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Hands-On Review: ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe

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Today's smartphone market is as crowded as it's ever been. Every month we seem to get some new flagship or iteration, the next “next-generation” device. With so many phones, it’s hard to keep track of them all. You could even argue that when the biggest headline of the day is if a phone has a headphone jack or whether or not it explodes, we might've hit a saturation point.

This is why ASUS is such an intriguing player in the smartphone arena. For the past couple of years, the manufacturer has been jockeying for position among the big boys and has made serious inroads, slowly carving out market share fan base. The key to its success? Specs that can stand toe-to-toe with the best phones on the market made available at much lower costs.

Now ASUS back with its most ambitious phone to date, the aptly named ZenFone 3 Deluxe. I was lucky enough to get my hands on one and take it for a test drive. Here's how it did.

ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe 5.7" 64GB Smartphone

As with previous ZenFone devices, ASUS offers the ZenFone 3 Deluxe in a number of different sizes, colors, and hardware configurations. For the purpose of this review, I tested the 5.7" display variant with 64GB of built-in storage and 6GB of RAM. The size and memory both correlate to a specific chipset configuration, as you'll read about below.

Design and Display

However ASUS managed to pack so much punch into such a low price tag, it definitely wasn't by skimping on design. The ZenFone 3 Deluxe is, without question, a gorgeous device. Its metal unibody looks incredibly sleek. There are no antenna lines, so the frame isn't marred by any gaps or breaks, and its barely-there bezel and ergonomic design make it surprisingly easy to hold and operate, especially for such a large phone.

Speaking of size, the ZenFone 3 Deluxe houses a massive 5.7" AMOLED display. Its 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution isn't quite as sharp as some of its QHD peers, but the brightness and contrast levels are still excellent, and sunlight readability performed admirably.

In terms of button placement, it's a pretty standard layout: volume rocker and power button on the right, headphone jack on the top, USB Type-C port on the bottom. Typically, I'm not a big fan of fingerprint scanners on the back of devices, but I really liked what ASUS did with the ZenFone 3 Deluxe. Instead of a circular sensor, the designers used a rectangular groove that fit my finger perfectly and felt more natural than other scanners I've tested recently.

That Packaging, Tho

I've never written about a phone's packaging before and, odds are, I never will again. However, I must say, the packaging on the ZenFone 3 Deluxe is sort of incredible. It comes in this super-svelte case that really is stunning and matches the phone's gorgeous aesthetic. Unclasping the magnetic lid, I felt like Vincent Vega opening the mysterious briefcase in Pulp Fiction.

"Vincent. We happy?"

"Yeah, we happy."

Under the Hood

As mentioned earlier, there are several different configurations of the ZenFone 3 Deluxe to choose from. Some models are more powerful than others, though all pack serious muscle under the hood. My 5.7" version came equipped with a Snapdragon 820 processor, 64GB of built-in storage, and an insane 6GB of RAM. This massive amount of memory shouldn't surprise anyone, as ASUS has always been a leader in that category. The original ZenFone was one of the first smartphones to feature 4GB of RAM, and since then ASUS has made it a point to load up devices with as much memory as possible. You won't get quite as much in the 5.5" variant (only 4GB), but that's still more than enough for snappy performance, and as much as you'll see in most of ZenFone’s peers.

Also under the hood are a microSD card reader that supports up to 2TB of added storage and an adequately sized 3000mAh rechargeable battery, which makes use of Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 technology for enhanced charging speed.

User Interface and Performance

It's fair to say that ASUS's ZenUI operating system has been somewhat polarizing since its debut. It’s a skinned version of Android OS (in this case, Marshmallow) that heavily alters the traditional Android layout. Users tend to have strong feelings about this, good or bad, with so-called Android "purists" falling more on the opposing side. As a regular iOS user, I wasn't particularly bothered by the heavy tweaks to the Android OS. In fact, I found it to be fairly straightforward and intuitive, and reminded me of using my iPhone. There are, without question, a lot of customizations and adjustments you can make to the OS, the level of which was somewhat intimidating. However, the more I played with it, the more I was able set up ZenUI in a way that best suited my needs and preferences. And because it had so much RAM, all the apps and processes were super snappy and responsive.

Camera

The camera setup on the ZenFone 3 Deluxe consists of a 23MP rear sensor and an 8MP front sensor. If you purchase the 5.5" version, you'll get a 16MP rear shooter, but both variants feature PixelMaster 3.0 technology with identical settings and customizations.

At first, I had a tricky time with the camera. That isn't to say I wasn't ultimately pleased with the turnout of my footage, but getting there took a little bit of work—namely, navigating which settings or modes were best suited to certain types of shots and environments. Here, as with the ZenUI, the level of customization and adjustment was so deep, it took a minute to get things right, but once I did, it performed. The quality didn't quite stand up to my iPhone 6s Plus, but I was pleased overall.

The built-in GIF-maker mode might be my favorite camera feature of all time. I spent a solid two hours making my own GIFs and using them in text conversations. None of the recipients seemed as pleased about this feature as I, but I suspect this was just envy. Or should I say “Zenvy”? (I’ll show myself out.)

Phone Use and Connectivity

In terms of communication, the ZenFone 3 Deluxe performed well. I placed calls from a variety of settings and had no issues with either quality or sound on either side of the line. Similarly, texting worked fine. One feature I did notice missing was Wi-Fi Calling support, which appears to have been disabled for the ZenFone 3, so you will have to rely on a carrier and/or SIM card for all your communications needs.

Speaking of SIM cards, the ZenFone 3 Deluxe houses two slots. The first is a standard Micro SIM reader. The second is a hybrid slot that supports either a Nano SIM or a microSD memory card. Both SIM card slots support 3G and 4G LTE GSM network bands, but only one SIM card can connect to 3G or 4G LTE service at a time.

Rounding at connectivity, the ZenFone 3 Deluxe supports dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC, so all your pairing and wireless communication needs are adequately met.

Strength in Numbers

The ZenFone 3 Deluxe 's biggest strength lies in its numbers. Specifically, the price tag, which is nearly half of what you'd pay for other top-tier flagships, including the Galaxy edge 7 and iPhone 7. Once you see that the ZenFone 3 performs just as well, looks equally gorgeous, and oh-by-the-way offers a bigger screen size, you might start to wonder what all those extra hundreds of dollars are going toward.

In the Comments section below, ask us questions or tell us what you think of the ASUS Zenfone 3 Deluxe.

4 Comments

me gusta mucho el equipo

Can both sim slots be active at the same time let's say one to run data(att sim) and the other for voice, text and data (T-Mobile sim)

Hi Fareed - 

The ZenFone 3 Deluxe houses two slots. The first is a standard Micro SIM reader. The second is a hybrid slot that supports either a Nano SIM or a microSD memory card. Both SIM card slots support 3G and 4G LTE GSM network bands, but only one SIM card can connect to 3G or 4G LTE service at a time. It offers dual stand-by and dual-active modes.

Actually, because of the dual-active SIM mode and two antennas, 3G is available for both SIM cards.  Only one SIM can be selected for cellular data.

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