ASUS has not taken long to introduce the ZenFone 3 series in the Indian market and the company has not one but three phone to begin with, i.e. the ZenFone 3, ZenFone 3 Deluxe, and the ZenFone 3 Ultra. That won’t be the end of it because we’re yet to see the Max, Laser, and Selfie variants in this series, though there’s no official confirmation about it. But knowing ASUS, we might see them sooner or later and that’s only good for the consumers as more choices helps decide a phone based on the requirement.
We’ve always seen ASUS selling phones with a great build quality. Even if it was just the polycarbonate body, it seemed so well made that you could mistake it with something else. But sometimes, this came with a compromise in the aesthetics. This time, the ZenFone 3 brings what was missing in its predecessor – the good looks. The ZenFone 3 has a glass body, and it is no where compromised with the specs. Though, the heavily packed device here is the ZenFone 3 Deluxe.
Given how ASUS has been launching smartphones at a pace in the recent times, you’d have thought that the company might still offer you devices without a lot of change to the design. But, it rather is a complete overhaul and unlike how smartphones are getting launched with full metal unibody designs, the ZenFone 3 has glass panels on both the sides. And it isn’t just the plain glass slab that you see here because a 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass panel is in place.
This particular combination of a glass body and the curved edge on the sides make the device much better than all of the predecessor devices from the Taiwanese company, and to give it a fair chance, no other ASUS smartphone looks as good as the ZenFone 3. The front and back glass are held together by a metal frame that runs on the side, and there are no sharp corners, making the phone quite comfortable.
But when you see a glass back, it’s nothing new to see a lot of smudges, fingerprint marks and that isn’t easy to see it clean unless you regularly do it.
One of the areas where one can commend ASUS is with the antenna bands that are placed on the top and bottom, unlike on the back, so there is a certain uniformity maintained. On the back, while ASUS has might have found no way to avoid the protruding camera lens, I always am against seeing a camera bump because that not only makes the device rocky on flat surfaces, but the camera module is the first to get scratched if you are not too careful about placing your phone on any surface. The issue is being taken care of by a sapphire lens cover that is placed over the camera lens.
Keep this phone beside the ZenFone 2, you’ll have a big list of differences. Several things have changed, including the new USB Type-C port in the bottom that replaces the standard MicroUSB port.
Now, we’re taking this review straight into the Pros & Cons, so you know what to expect from the parts below, if you are looking to purchase the flagship from ASUS.
What’s great in the ZenFone 3?
The design and build
ASUS has learned a lot, not from the competition but from its own devices. There was a need of change in two things, one of them being the design and build quality. A much supreme, premium and better quality is what we see here, thanks to the glass + metal combination with the 2.5D curve on the sides.
The refreshed Zen UI
The second much needed change was this, and the user interface this time is a lot better, because the ZenUI generally came with not-so-likeable skins but it is a refreshing UI in the ZenFone 3, with a lot less clutter.
The shining display
Very bright, to begin with. The colors put out on the display are also good and you are good to read on the bright display in almost all conditions, thanks to the 600 nit brightness. ASUS has made sure to offer the users with some options to personalize the display settings, and a Bluelight filter mode is given as well.
What’s good in the ZenFone 3?
The camera is just good. If I had to have a list of the best five camera smartphones, this should hit the list easily. But it is far from being called the best of them, because even though there is a lot offered, and probably the manual options given here are not anywhere else, it still isn’t the smoothest.
Check camera samples: Link
To be fair to ASUS, the reason why I have it here in the list is because the expectation has just gone up because of the competition. The battery on the ZenFone 3 is not bad at all, but it could be better than what it is. The fast charging feature is a big added advantage that one should be liking any day.
What’s bad in the ZenFone 3?
The fingerprint-magnet back
I can’t really say “Why, ASUS?” for this, because the glass body is a welcome change and there are going to be some compromises. The glass attracts everything – smudges, fingerprints, and even scratches if kept among sharp objects regularly.
Heating issue, thanks to the glass
A glass body is accompanied by a unique feature that the company doesn’t want to add but it comes along without anyone’s consent – heating! There’s no exception here because while gaming, the back of the ZenFone 3 gets quite hot. It doesn’t happen with everything but only with the apps that has heavy graphic level.
Audio output via. speaker
There was a lot expected from ASUS even with the audio output because we’re talking about a flagship device here. No complains about the loudness of the speaker that is located on the bottom of the phone, but it isn’t the smoothest of the speakers especially when blowing out loud music, as there is noticeable distortion. On the contrary, it is all good on the headphones, where the performance is excellent.
Capacitive buttons are not backlit
These are silver-bordered off-screen buttons on the bottom of the screen. In a bright condition, you can easily recognize them, but it would’ve been great if ASUS had offered buttons with LEDs underneath them.
