Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review

Introduction


The last few weeks have been overloaded with new smartphone launches, centered around the late-summer extravaganza that is the IFA trade show, and now Apple's new batch of iPhones. But even going back a month or two earlier, this whole season has been delivering a solid assortment of interesting handsets, running the gamut from the most tricked-out flagships to some attractively balanced affordable phones. As we take a little bit of a breather after recovering from IFA, we're spending some time looking back on a few of those phones that might be worth a second look, and right now that means diving into what Asus has cooked up with the ZenFone 3 Zoom.

Featuring some respectable mid-range silicon, one big-honking battery, and an intriguing dual-camera package, there sure seems to be a lot to like about the ZenFone 3 Zoom. And when you pair all that with a price tag that's half as much as some of those fancier phones (or a third as much if we're going up against the Note 8), the ZenFone 3 Zoom feels like it might deserve a spot on your smartphone-buying radar. Does all that potential end up panning out? Let's take a look.

In the box:

  • Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom
  • USB Type-C to standard-A cable
  • USB 5V 2A charger
  • Earbuds w/ alternate tips
  • SIM tool
  • User guide
  • Warranty card
  • Clear case

Design

Dated but functional, the ZenFone 3 Zoom doesn't lean too heavily on aesthetics

Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review

Make no mistake: you're not going to confuse the ZenFone 3 Zoom with a modern style-focused phone. There's no real effort towards embracing new handset shapes or shrinking bezels into oblivion; actually, the _phone_ still has capacitive Android buttons, and those of the home-looks-like-a-tiny-house variety.

But for as dated as the handset's face looks, the rest of the hardware really isn't that unappealing. The edges may be a little uninspired with their iPhone-esque curves, but at least they're handsome. And while the handset's back is a bit plain, it's also somewhat stylish in its minimalist simplicity.

There's an easy-to-reach fingerprint scanner centered up top, and above that the phone's camera hardware. The dual lenses may be what you notice first, but we're also pretty interested in the unusual linear strip of flashes and sensors mounted underneath; it's just a small part of the ZF3Z's design, but unique enough to grab our attention.

At 77mm wide and just under 8mm thick, the ZenFone 3 Zoom is roughly the same size as the HTC U11 – and just like that phone, it admittedly feels a little large. Really, it's the width that gets you, and with a 5.5-inch screen flanked by some healthy bezels, this _phone_ takes up a lot of space in your hand.

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Front view | Side view
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom
6.07 x 3.03 x 0.31 inches
154.3 x 77 x 7.99 mm
6.00 oz (170 g)

Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom

Asus ZenFone AR
Asus ZenFone AR
6.25 x 3.06 x 0.35 inches
158.67 x 77.7 x 8.95 mm
6.00 oz (170 g)

Asus ZenFone AR

Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe
Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe
6.16 x 3.05 x 0.3 inches
156.4 x 77.4 x 7.5 mm
6.00 oz (170 g)

Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe

OnePlus 5
OnePlus 5
6.07 x 2.92 x 0.29 inches
154.2 x 74.1 x 7.25 mm
5.40 oz (153 g)

OnePlus 5




Display

A quirky AMOLED screen we wish were more impressive

Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review

Like the U11 to which we were just drawing a comparison, the ZF3Z has a 5.5-inch screen, though here a colorful AMOLED panel. The 1080p resolution isn't boundary-pushing, but it does feel sufficient for what this handset offers, especially considering its mid-range status.

The good news is that the screen here is capable of looking really good, but with a few important caveats. For one, you're going to want to toggle the display settings over to the phone's “Super Color” mode, giving you the characteristic AMOLED boost. While the screen's standard mode is understandably more subdued, it's not particularly accurate in terms of its color reproduction, making it feel less like a “regular” option, and more drab instead.

