Asus ZenFone 3 (5.5 Inch) Review - The Midrange Phone To Beat!

Few weeks back, the we unpacked the ZenFone 3 and we're impressed with its package and the way Asus built this handset. Like what we mentioned before, we test it out further for a full report. So, here's our full review and find out if this smartphone worth all the hype and if it is the right one for your. Let's start!
Asus ZenFone 3 (5.5 Inch) Review - The Midrange Phone To Beat!
Asus ZenFone 3 full review


Display Quality

The beautiful Super IPS FHD screen of ZenFone 3
The beautiful Super IPS FHD screen of ZenFone 3

The screen of the ZenFone 3 ranks among the finest FHD panel we ever saw. It's 1920 x 1080 resolution at 401 pixel per inch density provides average amount of good details for proper sharpness of images that's easy on the eyes. With the use of screen with slimmer bezels, OGS, and 2.5D curved glass, the it shows proper viewing angles in every sides.
The Super IPS screen used here is designed to compete properly against AMOLED panels!
Then the highlight of its screen is its beautiful color tone. It's has nice amount of warmth, saturation, and vividness which mimics the capabilities of an AMOLED panel. The colors not overly done, but they remain punchy and vibrant most of the time. It's blacks are far from the deepest, but it is deep considering that this is an IPS panel.

To make things more interesting, it has better color balance and accuracy against most of the display tech out there. Then it goes with useful color temperature adjustment and a Bluelight filter mode for your pleasurable viewing experience and eye protection.
10 points of touch present
10 points of touch present

Lastly, it has 10 points of touch for your top-notch typing experience.

Audio Quality

Single speaker placement below
Single speaker placement below

Asus placed a single speaker setup in the lower part of the phone right beside the USB Type C connector. Against the back speaker placement of the ZenFone 2, it should be a clear step-up.

It has fine clarity, average details, and sounds musical as a whole. Bass response is present and separation of detailFs is fairly distinguishable. There's also tiny and hard to notice distortion on max volume. However, its speakers is weaker than expected. If my memory serves me right, both the P9 Lite and ZenFone 2 Laser 6.0 is bigger and thicker sounding than this.

Fortunately, Asus made up for that average sounding speaker by putting a good type of 24 bit HiFi ready type of DAC (Digital to analog converter) for your good headphone audio out! So when you plug-in your favorite head-gear, it'll deliver a wow worthy experience in an instant.


The ZenFone 3 is capable of delivering a musical type of warm and smooth sound across the spectrum. Its bass response it excellent where it can go deeper and tighter than most handsets we tested before. We also discovered that it is capable of delivering a crawling like of sub-bass effect that most bass happy people will like.
It can deliver the right amount of deep bass and clean details for your satisfaction!
If you think that this is all about the bass, think again. This time, Asus ensured that they can deliver a bass boosted sound without muddying the mids. Plus they even made the vocals sound fuller, thicker, and more articulate this time.

The usual weakness of handsets in audio reproduction is in the highs. I'm happy to report that it isn't a problem with this phone. The ZenFone 3 has just the right amount treble that is far from peaky and piercing. We also noticed that it has less hiss.

Separation of details is good as well as instrument placements are easy to distinguish. Soundstage is not that wide but decent at least.

Then it can go loud due to its nice driving power. Plus now, it can play 24 bit lossless audio with ease unlike the ZenFone 2.

Note 1: The ZenEar included sounds fine for a freebie too. It's bassy and thick sounding as well. Just don't expect it to perform like HiFi budget sets.
Note 2: No need to use the audio wizard for music listening, it sounds better by default.

The mic sounds clear for calls. In videos or voice recording it has a noise cancelling mic to keep voices pretty clean.

Battery

Over 14 hours at PC Mark battery benchmark test!
Over 14 hours at PC Mark battery benchmark test!

If you can remember correctly, one of our biggest concern about the regular ZenFone 2 is its fast draining battery. Fortunately, Asus recognized their shortcoming on that part and made sure that it won't happen again with the ZenFone 3.
The revelation of this phone is its long battery life for a powerful device with FHD screen and just 3,000 mAh of battery!
Based on our battery test, it lasted for a little over 14 hours! That's the highest result we got from phones with under 4,000 mAh of battery this year. What's crazy here is this handset only has 3,000 mAh of juice. Having said that, the battery optimization of Asus is great on this phone.

On real life usage, it is good enough to last for two days on a single charge. That even includes time to time data usage, shooting photos / videos, SMS, and phone calls. It's charging time is quick with an average of around 2 hours.

Camera

The powerful camera at the back
The powerful camera at the back

Like what we mentioned before, one of the highlights of this phone is the camera technology used by Asus. The ZenFone 3 is equipped with the most feature packed camera found on a midrange phone.

Why? It has a 16 MP f/2.0 camera w/ Tri-tech AF, 4 Axis OIS, Axis EIS and dual tone LED flash that can shoot up to 4K videos! In front, its no slouch too as it has a nice type of 8 MP f/2.0 sensor w/ AF and wide angle lens and up to 1080p video recording.
20 different camera modes available
20 different camera modes available

Looking at its camera software, its probably one of the most loaded in terms of features out there. The a fully pledged manual mode (you can play around adjustments found in a professional camera your best possible shot), super resolution (shoot 9312 x 6984 resolution images), HDR Pro (fix images with less noise), depth of field mode, low light, night mode, beautify, panorama, slow motion, time lapse, and etc.
The easy to use manual mode of Zen 3
The easy to use manual mode of Zen 3

It's also complete with metering for proper exposure (manual mode only), grids, and horizontal level mode that serves as a guide in helping us take better images.

