ASUS had unveiled the Zenfone Zoom back at CES 2015 along with the Zenfone 2. The company did not launch the product for a complete year and relaunched it again at CES 2016. It was finally announced in India on January 22 at an event in Agra and it went on sale soon after. We bring you the ASUS Zenfone Zoom Review, after using it for a couple of months.
Priced at Rs 37,999, it is a niche product targeted at a small segment of photography enthusiasts, who like to play with all kind of ‘cameras’ in the market. Gone are those days when you had to get a proper DSLR to capture the perfect moment, now you can do that with small compact cameras and even capable ‘smartphone’ cameras. So lets find out in our ASUS Zenfone Zoom Review, if its worth buying this smartphone that comes with 3X optical zoom.
ASUS Zenfone Zoom Review: Camera
The biggest USP of this phone is its camera since it is being termed as the best camera in its class, so lets talk about it first. It rocks a 13 megapixel rear shooter that comes with a 10-element Hoya lens, f/2.7-4.8 aperture, Real Tone Flash, Laser Auto Focus, Optical Image Stabilization and 3X optical zoom. First of all, that’s a lot of technical terms, so let’s make it a bit simple for you. The most touted feature of this camera is its 3X optical zoom and so everyone would ask, does it work as advertised or does it make a difference in comparison to digital zoom? Yes, it does work and makes a massive difference if you compare it with 3X digital zoom. The image will not distort if you zoom in and there is a crazy amount of detail in each shot, which is a delight for users who post process their images a lot.
Yes, Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) helps a lot to click wonderful images in low light and Laser AF helps in fast focusing as well. However, the most disappointing thing about the camera is its video capability. As a ‘camera’ smartphone of 2016, it should be able to record 4K videos at the very least but it doesn’t. The Full HD 1080p videos are also not the best in class but it does a fairly decent job, specially due to OIS.
Coming to the camera once again, it is not for everyone, since the desired output (perfect picture from a compact smartphone shooter) will come after post processing. Hence, hobby photo enthusiasts wanting to get a good smartphone camera should look at the device for sure. On the front, it comes with a 5 megapixel selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture and it does a fairly good job.
ASUS Zenfone Zoom Review: Camera Samples
Take a look at these unedited camera samples taken at various situations.
ASUS Zenfone Zoom Review: Hardware and Build
Lets have a quick look at the specifications of the device, in case you have forgotten about them. The smartphone comes with a 5.5-inch Full HD display, powered by a 2.5 GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3590 chipset coupled with PowerVR G6430 GPU. It has 4GB RAM, 128GB internal storage, which can be further expanded up to another 128 GB and it runs on Zen UI based on Android 5.1 Lollipop OS. It rocks a 13 megapixel rear camera and a 5 megapixel front-facing camera, 4G LTE, Single SIM and the usual connectivity options, that include WiFi 802.11 ac, NFC, Bluetooth and GPS. It packs in a 3,000 mAh battery under the hood that supports fast charging.
The ASUS Zenfone Zoom stands out from the smartphone crowd, in terms of its design, since it features a huge 10-element Hoya lens at the back and almost looks like a point and shoot camera, specially with the added lanyard cable. It can be both good and bad, but that will completely depend on the consumers’ taste. The device has an aluminium unibody frame that makes it sturdy and a leather back cover gives it a distinct look. The weight is on the heavier side (185 grams) but as it quite well-distributed, clicking pictures with it is not a pain, in both portrait and landscape modes.
To give you a tour of this ‘camera’ smartphone, lets start from the top. It houses a 3.5 mm audio jack and a secondary microphone. On the right hand side, we have the volume rocker, followed by the power/unlock button and below that we find the dedicated camera shutter button along with a small red video recording button. There is nothing on the left hand side, moving towards the bottom, we have the microUSB port along with the primary microphone. At the back, we have the 3000mAh battery (non removable) along with the one SIM and one microSD card slot. On the front, we have the gorgeous 5.5-inch Full HD panel, that is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 4. We also have the three capacitive buttons, which aren’t backlit but has silver paint job on them.
ASUS Zenfone Zoom Review: Display
The Zenfone Zoom rocks a 5.5-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels (Full HD). It is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 4 with oleophobic anti-fingerprint coating. It has a pixel density of 403 ppi. The screen to body ratio is not the greatest with 65.9%. The display panel is not the brightest but it does produce some great colors, which may not pop out but does the job pretty well. It has wide viewing angles and does quite well under sunlight too. Thanks to the Gorilla Glass, the touch response is also great. All in all, the users would love to consume a lot of content on this display and will thoroughly enjoy it.
