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Zenfone has been established by ASUS as an iconic sub brand, and they have been really successful doing so. Since the time it was announced last Computex Taiwan 2016, ASUS released a total of 6 variants of Zenfone: Zenfone 3, Zenfone 3 Deluxe, Zenfone 3 Ultra, Zenfone 3 Laser, Zenfone 3 Max, and the Zenfone 3 Zoom.

ASUS’ apple of the eye this time is the Zenfone 3 Zoom – a follow-up to last year’s Zenfone Zoom. It sports many similarities to the Zenfone 3, but imbued with tons of improvements especially on the camera and battery departments.

Build

Let me get this straight: the size and overall design of the Zenfone 3 Zoom (Z3Z) took a lot of inspiration from Zenfone 3. It’s crazy thin for a phone that’s installed with a big-ass battery and overwhelming rad hardware.

ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom Review 6 770x435 - ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom ReviewASUS ditched putting a rear glass panel on the Z3Z. The 3.5mm headphone jack is now positioned beside the USB Type-C port. The front facing camera is now positioned on the left side of the earpiece, while the the dual camera, plus flash and sensors, are placed on the upper left portion of its rear back panel. The fingerprint sensor of the Z3Z has been much improved too, and sports a square design compared to the Zenfone 3’s rectangular look.

ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom Review 7 770x435 - ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom ReviewZ3Z’s matte back panel can be a little bothering as it’s more slippery to hold than the Zenfone 3’s rear glass panel.  The fingerprint sensor is placed a little too high, which can pose a bit of an issue for users who have small hands. Overall, by my standards, despite its tremendously amazing design, it can be a little difficult to hold for users who have relatively smaller hands.

ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom Review 1 770x435 - ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom ReviewDisplay

The Zenfone 3 Zoom’s Full HD resolution AMOLED display is one of the brightest and “crispiest” we’ve seen on a smartphone. Quality is equality top-notch too, which is something that all mobile phones that’s focused on  photography and media consumption should focus into. ASUS perfectly executed this on Z3N, and we love every bit of it. Add the capability to switch screen color with its Screen Color Mode, and you get yourself a smartphone with a display that’s flexible enough to fit your every standard.

MG 0778 770x513 - ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom ReviewThe screen also has the latest Gorilla Glass 5 lamination, so you’re assured that it’s protected with virtually no effect on screen quality.

Performance

Zenfone 3 Zoom is a powerful device, albeit having an dated chipset (Qualcomm MSM8953 Snapdragon 625). There’s a technical reason for this, and it all boils down to managing performance, hardware requirements and battery life.

MG 0753 770x513 - ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom ReviewBased on my experience, the smartphone was able to deliver a good performance while playing Power Rangers: Legacy Wars, Marvel Contest of Champions, Mobile Legends Bang Bang, Lords of War and Super Mario Run and Need for Speed: No Limits. Despite running multiple applications in the background, Z3Z proved itself to be on top of its game, therefore giving me an incredible and consistent gaming and productivity experience.

Just like how we always do in our previous reviews and impressions, no amount of words can define this unless I present quantifiable data. If I put on my consumer-hat, I would say that this device falls under mid tier category that can handle multiple concurrently running applications.

My most used applications, apart from system running ones, are Facebook, Messenger, Viber and Power Rangers: Legacy Wars. Based on data provided by the device, my daily average memory usage is 2.6GB out 4GB, or 75%. Despite this, I never experienced any slow downs and bottlenecking. Note though that 500mb memory is used by Android OS and System UI.

Now, to those who are into benchmark results, check out the report below.

  • Antutu Benchmark: 116,940
    • 3D: 35,326
    • UX: 41,786
    • CPU: 30,584
    • RAM: 9
  • Quadrant: (to be updated)
    • CPU: N/A
    • Mem: N/A
    • I/O: N/A
    • 2D: N/A
    • 3D: N/A
  • Geekbench 4
    • Singe-Core Result: 810
    • Multi-Core Score: 2,320
  • GFXBench GL Benchmark
    I want to emphasize that while most of our readers are familiar with Antutu and Quadrant, I want to put special emphasis on GFXBench GL Benchmark as it shows results that may very well quantify the capabilities of this smartphone. Quite obviously, based on its specifications, the Zenfone 3 Zoom is a smartphone that excels in many aspects: productivity, content and media creation, and gaming. It isn’t perfrec Oh yes – you’re going to have lots of fun using this device to play your favorite games, which requires demanding resources. Trust me.
    • High-Level Tests: For this tier test, the benchmark app subjects it to on-screen and offscreen graphics tests. The renderer (Adreno 506, on the case of Zenfone 3 Zoom) is presented with various surface width and weigh, and pushes it to its limit. Graphics presented often resemble game-like renders. FPS is presented per each grade of test. The higher the score, the better.
      • Score: 722.2 Frames
    • Low-Level Tests: This tier test, the app subjects the phone to on-screen and offscreen graphics tests. Tesselation and texturing are the focuses of the test, and the result is presented in terms of frames.
  • Vellamo Mobile Benchmark
    • Metal Score:3,445
    • Multi-score: 4,773
  • NenaMark 2
    • Score: 58.1
  • PCMark for Android Benchmark
    PCMark offers a detailed result of the phone’s overall capacity to cope up with the demands of the user. It provides the best and complete benchmark result among other apps, albeit lacking detailed results for graphics capability.
    • Work 2.0 Performance: 4,052
      Higher than Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 Pro, which scored 5,938; and Sony Xperiqa XZ, which got 5,691

