When we covered the launch of the ASUS ZenFone Zoom, everyone clamoured to review it. It was literally the ultimate ZenFone smartphone – with its powerful Intel Atom processor, 4 GB of RAM, 128 GB of internal storage and a 13 MP camera with 3X optical zoom, laser auto-focus and optical image stabilisation!
Unfortunately, initial stocks were limited so ASUS sent us the 5.5″ smartphone model (ZE550KL) and the 6″ phablet model (ZE601KL) of their ZenFone 2 Laser series instead. We are ecstatic to report that ASUS recently passed us a special edition of the ASUS ZenFone Zoom (ZX551ML). So we present to you our definitive review of the ASUS ZenFone Zoom (ZX551ML) smartphone!
Updated @ 2016-05-09 : Added additional information to various sections, and expanding in particular, the section on its photographic capabilities.
ASUS ZenFone Zoom Specifications
|Specifications||ASUS ZenFone Zoom (ZX551ML)|
|Operating System||Android 5.0 (Lollipop) with ASUS ZenUI 2.0|
|Display||5.5" IPS touchscreen
1080 x 1920 pixels (403 ppi pixel density)
Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection
|Processor||Quad-core Intel Atom Z3590 (2.5 GHz)|
|Graphics Processor||PowerVR Rogue G6430 (640 MHz)|
|Memory||4 GB LPDDR3 SDRAM|
|Storage||128 GB eMCP flash memory
microSD card slot (up to 128 GB)
5 GB lifetime ASUS WebStorage
|Front Camera||5 MP sensor with f/2.0 wide-angle lens|
|Rear Camera||13 MP Panasonic SmartFSI MN34130 sensor
Hoya 28-84 mm f/2.7-4.8 lens (10-element periscope design)
3X optical zoom + 4X digital zoom
4 stops Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS)
Dual-LED, dual-tone flash
Laser auto-focus system (0.03 seconds focusing, up to 50 cm)
|Network Speed||4G LTE Cat4+ : 50 / 250 Mbps
3G HSPA+ : 5.76 / 42 Mbps
|SIM Support||Single micro SIM card|
|Connectivity||WiFi : 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth v4.0 + EDR
NFC, micro-USB 2.0
|GPS||GPS / GLONASS / QZSS / SBAS / BDS|
|Battery||3000 mAh lithium polymer (non-removable)|
|Other Sensors||Accelerator, E-Compass, Gyroscope, Proximity, Ambient Light, Hall sensor|
|Dimensions||78.8 mm wide x 158.9 mm tall x 11.95 mm thick
3.10" wide x 6.26" tall x 0.47" thick
|Weight||185 g / 6.53 oz (with battery)|
|Available Colours||Pure Black / Ceramic White|
Unboxing The ZenFone Zoom
Our ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] came in a special edition box set, so it’s much larger than what you would see in a retail store. When you open up the box, you will find a welcome note printed on heavy cardboard. Very classy. Underneath, you will find the actual ASUS ZenFone Zoom box, a box of Zencredible Photocards and a Zenny figurine nestled in foam cutouts.
- One ASUS ZenFone Zoom (ZX551ML) smartphone wrapped in plastic
- One ASUS ZenFone Zoom leather strap
- One 18W ASUS fast charger with power plug adapter and micro-USB cable
- One set of Zencredible Photocards – the ASUS’ version of Cards Against Humanity (Special Edition box set only)
- One Zenny figurine (Special Edition box set only)
- One pair of ASUS ZenEar earphones with four spare earbuds
- One set of User Manual, Warranty Card and strip of 3 IMEI stickers
Note that the Special Edition box only come with two extra items – the Zenny figurine and the Zencredible Photocards.
In the next page, we are going to take a close look at the ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Amazon] and set it up!
Next Page > The ZenFone Zoom, Premium Finish, Fast Charger
Support Tech ARP!
The ASUS ZenFone Zoom (ZX551ML)
In this video, we will show you how to quickly unwrap the ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] – just slide it out! And we will give you a quick tour of its key features :
The ASUS ZenFone 2 series is notable for their ambidextrous design. However, the ZenFone Zoom abandons it due to the periscopic lens arrangement, and its focus on photography. Instead of a central alignment, all of the ZenFone Zoom’s physical buttons are on the right side. There are not buttons on the left side.
