Saturday, October 22, 2016

ASUS ZenFone 3 ZE552KL Review; Midrange Redefined

ASUS ZenFone 3 ZE552KL Review; Midrange Redefined
ASUS ZenFone 3 ZE552KL Review; Midrange Redefined

INTRODUCTION:

The Philippines smartphone market has been a fierce battleground for mobile brands, both for local and international companies, those who do not adapt fast enough are mostly the first ones that bite the dust. But, there are also some who managed to maintain their lead, stay on top and emerged victorious. A good example is ASUS, their ZenFone devices have become popular since its first release, and now that it is already on its third iteration, its magic continuously appeals to the masses, there is no doubt about it, especially with the ASUS ZenFone 3.

The ASUS ZenFone 3 series was launched around two months ago, there are a total of 6 variants at that time - the ZenFone 3 Max, ZenFone 3 Laser, ZenFone 3 Deluxe, ZenFone 3 Ultra, ZenFone 3 5.2-inch and the main character of this review, the ZenFone 3 5.5-inch bearing a model number ZE552KL.


PHYSICAL:

ASUS ZenFone 3 Unboxing and Hands-on

The ZenFone 3 ZE552KL measures 152.59mm x 77.38mm x 7.69 mm, which is pretty much close to the dimension of the ZenFone 2 ZE551ML, at least for the height and width. But, comparing them side-by-side, you will easily notice that the new ZenFone is sleeker and sexier, that is because it ditched the curved-back design for a more uniformed flat surface. Not only that, it is also 15 grams lighter (155 grams vs 170 grams), that seems to be small, but in reality, that is already a lot. In comparison, the iPhone 6s Plus and iPhone 7 Plus, weighs 192 grams and 188 grams respectively.

The  metal body covered with 2.5D glass on both the front and back is far more elegant that its plastic-clad predecessors, and for us, it is the most beautifully crafted ZenFone to date. The look and feel, the attention to details, all shout premium. In terms of handling, the rounded sides and edges make gripping easier, however, due to the glasses, it tends to be slippery sometimes. Though it does not really annoy me that much, I still recommend the use of a phone case, as they always say, better safe than sorry.

Also Read: ASUS Republic of Gamers Unleash New Gaming Laptops

Aesthetically, the only minor gripe I have is the protruding lens of the main camera, although ASUS claims that it is protected by a sapphire glass, I am still slightly paranoid that it will get scratched, so flushing the lens a bit into the back panel is part of our wish list. Other than this, praise and commendation are all that I have for this phone.

ASUS ZenFone 3 Display
Display

Display wise, it packs a 5.5-inch IPS touchscreen with Full HD resolution that occupies 77.3 percent of the front space, has 600nits of brightness and Bluelight Filter for eye care. Overall, it offers good viewing angles, rich color output and above average sunlight legibility, making it good for playing games, viewing photos and watching videos. It supports up to 10 fingers touching the screen at the same time and capable of recognizing touch readings even if users wear glove.

To learn more about the screen, buttons, and marvel its premium appearance, please kindly check the unboxing and hands-on video above.


SOFTWARE:

ASUS ZenFone 3 Interface
Interface

The ASUS ZenFone 3 runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow with ASUS proprietary ZenUI 3.0 on top. Its look and feel do not deviate that much from older ZenUI versions, but this time, it comes with more usable apps and features as below image.

ASUS ZenUI 3.0 Apps
ASUS ZenUI 3.0 Apps

Our very own favorite is the Game Genie, it captures and records what is happening on the screen and let the user live stream it directly to YouTube and Twitch  or save it locally for future use. There is also an option to record the gamer's face simultaneously while playing the game (using the front facing camera) as well as discuss and make commentaries as the game play is happening as it also records audio. It also comes with other functions such as Speed Booster, In-Game Share and Share Photos or Videos.

ASUS ZenFone 3 Game Genie
Game Genie

Like any other Android skins, people will either love or hate the ZenUI 3.0, however, I still hope that users can easily uninstall the pre-loaded apps whenever they feel doing it. But then again, proprietary UI like this gives the mobile brand its own and unique identity, moreover, it is what separates it from the others on the software side.