Big Factors to consider the ZenFone 3
The UI – changed for good, finally!
One of the big changes apart from the design is the ZenUI. You know the company heard out to the voice of several users who were unhappy with the interface, because this doesn’t seem like a subtle change but a huge overhaul from the previous UI. Let’s take a deep dive into the UI to see what’s offered here.
There’s something that hasn’t changed yet – the Bloatware. I remember it very well when I was told that the company has decided to get rid of a lot of unwanted apps, but even after doing so, you are going to see almost three pages of apps already installed. You can uninstall a few, and disable a few other if you want to get rid of them.
The apps from ASUS include ASUS Game Center, AudioWizard (Equalizer), Calculator, Camera, Clock, Contacts, Do It Later (Todo List), File Manager, Flashlight, FM Radio, Gallery, Laser Ruler, MiniMovie, Mobile Manager, MyASUS, Phone, PhotoCollage, Quick Memo, Share Link (WiFi file transfer), Sound Recorder, Splendid (Screen calibration), System Update, Themes, Weather, ZenChat, ZenCircle, and ZenFone Care.
For once, ignore the app lists and you will find a big list of settings, features and inclusions that are made to enhance the user experience. And they do that, all of them together only if you activate them. Let’s talk about each of them.
Go into the Settings and you will find the following gesture options to play around with, under the ZenMotion settings.
Touch Gesture settings
- Double Tap to Wake
- Double Tap to Turn off screen
- Swipe up to wake up screen
- Gestures on dark screen – Drawing alphabets on turned off screen would turn on certain functions
Motion Gesture settings – These have flip gesture setup gesture when you are receiving a call, flipping the device down will turn it into silent mode. Hands up gesture is where you lift the device to your ear to answer calls automatically without tapping the screen.
One hand mode is where you see the interface getting smaller to help you reach the corners with the same hand. The size of the entire interface can be changed once you enter the mode, so this is a very helpful feature for those who have always used smaller devices and are finding it hard to adjust to the large screen when it comes to usage.
Easy Mode – The ZenUI has a good Easy Mode included for users who don’t like the fuss of the heavy interface, thus you would be presented with a very easy-to-navigate UI only when this mode is active.
Kids Mode – The Kids Mode provides you with a safe and different interface and you can choose to offer what apps you want your kids to access. Parental control is a necessary feature nowadays and the inclusion of this removes the need of downloading a third party app.
What is it with the cameras of the ZenFone 3?
The camera is a department that ASUS usually bets big on, with the inclusion of its PixelMaster technology. With the ZenFone 3, you’d see the PixelMaster 3.0 technology working to assist the camera hardware and helping a better capture output. But how good is it in the ZenFone 3?
The following captures taken are resized and are uploaded only to show the color reproduction.
The PixelMaster tech does help in brightening the subject in the low light conditions and that’s the special Low-light mode at work, but the resolution takes a beating, and the picture has a lot more noise than one would expect. But then, take a look at the overall performance, including the ones in bright light, and the camera is able to reproduce the colors quite well.
There has been quite a rise in the quality of smartphone camera capture in the recent times, and it is the contribution of both, the hardware and software in them. To name a few, the cameras in Huawei P9, the Galaxy S7, OnePlus 3 and such, have much better cameras than their predecessors. But with the ZenFone 3, while there is not a huge improvement that we see, the difference is quite visible, not just with the rear camera but with the front-facing shooter as well.
The selfie camera is decent and it takes good selfies with a bright tone, and the beautification works well if you opt to choose that. While trying to keep up with the beautification, the captures are not under-saturated at all.
Some other points to consider
- I’ve been using the Jio 4G SIM on the ZenFone 3 for more than a couple of weeks and thanks to the VoLTE support and good connectivity, the experience of web browsing and calling has been great.
- The performance is surprisingly good, especially when I expected this to not stand a chance because of the Snapdragon 6xx series chipset that is included here.
- The ZenFone 3 that we reviewed is the 3GB RAM model and with several apps in the background, there never had been an issue, and there were rarely any lags noticed while switching between the apps.
The ASUS ZenFone 3 is priced at Rs. 22999 for the variant with 3GB of RAM, while the 4GB RAM variant costs Rs. 27999. At both the price points, you see two competitive devices that have been getting rave reviews from the users. The LeEco Le Max2 is one and the better one is the OnePlus 3. The latter can easily be called one of the best flagships when it is about the value-for-money package.
But that doesn’t keep the ZenFone 3 behind, as the bold attempt from ASUS brings in this refreshed design that tells you how serious ASUS has been about its smartphones, and the ZenFone 3 is doing good with gaming, multitasking, and even with the display output.