The Asus Zenfone Zoom - more camera than phone

In most other areas tested, the The Asus Zenfone Zoom was passable but not exceptional.
In most other areas tested, the The Asus Zenfone Zoom was passable but not exceptional.PHOTO: ASUS

The Asus Zenfone Zoom, as its name suggests, is a smartphone with a camera that is meant to close the distance between you and your subjects.

It certainly looks the part. The Zoom is styled after a traditional camera, with a textured leather back embellished with stitching and a debossed Asus logo.

Even the button placement is reminiscent of a camera. There are four buttons on the right side of the phone and none on the left, so that when you hold the phone in landscape mode for shooting, they are all within easy reach.

The shutter button also doubles as a camera quick launch button, and next to it is a video button for easy recording. The volume rocker can be used to zoom in and out, and it even has the W and T indicators on it (Wide and Telephoto) like a conventional camera.

The Zenfone Zoom has 3x optical zoom, which is pretty much unmatched by any other smartphone in the market.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $659 without contract (StarHub exclusive)

    PROCESSOR: Intel Atom Quad Core Z3590 (up to two cores running at 2.5GHz)

    DISPLAY: 5.5-inch, Full HD 1,920x1,080 (403 ppi)

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 5.0 (Lollipop) with Asus ZenUI

    CAMERA: 13MP (rear) with 3x optical zoom, 5MP (front), LED flash and HDR mode

    MEMORY: 128GB storage (expandable by up to 128GB), 4GB RAM

    BATTERY: 3,000mAh non-removable

  • RATING

  • DESIGN: 4/5

    FEATURES: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    OVERALL: 3/5 

I tested the Zoom against several top-of-the-range flagship smartphones, and found that it clearly picked up a lot more detail at a distance.

For example, I used the zoom function on several different smartphones to snap a close-up picture under fluorescent lighting of exposed pipes, cables and metal supports near the ceiling over 10m away.

With the other smartphone cameras, the pictures turned out more grainy, and the complex tangle of wires and metal looked flat and blocky.

The picture from the Zenfone Zoom was a lot more rich and dynamic. It captured a lot more detail, and I could easily pick out each individual hole in the metal supports, and even see the paint flaking off the structures.

The Zoom also has optical image stabilisation - a necessity when taking zoomed-in pictures at a distance, where even the smallest shake can render images blurry.

Aside from the zoom function though, the camera was not very impressive otherwise. Focusing is definitely not as snappy as I would like it to be, and the pictures taken with the phone have a slightly sepia tinge.

In most other areas, the phone was passable but not exceptional.

The review set I tested used an Intel Atom Quad Core Z3590 (up to two cores running at 2.5GHz) chip, which was released in July last year.

It also ships with Android 5.0 (Lollipop), one generation behind the current 6.0 (Marshmallow), so users will not be able to get an up-to-date experience out of the box.

• Verdict: The Asus Zenfone Zoom is a bit of a one-trick pony. It is really great at zooming in, but is nothing out of the ordinary in its other aspects.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2016, with the headline 'The Asus Zenfone Zoom - more camera than phone'. Print Edition | Subscribe