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The Asus Zenfone 3 is a lovable smartphone but the company felt the urgency of having a card in the dual-camera department. Zenfone 3 Zoom (ZE553KL) is the answer to this budding camera trend. Upon its availability in the Philippines, the Zenfone 3 Zoom stirs up the water with its very promising feature set.

Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom ZE553KL Review


Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom ZE553KL Review


Basically, the handset is of flagship grade except the midtier Qualcomm chipset. The Zenfone 3 Zoom is still running with the same SoC as the original Zenfone 3, the Snapdragon 625. The company claims that the smartphone is crafted for photography-oriented users and we can tell that it's more than just the camera. Join us a we dig deeper into the handset's features and camera performance in our Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom Review.

Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom ZE553KL Review Philippines
Back Panel: Dual-camera, AF, LED Flash, Fingerprint sensor 

Design

Asus deviates from the glass-metal-glass construction of the standard Zenfone 3. The current ZF3 Zoom variant borrows the chic back panel of the Zenfone 3 Max which houses the fingerprint sensor, the dual-cam module, and its autofocus module. The handset does not shy away from a premium-build design; the chamfered back feels good on the hands which is now easy to hold. The whole design philosophy screams elegance when seen on the wild.

Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom ZE553KL Review
Left side: SIM tray

The Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom only measures 8-mm in terms of thickness. With its svelte form factor, it's easily the slimmest among smartphones that crunches a 5000-mAh battery. At this depth, it also manages to cram a dual-camera setup, however failed to hide the camera bump on the back panel. Just like the other big time releases, the Zenfone 3 Zoom gives a subtle valley in the rear panel for the fingerprint sensor. The aluminum chassis exudes a bluish tint which gives the smartphone a very unique appeal. The sides are chamfered which houses most of the buttons and ports of the handset. There's the volume rocker and power button on the right, SIM tray on the left, and the USB Type C and headphone jack at the bottom. 

Bottom: 3.5-mm Audio Jack, USB Type C Port, Speaker Grill

While using the handset, I could not think of anything else to improve the design. Though the handset is designed to be used with two hands because of its larger footprint, but you'll get the hang of it with continuous use.

Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom ZE553KL Review Philippines

Display

We are talking about a 5.5-inch Full HD AMOLED display. It's a different screen technology from the IPS LCD of the standard Zenfone 3. The change of display tech is very evident in the handset's color reproduction. The display is more vibrant and immersive to look at. Colors pop and screen registers to be sharp. For a general smartphone use, I would choose this display over its peers with 1080p resolution.

Camera

Initially, I thought the dual-lens camera, in general, is only a gimmick. But when I started taking photos with the Zenfone 3 Zoom, my impression substantially turned into enthusiasm. It has two 12MP rear shooter, the main camera is a Sony IMX316 sensor which captures more light than the secondary shooter. The latter gives the depth of field or Bokeh effect which is very appealing in close-up portrait shots.


The camera module produces great photos. Outputs register sharp in good lighting condition and even in low-light environment. The combination of both the cameras and Asus software makes a better post-processing of photos. It focuses more on contrast and saturation. This means that colors are punched up a bit.

The 2.3x Optical Zoom proves to be a very nifty feature. It zooms and takes photos without sacrificing the quality of the image. However, I might prick a bit. The 2.3x Zoom is not consistent. Sometimes I end up having noises in zoomed subjects especially in low-light, however a proper angle positioning of the camera fixes it.

Check out our series of shots when we tested the Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom in Bolinao, Pangasinan:

Outdoor Well-lighted. Featuring Casa Almarenzo Bed and Breakfast Hotel in Bolinao, Pangasinan

Outdoor Lowlight. Sunrise in Bolinao, Pangasinan

Lowlight. Sunrise in Bolinao, Pangasinan
Outdoor Lowlight. Sunrise in Bolinao, Pangasinan

Outdoor Well-lighted 2. Rock Formation in Patar White Beach in Bolinao, Pangasinan

Outdoor Well-lighted 3. Cape Bolinao Lighthouse in Bolinao, Pangasinan

Indoor Lowlight. Featuring the Enchanted Cave in Bolinao, Pangasinan

Outdoor Well-lighted 4. Enchanted Cave Park

Above: Regular Setting l Below: 2.3x Zoom

Zenfone cameras are great, and the Zenfone 3 Zoom's dual-camera module solidifies my claim. It could also record up to 4K videos which renders smoothly thanks to the Snapdragon 625 and 4GB of RAM. Here's a sample video:


For more sample videos, you can go to our Youtube Channel.