Then there's screen brightness, which isn't great. Not only does this phone subscribe to the super-annoying trend of not letting you crank brightness all the way up to max in manual mode, but even the auto-mode's output isn't especially competitive.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom 473
(Good)
9
(Average)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
8152
(Poor)
2.28
5.03
(Average)
6.25
(Average)
Asus ZenFone AR 354
(Average)
7
(Good)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
7536
(Average)
2.23
6.98
(Average)
4.54
(Average)
Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe 494
(Good)
3
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
7559
(Average)
2.4
2.76
(Good)
5.78
(Average)
OnePlus 5 435
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
8014
(Poor)
2.13
6.63
(Average)
6.29
(Average)
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

These measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

These measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

These measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all


Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review

Introduction


The last few weeks have been overloaded with new smartphone launches, centered around the late-summer extravaganza that is the IFA trade show, and now Apple's new batch of iPhones. But even going back a month or two earlier, this whole season has been delivering a solid assortment of interesting handsets, running the gamut from the most tricked-out flagships to some attractively balanced affordable phones. As we take a little bit of a breather after recovering from IFA, we're spending some time looking back on a few of those phones that might be worth a second look, and right now that means diving into what Asus has cooked up with the ZenFone 3 Zoom.

Featuring some respectable mid-range silicon, one big-honking battery, and an intriguing dual-camera package, there sure seems to be a lot to like about the ZenFone 3 Zoom. And when you pair all that with a price tag that's half as much as some of those fancier phones (or a third as much if we're going up against the Note 8), the ZenFone 3 Zoom feels like it might deserve a spot on your smartphone-buying radar. Does all that potential end up panning out? Let's take a look.

In the box:

  • Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom
  • USB Type-C to standard-A cable
  • USB 5V 2A charger
  • Earbuds w/ alternate tips
  • SIM tool
  • User guide
  • Warranty card
  • Clear case

Design

Dated but functional, the ZenFone 3 Zoom doesn't lean too heavily on aesthetics

Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review

Make no mistake: you're not going to confuse the ZenFone 3 Zoom with a modern style-focused phone. There's no real effort towards embracing new handset shapes or shrinking bezels into oblivion; actually, the phone still has capacitive Android buttons, and those of the home-looks-like-a-tiny-house variety.

But for as dated as the handset's face looks, the rest of the hardware really isn't that unappealing. The edges may be a little uninspired with their iPhone-esque curves, but at least they're handsome. And while the handset's back is a bit plain, it's also somewhat stylish in its minimalist simplicity.

There's an easy-to-reach fingerprint scanner centered up top, and above that the phone's camera hardware. The dual lenses may be what you notice first, but we're also pretty interested in the unusual linear strip of flashes and sensors mounted underneath; it's just a small part of the ZF3Z's design, but unique enough to grab our attention.

At 77mm wide and just under 8mm thick, the ZenFone 3 Zoom is roughly the same size as the HTC U11 – and just like that phone, it admittedly feels a little large. Really, it's the width that gets you, and with a 5.5-inch screen flanked by some healthy bezels, this phone takes up a lot of space in your hand.

Front view | Side view
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom
6.07 x 3.03 x 0.31 inches
154.3 x 77 x 7.99 mm
6.00 oz (170 g)

Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom

Asus ZenFone AR
Asus ZenFone AR
6.25 x 3.06 x 0.35 inches
158.67 x 77.7 x 8.95 mm
6.00 oz (170 g)

Asus ZenFone AR

Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe
Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe
6.16 x 3.05 x 0.3 inches
156.4 x 77.4 x 7.5 mm
6.00 oz (170 g)

Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe

OnePlus 5
OnePlus 5
6.07 x 2.92 x 0.29 inches
154.2 x 74.1 x 7.25 mm
5.40 oz (153 g)

OnePlus 5




Display

A quirky AMOLED screen we wish were more impressive

Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review

Like the U11 to which we were just drawing a comparison, the ZF3Z has a 5.5-inch screen, though here a colorful AMOLED panel. The 1080p resolution isn't boundary-pushing, but it does feel sufficient for what this handset offers, especially considering its mid-range status.

The good news is that the screen here is capable of looking really good, but with a few important caveats. For one, you're going to want to toggle the display settings over to the phone's “Super Color” mode, giving you the characteristic AMOLED boost. While the screen's standard mode is understandably more subdued, it's not particularly accurate in terms of its color reproduction, making it feel less like a “regular” option, and more drab instead.

Then there's screen brightness, which isn't great. Not only does this phone subscribe to the super-annoying trend of not letting you crank brightness all the way up to max in manual mode, but even the auto-mode's output isn't especially competitive.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom 473
(Good)
9
(Average)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
8152
(Poor)
2.28
5.03
(Average)
6.25
(Average)
Asus ZenFone AR 354
(Average)
7
(Good)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
7536
(Average)
2.23
6.98
(Average)
4.54
(Average)
Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe 494
(Good)
3
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
7559
(Average)
2.4
2.76
(Good)
5.78
(Average)
OnePlus 5 435
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
8014
(Poor)
2.13
6.63
(Average)
6.29
(Average)
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

These measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

These measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

These measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all


Interface and Functionality

Asus would do well to remember that sometimes less is more

Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review

Asus certainly gives the ZF3F an eye-catching take on Android, with an especially interesting quick-setting screen. It's bright and colorful, but more than a little weird, populated both by controls for phone settings as well as app shortcuts.