To learn more about what's with the ZenUI 3.0, you can check ASUS' own article about it at https://www.asus.com/lifestyle/zenfone/2016/07/26/whats-new-in-zenui-3-0/ or read more at http://www.zenui.com/zenui3/


PERFORMANCE:

ASUS ZenFone 3 CPU-Z Info
CPU-Z Info

Under the glass-clad metal frame is a Qualcomm chipset based on a 14 nanometer FinFET process technology, the 64-bit Snapdragon 625, which has 8 Cortex-A53 CPU cores clocked 2GHz each paired with Adreno 505 graphics processing unit. This system-on-chip is able to get the following scores in our favorite benchmark applications:

Antutu - 62,530
Quadrant - 39,719
NenaMark2 - 59.9fps
Geekbench - 837 (single core)
Geekbench - 4,095 (multi core)
PC Mark - 6,522
Vellamo Browser - 3,574
Vellamo Metal - 1,599
Vellamo Multicore - 2,443

ASUS ZenFone 3 Benchmark Scores
ASUS ZenFone 3 Benchmark Results
Benchmark Results

The results were far more superior with last year Snapdragon 616 found in the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser 5.5s and similar devices, mainly because of the higher CPU frequency and better GPU. When compared to other octa core Android phones that uses a different chipset, like the OPPO F1 Plus with MediaTek Helio P10, its scores are still better in every aspect.

Dead Trigger 2 via Game Genie

The Snapdragon 625 chipset is paired with 4GB of RAM, on a day to day basis, there is little to nothing to complain about with this combination of CPU/GPU and volatile memory. Navigating the interface and switching between multiple apps remain buttery smooth starting from our first day of use until now that 3 weeks have already passed and tons of applications are installed. The same holds true when playing games, Dead Trigger 2 set in high settings is nothing but smooth and pleasurable, while NBA 2K17 is fast and lag-free. Although when broadcasting the game play live using Game Genie, I faced a slight delay, however, I am not entirely sure whether it is the phone itself or our internet connection. One thing I need to highlight is that as of this posting, I never encountered any overheating issue, the handset remains cool even in heavy use.

NBA2K17 via Game Genie

The ZenFone 3 has a fingerprint sensor, if I am not mistaken, it is the one of the first ASUS devices to incorporate such feature. It is able to detect fingerprints quite fast, even if the finger is a little bit sweaty, it can also recognize different prints and has added functions aside from unlocking the device, such as answering calls, launching the camera and capturing photos.

See Also: ASUS Republic of Gamers Opens First Ever Flagship Store in the Philippines

In terms of call quality, it provides an excellent line of communication between two parties, thanks to its dual internal microphone together with the ASUS NoiseZero Talk Technology. Moving on, the loudspeaker offers loud audio output with little to no distortion at all. The phone is also able to play high resolution 192kHz/24-bit audio, which give you great listening experience, especially with the use of bundled earphones. Moreover, it can easily decode different video codecs, including 4K ones in .mp4 format. By the way, it has 64GB of on board storage with about 11.34GB reserved for the system and around 52.66GB available to the users. If that is not enough, just pop-in a micro SD card for memory expansion, and according to ASUS, it supports up to 2TB, if that exists in the near future.


CAMERA:

ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera UI
Camera UI

The camera interface is similar, if not the same with older ZenFone devices that have previous iteration of ZenUI. There is not much difference at all, and it is a bit hard to distinguish which is which if you had used an ASUS phone in the past. For those newbie with ZenUI, the camera UI is very intuitive, easy to use and offers tons of modes, such as Manual, HDR Pro, Super Resolution and Miniature to name a few. Take note also, that the default image resolution is 12MP at 16:9 aspect ratio, so, if you need to shoot in 16MP, you need to change it in the settings.

ASUS is proud to say that the ZenFone 3 is built for photography, and if your judgement will be based on the camera hardware alone, it is not hard to see why. The main module on its back has an f/2.0 aperture, 16MP resolution with 1.12um pixel size, 6-element Largan lens with sapphire lens protection and optical image stabilization accompanied by 2nd generation laser auto focus, color correction sensor and dual LED flash. However, real-life performance is based on the actual output, and that is where the software part and data processing come into the equation.

ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera Samples - Outdoor, Gloomy Weather - Without HDR
Outdoor, Gloomy Weather - Without HDR
ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera Samples - Outdoor, Gloomy Weather - With HDR
Outdoor, Gloomy Weather - With HDR
ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera Samples - Outdoor, Gloomy Weather - Without HDR
Outdoor, Gloomy Weather - Without HDR
ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera Samples - Outdoor, Gloomy Weather - With HDR
Outdoor, Gloomy Weather - With HDR
ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera Samples - Outdoor, Sunny Weather - Without HDR
Outdoor, Sunny Weather - Without HDR
ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera Samples - Outdoor, Sunny Weather - With HDR
Outdoor, Sunny Weather - With HDR
ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera Samples - Outdoor, Sunny Weather - Without HDR
Outdoor, Sunny Weather - Without HDR
ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera Samples - Outdoor, Sunny Weather - With HDR
Outdoor, Sunny Weather - With HDR
ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera Samples - Indoor- Without HDR
Indoor- Without HDR
ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera Samples - Indoor- With HDR
Indoor- With HDR
ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera Samples - Food Porn - Kare-kare
Food Porn - Kare-kare
ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera Samples - Food Porn - Kalderata
Food Porn - Kalderata
ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera Samples - Food Porn -Aka Ramen
Food Porn -Aka Ramen
ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera Samples - Food Porn - Salad
Food Porn - Salad
ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera Samples - Food Porn - Memphis Baby Back Ribs
Food Porn - Memphis Baby Back Ribs
ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera Samples - Closeup - Flower
Closeup - Flower
ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera Samples - Closeup -Coke
Closeup -Coke

