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Review: Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe

The Breakdown

8.1
A good device with amazing performance, but unreasonable pricing
Design
8.0
Display
9.5
Performance
9.5
Camera
7.5
Software
6.5
Battery
7.5
Pros
Vibrant Display, Premium Design, Top Notch Performance
Cons
Bloated and Overwhelming UI, Poor Battery Life

Asus seemed to have turned a new leaf when the company showcased a barrage of new smartphones, at Computex 2016 in Taiwan back in June. Since then we have seen more premium looking devices come from Asus featuring metal construction and Qualcomm chipsets. This year, Asus has released a high-end Deluxe edition along with the two mid-range ZenFone 3 variants, to better compete in this growing smartphone category.

This phone, is in head on competition with other flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, LG G5 and even the OnePlus 3T. Let’s see whether it’s able to stand it’s ground of being a true flagship!

DESIGN:

the ZenFone 3 Deluxe is a very sophisticated and attractive slab of metal. The width of just 7.5-millimeters and weight of 170-grams keep the phone both lightweight and thin, but not too much so that it feels cheaply made. Asus specifically touts the Deluxe’s lack of antenna lines on the back, which is impressive for a metal phone.

The front glass panel features minimal bezels, backlit capacitive keys, and a sort of ripple effect on the top and bottom, which can be a bit distracting at times. The power and volume buttons feature the same ripple effect. The USB-C port is centered on the bottom, with the single bottom-firing speaker to the right. The 3.5 mm jack is located on the top, whose presence is much appreciated. On the left side is the SIM and microSD card combination slot.

Fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone features the same rectangular shape that’s seen with the flash and laser-assisted autofocus systems that flank the square-shaped camera. I’m not a big fan of shape of the fingerprint scanner. As far as the display is concerned, there is no 2.5D curved glass, the bezels so often feel big and the lower chin is ugly. In fact, even the capacitive buttons are not perfectly aligned in the center. Overall, being a premium handset, the design is under whelming. It just feels to standardized in the Asus range of products.

DISPLAY:

The ZenFone 3 Deluxe comes with a large 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with a 1080p resolution. If you’re intending to use this phone for VR, it’s going to be disappointing. But that does not mean the Display is not good. In fact, for day to day usage, it is an amazing display. This is surely one of the most likable thing on this phone. Colors are nice and bright thanks to the high-contrast nature of AMOLED technology and the screen does a good job at getting very bright when faced with direct sunlight or other light sources.

The viewing angles are great and the display maintains brightness even at the steepest of angles which is commendable. he large display makes it the perfect size for playing games and watching videos and movies. It also comes with some handy features that are becoming increasingly common, including a blue light filter, and the ability to tweak the display and color settings to have the screen look the way you want it.

PERFORMANCE:

Under the hood, the ZenFone 3 Deluxe comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor that is backed by the Adreno 530 GPU and a whopping 6GB of RAM.  Never once did I find myself running into a hangup with the phone, and multitasking and graphically intense games all run like butter. 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB are the options available in terms of built-in storage, which is further expandable up to an additional 256GB via microSD card.

The device has a hybrid setup for dual SIM capability. Which means, the second SIM slot doubles up as a micro SD card slot. The device comes with a single speaker which is ample loud. Though, it completely lacks bass and often gets too sharp. The fingerprint scanner is decent. It’s definitely not the fastest one out there, and on multiple occasions it’s taken me more than 2-3 seconds to unlock the device.

You can easily have numerous apps open in the background, including a couple of games, without any signs of slowing down. Despite the heavily skinned version of Android, the ZenFone 3 Deluxe manages to provide a very fluid experience.

SOFTWARE:

The ZenFone 3 Deluxe shipped with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow (Android Nougat v7.0 is now available OTA) with the Zen UI on top. While many OEMs have been streamlining their user interfaces, Asus has gone in the opposite direction. Zen UI changes a lot of the Android experience, and comes jam packed with a ton of features which may or may not be all that useful. Other than the boring and ageing skinning which has barely changed since the first Zenfone, it also feels bloated.

There’s the Mobile Manager app that has one too many tweaks to either get more performance out of the chipset, or squeeze more battery life using power saving modes. Zen UI always reminds me of TouchWiz from from 2014. They’ve tried to give the user as much functionality as possible, and completely over done it in the process. Honestly, the UI just doesn’t fit in with the complete premium device offering.

Here’s another way Asus wants to be too helpful for its own good: the Zenfone 3 Deluxe has what may be the world’s worst default Android keyboard. The keyboard is cramped with so many options that it ends up with ridiculously small keys.

CAMERA:

The Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe delivers a 23MP camera on the back and an 8MP selfie-camera. There’s not much going on with the selfie cam, but Asus packed in quite a bit of tech with the rear-facing shooter. Along with the high megapixel count, you’re also scoring laser-assisted and phase detection autofocus, a Sony IMX813 sensor, f/2.0 aperture, optical image stabilization, and a layer of sapphire over the camera to securely protect it.

Asus may claim that their 23MP “PixelMaster 3.0” camera shoots excellent photos, but real-life results are rather disappointing.  The camera app is packed with a variety of features, and comes with 20 different shooting modes, including beautification, low light, depth of field, timelapse, and more. In well-lit lighting conditions, the shutter is nice and fast, but in low-light conditions, it slows down drastically. Photos in any sort of shade exhibit too much shadow and everything lacks detail. Even Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) isn’t very impressive. Slightest of the movements can blur the complete picture.

Asus’s camera app, just like the rest of its Android skin, offers a lot of functionality but won’t win any awards for its looks. You’ve got your standard array of manual shooting controls, beauty mode for capturing the perfect selfie, the ability to stitch together multiple shots for a single 92MP image, and a ton more.

CAMERA SAMPLES:

BATTERY:

 

The Zenfone 3 Deluxe comes with a decently-sized 3,000mAh battery, but in my experience, the battery life leaves much to be desired. The phone typically lasts about 8 to 9 hours off the charger, which is significantly shy of what I would normally expect to get a full day’s worth of use. The standby time is not at all impressive, in fact, even the Vivo V5 Plus that we reviewed earlier has better performance in this regard.

I would have appreciated a slightly bigger battery considering its size, but then the Deluxe also packs in Quick Charge 3.0 that makes charging the 3,000mAh battery pretty quick (about 70 minutes to completely charge).

VERDICT:

At the end of it all Asus’s first flagship offering falls short of the competition. While the top-of-the-line specifications look great on paper, it’s the software experience that is either lacking, or gets in your way. With the device just starting at ₹49,999 it’s really difficult for us to recommend this phone to anyone. In fact, the OnePlus 3T offers a better experience.

Weak battery life, an unattractive software skin, and wonky fingerprint are the main points that plague this device. While the camera is pretty decent, we wouldn’t recommend this device if you want to get the best.

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