Recently, we finally got to try out the much anticipated ASUS ZenFone 3. The 3rd generation ZenFone has a lot of shoes to fill as its predecessors were successful series for the company. Focusing on usability rather than pure performance, the ZenFone 3 showed that it’s the ideal smartphone to consider against smartphone brands like Apple, Oppo, Huawei and Samsung.
But not all are love for this new ZenFone, the phone is now more than 2 months in the market and here is our opinion about it.
Here is the full specifications of the ASUS ZenFone 3 ZE552KL :
- 2.0GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 Octa-Core processor
- 4GB RAM
- 5.5-inch FHD IPS display, Corning Gorilla Glass 3, 2.5D glass, 1920 x 1080 resolution
- 64GB Internal Storage – Expandable storage via MicroSD
- 16-megapixel rear camera, Sony IMX298 sensor, f/2.0 aperture, 4-axis OIS, 3-axis EIS, 6 element largan lens, laser AF, phase detection AF, continous focus
- 8-megapixel front camera, f/2.0 aperture
- 3G, LTE with 700MHz support
- Dual-SIM (Micro + Nano Slot)
- WiFi AC, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, A-GPS, USB Type-C, Fingerprint scanner
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box
- 3000mAh Li-Polymer battery
Love – Design
Among three colors available in the market, the unit we got is the Sapphire Black. Utilizing a dual 2.5D curved glass both front and back is what you’ll notice immediately. Paired with the curved metal frame with diamond-cut finish in between the glass gives the ZenFone 3 a rounded shape yet striking angular look.
Curved glass + Metal Frame = Premium Style
While both glasses is pleasing to look, we may warn you that they are very slippery. This is thanks to the oleophobic coating in the Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (Yes that’s not a typo) to make it more resistant to fingerprint and scratches.
The screen on the ZenFone 3 is a 5.5″ Full HD IPS panel with up to 600 nits of brightness, which can definitely go against direct sunlight for visibility. Screen details are very good, color production is good, viewing angle is great and sharpness is on-the spot. Compared to the ZenFone 2, the screen on the ZenFone 3 is more vibrant and pleasing making it enjoy to use anytime.
The iconic circular spun finish of the ZenFone 3 can be seen at the back of the glass
We can say that the packaging of the ZenFone 3 is pretty standard, bundled with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 charger, USB Type-C cable and in-ear earphones with replacement buds.
Compliments of a standard accessory like a crystal case or screen protector would have been nice as this is been a trend for similar priced smartphones like from Lenovo, Huawei and Oppo.
Holding the ZenFone 3 feels indeed like a premium smartphone, with the metal & glass combination which is similar to holidng a Samsung Galaxy S6 or the Huawei P9. The daring color of the Sapphire blue along with the silver diamond-cut finish gives the ZenFone 3 a unique finish among the rest.
Love – Performance
The new 2.0GHz Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor is the heart of the ZenFone 3, paired with a standard 4GB RAM for complete performance. While benchmark scores shows that it may be slower than the previous ZenFone 2 ZE551ML, the improved graphics and better processor user management compromises for this.
This means that the ZenFone 3 ZE552KL is much better in handling games, multi-tasking, and battery management because of the new processor. In comparison, Qualcomm Snapdragon also has better app compatibility to ensure full user experience as compared to other processor brands.
In our experience with the phone, it can handle everything. There was no sign of lag even juggling through three email accounts, social media posts, messaging, camera, games and even cloud uploading all at the same time.
Hate – User Interface
Now don’t get us wrong guys, we love how the ZEN UI is flexible in customization from fonts, grids, sizes and even utilizing your own theme. But somehow, the new ZEN UI 3.0 still remains the same….for the better word “Lacks Premium”. With the phone so beautiful, ASUS still keeps some elements unchanged that degrades this premium image as compared to flagship brands.
Though the ZenFone 3 has some good features we appreciate and this are the pre-installed applications for productivity, we just wished that ASUS dedicated apps like the power & boost and themes are set to no notification pop outs as they are too annoying in delivering unwanted notifications.
Love – Camera
The ZenFone 3 has a 16MP (Sony IMX298) camera with A LOT of camera features, there are so many of them you can’t seem to absorb how were they able to fit all of it in a phone (or perhaps its marketing gimmick). Now, as a photo person this is good as more features = more flexibility.
