ASUS Zenfone Zoom (ZX551ML) Review – Premium looking Camera-Centric Smartphone

Asus Zenfone Zoom

First of all, I was invited to attend the Zenfone Zoom Launch Event in Agra by Asus India. Thank you so much Asus India for the invitation and sponsoring the travel and hotel expenses. The Event was really well-organized by the Asus India Team. I really learnt so many things from this tour which will be really helpful for my carrier ahead. बहोत बहोत धन्यवाद असुस इन्डिया.

Let’s come to the topic “Asus Zenfone Zoom”, the device launched in India by ASUS CEO “Jerry Shen” in Agra (India) on 22nd January 2016. Because I was present in the Event, I’ve got some time to get my hands-on Zenfone Zoom. Although I’ve also got a unit of Asus Zenfone Zoom from the Asus. I am writing this article after using it for almost 7 days. First take a look at what comes inside the Zenfone Zoom Box.

Unboxing

Contents inside the Zenfone Zoom box

The things that are included in my unit are:

  • Asus Zenfone Zoom Smartphone
  • A Leather Strap
  • Adapter (Supports fast charging)
  • MicroUSB – USB Cable
  • Headset (Zenear) (with extra ear-buds)
  • Zencredible Cards
  • Warranty Card
  • User Guide
  • Zenny

Let’s talk about the device from the different perspectives.

Display

Zenfone Zoom Display

The device comes with FHD 5.5-inch IPS display with 403ppi (Pixels Per Inch) Pixel density which is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The brightness is on the both sides for me, bad and good! How? The lowest level of the brightness really helps to use the device in the night I mean the lowest level really makes screen looks so deem that you can easily perform your work without  shrinking your eyes and the bonus for the night is the Bluelight Filter which really works great for reading the articles/messages/etc in the night. Then what’s bad about brightness? The highest level of brightness doesn’t provide so much light in the outdoor conditions which means that if you take photos outside, you might have to check twice to see that the shot has been taken is equal to your requirement or not.

Build and Design

Zenfone Zoom Design

No doubt, The Smartphone looks very premium from the every viewing angle and when you keep it in your hand, it feels really premium and the leather finish of the back cover gives little grip to the hand. On the top: It has 3.5 mm jack, Microphone. On the bottom: Micro-USB Port, Microphone. No buttons/ports on the left side. On the right, it has Volume lockers, Power button, Dedicated recording and capture buttons. (Good job Asus for the Dedicated shutter buttons) On the front, it has the ASUS Logo below receiver, Front-facing Camera, necessary sensors. The 5.5 inch display and at the bottom, it has 3 capacitive buttons. (which are still not backlight) Below that there is metal-portion which also comes in many Zenfones which I think makes the device look more premium. (As much as previous Zenfones do) On the back side, it has the Camera which is 13MP with 3x Optical Zoom with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), Dual-color Flash, and Laser Autofocus. The lens used in the Camera is the HOYA Lens. Back also has the Asus and Intel logo stitched. A little bump to protect the camera when device kept on the back side. And on the bottom the Speaker grill. Speaker is loud enough.

Software

To be frank, I really don’t like the decision to put the Android 5.0 in the Zenfone Zoom. Because it’s 2016, Marshmallow launched and already arrived on many mid-range devices. Anyway it runs on ZenUI which provides lots of Customizations which is good. ZenUI works nice and provides great functionality but I would be happy enough if they’ve provided 5.1 instead of 5.0. (At least) 

Hardware

Instead of using any Snapdragon Processor, Asus used 64-bit Intel Z3590 Quad-Core Processor which is clocked at 2.5GHz. As similar to some Zenfones, Zenfone Zoom also comes with 4GB of RAM. 128GB of Internal Storage is definitely a great move by Asus. +1 Asus! And the great thing is that it also provides extension up to 128GB via MicroSD. Out of the box, you’ll get near about 111GB Available space from 128GB (internal storage). Total storage you can get in Zenfone Zoom is up to 256 GB. In my opinion, 3000mAh battery is not enough for the phone which is having 4GB of RAM and 2.5 GHz powerful CPU. Anyway will come on the battery life later on. The GPU used in Zenfone Zoom is PowerVR G6430. One thing that is surely tiny but definitely life saver (sometimes) is the Leather Strap. I’ve really used it, believe me, it adds more premium-ness to the Smartphone and makes the Smartphone less risky. The Smartphone weighs 185g. ASUS Zenfone Zoom is ASUS’s first device to have NFC Technology.

