Review: Asus Zenfone 3 Laser
When Asus announced the Zenfone 3 series in India, we expected the Zenfone 3 Laser to be an under ₹15,000 device. But surprisingly, the final price that came out for the new Laser was ₹19,999. Now that’s serious money for a smartphone in India. We spent some time with the new Zenfone 3 Laser and here’s what we think about it.
Unlike its predecessor, the ZenFone 3 Laser is constructed of an aluminum body with plastic top and bottom caps, presumably to help with wireless reception. We’ve seen designs quite similar to this countless times in the past, but it remains difficult to ignore the high-quality in-hand feel of aluminum.
Typical of Asus phones, there’s a row of capacitive buttons below the display in lieu of on-screen controls. While the buttons aren’t backlit, we found them to be sufficiently responsive. The glass above the display bends over gently around the corners in a finish akin to a subtle 2.5D curve. A metallic bezel runs around the edge of the screen but this time around, it is not along the sides of the phone. Unlike traditional circular fingerprint readers, however, the Zenfone’s reader is in the form of a tall rectangular cutout. We did not notice any issues when it comes to the accuracy and speed of the fingerprint sensor due to the unique design.
The 5.5 inch Full HD display on the Zenfone 3 Laser punches above its weight. A Gorilla Glass 3 coating on top protects it from scratches. You’re looking at a pretty pixel-dense display, measuring 401ppi and with a 2.5D curved screen on top. It’s reasonably good with colours, although it doesn’t provide the deepest blacks. It’s on the upper end of the IPS LCD family, though, and that should satisfy most. Asus also allows you to tweak the display’s colour temperature, hue etc., using its preinstalled Hue app.
The maximum brightness on the phone is really disappointing, leading to poor visibility under direct sunlight. The screen seems to be a bit of a step down from the Zenfone 3 despite having similar specs.
The Zenfone 3 Laser has an Octa-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 under the hood. This processor has 4 Cortex A53 cores clocked at 1.2Ghz alongside 4 Cortex A53 cores clocked at 1.5Ghz to facilitate a good balance between performance and battery. This is in addition to the Adreno 505 GPU. There’s just 2GB of RAM onboard to facilitate multitasking. Push it too hard and things start slowing down a bit. The phone also heats up a bit while playing graphically intensive games.
The Asus Zenfone 3 Laser is an unlocked dual-SIM smartphone, meaning that you can use it with up to two different GSM carriers simultaneously. If you only plan on using one SIM card with the Zenfone 3 Laser, you can take advantage of the other slot’s microSD card expansion option, which supports cards up to 128 GB. For most users, however, the 32 GB of onboard storage should be enough.
Typical Asus, there’s a whole lot of pre-installed applications on the Zenfone 3 Laser. Yes, it is possible to remove a few of them but it doesn’t take away from the fact that there’s just too much bloat onboard. Asus has even provided a Laser Ruler app, which apparently uses the Laser auto-focus to measure the distance to an object. The app, however, can’t measure anything over 50 centimeters. he only aspect of ZenUI 3.0 that’s useful and you’ll really use is Pixelmaster 3.0, which is built into the camera app.
All in all, the skin won’t win any beauty contests and is also extremely messy and not optimised well. Honestly, I feel everything is very cluttered. The icons look to big, and the option to resize is non-existent. The most useful app from the entire ZenUI suite is the Mobile Manager. With slick animations and intuitive UI, the app offers quick ways to free RAM and storage space, and manage apps as well as app permissions.
For a phone that’s USP is the camera or well, the fast laser based focussing capabilities, the Zenfone 3 Laser doesn’t perform all that well. In terms of specifications, the camera module has a 13MP IMX214 sensor manufactured by Sony. The lens has an f/2.0 aperture which ensures that sufficient light hits the sensor. Image quality though is pretty lackluster.
Unfortunately, things really go downhill when shooting in low-light. The oversharpening issue is exacerbated while noise still appears largely unchecked. Colors are even worse, too.
Asus says, the Laser AF system focuses in 0.03 seconds, which may even be true under ideal conditions. In practice, though, your hand shakes and the phone will keep changing focus points the longer you point the camera at a subject. Moreover, Laser AF is best suited for close-up photography, and during low light shots. And that is where the Zenfone 3 Laser excels.
With a 3,000 mAh battery and a frugal Snapdragon 430 processor onboard, battery life is predictably quite decent. While there is no fast charging support, the phone easily lasts a day of use and more.
Priced at close to Rs. 19,999, it is really hard to make a case for the Zenfone 3 Laser. Snapdraon 430 is just not suited to this price range and the phone feels really slow and stuttery. It’s not a good overall smartphone, and the Xiaomi Note 4 or Moto G 5 Plus offer a lot more value for money.