Asus has introduced its new ZenFone 3 series of smartphones in India. At its 'Zenvolution' event in New Delhi, the Taiwanese company unveiled the new ZenFone 3, ZenFone 3 Deluxe, ZenFone 3 Laser, and ZenFone 3 Ultra smartphones. The company also launched the ZenBook 3 and Transformer 3 Pro devices at the same event.
Those familiar with the company's ZenFone smartphone range may associate it with the budget-to-mid segment. The new ZenFone 3 range is here though, and it is more focused on the mid-to-premium segment. Asus CEO had previously told Gadgets 360 that the company was looking to break into the premium segment where it lacked the most. All the new smartphones under the ZenFone 3 range will try to fight it out in different price segments. The ZenFone 3 Deluxe is the company's most expensive smartphone ever and will be taking on some heavyweights such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and iPhone 6s.
There are few similarities in the ZenFone smartphone range as the four new Asus smartphones run Android 6.0 Marshmallow, feature metal bodies, USB Type-C, and support hybrid dual-SIM card slots. With a refreshed approach and a brand new range, will the Asus ZenFone 3 series make an impact in the Indian market? We will have to wait till all the phones go on sale. At the launch event, we got some time to play with the devices and below our first impressions.
Asus ZenFone 3 design and display
In terms of design, the new ZenFone 3 series looks to be designed from scratch. At the event, the company touted that the ZenFone 3 series saw a "radical change" from what was seen on the previous generation.
(Also see: Asus to Focus on Premium Smartphone Segment in India)
The standard Asus ZenFone 3 sports 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass 3 panels at the front and rear, and 6.16mm all-round metal frame. With a side profile of 7.7mm, the ZenFone 3 never looked uncomfortable to hold. The ZenFone 3 also sports the iconic hairline concentric circle pattern at the back.
The ZenFone 3 Deluxe, on the other hand, features the sandblasted aluminium alloy unibody with what the company calls the "invisible antenna" design. The handset sports Corning Gorilla Glass 4 upfront. Despite a screen size of 5.7-inch, the ZenFone 3 Deluxe never seemed too uncomfortable to hold, and was easy to grip thanks to the curve at the rear. The metallic chamfered edges give the handset a premium and sturdy feel.
Much like the ZenFone 3 Deluxe, the ZenFone 3 Ultra also sports the "invisible antenna" design at the back. The handset sports a sandblasted aluminium alloy unibody and at 6.8-inches is definitely too big for one hand.
The ZenFone 3 Laser also follows other ZenFone 3 smartphones and sports an all-metal body. At 7.9mm thin side profile, the ZenFone 3 Laser also offered decent grip with curved back panel.
Asus has placed the fingerprint sensor near the top of the rear panel, which easily allows the user's index finger rest to unlock it. We see same placement of the rear fingerprint scanner module on the ZenFone 3 (seen above), ZenFone 3 Laser, and ZenFone 3 Deluxe.
Notably, the ZenFone 3 Ultra houses the fingerprint scanner at the front, embedded in the home button. The company claims that the fingerprint sensor allows for rapid unlocking of the phone in just 0.2 seconds, and also allows up to five fingerprints to be registered. During our limited usage, the fingerprint was quick enough on all the devices including the large ZenFone 3 Ultra.
Asus has launched two ZenFone 3 models in India, the ZenFone 3 (ZE520KL) featuring a 5.2-inch display, and the ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL) featuring a 5.5-inch IPS LCD panel with a full-HD (1080x1920 pixels) screen resolution. Screens on the ZenFone 3 (ZE520KL) and (ZE552KL) models looked vibrant with decent colour reproduction. At 600nits of brightness, the display on both models never looked flat in terms of brightness or colours.
The ZenFone 3 Deluxe sports a 5.7-inch Super Amoled display with a screen resolution of 1080x1920 pixels. It also features Corning Gorilla Glass 4 for protection from scratches. The company says that the handset comes with a contrast ratio of 3,000,000:1. During our limited usage, the display was crisp and sharp. It offered deep black backgrounds and colours showed up accurate.
The ZenFone 3 Ultra features a massive 6.8-inch IPS LCD display with a 1080x1920 pixels screen resolution. The IPS panel offers decent colours and the company claims it can deliver viewing angles of up to 178-degrees. The handset also sports Corning Gorilla Glass 4.