First, you have the Volume rocker switch, which doubles as Zoom buttons. To zoom in, press the T (Telescopic) button. To zoom out, press the W (Wide) button. Right next to them is Power button. On the far end, you will find the Record Video button (small circular button with a red dot) and a dedicated Shutter button. Like on a digital camera, you can half-press the Shutter button to focus on an object before taking the shot.
The earphone port is located at the top, together with a microphone port. There is a second microphone port located at the bottom, next to the micro-USB port. Note the groove which allows you to remove the back cover, and the single speaker grille next to it.
At the lower left corner is a strap hole. It allows you to attach the leather strap, so you can loop it around your wrist. This will prevent the ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] from hitting the ground should it slip out of your hand.[adrotate banner=”5″]
At first sight, you can tell that the ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] is a bespoke device. It has a certain heft that imparts confidence in its build, with a beautiful anodised aluminium frame that terminates in a brilliant ring around the Gorilla Glass-protected display.
The frame is carved from a single block of aerospace-grade aluminium alloy and then polished, sand-blasted and anodised – in an elaborate 201-step process. ASUS certainly spared no expense in this model.
To give it the ultimate feel of luxury, the back cover uses the finest (literally) ox leather. Only 38% of the hide with the thinnest and toughest cut is used. It is then finished with traditional Italian tailoring. The leather cover not only feels great, it gives you a better grip.
The ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] comes with a fast charger that delivers up to 18 W of power (2 amps of current at 9 V). You can recharge the ZenFone Zoom with any other charger, even use a micro-USB connected to a computer’s USB port. However, you won’t be able to charge as fast as you would with this fast charger (see our test results).
It is made up of two parts – the AC/DC converter, and a power plug that varies according to region. This modular design allows ASUS to manufacture the same fast charger for the entire world, and adapt them to local requirements using the modular plug heads.
Support Tech ARP!
Inside The ZenFone Zoom
Now, let’s take a look INSIDE the ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price]. We will show you how to carefully remove the premium leather back cover to gain access to the SIM slot and the microSD card slot. Unlike other ZenFone 2 models, the 3,000 mAh battery is not user-removable.
There is also a microSD card slot which allows for an additional 128 GB of storage. It may seem superfluous since the ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] comes with 128 GB of internal flash storage. But if you are going on an extended trip, 256 GB of storage can buy you peace of mind.
Mono Speaker & ZenEar
Interestingly, the ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] comes with a single speaker. However, ASUS appears to have put in quite a lot of work into this speaker.
ASUS engineers used a 5-magnet construction with a metal voice coil, which delivers a much higher volume with lower bass distortion. They also added a dedicated sound chamber for maximum audio expansion.
For the best audio experience, ASUS even threw in a pair of ASUS ZenEar earphones. They have a frequency response of 20-20,000 Hz with a maximum power output of 107 dB/mW. They also come with four spare earbuds.[adrotate banner=”5″]
Setting Up The ZenFone Zoom
This video will show you the initial setup process. It will take you no more than 5 minutes to set up the ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] as a new device.
Support Tech ARP!
Available Memory & Storage
The ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] comes with 4 GB of LPDDR3 memory, which is fantastic because it has quite a bit more bloat than the 5.5″ ZenFone 2 Laser (ZE550KL) and the 6″ ZenFone 2 Laser (ZE601KL) we reviewed earlier. Even so, you have at least 2.2 GB of free memory to use – more than what many smartphones (like the honor 5X) come with!
Out of the box, the ZenFone Zoom comes with 128 GB of internal flash storage. Once you deduct about 16.5 GB for the Android 5.0 operating system and 1.1 GB for the ASUS apps, you still have a whooping 111 GB of free space left to use!
That’s more than enough to store 30,000 pictures or 670 minutes of 1080p video. It is unlikely you will find the need to add additional storage space using a microSD card.
The raison d’etre for the ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] is its special 13 MP PixelMaster 2.0 camera, which boasts a 3X optical zoom capability. While optical zoom is not a new capability in smartphones, it is exceedingly rare… especially without a telescopic mechanism.
