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Zenfone 3 Review – Subtle, Shiny & Stylish

Is this Smartphone really as good as it looks from the outside? Well, let's find out

By Karthik Iyer on Monday 26th of Sep 2016

In a competitive market where smartphones are sold for about 20,000 INR to 25,000 INR with decent specs, it becomes quite difficult to settle in with yet another new offering. This doesn’t mean that all these mid-range devices are good, but surely they are getting a little bit better, one after the other. So when you take a look at all the manufacturers selling their smartphones here, ASUS is a familiar name. They have launched a series of smartphone till now, and they know what they are doing.

The company which is well known for its computer hardware took a dive into the world of smartphones a couple of years back. And the Zenfone series marked the beginning of the company’s firm entry into this space. 2 years after the initial announcement of the Zenfone line of smartphones, we now have, what is called the Zenfone 3 in front us. This is the latest and greatest new smartphone that the company launched last month in India.

The Zenfone 3 enters the Indian market along with its siblings i.e. the Zenfone 3 Deluxe and the Zenfone 3 Ultra. Well, we are not sure about the other two, since the pricing makes us not want to try those at all. Over 40,000 INR for a Snapdragon 652 SoC? No thanks. Hence we decided to try out the smaller and the regular Zenfone 3 that the company is also selling in India. This particular guy is retailing for about 22,000 INR, which makes a lot of sense for the kind of hardware that it is packing inside. But with all the speculation around these new smartphones, is it a wise option to go for this one or look somewhere else? Well, that’s what we are here to find out.

Design

Unlike many other or every other ASUS smartphones, this time, around we have a lot to talk about the design of the Zenfone 3. Why? Go ahead and check out the images and see for yourself. Gone are the days of cheap plastic builds and ugly/tacky ergonomics. The Chinese manufacturer stepped up the design game this year with a 2.5D glass on both front and back of the device and some metal for the sides. And not just that, there is also some kind of a concentric circular design going on the body of the device, which reflects lights differently. Boy does this device looks good! The version which we have here is a black one which people often get confused as if it’s a blue version because of the light reflection.

Zenfone 3 is probably the best-built phone that i have used from ASUS in a long time

It’s got a nice blueish hue to it. The device feels nice and light in the hand. There is a small camera bump on the back and the fingerprint scanner sit right below that. You can see only so much through a camera lens, but you got my word on the design of the device. Yes, but if you are planning to buy this, then get ready to buy a case or a skin maybe as this is one slippery smartphone. I dropped it more than a few times, but thanks to the Gorilla Glass on the front and back that the device is still flawless. But i bet you don’t always rely on the Gorilla glass. With that being said, the Zenfone 3 is probably the best-built phone that i have used from ASUS in a long time, and that’s a lot to say about the design.

Hardware & Performance

Now talking about the hardware of this device, a Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor is powering this device under the hood along with 3GB of RAM and 32GB internal storage. Do make a note that, there is a 4GB RAM variant as well, which comes with a 5.5-inch display. The 5.5-inch variant will cost you 6,000 INR more than this one. The display itself is nice and vivid, but it would have been nice if they added an AMOLED display. It runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box along with custom ZenUI on top and is kept powered by a 3,000 mAh battery.

At the back, we have a 16-megapixel rear facing camera with a 6P lens and f/2.0 aperture which can record videos at 4K resolution. There is a new TriTech autofocus which combines with a laser autofocus as well as the OIS & EIS, results for some lightning fast camera captures. On the front, there is an 8-megapixel front facing selfie shooter as well. We will talk about the camera in detail in another section, but long story short, the cameras are very good on this smartphone.

This is by no means the fastest device on the market, but it is surely capable of handling some heavy load

Coming to the performance side of things, the Snapdragon 625 is not going to be any issue. I specifically mentioned this, since many people are holding back because of the SoC. As usual, we are not going to dig deep into the detailed benchmarks or anything like that. There are a ton of them available online for you to check and compare. It eventually comes down to the day to day usage. Having used a couple of flagship smartphones running better SoCs, i felt at home here. The Snapdragon 625 along with the 3GB of RAM is just fine for all the day to day activities.

