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ASUS Zenfone 3 30-Day Review: Still A Great Mid-ranger, A Month On

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It’s been 30 days since we published our full review of ASUS’ mid-range smartphone, the Zenfone 3. Since then we’ve been using it on and off in between reviewing other devices for the website, and we’re giving it another look 30 days after. It’s a high-profile device for sure, and while many people have suddenly developed a dislike of ASUS because of the pricing scheme of their Zenfone 3 family, it’s hard to deny the phone’s appeal.

ASUS Zenfone 3 ZE552KL specs:

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 5.5-inch full HD IPS display, Corning Gorilla Glass protection, 2.5D glass, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 64GB of expandable storage
  • 16-megapixel rear camera, Sony IMX298 sensor, f/2.0 aperture, 4-axis OIS, 3-axis EIS, 6 element largan lens, laser AF, phase detection AF, continous focus
  • 8-megapixel front camera, f/2.0 aperture
  • 3G, LTE
  • Dual-SIM
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, Fingerprint scanner, USB Type-C
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 3000mAh battery

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Still the looker, but it attracts smudges like crazy

In our opinion, the Zenfone 3 is still one of the most striking mid-range phones in the market today. ASUS really did a great job on the design of the ZF3, and while the transition from plastic was only a matter of time, the execution of the glass and metal design of the ZF3 is the best we’ve seen so far.

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But that design has tradeoffs, for sure. For one thing, the phone is completely flat on both sides, which makes the phone a little akward to use and hold one handed. Another is that glass is slippery as heck. Only lightning reflexes and unusual acrobatics saved our review unit from certain spills in two seperate occasions, and we’re honestly not psyched to find out how shatter-resistant the Gorilla Glass 4 panels are on the phone. And the smudges! Oh the smudges – the phone needs constant wipedowns if you want it to look as pristine as the day you took it out of the box. Our suggestion is to purchase the flip-case that ASUS makes for the phone if you want to keep it in mint condition.

See also: The Asus Zenfone 3 is Priced at Php 16,995 in the Philippines

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We commented on the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner and its accuracy in our first review, and that’s not changed with time – it’s still fast, accurate and since our first review back in August, we’ve found that the fingerprint scanner failed to read our fingerprints around two or three times.

The 5.5-inch full HD Super IPS+ display still looks great, is vibrant and very bright, and has no problems at all under sunlight. We would have loved it if the navigation keys were on-screen, rather than physical keys right below the display though.

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The Bloatware is real

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor is more than enough to keep the Zenfone 3 moving along smoothly. Paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage (for both the 5.5-inch and 5.2-inch variant) the phone certainly has grunt to keep everything moving smoothly.

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The biggest problem we have with the Zenfone 3 is the UI, or to be more precise, the stuff that comes with it. We’ve complained about the amount of pre-installed apps in ASUS’ ZenUI before, but it bears repeating, because holy moly, there’s a ton of them. We thought ASUS would be scaling back on the bloatware on their phones since the Marshmallow update for their Zenfone 2 series of devices removed much of the pre-installed bloatware, but we were wrong. While the phone has enough number crunching prowess to power through the bloat, over time this will become an issue as users install more and more apps on their phone. We would have liked it if ASUS didn’t install any of the useless crap on their device in the first place or failing that, ask users first if they want it on their phone.

See also: ASUS Zenfone 3 Review

Other than the bloatware, the phone has held up beautifully. No issues at all with slowdowns, the phone feels fast and fluid, and is capable of playing any Android game under the sun on high settings without any issues whatsoever.

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Camera is quick to focus, but has issues with low-light

One of the things that we were most impressed with the phone was its camera, specifically how fast the phone locks onto a subject when you’re out and about. The laser AF and continous focusing system of the Zenfone 3 locks into subjects quickly without any issues. Images shot in bright sunlight are good, though photos tend to veer into the cooler end of the color spectrum. The phone has a tendency to blow out highlights once in a while, and low-light shots exhibit a fair amount of noise. The camera certainly isn’t too bad, but it’s obvious the phone needs additional tweaks to the camera via software updates to unlock the camera’s true potential.

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Battery life is still one of the best in its class

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One thing that we really like about the Zenfone 3 is its battery endurance. On a single charge, it’s more than enough to last us through the day. We would have loved to see Qualcomm’s 3.0 Quick Charge tech on the phone, but to be fair the ZF3 charged quickly enough via the USB Type-C charger that came with the package. Point is, as long as you charge the phone fully at the start of your day, it has more than enough juice until you hit the sack.

