ASUS released yet another device under their camera-centric line – the ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom. As if the current variants of the Zenfone 3 family aren’t enough, they are introducing another version of the said Zenfone 3 that is more focused and targeted to mobile photographer enthusiasts.

But other than being a photography-focused device, the ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom also nailed a lot of features that are essential to any device. But on the other hand, this device is not without its flaws. Does this device was able to justify its steep asking price of Php23,995? We break it down by analyzing some of its important components.

ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom Specs

  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow, Zen UI 3.0
  • Dual SIM, Dual Standby (Hybrid)
  • 5.5-inch Super AMOLED Gorilla Glass 5 Display, 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, ~401ppi
  • 2.0GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor
  • Adreno 506 GPU
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB internal storage, expandable via microSD up to 128GB
  • Dual 12-megapixel rear camera with PDAF, 2.3x optical zoom, EIS, OIS, dual-LED flash
  • 13-megapixel front camera
  • Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • USB Type-C
  • 4G, LTE
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • GPS with A-GPS
  • Dimensions: 154.3 x 77 x 7.99 mm
  • Weight: 170 g
  • 5,000mAh battery

The impressive but flawed camera

It’s no surprise, it was a joy taking pictures with the Zenfone 3 Zoom. The smartphone industry, in its current situation, may have already reached the pinnacle of innovating some of the essential parts of a device – great designs, stunning displays and much more. And with that said, a lot of manufacturers seem to divert a lot of their energy in improving the other parts of the smartphone. And this time, the camera department is now taking the center of attention.

We have seen a lot of dual-camera smartphones before, but the year 2016 was actually the year of dual-camera phones due to the release of the iPhone 7. And after Apple’s release, a lot of manufacturers started to give their smartphones the dual-camera treatment.

The ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom has a 12-megapixel Sony IMX362 sensor, which has a ½.55” sensor size. It also has a wide aperture of f/1.7, 25mm focal length, 6p lens, 82° wide-angle field of view, 4-axis Optical Image Stabilization. The second zoom camera has the same 12-megapixel sensor, 2.3x optical zoom with 12x total zoom, 59mm focal length, and a 5p lens. ASUS also towed in a Dual-LED tone flash and laser autofocus. Now let me translate those fancy numbers by breaking down the quality of the photos I was able to take with it.

The colors are okay. They are not overly saturated, but still punchy enough to look appealing. The contrast, on the other hand, is also good. The dynamic range is clearly not the best of all, so you might want to compose your image right.

Despite the wide aperture, I have noticed that the ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom struggles a bit in low-light scenarios. The images aren’t as sharp as for my liking. This has something to do with the shutter speed that the software automatically sets – the slower the shutter speed is, the brighter the images can get but it also has more chance of blurring everything. This problem can be easily fixed if you set the settings yourself by enabling the Manual mode. But the only problem is, even with good lighting, images still appear to be soft when you looks at it from a large monitor. But on mobile, it sure is sharp. This issue is can be addressed by doing some software manipulation.

The extra 12x zoom camera is not only beneficial when you want to capture faraway subjects, but it also helps you to frame a composition better.

The camera app also has a lot of special features. The Panorama Mode works well. The depth-of-field function, which utilizes the dual-camera setup, works as expected. However, it clearly needs a lot of polishing.

As you can see in the sample image below, it does isolate the foreground to the background and thus creating bokeh-effect. However, the edges of the foreground don’t have a seamless partition from the background.

There’s also a miniature effect. And judging by the samples below, it kind of works well. But in any case, it still has no match with the actual effect created by a real tilt-shift-capable camera lens.

The ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom is also capable of shooting videos of up to 4K resolution, which isn’t surprising for a smartphone of this caliber. It can also do 720p, 1080p and 1080p at 60fps. The videos recorded at 4k sure looks sharp with decent colors and contrast, the Optical Image Stabilizer also works well, but you might still expect some jitters and shakiness when shooting with your bare hands.

Related: ASUS Zenfone 3, Max, Laser, Ultra, and Deluxe Price in the Philippines

And since it is already 2017, the ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom also has a killer front-facing camera. This thing has a 13-megapixel Sony IMX214 sensor with a f/2.0 aperture. It also has an on-screen flash feature to help brighten up the selfies on low-light conditions.

