ASUS did a decent job with the ZenFone Zoom, but falls just shy of the hype as a great camera phone.
AT A GLANCE
1,920 x 1,080 pixels
Intel Atom Z3590
158.9 x 78.84 x
5 ~ 11.95mm
ASUS ZenFone Zoom
ASUS announced the ZenFone Zoom at CES 2015, alongside the popular ZenFone 2 and it was a long wait for this beast to arrive on our shores. Consumers in Taiwan were among the ﬁrst to get the ZenFone Zoom last December before landing in Singapore this March. Both smartphones sport the same design traits such as the concentric-circle detailing Hardware and an aluminum frame. The aluminum frame has a smooth and premium ﬁnish. Like the LG G4, the ZenFone Zoom comes with a leather rear cover.
The rear cover is removable via a slit at the bottom left corner. Hidden beneath the cover is a micro-SIM slot and a microSD memory card slot. You also can see the embedded 3,000mAh battery and the gigantic camera module. The latter reminds us of the Nokia Lumia 1020, which also had a huge camera bump. However, the camera bump on the ZenFone Zoom does not make the phone wobble when placed on its rear as there is another horizontal ridge at the bottom.
The ZenFone Zoom runs on ZenUI, a customized Android overlay developed by ASUS similar in fashion to HTC’s Sense and Samsung’s TouchWiz. Since ZenUI was unveiled in 2014, the interface looks a tad dated compared to the recent revamps we’ve seen from the competition. It is also awkward to see the ZenUI still based on Android 5.0 Lollipop when Android 6.0 Marshmallow has been around the block. While ASUS is a bit slow in updating its mobile devices to the latest Android version, they are timely when it came to issuing Android OS security patches.
The ZenFone Zoom is powered by a 64-bit 2.5GHz Intel Atom Z3590 chipset (a speedier version of the Intel Mooreﬁeld that topped out at 2.3GHz when launched) and 4GB RAM. Overall, performance was smooth and we did not encounter any lag whatsoever. RAM usage by the OS was relatively heavy; there was only 2GB available when we closed all apps in the background. The ZenFone Zoom lasted 8 hours and 41 minutes in our battery test, which is quite decent compared to the ZenFone 2.
On paper, the ZenFone Zoom boasts one of the most impressive suites of imaging hardware. The phone’s rear camera has a 13-megapixel, f/2.7-4.8, 28-84mm (35mm equivalent) 10-element lens created by Japanese optics ﬁrm Hoya. The phone is relatively thin when compared to other large lenses phones – it is at 11.95mm including the camera bump, but tapers down to 5mm at the sides. ASUS has worked with Hoya to develop a dualprism periscope module design using 6.2mm D-cut lenses. The ZenFone Zoom also boasts optical image stabilization, 0.03s ultra-fast laser autofocus, a dual-LED real tone ﬂash, and macro focusing as near as 5cm, Super Resolution mode (combining four 13-megapixel photos to create a single 52-megapixel image) and ASUS’s PixelMaster technology. The front-facing camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with wide-angle lens, PixelMaster and a Selﬁe Panorama mode capable of taking up to 140-degree wide shots. If there is one thing lacking on the ZenFone Zoom, it would be 4K video recording.
To activate optical zoom, simply press the volume controls and a slider will appear on the right to guide you. It feels comfortable and natural as though you are using a point-and-shoot camera, and is nowhere as clumsy as the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom. Unfortunately, the image quality delivered by the ZenFone Zoom is average compared to other 13-megapixel shooters we’ve seen. We reckon that the issue lies with the image processing and the quality of lens used. Hardware ASUS did a decent job with the ZenFone Zoom’s hardware and design, but fails to live up to its claims of a great camera phone. While other phone makers compete with better lenses, bigger pixels and smoother image processing, ASUS took a different path by focusing on optical zoom capability. But having optical zoom without delivering the best image quality makes the ZenFone Zoom look like a half-baked product.
Unless you absolutely need optical zoom in your next phone, there are better alternatives on both ends of the price range. Given more budget, the LG G5, LG V10 and Samsung Galaxy S7 are better considerations. On the other end, even the oneyear-old Galaxy S6 at current street price is still a very compelling choice.
The phone’s rear camera has a
13-megapixel, f/2.7-4.8, 28-84mm
(35mm equivalent) 10-element
lens by Hoya.
The camera bump on the ZenFone
Zoom does not make the phone
wobble when placed on its rear.