Asus Zenfone Zoom first look: Optical zoom arrives on a smartphone

Asus Zenfone Zoom first look: Optical zoom arrives on a smartphone

After over a year of its announcement, Asus finally launched its latest Zenfone smartphone called the Zenfone Zoom.  First announced in January 2015, the phone will now start selling in India at Rs 37,999 soon.  The USP of the phone is the presence of a 3x optical zoom feature,  Asus has also announced a bundle offer with a tripod and ZenFlash along with the Zenfone Zoom for Rs 39,999. This makes it the most expensive Asus Zenfone to date.

After the grand launch of the phone on 22 January evening at Agra,  we got to spend some time with the phone and here are our first impressions.

Build and Design

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Asus has built the Zenfone Zoom out of a single block of aluminum alloy which has undergone over 15 processes which leaves you with a metal framing and metal exoskeleton paired with injected plastic bits.  The phone’s metal edge measures 5 mm thick on the sides,  although the rear side does have a slightly rounded design which increases the thickness.

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The left hand edge is clean whereas on the right hand side,  you have the volume rocker button on the top followed by the power/standby button and then a dedicated video record button and a camera shutter button.  The base has the microUSB charging and data transfer port and a 3.5 mm audio Jack graces the top edge.

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On the rear side you get a soft leather cover which is stretched over a plastic flap. The cover is removable and it hides the single SIM card slot and a microSD card slot.  The camera module occupies the majority of the portion on the rear side. We will get to it under the camera section.

The in hand feel of the phone is quite good, although there is quite a bit of bezel on the top and bottom edges surrounding the 5.5inch display. But your fingers will be brushing against the camera more than you expect to because of the slight off centre placement of the camera.

Display

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The Asus Zenfone Zoom sports a 5.5inch full HD display with a Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection atop it.  The display has good viewing angles and it appears vibrant with good levels of brightness. We will need to check out the sunlight legibility and movie viewing experience to give a complete verdict on the display.

Chipset, RAM, Storage and Connectivity

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The Asus Zenfone Zoom comes with Intel Atom Z3590 quad core processor which is clocked at 2.5GHz. This processor is ably paired with 4GB of RAM which we had last seen on the Zenfone Deluxe. This ensured smooth performance while we were trying it out,  but it still requires testing in the real world.

The phone comes with 128GB of storage and you also get a microSD card slot in case you want to expand storage. But the Zenfone Zoom comes with a single SIM card slot. Apart from this you have Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS with AGPS and so on.

OS and Software
Android 5.0 with the Asus ZenUI skin atop it, runs on the Asus Zenfone Zoom. The ZenUI is similar to the one we have seen on the Zenfone 2 and other Zenfone models.  As is the case,  it comes pre bundled with a boat load of apps. We need to see if you can uninstall any or all of the unwanted apps.  We noticed a new app called Laser ruler which let’s you measure the distance from your subject. Apart from this other features and UI design is unchanged from the previous Zenfone models.

Camera

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The Asus Zenfone Zoom comes with a 13MP rear camera and a 5MP front camera. The unique factor of the Zenfone Zoom is the fact that it supports 3x optical zoom. This makes it the first phone to support optical zoom as we have been seeing only digital zoom so far.  Asus has employed a 10-element Hoya lens configuration which uses a dual prism periscope module design to capture light.  The lens arrangement is sideways rather than seeming to come out of the phone and it has been done to keep the phones profile slimmer.

The camera comes with all the bells and whistles we have seen with other Zenfones such as laser auto focus, manual shooting modes,  super resolution and so on. The Zenfone Zoom also supports 32 second exposure mode, for using which you will need a tripod.  The other interesting bit on the camera is that it supports 4 stop optical image stabilization which ensures stutter free handheld shots even for 1 sec exposures, says Asus.  We will of course be testing these claims when reviewing the device.  The camera section comes with a lot of responsibility as that is the raison d’eatre of the phone.

Battery
Powering the Asus Zenfone Zoom is a 3000mAh Li-polymer battery. Now this is a non removable battery. It comes with an 18W power adapter which according to Asus can charge the Zenfone Zoom from 0 to 60 percent in 39mins. We will need to use the phone as our daily driver to be able to talk about the battery life.

Conclusion
The Asus Zenfone Zoom is priced at Rs 37,999 making it the most expensive Zenfone out there. It certainly brings something new to the table with a 3x optical zoom feature.  But on the software front nothing much has changed as such (including the bloatware). While trying out the camera,  we came across a few bugs such as slow zooming or persistence of manual mode features when switching to auto mode and so on. But we will need to test the phone on its latest software build to give a complete lowdown on the user experience of using the camera.  We will be doing a full review of the Zenfone Zoom very soon. So keep checking back.

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