Asus ZenFone Zoom Review - Real Optical Zoom And More!

Just to refresh our minds, the ZenFone Zoom is a ZenFone that's different from the rest of the line aesthetically and features. It's scientifically crafted to look and act like a real camera by putting its own dedicated camera / video button and made its volume rocker act like a zoom keys. Not only that, it's also currently the most premium and powerful among all the ZenFones out there due to its smooth metal curves, genuine leather back cover and high-end Intel chip inside.
Asus ZenFone Zoom review
Asus ZenFone Zoom review

Related: Asus ZenFone Zoom Marshmallow Update Now Available

Few months since we got a chance to give an impression and unbox the said unit, we finally now have our own to fully test and assess its full capabilities. Is it worth all the hype and your hard earned bucks? Find out in our review of the Zoom.

For the review part 1: Asus ZenFone Zoom Unboxing And First Impressions - Re-imagined For The Better

Disclaimer: This review unit was seeded by the Asus Philippines for an honest review

Display Quality

Screen of the Zoom
Screen of the Zoom

Asus proved their consistency with the quality of the 5.5 inch FHD OGS screen that they used with this As are result, it delivered the same kind of feel coming from the other ZenFone 2 devices we tested in the past. It's sharp enough, has warm color tones and has good amount of saturation that's fairly pleasing to the eyes.

Viewing angles are okay, there's little glares outdoors and fairly readable under direct sunlight. It's just not bright as I'd like it to be outdoors, but for indoor use, it's more than enough.

Like all the other Zenfones this has a bluelight filter option that's good for reading and viewing in low light situation as it prevents eye damage. It also has a color adjustment option that let's you choose either the warm or cold side of the spectrum.

Then like most high-end phones, it isn't too prone to fingerprint smudges. We suspect that this has some sort of oleophobic coating to make that happen.
10 points of multitouch present
10 points of multitouch present

It also has 10 points of multitouch that makes your touch, type and game control experience better.

To nitpick, we find that its bezels on the sides is larger compared with other flagship devices. Fortunately, that doesn't do real harm in the display performance of this handset.

Audio Quality

The ZenFone Zoom delivered better than expected audio quality considering that it has smaller speaker grills at the back. As a matter of fact, it can still go toe to toe with the regular ZenFones with the exemption of the ZenFone 2 Laser 6.0 that has dual speakers at the back.

It was still able to deliver clean and loud tunes that didn't have much annoying distortion in max volume. Soundstage and imaging is just feels a tad narrower here as it didn't have much holes to let the sound out. Gladly even when place it down your table, the sound won't get bad as there's still some space created by the semi curved design and leather line at the back. Just don't expect it to be a bass monster and you'll be contented most of the time.

The audio-out using your headphones reminds me of the same old good sound signature I heard from the original ZenFone 2. It's a bassy sounding DAP that has a lot of driving power. For a phone, it's impressive as it delivers tight and fast bass that even has that sub-woofer like effect without sounding uncontrolled and distorted. There's slight bass bleeding in the mids and vocals area, but it's mostly acceptable. The highs did okay, though it is not as prominent compared with other sets like the Starmobile Knight Elite which has great extension and sparkle.


In terms of staging, it has slightly wider than average size, but not close to 3D yet compared with other phones. There's still room for improvement, but this is a good DAP. Just download Foobar 2000 and it'll solve most of the uneven equalization of its stock music player.

The Wolfson chip by the Laser 6.0 still sounds a tad more refined, but overall, any casual listener will be satisfied enough with this one.

The ZenFone Zoom also has 2 microphones that located on top and bottom. That enables you to enjoy clear voices in calls and near stereo like performance in video recordings. We tested it and it can record even micro details without that much noise. The microphones of this phone compliments the video recording prowess of this handset that we'll talk more about later.

Battery Life

ZenFone Zoom battery life
ZenFone Zoom battery life

Going into the battery life, we didn't expect that I'll perform better than the other Intel powered ZenFone 2. It still has that 3,000 mAh of battery capacity that should be enough for casual users.

Based on our PC Mark battery test, we recorded 6 hours and 38 mins of straight usage using the Zoom. That's not the highest score out there, but at least it managed to hit the over 6 hours mark.

However, when you're playing videos, games or any other type of heavy usage like opening LTE, Bluetooth and GPS, the Zoom won't last that long. It only managed to last a little under 4 hours in our test.

Fortunately, it has one of the fastest charging capabilities out there. It only took me a little over 1 hours and 30 mins, to fully charge the phone from 5% to 100%. That's quick.

Camera

There's a dedicated camera button for video and photo shutters
There's a dedicated camera button for video and photo shutters

The main highlight of the ZenFone Zoom is its camera. It uses a 13 MP main camera  f/2.7 - 4.8 aperture 10 element lens w/ 28 - 84 mm size made by Hoya that has 3x optical zoom and up to 12x of digital zoom. The main camera of this phone also has laser autofocus for faster focus speed, OIS for stabilization to reduce shaky shots and improve low light performance. Lastly, it has dual tone LED flash that's great in the dark.

In front, there's a 5 MP wide angle selfie camera with several great features that you can play around with.

Related: Asus #SeeThePhilippinesUpClose With ZenFone Zoom

In terms of quality, the main camera still has that resemblance of the warm color signature of Asus ZenFone 2 devices. However and fortunately, this has less saturation compared with its Snapdragon powered brothers which could be good for those who wants better color balance.

