ASUS ZenFone Zoom Review: Twice the hype for half the value?

It’s been only about two years since the Taiwan based company, ASUS decided to come out with its own android based smartphones named as ASUS ZenFone and has grown out to capture the mobile market at a rapid pace. With Gionee, Xiaomi and Motorola ruling the smartphone budget section in India, Asus is gaining momentum in the android market by launching a new phone almost each quarter or sometimes maybe more than one. According to the company, ZenFones have been doing really well in India and about 3 million ZenFones till date have been sold here. And keeping the growth and demand for smartphones in the second highest populated country in the world, Asus decided to roll out its Asus ZenFone Zoom about a month later its launch at its homeground. As the name suggests, ZenFone Zoom is targeted for the photo enthusiasts and selfie frenzy people and we at AnimationXpress got the chance to dive deep into this camera friendly model. ASUS Zoom DesignDesign Asus has launched this model by claiming the smartphone to be ‘the thinnest phone with optical zoom’ and true to its words, ZenFone Zoom weighs around 185 grams which is tad heavier than its competitors but easy on hands. As most of the smartphones available in this age, Zoom has a 5.5 inch display that seems a bit large for people with smaller hands, making one hand usage a bit difficult. The leather case at its back provides a strong sturdy grip with the sides having a metallic frame. On the back rests the circular camera surrounded by a metallic ring, giving the camera a slight bump. Beneath the cover lies the single SIM card slot and a microSD card slot. The left hand edge of the phone is clean whereas on the right hand side all the buttons are placed. Firstly there’s a volume rocker button on the top followed by the power/screen lock button and then a dedicated video record button and a camera shutter button. At the top there’s a 3.5 mm audio jack compartment whereas at the base lies the microUSB charging and data transfer port. Display The Asus Zenfone Zoom sports a 5.5 inch full HD display with 403 ppi and Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection atop it. Though the phone sports the Gorilla Glass 4, it’s still prone to scratches and it would be recommended to have a scratch guard placed over it. The display has good 178 degree viewing angles and it appears vibrant with good levels of brightness even under direct sunlight. ASUS Zoom Macro photographyCamera Coming to the selling point of this phone- the camera! Though the phone features a 13 MP rear camera, what sets it apart from the rest of the smartphones is the fact that it’s the first phone to come up with 3x optical zoom and its 10-element lens from Hoya along with the optical image stabilisation (OIS) to help steady the shots. Optical Zoom basically means that the camera uses its optics to bring subject closer rather than cropping the image which is what most of the smartphones do with the digital zoom feature. The phone provides various modes like time lapse, slow motion, GIF animation, depth of field and many others including manual mode available for all kinds of photographers, be it an amateur or a professional. The camera has an aperture range from f/2.7 to f/4.8 and a 28-84mm focal length and has the ability to focus as close as 2 inch thus, making macro photography a delight. In the manual mode you can control every aspect of the camera right from ISO, white balance, exposure value to the shutter speed, giving professionals something to dabble with. On testing, the camera did produce some high quality images but at the same time, during close ups and night shots, I did observe the pictures to have a grainy effect which is a letdown. The physical buttons for video recording and clicking photos present on the right side didn’t help much as it works only after pressing it for 2 seconds and by that time, you might just lose the moment that needed to be captured. Having said that, the camera does produces some high resolution pictures clicked during daylight and selfie lovers can go on a selfie spree as the phone sports a 5 MP camera at the front. Hardware As its predecessor, Zoom is powered by Intel chipset. Designed on 64-bit CPU architecture, the Z3590 is a quad core processor with a clockspeed of 2.5 GHz and GPU fuelled by PowerVR 6430. The phone is packed with 4GB RAM and a humongous 128GB internal memory which might as well be used as a substitute to pen drive. But for those who feel they need more memory, Asus has provided with a microSD card slot that can ramp up the device upto 128GB. Providing the juice to this beast is a 3,000 mAh non-removable battery and the device has a single SIM slot that’s compatible with 4G network bands. ASUS Zoom PerformancePerformance Though the phone sports Intel’s Atom quad core Z3590 processor and has 4GB RAM at disposal, I did face issues while multi tasking. In my Zenfone Zoom, for some reason, I wasn’t able to download Subway Surfers as it showed that the model isn’t compatible which was quite a bit of surprise. Temple Run 2 had a smooth performance whereas Marvel’s Academy was constantly facing issues. Games that required high performance weren’t working well on this model whereas simpler games like Roll the Ball had a smooth play. Even while operating the social media app – Snapchat, while playing other videos, the videos were constantly getting hanged. As for the battery, one needs to plug in the device after about six hours of rigorous usage of phone. Otherwise the 3,000 mAh battery can sustain upto eight to ten hours of daily usage of basic daily applications like Twitter, Instagram, couple of videos, games, music and capturing of photos and videos. Once drained, Zoom can be charged using the power adapter provided in the box as the phone has turbo charging feature via its 18W power adapter which can charge from 0 to 60 percent in 39 minutes through its patented ASUS BoostMaster technology. If you go to charge it with any regular adapter, it may take double the time to restore its energy. Conclusion Asus ZenFone Zoom is available for a steep price of Rs 37,999 and though it has the premium feel with an above average camera functionality and 3X optical zoom, it’s certainly not value for money model. I found the speaker quality to be good but when it came to headphones, the phone did disappoint me in that area with its low sound. So for me, given the price point, I would certainly think twice before buying this model as apart from the 3X optical zoom and 128GB memory, I wish there was something which this model could appease me. Pricing the phone at Rs 25,000 would have been more viable as currently there are better options available in the market by its competitors who are offering better softwares and features at the same or lower price point. Update: ASUS announced the roll out of the much awaited Android Marshmallow 6.0 upgrade for ZenFone Zoom.
ASUS Zoom Night photo
Night photography
ASUS Zoom Normal
Photo clicked while using the auto mode
Photo clicked while using the HDR mode