Camera

Zenfone Zoom Camera

The most amazing thing in this Smartphone is the Camera. Because the main focus of the company is to make Thinnest 3x Optical Zoom Smartphone. The phone looks slimmer than I’ve expected.
From the specs, 13-MP Pixel Master Rear camera with 10-Element HOYA Lens which supports 3x Optical Zoom/12x Total Zoom (Digital Zoom). It also comes with 4-Stop Optical Image Stabilization, Laser-Autofocus and Dual-color Flash.

While the Front Camera is 5-MP which comes with f/2.0 Aperture with 88-degree wide-angle lens. From Real Camera, Photos can be captured in Super Resolution mode which could be of up to 52 MP. And definitely the Manual Mode comes with so much great features like 32-seconds long exposure, Manual Focus, etc. In my opinion, the front-camera could be 8 or more Megapixels, then it would be a perfect combination. 
The photos I’ve taken with the Auto mode without Zoom are the photos which are not the best photos but definitely the Optical Zoom and the Manual Mode performs very well. The OIS really works great, while taking shots many times my hand shook but the images were come out to be great. The light and the objects clarity after the full Zoom really make the device stand out from the crowd. For example if you take an image where there is not much light while you’re taking the image (with full zoomed), it really comes out to be brighter and with clear details after the image got processed. And in the focusing, it focuses really fast thanks to the Laser-Autofocus. While in low light, I would say with the flash you can get nicer images than without the flash. While there are also Low-Light mode, Night mode which makes image better. But I prefer the flash in the Low Light mode where the objects are close enough.
I’ve uploaded Sample 1080p (FHD) video recorded in Zenfone Zoom on YouTube. Click to watch the video. I’ve also uploaded some sample shots taken from Zenfone Zoom down below.

Sample Photos (Click to Enlarge)

Sample shot taken from Zenfone Zoom
Sample shot taken from Zenfone Zoom

Sample shot taken from Zenfone Zoom

Sample shot taken from Zenfone Zoom

Sample shot taken from Zenfone Zoom

Performance, Battery life

In the battery life, I was disappointed in the first two days, but maybe after the OTA Update, I was almost getting Screen on time near 4 hours and 25 minutes. One thing I’ve noted is that right after the full-charge it loses over 6-10% in just 10-15 minutes of usage. And the biggest issue I’ve found is that the Android OS is taking too much battery. Asus can definitely fix this issue via OTA updates because this is not in the all 5.0/4GB RAM devices. I’ve also reported the Android OS issue with the ZenUI Team on the 2nd day of my testing. I wish they could fix it as soon as possible.
On the performance side, no doubt the 4GB RAM rocks, multitasking is buttery smooth. But most of the time I can only see near 1.5 GB of RAM free without any background running apps. (After cleaning the recent apps) There may be some RAM Management issues out there which should be solved as soon as possible. While writing this I’ve opened 15 Apps on the Zoom one after one, Without any lag, I can move back and forth between the apps thanks to the 4GB of RAM. No doubt the RAM makes the device faster but the Management issues should be fixed.
In the Gaming side the device performs very well. I’ve not encountered any lag while playing games. But one thing I’ve noticed is that the device got little warmed in the both the metal sides while playing Real Racing 3.

The things that may not have been covered in above topics:

Pricing & Availibility:

The Asus Zenfone Zoom is sold in India via Flipkart at price of INR 37,999. Will be available to purchase from Asus Exclusive Stores starting Feb. 2016.

Improvements I appreciate:

  • Power Button, Volume buttons are on the right side. (Thanks Asus)
  • Used HOYA Lens instead of any Toshiba lens.
  • Made thinnest 3x Optical Zoom device.

Pros: 

  • The device charged from 4% – 100% in 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  • Supports OTG.
  • Double tap to wake, Double tap to sleep, ZenMotion – Draw C on screen to launch Camera (while in sleep), etc.
  • Multi-Touch supports up to 10 fingers.
  • Provides 4 battery saving modes which really helps to save the battery. Super saving mode really does the job greatly. In my testing, I’ve turned on Super saving at near 1 am and at 3 pm it only drained 2% battery. (9% to 7% to be precise) (14 Hours on Standby)
  • Call quality is great. Provides Auto-Call recording functionality in-built.

Cons:

  • No fingerprint scanner, No wireless charging, No 4k Recording, No Dual-Sim
  • Capacitive buttons aren’t backlight. Asus, please make it backlight. Or either switch to on-screen buttons. I really love on-screen navigation buttons.

Conclusion

If you’re a photo enthusiast and/or have the knowledge of how to take shots with Manual mode then the device definitely for you. Or you want a buttery smooth device with some features like Fast-Charging, 128GB of storage then this is for you. Or if you’re a Zenfone fan, definitely this will make your experience better. (And mainly if you don’t have budget issues)
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