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The ASUS ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL) Smartphone Review

The ASUS ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL) Smartphone Review

The ASUS ZenFone 2 family of smartphones and phablets was notable for its use of Intel Atom processors, as well as their ambidextrous design. While the Intel Atom processors were powerful, they guzzled power and had trouble gaining traction in the smartphone market.

Hence, it comes as no surprise when ASUS revealed in Computex 2016 that the new ZenFone 3 series would be powered by Qualcomm processors instead. That decision probably contributed to Intel’s decision to quit the smartphone market for good.

You may have already seen our sneak peek of the new ASUS ZenFone 3 models at Computex 2016. Today, we are going to take a look at the ASUS ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL) smartphone!

 

ASUS ZenFone 3 Specifications Comparison

Here is how the ASUS ZenFone 3 (Amazon) compares against the other two ZenFone 3 models :

SpecificationsZenFone 3 Deluxe (ZS570KL)‏ZenFone 3 Ultra (ZU680KL)ZenFone 3 ‏(ZE552KL)‏
Display5.7" Super AMOLED
(1920 x 1080 pixels, 386 ppi)
79% screen-to-body ratio
3,000,000 : 1
contrast ratio
ASUS TruVivid technology
Bluelight Filter
6.8" IPS display
full-screen lamination
(1920 x 1080 pixels, 324 ppi)
79% screen-to-body ratio
178˚wide-viewing angle
ASUS TruVivid technology
Bluelight Filter
5.5" Super IPS+ display
(1920 x 1080 pixels, 401 ppi)
500 nits brightness
77.3% screen-to-body ratio
2.1mm slim bezel
ProtectionCorning Gorilla Glass 4Corning Gorilla Glass 42.5D contoured Corning Gorilla Glass
Operating SystemAndroid 6.0 Marshmallow
ASUS ZenUI 3.0
Android 6.0 Marshmallow
ASUS ZenUI 3.0
Android 6.0 Marshmallow
ASUS ZenUI 3.0
SoC PlatformQualcomm Snapdragon 820
(MSM8996)
Qualcomm Snapdragon 652
(MSM8976)
Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
(MSM8953)
ProcessorQuad-core Kyro (2.15 GHz)4 x ARM Cortex-A72 (1.8 GHz)
4 x ARM Cortex-A53 (1.4 GHz)
4 x ARM Cortex-A53 (2.0 GHz)
4 x ARM Cortex-A53 (1.4 GHz)
Graphics ProcessorQualcomm Adreno 530 (624 MHz)Qualcomm Adreno 510Qualcomm Adreno 506
MemoryUp to 6 GBUp to 4 GB LPDDR3Up to 4 GB LPDDR3
StorageUp to 128 GB (UFS 2.0) internal flash storage
microSD slot (Supports up to 2 TB)
Up to 128 GB internal flash storage
microSD slot (Supports up to 2 TB)
Up to 64 GB internal flash storage
microSD slot (Supports up to 2 TB)
Front Camera8 MP, f/2.0 aperture
85˚ wide-viewing angle, Auto Focus
8 MP, f/2.0 aperture
85˚ wide-viewing angle, Auto Focus
8 MP, f/2.0 aperture, Fixed Focus
Rear Camera23 MP Sony IMX318 sensor
0.03 second TriTech auto-focus
6P Largan f/2.0 aperture lens
4 Stop OIS (Optical Image Stabilization)
3-Axis EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization)
Dual-LED real tone flash
Sapphire lens protection
23 MP Sony IMX318 sensor
0.03 second TriTech auto-focus
6P Largan f/2.0 aperture lens
32 second long exposure
4 Stop OIS (Optical Image Stabilization)
3-Axis EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization)
Dual-LED real tone flash
16 MP Sony IMX298 sensor
0.03 second TriTech auto-focus
6P Largan f/2.0 aperture lens
32 second long exposure
4 Stop OIS (Optical Image Stabilization)
3-Axis EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization)
Dual-LED real tone flash
Sapphire lens protection
ConnectivityFDD Band 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 7 / 8 / 12 / 17 / 18 / 19 / 20 / 26 / 28 / 29 / 30
LTE Cat. 13 (600 Mbps / 150 Mbps)
UMTS:
Band: 1/2/4/5/6/8/19
GSM: 850/900/1800/1900
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
USB 3.0 Type-C, BT4.2 + A2DP + EDR
GPS/A-GPS/GLONASS/BDSS
FDD Band 1 / 3 / 5 / 7 / 8 / 18 / 19 / 20 / 26 / 28
LTE Cat. 6 (300 Mbps / 50 Mbps)
UMTS: B1/B2/B5/B6/B8/B19
GSM: 850/900/1800/1900
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
USB 2.0 Type-C, BT4.2 + A2DP + EDR
GPS/A-GPS/GLONASS/BDSS
FDD Band 1 / 2 / 3 / 5 / 7 / 8 / 20
LTE Cat. 6 (300 Mbps / 50 Mbps)
UMTS: B1/B2/B5/B8
GSM: 850/900/1800/1900
Wi-Fi 802.11ac/USB 2.0 Type-C
BT4.2/GPS/A-GPS/GLONASS/BDSS
Dual SIM capabilityDual SIM Dual StandbyDual SIM Dual StandbyDual SIM Dual Standby
SensorsAccelerator / E-Compass / Gyroscope / Proximity sensor / Hall sensor / Ambient light sensor / RGB sensor / IR sensorAccelerator / E-Compass / Gyroscope / Proximity sensor / Hall sensor / Ambient light sensor / RGB sensor / IR sensorAccelerator / E-Compass / Gyroscope / Proximity sensor / Hall sensor / Ambient light sensor / RGB sensor / IR sensor
Fingerprint SensorYes, rear mounted below camera bumpYes, integrated with Home buttonYes, rear mounted below camera bump
Audio Capability5 magnet speaker
ASUS SonicMaster 3.0
Dual 5 magnet speakers
ASUS SonicMaster 3.0
FM Radio
5 magnet speaker
ASUS SonicMaster 3.0
Battery3000 mAh4600 mAh
Talk time: 34 hrs (3G)
Wi-Fi browsing (14.5 hrs)
Video Playback (12.5 hrs)
3000 mAh
Fast Charging18 W (9V, 2A) Adapter
Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 technology
BoostMaster Fast Charging : 60% battery capacity in 39 minutes
18 W (9V, 2A) Adapter
Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 technology
BoostMaster Fast Charging : 60% battery capacity in 45 minutes
10 W (5V, 2A) Adapter
Size156.4 mm tall x 77.4 mm wide x 4.2 ~ 7.5 mm thick186.4 mm tall x 93.9 mm wide x 6.8 mm thick152.59 mm tall x 77.38 mm wide x 7.69 mm thick
Weight170 g233 g155 g
Available ColoursMetal finish:
Glacier Silver
Titanium Gray
Shimmer Gold
Metal finish:
Glacier Silver
Titanium Gray
Metallic Pink
Glass finish:
Sapphire Black
Moonlight White
Shimmer Gold
Aqua Blue

