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Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe review: Not 'deluxe' enough

Premium and sleek on the surface, Asus' ZenFone 3 Deluxe is overshadowed by the cheaper ZenFone 3.

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Aloysius Low
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Aloysius Low

Senior Editor

Aloysius Low is a Senior Editor at CNET covering mobile and Asia. Based in Singapore, he loves playing Dota 2 when he can spare the time and is also the owner-minion of two adorable cats.

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2 min read

The Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe could have been one of the greats. Instead, its poor performance makes it downright forgettable, and easily overshadowed by the ZenFone AR announced in January at CES. For the price, you'd be better off with the cheaper ZenFone 3, or even the OnePlus 3T, with its cheaper price and similar specs.

asuszenfone3deluxe-007.jpg
7.4

Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe

The Good

All-metal body looks premium; sleek design feels great. Has a whopping 6GB of RAM. Battery life is fantastic.

The Bad

Rear camera can be sluggish in low light. Performance can be laggy. The cluttered user interface and bloatware make it a pain to use.

The Bottom Line

The Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe has a luxurious build that's overshadowed by bloatware and poor performance -- you're better off with the OnePlus 3T or a cheaper ZenFone 3.

On the plus side, it costs $500 or AU$735 unlocked, which works out to be around £450 (it's not yet available in the UK). Part of that reasonable pricing has to do with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor. If you opt for the version with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 821 chipset, the cost zooms to $800, which is about £660 or AU$1,085 (this version is not yet available in either the UK or Australia).

Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe sports a premium finish

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First, some positives. I love the design of this all-metal, 5.7-inch phone. Asus has done some clever engineering to hide the antenna lines and the result is a clean-looking metal device. The phone's display is bright and vibrant. As for the Deluxe's charging lifespan, I'm pleased to report the embedded 3,000mAh battery is more than sufficient to last you a full day's use and then some. In our video looping tests, the phone lasted 13 hours 55 minutes.

Now for the negatives. While the diagnostic benchmark scores were pretty good -- thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor -- actual day-to-day performance can be laggy. My best guess is that bloatware (a lot of preloaded apps) uses up precious memory and slows everything down, especially keeping all those apps updated in the background. In addition, I find the keyboard unwieldy. It keeps the settings button where the number switch key is usually located, and also has the worst autocorrect feature I've come across. You're better off downloading and installing Google's keyboard (which I did, after struggling for 2 hours with the Asus keyboard).

The rear 23-megapixel camera does a wonderful job snapping pictures when there's enough light, but low-light situations are a bit hit and miss. The default auto mode keeps the shutter open longer for a brighter image, but if your subjects are constantly moving (like my cat), then all you get is a bright but blurry shot. Check out the test shots gallery below for a more in-depth look at the camera.

Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe camera test shots

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The Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe is a great piece of hardware from Asus, but the Taiwanese company needs to figure out how to do software better. The company also needs to figure out how to deliver phones earlier -- it announced the ZenFone 3 in June, and review units trickled out 6 months later. Because of the delay, there are already phones out that are just as good and even better. For our money, we'd go with the OnePlus 3T or even the regular ZenFone 3.

Hardware specs comparison

Asus ZenFone 3 DeluxeAsus ZenFone 3OnePlus 3T
Display size, resolution 5.7-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels
Pixel density 386ppi401ppi401ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.16x3.05x0.3 in6.01x3.05x0.3 in6.01x2.94x0.29 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 156.4x77.4x7.5 mm152.6x77.4x7.7 mm152.7x74.7x7.35 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6 oz; 170 g5.47 oz; 155 g5.57 oz; 158 g
Mobile software Android 6.0 MarshmallowAndroid 6.0.1 MarshmallowAndroid 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Camera 23-megapixel16-megapixel16-megapixel
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel8-megapixel16-megapixel
Video capture 4K8-megapixel4K
Processor 2.15GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 / 2.4GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 8212GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 6252.35GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
Storage 64GB, 256GB32GB, 64GB64GB, 128GB
RAM 6GB3GB, 4GB6GB
Expandable storage Up to 2TBUp to 256GBNone
Battery 3,000mAh (nonremovable)3,000mAh (nonremovable)3,400mAh (nonremovable)
Fingerprint sensor Back coverBack coverHome button
Connector USB-CUSB-CUSB-C
Special features Dual-SIM, metal chassis with no antenna linesLaser/phase detection autofocus, OIS (4-axis), fingerprint doubles as shutter buttonNotifications toggle, dual-SIM, Dash Charging
Price off-contract (USD) $500$249$439 (16GB), $479 (128GB)
Price (GBP) Converts to £410Converts to £170£399 (16GB), £439 (128GB)
Price (AUD) AU$735Converts to AU$350Converts to AU$590 (16GB), AU$650 (128GB)
asuszenfone3deluxe-007.jpg
7.4

Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 7Camera 7Battery 8
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