So, the much awaited Asus ZenFone 3 is finally here!
A much anticipated device, it has been buzzing around cyberspace for a long time now, with people wondering what would this device offer, how it would look and how much would it cost – you know the usual lot.
Now that this device is finally here, we can finally seek credible answers to these questions.
First off, let me just say that the initial impression that this device makes speaks highly of Asus’ ambitions as a smartphone manufacturer. Asus certainly has upped its game and with this device, it makes its ambitions and intentions of competing with the top billers, crystal clear.
Now in order to do that, Asus needs to get out of its image of a budgetphone manufacturer. As tricky as that might be, there is nothing that stops Asus from maintaining that image while venturing into new areas.
So, what does this imply? The straight forward answer to this would be “Dear Apple and Samsung, Asus is here as well”.
Well, that is more of a figure of speech, so to say, as it is difficult for any newcomer to uproot these well-established distinguished players that rule the rarified air of “ultra premium devices”.
And Asus may well know, that it’s time hasn’t yet come, to sit at that table, just yet.
The way I see it, Asus is in direct conflict with the One Plus. We will not be comparing the two in this review, but the mention of this fact was simply to emphasize on the big leap that Asus seeks to take with this device.
All of this is quantified and substantiated with everything that this device has to offer. We shall now look closely at what those things actually are.
The display on this device is a 5.5 inch Super IPS+ LCD capacitive touchscreen with a Full-HD resolution of 1920×1080 pixels. The pixel density offered here is 401 ppi which is impressive for a phablet – it matches even the iPhone 7 Plus’ pixel density.
So, the screen’s specs sure are impressive, as is it’s real-world performance.
The display on this device is seriously good – it is extremely sharp, rich and vibrant. Watching videos and playing games is a fantastic experience on this device. The brightness levels are right up there, translating into very good sunlight visibility. Add to that, that the key calling card of the Super IPS+ technology is it’s significantly improved ability to cope with the immensely bright outdoor-light, given that has additional LED backlights to pump up the brightness to 1.5 times the brightness of non-Super IPS+ screens.
The extra backlights boost luminance up by 200 nits. So, at maximum brightness, Super IPS+ mode translates into close to 600 nits – enough to combat and reduce glare on the screen and also at preventing “wash-out” of colours (which causes the illegibility of untreated displays).
The screen displays colours very well and importantly, they seem real and not oversaturated. The viewing angles too are very impressive and the colour temperatures are very well balanced as well.
All things said, there is not a lot to differentiate this screen from other top display units in the market. But the matter of fact is that it is noticeably better than most of the display panels in the segment. It is bright and rich and colourful and seems niche and expensive.
If there is something that will fascinate you then it would surely be the way this device looks!
It may very well be the best looking smartphone that Asus has ever made. Blessed with a new design that is refreshing and I say that not only with respect to Asus but in context of the smartphone world in general.
The device uses 2.5 D curved Corning Gorilla Glass on the front as well as on the back. Everything about the design is elegant and the attention to detail here is something worth mention. Every panel on the device seems to be precisely built and it makes the device seem premium and classy, on the whole.
The front and back are sheathed by scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass whose sides gently and seamlessly curve onto a metal chassis that holds the phone together and adds a lot of sturdiness to the device. Not only that, the build is very good, making the phone completely smooth and comfortable to handle.
I admit, it is a little slippery to hold and you will have to take a little extra care wile using it for it to not escape the clutches of your hand – you may feel a lot more comfortable using the device with both hands. But that considered, it’s still a joy to behold.
The back is very simple but classy and that really gives the device a premium feel. The panel has a circular texture to it and it looks very very elegant. There is not a lot going on here except for the camera sensor with the flash and LED on either side of it. Below this is the fingerprint scanner and all the way at the bottom is the Asus logo.
The front panel too, is textured and in the middle sits the 5.5 inch display. On top sits an in call speaker and the proximity sensor along with the front camera. At the bottom are three capacitive touch buttons which are not back lit.
On the right are the volume and power buttons and on the right is the hybrid SIM tray. The USB port is placed at the bottom while the audio jack is at the top. The device is 7.69 mm thick at weighs around 155 grams.
The device is very well built and very well put together.
This is the best that we have seen from Asus so far and as I said earlier, the design aspect of this device is one of the best in not only this segment but in segments above this as well.
The Asus ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL) packs a 64-bit octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor clocked at 2 GHz, with integrated Adreno 506 graphics. It offers 4 GB of RAM. The internal storage on offer here is 64 GB which is expandable upto 2 TB via the hybrid memory card slot. You also get a 100 GB of cloud storage from Asus.