 

Unboxing The ASUS ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL)

The ASUS ZenFone 3 (Amazon) comes in a classy slate-coloured cardboard box. Wanna see what’s inside? We reveal it all in this video!

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Inside the box, you will find the following items :

  • One ASUS ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL) smartphone
  • One pair of ASUS earphones, with four spare earbuds
  • One set of ASUS ZenFone 3 User Guide and warranty card
  • One 10W ASUS quick charger
  • One Type C USB cable
  • One SIM tray ejector pin
  • One set of three serial number and IMEI stickers

ASUS is marketing the ZenFone 3 as the more affordable mainstream variant, and the bundled accessories reflect that.

Next Page > Key Features Of The ZenFone 3, Setting Up The ZenFone 3

 

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The ASUS ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL) Smartphone

With a 5.5″ display, the ASUS ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL) is the smallest model in the family. However, because all three ZenFone 3 models have the same Full HD resolution of 1080 x 1920, the its display boasts the highest pixel density of 401 ppi. The much larger ZenFone 3 Ultra (ZE680KL), for example, has a pixel density of only 324 ppi.

The ZenFone 3 (Amazon) has a very premium feel, thanks to its use of 2.5D contoured Corning Gorilla Glass that seamlessly fits the metal frame carved out of aerospace-grade aluminium alloy. It has a nice heft at 155 g / 5.5 oz – not too light, and not too heavy.