While we appreciate the fresh take, at least visually, the actual offerings here are pretty bog-standard: a theming engine, RAM-freeing “boost” mode of dubious value, and a handful of gesture controls. While there's nothing overly objectionable about any of that, nor does it add a ton of value to the phone, either, and we weren't using the ZenFone 3 Zoom for long before wishing that Asus had just saved itself some time and effort and stuck with stock Android.

Processor and Memory

Rock-solid mid-range silicon delivers on our expectations

There are any number of silicon options a mid-ranger can take advantage of, but one of our favorites is Qualcomm's Snapdragon 625 chip, which Asus made the smart choice to go with here for the ZenFone 3 Zoom. That processor strikes a great balance between acceptably fast performance and impressively low power requirements.

While the phone's available in configurations ranging up to 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage, we checked out the more conservative 3GB/32GB option.

Performance is very much in line with similarly equipped hardware, and the ZenFone 3 Zoom operates on much the same level as the Moto Z2 Play or the BlackBerry KEYone.

Performance benchmarks

AnTuTu
Higher is better
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom 63234
Asus ZenFone AR 142669
Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe 139735
OnePlus 5 178968
JetStream
Higher is better
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom 29.678
Asus ZenFone AR 44.516
Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe 46.431
OnePlus 5 69.780
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen
Higher is better
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom 22
Asus ZenFone AR 53
Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe 59
OnePlus 5 60
GFXBench Manhattan on-screen
Higher is better
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom 6.4
Asus ZenFone AR 15.3
Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe 47
OnePlus 5 40
Basemark OS II
Higher is better
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom 1235
Asus ZenFone AR 2245
Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe 2278
OnePlus 5 3500
Geekbench 4 single-core
Higher is better
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom 871
Asus ZenFone AR 1757
Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe 1490
OnePlus 5 1941
Geekbench 4 multi-core
Higher is better
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom 4327
Asus ZenFone AR 3875
Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe 3953
OnePlus 5 6678
View all

Connectivity


There's nothing particularly noteworthy about the ZenFone 3 Zoom's connectivity options – though to be fair, we should be saying the same about a lot of phones these days. It does have USB Type-C, which isn't always a given for mid-rangers, but there's nothing out-of-the-ordinary like an IR emitter or anything; the fanciest the phone gets is an FM receiver for data-free music.

Camera

Annoying software hurts what could otherwise be a really satisfying camera

Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review
Camera UI of the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom - Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review
Camera UI of the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom - Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review
Camera UI of the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom - Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review
Camera UI of the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom - Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review

Camera UI of the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom


The ZenFone 3 Zoom wears its camera ambitions on its sleeve with that name, and indeed the phone's hardware is equipped to give you an optical zoom option: there's one 12-megapixel, optically stabilized main camera, and one 12MP telephoto lens that gives users an effective 2.3x zoom.

Asus also throws in tech like its “exclusive TriTech+ auto-focus system,” joining dual-pixel and laser-assisted auto-focus with a subject-tracking algorithm. Then there are claims of exceptional low-light performance, leveraging the main camera's OIS as well as its quite wide f/1.7 aperture. But talk is cheap; how does all this camera goodness actually perform?

Image quality


Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review

Photos taken with the ZenFone 3 Zoom don't look too bad, not that we thought they would given the serious camera hardware present. Low-light quality isn't nearly as good as Asus is trying to convince us it is, and while serviceable, expect a fair amount of noise.

Maybe the more interesting story is what's going on with the camera software. On one hand, it offers a nice assortment of options, including a healthy mix of shooting modes. But we also have some serious concerns about the execution. Take the zoom mode, for instance: like you may be familiar with from other phones, there's a prominent 1.0x button you can tap to toggle to 2.3x mode – so far, so good.

