Asus Zenfone 3 ZE520KL Review : The Beauty and The Beast

Since Asus entered the country, It took the Indian smartphone market by storm with the incredible lineup of their mid-range smartphones which not only perform well but also look dazzling. The Zenfone series has made a name of its own in the market and has set the benchmark so high that it has become very difficult for other smartphone manufacturers to compete. Now years has passed and Asus has become a household name in India, they've launched a number of smartphones in India like Asus Zenfone 2, Asus Zenfone Max, Asus Zenfone Zoom etc. to name a few, and all have been successful in their run. This year, Asus turned the tables, when it announced Asus Zenfone 3 series smartphones, which came with beautiful premium design & top notch performance. Today I will be reviewing one of the phones from the Zenfone 3 series, this one is called Asus Zenfone 3 (ZE520KL) and is priced at Rs.21,999 in India.


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Unboxing

Just like other Zenfone series smartphones, Asus Zenfone 3 (ZE520KL) comes in a compact box with no design, except for Zenfone 3 logo. The contents resting inside which comes with the phone include; a USB Type-C cable, Charging Adapter, Asus In-Ear headphones with extra ear tips, SIM ejector tool and a few booklets with a warranty card. The accessories which come along are of good quality & seem durable, below is a picture of all the accessories which come inside the box.


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Built Quality & Design

Since the launch, Asus Zenfone 3 has always been on my mind for the looks it carries, no doubt, it is one of the best-looking smartphones available at the moment. The design took a new direction with Zenfone 3, as compared to previous year Zenfone 2 design, and thank god that volume rocker returned to its original place, and is not placed weirdly like it was on Zenfone 2. The new design consists of glass construction in a metal frame, the front of the phone has a large 2.5D curved glass panel which happens to be Corning Gorilla Glass 3, the bezels are very thin and the whole front is nothing but glass. The frame around the side is made up of aluminum and has a nice finish to it. The back once again consists of the same curved glass as it was in the front. The phone is not as big as Zenfone 2 was, this can easily fit in your hand. 


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Asus Zenfone 3 come with a unibody design, which means that the back panel cannot be opened. The section above the display contains the earpiece, sensors, a small notification light and the front camera. Below the display are the three navigational keys which unfortunately aren't backlit, which makes it really difficult to operate in darkness. 


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The right side of the phone contains the Power button and volume rocker buttons which are made out of metal. The left side contains the Dual SIM hybrid tray which supports Micro SIM + Nano SIM or Micro SIM + MicroSD card. 


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The top contains a 3.5 mm audio jack along with a secondary microphone, I'm happy to see a 3.5 mm jack, while other brands are discontinuing them, Asus still kept them alive. The bottom contains Speaker grill, microphone and USB Type-C connector port. The metal frame consists of antenna bands which are barely visible. 

The back contains the camera with a sapphire crystal lens cover and a bump, next to it is the laser sensor, Dual LED (dual tone) flash. Below the camera lies a rectangular fingerprint sensor and Asus logo. Overall the design looks elegant & premium, it feels amazing in hand, believe me, I was really impressed with the design but a fact is that it is very slippery in hand and that is probably the only thing which I didn't like about this phone. Since it has full glass construction, it is likely to be slippery, I would recommend using a case to prevent it from accidently falling down. Another drawback of the design is that It'll grab fingerprints as soon as you take it in your hands, no matter how many times you clean it, glass design makes it a fingerprint magnet.

Display & Audio

Asus Zenfone 3 (ZE520KL) packs a 5.2" Inch Super IPS+ Full HD Display with the resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and pixel density of 424 ppi. It comes with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection which will protect it from accidental scratches & smudges. The maximum brightness of the display is 600nits which make it one of the brightest displays Asus has ever put in a phone, the level of brightness makes it perfect for using outdoors and even in direct sunlight. The display of Zenfone 3 is so much better as compared to the predecessor Zenfone 2, further, you can tweak the display settings using the calibration tool provided by Asus. Overall the display is one the best available in this price segment.


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The Audio department of Asus Zenfone 3 is much better than Zenfone 2, the loudspeaker output of Zenfone 3 is good, it is clear & loud enough for your voice calls and for casual music. When the earphones are plugged in, Zenfone 3 produces amazing output, here I'll suggest you to go for some good quality earphones, the ones which you get inside the box are average, but if you want to unlock true potential of Zenfone 3's music output, better go for a good pair of quality earphones.


