Asus Zenfone Zoom Review - A tough sell for people who have no photography experience but a perfect smartphone for those who know how to tweak camera settings






Asus Zenfone Zoom Review - A tough sell for people who have no photography experience but a perfect smartphone for those who know how to tweak camera settings
By now, Asus has become a pretty successful smartphone maker with its Zenfone series of phones. They have been growing in sales and making a dent in the market with each iteration of their phones. They have started this new year 2016 with a big bang by launching the camera-focused Asus Zenfone Zoom which they claim is a professional photographer's delight. We would be reviewing the camera capabilities of the phone in a while. But that's not all, this is the first time Asus has ventured into the high end market and have priced Zenfone Zoom at Rs. 37,999. We would see in this review whether the phone matches its price, or is priced higher than the features and quality it delivers. So today we would be reviewing the new Asus Zenfone Zoom. You can see the following link to check the news of the launch:

Lets take a look at the specifications of the phone before moving further into the review.

Specifications of Asus Zenfone Zoom

Model: ZX551ML
SIM Card Support: Micro SIM
Display: 5.5 inches IPS capacitive touchscreen, 16 M colors, 1080 x 1920 pixels, 401 ppi pixel density, ~66.6 screen-to-body ratio
RAM: 4 GB
ROM: 128 GB
Expandable Memory: Upto 128 GB
Processor: Intel Atom Z3590, Quad-core 2.5 Ghz
GPU: PowerVR G6430
Front Camera: 5 MP, f/2.0
Rear Camera: 13 MP, f/2.7-4.8, 28-84 mm (3x optical zoom), Laser autofocus, OIS, Dual Dual tone Flash
Battery: Li-polymer 3000 mAh, Fast battery charging: 60% in 40 minutes
OS: Android 5.0 Lollipop layered with Asus ZenUI
Connectivity Options: 3G, LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, Hotspot, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, Bluetooth 4.0, microUSB 2.0, NFC
FM Radio: No
Fingerprint sensor: No
Colors: Pure black, Ceramic white

Unboxing

Asus Zenfone Zoom is delivered in a premium rectangular, black colored, top opening cardboard box with the moniker Zenfone Zoom and a circle etched on the top. On opening the lid of the box, you will find the smartphone covered in plastic cover. And then you find the first premium addition, a lanyard cable to keep the smartphone hooked to your wrist like digital cameras. Delving deeper into the box, you will find data cable, charger, in-ear earphones, two different sized in-ear rubber cups,  a user guide and a warranty card. We would have liked the use of some material other than cardboard and paper, and more so a little cushioning must have been better. However, the design of the box has a good looking appearance overall. The Zenny shown in the extreme left of the picture below is not included in the box.

Asus Zenfone Zoom Review - A tough sell for people who have no photography experience but a perfect smartphone for those who know how to tweak camera settings





























Design and Build Quality

Asus Zenfone Zoom carries the design language from its predecessors, the shiny screen, the premium metal etched bezel at the bottom which has appeared in almost all Zenfones and a few other bits here and there as well. However, there are a few changes in aesthetics too. The leather cover at the back is a first for Asus. The phone is well designed and the word that comes to our mind on holding the phone is rugged. This is a smartphone for people with large hands in case they wish to use it with a single hand. The smartphone looks elegant and has an expensive feel to it. The bezel on both sides is half a cm while its about an inch at the top and bottom.  

The front of the device is very typical of Asus which in some ways is excellent since it helps maintain the brand identity. Uniformity is liked by all and if they keep changing the look, then it does take away some of the pleasure you associate with a smartphone's design. At the top and bottom of the screen is almost half an inch of bezel. The top bezel houses an LED light, a small speaker grille, the front camera lens and Asus logo. The bottom bezel sports three touch capacitive buttons for back, home and recents/menu. The buttons are very clearly marked in silver and you do not need to light up the screen or touch a button to see which side is the back button and which side is the recents button. We just love phones in which these buttons are clearly marked rather than leaving it on the user's perception. The bottom chin of the phone is again the typical Zenfone chin carried since the first iteration that was launched a few years back. It still looks beautiful.

The edges of the phone look like the edges of an iPhone with very similar curves at the corners. But thankfully, that's where the similarities end. Taking a look at the edges, the top edge has the 3.5 mm audio connector port and a microphone hole, the left edge has nothing, the left bottom corner has a hole to tie in the lanyard cable, the bottom has a microphone hole and microUSB connector port and the right edge has a slew of buttons, the volume rocker, power button, camera shutter button and a neat little addition, video recording start button. The buttons are too recessed into the phone's chassis and do not have that clicky feeling that we prefer. We like buttons with more travel and feedback rather than being so recessed into the phone.

