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Zenfone 3 Laser ZC551KL Unboxing, Initial Review: The Zenfone You’ll Buy This Christmas?

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It’s been a few months since we last saw the Zenfone 3 Laser after it was announced unexpectedly in Vietnam, along with its big-batteried brother, the Zenfone 3 Max. We’ve tried hard to get our hands on a final retail device since then but it’s only now that we’ve managed to grab one for ourselves. The Zenfone 3 Laser fills the role of the lower-midrange device in the Zenfone 3 lineup, complimenting the lower-priced, 5.2-inch Zenfone Max.

ASUS Zenfone 3 Laser specs

  • 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 octa-core processor
  • Adreno 505 GPU
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 5.5-inch full HD IPS display, 2.5D glass, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 32GB of expandable storage
  • 13-megapixel rear camera with Sony IMX214 sensor, EIS, 2nd generation laser AF, LED flash
  • 8-megapixel front camera
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, Fingerprint scanner
  • Android 6.0, ZenUI 3.0
  • 3000mAh battery

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Packaging and contents:

The Zenfone 3 Laser bears similar packaging to the Zenfone 3 Max series of phones. It’s a stark contrast to the one in the Zenfone 3, what with its rather plain white color and unimaginative packaging.

Despite that the box for the Zenfone 3 contains all the usual trimmings you’ll find that’s included in ASUS’ phones: a charger, USB cable, a pair of spiffy looking headphones with spare silicone tips, SIM ejector and documentation.

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Initial Impressions: Still looks good, but rivals are popping up everywhere

When we first saw the ZF3 Laser a few months ago, we were impressed at what we saw. ASUS has unified the design language of it and the ZF3 Max to represent the mid-range segment of the ZF3 family, shedding their plastic bodies for nicer looking metal.

ZF3 Max on the left, ZF3 Laser on the right
ZF3 Max on the left, ZF3 Laser on the right

As a result the ZF3 Laser and the ZF3 Max are hard to tell apart, at least when looking at the phones dead on. The only obvious external difference of the two phones is that the ZF3 Max does not has a laser AF system at the rear with the camera, which the ZF3 Laser obviously has.

ZF3 Max on the left, ZF3 Laser on the right
ZF3 Max on the left, ZF3 Laser on the right

Aside from that, the ZF3 Laser is very similar to the ZF3 Max that we reviewed a few months ago. The phone has curved sides and corners for better handling one handed, though you’ll have to be mindful of the metal rear since it’s a bit more slippery than the previous all-plastic iteration.

Overall the ZF3 Laser feels nice and ergonomic to hold and is perfectly usable one-handed. The power and volume rocker, located on the right of the phone, is easily reachable no matter if you’re left or right-handed. The 3.5mm jack and USB port is located on the top and bottom, respectively. The SIM/microSD slot is located on the left side of the phone, while the single lone speaker grille sits right beside the USB port.

The fingerprint scanner is located right below the 13-megapixel rear camera module and is where your fingers fall naturally when you’re holding the phone. It’s not surprising that other companies have used the same location for their fingerprint scanners, though the one on the ZF3 has a more rectangular shape.

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The front of the phone is dominated by the 5.5-inch, full HD IPS display with 2.5D glass and Gorilla Glass protection. The display looks good, and is consistent with the quality that we saw on the prototype device that we held back in July. In typical ASUS fashion, the ZF3 Laser has physical Android navigation keys located right below the display.

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Nothing has changed much on the inside of the ZF3 Laser either, in terms of the hardware powering it – the phone still has a Snapdragon 430 octa-core processor along with 4GB of RAM, as well as 32GB of expandable storage. That’s a formidable setup, as we’ve seen in the past Qualcomm’s new chipset is very capable in both number crunching and power efficiency. It’s more than enough for most tasks nowadays.

The biggest problem for the ZF3 Laser we feel is price. If ASUS launched this particular phone earlier, at least along with the ZF3 Max, it could have had a good head-start against all the other Snapdragon 430-equipped phones coming out this holiday season. As it stands it faces very stiff competition from several local and international brands.

Of course the ZF3 Laser may still manage to impress with its Sony IMX214-powered, 13-megapixel rear camera but we’ll have to see in the full review. The ASUS Zenfone 3 Laser is priced at Php 11,990.

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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8 Comments

  1. I think it is still ahead of the competition. The only problem is they released it way later than expected because Asus is banking on the sells of it’s Zenfone 3.

    4GB RAM with better software and hardware after sales is far from any local brand, with emphasis on its quality. But I’m blown away by the upcoming Flare X2 internals.

    Most of the mid-rangers (from known brands) nowadays perform probably good, but the way they price them like J7 Prime (3GB – for 14k), Oppo F1s (3GB – for 13k). I may not include Xiaomi for it has no physical stores and official warranty and global ROM.

    This phone is even offered at discounted prices versus its SRP on different stores with freebies (base on the ZF 3 Laser FB Group testimonials) with official warranty. MemoXpress on the other hand doesn’t give discounts, but you can get a year more on warranty by extending it with a percentage of the phone’s price, I think that’s beautiful, with even a one time replacement?? or free labor and parts for accidental damages etc.

  2. flare x2 4k less than its price with almost the same hardware. brand image lang talaga major difference. software update and after sales service. di mo kc maipagyabang sa mga kaibigan mo pag naka local brand ka eh. pero if you want value for money flare x2 ka na lang

  3. medyo late na nga ito, dapat sinabay na nila to sa zf3 pa lang, masyado nang malakas ang competition sa 12k price range, pero tignan pa rin natin kung anong kakalabasan sa review

  4. Can you please check if the GPS on this phone has improved? Im using a Zenfone 2 ZE551ML and its GPS is horrible. I have done everything I could possibly do to improve it but it really cannot perform anywhere as close to any Samsung branded phone. I am really considering getting this phone for my kid to play Pokemon GO but as of now the GPS is a real deal breaker.

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