Zenfone Zoom: See Further Has Costs

With 3x optical zoom, Asus camera opens up possibilities, but does not impress the quality

Some smartphone makers have tried to add optical zoom in their cameras, but the result of design was disastrous in almost all cases. With lenses that jumped out, devices like the Galaxy K zoom even had interesting proposals, but they sinned in usability, with a nasty bump and a wrong center of gravity that would hinder the ergonomics.

It was precisely this problem that Asus tried to solve the Zenfone Zoom. With 3x optical zoom, the smartphone of the Taiwanese focuses on advanced users who want a good quality image and want to see farther with their cameras – but without neglecting the visual, which has thin and metal finishing and leather, to house a powerful hardware.

Does the Asus managed? I used the Zenfone Zoom in recent weeks and count my impressions in the next few minutes.

Design and screen

The Zenfone Zoom is quite different from other smartphones from Asus, both in form and finish. The camera that makes connections have metal edges and a leather back, leaving aside the textured plastic of past models. In the white version, there is no more iconic base with concentric lines that reflect the light – the Taiwanese could not find a good way to reproduce the same effect in white, who had not worked for the company previously.

The rear clearly resembles the Lumia 1020, which also had a circular dimple to house the camera. In the case of Zenfone Zoom, there is a giant sensor as the Nokia mobile phone, but the space is used to protect the entire set of lenses, which makes internal movements (no jars jumping smartphone) to give the optical zoom up to 3x.

To enhance the photography experience, Asus made some adjustments. First, the back has a small ledge on one side to allow the user to hold the phone with one hand, with the device horizontally, like a compact camera. Furthermore, the hole for hanging lumber can be passed from the first day: in the Zenfone zoom box, a pulse cord to you shoot more safely.

The buttons were also adapted: in addition to the physical button to open the camera app and take a picture (which has two phases, one to focus and another to capture), there is a dedicated button for shooting, and the volume buttons have entries W (wide) and T (tele) to control the zoom.

It is a well-built machine, which passes a good sense of quality and sophistication; the white version, the metal edges have a slight tone champagne that pleases me well. The big problem is that the white leather gets dirty marks quickly – some manufacturers like Sony, avoid using textures in white material, precisely to avoid this inconvenience. Moreover, as Asus positions the antenna on the base unit, the old detail the physical buttons without backlight is still there, since there was no space to include LEDs.

At least in my unit tests, the Zenfone Zoom screen is noticeably brighter than the experience I had in Zenfone 2, which suffered from sunlight. There is a display that stands out, especially considering competitors like Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6 Plus, found at similar or lower prices, but it’s a decent panel, which will meet the expectations of most people.

software

Asus continues to sin in the software of its smartphones. Although ZenUI bring features that improve the user experience, such as gestures to turn on the screen, a good file manager and a more modular architecture, which allows you to upgrade many of the applications and native resources through Google Play, it is clear the lack of care Taiwanese with Android increasingly heavy.

The first detail is that in April 2016, we are seeing a device being launched with Android 5.0, an operating system 2014. Another issue is that all those questionable utility software the Zenfone 2 are present in the Zenfone Zoom, now with even more intensity.At the first startup, the smartphone begins to download applications that are added to the uselessness of Asus itself as the Omlet Chat and ZenCircle, which make no sense in the West: already invented WhatsApp and Instagram here.

The feeling of using the Zenfone Zoom, the Zenfone 2 and other recent smartphones from Asus is the same as you first connect an Android Samsung 2013 or 2011. Motorola lack refinement in the interface, which lost its essence after the inclusion of countless features. With so many bad examples of customizations hated manufacturers in the past, Asus could have learned from the mistakes of others, but only repeated failures.

The problem to come with so much is that if you are willing to eliminate all waste, spend a good time, that should be being used to enjoy his new acquisition. But if you do not have time, get ready to take your charger everywhere: some of the preinstalled applications Zenfone Zoom was draining my battery quickly, so that only four or five hours of use were enough to end 3000 mAh .

At a time when all manufacturers are simplifying their software, refining the interfaces and reducing the amount of pre-installed applications, Asus is doing exactly the opposite, with an old version of Android, a loaded system of things you will not need and duplicate software (or even tripled, in the case of browsers: Chrome, Asus Browser and Puffin).

Camera

The camera is the most important point of Zenfone Zoom, and perhaps the component that had a more difficult to assess during the weeks that used the device.

For me, the Zenfone Zoom is also a proof of concept. On the one hand, it is interesting to see all the engineering used by Asus to develop a smartphone with optical zoom in a very thin body – no lenses that are popping out or bizarre things that look like a camera with phone. However, the photos Zenfone Zoom are not up to the expectations created by Asus, which are high, especially considering the price of R $ 2,699 (64 GB) and R $ 3,299 (128GB), competing with devices like Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Smartphone cameras need to work well in automatic mode, which is not the case Zenfone Zoom. It is possible to work around some limitations if you explore the super-resolution modes, night scene or manual, but no one  prefers to use these functions: mobile is to take the pocket, open the camera application and photograph. Specific modes can be used to improve the quality of the photos, but not to fix the problems of a camera.

MANUAL MODE IS TO IMPROVE THE PICTURES, NOT TO FIX PROBLEMS

Due to the limitation of lenses, which have aperture of f / 2.7 to f / 4.8, depending on the focal length, much more closed than the f / 1.7 or f / 1.9 we are seeing in the latest handsets the Zenfone Zoom suffers lighting outside the ideal. The noise and loss of definition are remarkable indoors or night scenes. The post-processing also uncooperative sometimes saturating other colors, and in other cases, leaving the washed image.

