Asus has made a bold move with the Zenfone 3 Deluxe (ZS570KL) by targeting the premium smartphone segment. It will be stepping in the ring with the Google Pixel smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and the Apple iPhone 7, all of which are not only cheaper than the Zenfone 3 Deluxe, but excel in the camera department. The iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7 Edge also feature water and dust resistance. Has Asus done enough to make the Zenfone 3 Deluxe a worthy contender in this competitive luxury smartphone segment?
The smartphone is offered in two variants – one powered by the Snapdragon 820 SoC, with 6GB of RAM and 64GB storage priced at Rs 49,999, and the other with the Snapdragon 821 SoC, 6GB of RAM (LPDDR4) and 256GB (UFS 2.0) storage priced at Rs 62,999. With such a hefty price tag, I was curious to find out whether it’s worth spending the money on this phone. After sing the phone for about two weeks, here’s what I think.
Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe Design
The smartphone has a sleek and slim profile, and features a full metal unibody design. The front is dominated by a 5.7-inch display with very slim bezels on the sides. Above the display, you have the front camera, earpiece and sensors on top, and capacitive navigation keys for back, home and app switcher at the bottom. The trademark concentric circle pattern is present along the top and bottom. The display has Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection, but is prone to fingerprint smudges, and you will find yourself cleaning them off quite often.
Turn to the back, and the very first thing to grab your attention is the clean design without those ugly antenna lines that we’re used to seeing in other smartphones. Asus has really done a commendable job, especially considering the smartphone has metal unibody. The back is also slightly curved making it easier to hold the device. Along the top half, you have the dual-tone LED flash, the square-shaped camera module with a small hump and the laser auto-focus module. Right below the camera module is a capsule-shaped fingerprint sensor. On the lower half, you have the Asus logo.
The phone has chamfered edges, further adding to its looks. On the right edge, you have the hybrid SIM tray that lets you use one microSIM card and one microSD card, or one microSIM and one nanoSIM card. On the right, you have the volume rocker and power buttons – both having the distinctive concentric circle pattern. Up top, you have the 3.5mm audio jack, and a USB Type-C port placed at the bottom, just beside the speaker grille.
Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe Display
The Zenfone 3 Deluxe has a 5.7-inch full HD (1080p) Super AMOLED display, with pixel density of 386ppi. Of course, considering the premium price tag and the fact that it’s competing against the Pixel XL and Galaxy S7 edge, I feel that a QHD resolution was necessary here. Nevertheless, the display is very bright and color reproduction is quite punchy too. Be it reading e-books or watching TV shows and movies over Netflix, the display is an absolute pleasure. Under display settings, you also get an option to adjust the color temperature or add a blue-light filter for stress-free reading at night.
What’s more, there is also an always-on display mode where you can set a clock as a screensaver. It also displays other notifications, including battery percentage, number of unread messages, calls and the date. However, it does consume a lot of battery — even with flight mode on for about eight hours overnight; the battery drain was around 16 percent. I wouldn’t recommend using the mode if you want to conserve the battery.
Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe Software
The Zenfone 3 Deluxe runs on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with Asus’ ZenUI on top. However, considering the premium segment the smartphone is placed in, I expected it to run Android 7.0 Nougat. The interface is pretty smooth and the combination of Snapdragon 821 SoC and 6GB of RAM ensure snappy performance.
As always, Asus has loaded up the smartphone with bloatware apps such as ZenCircle, MiniMovie, DoItLater, ZenFone Care and Go2Pay among others, and sadly, you can’t uninstall them either. The company has also pre-loaded third-party apps such as Truecaller, Puffin browser, Amazon Kindle and games such as Need for Speed: No Limits and SimCity, and this is one department where Asus does not seem to want to change its ways.
Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe Performance
The Snapdragon 821 SoC and 6GB of RAM ensure smooth performance, no matter what you throw at it. The apps open faster; multi-tasking even with about 15 apps running in the background is a breeze. Asus has also included OptiFlex feature, which it claims to boost app launch performance. While there is no tool to measure those claims, I generally didn’t come across any trouble when it came to launching apps. ALSO READ: Ok Google, your Pixel smartphones are impressive
The gaming experience on the smartphone is also pretty smooth. Right from casual games such as Temple Run 2 and Subway Surfers, to graphics intense games such as Asphalt 8: Airborne and Modern Combat 5: Blackout, games run without any hiccups. Asus has also added Game Genie mode to clear some RAM and offer the required boost to ensure smooth running of games. There is also live game record mode, and options to broadcast the session live on YouTube or Twitch. Even after playing games for about 15-20 minutes, the phone doesn’t get warm. Asus seems to have optimized the software to keep thermal levels low.
Fingerprint Sensor: Unlike most smartphones that feature a circular fingerprint sensor at the back, Asus has gone with a rather odd, rectangular one that is awkwardly placed. It isn’t the fastest one out there, nor is it always accurate. There were times where it took over three seconds to unlock the device. Also, with no vibration feedback, it becomes a little difficult to know if it has successfully scanned your finger or not.
Multimedia: The Zenfone 3 Deluxe has ample storage of 256GB, out of which you get 227GB of user accessible space. You can store a good chunk of your music collection, or even download some movies or TV shows to watch at your convenience, without quickly running short on storage. The built-in video player supports playback at full-HD and 4K formats. I was able to play 4K videos (30fps) without any hiccups.
