It’s been 2 weeks since I got the ZenFone 3 [Moonlight White variant] for review, and I loved using it. I’ve used the earlier generation Zenfones like ZenFone 2, ZenFone 2 Deluxe & even ZenFone Zoom too, but what I see in ZenFone 3 is something beyond my expectation. As all the tests are successfully finished, it’s time to check the ZenFone 3 Review.
2 years back, Asus launched the ZenFone series mobile phones targeting the low & medium end segment smartphones which helped the brand to move forward in the competition. By the launch of ‘The world’s first 4GB smartphone‘, Asus showed what it can do in the mobile phone segment. Moving further, the brand launched many smartphones with a major focus on one particular feature like ZenFone Max for good battery performance, ZenFone Selfie for selfie enthusiasts etc. But, the brand never degraded these features in the flagships and that really made a difference when compared to other brands like Lenovo & Samsung.
Coming the ZenFone 3, launched 3 months before at Computex 2016 which came to India a bit late. Last month, ZenFone 3 was officially launched in India along with other high-end flagships like ZenFone 3 Ultra & ZenFone 3 Deluxe at ZenVolution 2016. All these flagships belong to the high-end segment & obviously we can say, Asus has moved their competitors’ list to iPhone & Sony.
Now, let’s see what has been changed in the new ZenFone 3 comparing to the old-generation zenfones. Let me kick-start the ZenFone 3 review now..!
ZenFone 3 Review:
Just like my previous reviews, I will be starting the zenfone 3 review with the design & build quality following the display, camera & other features. For the AnTuTu & Geekbench benchmarks, I’ve written 2 new articles, as it is required to understand more about the changes in the performance. Now, let’s start with the design changes.
Design & Build-Quality:
“The only thing that has changed is everything” – I know it’s the iPhone 6S quote, but it perfectly suits the ZenFone 3. Don’t you believe me? Let me explain! The previous flagships and almost all phones were plastic made and have strong resemblance with one other, but ZenFone 3 has got a completely new design [yeah, kinda inspired from iPhone 6 & Galaxy s7] over the previous ZenFones & is one of the very first metal ZenFone featuring a 2.5D curved Corning Gorilla Glass on both front & rear side. The metal frame perfectly fitted in between & has 40° curve over the edges. The concentric circle design [Zen signature] is still there and this time, the focus starts from the fingerprint scanner.
Holding the ZenFone 3 is never like the same & you’ll always feel like holding it in your hand even when not in use. But, the grip is kinda slippery as the phone is glass-made. Still, after long usage, you’ll get to know how you need to hold on! Comparing to the previous [bulky] zenfones, this is one of the thinnest [6.16mm], light-weight [155gms] ZenFone you’ve ever seen! The bezels are just 2.1mm thick which gives the screen to body ratio of 77.3% which is something very new in the ZenFone series. Now, let me give a brief overview of the phone –
On the rear side, you’ll find a 16MP camera [bumped] with laser autofocus & dual LED tone flash on each side. Parallel to that, a sophisticated fingerprint recognizer is sported just below to the camera. Near to the end of the rear side, you can find the Asus brand mark embedded in the glass.
On the front side, you can find a notification LED, earpiece, Ambient light sensor & the front-cam of 8MP. Still, there are no backlit keys & all you see are capacitive buttons with printed functions. On the left side, a hybrid SIM slot is given which supports a nano + micro SIM or a microSD card.
On the right side, you can find a volume rocker & the main power key. The Antenna band is sported over the top & rear ends just like the iPhone 7 and as usual, you can find a 3.5mm audio jack & a mic at the top-end.
At the bottom, you can find the mic & a completely new speaker grill which outputs a high-quality audio & the brand new USB-Type ‘C’. Yes! Asus also started the trend in featuring the USB Type- ‘C’, and hasn’t killed the audio jack.
As already said, ZenFone 3 is completely revamped & has got everything you’re looking for! I hadn’t dropped the phone yet, but I believe it can resist low-height drops if it falls from the end side [becuase of 40°]. I kinda tried bending the phone [you know the iPhone 6 #BendGate] as the phone resembles the iPhone 6 design, but I felt it’s strong enough to withstand normal activities like keeping the phone on your backside pocket etc.
As far my tests went, the display is not as similar as to the other ZenFones. It features a 5.5 inch super IPS display with 1920 x 1080 resolution and has 401 PPI. The changes I felt was the wide-viewing angle. It has a whopping 178° viewing angle and the color density is dramatically improved.
While watching videos I felt the true-color density of the images and never felt any glareness even in sunlight. Finally, the auto-brightness feature is working perfectly and is auto adjusting the brightness based on the environment. It was a mandatory feature & the previous ZenFone were always facing trouble in adjusting the brightness. While using the phone during night times [low light] I generally shift the brightness mode to Bluelight filter which decreases the wavelength of the light emitting from the screen. This was also a mandatory feature, & comparing to other ZenFones, the blue-light filter mode in ZenFone 3 showcases a perfect balance between the Orange & the white color.
As already mentioned above about the features that Asus focus on their flagships, the ZenFone 3 is more of a camera-based phone than performance oriented. Still, you don’t see low performance & I will discuss it soon in the ZenFone 3 review. As for now, let’s talk about the camera thing & see what’s so new in it.
