Zenfones have never been more ambitious. Asus has been keeping its ears to the ground, and with the third generation models, it further refines its product, eliminating all previous gen shortcomings and is now asking for a premium price.

That places the Asus Zenfone 3 (ZE520KL) in a very peculiar spot. It borrows design traits and other highlights from the high-end, expensive Zenfones, and at the same time, being positioned at the lower rung of the Zenfone ladder, it feels the most reasonably priced of the lot.

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Did it impress? Hmm…let’s find out.

Also Read: Asus Zenfone 3 Camera Review: A Reliable Eye

Asus Zenfone 3 ZE520KL (3GB RAM) Specifications And Features

Model Asus Zenfone 3 (ZE520KL)
Display 5-inch IPS+ LCD, Full HD, 2.5D Gorilla Glass 3
Processor 2GHz Snapdragon 625 octa-core
RAM 3GB
Internal Storage 32GB, Expandable up to 2TB, 100GB of Google Drive Storage Free
Rear Camera 16MP, Sony IMX318 sensor, dual LED flash,  f/2.0 aperture, 4-axis OIS, 3-axis EIS, Laser AF, PDAF, CAF
Front Camera 8MP, F/2.0 aperture
Software Android Lollipop based Zen UI 3.0
Battery 2650 mAh
Others 4G LTE, Fingerprint sensor, dual SIM (Hybrid)
Lowest Price 21, 274 INR

Pros

  • Wonderful Camera
  • Great quality IPS LCD Display
  • Feels premium and compact
  • Smooth performance

Cons

  • Attracts smudges
  • Software is tad overwhelming

Attractive Design

The Zenfone 3 is metal sandwiched between layers of glass. But that’s a very casual and banal description that doesn’t do it any justice.

So, here we go again…

The curved 2.5D glass on front and rear are complimented by rounded metal side frame that ends in neat chamfers as it approaches the glass sheets. The entire Zenfone 3 is painted in graceful concentric circles which were once restricted to a signature metal plate underlying the display (in the first and second gen Zenfone models, that is).

Zenfone 3 design

This isn’t by far the first phone to use Glass on both front and rear surfaces, but still, the Zenfone 3 manages to retain its uniqueness. Like other glass phones, this one too attracts tons of smudges, so using it without a case doesn’t yield a very pleasant experience.

In terms of ergonomics, there isn’t much to complain. The Zenfone 3 isn’t feather light or heavy. It has a substantial heft to it which ultimately aids with better handling (and is more in line with our individual taste). In spite of the liberal use of glass, the handset feels very solid and is surprisingly grippy.

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The camera module juts out quite a bit, but the sapphire glass on top makes it durable against daily wear and tear. We have been using it without a case for about three weeks now, and it has resisted all scratches till date.

Would we prefer metal over glass on the rear surface? Maybe. But the glass works just fine for the Zenfone 3. We have the shiny Gold color unit with us that, to my surprise, doesn’t feel tacky. Black and White Color options are also listed on Flipkart.

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A Great Quality IPS LCD Panel

The display on the Zenfone 3 is bright, has great viewing angles and is quite vivid. Since we were relishing the sRGB mode on the OnePlus before we moved on to the Zenfone 3, the color tones felt a bit cold. Turning on the BlueLight filter from the quick settings panel acted as a quick fix. You can also adjust color hues and temperature to your individual liking from the display settings.

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Auto-brightness works well. You won’t have to cup your hands on the display to read its content when outdoors either.

The IPS LCD panel used on the Zenfone 3 is great in quality and only pertinent reason to look the other way is if you prefer punchy, a bit oversaturated AMOLED colors.

Also Read: OnePlus 3 Frequently Asked Questions, Benchmark Scores with Pros and Cons

An Engaging Camera

A good camera is half the job done. The Zenfone 3 camera includes 4-axis OIS, Laser AF, PDAF, 6p Largan lens, f/2.0 aperture, 4K video recording and a 16MP sensor. That looks ridiculously appealing on paper, and in practice, the camera didn’t disappoint one bit.

The Pixelmaster 3.0 software has improved over the years and makes using the Zenfone 3 camera even more interesting. The OnePlus 3 has a slightly better auto mode, but still, I found myself using the Zenfone 3 more often.

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The Pro mode in the app, the Low light mode, and the miniature mode are valuable additions that enhance the overall usage experience.

The camera captures a good amount of details in both indoor and outdoor lighting. Shots are crisp, show wide dynamic range and accurate colors. Also, the camera can lock focus in no time (AF is not supported for video recording).

For more details, you can also jump to our Asus Zenfone 3 Camera Review or check out some camera samples below.

Asus Zenfone 3 Camera Samples

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Performance and Software

We are quite satisfied with the performance we are getting from Snapdragon 625 on Zenfone 3. There is no lag while opening apps or switching between them, and sailing through the UI is smooth. I am not much into heavy gaming, but a few games like Asphalt 8, Nova 3 and Mortal Kombat that we tested ran without any issues.

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Playing these heavy games, however, pushes the chipset to its limits. If you have other activities going on in the background you will notice frame drops. The handset occasionally gets hot, but on the whole, heat dissipation is managed well.

While the performance exceeded our expectations, the software didn’t.  Today, more and more manufacturers are pushing their ROMs closer to Google’s stock vision. ASUS clearly isn’t making any such effort. There still are a truck-load of apps that you don’t need, but then again, you can uninstall or disable most of them or even use a different launcher more suited to your taste.

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The Marshmallow based Zen UI has every customization option in the book and thus if you love tinkering with your phone software, there is a lot here to keep you busy.

At the end of the day, the Zen UI feels overwhelming and we would have preferred something simpler.

Battery backup, Speakers, and Other Features

We were a bit skeptical about battery backup since the handset houses a rather modest 2650mAh battery. Once again the Zenfone 3 surprised us with its battery endurance. On most days, the Zenfone 3 battery lasts for one and a half day on a single charge with fairly heavy usage (which didn’t include gaming). Fast charging is also supported.

Zenfone display

Audio output is pretty decent and loud enough (There is room for improvement here). Call quality is excellent. Asus isn’t skimping on sensors either and all frequently used ones are present. The fingerprint sensor on the back is fast and accurate, but I had to set it up again for better results as most of the times my index finger tip touched only the bottom half of the glass covering the scanner.

Also Read: How do you go about buying a Smartphone? 

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Conclusion

The Asus Zenfone is actually a very convincing smartphone. It offers a wonderful camera, premium design, sturdy build and a very satisfying overall usage experience.  On the downside, the software feels a tad overwhelming. At the end of the day, the Zenfone 3 definitely qualifies as one of the best phones available under 25K.

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