The smartphone also supports Hi-Res audio output, 192kHz/24-bit, and on using a good pair of headphones, the audio quality does sound excellent. The smartphone also supports the APT-X codec for crystal-clear audio on Bluetooth, it did really sound better than what I’m used to. The speaker also decently loud, but I wish it could have been slightly louder and clearer for those occasional times when you don’t want to connect headphones.
Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe Camera Performance
Smartphone cameras have now pretty much replaced the point-and-shoot cameras of the past, and the likes of the Galaxy S7, iPhone 7 and Google Pixel already excel in that department with pictures that are as good as what you’d expect from an affordable dedicated camera. The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge feature the best smartphone camera sensor around, the iPhone camera is well received, and the Pixel and Pixel XL camera is highly rated by experts and users alike. In comparison, the Zenfone 3 Deluxe does not come anywhere closer to what the competition is offering.
It is equipped with a 23-megapixel rear camera of aperture f/2.0 and pixel size of 1.12µm (it’s powered by the Sony IMX 318 sensor), with dual-tone LED flash and a laser auto-focus module, which Asus claims is good enough to focus on subjects in 0.03 seconds. The camera also includes 4-axis optical image stabilization (OIS) to keep blurry photos and videos away. It supports 4K video recording at 30fps too. Sure, the specifications sound good, but the camera struggles most of the time.
Photos shot outdoors look decent, but they lack consistency. Below are two photos, shot in auto and HDR mode. The one in HDR mode looks a little dull, and the color of the trees appears dark, rather than looking green.
(Photos are resized for web, click on them to view full resolution pictures)
In the next picture, which is a close-up, blacks and whites look good, the background defocusing works well, and the sensor is able to capture accurate colors too. However, it isn’t quite sharp, which is something you will notice as you zoom in.
Indoor photos clicked under moderately lit conditions look decent, but detail is often missing.
The dual tone LED flash works well in low-light scenarios, and the phone’s camera is able to capture good-looking photos with enough details.
The Zenfone 3 Deluxe also comes with an 8-megapixel selfie camera of aperture f/2.0. Selfies clicked outdoors under bright lighting conditions look good. The camera is able to capture accurate details and skin tone looks natural too.
Selfies shot indoors under proper lighting conditions are bright, and the sensor is able to capture accurate colors too. There is also a ‘beautification mode’ where you can tweak the skin tones, make it bright and also smoothen the skin, and it works pretty well too.
Indoor selfie without beauty mode
Indoor selfie with beauty mode
I also shot a couple of videos in full HD and 4K resolution. The quality is good and playback is smooth too. However, the 4-axis OIS didn’t seem to work pretty well, as the videos recorded while walking turned out to be a bit jerky.
Battery: The Zenfone 3 Deluxe has a 3,000mAh battery, along with Quick Charge 3.0 support for fast charging. The bundled charger quickly takes the battery from 0-60 in about 35 minutes and takes a little over an hour to fully charge the phone. Sadly, Asus has not optimized the Zen UI well for efficiency. During my usage, the battery life on the smartphone has been very inconsistent.
With my daily usage, I got screen-on time of about three hours and 30 minutes. It was constantly connected to 4G or Wi-Fi, I made some phone calls for about an hour during the day, social networking during the two hours during my daily commute, three email accounts in sync and some Slack chats through the day. Before the end of the day, I always needed to give the battery a quick boost, just to ensure it doesn’t die on the way home. Google, Apple and Samsung have fine tuned the software of offer power and performance, but Asus falls short in this department.
In a nutshell, the Zenfone 3 Deluxe (ZS570KL) has more misses than hits. The top-of-the-line hardware, such as Snapdragon 821 quad-core SoC, 6GB of RAM and 256GB storage are great specifications to boast of, but don’t quite do enough to give it that edge over similarly priced and more affordable competition. Additionally, the 23-megapixel rear snapper with 4-axis OIS fails to ensure consistency in photography. In short, the Zenfone 3 Deluxe represents a missed opportunity for Asus; the Taiwanese company could have done much more, but has neglected too many aspects of the phone.
Think about it. When you are shelling out Rs 62,999 for a smartphone, you expect nothing but the best. But the Zenfone 3 Deluxe falters on almost every aspect. It does not have the best display, camera, UI or even battery life. On paper, it has the best hardware specifications available at the moment yet the same does not reflect in its performance. In every aspect, it feels that you are compromising. And you should not be compromising if you are spending that kind of money. Asus didn’t even give any sort of water resistance, which all flagship smartphones that it competes with offer. ALSO READ: Samsung Galaxy S7 Review: The perfect smartphone money can buy
For this kind of money, there is no reason why anyone should not pick the likes of the Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 edge, Google Pixel or the Apple iPhone 7 over the Zenfone 3 Deluxe. There is absolutely no way to justify the existence of this smartphone at this price point. And if having a tier one brand is not your absolute requirement, there’s the OnePlus 3T that’s priced at half of what Asus is commanding for the Zenfone 3 Deluxe.
Asus needs to know one thing — specifications alone do not make a flagship smartphone, the experience does. Unfortunately, the Zenfone 3 Deluxe does not provide the experience one expects from a phone priced at Rs 62,999 and that’s the reason why we cannot recommend anyone to buy it.