In this regard, ASUS has achieved an amazing feat – delivering optical zoom capability without a protruding or telescoping lens. The ZenFone Zoom looks, works and feels like a smartphone. And they did this using an ingenious periscopic lens design created by HOYA.
The 10-element periscopic lens arrangement with dual high-precision stepper motors allow the ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] to deliver a focal length range of 28 mm to 84 mm. This 3X optical zoom can be further extended digitally for a total zoom length of 12X. This design has some drawbacks though.
Even at its widest, it isn’t very fast with an aperture of just f/2.7. Top smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Note5 and the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge sport much larger apertures of f/1.9 to f/1.7. When you zoom out all the way to 84 mm, the lens stops down to f/4.8. To compensate for the lower light input, the 13 MP camera is optically-stabilised for up to 4 stops.
Fortunately, ASUS chose to use the Panasonic SmartFSI MN34130 sensor in the ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price]. Now, this is hardly the best 13 MP sensor they could have used (say, the Sony IMX214 or IMX 258), but it is way better than the dismal Toshiba T4K37 sensor used in the other ZenFone 2 models.
To round up the rear camera’s photographic capability, ASUS also threw in a laser auto-focusing system and a dual-tone LED flash. The laser focusing system is designed to accurately measure distance for close-up photography, while the dual-tone LED flash produces flash photographs with more realistic skin tones.
If you are into selfies though, the ZenFone Zoom only offers a 5 MP sensor with no flash, but the wide-angle lens is fast at f/2.0.[adrotate banner=”5″]
Both the front and rear cameras use a 4:3 ratio for maximum resolution, with small crop sizes available in the settings menu. The main camera can record videos in full 1080p resolution, albeit only with electronic video stabilisation turned off.
The main camera also comes with a bunch of built-in software features like a HDR mode and a low light option that extends the camera’s ability to capture poorly-lit scenes by combining light from multiple pixels. You can also apply some filters or convert your pictures into GIF animation.
Support Tech ARP!
Camera Performance – Image Quality
The ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] uses the Panasonic SmartFSI MN34130 sensor, instead of the Toshiba T4K37 sensor used in the rest of the ASUS ZenFone 2 series. The pictures were distinctly superior all around.
Take the example of the elevator and the signboards. If you blow them up to 100%, the edges are no longer blurred with noise, with only some noticeable noise in the darker areas. Even those are greatly improved over the photos taken by the 5.5″ ZenFone 2 Laser (ZE550KL) and the 6″ ZenFone 2 Laser (ZE601KL) we reviewed earlier.
The following photos of the bubblegum balls and assorted fruits show how much better the ZenFone Zoom is at taking photos. The photos are not just much sharper (when blown up to 100%), they show a much better control of the exposure.
Generally, this camera performs best in well-lit scenes. Its zoom lens is not the very fast when wide (f/2.7 at 28 mm) and quite slow (f/4.8) when fully zoomed to 84 mm. In dim or pooly-lit scenes, you need to rely on its 4-stop OIS to reduce handshake.[adrotate banner=”5″]
Laser Focusing Performance
It uses a laser diode to shoot laser beams at near objects to instantly determine their distances. This allows for faster and more accurate focusing than can be achieved using contrast detection or phase detection auto-focusing techniques. We tested its laser focusing capabilities using a neat little app that ships with the ZenFone Zoom – a laser ruler.
As you can surmise by now, 50 cm is also the range for the ZenFone Zoom’s laser auto-focusing feature. If it fails to detect any object in range, it will fall back to the original contrast detection auto-focus method. Even with the range limitation, it’s very useful if your subject is in range… especially if there are subjects nearby that may interfere with the auto-focus.
Next Page > Camera Performance – Zoom & Video Recording
Support Tech ARP!
Camera Performance – Zoom
You might be wondering – just how useful is the 3X optical zoom? Take a look at these comparison photos we took of various sceneries :
The 3X optical zoom really makes A LOT of difference. It allows you to reach out and take photos from a distance, even past the shoulders of people standing in front of you.
Of course, you can do digital zoom on all smartphones, but optical zoom offers the best image quality. The optical zoom also extends the total zoom capability of the ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] to a whooping 12X – 3 times further than what you can accomplish with only digital zoom.
