Archive for May 29, 2017

Review: Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom

Posted in Products with tags on May 29, 2017 by itnerd

Today I am reviewing the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom. There’s two key reasons why you want to get this phone. Those are the camera and the battery life. But there’s plenty of other reasons to consider this Android powered phone.

The phone has a sleek metal body available in black, gold, and silver. It’s easy to hold and is really thin. The right side has a volume rocker and power button. The bottom features a 3.5mm headphone jack, a USB-C charging port, and a speaker. The left side has a SIM/microSD card slot and worked fine with a 256GB card. You can also use two SIM cards instead which is something that travelers will find handy as the phone is available unlocked. But only one will connect to a 4G network. You get a fingerprint sensor on the back along with a dual camera with laser focus and a dual LED flash. The screen is a 5.5-inch, 1,920-by-1,080 AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass 5. It looks sharp and bright but it does attract fingerprints. Besides having 4G LTE, you get Wi-Fi on the 2.4GHz band and Bluetooth 4.2, Strangely, there’s no NFC which strikes me as weird.

Other specs include:

  • 2 Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon Processor
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 32GB of storage (you can add up to 2TB of storage via an SD card)
  • 12MP dual rear camera with the ability to record video in 4K
  • 12MP front camera
  • Android 6.0.1 with Asus ZenUI 3.0

In terms of real-world performance, the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom is smooth. I never encountered any lag or stuttering. What helps with this is the fact that there are software enhancements packed in to improve performance. The most notable is Power & Boost, accessible through the notification shade. It’s a memory manager that cleans up background apps when the screen is off, and can stop apps from automatically starting when you turn the phone on. ZenUI 3.0 makes the phone easier to use and doesn’t get in the way. The only part where this phone might fall down from a software perspective is the fact that it comes with a two year old version of Android.

The Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom supports high-resolution 24-bit audio playback through the headphone jack. Using a feature called Audio Wizard you can adjust music using the built-in equalizer and use DTS Headphone:X virtual surround sound for movies, music, and games. Quite simply, it is the first phone I’ve reviewed since the ZTE Axon 7 that has such outstanding audio quality. Another area where this phone is outstanding is battery life. I got three full days of usage from a single charge. That is impressive given that I am pretty hard on smartphones when it comes to battery life.

Another impressive area is the camera. You get a pair of rear-facing 12-megapixel shooters capable of 2.3x optical zoom. It also has a laser autofocus sensor, a dual-LED flash, and Dual Pixel Phase Detection Autofocus. And it works insanely well. To test this, I took the phone to Toronto’s Doors Open event to three sites where I was hoping to some great pictures. The first was the still under construction Downsview Park subway station which is part of the extension of Toronto’s Line 1 subway line:

The next stop was the still under construction York University subway station which is further along the extension of Toronto’s Line 1 subway line:

Finally, I visited the Old Don Jail which has been heavily renovated to function as the administration building for Bridgepoint Health:

One cool thing that the camera software has going for it is the fact that it has a full manual mode which allows you to use the camera like it is a digital SLR. It also has a ton of preset modes including:

  • Auto (default)
  • Manual
  • HDR Pro
  • Beautification
  • Super Resolution
  • Children
  • Low Light
  • QR code
  • Night
  • Depth of Field
  • Effect
  • Selfie
  • GIF Animation
  • Panorama
  • Miniature
  • Time Rewind
  • Smart Remove
  • All Smiles
  • Slow motion
  • Time Lapse

I used the depth of field feature and got this picture to show how well it worked. Click to enlarge:


You can see just to the left that the concrete is in a bit of blur. This feature isn’t automatic like the portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus. But it does work.

The panoramic mode works really well as I was able to take this panoramic of the York University subway station. Click to enlarge:


The zoom function was pretty impressive as evidenced by this Canada goose that I found nesting outside of Downsview Park subway station. I took this picture from several feet away. Click to enlarge:


Finally to test the video capabilities, I shot this video of a plane landing at Toronto Pearson airport in 4K resolution:

One thing that I noted is that the camera app initially refused to shoot in 4K video when I set it to that resolution and the error message that it threw up wasn’t helpful. I started to play around with the settings and found that I could get it to work by setting the Video Preference setting to quality. Clearly Asus has some bugs to squash on this front. Other than that, all was good with shooting video.

The Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom is $479 Canadian unlocked, and the camera, the battery life, and performance makes this a very compelling choice if you’re in the market for an Android phone. Check it out as I suspect that if you pick up one, you will not be disappointed.