Here are some features announced by ASUS
- 4K HDR Video Recording
- F.20 Aperture
- 6p Largan Lens
- 0.003 Tri-Tech Auto Focus (Phase Detection AF + Laser Auto Focus + Continuous Auto Focus)
- Optical Image Stabilizer 4 Axis / 8 Direction
- Electronic Image Stabilizer 3 Axis / 6 Direction
- Color Correction Sensor
- Deep Trench Isolation
- Super Resolution 64MP Photos
- Real Time HDR Recording / Photo
In the photos we have taken, we are surprised in how fast the camera responds even in low light condition. Thanks to its multiple auto-focus features, taking photos at night is also fast and snappy. Photos produced by the ZenFone 3 are definitely color accurate, though we find it having trouble in getting the right exposure in low light conditions.
Auto – Macro Shot Night Mode Auto Mode Auto Mode Low Light – See how sharp objects are because of the Laser Auto Focus Auto – Macro Shot Auto – Macro Shot Auto Mode Super Resolution 64MP Mode
Of course you can tinker with the pro / manual mode for more flexibility but this feature isn’t fit for all. Overall we are impressed how the ZenFone 3 manages photos in terms of color accuracy, sharpnes, noise reduction and contrast. Average file size takes around 1.8mb – 2.6mb, so prepare a MicroSD just in case indeed.
Love & Hate – Fingerprint Scanner & Controls
The Fingerprint scanner stays true to its 0.02 detection time, we hardly see any problem wrong recognition in good conditions. Unfortunately since its located at the back, the pros is that you can unlock with one hand effortlessly but you have to lift it up if placed on a table as the sensor is at the back.
Its still a gripe for us that even the touch navigation buttons at the bottom aren’t still illuminated. The ZenFone 3 is incredible to touch, feels premium but still misses some points such as this. For us, we love to see this being illuminated similar to even Galaxy A series phones.
Love – Updates
Over the years of using ASUS, we love the fast updates they bring to their smartphones. It may not be an OS update most of the time, but ASUS software team are definitely round the clock and doing all tests to make sure you are getting the best experience. Our unit got an update, though they should improve on the description and instead of saying “FOTA”.
Love – Battery Life
PC Mark battery test resulted to 11 hours and 35 minutes of average battery life, in our experience we got around 9 hours of battery life with heavy data. It maybe not enough for some, but this is definitely a big improvement compared to the previous generation ZenFone 2 with average 5-6 hours battery life. Fortunately the Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 stays true to its words of full change in an hour, just make sure you don’t loose your USB Type-C cable.
Love – Sound
We ourselves are audio enthusiasts, the ZenFone 3 produces loud and rich sounds from its mono speaker. Compared to flagship phones, it can go head to head in terms of quality and range. ASUS promotes the speakers using 5 magnets for less distortion and paired with High-Res audio that produces 4x clear audio compared to CD quality.
In our tests using the 3.5mm headphone jack, indeed that the quality and range is rich compared to its similarly priced phones. We compared it against the Oppo F1s, Huawei P9 and the Galaxy A9 Pro in terms of quality, we are pleased that the ZenFone 3 wins in bringing the most quality without any modification of settings.
Love – Game Genie
Game genie is a great add on to the ZenFone 3 family, similarly to high end phones you can record your gameplay with front facing camera for reactions. You can broadcast your recording live via Twitch or YouTube.
Game genie also lets you focus on your game with Speed Booster. In games that requires more power, the feature will dedicate power and processing speed for better game play.
With Reservations – Price
The ZenFone 3 ZE552KL will cost you Php18,995 SRP with option of 6 months 0% interest via credit card. While this may be steep as compared to previous generation of ZenFones, the difference is really miles away and gained significant improvements. ASUS really stepped up a notch to bring premium into the table with the ZenFone 3. While lower range smartphones like ZenFone 3 Max / Laser compensate for the new price point, loyal fans are just too attached to the less than Php15,000 price range of a flagship status in our observation.
The ZenFone 3 definitely has a lot of tricks in its sleeve, it may not be perfect but its enough to make you love the device and want for it. For Php18,995 you are actually getting a flagship phone similar to the Galaxy S6 / iPhone 6 / Huawei P9, of course minus the special features like waterproofing, dual camera setup or 2k resolutions screen.
For ASUS, we just hope that accessories will be more available as this is really one factor that hinders curious purchasers or 1st time ASUS purchasers. With competition more near to Samsung, customers have more options with the competitor brand and this is one factor they should look out for.