That said, I can honestly tell you that the images produced are generally pleasing to the eyes and certainly above average, especially when there is proper lighting. The photos are vibrant and vivid with realistic colors and retains much detail even when zoomed in. The auto focus is superb, it is fast and at par as advertised, close-up shots are great with nice bokeh, and other software features come handy and useful at times, not to mention fun to toy with.

ASUS ZenFone 3 Camera Samples - Blooming Effect
Blooming Effect

However, it still carries the same blemish found with the older ZenFone devices, that is the ability to properly resolve highlights. I used it to cover an event, took several shots to capture the presentation on the stage, and when I checked the output (above image), blooming is very evident, which tends to make the output less sharp and a little bit blurry. Thankfully, HDR mode is present to post-process and correct the highlights.

Sample Video - 1080p with Video Stabilization

In terms of video recording capability, it can record moments up to 4K (3840x2160) at 30fps (10-second video is around 51MB), however, video stabilization is only active up to 1080p. Speaking of which, I took the video above inside a moving car, it managed to reduce the shakiness, but not completely eliminates it.

Meanwhile, the front facing snapper has 8MP resolution, f/2.0 aperture and 84-degree field of view for wider selfie. And, like the main shooter, I am very happy with its performance.


CONNECTIVITY:

The device as dual SIM slot, one for Micro and the other one for Nano SIM, both supports 4G LTE network, but only one SIM can connect at a given time. For those who do not have a data plan or need a faster connection, you will be glad to know that it can consistently hold on to WiFi, even if the signal is a bit weak. File transfer is also a lot faster using its USB Type C port, and it supports OTG function too!


BATTERY:

ASUS ZenFone 3 Battery Stats
Battery Stats

Battery life is one of the phone's many aspects that users are always concerned about, the one in the ZF3 is only 3,000mAh, but I am very impressed that it delivers more than I expected. It usually last 2 to 3 days on a single charge for normal or average use, while it can last through a day when doing heavy lifting. The PC Mark Battery Life test also agrees with what I am saying, 13 hours and 47 minutes! Meanwhile, filling up its juice usually takes about 90 to 100 minutes using the power adapter included in the package.


CONCLUSION:

Aesthetically, the ASUS ZenFone 3 definitely look and feel premium and there is no doubt that it is the best among the generations of ZenFone so far, it offers great design and build quality not to mention good display output too! Performance wise, sure it is not as fast as other devices powered by the Qualcomm's flagship chip, that is Snapdragon 820 and 821, but it is able to deliver enough firepower to run heavy tasks and demanding applications smoothly. It also packs a good set of cameras and an impressive battery life, which for some people, are two of the most important factors for a mobile phone.

Overall, the ASUS ZenFone 3 is well a-rounded device and highly recommended for users that appreciate the balance of quality, performance and price.

ASUS ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL) Specifications:

  • GSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
  • 3G: 850/900/1900/2100MHz
  • FDD LTE: 1/2/3/5/7/8/20
  • Dual SIM (Micro+Nano), dual standby
  • 5.5-inch IPS FHD (1920x1080) capacitive touchscreen display
  • Front and back Corning Gorilla Glass
  • Dimensions: 152.59mm x 77.38mm x 7.69mm
  • Weight: 155 grams
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow with ZenUI 3.0
  • 2.0GHz octa core Cortex-A53 CPU cores, Adreno 506 GPU, Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 64GB internal storage, expandable up to 2TB via a micro SD card, uses SIM 2 slot
  • 16MP f/2.0 OIS EIS PDAF main camera with dual LED flash, 4K video recording at 30fps
  • 8MP f/2.0 secondary camera
  • Multimedia player
  • Hi-Res Audio
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • FM radio
  • GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct
  • Bluetooth v4.2
  • USB Type-C v2.0, supports OTG functions
  • Sensors: fingerprint, accelerometer, e-compass, gyroscope, proximity, light, RGB, IR
  • Battery: 3,000mAh Li-Ion, non-removable
  • Color: Aqua Blue, Moonlight White, Sapphire Black, Shimmer Gold
  • Price: Php18,990

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