ASUS Zenfone Zoom Review: Performance and Gaming
The Zenfone Zoom is powered by a 2.5 GHz 64-bit Intel Atom Z3590 processor coupled by a PowerVR G6430 GPU. The phone may not come with a flagship processor (Example: Snapdragon 820 in Zenfone 3 Deluxe) but it can handle most of the things you can throw at it. The multitasking is a breeze and it can handle day-to-day tasks very well. There is minimal heating while using the camera for a long time but it won’t bother you a lot. Using performance intensive apps will not take a toll on the processor as well. However, due to very less development of custom ROMs based on Intel chipsets and also Intel shutting shop for mobile processors, it was a good move by ASUS to choose Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets for its latest high end flagship smartphones.
We tried Mortal Kombat X, Modern Combat 5, Marvel Future Fight and Asphalt 8 to test out the gaming performance of the Zenfone Zoom. With 4GB RAM on board, it is a beast and blazed through most of the games. There were no lag or frame drops as such. The speaker quality was satisfying but not the best in this range.
ASUS Zenfone Zoom Review: Software, Battery Life and Connectivity
The most disappointing part of Zenfone Zoom’s software is that it has not got an update to Android Marshmallow OS yet, whereas it was announced that it will get it in April. It runs on Zen UI based on Android Lollipop. It is a heavily customized UI which comes with a lot of in-house apps and bloatware. The number of pre-installed apps is too damn high according to our liking, in spite of the 128 GB internal storage. Most of these apps are not used in real life scenario and are gimmicky in nature. However, Zen UI is smooth and the UI does not lag. It is very well optimized as well. We can add up to 7 home screens and there is customizable quick settings menu which comes with smart savings, reading mode, one hand operation, WiFi hotspot, Glove mode along with the usual quick settings toggle. We find default shortcuts in the first row, which are interchangeable or can be replaced.
The lockscreen has a quick access shortcut to launch the camera app, dialer and messages. You also get ‘One Hand Mode’ which reduces the screen’s size and makes it better to use the phone, if you have a smaller hand. As you already know about the ‘double tap’ to wake and sleep gesture mode and its the best gesture because of the power button placement. Other gestures are also there where we need to draw certain letters on the screen to open the apps in sleep mode. The Zen UI has some good features as well which are an absolute gem. We can pin the screen in the multitasking screen, which keeps the current screen in view until you unpin it. Pin lock can be used to lock the display in a single view. It also has Kids mode for app restriction. The colour saturation level can also be changed as it includes balance mode, reading mode, vivid mode and customized mode. If you select balance mode, you’ll get the most normal setting. On hitting reading mode, it increases the yellow tinge for better reading. Vivid mode pops up the colour and the customized mode can help you set your desired colour temperature, hue and saturation manually.
The Zoom packs in a 3,000 mAh built-in battery (non removable) that supports ASUS BoostMaster Fast Charging. It charges from 0-70% in about 39 minutes which is impressive. The box also comes with a fast charger. In our testing, we got over one day of battery life with moderate usage. It may not be the best in this class but has moderate to good battery life. If you use it heavily with 4G data on, it will not last for a day.
The Zen UI throws in some useful power saving modes such as Customized mode, Optimized mode and Ultra-Saving mode. The app also shows the amount of battery used by the apps installed in the phone along with the most battery draining apps.
On the connectivity front, the Zenfone Zoom supports 4G LTE but does not support Dual SIM. Hence, you will only have to be content with a Single SIM slot, which might turn out to be a bummer for some, but that’s how things are for most high end flagship devices including the Apple iPhone. On the other hand, it comes with the usual WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (dual band), Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC and USB OTG. It comes with 128GB of internal storage and on top of that it can also be expanded by another 128GB using microSD card, which is a hell lot of space for a smartphone.
ASUS Zenfone Zoom Review: Final Verdict
Lets face it, ASUS has themselves marketed the Zenfone Zoom as a ‘niche’ product and hence it is not expected to be a best seller. It is a different take on smartphone photography, a different category all together, which may or may not see an upgrade in the future. If ASUS does decide to upgrade it (which we highly doubt) and carry on with the ‘Zoom’ series, it will most certainly do a better job, since they have gained some experience in this genre.
If ASUS had thrown a less powerful processor with less onboard storage (32 or 64 GB) and priced it around Rs 28,000 – Rs 30,000, we would have surely recommended the device to a lot of people. However, as it has been priced at Rs 37,999, we will only recommend it to smartphone photography enthusiasts, who specially like to tinker with post processing. For everybody else looking to purchase a premium ASUS device in India, should wait for the new Zenfone 3 series. We are expecting ASUS to launch them in India by end of July to early August.
If you want to purchase the ASUS Zenfone Zoom, you can buy it online from Flipkart or from ASUS Exclusive Stores across the country.