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Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom review: Buy it for the battery, not the camera

The best thing about the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom isn’t its camera tech.

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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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3 min read

Like Apple's iPhone 7 Plus and a few other Android phones, the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom has two rear cameras and optical zoom. The difference here is that the ZenFone 3 Zoom lets you zoom in closer than its rivals. Instead of 2x, you get 2.3x. To be honest, it's not such an enormous difference. In fact, the camera, while good, isn't even the phone's most stellar feature. That belongs to the battery. 

asus-zenfone-3-zoom-001

Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom

The Good

The ZenFone 3 Zoom's dual-cameras take decent pictures and lets you zoom a bit further compared to its rivals. It also has amazing battery life.

The Bad

The bland design and bloatware-filled software makes it a pain to use. It has a software-based depth-of-field setting that kind of sucks.

The Bottom Line

Those looking to try out optical zoom on smartphones can look towards the ZenFone 3 Zoom, but bear in mind the user experience isn't the best.

Read on to have your ZenFone 3 Zoom questions answered.

How much does the ZenFone 3 Zoom cost?

Surprisingly little, actually. The Zoom 3 retails for $329 (which converts to £255 and AU$415). That's a pretty good deal if you're looking for a phone with zooming capabilities.

Is the ZenFone 3 Zoom basically an iPhone 7 Plus knock-off?

No, that's not it. It lacks some features found on the iPhone, such as Portrait Mode, though that'll come in a later update (more below). The 3 Zoom doesn't use its two cameras to create a bokeh effect with portrait mode, those neat shots of people with blurred backgrounds that you normally find on expensive DSLRs among other things. Instead, the 3 Zoom uses software to do this (like the Google Pixel). It's passable at best; sometimes, you're able to see where the blurring is applied, making the image look artificial.

zenfone3zoom-bokeh

The faux portrait mode doesn't do too well, if you look at the shoulder area, you'll realise some parts aren't all that blurred.

Aloysius Low/CNET

So should I just stick with the iPhone?

Not necessarily. The iPhone 7 Plus is a great device, but the ZenFone 3 Zoom is cheaper, has fantastic battery life and, of course, runs Android. That's Android 6.0, not the most recently released 7.1.1 version of the software (and it's certainly not Oreo). Most of the core features aren't all that different though.

Just how good is that battery life?

In our looping video battery tests, the Zoom blew away the competition with almost 20 hours worth of uptime, which is very impressive.

The ZenFone 3 Zoom's performance: How fast is it?

You'll like that it plays 3D-heavy games such as Dynasty Warriors: Unleashed and Asphalt 8 with nary a stutter, and day to day use is smooth on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor. The performance won't blow you away, but it also doesn't let you down.

How much storage does it have?

The phone comes in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB capacities. There's a microSD slot that will let you have up to 256GB of expandable storage, but you'll have to give up one of two SIM card slots for it.

Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom gets you closer

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What are the phone's biggest pitfalls?

Asus' software bloat is legendary. You'll be amazed at how many spam notifications you get when you start using the phone (though, you can dismiss them to make them never come back with some work). It'd be great if we just got the pure Android 6.0 experience here.

Is it bad that it doesn't run Android 7 Nougat? 

Asus promises that the ZenFone 3 Zoom will make the jump. An update will also add new camera features such as portrait mode as well as RAW image support. That said, there's no word on when this will be happening. Don't expect an Oreo upgrade for some time either. 

What's the difference between this ZenFone 3 Zoom and the ZenFone Zoom S?

Nothing, actually! They're the exact same phone, but the Zoom S is sold in Asia.

Where can I buy the ZenFone 3 Zoom?

Currently the Zoom is sold in around the world, and yes, you can get this in the US through online retailers such as Amazon and Newegg as well as Asus' own online store unlocked.

If you had to choose between the ZenFone 3 Zoom or the Oppo R11, which would it be?

Both phones have similar mid-range specs, but it comes down to the camera and the price. The 3 Zoom's 12-megapixel shooter gets you closer to your subject, and the Oppo R11's 20-megapixel camera has a better portrait mode. Bear in mind that the R11 isn't sold in the US, but in Asia, the R11 costs S$699 ($510 versus the Zoom's S$559 ($410). However, the Zoom goes for less ($329) in the US as well.

Is it worth the price?

If you can put up with Asus' terrible bloatware, the Zoom is actually a decent midrange phone with amazing battery life. The dual-camera features are useful, but not really a must-buy. If you want great design and don't need dual-cameras, the original Asus ZenFone 3 still feels like the better buy (even though it's a year old).

Hardware specs comparison


Asus ZenFone 3 ZoomOppo R11Motorola Moto G5 Plus
Display size, resolution 5.5-inch; 1,920x1,020 pixels5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels5.2-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels
Pixel density 401ppi401ppi424ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.07x3.03.x0.31 in6.1x2.9x0.27 in5.9x2.9x0.3 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 154.3x77x8mm154x74x7.8 mm150.2x74x7.7 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6 oz; 170g5.3 oz; 150g5.5 oz, 155g
Mobile software Android 6.01Android 7.1.1 NougatAndroid 7.0 Nougat
Camera Dual 12-megapixelDual, 16-megapixel + 20-megapixel12-megapixel
Front-facing camera 13-megapixel20-megapixel5-megapixel
Video capture 4K2160p1080p
Processor 2GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625Qualcomm Snapdragon 6602GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
Storage 32GB, 64GB, 128GB64GB32GB (UK & US), 64GB (US only)
RAM 3GB or 4GB4GB2GB on 32 GB (US model), 3GB on 32GB (UK model) or 4GB on 64GB (US model)
Expandable storage Up to 256GBUp to 256GB128GB
Battery 5,000mAh3,000mAh3,000mAh
Fingerprint sensor Back coverBeneath screenBelow screen
Connector USB-CMicro-USBMicro-USB
Special features N/APortrait mode, VOOC Flash chargeDual-SIM, splash-proof
Price off-contract (USD) $329Converts to $440$229 (32GB); $299 (64GB)
Price (GBP) Converts to £255Converts to £340 £249 (32GB)
Price (AUD) Converts to AU$415AU$649Converts to AU$300 (32GB) and AU$390 (64GB)
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Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 7Camera 7Battery 10