I ought to mention here, that the Asus ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL) is the world’s first smartphone that is powered by Qualcomm’s latest octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor – the first Snapdragon 600 Series processor with 14nm FinFET process technology, an integrated X9 LTE modem, and 802.11ac MU-MIMO Wi-Fi connectivity — all PC-grade capabilities.
As far as the performance goes, there is not one flaw that could be found. The device is fast and snappy. The day to day tasks such as opening multiple windows, switching between apps, browsing and scrolling through web pages etc. etc. won’t ever come close to troubling this device in terms of performance.
CPU-intensive tasks tell the same story as well. You can play the most demanding of games and you won’t see this device flinch. In fact, you can play a number of demanding games side by side, and the phone will not show any signs of lag stutter and most importantly, heating.
The fingerprint sensor at the back is a delight to work with as well. It is extremely responsive and is one of the fastest of the lot. The most noticeable thing for me though, was the fact that it recognizes touches even when your fingers are wet. Now this is something that even the stalwarts have not been able to achieve (barring a few) and more importantly, it reflects on the way Asus has grown as a quality manufacturer and the big leap that it has taken with device in terms of quality and technology and philosophy.
The battery on offer with this model is a 3,000 mAh non-removable Lithium-Ion one. While that quantum of man implies a decent battery life per charge, however, you need to bear in mind that the Super IPS+ LCD display on this device is power hungry – in fact some tests have shown that this kind of a screen chews up 33% extra battery due to his extra backlights! Hence the battery on the ZenFone 3 may be big, on paper… but it may be a notional strength. We expect the ZenFone 3 to last about a day on a single charge.
All in all, the performance of this device is brilliant.
The Zenfone 3 uses the Android 6.0 Marshmallow with the ZenUI 3.0 running on top. Now this version of the ZenUI is a little different from the previous ZenUI avatars.
It is much cleaner and is actually more power efficient as well. Now, ideally I would have wanted Stock Android on my device, 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 say this not because customizations are absent from the UI, but because the customizations are efficient and useful. Unlike a lot of the other interfaces, 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 quickly discuss these features. The UI supports features such as real-time weather and clock widgets that 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 have also provided a one-handed mode which is enabled simply by double tapping the home button (very similar to Reachability on Apple’s iPhones) – this is good news because it does offer a lot of ease in operating the device with a single hand especially when you’re multitasking your day.
Summarising: 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. The most important aspect of this UI is the fact that it does all this being so very clean.
The cameras on the Asus ZenFone 3 are an impressive piece of work as well.
At the back sits a 16 megapixel primary camera with an aperture size of f/2.0 that allows a fairly large amount of light onto the image sensor, thus enabling better lit and correctly “exposed” photos. The camera features include Laser/Phase detection autofocus, 4-axis Optical Image Stabilisation, a dual-LED dual tone flash, etc.
The picture quality from this camera is very impressive most times. The snaps are well balanced in terms of colours and saturation levels and the amount of detail captured is impressive as well. Photos seem real.
Despite what I said about letting in more light, the focusing abilities and the supporting software prevent the camera from suffering from overexposure.
Gratifyingly, the focus time is really small and it almost instantly focuses on anything you want to in any direction you want to thanks to the Tritech auto-focus system that’s built into Asus devices.
Low-light shots are decent but not very impressive. There is a visible lack of detail and you may also notice the presence of some distortion (noise). That said, The LED flash is really effective as it does a good job lighting objects in pitch dark – but like always, you can’t use the flash all the time considering the bright light it casts on faces and places. So, low-light performance is a little bit of a ding on the ZenFone 3
The big news is that the camera supports 4K videos. You also get the option of HD and Full HD recording (which will help you optimally use the storage space, till you want to splurge on a 4K-worthy event.
The one other thing that is impressive here is the camera app. It is quick and responsive and provides you with a load of options and modes. The practical aspect of all of this though, is that the camera app is simple and well laid out and you will immediately know your way around thus can improve the performance of the camera.
The front shooter is an 8 megapixel one and it shoots decent selfies which are more than socially usable.
Business is set up the usual Android way, and is largely built around your Google ID (as always).
All other mail types (non-Google) are supported too, as are peripheral information sources like Calendars, Notes, Contacts etc., that reside on those (non-Google) IDs.
The ZenFone 3 has a contemporary fingerprint sensor placed at the back of the device, which is fast, works well, even with wet hands!
So, the device is fairly capable on the security front.. as much or as little as most of the rest of the smartphone world.