Reviews

Zenfone Zoom – The flagship camera mobile – Review

What I like

  • The Zenfone Zoom packs in a powerful hardware and a great camera. The 3 x optical zoom camera system does not protrude out of the body like most other mobiles.

What I didn’t like

  • Nothing in particular. But if I had to nitpick, I would say the absence of dual SIM slot, non-backlit menu buttons and average battery life.

Zenfone Zoom was announced in the IFA last year and we have been hearing about the device in many Asus events. The device has managed to get the attention of many, and now the wait is finally over. The Zenfone Zoom has been launched in India and it is available to buy from Amazon for Rs 37999. The Zenfone Zoom, unlike the other camera mobile will not only cater to a niche market of the mobile photography enthusiasts, but as it packs in a lot of power, it is a good contender as a flagship mobile. Let’s dive in and check if the Zenfone Zoom would be of any interest to you.

ZenFone Zoom meta

Unboxing Video

Design

The Zenfone Zoom is a 5.5 inch mobile. The design language is on the lines with other Zenfones, but with a slight variation. The back panel is made of a plastic material with real leather laced on it. The sides of the mobile is made of metal. Leather back and metal rim gives the mobile a premium look and feel. The right side of the mobile has all the hardware keys. Dedicated shutter and video record button, power button and the volume keys are all made of metal. The volume keys acts as zoom keys when in camera mode. The power and record button have very less tactile feedback. The mobile fits in a single hand, but one hand operation is out of question. It feels heavy but the thinnest side of the mobile measures just 5 mm. Overall, the leather finish and the curved design of the mobile adds points to the ergonomics.

zenfone zoom right side view

The front has the large 5.5 inch display with thin bezels and a deep chin. The chin holds the off-screen navigation keys and they are not back-lit. The front facing camera is 8 MP and the rear facing camera is the 13 MP laser assisted camera with dual tone LED flash. The build quality and the design make me conclude that it is a sturdy device, with a stylish finish to it.

Display

The Zenfone 2 Laser 6 has a 5.5 inch IPD LCD display with 403 ppi of pixel density. It supports a resolution of 1920 x 1080. The screen produces decent black levels and brightness levels. Outdoor legibility was good, but under direct sunlight, the readability of the device is just average. The color reproduction is vibrant and the display has very good viewing angles. The screen occupies just 65% of the body but it is a bright and brilliant display. The display is protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection.

zenfone zoom front

Hardware

This Zoom Variant of the Zenfone is powered by Intel Atom Moorefield Z3590 super quad processor, clocked at 2.5 GHz. It has 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of onboard storage. Memory is also expandable by another 128 GB. This is most powerful configuration we have seen in a Zenfone. The performance of the mobile is commendable. The graphic performance is also above average. It handles intense gaming with ease and shows no signs of stuttering or frame lag. 3D rendering is smooth as well. ZenFone Zoom handles the OS and the UI on top of it efficiently. The mobile did not heat excessively. On continuous gaming for over 30 minutes, the temperature went upto 37 degree Celsius. So at the end of the day, the ZenFone Zoom is truly a flagship performer and does not disappoint in performance thanks to Intel’s Atom Moorefield SoC and the massive 4 GB RAM that can hold a ginormous amount of data. You can also check out the benchmark scores under the specs section below.

[aps_product id=”9852″]

The call quality is clear and the signal reception is consistent. The rear facing speakers are loud and crisp as well. They produce quality sound and on closer inspection I figured out that it is a 5 magnet speaker with cavity design for better performance. Zenfone Zoom has 2 mics for noise cancellation. Asus has included a pair of in-ear headphones and it’s of good quality as well.

zenfone zoom rear panel open

Camera

Probably you are here specifically to read this section. The Camera is the heart and soul of the Zenfone Zoom. The primary camera is a 13 MP Panasonic SmartFSI image sensor. The lens is a 10 element arrangement made by Hoya. The lens has got variable aperture varying from f/2.7 to f/4.8. While most mobiles out there have f/2, the smaller f/2.7 on the Zenfone Zoom is perfectly understandable due to its optical zoom range. The highlight of the mobile is its 3x zoom and the optical zoom does not involve any moving element outside the mobile chassis. The zoom mechanism is entirely internal. The hump on the back reminds me of the Lumia 1020. But the Lumia 1020 has a large 41 MP sensor and hence the hump. While the Zenfone zoom has an internal zoom mechanmism and that is the reason for the hump. The hump makes the mobile 12 mm thin on its thickest side.