And just like the primary camera, this phone kind of suffers from some software manipulation, thus, slightly ruining the images. Images have good colors and contrast, but the sharpness is a little bit questionable. This may have something to do with the Beautification Mode that the software has, which smoothens the image to make the subject’s skin more appealing. But with that in effect, it comes with sacrificing the quality of the image. Also, taking a quick and instant snap at low-light scenarios results to a blurry image.

This ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom has an amazing set of cameras, but a lot of software shenanigans is wasting its capabilities.

Stealthy and sturdy build

In my opinion, the design of this device is more striking than the original ASUS Zenfone 3. There’s something about the curved edges and the stealthy metal back panel that makes it look and feel nice in the hands, in contrast to the slightly sharp corners and all-glass back of the original Zenfone 3. The use of metal also makes it resistant to fingerprint marks, but it still attracts some smudges.

There’s also something about the look of the camera hardware that makes it really appealing to me. The two modules are housed in a single and seamless glass frame. Both of them are surrounded with a metal band, which are slightly protruded, but not annoyingly-protruded. You can still use the device while laying on a flat surface without causing it to wobble.

The buttons on the sides are also very tactile despite the ultra-slim profile. They are also decently protruded so it doesn’t ruin the looks of the device.

The Zenfone 3 Zoom is also surprisingly lightweight, despite the large 5000mAh battery that’s inside it.

And speaking of the battery

Like what I have said, this handset has a large 5000mAh non-removable battery. For those who always swap out their batteries as they ran out, then having this device might not be a good idea. However, its impressive longevity performance might make you think twice. Besides, who else swaps batteries in 2017?

During my light to moderate usage, this thing was able to last me of up to one and a half days, to almost two days. That’s several hours of casual web browsing, exchanging calls and SMS, streaming videos and listening to music on my daily commute.

Fast and reliable processor

Having a capable processor shouldn’t be a big deal for a smartphone at this price range. But the thing is, some companies are still not getting it. Thankfully, ASUS isn’t one of them. This handset has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 2.0GHz octa-core processor, 4GB of RAM and an Adreno 506 GPU.

There’s nothing really much to talk about the ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom’s processing speed. You can play almost any mobile game titles without a worry, and the large 4GB of RAM can also handle a lot of applications opened at the same time (if you need to).

Here are some benchmark results of the ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom.

I really never experienced any problems with the phone’s speed during my time with it. Considering I’m a heavy user myself, that’s really worth noting.

Sharp and large display

Great hardware inside is useless if it doesn’t have a good display to showcase it. The ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom has a 5.5-inch Full HD AMOLED display, which has a 1920 x 1080 resolution and 401 pixels-per-inch. On top, it is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5. The company is also saying that it has over 100% NTSC high color gamut coverage and is capable of 500nits of brightness.

The screen of the Zenfone 3 Zoom is sharp and it can project anything with extreme details. Colors are also punchy, and the blacks are deep, something to be expected from an AMOLED panel. The 5.5-inch profile is also comfortable to use – not too big like a 6-inch panel, but not too small like a 5-inch one (yup, a 5-inch display is already considered small in 2017).

The bloated and ugly ZenUI

This has always been my problem with the every Zenfone device that I have reviewed. The ZenUI, regardless of how many updated version has passed, still feels like a burden to the smartphone’s users.

The ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom still comes with a lot of applications that may only appeal to die-hard Asus fans, but would generally be disregarded by the majority. Thankfully, some of them can be easily uninstalled.

In my opinion, the overall look of the interface also looks horrible. This may not be a problem to some as judging the design of something is subjective. But for me, I think ASUS should just stick with how the team at Android designed  Marshmallow and Nougat.

The wrap-up

To wrap it up, the ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom is an interesting device. It has all the essential features that can get you through the day – plus a dual-camera feature which is a major bonus. However, its steep asking price of Php23,995 can be a hindrance to its success.

But nonetheless, if you’re planning on getting the ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom for what it is, then you’re good to go. Head over to your nearest ASUS stores and authorized dealers to try it out yourself. You can also buy it online at Lazada (also available for installment at ~Php1,500 per month) and get a free JBL Clip 2 speaker and clear case.

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