There is absolutely no lags or stutters at any given point of my usage. And as far as software goes, the ZenUI is still heavy, if not worst. The company said that they went easy on the bloatwares, but i could totally see some unwanted apps that came pre-installed on the device. Not going to lie, I quickly replaced the stock launcher with a third-party one for my own satisfaction because the stock one is simply too heavy for me to handle on a daily basis. With that being said, the performance was on point, and i didn’t have any issues whatsoever with the performance of this device. This is by no means the fastest device on the market, but it is surely capable of handling some heavy load.

Camera & Battery

the camera on the Zenfone 3 is impressive
As mentioned earlier, the camera on the Zenfone 3 is impressive. The TriTech autofocus which combines the laser autofocus, OIS and EIS together results in some stunning images. You can always check out the images attached in the gallery below for camera samples. The camera launches quickly and from there, it is an absolute breeze to start taking pictures. The camera interface is different than the stock Google camera app. So you might take some time to get used to this one. By default the image size is set to 16-megapixel and you play around the settings from the menu.

The camera is quick in capturing the images. The company claims that it is capable of taking shots in just 0.3 seconds. I can’t vouch for the same as we didn’t measure the exact time, but it is pretty quick. It also supports 4K video recording in 30 FPS. The OIS helps to make these videos better. The f/2.0 aperture allows for some nice depth of field in the images, giving it a life. OIS also allows taking some pretty nice low-light photographs. In short, the camera will perform great and can do wonders if you can play around the settings for those low-light professional shots.asus-zenfone-battery

The front camera is also great as it is an 8-megapixel sensor. So all you selfie-takers out there, this will be perfect for you. Just make sure you don’t drop the device while taking one because that is mostly going to be the case since it is a very slippery device. The front facing camera also comes with a beauty mode and other options which you might suit your liking.

Coming to battery back-up, the 3,000 mAh battery is quite impressive. I didn’t have much expectation with the battery initially, but the phone is well optimized. I used this device for about 3 weeks and i was totally convinced on the battery life. I was easily able to get 4+ hours of SOT as you can see from the screenshot. The device was on 30-percent with 4 hours of SOT. Coming from Huawei P9, this was a relief. So if you are worried about the battery life, then you shouldn’t be. Again, it depends on person to person as the use case scenario might be different but you certainly will not be disappointed here.

Verdict

ASUS Zenfone 3 is an excellent device for the price. Now many people might argue that fact, but you need to use the device and experience it for what it is, to understand it. And after having used this smartphone for about 3 weeks now, i am convinced that ASUS is indeed capable of making great smartphones. From design to performance and as a matter of fact, in every aspect, the Zenfone 3 is a huge leap from the Zenfone 2. But the only mistake they did here is, launch a bunch of smartphones together and confuse the consumers altogether. I mean literally, there are around 6 different variants (including all the deluxe, laser & ultra) of the Zenfone 3. So targeting a particular consumer is a difficult task. Also, for the same price, other manufacturers are offering smartphones with prococessors like Snapdragon 820 as well. So that is one thing to consider here. With that being said, if you are in the market for a smartphone around 20,000 INR; then i will suggest you to buy the Zenfone 3 (ZE520KL variant with a 5.2-inch display as the other one is expensive as mentioned earlier) and that’s what I’ve been telling everyone who is asking me and that’s a first time for an ASUS smartphone.

Asus Zenfone 3 Quick Specs

Starts from Rs. 20838

View Full Specifications Compare This Phone

Specs
Score
Prices
Display 5.2" IPS LCD (1920 x 1080 pixels) Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC (Octa core 2.0 GHz)
OS Android RAM 4 GB
Camera Rear - 16 MP
Front - 8 MP
Memory Internal - 64 GB
External - Expandable upto 200GB (MicroSD)
Performance 0 Display 0
Camera 0 Battery Life 0
Design/Form 0
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Bottomline & Verdict

Zenfone 3 is one of the best smartphones that ASUS has ever made, but there's still a lot of improvement.
75
Phoneradar
score
Asus Zenfone 3
Pros
Excellent Build Quality
Good Cameras
Great Battery
Cons
Slippery
Heavy Interface & Bloatwares
Comparatively mediocre processor
Asus Zenfone 3 Review Scores

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