Asus intends to rise in the smartphone market with the ZenFone 3, after the very good surprise of the ZenFone 2. In progress on the design, the manufacturer offers an interesting mid-range phone, although facing fairly tight competition around its selling price.

It must be confessed that the Asus smartphones, so far, did not really distinguish themselves by their elegant design. The ZenFone 3 marks a radical change with a passage to glass and aluminum, and especially a sealed shell, which can disappoint the defenders of the removable battery.

It is hard to deny, however, that the ZenFone 3 is much more pleasant to take in hand than its voluminous predecessor. The “2,5D” glass, the rounded edges with diamond-cut chamfer and the iridescent back clearly reminiscent of Honor 8. A pretty object, therefore, although potentially fragile. A fingerprint reader appears on the back of the device, with a rather unusual rectangular and vertical shape. The key is to be able to easily detect the sensor blindly and this is the case.

Connection switches to USB-C, the 3.5 mm mini jack is always present. One slot allows access to two SIM slots, the second also serves as a MicroSD slot. Be careful though: the two slots are not in the same format, and you can only use one Micro SIM from the two cards, slot 2 accepting only Nano.

The ZenFone 3 leaves aside the Intel Atom processors dear, so far, to the Taiwanese manufacturer for a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 more classic, a mid-range chip with correct performance, recently crossed into the Lenovo Moto X Play, among others. The amount of RAM depends on the configuration: 3 GB for the version integrating 32 GB of storage, and 4 GB for the 64 GB version. A Micro SD slot allows extending the capacity.

The screen displays characteristics similar to those of an Honor 8: diagonal 5.2 inches, IPS LCD technology, and Full HD resolution. This is all it takes for a mid-range smartphone: a readable, bright and enjoyable display for video playback and a few games.

Zenfone 3’s 4G support is the most comprehensive: all bands used in France are supported, including the 800 and 700 MHz frequencies. The smartphone also supports Wi-Fi AC and Bluetooth 4.2. It only needs one NFC chip.

Interface and OS
No (yet) of Nougat for the ZenFone 3: the ROM is based on Android 6.0. Asus is part of the custom ROM enthusiasts in the extreme, and ZenUI is always there. There is nothing against the “overcoat” itself: it is rather pleasant, and one appreciates its possibilities of personalization.

The problem is the Asus apps and the pre-installed third-party apps: we close the overdose! Asus Webstorage, MiniMovie, Photocollage, Do It Later, Sharelink, ZenCircle, MyAsus, ZenTalk, but also Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, And of course, even if to imitate Samsung, so much to go to the end: only some of them are really uninstallable. At the most, we can clean the home screen and the RAM by disabling them.

ZenFone 3 is a smartphone that is pleasant to use, reactive, fluid, offering simple and efficient access to the most common features. In short, a smartphone that you could without problem recommend to your loved ones or use yourself without tearing your hair in front of the heaviness of the interface.

The impression sensor, despite its unusual shape, is reactive and reliable in practice. Very few errors to be deplored, and a quick unlocking. We will not extend to its basic functionalities (telephony, GPS, audio playback …) that it ensures satisfactorily: nothing to report!

Photo and video

The ZenFone 3’s 16 Megapixel sensor makes good quality photos, although not without defects. The main appears quickly: the noise is quite visible. Having said that, it is better to have a sound on clean, detailed images than an aggressive smoothing and on this point, Asus has found the right medium.

The textures are nevertheless quite precise and, a bit like on the Lenovo Moto Z Play, the noise becomes a kind of grain finally not too disturbing. In low light, the loss of quality is well controlled, again thanks to a well-placed cursor. The images lose clear details but the result remains usable.

On the video side, we have the choice between 1080p (60 or 30 fps) and 4K, and in any case, sequences clean and homogeneous. 4K videos are somewhat set back from the HEVC encoded images of a Huawei Mate 9 but the quality has much to satisfy. We are a little less packed by the webcam, which will not make you too ugly (the inevitable fashion embellishment is besides of the part), but which is not particularly distinguished either. It will be enough for videoconferencing, but it will not be too demanding on the selfies.

Performance and battery
Without expecting more, the performance of ZenFone 3 is not remarkable, but ample enough for light use. Like the Moto Z Play, equipped with the same processor and turning at the same screen resolution, it runs most games more than correct, although sometimes limited to an average level of detail. It is also possible to determine the use of the processor to favor performance or battery.

And let’s talk about autonomy: it does not reach summits, but when we use the phone, it was still possible for us to finish a day without reaching red, usually ending between 30 and 40%. So do not hop to skip the daily refill, but you will also not have to walk with your charger.

Our opinion
Asus succeeds once again to surprise us pleasantly with its ZenFone 3. The Taiwanese manufacturer has made great progress in design, without cutting down on what had made the interest of their previous smartphones: satisfactory fluidity, relatively autonomous comfortable and well-controlled photo performance for the price.

Among the negatives, Asus always tends to overload its applications ROM, a kind of imitation of Samsung on a point where there is absolutely no reason to imitate them. Especially that the apps in question are not essential, and it is even impossible to uninstall the applications of certain partners like Facebook. This policy taints a bit the balance sheet of a smartphone of good bill nevertheless, offering a balanced technical sheet and a very good finish for a price content.