We're impressed with the way it shoots crispy images with plenty of details and right amount of sharpness in daylight. The colors were punchy and vibrant too, but not to the point that there'll be much saturation. We also noticed that it can now takes photos with less grain and better color accuracy against the entire ZenFone 2 line.
The quality of its main camera is good enough to compete with some affordable flagship smartphones.
In lowlight, it performed better than expected, great as a matter of fact. There are even times where it occasionally takes sharp and bright enough photos even without the use of its lowlight, night, and flash modes.

Focusing is also great here, with the use of the depth of field mode, it takes photos with great background blur that still has sharp edges. You can also do close macros, focus quickly, has fast shutter speed, and save photos in an instant.

Rear Camera Samples

Beautiful daylight shot, captured by Haykal of Geekschicksten
HDR, gloomy weather
HDR, gloomy weather
DOF mode
DOF mode
Random coffee photo in indoor light
Random coffee photo in indoor light
Satchmi wall in dim light
Satchmi wall in dim light
Night mode in Baguio
Night mode in Baguio
HDR at night (2x zoom)
HDR at night (2x zoom)
Flash test at Big Bad Wolf
Flash test at Big Bad Wolf

For selfies, the Zen 3 has a better camera software now. It has AF, touch to focus, grids, HDR Pro, selfie panorama, lowlight, night, and filter effects. This phone also comes with an improved beautify mode that has beautify levels, complete make-up colors, eye size adjuster, and face slimming effects. However, there's still no flash in front or even a screen flash mode for portraits in the dark.
Dedicated selfie flash or even a screen flash is still missing.
Beautify mode
Beautify mode

In terms of quality, it can now take photos with bigger resolution at 8 MP coming from 5 MP. It also looks a little more natural in colors now (still a little yellowish though), has plenty of details, and less grains than ever.

Selfie camera samples

Normal selfie
Normal selfie
Beautify test
Beautify test
Groufie (wide angle)
Groufie (wide angle)
Selfie at night
Selfie at night

Video performance is great for a midrange phone! At the back it can shoot 1080p videos with the use of EIS for less shakiness even if you don't have steady hands. For 4K shots, you may need to use a tripod for better videos as you won't be able use the stabilization feature. To be frank, its still not on the level of the Note 7 or G5, but it blows away most of the midrange phones without stabilization we tested in the past.

In front, it can shoot up to 1080p videos nicely. It'll be good enough for your Instagram videos, Snapchat, and video calls.

Video Samples




Performance

Almost 60K at Antutu and high multi core score at Geekbench

The Asus ZenFone 3 version that I have comes with a meaty configuration that 2.0 GHz 64 Bit Snapdragon 625 octa core processorAdreno 506 GPU, 4 GB RAM for multitasking, and 64 GB of internal storage for your files.
This phone is speedier than what the benchmark shows. As expected, the phone runs any task I throw at it with ease. The phone still feels snappy enough even if you're running many apps, listening to music, playing videos, and etc. all at the same time. In comparison we hardly felt its difference in speed against the likes of P9 with Kirin 955 octa core chip and Cherry Mobile M1 with Helio X20 deca core processor.


On 3D games such as Asphalt 8 I never had an issue even on high settings. Nearly the same goes with the heavier NBA 2K16 where it can load games in high settings with less hiccups. Based on what we experienced, it handles 2K16 smoother than the Helio X20 deca core powered M1 at high settings.
The revamped ZenUI 3.0
The revamped ZenUI 3.0

In terms of software, the improvement coming from the ZenFone 2 is evident. It now has a more vanilla Android approach that's now has better looking icons and feels snappier than ever. Apart from that it still has the popular ZenUI features such as ZenMotion (gestures and double tap), theme manager, power manager (battery saving), easy mode, and kids mode.

However, there's still unnecessary apps included here that's still many to mention. Plus, they update regularly that eats your mobile data if you're not connected to WiFi.
Fingerprint scanner settings
Fingerprint scanner settings

What's new here is its fingerprint scanner feature that's quick and accurate. It can be used to unlock your device, lock incoming calls, answer incoming calls, launch the camera, and capture photos.


We also never had a problem with the connectivity features of this device. WiFi has good range, LTE is stable as long as you have a good signal, and has the newer Bluetooth 4.2. It's also complete with FM Radio, GPS, and dual SIM card support.

Pros - Beautiful build, powerful performance, very long battery life, above average cameras, speedy fingerprint scanner, has double tap to wake,  HiFi headphone audio out
Cons - No selfie flash or screen flash, speaker could be louder, bloatwares

Verdict

Without any reservations, the Asus ZenFone 3 is the midrange phone to beat as of this writingWhy? The Taiwanese smartphone giant made up with most the shortcomings found with the ZenFone 2 and came up with a powerful and refined midrange machine that can easily beat most of the competition.

The Zen 3 also nailed it in nearly all categories that determines a great smartphone and moreHow? It goes with stunning solid build, reliable performance, great cameras, nice headphone audio out quality, and very long battery life! It's simply designed to do what a modern smartphone can do.

It still has some few things that could be improved, but right now, this is the best value for money phone in the market. The ZenFone 3 is that good!

GIZ Rating: 4.75/5 Stars
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