Unlike the ZenFone 3 Ultra, the ZenFone 3 (Amazon) uses a more conventional design – the Volume buttons are placed on the right side, with the Power button. The SIM card tray is placed on the left side. So this is no longer the ambidextrous design that ASUS ZenFones are known for.

The ZenFone 3 also features an improved 5-magnet speaker with Hi-Res Audio support. Not only does it deliver higher fidelity audio, it is now 20% louder with 42% less distortion.

 

Hybrid SIM & Fingerprint Sensor

The ASUS ZenFone 3 (Amazon) has Dual SIM, Dual Standby capability, with both SIMs supporting 4G. The SIM card tray is located along the left edge, and supports two nano SIM cards. The second SIM card tray is a hybrid SIM tray, which allows you to install a microSD card instead. In other words, it supports either a second nano SIM card, or a microSD card, but not both at the same time.

Unlike the ZenFone 3 Ultra, the ZenFone 3 (Amazon) uses a fingerprint sensor that is located at the back, just under the main camera. This is an all-aspect fingerprint sensor that unlocks the smartphone in just 0.2 seconds. It can also be programmed to activate specific apps (like the camera) with different fingers.

 

PixelMaster 3.0 Cameras

The ASUS ZenFone 3 (Amazon) sports a decent 8 MP front camera with f/2.0 lens for selfies. While not as good as the 16 MP front camera of the OPPO F1s “Selfie Expert” smartphone, it has a higher resolution than the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, and is capable of recording 1080p videos. The only downside? It doesn’t support screen flash.

The killer feature of the ZenFone 3 (Amazon) is the much improved PixelMaster 3.0 camera at the back. It features a 16 MP Sony IMX298 sensor with new features like fast hybrid autofocus and 3-axis electronic image stabilization.

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ASUS paired it with f/2.0 Largan lens with 4-axis, 4-stop optical image stabilization, and a second-generation laser auto-focus sensor.

What all that means is you can capture very high resolution photos and videos in poorly-lit conditions. Any blurring that occurs due to hand shakes and wobbles will be greatly reduced or eliminated.

Focusing is also much faster, thanks to the new laser sensor that accurately detects the range of objects in low light at up to 1.5 m away.

In addition to 1080p videos, the PixelMaster 3.0 camera can also shoot 4K videos. To top it off, it encodes the 4K videos using HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) to keep the file size small while maintaining a high level of image quality.

Finally, the ASUS ZenFone 3 (Amazon) does not have any noticeable limit on how long you can record videos, or how large their file sizes are. We have recorded videos of over 120 minutes in length, and over 11 GB in size. Most smartphones have a 4 GB limit, even if they do not have a time limit.

 

Setting Up The ZenFone 3

The ASUS ZenFone 3 (Amazon) runs on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, which should be familiar to many Android users. It is very easy to setup. If you are setting it up as a new device, it should take you only 5 minutes to finish the setup process.

If there’s one thing we dislike, it’s the additional apps that the ASUS ZenFone 3 (Amazon) automatically downloads, even if you skip the “free apps” offer at the end of the setup process. Our sample downloaded Need For Speed : No Limit, SimCity, Lazada, Beauty Plus, iReader and Google Slides.

Next Page > Ergonomics, Available Memory & Storage, PixelMaster 3.0 Camera Performance

 

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Ergonomics

When you power it up for the first time, you will be struck by how beautiful its display is. This may not be a QHD display like those on the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (Amazon) or the HTC 10 (Amazon), but you won’t be able to tell the difference. The Super IPS+ display also offers a boost in brightness (up to 500 nits), which is especially useful outdoors in bright sunlight.

The smaller form factor means it is an easier fit for most hands. The ZenFone 3 (Amazon) is also much lighter than its big brother, the ZenFone 3 Ultra – so holding it in one hand is not a problem at all. That said, the Gorilla Glass back makes it just as slippery to grip as the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (Amazon).

 

Available Memory & Storage

The ASUS ZenFone 3 (Amazon) comes with either 3 GB or 4 GB of LPDDR3 memory. Our review sample came with 4 GB of memory. Only 3.5 GB was usable, of which 1.1 GB was used by the Android operating system and background apps. This left 2.4 GB of free memory for us to use. That’s more than enough memory to run multiple memory-guzzling apps simultaneously.

