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Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review

Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom

Posted: , by Stephen S. Stephen S.

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Camera

Annoying software hurts what could otherwise be a really satisfying camera

Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review
Camera UI of the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom - Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review
Camera UI of the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom - Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review
Camera UI of the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom - Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review
Camera UI of the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom - Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review

The ZenFone 3 Zoom wears its camera ambitions on its sleeve with that name, and indeed the phone's hardware is equipped to give you an optical zoom option: there's one 12-megapixel, optically stabilized main camera, and one 12MP telephoto lens that gives users an effective 2.3x zoom.

Asus also throws in tech like its “exclusive TriTech+ auto-focus system,” joining dual-pixel and laser-assisted auto-focus with a subject-tracking algorithm. Then there are claims of exceptional low-light performance, leveraging the main camera's OIS as well as its quite wide f/1.7 aperture. But talk is cheap; how does all this camera goodness actually perform?

Image quality


Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review

Photos taken with the ZenFone 3 Zoom don't look too bad, not that we thought they would given the serious camera hardware present. Low-light quality isn't nearly as good as Asus is trying to convince us it is, and while serviceable, expect a fair amount of noise.

Maybe the more interesting story is what's going on with the camera software. On one hand, it offers a nice assortment of options, including a healthy mix of shooting modes. But we also have some serious concerns about the execution. Take the zoom mode, for instance: like you may be familiar with from other phones, there's a prominent 1.0x button you can tap to toggle to 2.3x mode – so far, so good.

But while those two are nice, optical options, you have to cycle through a 5.0x zoom mode to get back to 1.0x, and unlike the others, this one's software zoom – something purists would prefer to avoid. Worse still, quite often the camera gets confused about which mode it's in, and you may be seeing the 2.3x view, while the on-screen readout still says 1.0x. Ultimately, it gets the job done, but for a phone with its camera as its big selling point, we expected more polish.


Video recording


On paper, the ZF3Z sounds like it should be well equipped for recording video, supporting resolutions up to 4K, and offering a mix of frame-rate and stabilization options. In reality, though, the experience doesn't quite live up to its promise.

Footage is a little on the dark side, and audio fidelity leaves something serious to be desired. But maybe the most confounding aspect of shooting video on the ZenFone 3 Zoom is that the camera doesn't adequately tap into its zoom-lens hardware.

While similarly outfitted smartphones let you toggle between wide-angle and telephoto cameras while recording, the ZF3Z doesn't let you jump between lenses in the middle of a video. You can choose the zoom mode you want in advance, or pinch-to-zoom for digital zoom, but the on-screen toggle to jump between 1.0x and 2.3x is not accessible while actively filming.

Multimedia

Forget software enhancements; just give us audio that naturally sounds good

The ZenFone 3 Zoom's speaker is suitably loud, though like a lot of other smartphone speakers it suffers from sub-par bass reproduction.

Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Review

Asus bundles a pair of headphones with a set of alternate tips, and plugging them into the phone automatically engages the DTS Headphone:X software. By default, that sounds really disappointing, with muddy, distant audio that lacks clarity and definition. That's the so-called “traditional” mode, and you also have access to some pseudo-3D positioning effects, as well as a “pure” setting, but even that left us seriously wanting.

Once again, we're looking at a phone that feels like it's leaning far too heavily on software fanciness when it would benefit much more from just some well-executed speaker and headset hardware.



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Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom

Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom

OS: Android 7.1 6.0
view full specs
PhoneArena rating:
7.1Good
Display5.5 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels (404 ppi) AMOLED
Camera12 megapixels
Hardware
Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, Octa-core, 2000 MHz, ARM Cortex-A53 processor
4 GB RAM
Size6.07 x 3.03 x 0.31 inches
(154.3 x 77 x 7.99 mm)
6.00 oz  (170 g)

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