Asus ZenFone 3, ZenFone 3 Laser, ZenFone 3 Ultra and ZenFone 3 Deluxe: First impressions

Asus announced its third generation of ZenFones at an event in New Delhi yesterday. Post the event we had a chance to try out the four phones and here are our first impressions of the devices.

After officially announcing its third generation of ZenFones at Computex 2016, ASUS launched the new series in India yesterday in New Delhi which include the ZenFone 3, ZenFone 3 Ultra, ZenFone 3 Deluxe as well as the ZenFone 3 Laser.

We took a quick at all the smartphones and here is what we think about them.

Build and Design

ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe Tech2 640

ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe

The Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe comes with an all-metal body which looks elegant, thanks to the matte finish on the rear. Asus has also ensured that the antenna cuts are not visible, thereby calling it the first phone with invisible antenna lines. We could not see them anywhere on the rear. The phone, despite having a metal build, does not feel as heavy as expected.

The volume rocker and power/standby buttons are located on the right hand side and the SIM Card tray is on the left. There's a 3.5mm audio jack up top and the USB Type-C connector at the base. The speaker grille is on one side of the USB Type-C port. On the rear, you have the Asus branding in the lower half. And on the top half you have the 23MP rear camera module, beside which are the dual LED flash units and the laser AF mechanism. Just under the camera module is the fingerprint scanner, which is like a standing rectangle. Your index finger naturally rests there.

ASUS ZenFone 3

The Asus ZenFone 3 is the more mid-range offering and comes with a metal frame body which is complemented by 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass on either side. The phone has a very glossy finish on the rear, which makes it a smudge magnet—something that is very evident on darker phones. ASUS has also released some interesting design covers such as Aqua, Nebula, Glaze. The phone is notably thicker than theZenFone 3 Deluxe and feels heavier. Having said that, the ZenFone 3 is quite a departure from the plastic back toting ZenFone 2 series.

The ZenFone 3 Ultra is more of a tablet replacement thanks to the massive 6.8-inch display. It comes in a metallic build and is the first among the three ZenFone 3’s to sport a dedicated home button. The ZenFone 3 Ultra is targeted more at the content consumption audience. It also sports a fingerprint scanner on its rear and a USB Type-C data transfer and charging port. It only has the power standby button on its right hand side and there is no dedicated volume rocker button.

The ZenFone 3 Laser is the most affordable option but it still feels premium in terms of design. The overall shape and placement of buttons, ports and even the fingerprint scanner is similar to the ZenFone 3 with the main difference being the choice of material. It has a metallic finish at the back which is curved and also has the antenna bands visible at the back. This model doesn't offer a USB Type-C rather uses a microUSB port at the bottom.


ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe display

All four phones sport a Full HD resolution. The ZenFone 3 Deluxe has a 5.7 inch display with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection, ZenFone 3 has a 5.5 inch display as well as a 5.2-inch display with 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass protection, the ZenFone 3 Ultra has a massive 6.8 inch display with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection and lastly the ZenFone 3 Laser has a 5.5-inch full HD IPS display protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Of the four, the display on the ZenFone 3 Deluxe is worth a second glance for its gorgeous SuperAMOLED screen. The other two devices only have LCD displays. However, the ZenFone 3, ZenFone 3 Ultra and the ZenFone 3 laser do have displays with good viewing angles. The use of a Full HD panel on the ZenFone 3 Ultra seems a bit odd in this era and we expected a QuadHD display.

Chipset, RAM, Storage

The Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe comes in two variants including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 with 64GB storage as well as a Snapdragon 821 version with 256GB of storage, both of which come with 6GB of RAM. The Asus ZenFone 3 comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset in two variants; 3GB RAM and 32GB of storage and 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage, The ZenFone 3 Ultra sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 chipset along with 4GB of RAM and up to 64GB storage. Lastly the ZenFone 3 Laser comes with a Snapdragon 430 chipset with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. All phones offer you the option to expand the storage using a microSD card slot. Keeping in mind that all the phones were in their factory state, we observed that the operations were smooth, with fast transitions. We will need to use it in real life to get a complete idea of how the specs hold up.


ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe Camera

Asus has paid a lot of attention to the cameras on the three phones, with the ZenFone 3 Deluxe and the ZenFone 3 Ultra sporting 23MP Sony IMX318 sensor-based cameras. The ZenFone 3 has a 16MP sensor while the ZenFone 3 Laser has a 13MP camera. The ZenFone 3 Deluxe and ZenFone 3 also support 4-axis optical image stabilisation (OIS) for shooting stills and 3-axis electronic image stabilisation (EIS) for shooting videos. All smartphones support 4K video recording except for the Laser. All the four phones come with 8MP front-facing cameras.

OS and Battery Life

All the ZenFone 3 models announced today come with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow OS with the ZenUI 3.0 skin atop it. Right off the bat, we can say that the interface looks a bit cleaner than the older versions, but bloatware is still present. In fact opening the app drawer shows around three pages full of apps. We are not sure if you can uninstall unwanted system apps, we will need to try this out for ourselves. But the previous generation ZenUI interface only let you disable unwanted pre-loaded apps. Asus has added some new features to the ZenUI, such as parallax motion wallpapers, vivid weather information and much more.

In terms of battery life, the ZenFone Ultra comes with a 4,600mAh battery while the ZenFone 3, ZenFone 3 Deluxe and the ZenFone 3 laser come with 3,000 mAh batteries.


The  ZenFone 3 models that were announced yesterday are quite different from the ZenFone 2 models we had seen last year, which were identical except for the specs. The ZenFone 3 Deluxe and the ZenFone 3 Laser bring in an all metal design, which is different from the dual-sided glass design of the ZenFone 3. The ZenFone 3 Ultra comes with a dedicated home button, which is not seen on the other three phones.

ASUS has also employed current generation Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets for all the three phones. Also, the camera department seems to have received some love considering that all the phones are sporting high resolution cameras with two of them sporting OIS/EIS as well. We will still have to test the cameras in real life usage scenarios to get an idea of how they perform.

In terms of pricing the ZenFone 3 Deluxe starts from Rs 49,999 for the Snapdragon 820 version while the higher Snapdragon 821 goes all the way up to Rs 62,999. The ZenFone 3 starts at Rs 21,999 for the 3GB RAM + 32GB storage variant while the 4GB RAM + 64GB storage variant is priced at Rs 27,999. The ZenFone 3 Ultra will set you back at Rs 49,999 while the ZenFone 3 Laser is priced at Rs 18,999.

Asus has gone over the top with the Indian pricing. Comparing it to the original pricing which was announced back at Computex 2016, it is substantially high. This is a big change from the earlier generation of ZenFones which were always targeted at the budget segment. It seems that with the ZenFone 3 series, Asus wants to aim for the premium range. The smartphones are definitely premium, but will the company succeed with such high pricing? Even the most affordable option, the ZenFone 3 Laser, is priced over Rs 15,000 which is currently the sweet spot of pricing in India.


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