For the last couple of years, Asus used to cater to budget conscious first-time smartphone buyers. They had really good hardware inside, but lacked appeal in terms of look. In 2016, Asus Zenfone 3 has undergone huge change in terms of visual appeal.
We have been testing Zenfone 3 (ZE) for a more than a week. Here's our take on the Asus' new device.
Design and build quality (4.9/5):
As said in the beginning, Asus Zenfone 3 is a treat for the eyes. It boasts a slender body with a proportional blend of metal and glass. On the edges, it features a chamfered chassis made of high-grade metal exuding premium feel.
On the right side, Asus has incorporated metal volume rockers (up and down) and power button, whereas on the left, it looks clean with no physical keys, as the SIM tray slides in to the phone.
On the metal-clad back, it flaunts spun-metal design language with trademark concentric circles, which used to be seen in the chins of previous Zenfone series phones. It is also covered by 2.5D glass cover giving a glossy look. But, it's a fingerprint smudge magnet. Sweat and dirt gets stuck to the back ruining the smooth look on the back.
On the top, it boasts a square shaped camera module with dual-tone LED flash and laser autofocus on both sides. It does protrude a bit, but it does not affect the phone's appearance or mess with gripping of the device.
On top, it features a 3.5mm jack with a mic and two camouflaged antennas on each side. At the bottom, it features a new generation Type-C USB port with dual-grille speakers and another pair of antennas, one on each corner.
Only qualm we have is that the phone does not come with back-lit buttons (home, recent and back) in the display panel.
Our test Zenfone 3 (ZE520KL) unit featured a 5.2-inch full HD super LCD IPS display with more than 400 ppi (pixels per inch) and came protected by Gorilla Glass 3. With so much pixels compressed in such compact structure, it offered a fine viewing experience during tests. We played high resolution videos on Zenfone 3.
Asus Zenfone 3 is not just an eye candy, it has got some serious power as well. It boasts 2.0GHz 14nm FinFET process technology-based Snapdragon 625 octa-core SoC (System-on-Chip) with 3GB RAM and 32GB inbuilt storage.
It managed to score 57,518 points on AnTuTu Benchmark app, and fared 4,006 and 833 points on multi-core and single-core tests, respectively on Geekbench v4.0 CPU performance app.
In terms of real-time usage, it showed no discernible lagging when opening an app or switching between multiple applications. While playing games, Zenfone 3 tends get hotter, but that happens in other metal-clad phones too. Over-all the performance of the device was satisfactory.
As far as interface is concerned, we were bit let down by Asus apathy towards improving the Zen UI. Its crowded with useless applications and though some of them can be disabled, it can't removed, which wastes a lot of storage space and to an extent, hinders the performance of the device.
Another highlight of the Zenfone 3 is the camera. It houses a feature-rich 16MP shooter with Sony IMX298 sensor, laser autofocus v2.0, OIS (Optical Image Stabilization), PDAF (Phase Detection Auto Focus), dual-tone LED flash on the back and an 8MP snapper on the front.
During testing, Zenfone 3 took stunning images on Auto mode in daylight conditions. In HDR Pro mode, we got more impressive photos. In this price range, it had to deliver the goods and the Asus did succeeded. But, we were surprised by Zenfone 3 camera's abilities during twilight. Just when everything around us began to turn dark, the phone's camera, despite handicapped with very little light to absorb, managed to capture good pictures.
[Tip: Use Smart Brightness option during night time to get nice photos]
As far as the front camera is concerned, it too fared well. With dedicated app having numerous beatification styles, Zenfone 3 has got all the right ingredients to find traction among youth. [Check out the images, below]
With 2,600mAh battery, Asus Zenfone 3 (ZE520KL) surprisingly lasted a whole day under moderate usage, which included voice calls, WhatsApp messaging, internet browsing and a few minutes of YouTube videos.
[Note: If graphics-intensive games such as Asphalt 8 and others are played on it, the battery drains faster.]
Asus has done a commendable job in making Zenfone 3 visually appealing. The transformation from 2015-series Zenfone 2 to the third generation phone is truly remarkable, as it sets new benchmark on how smartphones can be built more beautifully.
That said, the Zenfone 3 seems under-powered compared to devices it competes in the upper mid-range phone category. It would have been nice if the device's price was under Rs. 20,000.
- Fantastic design language
- Top-notch build quality
- Impressive camera
- Quick responsive fingerprint sensor
- Phone user needs to have cloth to clean finger smudges
- ZenUI 3.0 is packed with unwanted bloat-wares
- No backlit buttons on the display panel
- Bit expensive for its specifications