You may also be wondering if the 3X optical zoom will allow you to deliver better bokeh in portrait shorts. Sadly, at maximum zoom, the aperture is only f/4.8. So there is a significant depth of field and poor background separation.
While portraits and indoor shots may not be its cup of tea, the ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] works great with scenery and architectural shots, where there is plenty of light and the depth of field is useful.[adrotate banner=”5″]
Camera Performance – Video Recording
The ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] is capable of recording 1080p videos, albeit without any electronic image stabilisation. The good news is it supports optical image stabilisation, which works better than electronic image stabilisation.
The ZenFone Zoom’s optical zoom also comes in handy, giving you much greater flexibility and creativity when you record videos. Check out these three examples. The first is of chickens at a pet farm, the second of a gamelan (traditional Malay music) band, and finally, a piano performance by Mr. Yang I-Deun.
In the piano scene, it seemed to have some trouble focusing on Mr. Yang as we zoomed in. This was not seen in the first two videos which were brightly lit outdoor scenes, so it is probably a problem only in dim conditions. We hope ASUS will look into correcting this in the next firmware update.
Support Tech ARP!
Work Performance : PCMark
We tested the ZenFone Zoom’s performance using PCMark, which simulates work applications like web browing, playing video, writing text and editing photos.
|ASUS ZenFone Zoom||honor 5X||Samsung Galaxy S6|
|Work Performance Score
The honor 5X (Lowest Price) may use the octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 processor, but it is clearly no match for the quad-core Intel Atom Z3590 processor. The Snapdragon 616 has four A53 cores running at 1.65 GHz, with another four A53 cores running at 1.11 GHz. The Intel Atom Z3590, on the other hand, has four cores running at 2.5 GHz.
Battery Life : PCMark
We then tested the ZenFone Zoom’s battery performance using PCMark. It basically ran the PCMark work tests until its battery capacity dropped to 20%.
Now we can see the Intel Atom Z3590’s processing power comes at the expense of battery life. The ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] uses the same 3,000 mAh lithium polymer battery as all other ASUS ZenFone 2 models, but only lasts just over 6.5 hours.
In comparison, the 6″ ZenFone 2 Laser (ZE601KL) lasted just under 8 hours, while the 5.5″ ZenFone 2 Laser (ZE550KL) lasted over 12 hours on the same test. The honor 5X (Lowest Price), which uses a similar 3,000 mAh battery, lasted 8.5 hours. With such a short battery life, you will want to pack a power bank if you are going on a long trip.[adrotate banner=”5″]
Battery Recharging Speed
Like the 6″ ZenFone 2 Laser (ZE601KL), the ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] comes with Fast Charging capability, and a corresponding 18 W fast charger. Then we tested to see how fast it recharges from 20% to 100%.
As the chart shows, the ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] recharged from 20% to 100% in just 86 minutes (1 hour 26 minutes). It actually hit 90% in just 61 minutes (1 hour 1 minute). In other words, the ZenFone Zoom recharges its battery about 32% faster than the 6″ ZenFone 2 Laser (ZE601KL) [Lowest Price] and 2.4X faster than the 5.5″ ZenFone 2 Laser (ZE550KL).
This is really amazing performance. From our logs, we can see that it recharged the first 20% in just 9 minutes. So if you are short on power, even a short recharge can give you a significant boost in battery life.
Support Tech ARP!
Overall Performance : AnTuTu Benchmark
AnTuTu is a nice benchmark for testing various performance aspects of Android devices.
|– 3D (Garden)||6976||1492||8104|
|– 3D (Marooned)||9863||954||12475|
|– UX Data Secure||5896||4673||5507|
|– UX Data Process||4353||2438||4392|
|– UX Strategy Games||4118||2698||6948|
|– UX Image Process||2926||2599||3413|
|– UX I/O Performance||4078||3861||3805|
|– CPU Mathematics||5196||2968||7823|
|– CPU Common Use||8699||4696||7585|
|– CPU Multi-Core||9215||6367||9994|
The Intel Atom Z3590 with its PowerVR G6430 graphics processor is definitely very fast. It was faster than the honor 5X (Lowest Price) in all aspects of this benchmark, even though the honor 5X was powered by an octa-core Snapdragon processor. The ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] is just a little slower than the Samsung Galaxy S6.