To be honest, the first thing I loved in the ZenFone 3 apart from the design is the camera. Though, the rear camera is a little bumpy you won’t find it hard or annoying & will get used to it. The phone features a 16MP rear camera with the latest Sony IMX298 sensor. It comes with f/2.0 aperture which means it allows more light & is capable of taking stunning photos even on low-light. As it already got the laser auto-focus, the focus on the images is very fast that it takes only 0.03 seconds. Now, let me tell what I found during my tests.
If I have to describe the camera of ZenFone 3 I’d say it’s simply brilliant. I’ve never seen the amazing details of the images I’ve taken from such a semi-high cost mobile phone. I’ve tried almost all the modes in the camera & really liked the HDR Pro mode. On real-time, you can see the changes in the image using the HDR mode. There is no noise, and all I see is true beauty of the things I’ve captured. No extra filters are required to make things artistic, just using the correct balance of light [in the surroundings] and a good angle is enough to capture.
Here are few amazing pictures I’ve taken using the ZenFone 3 [rear camera]
View All Camera Samples Shot on ZenFone 3
The front shooter is also an asset in the phone and is brilliant for selfies. An 8MP camera with f/2.0 aperture is what everyone needs while capturing their selfies with landscapes. Even on the front side, the pixel master camera features many different modes like selfie-panorama, real-time beautification mode, time-lapse etc. Here are some selfies with my friend.
Not just the design & Camera, the ZenFone 3 is robust in performance too. I’ve never seen a ZenFone this fast & the response rate is too good while multi-tasking too. Switching between apps is very fast & there’s not even a bit of sluggish/ lag while using the phone for routine tasks. Featuring a 64-bit 2.0 GHz Octa-core processor [CPU] & Adreno 506 [GPU] embedded over a
Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset. It has 3/4GB RAM and comes with 32/64GB Internal memory. As it comes with a microSD card support, the memory can be further extended to a whopping 2TB. Out of the box, the ZenFone 3 runs on Android V6.0.1 [Marshmallow] with ZenUI 3.0. With all these specifications, the phone definitely does provide a better performance & it’s absolutely true in the case of ZenFone 3. Not just daily tasks, the phone performance is improved a lot & you can also feel the fluidity/ screen transition just like an iPhone.
Everything is more than expected in the performance, but the new ZenUI 3.0 is not as friendly as it seems. Though the design is sleek & simple, still I felt something missing in the UI. You will also see a lot of unnecessary apps [bloatware], unwanted notifications showing in the notification bar. I don’t use any of the Zen App as they have no use for me, so I disabled all of them, still whenever there’s an update, the apps will be installed back. This is one of the few things I dislike in ZenFone 3.
As we are in the performance section, I should definitely speak about the new fingerprint sensor. It is present just below the camera, which seems to be a perfect place as it helps to take capture shots too. The response rate for unlocking the phone is too fast, and it doesn’t even take a second and a second try. As mentioned in the product guide, it just takes 0.002 seconds to unlock and it really supports the multi-angle. Many phones I tried says that they do, but failed while recognizing if I keep the finger in a different direction.
As it features a high-end GPU – Adreno 506, I thought of trying all the major high-end games, so I’ve installed all games which have the size > 1.0 GB. Almost all games worked perfectly except Need For Speed which keeps on crashing while loading. Though there was no lag while playing, but during the multi-tasking, I felt a bit delay while switching between apps when the game is running. Well, it’s not much and can be neglected. Good news is that ‘No heating issue’ even when I played the FIFA’16 for like 2 hours straight [loved it]. But, I faced a little bit of heating while recording videos on 4K, and that’s very common as seen on most of the android mobiles.
There’s one new app called Game Genie from Asus which live streams your gaming to Twitch & YouTube [you need to connect your accounts]. You can also record your gaming offline, like that can be stored on your phone’s memory. I really like this feature, as you no longer needed a third-party app just to record your gaming. Here’s something I recorded.
With all the high-end specifications, doesn’t the ZenFone 3 needed a big battery? Well, no need of as Asus optimized the Android V6.0.1 & the processor in such a way that it doesn’t really need a huge battery like the ZenFone Max to live for more than a day. It got a 3,000mAh non-removable battery which is more than enough to power up the phone & can live more than a day easily. As far my testing went, with moderate usage the phone lived for 14 hours 38 minutes, but on heavy usage, the rate of discharge is too high. Thanks to the Quick-charge, it only takes more than an hour to completely recharge the phone. As said by Asus, with a 5-minute charge you’ll get 2-hours of talk time.
Value for Money:
The review unit I got was a high-end variant – 4GB/ 64GB model which costs Rs. 27,999 while the low-end variant is 3GB/ 32GB one which costs Rs. 21,999. As for the display, camera & battery life, you won’t feel any difference, but performance wise you may feel a bit lag as the high-end comes with more memory. Still, it will only appear during heavy usage and that does not occur very often. Coming to the money perspective, the low-end variant is the best buy as it got everything you need in a phone and you can simply opt for 32GB model if your budget is below 25K. This can be a perfect alternative for Mi5, OnePlus 3, LeEco Le Max 2. But, the high-end variant is bit over-priced. If you want to enjoy the beauty of ZenFone 3, just go with the high-end one and I bet you won’t regret it later.
Pros & Cons:
After using the ZenFone 3, here are few things I really liked & disliked about it.
- Design is an asset
- The best camera
- Moderate battery life
- No lag/ heat on moderate usage
- Fast fingerprint recognition
- slightly over-priced [high-end]
- A lot of Bloatware [a lot]
- Battery discharges quickly on heavy-usage
- Lags during recording a 4K-video