When used in well lit conditions, the photo quality is far from washed out, has resolved details and above average sharpness. The HDR works pretty fast too and is one of the best when used in against the light situations. However, please be warned not to use the HDR in well lit areas as it'll show visible grains and overexposure.

In lowlight, it can survive and take visible / viewable photos, but there will always be grains or noise. You may use some of its modes the like super low light or night mode, but there are time that we prefer to adjust the exposure using its manual camera as it simply takes better captures.

In terms of focus speed, you can call this one a speedster. The laser autofocus did a wonderful job in capturing moving objects and point on your subjects extra fast. However, just like most ZenFone's, saving speed isn't the fastest out there.
You can use the volume rocker to zoom in and out
You can use the volume rocker to zoom in and out

Talking about the Zoom capability, it's really the main highlight of this phone. Based on our test its real 3x optical zoom can really zoom with decent quality overall and it isn't as shaky compared with other phones that's only using the camera software to view things from afar. As a result, stable photos can be obtained that's mostly good or acceptabl. We tried using it on different objects and we mostly love the results of our shots.

If you need more zoom, you can also use its digital zoom that can go all the way to 12x zoom. However, we won't suggest that often as it'll obviously show grains, distortions and it'll be hard to focus that far. Don't get us wrong, there are still times that you'll get good results as long as there's adequate lighting.

In terms of selfie camera, the 5 MP wide angled sensor produced the same experience from what we saw from their other devices. It's good, sharp enough and has nice warm colors. The ladies will also like its beautify feature that can really beautify. Then it can also take view-able lowlight shots and HDRs when needed.

By the way, the powerful camera app of Asus received an upgrade here. The UI now looks better and we felt that it now takes slightly more refined photos compared with the ZenFone 2 before. It also has a lot of modes like Manual, HDR, Beautify, Super Resolution, QR Code reader, Night mode, Depth of Field, Selfie mode, GIF maker, Panorama, Miniature, Time Rewind, PanoSphere, Smart Remove, All Smiles, Slow Motion and Time Lapse.

Another highlight of this phone is its video recording capability. The main camera can record up to 1080p videos. Given that it has an OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) the videos we took were mostly stable even when walking. The focus capabilities from its stills are also evident here as we didn't have a hard time most of the time when pointing to our subjects.

In terms of selfie recordings, its decent and surprisingly not that shaky unless you're walking or moving fast.

Even if it don't have 2K video support, we're good with it as it takes great 1080p videos.

Rear Camera Samples

Random HDR daylight shot
Random HDR daylight shot
12x digital zoom
12x Digital zoom 
3x Optical zoom
3x Optical zoom test
Zoom in normal mode
Zoom in normal mode
Zoom in HDR
Zoom in HDR
Macro Zoom, look at that!
Macro Zoom, look at that!
Showing its bokeh prowess
Showing its bokeh prowess
Depth of field mode
Depth of field mode
Moving shot
Moving shot
Panorama
Panorama
Captured in lowlight
Captured in lowlight
Night mode
Super low light mode
Super low light mode
Flash test
Flash test

Selfie Camera Samples

Daylight selfie
Daylight selfie
Against the light selfie, showing swirlingovercoffee again
Against the light selfie, showing swirlingovercoffee again
HDR in lowlight
HDR in lowlight
Super low light mode
Super low light mode

Video Samples


Performance

Antutu and geekbench scores
Antutu and geekbench scores

By donning the most powerful Intel chip for smartphones, decent type of PowerVR 6430 GPU and large 4 GB of RAM, the Zoom is blazing fast in terms of speed and performance. The benchmark scores were high, we can't hardly feel lag when doing multitasking and in normal usage.

In gaming, its flawless on light and casual games and even some heavy games. In NBA 2K16, it runs super smooth on low settings, great in medium settings and playable in high settings. However, there are frame drops and stutters on that setting and it'll make your phone a little hotter than usual. Not the alarming type of heat, but you'll feel it.
Android 5.0 Lollipop w/ ZenUI
Android 5.0 Lollipop w/ ZenUI

The UI of the phone remained the same and still based on Android 5.0 Lollipop. Gladly there are some improvements with this ZenUI as it feels faster and smoother than ever. It's still feature packed and has that full double tap to wake and other smart gestures, has a nice phone manager to keep your phone clean / fast and has different themes that you can choose from to fit your personality.

While its enjoyable as a whole, we're expecting the Android 6.0 Marshmallow version in this set. It isn't so much of a biggie, but it would have been better if it runs on that newer type of OS. Fortunately, there are reports stating that the Zoom is scheduled to get that update this 2nd quarter of the year.

Connectivity-wise, I never had a problem with it as my GSM and Data signals are strong in good places. Bluetooth and OTG also works fast and even has NFC when needed.

Pros - Beautiful and functional aesthetics, slim for phone with real optical zoom, fast processor, big RAM, large internal storage, louder than expected speakers, decent headphone out, good camera sharpness, near lossless optical zoom, good video recordings
Cons - Display isn't that bright, battery did just okay, mild heating, usual bloatwares

Verdict

The Asus ZenFone Zoom did a stellar job for its purpose - redefining zoom in smartphone photography. As a result, we get a nice outdoor photography phone that's great for your travels and adventures. Like all the other phones in the market, the Zoom still has some things that they need to iron out, but if you're looking for the most powerful and stylish ZenFone around, this is the one to get.

GIZ Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
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