Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom: Our First Take

Asus outzooms the iPhone 7 Plus with the Zenfone Zoom 3, and we tried it

Asus’ Zenfone 3 Zoom sports a dreamy camera and massive battery, making it one to watch.

If you want anyone to take notice of your smartphone at CES 2017, it needs to have two camera lenses. After the ZTE Blade V8 Pro and the Honor 6X comes the Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom, equipped with two 12-megapixel camera lenses for that sought after blurred-background “bokeh” effect, and an iPhone 7 Plus-like optical zoom.

Asus already has several Zenfone 3 spin-off phones — including the Max and the Laser — in its range, plus we’ve seen (and not been very impressed by) another Zenfone with an optical zoom in the past. What’s new with the Zenfone 3 Zoom, and should you pay any attention to it? We’ve tried it out to let you know. Here’s our first take.

You may think you recognize the design of the Zenfone 3 Zoom, and that’s because it really, really looks like an iPhone 7 Plus. Take away the fingerprint sensor on the back and replace it with an Apple logo, and it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. The curvy metal body is very attractive and super comfortable in the hand; but that’s probably because the iPhone 7 Plus is as well. If you’re looking for a unique design, this definitely isn’t the phone for you.

Huge camera spec

The horizontally mounted dual cameras have 12-megapixel sensors made by Sony. One has an excellent f/1.7 aperture, and the other has a 2.3x optical zoom. Add in a digital zoom and the total becomes a 12x zoom. For comparison, the iPhone 7 Plus has a 2x optical zoom. A quick test shows the 0.3x extra does get in closer to the subject without any quality loss. The interface is also very familiar, with an exact copy of the iPhone 7 Plus’s zoom button, that’s tapped to zoom in to its maximum optical setting. It’s also possible to pinch the screen, but unlike the Huawei Mate 9 and P9’s interface, there’s no visual indication when you flip from optical to digital. Shame.

Working the two lenses together produces the bokeh blurred background effect, which Asus also calls Portrait mode, just like Apple. With a technology called SuperPixel, Asus promises the camera will have great lowlight performance too, but it’s not something we could test in our short time with the device. The camera tech list goes on, with 4K video recording, laser autofocus, optical image stabilization, a 13-megapixel selfie cam, RAW file support, and a manual mode. If it genuinely all comes together, the Zenfone 3 Zoom has massive potential to take on the current phone cam champions.

At about 8mm thick, you’re probably not expecting the Zenfone 3 Zoom to have a massive battery. Amazingly, it has a whopping 5,000mAh cell, way bigger than almost every other smartphone on sale. Asus says that’s good for 42 days standby. For comparison, Apple says the iPhone 7 Plus’s battery will last 16 days. That’s quite a difference.

Not a flagship killer

Leaving aside the camera and the battery, the Zenfone 3 Zoom isn’t a flagship killer. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, like the ZTE Blade V8 Pro and the Huawei Nova, but does pair it with 4GB of RAM, so performance should be good. The 5.5-inch screen uses AMOLED technology for deep blacks and high levels of contrast, but has a now almost standard 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution. It’s Android 6.0 installed, rather than the latest version 7.0, and comes with Asus’ own ZenUI over the top. This substantially alters the Android experience over phones like the Google Pixel and the Nexus series, and may slow down version updates in the future.

While Asus has been quick to sing the Zenfone 3 Zoom’s photographic praises, it has been less forthcoming regarding the price, release date, and where the device will be sold. It’s apparently coming in February, but there’s no price attached, and based on previous Asus phones, it’s unlikely to be sold through carriers. We’d expect it to be sold unlocked online.

Before passing any judgement, we want to spend more time with the Zenfone 3 Zoom’s camera. If it’s as good as the spec promises, and the phone’s price comes in at a reasonable level — that’s less than $400 — it may be worth a look, especially due to the large battery. At the moment, we’ll say watch this space, but with interest.

Highs

  • Impressive camera specs
  • Massive battery
  • Slick style

Lows

  • No price yet
  • ZenUI is intrusive
Product Review

The absolutely mad Asus Zenfone 6 is a flagship phone that you'll flip for

Asus is embracing the 2019 trend of not following any trends at all and instead going in its own direction. The Zenfone 6 has a motorized flip-around camera, a 5000mAh battery, and an almost Pixel-like version of Android installed.
Mobile

The best bezel-less phones cut all the right corners without losing space

As the smartphone industry marches toward a bezel-less future, we compare the shrinking bezels on the latest and greatest devices. Find out which manufacturers have the smallest bezels on their smartphone as we compare them side by side.
Mobile

The Asus Zenfone 6 goes its own way with flip-over camera and 5,000mAh battery

Asus announced the Zenfone 6, a new flagship phone for 2019, which goes in a different direction to others. It has a cool motorized flip camera, a 5,000mAh battery, and an almost stock version of Android.
Product Review

Price be damned, the OnePlus 7 Pro is bigger and faster than ever before

OnePlus has delivered its biggest, and fastest smartphone ever in the OnePlus 7 Pro. It’s also more expensive than before, with a $750 price tag hanging from the most technically impressive model.
Mobile

Grab it as soon as it pops up: The OnePlus 7 Pro is now available for sale

The OnePlus 7 Pro has been revealed, and it's a monster of a phone with a stunning redesign, a pop-up selfie camera, powerful flagship specs, and a price that's hundreds of dollars less than the competition.
Mobile

Mad U.K. retailer slashes 99% off Google Pixel 3a price for a few lucky buyers

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a midrange line. Say hello to the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL.
Mobile

The Realme X is so cheap and so good that it defies the rules of economics

The Realme X has a 48-megapixel camera, an in-display fingerprint sensor, an AMOLED screen, and a Snapdragon 710 processor, yet it costs from $220. We've tried out the phone to see if it's too good to be true.
Mobile

How to use recovery mode to fix your Android phone or tablet

If you’re having a problem you can’t seem to resolve with your Android device, or maybe you want to update it or wipe the cache, recovery mode could be what you’re looking for. Here's how to get your Android phone into recovery mode.
Home Theater

Why you can’t buy Car Thing, Spotify’s first hardware device

Spotify created a voice-activated, in-car device that lets you listen to music and podcasts. But Car Thing, as it is known, is not for sale. Instead, it will be used to gather data from a limited set of customers.
Social Media

Be the master of your own Insta-verse with multiple Instagram accounts

Whether you own a small business or have separate Instagram accounts for your five cats, we'll walk you through the process of switching between your multiple accounts on your Apple or Android devices.
Mobile

Can Apple or Samsung steal the OnePlus 7 Pro's flagship killer title?

OnePlus has long been the go-to for flagship specs under a flagship price. But now Apple and Samsung have challengers in the arena, and they want the Flagship Killer crown for themselves. Who wins? We found out.
Deals

Turn your Apple tablet into a laptop with one of these iPad keyboard cases

A keyboard case serves to both protect your iPad and give you a set of laptop keys. You don’t have to shell out tons of cash for a good one, either; if you’re looking for a way to turn your iPad into a 2-in-1 laptop, check these deals…
Mobile

Google Pixel 4 will reportedly ditch physical buttons and display notch

The Google Pixel 4 will reportedly feature massive design changes, including the removal of clickable power and volume keys in favor of capacitive touch areas. The smartphone is also said to be dropping the display notch.
Deals

Here’s one thing you need to do before giving your child a smartphone or tablet

Monitoring your kids' digital habits can be a challenge in today’s high-tech age, but great parental control software like Qustodio gives parents a much-needed advantage. Learn how you can protect your child from online dangers.