Very few people haven’t heard of ASUS by now. This Taiwan-based company is one of the world’s largest tech companies, they’re mainly known for their PCs (laptops), but ASUS also makes really sleek looking smartphones, amongst other things. The company has introduced a bevy of smartphones last year, and most of them have been released under the ‘ZenFone 2’ brand. The first batch of ASUS ZenFone 2 devices landed back in January 2015, and the highest-end device released during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January was the ZenFone 2 (ZE551ML), ASUS’ flagship and the first 4GB RAM smartphone in the world. That being said, ASUS has introduced three new handsets quite recently during Computex 2016 in Taiwan, their new ZenFone 3 line of devices.
ASUS has unveiled the ZenFone 3, ZenFone 3 Ultra and ZenFone 3 Deluxe devices, all of which ship with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and ASUS’ ZenUI 3.0 on top of it. The base ZenFone 3 model is the most affordable out of the bunch, while the ZenFone 3 Ultra phablet and ZenFone 3 Deluxe flagship cost quite a bit more, but are still miles away from some of their competitors, especially the Deluxe version. The ZenFone 3 is made out of metal and glass, while the other two devices sport a metal unibody build. The ZenFone 3 comes with a 5.5-inch FullHD display, 3GB / 4GB of RAM and 32GB / 64GB of native storage. This handset is fueled by the Snapdragon 625 64-bit octa-core processor, along with the Adreno 506 GPU. The phone sports a 16-megapixel camera on the back, while you’ll find an 8-megapixel shooter up front.
The ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra is the company’s all-new phablet. This device ships with a gigantic 6.8-inch 1080p display, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of native storage. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 652 64-bit octa-core processor fuels this phablet, and a 4,600mAh battery is also included in this package. The 23-megapixel camera is located on the back of the device, and an 8-megapixel camera is located up front. The ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe is the highest-end ZenFone 3 device ASUS has announced. This phone is fueled by the Snapdragon 820, comes with 6GB of RAM and 256GB of native storage. The 3,000mAh battery is located on the inside, and it is not removable. The ZenFone 3 Deluxe features the same camera sensors you’ll find in the ZenFone 3 Ultra, a 23-megapixel main camera, and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera. If you’d like to take a look at a more detailed spec sheet, click here. Having that in mind, we’re here to take a closer look at each of these smartphones in order to see what are their good and bad sides basically, so, without further ado, let’s get started, shall we.
Most of you already know that these three ZenFone 3 devices are quite affordable. The entry-level ZenFone 3 phone (3GB of RAM variant) costs $249, while the ZenFone 3 Ultra and Deluxe cost $479 and $499, respectively. Keep in mind that the pricing will vary from market to market, though. Now, the ZenFone 3 Deluxe is definitely the most impressive out of three ZenFone 3 devices, and the $499 price tag is actually really affordable. This smartphone is made out of metal, comes with 6GB of RAM and is fueled by the Snapdragon 820, not to mention you also get 64GB of internal storage for the $499 price, although there will also be a 256GB storage option available at a later point for an unannounced price. Not a lot of phones can compete with the ZenFone 3 Deluxe spec wise, so the $499 price tag for such a device which is unlocked really doesn’t sound like much.
Another thing worth mentioning under the ‘Good’ category is the design. Very few people will say these are not good looking phones, not only because of their thin bezels and premium build materials, but also because ASUS managed to get rid of antennas, well, in a way. Antenna lines are not visible here because ASUS tucked them away in the device’s frame, so the antennas still surround the phone, but you won’t notice them because they blend in quite nicely. This essentially means that you get a really clean design here, and even though some people might not like this, it’s hard to deny the devices look really premium.
We still didn’t get a chance to test out the ZenFone 3 devices, but all three of these devices look really good on paper as far as camera and audio go. The ZenFone 3 Ultra and Deluxe, in particular, sport really capable 23-megapixel Sony sensors (+TriTech Autofocus), ASUS opted to include the IMX318 units here, with a layer of their software on top of them. The sensor used in the ZenFone 3 is also nothing to scoff at, the 16-megapixel IMX298 sensor by Sony is also quite capable if used right. As far as audio goes, ASUS included the ‘5 Magnet Speaker’ in the ZenFone 3 devices, and the ZenFone 3 Ultra comes with the Dual 5 Magnet Speaker. NXP Smart AMP is included in all three devices, and the ZenFone 3 Ultra comes with the DTS HD Premium Sound as well. As already mentioned, all of this sounds really nice on paper, but we’ll know far more once we test out these devices properly.
ASUS opted to introduce three different ZenFone 3 devices at the same time, which might also be a positive thing, at least on one hand. Why? Well, it give you plenty of options, no matter if you’re looking for the bleeding edge and want to get the ZenFone 3 Deluxe, or you want a more affordable device like the base ZenFone 3 model, you have that option. And then there’s the ZenFone 3 Ultra, of course, a device which some people might even consider to be a tablet thanks to its 6.8-inch panel, but if you’re into huge devices, you have that option as well.
In the last paragraph, we’ve mentioned various options that ASUS offers with the ZenFone 3 devices, well, it’s time to take a look at a different side of that medal. The company did give you plenty of options with these three devices, but at the same time this might confuse people. The ZenFone 3 and ZenFone 3 Ultra have mid-range SoCs (different ones actually), while the ZenFone 3 Deluxe is a complete opposite of that, and yet the ZenFone 3 Ultra and ZenFone 3 Deluxe cost almost the same? It is true that the company’s flagship and phablet sport the same camera tech, and are equally capable in some areas, but the ZenFone 3 Deluxe is the bleeding edge of technology, not only does it come with the Snapdragon 820 SoC, but it also packs 6GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, which is something the Ultra cannot keep up with. The ZenFone 3 Deluxe is a phablet, so people who are looking for a big flagship will be good with this, but what if you want a smaller handset which is equally as powerful? Well, you’re out of luck, the base ZenFone 3 model isn’t all that small, but it’s considerably smaller than the Deluxe version, and it would be nice if ASUS gave us a smaller flagship as well.
Another thing that I wanted to mention in this category is ASUS’ software. Now, to be fair, this is a completely new version of the ZenUI, and it is possible it’s considerably better than the one that launched on the company’s ZenFone 2 devices. The ZenFone 2 phones came with plenty of bloat, and even though you could remove most of it, it was still there and shouldn’t have been. That software was also quite buggy, and it didn’t seem to be up to par with some other offerings out there. Now, we do hope that ASUS improved the ZenUI in version 3.0, and we will test it out properly once we manage to get our hands on these devices, but for now, we’ll list the software under this category.
The Ugly / Wrap Up
‘The Ugly’ category will remain empty for now. It seems like ASUS learned its lesson, the ZenFone 3 devices do seem to be quite interesting alternatives to some other devices, no matter if you’re looking to get mid-range or high-end smartphone / phablet. The ZenFone 3 Deluxe can compete with pretty much every flagship out there, as least on paper, and it actually outspecs most of them, while it manages to cost significantly less at the same time. All in all, ASUS really did put some effort in the ZenFone 3 devices, and we’ll see if it will pay off in the end.