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Asus ZenFone Zoom first impressions review: Dares to zoom in, but can it get close enough?

Asus ZenFone Zoom first impressions review: Dares to zoom in, but can it get close enough?

Loaded with optical zoom and features as rich as a DSLR, the camera in the Asus ZenFone Zoom offers a plethora of customisation options.

Ankit Tuteja
  • IBNLive.com
  • Last Updated: January 27, 2016, 2:35 PM IST
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Asus, which is known for its affordable handsets, launched its most-expensive smartphone in India at its event in Agra on January 22. Called the ZenFone Zoom, the phone is priced in India at Rs 37,999. Also, the company announced a kit, which includes a ZenFone Zoom, ZenFlash, and a tripod at a price of Rs 39,999.

Before you start to assume it to be a high-end phone with top-notch specs, let us tell you that it’s one of the very few phones of its kind available in the market today. And what makes this phone stand out in the crowded market is the technology used in its rear camera. Unlike phones including the flagships of the competition that come with digital zoom, the Asus ZenFone Zoom’s camera features optical zoom abilities.

While Samsung has also introduced phones with optical zoom, but they appear to be more or less as cameras with smartphone functionalities. The Asus ZenFone Zoom, on the other hand, is plausibly the first phone with optical zoom that actually looks like a phone.

We are yet to conclusively figure out if the ZenFone Zoom has in it to to really make the best of the first-mover advantage or if it’s actually worth the price tag. This first impressions review, based on some time spent with it, gives an overview of the phone’s design, camera, and its potential.

The ZenFone Zoom looks like any other Asus phone from the front, but turn it around to see what’s new. The rear of the phone in itself is an indicator of its camera’s high-end abilities. The large camera module at the back houses a 13 megapixel sensor and a 3x optical zoom mechanism. While there is a slight hump at the back, but the phone has been designed smartly that that the bump goes unnoticed. It is obtrusive only when you remove the rear panel.

Unlike the 10x optical zoom-enabled Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom and Galaxy K Zoom, wherein the zoom lens actually protrudes out from the back of the device, the ZenFone Zoom has all the zooming in and out happening internally, which leads the ZenFone Zoom to actually look like a phone and not an awkwardly designed hybrid. Also, the phone may not look extraordinarily slim, but given that the phone includes an optical zoom lens, it indeed has a slim profile and has a fairly light on weight.

Another interesting part about its design is that the company, to add to the phone’s DSLR-like capabilities, has provided physical buttons for camera controls including those for zoom and recording. To let users securely handle the phone, Asus has also bundled a strap with it.

Asus may have designed the phone cleverly, with elements neatly groomed, but it fails to woo on the look and feel front. While the metallic frame running along the phone gives it a premium touch, the leather panel at the rear looks quite average. Underneath the back panel are two slots - one for SIM and the other for a microSD card, which supports a card of up to 128 GB.

Talking about its 13 megapixel camera, the key highlight of the phone, the phone’s optical zoom capabilities left us impressed us in day-light environments. Taking the smartphone camera performance to a new level, the ZenFone Zoom captured detailed and bright photos in outdoor, while in soft-light and low-light conditions, the phone’s camera couldn’t generate results as good as we had expected - the results had details, but with quite a bit of noise. Also, the camera failed to capture true to life colours in areas other than bright environments. The 5 megapixel camera on the front is okay in areas properly lit up, but in low-light the results are a tad grainy.

Loaded with optical zoom and features as rich as a DSLR, the camera offers a plethora of options to customise settings. We are yet to test the full potential of its camera, something that we will talk about it in detail in our full review.

The ZenFone Zoom, which comes in only one variant, is a boon for storage hungry users. It offers a humongous 128 GB of internal storage with a slot that can support a microSD card of up to the same amount. I believe the company should have also introduced the phone in other variants like 32 GB and 64 GB.

Running Android 5.0 with ZenUI atop, the phone, like all other ZenFones, comes loaded with a good amount of bloatware. The speaker at the back produces loud results, but in terms of audio quality, it is not among the best. The 5.5-inch HD display on the phone with Corning Gorilla glass atop produces great colours and is good to a look at.

The ZenFone comes packed with a 3000 mAh non-removable lithium-polymer battery. According to Asus, its BoostMaster technology for turbo-speed charging can take the battery level in the ZenFone Zoom from 0 to 60 per cent in just 39 minutes. We are, however, yet to verify this claim. At its heart is a 64-bit Intel Z3590 quad-core processor paired with 4 GB of RAM.

The ZenFone Zoom comes in two colours - black and white, and is up for sale on Flipkart. It, however, will be available in Asus exclusive stores from February 2016.

The phone so far has turned out to be a mix of good and not-so-good, but we can conclude only after using the phone for an extended period.

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