Hardware & Performance

Asus has always provided top of the line hardware to all its smartphones, Zenfone 3 is no different. Asus Zenfone 3 ZE520KL packs the new Qualcomm chip, along with some impressive hardware specs. The variant which we had for review (Zenfone 3 ZE520KL) packed Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 (MSM8953) chipset, which has an Octa-Core Cortex-A53 processor clocked at 2.0GHz, coupled with Adreno 506 GPU and 3GB RAM. The internal storage provided by Asus was 32GB and since the device came with a Hybrid slot, it can be further expanded up to 2TB, using microSD card


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Throughout my usage, I never experienced any lag or slow down, the UI was buttery smooth all the time. The RAM management was good, far better than it was on Asus Zenfone 2, so there was some improvement in user experience. I feel that 3GB RAM is good enough for casual gaming & daily usage but when it comes to heavy gaming, I think 4GB RAM would've proved wonders. Overall the performance of Asus Zenfone 3 is amazing, it easily takes all the tasks which we throw at it and performs really well. The multitasking capability of Zenfone 3 is also good.

Gaming Performance

Coming to the Gaming performance, during my tests, I played Need For Speed No Limits, Asphalt 8 Airborne, Modern Combat 5 Blackout, GTA San Andreas, Need For Speed Most Wanted & Nova 3 with no issues whatsoever. The graphics were stunning, thanks to Adreno 506 GPU. Surprisingly, the device never heated up insanely, it did became a bit warm after continuous gameplay of around 40 minutes, but nothing serious, everything was under control. One thing I must mention, it took a bit longer for games to load but once it loaded, it worked smoothly. 

Software

Asus Zenfone 3 (ZE520KL) runs latest Android v6.0.1 Marshmallow out-of-the-box, topped with ZenUI 3.0, which is a custom UI by Asus. Frankly speaking, I'm not a big fan of ZenUI, but the software performance of Asus Zenfone 3 was really great. 


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The UI was smooth, with no lags or crashes. After the first boot, there was a lot of bloatware & unnecessary apps installed, but still, the device handled well, it didn't slow down. After getting rid of the bloatware, there wasn't much difference in performance, but yes, a lot of storage space was cleared. One thing to note here is that Asus phones come with a lot of first-party bloatware, which cannot be removed unless you've rooted your device. When it comes to software, Asus seems a step behind. The ZenUI is still like it was last year, there is not much noticeable change. The notification panel stays flooded with push notifications from various apps which have to be disabled manually. 

Camera

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Asus Zenfone 3 (ZE520KL) has a 16 Megapixel rear camera which is a Sony IMX298 sensor with deep trench isolation, with f/2.0 aperture, Laser/Phase detection autofocus, Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) sensor, Dual LED Flash (dual tone). The rear camera is capable of shooting videos up to 4K (2160p) at 30 frames per second, It can also shoot Full HD (1080p) videos at 30 frames per sec. The camera interface is really great with all the things at right places, it is crowded with so many different camera modes & settings but these options really help in capturing stunning shots. The top section of camera interface consists of Settings, HDR, Camera switcher & Flash toggle. The bottom section contains Camera modes, Video recording button, Shutter key, Manual mode and quick gallery shortcut. The front camera is an 8 Megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture which can also shoot Full HD videos (1080p). 

Camera Modes

The camera interface contains lot of modes (20 to be exact) and they are; 


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Auto Mode : This mode automatically chooses best settings according to your surroundings & lighting conditions.

Manual Mode: Using this mode you can adjust all settings like ISO (50-3200), Focus, White balance, Exposure, Shutter Speed (1/50000 to 32s) etc.

Super Resolution Mode: This mode takes multiple images and stitches them together to form a large 65 Megapixel photo.

The depth of Field Mode : This mode takes multiple images at different focal lengths and then combines them and makes the subject sharp, while the background is blurred (out-of-focus) creating a Bokeh effect.

Smart Remove Mode: This mode again takes multiple shots and removes moving objects which accidently appeared in background (for example, moving vehicles, people etc.)

Other modes include; Low light mode, HDR Pro, Beautification, Selfie Mode, QR Code, Children, Night Mode, Effect, GIF Animation, Panorama, Miniature, Time Rewind, All Smiles, Time Lapse and Slow Motion.

