Asus first showcased the Zenfone Zoom at Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015. After taking a little over a year, the company has now finally released the flagship camera-phone in India.
We have been using the review unit of Asus Zenfone Zoom for over three weeks now and its marquee feature "Optical Zoom" has impressed us a lot especially with macro photography (close-up shots). It also houses PC grade processor, sumptuous storage and high-capacity battery, but do these features make Asus Zenfone Zoom a compelling top-end phone?
Let's find out in our detailed review of Asus Zenfone Zoom:
Design and Display (4.5/5):
Asus Zenfone Zoom's front-panel comes with trademark concentric circle based chin at the bottom and the Asus engraving on top, which we see in the original Zenfone 2 series. It also features three touch-based capacitive buttons – home, recents and return.
Zenfone Zoom's rear design language gives a unique identity to the Asus phone. It's major part is covered by the big camera module guarded by metal ring. It houses 13MP camera with laser autofocus and dual-tone LED flash.
The shell is made of leather and features Intel's and Asus' brand engraving on the top and at the bottom, respectively. Asus in its bid to even out the camera's minor protrusion, has thoughtfully incorporated a horizontal bump at the bottom on the rear-side. Thanks to the inclusion, the phone rests flat on the surface.
Zenfone Zoom is encased with airplane grade Aluminium frame around the edges, which provide sturdy structural support to sustain accidental drops and also give a premium feel to the phone.
Asus Zenfone Zoom sports a 5.5-inch full HD (1920x1080p) display with pixel density of 403 ppi (pixels per inch). It has a very responsive touch screen, but our only qualm about the screen is that it is very reflective under direct sunlight. It is really a pain to read messages or browse the internet on the phone while outside.
The absence of back-lit capacitive buttons at the bottom is irksome and it's really difficult to operate the phone in the dark.
That being said, in terms of design, Asus has succeeded in making Zenfone Zoom stand out among Android phones and also its brethren Zenfone 2 series.
The phone has been kept slim despite housing a big camera hardware. When compared to Samsung's K Zoom phone series with the ugly protruding lens, Asus Zenfone Zoom is very compact and it slips right in to the pocket very easily.
Asus Zenfone Zoom comes loaded with 64-bit class 2.5GHz Intel Atom Z3590 quad-core CPU backed by sumptuous 4GB RAM and 128GB inbuilt memory with option for expansion (+128GB) via microSD card.
During the test, we had near-smooth experience while using Zenfone Zoom. We rarely faced any lag during normal day-to-day use. Even while playing graphic intensive games like Asphalt 8, there was no hint of slow down of response time on phone. However, the device did get a little warmer, when use for gaming for longer duration. This is not a big deal considering the fact that other high-end phones do react the same way under the aforementioned conditions.
However, the same thing can't be mentioned about ZenUI interface, which takes a little shine off the phone's positive aspects. The device is filled with unnecessary apps (bloat wares), which are not really required for day-to-day use.
The only thing we liked among these apps was the security feature where-in the device captures the image of an imposter who tries to open personal email accounts on phone. If a user types/draws wrong password/pattern, the device's secretly captures the image of the user. Other features we liked were the "Themes" drawer and the "Power & Boost" which frees RAM for smooth functioning of the device.
Thanks to high-grade hardware, Asus Zenfone Zoom delivered top-notch performance that is usually expected from a top-end phone.
Asus Zenfone Zoom houses a decent 3000 mAh battery. During tests, it was able to keep the phone running for almost a day under mixed usage. If users play high intensive games, the battery drains a bit faster and also while using Skype or any video chatting app. Again, this is a minor issue considering the fact that all other top-end phones too exhibit similar behaviour under the aforementioned situations.
The main talking point of Zenfone Zoom is its camera. Its 13MP shooter boasts 3X Optical Zoom, OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation), and a 10-element lens that can add 12X digital zoom for finer close-up details. It also features laser auto-focus technology for super-fast focus (less than 0.03 second) and proprietary PixelMaster v2.0 camera application. On the front, it houses a 5-megapixel camera with f/2.0-aperture, and a wide-angle 88-degree lens with Pano Selfie, while PixelMaster features include Low Light mode, Backlight (Super HDR) mode, Beautification mode and Professional (manual-settings) mode.
Asus has thoughtfully incorporated dedicated camera shutter button and also a video recording button on the right side of the edge.
To further enrich the photography experience, Asus phone comes pre-loaded with value-added features such as Low light mode, Night mode, Super resolution, Beautification, depth of field, Panorama, GIF animation, All smiles, Smart Remove, HDR (High Dynamic Range), Time rewind, Slow motion, PanoSphere, Time Lapse, Selfie, Effect and Miniature mode.
Coming to real-life usage aspects, Asus Zenfone Zoom is definitely on par with current crop of flagship camera-phones like Sony Xperia Z5 series and Galaxy S6 series, Lenovo Vibe Shot. [Even iPhone 6S too can take fine pictures thanks to Apple software.]
But the "Optical Zoom" feature of Asus phone makes it standout among competitors. The close up (macro photography) shots taken from Zenfone Zoom is unparallel to other smartphones in the market. The phone was able to capture finer details of the objects in the scene with no hint of blur [Check out the images taken from Zenfone Zoom below].
Users with less knowledge of the manual mode can still take nice pictures under Auto-mode. The phone's laser auto-focus is quick and with 3 X Optical Zoom feature, we were able to capture photos with very less loss in clarity. The photo quality is several notches up compared to images taken via "digital zoom" seen in other smartphones.
Though Zenfone Zoom's camera impressed us in most of the aspects, we were bit unhappy with the night-mode. The images taken at low-light conditions lacked sharpness.
We were also really disappointed that the Asus Zenfone Zoom, being a flagship camera-phone, lacks 4K video recording ability.
In all honesty, Asus Zenfone Zoom's camera module houses a top-notch hardware, which was able to snap high quality images under bright sunlight, but lack of 4K video recording ability makes it only a near-perfect camera-phone.
Zenfone Zoom fairs well in terms of premium looks, sturdy body and performance against competitors, but we feel the Rs 37,999 price-tag is kind of hefty. This might stop some consumers from buying the phone especially in a price-sensitive market like India.
That being said, a Zenfone Zoom is a compelling device for amateur photographers and trekking enthusiasts who like to travel light and want a compact smartphone with superior camera.