Asus ZenFone 3 Review - Bloatware and steep price undo one of the best designed smartphone of the year

Asus ZenFone 3 Review - Bloatware and steep price undo one of the best designed smartphone of the year

Asus ventured into the smartphone market in 2014 by launching ZenFone series of smartphones and the first iteration turned out to be an instant hit with the masses. Their first smartphone was called ZenFone 5 if you are not able to recall the name now. And it was a pretty sleek, good looking and a great performing device in its category back in that year. However, the ride has not been so smooth for the company since then as it is still looking for the smartphone that could drive the market in numero uno position. So this year, Asus has launched ZenFone 3 to try and cement their position as a world leader in smartphone manufacturing. Have no two thoughts about it, ZenFone 3 is a terrific looking device with a design to die for. Good looks flow throughout the device as you hold it. If you are into the market looking for a strikingly good looking device and have the moolah to pay for it, you can close your eyes and grab the Asus ZenFone 3. However, the price might set you back a little. The 5.5 inch ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL) that we have for review costs Rs. 27999 and is Aqua Blue in color. The other colors available include Shimmer Gold, Moonlight White and Sapphire Black.

You can buy Asus ZenFone 3 - ZE552KL in Black color here.


It is good to see Asus diverge from its design language and opt for a fresh new design. As we mentioned above, ZenFone 3 is a beautifully crafted phone right from the glossy 2.5D curved glass on the front and back to the chamfered edges again both at the front and the back of the device. And the back, even though being glossy is not a fingerprint or smudge magnet per se. However, the use of glass makes the device a bit slippery. Another thing worth noting is that the device has a unique appearance and the design does not seem copied or even inspired by any other smartphone in the market. Asus has also done away with antenna bands at the back which have now been smartly moved to the top and bottom edges of the smartphone. 

The front of the device has a 5.5 inch display along with the usual sensors, the selfie camera and the earpiece. The touch capacitive buttons, though clearly marked in silver are not backlit. There is a hybrid dual SIM slot on the left of the device which we are not fond of as it does not serve the purpose for people who wish to use two SIM cards and one microSD card at the same time. The volume rocker and power button on the right edge are designed with metal and provide decent feedback and throw. Asus has still not done away with the 3.5 mm audio jack unlike a few other brands and the phone uses a USB Type-C port for charging and data transfer. The back of the device has a 16 Megapixels camera sitting plush in between laser focus and dual tone LED flash. A very uniquely designed fingerprint sensor lies below the camera sensor. The company uses sapphire cover on the camera lens but the camera bump can cause some anxiety to people putting the phone down on the back regularly.

Asus ZenFone 3 Review - Bloatware and steep price undo one of the best designed smartphone of the year


ZenFone 3 uses a 5.5 inch Full HD display (1080 x 1920 pixels). The display is vivid, sharp and very easy on the eyes. The viewing angles are deep and the display is pretty usable under direct sunlight. Like a few previous Asus smartphones, this one also includes a glove mode which increases the touch sensitivity when using gloves. We did not test this sensitivity using gloves though. You will thoroughly enjoy watching Youtube videos or playing games using this display.

Asus ZenFone 3 Review - Bloatware and steep price undo one of the best designed smartphone of the year


In terms of specifications, Asus ZenFone 3 is powered by a 64-bit Octa core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC and 4 GB RAM. The internal memory available is 64 GB which can be expanded up to 2 TB using a microSD card though we doubt a card of this capacity is available in open market as yet. Connectivity options include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, FM Radio, 4G, 3G, GPS and Glonass. The phone sports a non-removable battery with 3000 mAh capacity and has support for fast charging. The front camera boasts of a resolution of 16 Megapixels while the front selfie camera has 8 Megapixels resolution. There is also a fingerprint sensor at the back which does work flawlessly.