The back of the device is made of brownish black textured leather. The device does not feel slippery and you can get a good grip due to the texture of the leather. The back is tapered towards the ends giving the device a sleeker appearance than the actual thickness. The smartphone does look elegant in the hands. The back is in no way a fingerprint magnet and won't need any cleaning at all. At the back, there is the camera lens, an LED flash and another sensor which seems like an ambient light sensor to us, all placed inside a huge circle giving the phone an appearance of a digital camera from the back. The leather has Asus and Intel logos imprinted. There are three straight lined speaker holes and something very different, a raised vertical lining which supposedly has just been provided to add to the look of the device. But here, we would like to point out the first glaring disadvantage of the phone, it does not carry a fingerprint sensor. In all frankness, it does not make sense for a brand to skip a fingerprint sensor at this price, Asus definitely should have added one too.

The back cover is removable through a small groove on the bottom edge. Removing the back cover does require some force. The SIM card and microSD card slots are well marked and give an indication how to insert them. The battery is non-removable. But here comes the second problem, this is a single SIM phone. For us, dual SIM would have provided more meaning to the average consumer.

The phone has fantastic build quality and a mixture of novelty and familiarity in its design. But does the design match the price tag? Our answer is Yes, but that's a very close shave. We feel a price just a wee bit higher would have meant a dead end while a price just a wee bit lower might have added even more to its sales. Hence, we say, the design just catches and matches the price at the fag end.

Display

The display on Asus Zenfone Zoom takes the cake from us. Its sharp, bright and enriching. The colors are natural and easy on the eyes. There is not an iota of pixellation. The blacks are deep and so are the viewing angles. Youtube videos are extremely fun to watch. Screen reflection has been very well controlled. The display is pretty bright and well lit even at medium levels. There is no flaw that we could find in the screen on this phone. Another brownie point is that the screen is easily visible under direct sunlight without the need to tilt or swivel the display. Its completely usable outdoors under bright sunlight too.

Operating System and Software

Asus Zenfone Zoom gets delivered with Android 5.0 Lollipop wrapped under ZenUI. We do have a liking for ZenUI but feel a bit letdown by the fact that Asus has still not managed to rollout Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The sad part is that they might end up giving the Marshmallow update when quite frankly Android 7's launch is near, so that takes away the sheen from the operating system. Otherwise, the OS is as clean as ever. The fonts and curves and the icons used impart a sense of uniformity throughout the OS. The colors used are a nice mixture between solid ones and subtle ones. The icons, fonts and animations are colorful and look good. But then again, even though the phone has loads of internal storage at 128 GB, we would prefer Asus to cut down on the bloatware. There is like a slew of bundled apps most of which users would never use, namely Asus Mobile Manager, Asus Support, Audio Wizard, Auto start Manager, Laser Ruler, Share Link and the list goes on and on. We are not saying that none of these apps are useful, we just mean to imply that they should get user feedback and cut down a few of the apps which don't find much end usage. Consumers already have their favorite choice of apps in the Play Store and filling the mobile with tonnes of other apps neither does the consumers any good, nor serves a purpose for the brand either since they remain mostly unused.

The home screens are infinitely scrollable which means you do not need to come back to the first screen to go in a backward position. Bluelight Filter setting, Power & Boost setting, One hand operation, Hotspot etc. are all very handy one click settings serving various needs. The OS also has some inbuilt smart gestures which take you to the particular app without pressing the Power key, like if you draw 'C' on the display while the phone is in sleep mode, it would automatically take you to the camera, we found this to work well many times but at others it did lag a bit. ZenUI still remains one of our favorite operating systems for its uniformity and use of color and typography.

Camera

We can devote an entire review of the camera on Asus Zenfone Zoom however for the purpose of brevity, we would present just a gist along with review of the major camera features. The first thing we definitely noticed is that the camera viewfinder is slow to appear. The camera app opens as soon as its clicked but the viewfinder in itself takes a moment or two. Asus cannot let that happen in a phone they claim has the capability of replacing your DSLR camera. Anyways, the camera app offers a variety of professional grade options like low light photography and HDR mode other than setting up long exposure, up to 32 seconds to get dramatic low light shots since the shutter remains open for 32 seconds and the light continues to go through the lens, this is a DSLR quality feature and we did find it work nicely during the demo. And for the first time in a smartphone, they are providing 3x optical zoom which might seem like an overkill but does work well.

Anyways, we can't delve into each and every camera feature in this review. So lets take a look at a few pictures taken at default settings to check color reproduction, noise and comparisons with DLSR cameras.