The ASUS ZenFone 3 (Amazon) also comes with a generous amount of internal storage – 64 GB. Out of the box, just under 52 GB was available for use. That should be plenty enough for most users, but is expandable via a microSD card (up to 2 TB). It also comes with 100 GB of free Google Drive storage for 2 years.

 

Camera Performance – Photos

The resolution of the new PixelMaster 3.0 camera is very good. The full 16 MP resolution is attained with the 4:3 aspect ratio. Each picture has a resolution of 4656 x 3492 and a file size of 3.5-5 MB.

Here are six high-resolution samples for you to check out. Click on them to load the full-sized photos, which you can also download to examine.

The Sony Exmor-RS IMX298 is a really good sensor. The colours are vivid but not unnaturally so. However, the highlights are blown out. This was not so much of a problem with the IMX318 sensor used in the ZenFone 3 Ultra.

Next Page > PixelMaster 3.0 Camera 1080p & 4K Video Recording Performance

 

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Camera Performance – Video Recording

The ASUS ZenFone 3 (Amazon) is capable of recording 1080p and 4K videos, with both 4-axis optical and 3-axis electronic image stabilisation enabled. To test its video recording capabilities, we recorded a street market and a koi pond in daylight, and a night dance as well. They were all recorded in both 1080p and 4K resolutions. Check them out!

The videos show how helpful the advanced optical and electronic image stabilisation is in the ASUS ZenFone 3 (Amazon). While it may not be quite as smooth as an actual gimbal like the DJI Osmo Mobile, it is a great improvement on what we saw with the previous-generation ASUS smartphones, like the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser.

The amount of detail captured, especially in the 4K videos, is amazing. However, you can also see how the highlights are blown out. This is especially noticeable in the bright background of the Piano and Night Dance videos.

Next Page > Work Performance, Battery Life, Battery Recharging Performance

 

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Work Performance – PCMark

We tested the ZenFone 3’s performance using PCMark, which simulates work applications like web browing, playing video, writing text and editing photos.

ASUS ZenFone 3 ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra HTC 10 honor 8
Work Performance Score
(Average)
6405 6313 6105 6350
Web Browsing 8045 6257 5782 8073
Video Playback 3469 4287 3321 4396
Writing 7316 7166 7463 6231
Photo Editing 8246 8262 9694 7352

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor powering the ZenFone 3 (Amazon) did very well in this test, besting the ZenFone 3 Ultra (Snapdragon 652), the HTC 10 (Snapdragon 820) and the honor 8 (Kirin 950).

 

Battery Life – PCMark

We then tested the ZenFone 3’s battery performance using PCMark. It basically ran the PCMark work tests until its battery capacity dropped to 20%.

The ASUS ZenFone 3 (Amazon) only comes with a 3,000 mAh battery, but it lasted almost 12 hours in this test! This is 22 minutes longer than the battery life of its big brother, the ZenFone 3 Ultra, which boasts a 53% larger 4,600 mAh battery. This is excellent battery life.

 

Battery Recharging Performance

The ASUS ZenFone 3 comes with a 10 W fast charger. Take a look at how fast it recharges the 3,000 mAh battery.

It took us 99 minutes (1 hour 39 minutes) to recharge the ZenFone 3 (Amazon) from 19% to 100%. That’s a battery life : recharging ratio of 7:1 – very impressive!

As the charger does not support any fancy fast charging technologies like Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, the charging profile is a relatively flat curve. It showed slightly faster charging up to the 70% charge level, before tapering off a little.

Next Page > Overall & 3D Performance, Our Verdict & Award

 

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Overall Performance

AnTuTu is a nice benchmark for testing various performance aspects of Android devices.

ASUS ZenFone 3 ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra HTC 10 honor 8
TOTAL SCORE 62761 76096 113813 90737
3D SCORE 13022 18816 50700 17706
– 3D (Marooned) 7906 10861 34778 9829
– 3D (Garden) 5116 7952 15922 7877
UX SCORE 23789 26794 30890 34550
– UX Data Secure 5847 5077 6319 7338
– UX Data Process 3109 4198 3379 5513
– UX Strategy Games 4254 7503 5433 9745
– UX Image Process 7443 6879 9521 5017
– UX I/O Performance 3136 3137 6238 6937
CPU SCORE 20342 23689 21915 32255
– CPU Mathematics 4226 6950 8494 10483
– CPU Common Use 6593 6311 5931 8543
– CPU Multi-Core 9523 10428 7490 13229
RAM 5608 6797 10308 6226

The ASUS ZenFone 3 (Amazon) is not going to win any gaming awards. It was fast in 2D graphics and CPU processing, but performed poorly in the 3D tests. It was far slower than top-of-the-line smartphones like the HTC 10, and even some mid-range smartphones like the Kirin 950-powered honor 8.

