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02 March 2016

Review: Asus ZenFone Zoom

With so many different good smartphones cameras available in the market, the one feature often lacking is the ability to zoom. Asus released a new ZenFone Zoom which offers an optical zoom lens without the use of telescoping lenses protruding from the rear casing which can be proven bulky at some point. Asus achieve this by using periscope style prisms. Not only that, they have dedicated camera buttons. Obviously, this is a camera-centric phone in the market! 


Asus had produced some of the best wireless routers I had come to know in recent times and even now my own wireless router is RT-AC68U. Personally, I had never use Asus phone and not many around me are using one. So I am pleasantly surprised when StarHub offered me a chance to review one of their latest Zenfone Zoom, one which was talk about for the past 1 year. From what I understand from the launch event I just went, this phone model is only available exclusively to StarHub Customers and you get this for free if you sign up for StarHub 4G 5GB plan!



Display:
5.5 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels (401 ppi) IPS LCD
Gorilla Glass 4
Hardware:
Intel Atom Z3580, Quad-core, 2330 processor, 4096 MB RAM
64 GB Built-in storage and allows storage expansion up to 128GB microSD (Singapore edition)
3000 mAh battery capacity (Built-in)
Camera:
13MP 1/3" Sensor
3X Optical Zoom
f2.7 - f4.8 Variable Aperture
1080/30p video (20Mbps)
Hardware & Software Stabilization
Dual LED Flash
Laser Focus Assist
Size:
158.9 x 78.84 x 11.95 mm, weighting 185g
Available in Black and White.

I got some shots to share with you guys both in low light condition and utilizing 3X Opitcal Zoom: 

Before Zoom

After applying 3X Optical Zoom
Night shot after applying 3X Optical Zoom



Night shot
For the most part, the phone provides reasonable grip which is important if you want to use it to take pictures, thanks to the genuine leather finish back cover. It got a  designated shutter release button (2 stage camera shutter) that allows half press to focus and full press to shoot, a feature most desired for photographers. Perform very well under low light shooting condition, ability to stabilize well at maximum zoom to handle slight camera shake. Most phones zoom by cropping the image but this phone by Asus provides a 3X optical zoom which maintains the full resolution of the sensor. Overall, the phone really does look like a point and shoot camera. As mentioned earlier, there's one small red dotted button dedicated to start shooting, you gotta press and hold to initiate and press and hold again to initiate video recording. Talking about video recording, it doesn't come with 4K UHD video recording or continuous focus. Although it does offer manual adjustments on the fly for video, shutter speed isn't one of them. Stabilization is only available in 720p mode. Slow motion capture is not one you will use and share, however time lapse is impressive.  


And for all you selfie wefie shooting lovers, you will be pleased with this wide-angle 5-megapixel sensor. You can dump your selfie stick! 

The back is removable which provides access to the micro SIM card and microSD slots. Sadly, depending on how you see it as an advantage or not disadvantage, the battery is non-removable, as such, for us power users, make sure arm yourself with power bank to last through the whole day and night. On average, a full charge will last you not more than 6 hours. And to fully charge your phone when your battery is flat, it will take you about 100 mins to full charge it. 

Running on Android 5.0 Lollipop overlaid with Asus' ZenUI which I read is pretty much the same with their predecessors. Although by now, most of the phones should have already upgraded to Marshmallow, for Asus, it seems it will take sometime, earliest can be April or latest June. With the upgrade coming up, Asus own Mail, Calendar and Messenger apps are going by the wayside, in favor of Google's Gmail, Calendar and Google Hangout. The Taiwanese company decided that less is more this time round.  

In closing, this phone is built around one specific rare feature which is a well executed hardware zoom. If you are someone who cares about photography and video and want a convenience feature of a hardware zoom yet someone who is not so concern about lens clarity and video performance, this phone is for you since there's manual settings to play around and explore great many possibilities.

Updated: 03032016 (1609hrs)