The Replacements: ASUS Zenfone 3 (ZE520KL)

That was quick…

Saying goodbye to my Galaxy S5 and saying hello to the Zenfone 3… The 5.2 inch version.

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Quick complain on M1’s website..

m1

They have provided very little information about the phone!

“ebrochure” also didn’t work!

Quick Google Search gave me all the information I needed

Released August 2016… From Asus’ history (on older Zenfones, this device should get Nougat)

5.2 inch super IPS+ capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors (1080 x 1920 pixels)
Corning Gorilla Glass
Qualcomm MSM8953 Snapdragon 625 (Octa-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A53)
Adreno 506
3GB RAM
32GB Storage – up to 256 GB MicroSD
16 MP camera f/2.0, laser/phase detection autofocus, OIS (4-axis), dual-LED (dual tone) flash (2160p@30fps video)
8 MP fron facing, f/2.0, 1080p

Honestly… Processor and screen resolution looked OK… But the big plus for me over the close number 2 on my list was that this phone can take 4K videos, used a USB Type-C and has a fingerprint sensor.

For those wondering… Number 2 on my list was the Sony Xperia XA, #3 was the Xperia XA Ultra. Yes… You can call all devices on my list are fairly inexpensive… Some would call them “mid-range”! Would have chosen the Xperia if they used USB Type-C… Using a non-USB Type-C device will mean another cable when travelling.

Zenfone 3 Review…

I’ve made a 5 minute video on the Apps Asus pre-installed on the phone… It will also give you an idea on how ZenUI looks.

Removed the apps I didn’t need… Installed Google Launcher and Keyboard… And the phone is now ready for my hands-on.

What’s in the box…

Phone (of course)
SIM/MicroSD tray removal pin… It came with an Asus logo which is a very nice touch.
Cable – USB-A to type C, great since most of our laptops doesn’t have a Type-C port yet.
Earphones
Charger

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Hardware

This phone looks like the love child of the iPhone 6/6S and the Galaxy S6

 

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Looks really nice to hold, something I didn’t expect from this price range…

Only issues I can see.

1. Power and volume buttons have a noticeable shake.
2. Power button is located below the volume buttons… You will get used to it, but it’s a bit strange.
3. Capacitive buttons for the back, home and previous apps buttons doesn’t light up… Same as the older Zenfone 5 and Zenfone 2.

The phone can handle 2 SIMs, but you’ll need the second SIM slot if you want to use a MicroSD card.

Software

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As you can see from my video above, ZenUI animations make the phone look slow…

I’m also not a fan of their keyboard…

The device is running Marshmallow out of the box and I’m expecting this device to get Nougat soon…

Sadly, based on my interviews with owners of older Zenfones… No one received an OTA of their device’s Android updated… Security patches come regularly, but for Android version updates, you’ll have to go to Asus’ Support page.

On your first sign-up, the device will recommend you Apps to install… Some Apps like Facebook, Messenger and some ZenApps (?) can only be disabled.

My favorite ZenUI Apps… (Ones that survived the cut)

Laser Ruler – I’m questioning its accuracy, but it’s fun.

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Calculator – it comes with a currency converter (you’ll need data to use this) and unit converter.

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Camera

16MP camera at the back… 8MP camera at the front! Rear camera can record 4K videos and 60fps Full HD but you’ll loose OIS.

Front facing camera’s “beauty mode” will remind you of Samsung’s Galaxy S6, there will be times when your face will look like wax!

Compared to my Nexus 6P… The Zenfone 3’s camera is fast… Galaxy S6/iPhone 6 fast! Which again is a good thing thanks to its price point. Some reviews may give you actual numbers on how many milliseconds does it take to capture a photo… But for real world usage, the number’s wouldn’t matter much… The camera is fast and it works!

Like most Android devices, the Zenfone 3 came with a lot of modes built inside the camera… Favorite Camera Modes…

QR Code Reader
Time Lapse
Smart Remove – camera will take 5 consecutive photos and remove the moving things automatically.

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I would have loved to see a version of Samsung’s Dual Camera video since it’s handy when making travel videos.

I’ve created a new Flickr Album for all photos taken by my Zenfone 3.

After more than a week of testing… The Zenfone 3 (sadly) does not perform well in low light action shots… (Low-light still shots are ok, but it’s a totally different story when taking candid shots in low light)

The camera has this fast feel… But the photos turn out to be blurred… Compared to my Nexus 6P that captures photos slowly, but the photos turn out to be usable..

Then there’s this other issue when my phone’s camera will just freeze up (maybe Asus will release an update for this)… Only way to revive it is to restart the device… This incident happened twice during a party I attended which was very annoying.

***Update***

1 minute 4K video (3840 x 2160) will take up 315MB space.

My Nexus 6P which will only need 305MB

Wrap-up

Thanks to my M1 contract, I paid S$78 for this phone…

Without a contract, the phone is less than S$400…

Yes, I keep mentioning the price.

People looking for phones at this price range may be looking for a back-up device… A phone better than their entry level phones, a phone for their children or their parents.

For that amount you get a phone that looks and feels good.

You get Full HD Screen and a fast camera (see my comment on the camera performance).

For geeks like me, we also get the USB Type-C and 4K video capability.

I would have loved to see Qi compatibility and NFC, but at this price point, I can live without it.

The Zenfone 3 is good enough for most of you who wants to get the most out of their S$400!

I can’t imagine Sony, LG and HTC outselling this device this year…

How I wish Asus would support their devices longer… Maybe until Android “O” then I can truly recommend the brand…

Samsung gave the S5 Marshmallow… A device released in 2014 running on KitKat out of the box.

If Asus can do the same… I’d give the Zenfone 3 5/5! Even if I need to update the device manually. At present (only guaranteed until Nougat), I’ll give this phone a good 4/5… At a higher price point, this phone will not get anything higher than 3/5!

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