Operating system

ZenFone 3 runs Android Marshmallow 6.0.1 layered with Asus' proprietary ZenUI 3.0 skin on top. The new UI employs fresh colors and maintains a sense of uniformity across the screens in terms of fonts, colors and icons. The new operating system has a number of features that were not present in devices prior to ZenFone 3. One of them is ZenMotion, which helps the user to configure some touch and motion gestures. Touch gestures include a few like double tap to turn off screen, swipe up to wake up or drawing characters in sleep state to launch various apps. There is also a One Hand mode for easier use of the operating system with a single hand, which is definitely a God's gift for a 5.5 inch phone. However, as it has been for ages, Asus overloads its smartphones with huge amount of bloatware and ZenFone 3 is no exception. Why in the world would anyone need or use MiniMovie, PhotoCollage, Puffin, Share Link, ZenCircle, ZenTalk and a few other apps is beyond our understanding. We hope the company listens to us some time and stops putting in unnecessary apps on its smartphones.


Asus ZenFone 3 is equipped with a 16 Megapixels rear camera and uses an f/2.0 aperture. A large number of manual settings and options help the camera be utilised by amateurs and professionals as well. The rear camera clicks beautiful outdoor and indoor shots and captures a lot of vivid detail. The camera focuses extremely fast but the pictures start becoming grainy under low light conditions. A handy addition to the rear camera is support for 4K video along with usage of 3-axis EIS (Electronic Image Stabilisation) to help against jittery videos. In turn, the selfie camera sports a resolution of 8 Megapixels and has its own set of options and modes. The front camera clicks detailed shots along with capturing high quality HD videos.

Some of the camera pictures that we clicked with Asus ZenFone 3 are here:

Asus ZenFone 3 Review - Bloatware and steep price undo one of the best designed smartphone of the year

Asus ZenFone 3 Review - Bloatware and steep price undo one of the best designed smartphone of the year

Asus ZenFone 3 Review - Bloatware and steep price undo one of the best designed smartphone of the year

Asus ZenFone 3 Review - Bloatware and steep price undo one of the best designed smartphone of the year


This is an extremely fast phone thanks to the 4 GB RAM it is equipped with. Its a cinch to move between various apps and perform multitasking. The device runs games like Asphalt 8: Airborne without hiccups. The fingerprint scanner works smooth and fast. Asus' website mentions that the first SIM slot is a Micro SIM slot supporting 3G and 4G while the second SIM slot is a Nano SIM slot supporting 3G. The Nano SIM slot is a hybrid slot that can otherwise support a microSD card up tp 2 TB. The call quality on the phone is loud and crisp. The 5-magnet loudspeaker at the bottom seems to be inclined towards lower and medium frequencies more than the higher ones but is still fairly loud. However, we do hope Asus moves towards stereo speakers in future iterations.


ZenFone 3 packs a 3000 mAh battery. To check for battery usage times, we recharged the battery to 100% and started using the phone in medium use case scenarios like playing a few games, watching some videos on Youtube, doing a bit of web browsing, some chitchat on Whatsapp and leaving the device in sleep state for a little time. The battery ran down on us after 15 hours of usage which means the phone would easily last a day in most use case scenarios. And the option of fast charging is an add on too, which according to Asus, delivers 2 hours talk time with 5 minutes of charging.


- One of the best designed smartphone of 2016
- 4K video capture in rear camera
- HD video capture in front camera
- Vivid display
- Fast and accurate fingerprint sensor
- Fast performance and multitasking
- Fast charging


- Bit overpriced
- Large amount of bloatware
- Camera bump
- No stereo speakers


3.5 stars out of 5


Asus ZenFone 3 is an overall decent package and is a brilliantly designed smartphone which scores well in most departments. However, at the hefty price tag of Rs. 27999, it competes directly with OnePlus 3 and now the newly launched OnePlus 3T. OnePlus 3 has garnered rave reviews from the community as well as users alike. We in no way mean to imply that Asus ZenFone 3 is a mug. If you are looking for a device that can have eyeballs rolling, it is this one. But we still feel a price between 20k and 25k would have meant runaway success for ZenFone 3 which now would be slightly more difficult considering the effervescent popularity of OnePlus 3.

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