Performance

The Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom is definitely a worker in its own right. Though ticking with a mid-tier chipset, it could chew everything thrown at it with ease. The handset tallies a 62555 score in Antutu Benchmark which is definitely higher than what the regular Zenfone 3 got when we reviewed it last year. For the purpose of comparison, both handsets have the same chipset.


In terms of the regular day to day use, the Zenfone 3 Zoom could serve as a reliable driver to your daily tasks. Music streaming via Spotify is a breeze with its built-in Hi-Fi amplifier. Video playback and streaming also renders smooth with less hiccups whenever we jumped frames. The Snapdragon 625 also highlights the good news that the Zenfone 3 Zoom comes with a 5000 mAh battery due to its power efficiency.


Likewise, graphic-intensive games like Asphalt 8 and Need For Speed run smoothly. Fan-favorite title Mobile Legends also offers engaging gaming experience in this smartphone.


Software

Here comes the ZenUI 3.0. Two years ago, I loved this skin running on the very popular Zenfone 2. Fast forward to 2017, I think this UI has been through enough butt-hurt with its bloated apps and slightly outdated design. However, there are still few things I love about the software, the rounded apps in the lockscreen, the knock-on feature and Game Genie to name a few.



Reorganization and redesigning of the ZenUI is an overdue idea. If Asus would like to compete in the upper midrange to flagship tiers, software redesigning would definitely be a good starting point for the development of the next Zenfones.

Battery

The battery life of the Zenfone 3 Zoom is very exceptional. The efficiency of the 5000 mAh battery is in high bars. For a regular to medium use, the battery tended me for about 40 hours. In a session between charges, the Zenfone 3 Zoom gave me about 12 hours of screen time within 40 hours. 

This includes three dozen of shoots which I took within an hour of playing with the camera app. I extensively connected to WiFi for internet browsing for two hours, three hours movie streaming, two hours music streaming via Spotify, played one hour of graphic intensive gaming app and shuffled three messaging apps every now and then. 

At the end of the session, I still managed to get 6 percent of battery life. Another token for the battery is that it does not overheat when used simultaneously.

The Wrap

Most of us agree that last year’s Zenfone 3 is a great smartphone, it is an amazing sequel to the iconic Zenfone 2. Though the Zenfone 3 gave Asus the consistency that we need, we craved for another device that could seal the company's position in the fiercely contested smartphone market. And the Zenfone 3 Zoom did not only seal the Taiwanese giant's footing but it also solidifies Asus place in the mobile industry.This is due to ZF3 Zoom's amazing feature set and price standpoint.

The Zenfone 3 Zoom definitely proves the tradition of excellence rooted in the company’s devices. There’s more to love about the Zenfone 3 Zoom. Its design is the best I’ve seen from the company so far. Its body is ridiculously thin for a smartphone that packs 5000 mAh battery. It has the chassis and finish of a premium device. The display is very stunning with the new AMOLED technology; and it currently holds one of the best smartphone cameras due to the unfailingly solid performance of the dual-lens set-up. It could easily be a photographer's delight.

Sure, the Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom has compromises, all phones do. The software poses a great challenge for the company to improve in the upcoming iteration of the Zenfone lineup. But all in all, it’s still one of the best smartphones released this year with its exceptional value, stand-out camera and generous battery life.

PROS:

Stunning Display
Premium Build and Design
Great Battery Life
Solid Camera
Good pricing

CONS:
Bloated Software

Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom ZE553KL Specs

154.3 x 77 x 8 mm, 170 grams
5.5-inch AMOLED Display, 1080 x 1920 pixels at 401 ppi
Corning Gorilla Glass 5
Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
Octa-core 2.0GHz Cortex-A53 CPU
Adreno 506 GPU
4GB of RAM
32GB/64GB/128GB Internal Memory up to 256GB expandable
Dual 12MP rear camera, (25mm, f/1.7 and 59mm, f/2.8) with Laser AF, Phase Detection AF, LED Flash, 4-axis OIS, 2.3x optical zoom
2160p video at 24fps, 1080p video at 30fps
13MP 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
5000mAh Li-Ion Non-Removable Battery
QuickCharge Fast Charging
Navy Black, Glacier Silver, Rose Gold
Price in the Philippines: Php 23,995
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