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Last year was a big year for the smartphone industry. It might not be true to other players but Asus definitely agree. In the last two years, Asus spent essential time making a phone with great build, intimate design, highly customizable software, personality and great value. It's started with the Zenfone 2; now the Taiwanese outfit is trying to win our hearts once again with the Asus Zenfone 3.

 
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL Review

Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL (Z012D) Review: Design


Every year, smartphone buyers have higher standards when it comes to their handset's design philosophy. For sure, the Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL will not disappoint. The smartphone's body is nothing but a stunner. You'll have a wraparound metal frame sandwiched in exquisite pieces of glass on both front and back panels. This metal-and-glass combination is the main reason why it's one of my design favorites.

The Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL is a different animal in terms of construction. While last year's model exudes a curvy appeal, the Zenfone 3 is a candybar phone with industrial design. There's also a number of aesthetic changes in the new Zenfone - the rear volume keys were gone giving a decent space for the fingerprint sensor at the back of the handset. Power button is now placed, where it should be, at the right side together with the volume rocker.


Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL Review

The speaker grills are at the bottom which features Hi-Fi audio. This side also houses the USB Type C, a great leap from last year's offering.


The spun-metal "Zen" design defines the body's exterior. It's very striking to the eyes. The soft and rounded corners feel natural in the hands as well as the 2.5D curved-edge display. For some reason I find this beaut delicate in external wear and tear, although it has Gorilla Glass 4 front-and-back coating, I am careful not to drop it. We made a detailed rundown about its hardware in our unboxing review.

Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL Review


Display

The 5.5-inch display is a sweet spot for Asus Zenfone handsets, and it's still the same story when we talk about the handset's screen. There’s a 1080p full HD display with an amazing color representation. The popping of colors are still there, the 100% NTSC color representation makes it even better than what we have from the Zenfone 2. Likewise, brightness is still on-point which translates into a pixel-dense display that is very appealing to look at.

There’s a Gorilla Glass 3 layer on top of the actual display which is definitely designed to be tough on scratches. However, I still got subtle scratches on the screen after placing the handset in my bag for quite some time. Gorilla Glass 3 is tough on impact forces, but I guess the phone needs an extra coating to survive subtle scratches. I suggest you install a screen protector after getting the handset out of the box.

Hardware, Performance, Benchmarks

The Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL packs a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 625. The chipset makes the Zenfone 3 fly with octa-core processor. It is also loaded with 4GB of RAM which instantly gives the handset a buttery user interface in launching apps, multitasking activities and moderate-to-heavy gaming sessions.

Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL Review


Typing texts and scrolling is basically smooth than any other mid range Android device that I’ve used. And I got to admit, I had no performance issues in the time I used the Asus Zenfone 3.

Unlocking the phone with the handset’s fingerprint sensor is also fast. Placing your finger at the center of the spun-metal design, instantly unlocks the Zenfone 3. And you can also tap the fingerprint sensor to invoke camera shutter. This is very useful in taking selfies.

Multimedia: Video Playback and Gaming

If there’s one thing the company has improved a lot, it’s definitely in the multimedia department. The new speakers are crazy insane! Doing video playback with the Asus Zenfone 3 won’t require the use of third party speakers. It’s covered by the 5-magnet speaker system with NXP smart amplifier. Sounds are crisp and clean. It registers well in both low and high volume.


Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL Review

The Zenfone 3 hits high bars in our benchmark tests. It tallies 53714 in Antutu, 6611 in PC Mark and 44404 in Quadrant benchmarking tools. Chilling with Netflix video streaming service and running Spotify are flawless. It’s definitely one of the best multimedia devices I’ve used.



Running gaming titles like Pokemon Go is also a breeze. Graphics-intensive games are also rendered effortlessly with the handset’s Adreno 506 GPU. I have a smooth experience running Need for Speed: No Limits.

Connectivity, Call Reception

Both SIM cards can connect to LTE network. You can slide a Micro SIM and a Nano SIM in the trays. Unlike last year’s offering, the nano SIM tray doubles as a microSD slot. Running in 4G speeds is fast, it’s in Cat. 7 with up to 300Mbps download speeds and 50Mbps upload speed.

Loading a webpage and video streaming over Cellular are effortless in areas with good coverage. In terms of reception, calls are quite clear with no noticeable issues. Both SIM cards also support Voice-Over-LTE.

Software

Most of you might disagree, tagging a smartphone as a “great phone” depends on the things that it can do. With that in mind, the ZenUI 3.0 has a bucket-full of useful features that brings ease in the way we interact with our phones.

Though not a novel idea, the double tap-to-wake feature proves to be very useful in fast checking your phone’s status. Likewise, you can also assign other gestures to launch several apps in an instant, say drawing “M” to pull up messages.



Long pressing the screen or swiping from the bottom brings you a suite of familiar rounded icons. This includes the Theme app which allows you to change wallpapers and themes. Other essential tools like calculator, system setting, icon packs and more are also included in the suite.