Verdict: Still a great mid-range phone, though ASUS could have priced it better

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In our first review we called the Zenfone 3 the mid-range phone to beat this year. That was before ASUS officially announced the pricing for the 5.2-inch and 5.5-inch variants. Now that pricing for both phones has been announced (Php 16,995 for the 5.2-inch version and Php 18,995 for the 5.5-inch), that earlier pronouncement gets a little dicey. While we still think that the 5.5-inch variation of the phone is one of the best mid-range phones for the money, ASUS could have managed expectations of users a little better with their newest release. The company has a history of announcing prices for their Zenfones during their announcements that don’t reflect the reality on the ground once things like taxes, shipping and margins for dealers are factored in.

Is the Zenfone 3 still a good buy? Absolutely – despite the horrible bloatware that ASUS can’t seem to get rid of, the Zenfone 3 is one of the best phones in the sub 20K bracket that you can get today.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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11 Comments

  1. pede naman siguro madelete ung mga bloatware at ung iba naman useful talaga…. gustong gusto ko nga yang zenui eh….sana magkaroon ako ng ZEFONE 3 luma na kasi zenfone 5 ko, tagal din ng battery life ah! tanong lang umiinit din ba ung likod nia na parang oven? un kasi number 1 issue ko sa fone ko sobra init…. pero high quality paren etong Asus!

    1. Disable lang rednonymous di mo kasi talga pwede idelete unless rooted yung phone mo, okay na din kahit papano kapag disabled, wag ka lang magkakamaling maupdate kasi maeenabled ulit.

    2. I don’t think umiinit ang Zenfone 3 na parang Oven. That was an issue with Intel mobile CPU chips that powers your Zenfone 5. The new ‘Snapdragon 625 that powers the Zenfone 3 is manufactured using in 14 nanometers technology (most other mobile CPUs were 28 nanometers), meaning tinier gates between silicon, less heat, and more power efficient.

  2. Really great review, you are absolutely right about how it is still a good phone despite the fact that it is a bit pricey than expected. I have been using my Zenfone 5 for more than 2 years now and because of me being so investigative about the product I want to buy, I am still stuck in this phone, I want to buy this phone but something ‘again’ came up, may you please make a comparison between Zenfone 2 and Xiaomi Redmi Pro?
    Thank you!

  3. The Zenfone 3 is a great phone that ASUS misrepresented during its unveiling last June (May 30 yata, technically June). If they have said it will cost $350-400 without contract, then price wouldn’t be an issue.

    At 18,995 for the 5.5″ unit, it’s not high priced as it seems, given the 4GB RAM and 64GB memory. They are also the first with Snapdragon 625. Similarly configured phones from other manufacturers like Samsung (C7), Lenovo (P2) are priced identical or higher.

    As for bloatwares, they do have a boat load of them, but a few like SimCity seem like shortcuts to Playstore and not the full app. But with 64Gb memory (50+ Gb free), it’s more tolerable unlike phones with 16GB but only 8-10 GB free. Note that many Marshmallow unit (including updated Asus Zenfone 2) will not allow install to SD, so a big internal memory is a huge plus.

    Finally, the one redeeming feature of this phone is it’s power efficient CPU, without it, I wouldn’t give this phone a second look given it’s perceived high price, but at the moment, it’s the only phone available locally with that processor.

    One question… Have anyone with a Zenfone 3 installed a tempered glass on it? Does it gives the halo effect (sides not sticking due to the 2.5d curved glass). The reason I’m asking is that with my Zenfone 3 Max, the halo effect is unavoidable it seems…

    1. Yep, halo effect is indeed present on the 5.5. The curve starts inside the edges of the LCD area. But it doesn’t seem to be a problem on the 5.2 according to some users, as the curve on it starts outside the edges of the lcd area.

  4. I just bought mine 2 days ago. My initial observations (phone is already updated twice in as many days):

    – unit can become real hot when using the camera, presumably because of the constant AF and OIS (it was on for about 3 minutes – setting up the subject, capturing test scenes, review and delete images);

    – during charging, when Wi-Fi is on, it also gets ‘oven-hot’ – as someone described it – and the installed CM Security app even recognizes it so as to recommend pulling the plug from the wall and wait it out until the heat subsides;

    – surprisingly, the unit itself doesn’t become that hot during long periods of FB, web browsing, some videos, etc.

    – battery is indeed good given the specs, compared to the first-gen (I didn’t have a ZF2, but based on reviews, it wasn’t good either).

  5. overpriced tong zenfone 3 para sa midrange.21k ung one plus 3 saka lg g5 both with superior specs para sa additional 4k lang.

  6. In fairness napaka useful nung mga built-in apps. Zenfone ako nakakita ng built-in blue-light filter bago pa nauso. Gamit na gamit ko din ang RemoteLink as mouse and keyboard ng laptop ko pag nakaconnect sa TV and I wanna watch movies. Yung Sharelink gamit na gamit ko din pang wireless transfer from pc to phone (vice versa). I own an S7 now pero dinownload ko pa din sila.

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