It is worth noting that due to a limitation of the Intel processor, the Zenfone Zoom is unable to shoot in 4K, a feature that is coming to smartphones even below the range of two thousand reais; it is not possible to record in 1080p at 60 frames per second. The lack of Atom competitiveness (specifically the image signal processor used in Moorefield chips) is evident when one notes the slow processing of the photos in the camera application, sometimes causing crashes that prevent the user promptly take the next photo , which should not happen in a top of the line.

All software is very dependent on the user manual actions. Auto HDR, which requires processing power is not available: you must manually activate it in the camera application. That would be very important in Zenfone Zoom, as the smartphone has serious problems with dynamic range, often subexpondo photos, creating too dark regions with grain in the scenes.

The camera Zenfone Zoom is a prototype that perhaps in future generations, will become really interesting. Optical zoom opens up new possibilities if you are willing to explore them, especially for shooting in macro. It’s not like a 3x zoom would be the perfect solution for shooting birds or the moon, but you can say that this differential brings new scenes composition ideas.

For now, the Asus proves to the market that you can create a smartphone with optical zoom and attractive design, but sacrificing image quality. If the ultimate goal is to take good photos, Zenfone Zoom is not an interesting option to purchase – it is only a reasonable camera. The latest line of tops of Samsung and the iPhone still do a far superior job without relying on software hacks.

Hardware and battery

The Zenfone Zoom hardware inherits some of the characteristics Zenfone 2, which means that the joint is still good. The multitasking responds well with 4 GB of RAM, making it faster switch between several open applications. Unlike Samsung, Asus adopts a more targeted multitasking for performance, keeping the software loaded longer in memory.

WITH A QUICK MULTITASKING, YOU WILL NOT HAVE PERFORMANCE PROBLEMS

The quad-core Intel Atom Z3590 2.5GHz, the same that accompanies the Zenfone 2 Deluxe, still giving a good broth the 128GB model. The graphics are due to the PowerVR G6430, which is no longer such an interesting option, since we are talking about the graphics chip that accompanied the iPhone 5s, released in 2013. For this price, the Zenfone Zoom deserved better, but the GPU yet yields well, and you will not have big problems to run most games with decent graphics quality.

If the hardware is still good, the battery remains one of the weaknesses of the Asus smartphones with Intel. We need to do some juggling to the battery of 3000 mAh can get to the end of the day without the help of the charger. After you restore the device to factory settings and uninstall some of hungry applications Zenfone Zoom, I noticed a similar autonomy to the Zenfone 2 – that is, nothing very different from what we have smartphones with batteries in their 2,300 mAh and chips Qualcomm and MediaTek.

On the day of testing, I took the Zenfone take Zoom at 9 am, I heard music streaming on 4G (Spotify) for 2 hours and surfed the Internet at 4G, between emails, social networks and web pages for about 1h50min. The screen went on for exactly 2h03min41s with glow in automatic. At 22h12, the load reached 17%. As in ancient smartphones from Asus, the largest battery villain seems to be the modem, which drains more energy than competitors to download data on 3G or 4G.

The smartphone from Asus able to endure a full day of use, but hard time for a significant portion of users. At least Taiwanese facilitated with the quick charger, which can increase the battery from 0% to 60% in 40 minutes.

Conclusion

What Asus did was launch a prototype of a smartphone that can become very interesting in the next generations. For now, I can not see a public whose purchase of Zenfone Zoom is really recommended, especially in the price range that Asus is trying to compete.

If the Zenfone Zoom purchase argument for performance, it is more advantageous to purchase a Galaxy S6 or Moto X Style (both cheaper than the Asus device, it is worth noting), which have superior performance, with updated GPUs and more efficient processors, while maintaining a more well maintained and sophisticated finishing software.

If the Zenfone Zoom purchase argument for the camera, we have seen that Samsung’s line of tops (Galaxy S6, Galaxy Note and Galaxy 5 S7) deliver superior results. IPhones 6:06 Plus, which are in the same price range of the Asus device also have a photography experience that I think much better, even for those who like to play with manual modes – there are specific applications for fuçadores the App Store.

WHO KNOWS ZENFONE ZOOM 2?

The Zenfone Zoom is a good example of how technology can evolve, and a way of Asus itself as an innovative company that invests in potentially promising technologies. Unfortunately, with oversights in software, a camera that does not meet expectations and a price that competes with more options that established in the market, innovations are not sufficient to justify the Zenfone Zoom as a good buy.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Battery: 3000 mAh;
  • Camera: 13 megapixel (rear) and 5 megapixel (front);
  • Connectivity: 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0, NFC;
  • Dimensions: 158.9 x 78.8 x 12 mm;
  • GPU: PowerVR G6430;
  • External Memory: microSD card support up to 128 GB;
  • Internal memory: 64 GB or 128 GB;
  • RAM: 4 GB;
  • Weight: 185 grams;
  • Platform: Android 5.0 (Lollipop);
  • Processor: Intel Atom Z3580 2.3GHz quad-core (64GB) or Z3590 2.5 GHz (128 GB);
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, proximity, gyro, compass;
  • Screen: IPS LCD of 5.5 inches with a resolution of 1920 × 1080 pixels and Gorilla Glass protection 4.