ZenUI 3.0 now features a perspective view in wallpapers. This means that you can enable a 3D-like effect in your wallpapers similar to what iOS offers. The quick access apps in the lockscreen are still popular with ZenUI 3.0. The default apps are the dialer, messaging app and Chrome browser, but you can customize this using any installed applications.

The Notification Tray is very neat which include quick toggles to Cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth, Flashlight, etc. I also love the fact that you can enable the One Handed Operation by accessing the Notifications tray. Spring cleaning your notifications in one tap is also a breath of fresh air.



Asus still introduces more bloatwares in the latest version of the UI. But some of these you might actually want like Game Genie, ZenCircle and Zenfone Care.

Camera: Photos and Videos

The Asus Zenfone 3 camera is quite impressive in our field test. To give you a prompter, the handset boasts a 16MP Sony IMX298 sensor with f/2.0 aperture. Plus, Asus also adds its TriTech Autofocus system – phase detection, continuous focus and laser autofocus.



I also love the fact that the camera packs a 4-axis Optical Image Stabilization which is coupled with Electronic Image Stabilization. Other noteworthy features are Manual Mode, Super Resolution mode, etc.

The Asus Zenfone 3 delivers stunning photos with a right mix of contrast and white balance. Photos are sharp and detailed with almost zero noise in good lighting condition.

Meanwhile, the 8MP front-facing camera is also rated at f/2.0 aperture. It produces great social media selfies with precise focus on the subjects.

In terms of video recording, the handset could pull off 4K video recording in its rear camera despite its midrange nature. It can also do 1080p Full HD recording on its selfie camera. Colors are vibrant and pictures are rich in detail. If you allow me to be nitpicky, there’s a noticeable flicker in the 4K videos.

However, recording videos in 1080p gives you a very spot on output. Check out our in depth review of the Asus Zenfone 3 camera HERE.

Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL Review
Waiting for the Sunset in Vayang Rolling Hills, Unedited Photo

Basco Boulder Beach, Batanes (Unedited Photo)
Selfie Shot: Chamantad-Tinyan in Sabtang, Batanes (Processed in Snapseed)
Basco's Naidi Lighthouse (Processed in Snapseed)



Battery

In our standard battery test, we did a continuous video playback, audio playback and browsing test. All of are done via WiFi. The Zenfone 3 ZE552KL reached 10 hours and a half before it drained out. I could say that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 is very efficient in preserving battery efficiency in a day-to-day tasks while maintaining great performance.

In terms of recharging, you’ll be delighted on how fast the phone stacks up juice. This is due to the fact that its chipset supports Quick Charge 3.0 on top of the USB Type C charging prowess.

The Wrap

Without a doubt, the Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL is a fantastic beast and it does a lot of fantastic things – great camera, stunning design, crystal clear display and solid performance in a very practical price. History-wise, there has no midrange smartphone that grabs much attention as the 5.5-inch Zenfone 3. And it certainly took advantage of the spotlight. The looks and performance are sharp and on point; the smartphone’s overall package could cost more than it’s Php 18,995 price.

There’s a bucket-full of stuff to love but there’s also some points that need to be improved. For sure, the new design looks stunning but I think the company needs to make it “fingerprint-phobic.” I love the new Zen UI but I there’s still a big room for improvement in the company’s proprietary skin.

Nevertheless, we are all at awe with the camera's performance. Even up to now, I could not put down the handset when I’m outdoors. The challenge of getting out of Zenfone 2’s shadow seems to be a pretty tough job to achieve; but, yes, the Zenfone 3 ZE552KL has kept the momentum rolling.

What we Like:

1. Front and Back Glass with Metallic Frame construction
2. Really great camera muscle
3. Full HD display with 100% Color Coverage
4. Snappy chipset
5. Whooping 4GB RAM
6. Insanely Fast Fingerprint reader
7. Long battery life
8. Hi-Fi Audio

What we DON'T Like:

1. Fingerprint magnet
2. Non removable battery
3. Bloatwares of ZenUI
4. Hybrid SIM/MicroSD Slot for SIM1
5. Scratch magnet 

Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL Specs

152.6 x 77.4 x 7.7mm at 155 grams
5.5-inch Super IPS LCD Display, 1080 x 1920 pixels at 401 ppi
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
Octa-core 2.0GHz Cortex-A53 CPU
Adreno 506 GPU
4GB of RAM
64GB Internal Memory up to 256GB expandable
16MP rear camera, f/2.0 with Laser AF, Phase Detection AF, LED Flash, 4-axis OIS
1080p video at 30fps
8MP front camera with f/2.0 aperture lens, 1080p
4G LTE, 3G, 2G
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, WiFi Direct, Hotspot
Bluetooth 4.2
GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BD
FM Radio
USB Type C
USB OTG
3.5mm Audio Jack
Fingerprint Sensor
Gyroscope, Proximity, Compass, Accelerometer Sensors
Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS with ZenUI 3.0
3000mAh Li-Ion Non-Removable Battery
QuickCharge Fast Charging
Sapphire Black, Moonlight White, Shimmer Gold
Php 18,995

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