zenfone zoom vs lumia 1020

zenfone zoom vs lumia 1020

 

The 3x optical zoom can be extended by 12x with digital zoom. The closes focusing range for the mobile is 5cm and you have to completely zoom out to get close with the subject. Apart from the zoom, this zenfone has optical image stabilization and laser autofocus. The laser assisted focusing is fast and precise. It has evolved to become more accurate than its predecessors. The camera is assisted by a dual tone LED flash. I am not a big fan of flash, but the dual tone flash is pleasantly mild on skin tones. The front camera is a 8 MP sensor.

zenfone zoom camera module

 

In the auto mode, the UI controls are simple. Though there are different preset modes, the HDR and Low light mode are automatically suggested based on the light conditions. The gear button reveals the menu for both camera and video. In the ZenFone the manual mode can control the White balance, Exposure compensation, ISO, shutter speed and focus.

The quality of images from the Zenfone Zoom is great. The images have natural colors. The color saturation is just right. However the black levels should have been a bit deeper. The exposure is perfect and focus locking happens instantly. Exposure can also be locked and adjusted. The low light performance of the mobile is great as well. Thanks to the PixelMaster algorithm, the image post processing does its job perfectly. The 4 level OIS is helpful under low light and also while zooming. The zoom is noiseless and happens quickly. The noise smoothing algorithm does a very good job. The time between two shots is very less. There is no lag or wait time, unless you are clicking a HDR shot or a super resolution image.

Check out the camera image samples below. I suggest you open the link in flickr and inspect each image closely to understand better.

 

In total, the Zenfone Zoom is a great camera mobile. It can be a good secondary camera for professional photographers as well. Even if you are not a photographer, you will appreciate the quality of the images from the Zenfone zoom and will be able to make use of the camera module in a jiffy, thanks to the simple and functional camera UI.

Software

The Asus Zenfone Zoom runs on a year old Android 5.0 out of the box with the Zen UI 2.0 on the top. The Zen UI has a long list of pre-installed applications. Most of these apps have better alternatives in the Google Play store and these apps cannot be uninstalled. So I would call them bloatware sitting on the mobile and eating up the space. I like the Zen Mini movies and Super Note apps out of all these bloat wares. Asus has also tried to reinvent the Notifications UI. But this has already been done by the Native android lollipop and I don’t see a pressing need to redesign it. Asus must really have gone the Motorola way, which gives “Close to pure android” experience with a few custom apps pre-installed. Zen UI has very little customization possibilities. But overall the UI is fast and snappy. It does not lag and definitely smoother than the likes of Touch Wiz or SenseUI. In total, the Zen UI is a mixed bag as usual.

Battery

Like most of the mid and top end Zenfones, the Asus Zenfone Zoom is also powered by a 3000 mAh battery. The battery usage is much better optimized when compared to ZenFone 2. It has the turbo charging feature like the ZenFone 2. It takes less than 40 minutes to charge from 0 to 60%. But after 60% the charging is very slow. My average usage would mean a few minutes on call everyday, constantly checking social media updates, 4G always on, connected to WiFi 10 hours a day, watching video clips and listening to music for a few hours. With my average usage, the mobile lasted for 18-20 hours on a single charge. On intense usage, the mobile runs out of juice in 14 hours. The geekbench battery test results are not encouraging either. So the battery performance is average.

zenfone zoom left side

Verdict

The Asus Zenfone Zoom has the best of all the Zenfones so far. It has good quality construction, turbo charging and a powerful hardware from the Zenfone 2. It has laser assisted auto focus from the Zenfone Laser series. But it also has inherited some of the weak chromosomes like the average battery life and mundane UI. Yet, nothing would stop me from recommending this mobile as your next great pocket assistant. It is priced at Rs 37999. At that price, it is definitely an expensive buy. But here is what you are paying for: 128 GB of internal storage, Optical zoom camera, 2.5 GHz octacore processor and a 4 GB RAM. If you want a powerful mobile with an awesome camera with optical zoom, then you have no other choice other than the Zenfone Zoom.

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Giridhar

A Technology evangelist, Giridhar reviews gadgets and mobile applications. He is also a passionate photographer and a user experience designer by profession.

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