 

Gaming Performance – 3DMark

We tested the ZenFone 3’s gaming performance using 3DMark, using the Ice Storm Unlimited test.

ASUS ZenFone 3 ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra HTC 10 honor 8
Gaming Score 13956 17719 23171 18659
Graphics 13484 21124 27512 19993
Physics 15903 11328 14925 15127
Graphics Test 1 80.5 fps 115.2 fps 136.6 fps 122.5 fps
Graphics Test 2 46.1 fps 76.3 fps 106.4 fps 67.4 fps
Physics Test 50.5 fps 36.0 fps 47.4 fps 48.0 fps

The Qualcomm Adreno 506 GPU in the ZenFone 3 (Amazon) is no 3D powerhouse and it shows. It was half as fast as the HTC 10 (Adreno 530), 36% slower than the ZenFone 3 Ultra (Adreno 510), and 33% slower than the honor 8 (ARM Mali-T880).

 

Our Verdict

The ZenFone 3 smartphone family represents a concerted effort by ASUS to break into the premium smartphone market. The ASUS ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL) model itself represents the tip of the spear. After all, it is the most affordable variant in the family.

Now, we must point out that this is not the best smartphone for 3D gaming. The ASUS ZenFone 3 (Amazon) is very fast at 2D games, and work applications, but it falters in 3D gaming performance. But if you do not intend to play 3D games on it, this is a very good smartphone for everything else.

It has a really good front and back cameras. Yes, the highlights are overblown (can ASUS fix this in a firmware update please?), but the optical and electronic image stabilisation has been greatly improved. The resulting pictures and videos are quite amazing. They are sharp, and the colours vivid.

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The ZenFone 3 (Amazon) also supports 4K video recording, in addition to 1080p recording. And some of you might like to know that it can record videos of indefinite length and file size. No more 30 minute limit. No more 4 GB limit. Just awesome for recording events like your child’s football game or a friend’s wedding!

You will also love the long battery life and the short recharge time – something you will appreciate if you are always on-the-go and have little access to a power point. The same goes for its large memory and storage capacity. With 4 GB of memory, and 64 GB of flash storage, you will find it hard to run out of both.

And last but not, the ASUS ZenFone 3 (Amazon) is a work of art. It exudes luxury with the 2.5D curved glass on both sides melding into the solid metal frame. That is a luxury that comes with a price premium – one that many will feel well worth it.

We are so impressed with the ASUS ZenFone 3 (Amazon) that we feel it deserves no less than our Reviewer’s Choice Award. Congratulations, ASUS!

 

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You Can Now Purchase ZenFone 3 From The ASUS Store

The wait is now over, with the arrival of the ZenFone 3 Deluxe

All the ZenFone 3 Series is now available in Malaysia.

ASUS just announced that you can now purchase ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL / ZE520KL / ZU680KL / ZC520TL) smartphones from the ASUS Store, their e-commerce site.

For certain variants & colors, it will be made available soon upon arrival. The same goes for the ZenFone 3 Ultra and ZenFone 3 Deluxe smartphones.

 

 

ZenFone 3 Prices

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ZenFone 3

  • ZE552KL: RM 1699 / ~US$ 425
  • ZE520KL: RM 1499 / ~US$ 375

ZenFone 3 Ultra

  • ZU680KL: RM2599 / ~US$ 649

ZenFone 3 Max

  • ZC520TL: RM799 / ~US$ 199

 

ZenFone 3 Models Coming Soon

ZenFone 3 Laser (Mid – October)

  • ZC551KL: RM 999 / ~US$ 249

ZenFone 3 Deluxe (Mid – October)

  • ZS570KL (Snapdragon 821): RM 3299 / ~US$ 825
  • ZS570KL (Snapdragon 820): RM 2559 / ~US$ 639

 

ZenFone 3 Max is Now Available In Malaysia!

ASUS ZenFone 3 Information

You can read more about the ASUS ZenFone 3 in these articles :

 

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