Zenfone, the blood line series for Asus has been doing wonders for the company, the exponential growth in the sales with almost 3 Million smartphones sold in India in the last year is the testimony to this fact. The brand became one of the top 3 sellers on Flipkart in the 8k-12k phone bracket. The company whose major focus was on smartphones below 25k, in an attempt to carry forward the great saga and disrupt the upper segment has launched its most premium device yet, they call it Asus Zenfone zoom. With 3X Optical zoom and almost 10 piece lens system engineered by experts at Hoya the company has a perfect plan to catch the attention of the photography enthusiasts, and it’s time for us to gauge the level of success it is going to achieve, let’s find out in the detailed review of the device.
Like any other company, design has been one of the major focus points for the brand especially Zenfone series. The use of premium tanned leather and 6000 series aviation grade aluminium to carve out those chamfered edges gives the device an ultra premium look. The dual LED flash at the back compliments the big protruding camera design, since the audience catered here is the smartphone photography enthusiasts, the camera at the back has been highlighted by giving it a focussed design. The camera portion/piece has been beautifully fitted in the tanned leather back case. The camera portion protrudes but somehow the camera lens has been prevented from getting scratched. There has been a special mention of the camera specifications along the arc of the camera portion. The specs mentioned alongside the camera in anyways does not make the device look ugly however I believe that this could have been avoided just to make the device look classier. Part of this launch was the announcement of the Asus Intel relationship and that is pretty evident with an ‘Intel’ engraved branding at the top right corner of the device. In the lower third part of the back Asus has been engraved and just below it is a protruding horizontal line, which I have no idea what is it about. The speaker has been set at the back of the device in the lower part which sometimes block the sound from device while you are holding it, positioning them in the upper portion or on the lower part of the device would have been a better option.
Coming to the front of the device, the Corning Gorilla Glass 4 has been used to provide a solid protection to the device, complimenting the glass is the diamond cut bezel which you can not manage to ignore and it goes around the glass giving the device a curved look at the edges. There are 3 generic buttons at the bottom of the screen and at the centre top a speaker below which is the logo of the device which actually was unnecessary since Asus logo which has already been engraved at the back. Then there is a 4 Ultra pixel front camera to the right of the logo.
Just between the leather at the back and diamond cut aluminium at the edges there is a dark gray color metallic band around the device. This band holds the volume rockers on the right, power button just below it and headphone jack on the top left. In addition to this, since the phone has been made keeping in mind the photography enthusiasts, there are dedicated video recording and shutter button and also the volume rockers can be used to Zoom in and zoom out. Overall the design looks just above average, the use of aviation grade aluminium has made the device heavier and that is pretty evident when you hold it for the first time. At first the looks will impress you however when you take the device in hand for a while, the heaviness of the device takes the toll. The back of the device carries a premium look but at the same time the front looks in line with the lower range predecessors of the Zenfone series. I would rate the device in terms of design to be 7.5 on 10. That said, let’s move to the next section, the perfiormance.
This guy with 4GB RAM, 128 GB memory (the variant I am using) with 2.5gHz of processing power is a giant of a phone and while using the device you can feel the same. The Zen UI used with the device works effortlessly with the hardware and is efficient enough to take full potential of the hardware. After 4-5 days of usage, I did not face any issues with the performance in terms of any lag or application failure (A couple of times the Saavn applications failed while running but whatsoever this can not be anyhow related to the hardware issues as there is a plenty of RAM to satisfy your needs). I played a couple of games including Asphalt 8 and FIFA 2015 while I was using the device but did not observe any hiccups except once when the device hanged while I was resuming the Asphalt 8.
One of the problems I observed which in fact is major one for me, the Bluetooth connection with my Jaybird X2 fails after 10-15 mins of playing music, this problem has been consistent.
The camera opens up with a lag and takes picture slower than the iPhone, the transition between the picture and the camera mode takes more time than you would expect. Other than the two issues mentioned above I did not observe any other major issue with the device. Even out of these the former issue could be specific to the bluetooth headphones. Overall performance been satisfactory for me as you would expect from a high end phone with such a spec sheet. This is one section where my satisfaction level was achieved and it did not let me down any of the time. So I would rate this 9 on 10 in this category.
Note: I was using a 128GB variant and by going throught the memory usage I realised that almost 16GB was being used by the OS and the default apps(most of which were either deleted to disabled by me).
This big guy has been supported with a 3000mAh battery, which just lasts for a day with a decent usage of the smartphone.
My daily usage includes 2 hours of Instagram browsing, 2 hours of music play, half an hour of YouTube browsing accompanied by just more than 1 hour of calling and 1 hour combined for Whatsapp, Telegram, with this usage my smartphone manages to survive for 9-10 hours. I was expecting a bit more in this segment probably a larger battery like 3500 mAh would have made me happier, well that could have atleast managed a day of usage for me. So I would rate it 7 on 10 for its battery performance.
This smartphone as the name and the looks suggest boasts loudly about its 3X Optical zoom embedded rear 13 MP camera. The rear camera developed by the experts at Hoya uses a set of 10 pieces to get the perfect picture for you. The biggest bet by Asus is on this camera and after using it for a week I would say that it has not failed to my expectations. Though with a certain lag while clicking pictures the result is really nice. Zenfone series has been pretty famous for the Zen UI especially because of the control it offers on the camera in the default camera application, the manual mode gives you the option to adjust the ISO, Aperture and the Shutter Speed. I ended up using the Manual and the HDR mode more than the Auto mode. The manual modes if used properly brings out very clear and crisp pictures in low light conditions with really less noise (If not comfortable in usig the Manual Mode you could use the Low Light mode as well).
There are 19 modes in total and the manual mode can be directly accessed by using the ‘M’ button in the camera app. You can use the Volume rockers to access the optical zoom and the dedicated shutter button and video recording button on the right hand side at the bottom. These buttons prove to be helpful while using the camera especially in the Selfie mode. It sometimes becomes difficult to use the camera in direct sunlight because of the reflective surface of the device which is really annoying. While comparing the device with the iPhone 6S, this point was very evident. Somehow it is evident that by loading so much into the camera the comoany has made it a complex process for a normal user and it might take sometime for him to adjust to these features. In and all a good attempt to deliver a best in class camera however it might take a couple of devices for Asus to get that perfect competitor to the iPhone 6S and Galaxy S6 Edge.
I am going to give this device an 8 on 10 for the beautiful camera it has to offer.
Coming on to the Zen UI, there seems to be not any major changes in the version used in the previous Zenfone. Like always the device has been pre loaded with many apps that might not be of any use and you will end up deleting or disabling those however to completely remove those you will have to root the device which I would not suggest. Since my device was 128GB variant I did not mind th9se 16GB taken away by the default apps and OS but it might be an issue if you buy the one with less space.
It could have been difficult to market and sell the device just on the basis of camera, so the brand smartly used the Snapdragon 810 supported by 4GB RAM to present a solid case. The customer still might be hesitant in spending 38k for this device since ASUS has created a fan following in lower price segment however if the price gets reduced to somewhere around 32k then this can be a fair deal for the Android lovers and there would be no regret later on.