Gaming Performance : 3DMark
We tested the ZenFone Zoom’s gaming performance using 3DMark, using the Ice Storm Unlimited test.
|Graphics Test 1||112.6 fps||39.6 fps||120.6 fps|
|Graphics Test 2||81.5 fps||28.9 fps||87.3 fps|
|Physics Test||64.0 fps||27.3 fps||50.9 fps|
The Intel Atom Z3590 really showed its mettle in this test. While the PowerVR G6430 graphics processor held up well against the Galaxy S6’s Mali-T760 graphics processor, the Intel Atom Z3590 delivered much better physics processing capability than the Galaxy S6’s octa-core Exynos 7420 processor.
When we first saw the ASUS ZenFone Zoom, we knew we had to review it. It is a remarkable combination of innovation and art. With its ox leather back, it looks like an ultra-premium version of the ASUS ZenFone 2 smartphones that came out in the past year or so.
Its killer feature is, no doubt, its 13 MP main camera with its unique and innovative periscopic lens design. This allows the ZenFone Zoom to deliver 3X optical zoom without a protruding or telescopic lens. It is capable of optical focal lengths of 28-84 mm while remaining a svelte smartphone no thicker than 12 mm. Amazing!
ASUS also threw in every photographic technology they had in their bag – laser auto-focus, dual-tone LED flash, and 4-stop optical image stabilisation (OIS). They even swapped out the dismal Toshiba T4K37 sensor for a much better Panasonic SmartFSI sensor. The result – the best photographic experience in the entire ASUS ZenFone 2 family.
The ZenFone Zoom’s image quality is significantly better than its ZenFone 2 brethren. Even its videos were much better – less grainy with better exposure control. The 3X optical zoom was very helpful in many situations, giving us greater reach and creative options. You will also appreciate the ZenFone Zoom’s 4-stop optical image stabilisation. It effectively cancels out your hand tremors, helping to deliver sharper images and videos.
While the Panasonic SmartFSI is a superior sensor, it is hardly the best sensor ASUS could have used. In a way, the ZenFone Zoom could have been better. It could have been the best camera smartphone in the market if ASUS paired it with top-of-the-line image sensor like the Sony IMX260 used in the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge.
Intel may be languishing in the smartphone market but there is no doubt that their Atom processors are fast. The Intel Atom Z3590 used in the ZenFone Zoom is a quad-core processor. But backed by the PowerVR Rogue G6430 graphics processor, it trashed the octa-core Snapdragon 616 processor used in the honor 5X (Lowest Price) while coming close in performance to, or even beating in some aspects, the octa-core Exynos 7420 processor used in the Samsung Galaxy S6.
Of course, all that processing power comes at a price – battery life. The ZenFone Zoom could only lasted 6.5 hours in our battery stress test (from 100% down to 20%). The 6″ ZenFone 2 Laser (ZE601KL) and the 5.5″ ZenFone 2 Laser (ZE550KL), in comparison, lasted just under 8 hours and over 12 hours respectively.[adrotate banner=”5″]
The good news is the ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] comes with fast charging capability. How fast? It recharges from 20% to 100% in under 1.5 hours! Even a quick 9 minute charge will give you a 20% boost in battery capacity. This is the best fast charging performance we have seen in the ZenFone 2 family.
The ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] is the ultimate smartphone of the ZenFone 2 family. It has the most powerful Intel Atom processor ever used in a smartphone, backed with 4 GB of RAM and a whooping 128 GB of internal storage. And it comes with a 13 MP camera with a 3X optical zoom, 4-stop image stabilisation, dual-tone LED flash and laser auto-focus. All in a sleek 5.5 smartphone form factor, wrapped in posh leather.
From what we understand, this is likely to be the last Intel Atom-powered smartphone to come out of the Intel-ASUS partnership. Of course, we hope that is just a rumour and the partnership will continue. But if it doesn’t, and you must have the best Intel Atom-powered smartphone ever made, the ASUS ZenFone Zoom is it.
We like it so much, we think the ASUS ZenFone Zoom [Lowest Price] deserves nothing less than our Reviewer’s Choice Award! Congratulations, ASUS!
Go Back To > First Page | Reviews | Home