the league of high-end phones this device wants to enter. Having said that, the display does not really lack in detail, and is well within the clear and crisp range of the competition.
The most significant problem with the predecessor, the Zenfone 2’s display was its poor reaction to sunlight – when visibility almost turned to naught. This, in turn, suggested that the screen was dull.
Fortunately, Asus has taken a more reasoned approach with the ZenFone 3 Deluxe and ensured that the hardware in this device takes care of that issue. Consequently, the 4K video-capable screen on the Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe is very bright and vibrant. The colours are represented very well and saturation levels are fairly good as well.
Being an AMOLED panel, the contrast is very well balanced with blacks being deep and the whites being bright and clean. Viewing angles too are good.
The display does not lack so to say in any area, but given the hype around this device one cannot help but feel that specs could have been more top-drawer.
The funny part is, while the display is a little low on paper-specs, yet it makes up for it in real-world performance.
So far, we know that Asus has big ambitions with this device and thus, it would know that in order to achieve the lofty goals, specs alone would never be enough.
Considering the Zenfone 2’s performance in the market, Asus probably realised that it needed to work in a significant redesign, if it was to scale the heights. The Zenfone 2’s plastic design was a big let down and for that reason alone I was sceptical about the next ZenFone.
Well, I for one, am happy to be pleasantly surprised.
Asus seems to have left not stone unturned with this device – and as far as design goes, the ZenFone 3 Deluxe ticks all the right boxes. In fact, Asus is on the front foot now – as the ZenFone 3 Deluxe is technically the first full-metal unibody device that exhibits no external antenna lines.
The device looks very good to start with. It has a premium feel to it, has a great finish and is thinner than even the Zenfone 3!
At the front sits a 5.7 inch display. At the bottom we have capacitive touch navigation keys (which always is a plus). Both the bezels on the front have a textured circular finish.
The bezels are a bit ‘fatter’ than I would have liked, but they still are thin enough to pass muster.
The rear of the device houses the squarely shaped camera sensor with a long rectangular fingerprint sensor below it. The back has a slight curve to meet the edge of the frame that cuts away gradually to meet the front of the device.
On the right are the volume rocker keys and below them is the power button. On the right is a SIM card tray that also supports the microSD card. On the bottom is a speaker grille and the USB Type-C port. On the top it has … the audio jack.
The device has chamfered edges that make it easier hold given that the device on the whole is a tad slippery. One-handed use might be possible on this device but it sure will be sometimes-scary and usually-uncomfortable.
The device is light and the weight is well distributed so the device feels nimble in your hands.
All in all, Asus has done a very good job with the design and the phone is built wonderfully well. It looks classy and feels rich.
Asus seems to have taken out all the stops here.
Okay, here it is. The heart behind all the drama and the key selling point of this device – Hardware and Performance.
The ZenFone 3 Deluxe has had people interested in it for a long time now, and mostly because of the muscles. Which is increasingly rare (given that hardware has reached a plateau and most devices share the same internals).
The Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe comes with a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor (the first device in the world to run the 821) with a top-line Adreno 530 graphics processor. You get 6 GB of RAM with minimum 64 GB of internal storage that is externally expandable by upto 256 GB via a memory card.
With a package this strong, it’s no wonder that the device performs wonderfully. The 6 GB of RAM really does come into play while multitasking. The device can whack anything you throw at it, right out of the park, at blazingly fast speeds.
Any games that you intend on playing, you can play with the graphics settings cranked to the highest. There is no daily task that can pose any kind of challenge to the capailities of this device.
Gratifyingly, there were no heating issues which was a thing that I was curiously waiting to check out, given the high specs; but to my surprise there was hardly any.
Now this issue of all of these high specifications being “optimised” to not hamper the performance of the device, as well as fully establishing any heating issues associated with hyper-performance may take some time to completely assess. But for now, everything seems A-okay.
The device comes with a fingerprint scanner that is placed at the back of the device, and it performs brilliantly and is blazingly fast. Also, you can have your touch detected fairly easily and this entire biometric experience is very easy to set up as well.
The battery that fuels this device is a 3,000 mAh non-removable lithium-ion one and the sustenance expected out of it is around 28 hours of standby time and 4 hours of onscreen time. The ZenFone 3 Deluxe also comes with fast charging which essentially means that the device takes an hour and 20 minutes to charge from 1% to a 100%.
The performance of the device overall is simply amazing – it’s response time, reliability of response, and the smoothness of it all, is just delightful!
The Zenfone 3 Deluxe rides Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Asus’ ZenUI 3.0 running on top.
Now this version of the ZenUI is a little different to the previous versions. It is much cleaner and efficient as well.
Now ideally I would have wanted Stock Android on a device this good, but knowing that that will not be the case with most of the manufacturers in today’s world, this UI might just be the next best thing I’d settle for.
I say this not because customisations are absent from the UI, but because the customisations are efficient and useful. Unlike a lot of the other UIs, this one does not seem to contribute to bloatware and the features that are on offer here are actually useful and not just replicas of what Google already offers with Stock Android.
Having said that, it makes sense to discuss these features.
The UI supports features such as real time weather and clock widgets which are animated, there also is a new Theme store dedicated to downloading new themes both paid and free. Other features include wallpaper effects and Zenmotion consisting different touch gestures.
There is also a gesture that enables you to customise your home screen. All you have to do is swipe up from the bottom to open the Manage home where in you have the options of different app widgets and wallpapers and you know the lot.
Asus has also provided a one-handed mode (akin to Apple’s Reachability functionality) which you can enable by double tapping the home button. With this mode enabled, navigating stuff on the big device becomes a lot easier, and it’s not at all gimmicky or hesitant.
The software in general, is impressive and the features that it adds have their uses. The UI changes things around but still does maintain the customisability while keeping things simple.
As we’ve said earlier, the most important aspect of this UI is the fact that it does all this being so very clean.
The phablet comes with a 23 megapixel primary camera with f/2.0 aperture size does very well on the low-light front. It’s not the lowest aperture out there, I agree. The Auto-HDR mode enables the camera to take some truly stunning daylight photos.
To help focus and get sharp images, the ZenFone 3 Deluxe comes with phase detection autofocus, Optical Image Stabilisation and a dual LED flash (for the indoor night shots).
The camera can also hit upto 4k resolution while taking videos.
The color representation is smooth but a little sarurated and the dynamic range is decent overall. The snaps are full of details and there seems to be no overexposure present. There is no hint of distortion either, even upon zooming in.
The night time shots are impressive as well – they are not as bright as some of the other high-end devices around, but the photos have a decent amount of detailing and most importantly there is no noise present (which happens often in low-light scenarios).
The camera app also has a Manual mode that allows you to control and tweak the camera’s settings so you can own the quality of the snaps per your preference and ability.
The front 8 megapixel camera allows you to take some really impressive, wide angles shots in daylight. The performance is not as good at night but it still is good enough to be shared socially.
As far as entertainment goes, this device is a solid package!
The display is a very good platform given its size and good quality. You’ll really enjoy playing games thanks to the screen and the great processor set. Even video streaming is handled easily on this device thanks the great radio chips that form part of the communication equipment on the ZenFone 3 Deluxe..
Also, the speakers are loud enough to fill a small sized space with decent sound.
Summarising, the device is a fairly dexterous entertainment package overall. Display quality is really not that bad, in any real way.