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Phone Review: Asus Zenfone 3

October 7, 2016

Asus is bringing its Zenfone 3 series of devices to the U.S. this month. This quartet of Android smartphones is attractive thanks to all-metal designs, good build quality, and solid specs. Asus is covering a broad range of price points by changing up the components within each phone, but all four share a commonality that makes them family through and through. Here are our first impressions of the Asus Zenfone 3.

 

The Zenfone 3 Series phones are so similar it's almost impossible to tell them apart. Only the Laser stands apart from its stablemates thanks to a slightly different design. The Deluxe 5.7 Special Edition, Deluxe 5.7, and Deluxe 5.5 are, for all intents and purposes, identical. The only discernible difference is the ever-so-slghtly smaller footprint of the Deluxe 5.5. Really, handling all four phones together was quite confusing and even Asus' staffers had a hard time telling them apart. That should tell you something.

 

These phones are really nice. The aluminum unibody chassis is slim and attractive. Asus polished some chamfers along the front and rear edges, which help define the phone's shape and give it some visual flair. The rear panel is gently rounded to help the phone sit in your hand a bit better, and the outer edges are all curved. There are no hard edges and it feels smooth when held. I'm not going to say the Zenfone 3 Deluxe models are the most unique phones in the world, because they are not, but I think lots of people will find them appealing all the same.

 

Build quality is excellent. The metal and glass materials are top-notch and assembled tightly. The devices are strong, and match the feel of handsets such as the OnePlus 3 and Axon 7. They are definitely big. All three are about the size of the iPhone 7 Plus. The large screens mean the Deluxe models are two-handed phones. The slim profile makes them easy to slip into your pocket. The Deluxe 5.7 Special Edition and Deluxe 5.7 share identical footprints. The Deluxe 5.5 is fractionally smaller; in fact, you can't really tell the difference unless you hold the phones side by side.

 

I appreciate that Asus minimized the bezel around the display. The screen runs side-to-side and there is there is hardly any bezel above and below the display. The earpiece speaker, user-facing camera, and sensor array are clearly visible above the screen. Three capacitive buttons are wedged into the small bezel below the screen. These buttons worked well. The screen itself is very nice. The full HD AMOLED displays are bright, colorful, and sharp. Some might prefer to see quad HD at these sizes, but really they look good. As their names imply, the Deluxe 5.7 Special Edition, and Deluxe 5.7 have 5.7-inch screens, while the Deluxe 5.5 has a 5.5-inch display.

 

The SIM tray is the only functional element incorporated into the phone's left edge. It supports two SIM cards, or one SIM card and one memory card. This is a common configuration from Chinese handsets. The screen lock and volume toggle controls are on the right edge. Both have chamfered edges that help them stand out visually, and large profiles to help your thumb find them without looking. Travel and feedback are excellent. The headphone jack is on top and the USB-C port and speaker are on the bottom.

 

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