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Gadget Review: Zenfone Zoom - Perfection or pricey?

A year after its announcement, Asus finally released the Zenfone Zoom at a price that defied expectations. Did it match up with its features?

Asus Zenfone Zoom ZX550

Design (9/10): Apart from the strikingly premium leather back cover and camera, there’s not much of difference visually between Zoom (ZX550) and other Zenfone models. However, if you look closer you find many thoughtful elements in the design such as a leather strap which protects the phone from accidental slips. The back camera’s flat exterior is designed to save the camera lens from touching the surface when laid on the back, or tipping across the sides. A metallic ring on the leather back cover wraps around the rear camera, adding to the charm. The volume rockers and the power button are placed on the top right side. The most useful elements are the still and video camera buttons placed at the bottom right edge of the device. They offers quick access to the camera, even when the device is locked. The device also feels solid thanks to its aluminum body that has been fused with plastic parts.

Asus Zenfone Zoom ZX550

Camera (8/10): Asus deserves applause for fitting a 13MP rear camera with 3X optical zoom into a smartphone body without fattening it. And, a great one too. Thanks to a four-step optical image stabiliser, blurred images are rare. The camera offers plenty of controls in manual mode (ISO, shutter speed, white balance, etc) as well as AE, AF and WB lock across all preset modes that are worth experimenting. There’s a low light mode that shows up automatically when the ambiance light is low. It also gets a laser auto focus and dual-LED Real tone flash. But a camera is as good as its image sensor. The one in Zoom is great across light conditions but colour reproduction isn’t flattering. Most pictures appear diluted. Also, the camera, initially, came with glitches, many of which were fixed by the latest update. But  it still fails to reset the settings while moving from manual to auto mode. Also, 13MP is too less for a smartphone camera that aspires to replace DSLRs. The front camera is a 5MP, which is average.

Display (8/10): Zenfone Zoom gets a 5.5-inch Full HD (1920x1080) screen with 403ppi pixel density. The touch is impressive and can be used with gloves on. It also comes with anti-finger print coating and Gorilla Glass 4 layering to protect against scratches. However, the display’s reflective surface makes it impossible to work with in bright daylight even when set to full brightness; most irritably noticed while clicking photos in sunlight.

OS and USER INTERFACE (8/10):  Asus runs the ZenUI on top of Android Lollipop 5.0. So, there’s not much difference between Zoom and other Zenfones in terms of UI or the factory apps that can’t be uninstalled.

Connectivity (9/10): The most exciting feature of the Zoom is the connectivity options Asus has brought onboard this device. It gets dual band Wi-Fi (a/b/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, Wi-Fi Direct, 2G, 3G and 4G (FDD-LTE) and GPS. Unfortunately, it’s a single SIM phone.   

Battery (7/10): Zenfone Zoom gets a 3,000mAh non-removable lithium-polymer battery, which just manages to pull through the day. It supports fast charging and can go up to 60% in 39 minutes. Heavy users, however, may find it too less.

Hardware and PerFormance (7/10):
  The Zoom is heavy at 185g, but it comes with an exorbitant 128GB internal storage. It’s also expandable upto 128GB via an external SD card, which we feel, is overkill. Replacing it with another SIM card slot would have served a greater purpose. It runs a 2.5GHz 64-bit Z3590 Intel quad-core CPU with PowerVR G6430 GPU, which does a decent job across apps and during multi-tasking. But it caused app crashes often, especially with the Chrome browser. Though the device offers 4GB RAM, running the system alone consumes more than 2/3rd of the RAM, leaving just 1.4GB for apps. Though multi-tasking is easy, we feel, Asus needs to fix this. We hear there’s a 64GB model as well, which will, hopefully, launch with a price cut.

Specifications

DISPLAY: 5.5-inch, 1920x1080, 403ppi
PROCESSOR: 2.5 GHz quad core Intel Z3590 64-bit
MEMORY: 4GB RAM, 128GB ROM, expandable via MicroSD
CAMERA: 13MP with 3X optical zoom (rear), 5MP (front)
CONNECTIVITY: GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 2G, 3G, 4G
PRICE: Rs 37,999

Overall rating

8.0 / 10

The guide Verdict: Zenfone Zoom is packed with features including a camera with 3X optical zoom, DSLR like controls, and 128GB storage. But issues like poor colour reproduction and reflective screen can’t be ignored, especially for a camera phone that costs Rs 38k.

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