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

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MSRP: $329.00

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.

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Like Apple's iPhone 7 Plus ($670 at Boost Mobile) 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. 

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.


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.

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