But while those two are nice, optical options, you have to cycle through a 5.0x zoom mode to get back to 1.0x, and unlike the others, this one's software zoom – something purists would prefer to avoid. Worse still, quite often the camera gets confused about which mode it's in, and you may be seeing the 2.3x view, while the on-screen readout still says 1.0x. Ultimately, it gets the job done, but for a phone with its camera as its big selling point, we expected more polish.


Camera speed

Taking a pic (sec)Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec)Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom 2.52
2.58
450
453
Asus ZenFone AR 2.19
2.49
615
No data
Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe 2.1
2.8
No data
No data
OnePlus 5 1.1
1.5
682
682
View all

Video recording


On paper, the ZF3Z sounds like it should be well equipped for recording video, supporting resolutions up to 4K, and offering a mix of frame-rate and stabilization options. In reality, though, the experience doesn't quite live up to its promise.

Footage is a little on the dark side, and audio fidelity leaves something serious to be desired. But maybe the most confounding aspect of shooting video on the ZenFone 3 Zoom is that the camera doesn't adequately tap into its zoom-lens hardware.

While similarly outfitted smartphones let you toggle between wide-angle and telephoto cameras while recording, the ZF3Z doesn't let you jump between lenses in the middle of a video. You can choose the zoom mode you want in advance, or pinch-to-zoom for digital zoom, but the on-screen toggle to jump between 1.0x and 2.3x is not accessible while actively filming.

Multimedia

Forget software enhancements; just give us audio that naturally sounds good

The ZenFone 3 Zoom's speaker is suitably loud, though like a lot of other smartphone speakers it suffers from sub-par bass reproduction.

Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review

Asus bundles a pair of headphones with a set of alternate tips, and plugging them into the phone automatically engages the DTS Headphone:X software. By default, that sounds really disappointing, with muddy, distant audio that lacks clarity and definition. That's the so-called “traditional” mode, and you also have access to some pseudo-3D positioning effects, as well as a “pure” setting, but even that left us seriously wanting.

Once again, we're looking at a phone that feels like it's leaning far too heavily on software fanciness when it would benefit much more from just some well-executed speaker and headset hardware.

Audio output

Loudspeaker loudness (dB)
Higher is better
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom 73.4
Asus ZenFone AR 82.6
Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe 74.9
OnePlus 5 77
View all


Call Quality


We've got no major complaints when it comes to voice-call quality on the ZenFone 3 Zoom, and our only issue is more with the phone's physicality: it's just a quite wide handset, and not one that feels super-comfortable holding to your ear for any extended period of time.

Battery Life

A huge battery seems to be at odds with power-hungry hardware

Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review

Besides the dual camera, the other real noteworthy feature of this phone's hardware is its huge battery: a big-honking 5,000mAh component. That's incredible to see on a phone, let alone one as relatively slim as this model.

The good news is that the combination of this giant battery and the power-conservative Snapdragon 625 chip results in some killer battery life – and in our custom test, we clocked over twelve solid hours of screen-on time.

Recharge times are quite slow, to the tune of over three hours, and while that might be expected with a 5,000mAh battery, it's a situation not helped any by a regular 5V, 2A charger – no special fast-charging tech present in the box.

Battery Benchmarks

Battery life (hours)
Higher is better
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom 12h 9 min (Excellent)
Asus ZenFone AR 5h 21 min (Poor)
Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe 5h 27 min (Poor)
OnePlus 5 9h 18 min (Excellent)
Charging time (minutes)
Lower is better
Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom 190
Asus ZenFone AR 105
Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe 84
OnePlus 5 99
View all

Conclusion


Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review

The Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom is a smartphone in an uncomfortable position. None of its big features – neither its dual cameras nor its giant battery – end up really panning out in quite the way Asus clearly hoped, and while they don't utterly disappoint, they're far from the major selling points they were meant to be.

But maybe that's neither here nor there. If we ignore the marketing hype, and don't let ourselves get distracted by what we think all these specs should come together to offer, the ZenFone 3 Zoom really is a quite solid smartphone. It's got decent performance, really good (if less than out-of-the-park great) battery life, and a respectable camera with more flexibility than the shooters on a whole lot of phones – including some more expensive models.

What's best, though, is the pricing, and at $330 or less (as we go to publish, Best Buy has the phone for just under $300), you're getting a fair amount of smartphone for your money. And while you could pay more and come home with a phone that maybe sees things through better than the missed potential we get the ZenFone 3 Zoom, it's a good enough deal that it's going to be difficult to feel too upset about going with this Asus hardware.