The ZenFone 3 Laser sports a 5.5-inch full-HD (1080x1920 pixels) display. At 500nits brightness, the smartphone offers a vibrant screen. It packs the Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and comes with 2.5D glass. It also offers up to 178 degrees wide-viewing angle.
Asus ZenFone 3 camera
Asus claims that one of the biggest improvements in the ZenFone 3 is in terms of camera as all the phones in the series sports the company's PixelMaster 3.0 tech. All the phones in the series pack Sony sensors for optics. The ZenFone 3, ZenFone 3 Laser, ZenFone 3 Deluxe, and ZenFone 3 Ultra sport 6-element Largan lens with protective sapphire glass cover. All the phones support OIS (optical image stabilisation) for photos while there is EIS (electronic image stabiliser) for blur-free video. The handsets feature dual tone flash and come with Super Resolution feature that creates a single, detailed photo at 4x with real-time automatic Super HDR.
In the limited time spent with the ZenFone 3 series, we found the camera app to be really fast. It locked the focus in no time and can be handy for some quick snapping. There are plenty of camera options for users to choose from. Some of the rear camera features include HDR Pro, Beautification, Super Resolution, Low Light (that automatically clicks images at 4-megapixels), night mode, and manual among others. All the ZenFone 3 phones sport an 8-megapixel front camera. We will reserve our verdict of the Asus ZenFone 3 series camera performance until we get a chance to put it through its paces for a detailed review.
Asus ZenFone 3 software
One of the biggest improvements we noticed in the ZenFone 3 series was in terms of software. All the phones came with a brand new ZenUI 3.0 based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The new interface looked less cluttered and simplified.
The ZenUI 3.0 comes with less bloatware as compared to previous ZenFone phones. Some of the highlights of the new interface are real-time animated weather and clock widgets; new parallax motion effect for wallpaper; an all-new Theme Store that comes with selected themes; Game Genie, a brand-new feature focused at gamers that lets you broadcast gameplay live via YouTube or Twitch; new photo editing tools in PhotoCollage with PhotoEffect app; new gesture support for double tap waking up the display, and the Mobile Manager, which clears the RAM and provides other features. We will have more about the software when we review the ZenFone 3 smartphones.
Asus ZenFone 3 specifications
Under the hood, the Asus ZenFone 3 (ZE520KL) is powered by 2GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, same as the ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL). The 5.2-inch variant however comes with less RAM and storage - 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage while the 5.5-inch variant packs 4GB of RAM and 64GB of inbuilt storage. The ZenFone 3 Laser is powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 430 SoC paired with 4GB of RAM. The large Asus ZenFone 3 Ultra (ZU680KL) is powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 processor coupled with 4GB of RAM. Lastly, the Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe (ZS570KL) is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor and it comes with 6GB of RAM. There is a special edition as well which is powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor and packs massive 256GB of storage.
We didn't face any lags while playing with any of the ZenFone 3 phones. All the phones were quick enough when it comes to launching apps. Out of the four phones, the ZenFone 3 Ultra with big screen and dual speakers is targeted at users that consume media on the go. We will reserve our verdict of the ZenFone 3 series performance until we get a chance to put it through its paces for a detailed review.
Asus ZenFone 3 price in India
The new Asus ZenFone 3 series has something for everyone but admittedly misses the budget segment entirely. The company has priced the ZenFone 3 (ZE520KL) at Rs. 21,999, the ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL) at Rs. 27,999, the ZenFone 3 Ultra (ZU680KL) at Rs. 49,999, and ZenFone 3 Laser (ZC551KL) at 18,999. The ZenFone 3 Deluxe (ZS570KL) starts at Rs. 49,999, with the Snapdragon 821 model priced at Rs. 62,999.
This year, Asus expanded the availability of the ZenFone 3 series, which means consumers should be able to easily get their hands on the new range. With the lowest pricing at Rs. 18,999, the ZenFone 3 range has definitely tried to shed the budget tag from its handsets but it will be interesting to see how well the phones do in the Indian market.
Stay tuned for our review of the Asus ZenFone 3 series.