Review: Asus ZenFone 3

Asus has been taking a serious run at the smartphone market as of late. At this time last year, I reviewed the Asus ZenFone 2 and I found that it was a great phone for the money as it was unlocked and had the ability to use two SIM cards.

Fast forward a year and Asus is back with their latest effort, the ZenFone 3 which in my opinion feels like a phone worth twice the price. Here’s what you get out of the box:

  • Android 6 With ZenUI
  • 2Ghz 8 Core 64 bit processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB of internal storage

  • 802.11b/g/n/ac

  • Bluetooth V 4.2

  • Dual SIM card

  • microSD Slot
  • 4G LTE
  • 8 MP Front Camera

  • 16 MP Rear Camera

  • 5.5″ 1080p IPS screen

Taking a quick walk around the phone starting with the bottom, you get a loud “5-magnet” driver powered by an NXP smart amp which is Hi-Res Audio-certified for headphone output. Next to the speaker you’ll find a USB Type-C port with USB 2.0 connectivity. On the back is a fingerprint sensor on the back. On the right side you get the power and volume buttons. On the left you get the slot for the SIM cards and microSD cards. 

The phone was very easy to hold and felt nice in my hands. I was afraid that it was going to slip out of my hands as both the front and back were made of Gorilla Glass. But thankfully, that was an unfounded fear. The 5.5-inch full-HD display is bright and vibrant. During my testing, it was viewable in almost any lighting situation. It isn’t the absolute fastest phone around, but it was fast enough for me to play games like Pokemon Go without an issue. Though if you do start to push it hard, it will start to bog down a bit. But keep in mind that the average person will not push this phone (or any phone for that matter) as hard as I do. After all, I am trying to find the limits of any product that I review. About the only thing that I have to complain about is the ZenUI skin that Asus slaps on top of Android 6.0. When you first get the phone you will spend some time turning off the annoying notifications that pester you before the ZenFone 3 is in a place where you can use it day in and day out. Having said that, I do like some of the new features of ZenUI though, such as a blue-light filter for night time use (it gives the screen a softer orange glow), and a feature that snaps a photo when you tap the fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone. If they could make it easier to deal with when you first get the phone, it would be perfect. 

A really cool feature of this phone is that it comes unlocked with the ability to use 2 SIM cards. This is a common feature of phones outside North America, and I guarantee that you’ll find it useful if you travel as you can drop a local SIM into the phone and switch to it to save lots of money on roaming charges. One catch though, it will take a micro SIM and a nano SIM at the same time, or it will take a nano SIM and a microSD card at the same time. So, if you need more than the 32GB of on board storage, you may have to give up on using the second SIM card slot.

The real story is the camera though. The 16 MP rear camera which comes to the table with the following:

  • Laser autofocus and phase detection autofocus
  • Color-correction RGB sensor
  • Dual-tone LED flash
  • 4-axis optical stabilization for stills and 3-axis electronic stabilization for video
  • 4K video recording

All of this combines for some impressive photographs and video. I used the camera to take pictures of the Chrysler Pacifica that I am reviewing this week and found it to be easy to use and capable of taking great photos. As long as you tap to focus which forces the camera to do its magic to set ISO, white balance and the like. It has great auto focus and great image stabilization which makes those who have shaky hands pro photographers. If you want to see examples of what this phone can do, check out the Chrysler Pacifica review as almost all the photos in the review were taken with the ZenFone 3. When it comes to the front camera, the 8-megapixel shooter has an interesting feature called Asus Beauty Mode which makes your selfies look better.Though it doesn’t really do much for me as I think I am beyond the help of any piece of software.

When it comes to video, it does an exceptional job of shooting up to 4k resolution video. To test this out, I went to my usual location of Pearson Airport in Toronto to take a video of a plane coming in to land. Here’s the result (maximize the video and set it to 4k):

Battery life is a strength of the ZenFone 3 as I got two full days of usage as my daily driver. That’s exceptional. So is the price. With a price of $429 CAD the ZenFone 3 is an excellent value that should make Apple and Samsung think twice about what their phones cost. The Asus ZenFone 3 is starting to hit stores as I type this, and it should be on your shopping list if you’re in the market for a phone with a long list of features at an affordable price.


One Response to “Review: Asus ZenFone 3”

  1. […] were two smartphones that stood out for me this year. The Asus ZenFone 3 and the ZTE Axon 7. Both of them deserve a place on your shopping list as they are great phones […]

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