Image / Video Quality

The Image quality of Asus Zenfone 3 (ZE520KL) rear camera is really amazing, especially for the images taken in daylight. The amount of detail in captured images is good, the color reproduction is quite good & accurate. The contrast in captured images is a bit on the upside but still the output is great. There are plenty of modes to play with, I personally love the HDR Pro mode, the depth of field mode etc. You can tinker with different settings and see what works well for you. There are two low light modes, one is Low Light mode & the other one is Night mode. The camera performs well when using these modes in low light, the Night mode combines multiple images to create one with less noise, while the Low light mode brightens up the image. However, the results were poor when we used flash.


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The video output is again impressive, it can shoot 4K videos at 30 frames per second. It can also shoot 1080p videos at 60 frames per second and 720p at 120 frames per second when using Slow motion mode. One thing to note here is that the OIS sensor does not work with 4K videos, it only works for 1080p videos and lower. For 4K videos, the EIS sensor takes the helm and tries to keep the videos stable. Also note that the EIS sensor crops a bit of the frame, which is annoying.

Here is the Sample video recorded using Asus Zenfone 3 ZE520KL.




Connectivity, Reception & Battery

Asus Zenfone 3 ZE520KL is a Dual-SIM smartphone and supports 4G LTE bands. It comes with a Micro SIM slot & a Hybrid slot which can hold either a Nano SIM or a microSD card. Other connectivity options include Bluetooth v4.2 with A2DP, EDR & LE, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS & BDS support, USB Type-C connector, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, Hotspot support. It also has a 3.5 mm audio jack & FM Radio support.


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The network reception throughout our time with Zenfone 3 was great, the call quality was quite good, even when the network bars were on the lower side. Both the SIM slots support 4G VoLTE. 

Asus Zenfone 3 ZE520KL packs a 2600 mAh Li-Ion battery, which is non-removable and easily lasts up to a day or more with casual usage. The battery supports Fast Charging and it takes around an hour and a half for the device to charge fully. With moderate gaming, browsing, video playback & calling, the battery lasted a bit less than a day but overall the experience was good. 

Benchmarks

During our time with Asus Zenfone 3 ZE520KL, we ran a few benchmarks to see how it performs & to find out what it is capable of doing. Below are the results of benchmarks like AnTuTu, Geekbench, Quadrant etc.


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On AnTuTu, Zenfone 3 (ZE520KL) got a score of 62159, while on Geekbench 3 it got a score of 4047 for multi-core and 836 for the single core. The score on Quadrant was 36582.


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Verdict

Asus Zenfone 3 ZE520KL is really one of the best-looking phones in the market today, and looking at the price segment, it is one of the best performing smartphones. With Latest hardware, killer looks & an Awesome Camera, Zenfone 3 is a complete package. Throughout my time with it, It surprised me every day with its amazing performance. At times I couldn't take my eyes off of it, but let's keep it all aside and jump to the main thing. 

Will I recommend Asus Zenfone 3? Well, Yes, of course. 

No doubt, Asus Zenfone 3 ZE520KL brings so much at such a reasonable price. Not only it looks good, but it performs well in every area, be it memory management or gaming or photography. I was really impressed with its camera but was disappointed to see a small battery inside it. I was hoping for a 3000 mAh battery but anyways, Asus Zenfone 3 battery performance is still good if not great. I don't want to stretch this review any longer, its already more than 2400 words, but before I conclude it, lets take a quick look at the Pros & Cons.

PROs
  • Beautiful Glass Design
  • Amazing Display
  • Awesome Camera
  • Powerful Hardware
  • Good Gaming Performance

CONs
  • Slippery design
  • Catches Fingerprints 
  • Average Battery

Asus Zenfone 3 ZE520KL is nearly a flawless phone with more Pros than Cons. I would definitely recommend it to those who are looking for a premium looking device with powerful hardware, amazing camera & performance. Asus Zenfone 3 ZE520KL is available in Sapphire Black, Moonlight White, Shimmer Gold color options and is priced at Rs.21,999 for the 3GB RAM & 32GB storage variant.

Also Read : LeEco Le 2 Smartphone Review  |  Asus Zenfone 3 Series Smartphones

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About Jimmie Luthra

Jim Luthra is a Third Officer in Merchant Navy and Chief Editor of The-Area51.com, He is a Blogger, Guitarist, Painter, Book Lover, Tech Geek, Basket Ball Lover, Traveller and Fitness Freak. He loves Traveling and Adeventure Sports.
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