Asus Zenfone smartphone’s record has been a mixed bag of hits and misses. Some devices were appreciated for their design and performance whereas some got flak because of their user interface and display. Asus, on its part, has been consistent in launching a range of smartphone in the Zenfone series which are unique in their own way. The latest offering in the series is the Zenfone Zoom S – the company is targeting budding photographers with the device.
Armed with a price tag of Rs 26,999, the Asus Zenfone Zoom S made its entry in India last month. The launch was later than expected as the device was first showcased at CES 2017 in first week of January. Asus has joined the dual rear camera bandwagon with the Zoom S and will take on bigwigs like Samsung, OnePlus, Motorola, LG among others.
We used the Zenfone Zoom S for a while and noticed that the smartphone stands out in a few areas whereas some other aspects can certainly be improved. The Rs 26,999 question, however, is that whether it’s worth the price? The review below might help you reach a conclusion.
Design and display
Those acquainted with the Zenfone series of smartphones might in for a disappointment as far as design is concerned. Although there are visible changes if you take a magnified look at it, all-in- all it has a similar look as the rest of the Zenfone smartphones. The smartphone has not gone thinner like the case with most of the other smartphone successors every year but has retained the elegant look.
Nothing has changed at the front as the smartphone has ample bezels on top and bottom of the screen. At the top there is a camera, ambient light sensor and proximity sensor along with the speaker grille. On the chin are the three capacitive buttons to go one page back, home and access the multi-window functionality. For those with average sized hands the Asus Zenfone Zoom S can be handled with ease using just one hand.
The back panel sports the dual rear cameras, which is also the highlight of the device, placed in a similar fashion like what we have seen in the Oneplus 5 or the Apple iPhone 7 Plus. Below the camera module is a strip including the autofocus sensors and LED flash. We found the setup looking cleaner than before. The squarish fingerprint sensor is also present at the back, a concept that generates a mixed response from users.
The hybrid SIM card slot is on the left. You can either use the smartphone with dual SIM card (Nano+Nano SIM) or use with a single SIM and a microSD card. The antenna lines running on top and bottom at the back are cleverly hidden under the shining metal lines, adding a ‘premium’ essence to the overall design. The USB Type-C, single speaker and a 3.5mm headphone jack are at the bottom side, leaving the top clean. The device measures 154.3x77x7.99mm and weighs 170 grams.
In a nutshell, the overall design of the Asus Zenfone Zoom S doesn’t move dramatically away from the smartphones that fall in the Zenfone 3 series umbrella. It does look elegant with a tinge of premium-ness. However, for those expecting a new design, it could come as a disappointing package as the one familiar with the company’s track record will find it monotonous. But still for what it’s worth, the Navy Black colour version looks better than Glacier Silver.
The Asus Zenfone Zoom S’ display doesn’t break much grounds but is still impressive given the price segment. Asus has played safe by including a 5.5-inch screen size in the Zenfone Zoom S. The screen size is just about perfect and is considered neither too large nor too small. The 5.5-inch canvas packs full HD (1080×1920 pixels) AMOLED display, protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 for scratch resistance. All of this combined deliver 500 nits brightness, which is impressive but not the best we have seen.
With 100% NTSC high colour gamut display the Zenfone Zoom S also gets an edge when it comes to showing colours accurately. The addition of the AMOLED panel makes the colours pop and saturated. No matter how impressive it may sound, the device, despite sporting an AMOLED panel, lags behind the kind of AMOLED displays namely Samsung.
There is a Bluelight filter feature, which makes it easy for the eyes to read content while viewing the device in low-light environments.
We have had no complaints in the past when it comes to the performance of Asus smartphones. They come with a decent processor onboard and same is the case with the Zenfone Zoom S. The smartphone packs a mid-range octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, a chipset that was introduced back in February last year and has a decent track record in whichever smartphone it has been included. It teams up with 4GB RAM, which is generous enough considering the other specifications of the Zoom S and the audience it aims at.
Besides the processor and the 4GB RAM, Adreno 506 GPU takes care of the animations and graphic-intensive games. At no point, we faced any kind of lag while using the Zoom S, whether it is while unlocking the device, pulling down the notification panel, accessing multiple apps and working on them simultaneously.
While the Snapdragon 625 + 4GB RAM combination is likely to make your browsing experience smooth, what might bother users is the bloatware apps it comes pre-installed with. Bloatware is something which has got a lot of flak for all Asus smartphones. While on one side you have companies like Xiaomi, Lenovo, Motorola and Nokia bringing stock Android in smartphones, Asus on the other side has stuck itself with a different ideology. The smartphone scored slightly above 62563 on AnTuTu benchmarks. On Geekbench it scored 840 and 4093 in single core and multi-core tests, which is an average score.
The Asus Zenfone Zoom S runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat and may get Android 8.0 Oreo in future. The firm has not yet confirmed the arrival of the new OS version in the Zenfone Zoom S. The Android 7.1.1 Nougat is layered by the company’s home-brewed ZenUI 3.0.