With great power comes great battery consumption. Zenfone 3 Zoom gets the same beating, but its 5000mAh is able to handle my demands quite efficiently. I get around 10 hours of abusage (a word that I just made up, which means abusing its maximum capacity); and 14 to 18 hours at moderate use.  Fantastic!

Software

What makes the Zenfone 3 Zoom stand out, above everything else, is its software. This is something coming from someone who has small to medium dislike with former software iterations of Zenfone due to some unnecessary pre-installed apps. Don’t get me wrong – there were pre-installed apps in the past Zenfone devices, which proved to be useful, but there were too many that were utterly unnecessary.

It’s a different experience with the Zenfone 3 Zoom. Zen UI, which sit on top of Android, felt fluid, cleaner and easier to control and navigate. Home screen layout may be edited the one I users want it to look like. Grid size, status bar transparency, gesture controls – almost everything may be changed. Overall experience is a step up from my previous experiences. Just like how ASUS puts it, “ZenUI isn’t just an interface – it’s the best friend who accompanies you everywhere.

Camera

The Zenfone 3 Zoom was designed to catch every moment with its camera and the software needed to make it work. If there’s anything that must be put to highest regard, then it’s the fusion of the performance of both the phone’s software and the cameras.

For a mobile device that’s positioned to approximate the performance of a DSLR, there is a tall order to perform just like how a DSLR captures photos, if not better. Z3Z’s IMX362 sensor is in charge of processing all photos taken with its cameras.

It takes two to tango for the Zenfone 3 Zoom: one 12 megapixel wide aperture lens with f/1.7 aperture; and another 12 megapixel 2.3x optical zoom for high-quality close-ups. Being able to tag-team these two lenses (quickly, by just tapping a single button) is highly efficient when taking photos outdoors or even indoors.

Taking wide angle photos using the wide aperture lens is amazing as it can capture photos with color accuracy, but with overblown saturation sometimes. The ability to take RAW shoots opens users to opportunity to further enhance the photos taken.

Enabling the 2.3x zoom lens is easy. It reproduces the same quality of color and saturation, with little sacrifice on noise and sharpness.

Focusing to subjects is lighting quick, thanks to its 2nd generation laser auto-focus. Its ability to track subjects is great when taking photos of kids.

One of the features that needs to be improved on its software is Depth of Field mode. It works well to boot, but ASUS needs to further enhance the accuracy of the focus and  blur points. There are times when the bokeh looks too artificial on some photos I took.

Taking selfies using its 13 megapixel front camera with Sony IMX214 sensor is amazing on Z3Z. Color accuracy is excellent, and its beauty mode is way over the top. Pro-tip: throttling the beauty mode too high would make you look like a plastic mannequin. Please don’t do that.

Sound and Communication Quality

The phone’s speakers is loud enough for personal consumption, thanks to its five-magnet speaker construction, metal voice coil and expansive sound chamber powered by an NXP Smart AMP. It lacks a bit of bass, but it’s good enough to listen to your favorite music. If you wish to up your listening experience, and enjoy your Hi-Res music, then I highly recommend jacking in your favorite headphone. Zenfone 3 Zoom can play 24-bit/192kHz music files, and if you’re a music afficionado and enthusiast, I’m certain that you’ll enjoy every bit of your experience like I did.

In terms of call and signal quality, Z3Z also excels. I never had issues when I made calls, although there were 3 instances when I lost data signals. I had to restart the phone to regain signal, which was a little cumbersome. Nevertheless, the latter issues were puny compared to the many times I enjoyed using it as my main driver for calls and internet.

Verdict

The ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom is a huge leap compared to its previous iteration and the current Zenfone 3. Even the Zenfone 3 Deluxe is outmatched here. Clearly, compared to its current director competing devices – OPPO F3 Plus and VIVO V5 Plus – the Zenfone 3 Zoom has clear advantages: battery life, optics, build and performance. If we are to pit this device to other devices positioned similarly in the market, the only drawback we see is the price of PhP23,995 attached to it. Fortunately, ASUS is throwing in PhP4,500-worth of bonus items (JBL Clip 2, ZenEar in-ear headphones and clear case), which sweetens the deal.

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Author

Giancarlo Viterbo is a Filipino Technology Journalist, blogger and Editor of GadgetPilipinas.net, He is also a Geek, Dad and a Husband. He knows a lot about washing the dishes, doing some errands and following instructions from his boss on his day job. Follow him on twitter: @gianviterbo and @gadgetpilipinas.

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