After some pretty audacious engineering marvels going into the last ZenFone Zoom, ASUS has taken a decidedly simpler approach with the new ZenFone 3 Zoom. Rather than being a majority camera-focused smartphone, this is aimed at being a solid mid-to-high-end device overall that also happens to great photos with top-end camera specs.
ASUS effectively gave up on the huge, cumbersome and trade-off-heavy optical zooming solution of old and instead chose to go with a dual-focal length camera setup not unlike the iPhone 7 Plus. And while the camera setup still seems quite impressive based on the specs — dual 12MP 1.4-micron sensors with f/1.7 lenses — and company's claims, it's also a dramatically smaller package that let the rest of the ZenFone 3 Zoom round out as a "normal" smartphone.
When it comes to being evaluated as a complete package, the ZenFone 3 Zoom offers a nice look and feel beyond just the cameras. The all-around metal hardware — particularly in this black color shown at the launch event — definitely looks good. Though the continuous references back to its similarity to the iPhone 7 design are definitely warranted this isn't anywhere near the same overall package, with the ZenFone 3 Zoom offering a multi-piece build that has a couple slightly varying textures. A fingerprint sensor on the back and the ever-present ASUS capacitive keys up front are right where you expect them, as are the buttons.
The metal around the entire build is very sleek and the full-black front with sculpted glass adds to the monolithic feel, and the whole package definitely feels like a nice departure from previous generations of ASUS phones that felt like they were chintzy and trying too hard to be something they weren't. The ZenFone 3 Zoom definitely has more of an authentically high-end feel, though with just a Snapdragon 625 processor inside and a 1080p display it seems like the pricing may be reasonable.
It's Nougat, but it has the same heavy ASUS design as Marshmallow.
It's great to see that the ZenFone 3 Zoom will be launching with Android 7.0 Nougat, as it should be, but the software doesn't seem notably changed in terms of interface, apps and features from Marshmallow updates that rolled out to previous ZenFones in 2016. There's still a lot of pre-installed bloat apps and the heavy-handed colors and (particularly that neon green) just don't do this phone's hardware justice.
So even though the focus on the camera is strong right from the moment you read the "Zoom" name, it's clear the ZenFone 3 Zoom is about providing a complete package and not just a photography experience. We'll see what its direct competition is when we have a price in February.