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Fast forward to 2016, and the market for above 6-inch devices have grown.  ASUS has looked into this. And thus, a 6.8-inch monster named Zenfone 3 Ultra, was born. One look at this thing, and you already know what it’s for. While marketed as a mid range device, its priced at PhP32,995. At first glance, that is hefty for a mid ranger. And it has become a debate on how this device will fit (not only in our pockets). We got our hands on one, so let’s find out if all if it justifies the cost.

zenfone-3-ultra-review35Design and Build Quality

The Zenfone 3 Ultra sports a simple, but stylish design. It has just enough curves and a metal body. A physical home button, power button on the right, and volume rocker to the rear. This device exhibits balance among its components. It’s also heavier than usual, most likely due to its big battery.  I didn’t have any problems in getting a good grip as I’ve got a big hand, but for people who don’t, it can be a challenge. The device feels premium, solid and well made. Testament of attention to quality.

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Up front are the usual suspects. The 6.8-inch Full HD display with Gorilla Glass 4 protection. There’s the front facing camera along with other sensors. There’s a notification LED, earpiece, as well as the back and recent apps buttons. The Home button is a physical one which you can click, compared to the Zenfone 3’s capacitive one. Perhaps its got something to do with the looks of the phone. Up top, you’ll find the 3.5mm headphone jack. At the bottom are the speakers, microphone, and USB Type-C connector. The SIM Card and Micro SD Card slots are on the right side with the power button. Finally at the back, you’ll find the 23MP Camera with two-tone LED Flash. There’s also the volume rocker, and a little bit of branding.

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Display and Performance

The Zenfone 3 Ultra has a Snapdragon 652 processor coupled with the Adreno 510 GPU. It also has 4GB of RAM. As such, you can expect good performance even with heavy multi-tasking.

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Media and games look stunning on the Zenfone 3 Ultra’s massive 6.8-inch Full HD screen. The brightness, color, detail, sharpness, almost everything is good. In case of heavy games, i threw in some titles such as Modern Combat 5 and NOVA 3. The Ultra handled these with no issues. I did run into some problems when playing asphalt 8. The app forced closed itself several times when I tried to start a race. I also noticed that the device was quick to get hot. I’m not sure if it’s a case of overheating, or an app/software issue.

The Zenfone 3 Ultra comes with 64GB of storage expandable via Micro SD card up to 200GB. The SIM tray is hybrid, so you have a choice of using two Nano SIM cards, or 1 SIM Card and a Micro SD Card. It has the usual array of sensors (Gyroscope, Proximity, etc.) as well as a fingerprint sensor which works quite well. It also has support for USB OTG.

Camera

The Zenfone 3 Ultra has a 23MP rear shooter with f/2.0 aperture and TriTech autofocus. This analyzes the scene and selects which type of focus is best suited for it. And it does all that in 0.03s. It also has 4-axis, 4 stops Optical Image Stabilization, and a Color Correction sensor. This determines the right white balance and ensures that colors come out natural. It has an 8MP PixelMaster camera with f/2.0 aperture. It has auto-focus and an 85 degree wide viewing angle, making it ideal for that beautiful selfie.

zenfone-3-ultra-review41During tests, both rear and front cameras performed well. Focusing was fast. Even in a low-light environment, the amount of detail was more than satisfying. In any case, I’ll let the samples speak for themselves.

The camera interface offers a lot of shooting modes for your needs. It also has a manual mode. This lets you tweak other settings like ISO and White Balance to your liking, for that perfect shot. The device also tends to get hot only after a few shots as the camera app closed several times.

Sound Quality

The sound quality on the Zenfone 3 Ultra is nothing short of mesmerizing. It’s loud, and the clarity and detail is on another level. The AudioWizard app does it job pretty well with array of settings that it offers. I was immediately able to adjust the built-in equalizer to suit my taste. I just love this kind of customization for audio. The Zenbuds included in the package leans more into the balanced sound signature. Though falls short of volume. Then again, sound is subjective.

zenfone-3-ultra-review7Software

The Ultra comes with the ZenUI 3.0 on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The UI is generally smooth and a joy to navigate except for a few stutters here and there. There are some useful apps to boot such as AudioWizard. There’s also Mobile Manager which handles app permissions,  power management,  privacy settings, and more. The amount of customization is also modest. The only thing i don’t like is the amount of bloatware that comes with it. Well, you can uninstall most of them, but it would’ve been better if they weren’t there in the first place.

Battery Life

The Zenfone 3 Ultra has a massive 4600mAh non-removable battery. I was able to get 2 days of light to moderate usage and around 10 hours of screen time with heavy multitasking. This is actually impressive. It does feature BoostMaster Fast Charging which charges the battery to 60% in 45 minutes. I’d say this is actually accurate as I was able to get from 10% to 88% in a little more than an hour.

 

zenfone-3-ultra-review42Verdict

The Zenfone 3 Ultra is a capable gaming and media machine. It’s well crafted, sturdy, has a great display, sound quality, camera and battery life.  There are some things that still need ironing out. For what it is right now and what it brings to the table, it is an impressive device and perfect for multimedia-heavy users albeit pricey as a mid-range device.

Emman has been writing technical and feature articles since 2010. Prior to this, he became one of the instructors at Asia Pacific College in 2008, and eventually landed a job as Business Analyst and Technical Writer at Integrated Open Source Solutions for almost 3 years.