The UI is smooth and comes with minor animations, which you can see while opening app folders or swiping down notification panels. It is fast and easy to navigate. Understand ZenUI is not too complicated but it does feel cluttered at times with apps such as ZenUI Themes, Photos (in addition to Google Photos), Asus ZenFit, Do it Later, MiniMovie, Service Center, Photo Collage, ZenCircle, ZenTalk and Zenfone Care.
However, not all pre-installed apps are unwanted. A couple of apps that users can find useful are Mobile Manager and File Manager. The Mobile Manager app scans the entire smartphone, tells you about the battery life, amount of RAM used and free, data usage, notifications and more. It also has the option to clean the cache files of the device.
The call reception was good. We even managed to get a couple of network sticks in underground parking spots in some cases. Supporting dual SIM cards, Asus has once again gone ahead with a hybrid SIM card slot instead of three slots, which is increasingly becoming a norm with smartphones these days. It has all the connectivity features you get in every other mid- range smartphone such as 4G, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth v4.2, GPS and FM Radio.
The Asus Zenfone Zoom S comes with 64GB eMCP inbuilt storage, which is good enough for a regular user but a movie buff or someone who keeps a lot of images and apps it may prove to be a topic for concern. Of course, you get the option to include a microSD card. However, you would have to sacrifice the second SIM card for that.
Coming to the highlight of the smartphone, the camera, Asus Zenfone Zoom S gets a mixed reaction from us. The company has definitely made an effort and a decent one in the dual- rear camera field but it still leaves you wanting for more. The smartphone has a 12MP primary rear camera with F/1.7 aperture, 6P Lens and 82-degrees along with a telephoto zoom lens of 12MP that has 2.3 times optical zoom and 5P Lens in tow. The cameras work together to give detailed images and are fast when clicking shots. Unfortunately, Asus still has a long way to go as the resulting images are not quite satisfactory.
In our tests, the camera sometimes made an image over smooth, lacking the details when zoomed in. Shooting in 5x zoom brings a lot of noise in the images as well. The colours, however, are saturated but not accurate as compared to real life colours. While photography enthusiasts may point out these issues, casual users who just want to click images for general use, will find it good enough.
The portrait mode also works fine but it is not the best we have seen in the price segment. In the resulting images, one can still see the edges being ignored when it comes to clarity. To make it work the best one should need to have stable hands and a few more seconds to click the perfect shot. Better portrait shots in the same price (almost) can be made from the Honor 8 Pro, which is priced almost Rs 2,000 more than the Zenfone Zoom S.
Users get all the software settings for the camera such as tweaking the aspect ratio n of the images, playing with different camera modes and filters, Pro mode and video recording.
There is Asus’ own Pixel Master 3.0 camera modes. The smartphone has the capability of recording up to 4K resolution videos. But if you want to shoot in 60 frames per second, the video resolution limits to full-HD (1080×1920 pixels). The video shooting quality is average and should do most of the work.
There is a front facing camera in the Zenfone Zoom S that has a 13MP lens with Sony IMX214 sensor. Besides featuring F/2.0 aperture for a faster shot, the smartphone also has screen flash for those who want to click a selfie in low light environments. The front-facing has its own set of Pixel Master 3.0 modes such as Beautification, Selfie Panorama, HDR Pro and more.
The night shots have been improved as compared to the previous Zenfone smartphones. The noise levels are comparatively low but still visible at some places. Besides its low aperture and fast autofocus, the company is relying on its Super Pixel Engine that controls the sensor’s light sensitivity and process low light images for better output.
One of the most critical factors of the smartphone is its battery. Skimming across the particular price segment, you won’t get many smartphones that focus heavily on the battery performance. Until now we have the Moto Z2 Play, Moto Z Play and the Honor 8 Pro that deliver several hours of juice, the Zenfone Zoom S could very well join the league.
Asus has stuffed in 5000mAh non-removable battery inside the Asus Zenfone Zoom S. The battery, as compared to the Moto Z2 Play’s 3000mAh and Honor 8 Pro’s 3500mAh battery, delivers way more hours of use. The smartphone can simply run for 12 hours without you even looking towards the charger. Heavy users too will be able to stretch the device for over 8-9 hours.
Asus smartphones have never compromised on the battery performance. This time too the Taiwanese tech firm has made sure users get more hours playing with the handset by bringing some battery saver features such as Power Saver. The feature scans the device and tells users which apps have been consuming the most battery and how much time is remaining before the smartphones shuts down. From the same page users can chose to toggle on/off the Wi-Fi, cellular data, location, auto brightness and screen timeout.
Several battery modes such as Performance, Normal, Power Saving, Super Saving and Customised are also present as a part of Power Saver. To round it off perfectly, the Zenfone Zoom S supports reverse charging technology. This means the device can act as a power bank for a different smartphone. Asus claims its Zenfone Zoom S can run for 42 days on standby mode and can deliver up to 48 hours talk time at 3G.