Asus Zenfone Zoom Review - A tough sell for people who have no photography experience but a perfect smartphone for those who know how to tweak camera settings
















Asus Zenfone Zoom Review - A tough sell for people who have no photography experience but a perfect smartphone for those who know how to tweak camera settings

Asus Zenfone Zoom Review - A tough sell for people who have no photography experience but a perfect smartphone for those who know how to tweak camera settings

 Asus Zenfone Zoom Review - A tough sell for people who have no photography experience but a perfect smartphone for those who know how to tweak camera settings

Well, right at the very outset we would say that this is an extremely difficult camera to judge, the reason being the fact that the camera is behaving extremely patchy in different conditions. That is to say, some of the images that we have clicked do look like those of DSLR quality while others are lukewarm or mediocre. The images do maintain the real colors in natural light conditions but become very warm and yellowish indoors. Some of the images capture the minutest of details while others seem hazy. We simply have no clue why this is happening. The only reason that we can garner is that Asus has optimised the camera for some cases while leaving the remaining few. The front camera also reproduces true colors but does show noise. But in true essence, let us answer a few basic questions that you might have in your mind regarding the camera. Can this smartphone replace a DSLR camera? That's a no. But can this camera complement a DSLR camera? That's a resounding yes. This smartphone can do wonders for people who know the tricks of the photography trade and can modify various settings like exposure, white balance, ISO etc. at their peril to click beautiful pictures but for normal users, the situation becomes dicey again, you get some amazing pictures while others end up being ordinary. Lets get to the bottomline. This camera would be a delight for semi-professional photographers, who can tweak the settings to their heart's liking in case they forget their DSLRs at home. Fully professional photographers would in any case still carry DSLRs while amateurs can any day use these pictures as much as they want since they need to either upload them on social media pages or share with their friends. So does the camera offer the value for the cost of the phone. Again the same answer, for those who know how to play with the settings, yes, and for those who have no clue as to what photography is, they will click images ranging from extraordinary to lacklustre all with a single smartphone, so they would have to decide for themselves.

Performance

This is a screamer of a smartphone due to the supplied 4 GB RAM, the optimisations and the processor. There is no lag whatsoever anywhere and everything is buttery smooth. The only glitch we found is that the camera app does take some time to load invariably, which might get resolved with a future software update. Multitasking is a cakewalk and you can close and open multiple apps without feeling any hiccups. The phone is great for gaming too. We tried our hands at Temple Run 2 and Asphalt 8: Airborne and both the games screamed through without any drop in frame rates. The phone does not heat up either. The speaker is very loud giving an enjoyable experience while watching Youtube videos or playing games. The call quality is top notch as well.

Battery

Asus Zenfone Zoom has a 3000 mAh battery. To check for battery life, we charged the battery to 100% and then started using the phone in real world use scenarios. We used it for browsing the web, downloading and installing a few apps and games, some calling, Whatsapp messaging, playing a few games, watching videos on Youtube and throwing in some amount of standby time too. The phone lasted for 12 hours. Some reviewers have claimed that the battery has gone down dramatically after the latest update, but we did not face much of that issue. This phone can easily last you a day, unless you play Asphalt 8 on it 8 to 9 hours on the trot.

Rating

4 stars out of 5

Bottomline and Verdict

So now that we have checked everything, lets put everything in summary. This has been one of the hardest reviews for us to do simply because we ourselves are not experts in photography and this is a photo enthusiast's smartphone. The success of Asus Zenfone Zoom would depend on which market Asus is targeting. If they are targeting normal amateur users who have no knack for photography, there is no way they could sell many of these devices specially considering the price, but if they are targeting the tech savvy youth of current generation who likes to play around with stuff and can tweak camera settings as much they want, this phone would be a hit with them. As we pointed out earlier, professional photographers would mostly be carrying a DSLR whatever be the purpose so you cannot count them in. Asus Zenfone Zoom cannot replace the DSLR just yet. So if Asus can somehow manage to convince semi-professionals about the efficacy of the camera settings in this smartphone, then its really worth paying a price for. As we wrote in the title, people who do not have any photography experience won't spend on this phone for the large amount of options made available by the likes of market leaders in this segment, Samsung. But for sure, this is a perfect smartphone for those who can spend hours tweaking the camera settings and zooming in to get the perfect click.   

That's it for our review of Asus ZenFone Zoom. Do hit the 'like' button if you liked the review and share the word across. You can also like our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/technodivide to keep yourself updated of latest technology news, reviews and tweaks. If you have any suggestions regarding the review or the device, feel free to leave us a comment below. Stay tuned since we have many more such reviews coming up in the near future.


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