ASUS is in the process of taking its new Zenfone 3 range fully to market and the latest offering from them is the Zenfone 3 Laser. Let us take a look at this new successor to the hugely popular Zenfone 2 Laser today.
ASUS has very clearly sent out a message that they are done playing in the budget segment and that they are now very clearly focused on the premium and mid-range segments. This is a notable departure from their earlier Zenfone 2 series where the key push was in the budget segment. And they did very well at that. The Zenfone 2 Laser was a big hit with the people who wanted a great imaging experience at an affordable price. With the Zenfone 3 Laser, they are moving away from that segment and very firmly trying too target the flagships of today.
The phone comes with an all-metal body that has a 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass in front for protection. The dimensions are 149 x 76 x 7.9 mm and it weighs 150 grams. Despite featuring a 5.5-inch screen , the ZenFone 3 Laser easily fits in one hand. The rear side of the phone has the now customary Zenfone 3 look where the curved back from the Zenfone 2 series has been done away with for a flatter surface that helps house the fingerprint scanner right below the camera that’s placed in between the laser sensor and the dual tone flash. Very similar to all the other Zenfone 3 variants we have seen. Then there are the antenna strips in the top and the bottom on the rear.
The front is mostly made up of the 5.5-inch full-HD display, right on top of which is the 8 MP front camera. The company claims that the handset has a 77% screen-to-body ratio. It has capacitive Android navigation buttons below the screen, but the navigation buttons are not backlit, making this phone extremely hard to use in the dark unless you have trained your muscle memory over time.
The power and volume buttons are placed on the right, while the hybrid SIM slot is located on the left. The top houses the 3.5mm audio jack while the bottom has the standard Micro-USB port and speaker grille.
The 5.5-inch full-HD (1080×1920-pixel) IPS display is very crisp, clear and can render colors really well. Blacks are very visibly rich, and the brightness level is quite good on the eye. Text and images look sharp and very nifty. You can adjust the colour temperature using the customary app setting that is now taken for granted on smartphones. Sunlight readability was above average and we had no trouble using the device out and about at any time of the day.
The screen is a massive fingerprint magnet that works overtime and we had to clean it very often to get the smudging off the surface, a little too often actually! The phone comes equipped a blue light filter that claims to protect eyes from glare. Touch response was pretty decent and when we tried wet hands and even with gloves on, the phone did not disappoint at all. ASUS has their bases covered in that department for sure.
The device is run by an octa-core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor that is clocked at 1.4GHz, with built-in Adreno 505 graphics and 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM. It comes with 32GB of built-in storage and supports up to 128GB more using a microSD card. So on the memory and storage front it is what you get on most devices today. It was ASUS that started the 4 GB race last year!
It has a 13-megapixel rear camera with f/2.0 aperture and dual-LED real-tone flash. It is capable of 1080p video recording at 30 fps. The other one is an 8-megapixel front camera with f/2.0 aperture. The supported connectivity options include Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi direct, GPS/A-GPS, Glonass, and 4G. The handset has a hybrid SIM slot and supports one Micro-SIM and the other slot is for a Nano-SIM, meaning that additional storage with a micro SD card comes only if you can sacrifice the second SIM. Both the SIM slots support upto 4G Cat speeds but only one can be active at any given time. The device runs on a 3000mAh non-removable battery.
The Asus ZenFone 3 Laser runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow with the company’s ZenUI 3.0 skin on top. The Zen UI needs de-cluttering and a clean up very soon. It is becoming a serious issue with the number of unwanted and unused apps that cannot be removed. There are too many apps and options, enough to drive even a power user up the wall. The automatic sorting of apps into folders is slightly inconvenient when you are quickly looking to find an app and all you see is a bunch of folders. Not to mention the updates from time to time for stuff that you will never use anyway. The ASUS Filemanager app is a gem though, lean and mean and well written.
The camera app on the phone fires up pretty quickly even from the lock screen. The interface is neat and light, not cluttered at all and intuitive to use. Camera users can have a choice of Manual, HDR Pro, Beautification, Super Resolution, Low-light, QR Code, Night, Depth of field, Effect, Selfie, GIF animation, Panorama, Miniature, Time rewind, Slow motion, or Time Lapse. This is true for the entire Zenfone 3 family from ASUS.
The hero feature of this phone is its laser auto-focus tech that purportedly locks an object into focus in just 0.03 seconds. This was a very nifty thing to have, especially when taking close-up shots of living and non-living subjects. Very fast and reliable, the pictures turned out pretty neat too. On the negative side, when we tried zooming in to images, we could very visibly make out noise and grain in the corners. Low light shots were okay, but not the stuff that you would write home and get all excited about. There is the super resolution mode that ASUS claims to take 64 MP pics with, it is a tad bit laborious and takes a slightly longer time to capture the image and if you move your hand, it is ruined for you. Takes a lot of getting used to, this mode.
The front camera is very good and takes detailed selfies very fast. In the selfie mode, the ZenFone 3 Laser automatically launches Beautification mode, this is something that should be optional and an opt-in rather than the opt-out that it is now.
The battery lasts for three quarters of a day on a single charge with average use. The performance is decent and not stutters or lag were seen during the review.
ASUS has played a gamble with the pricing around 20,000 for this variant, that puts it in competition with the likes of the Lenovo Z2 pro and others that offer much more in terms of experience and specifications.
The Zenfone 3 Laser is a good iteration above the Zenfone 2 Laser, but very tough to recommend as an upgrade given the other options, it is good but could have been a lot better and priced aggresively.