It doesn’t take too long to know when the design of a phone is genuinely user-friendly—the Asus ZenFone 3 is definitely one such smartphone. Right off the bat, the aluminium unibody design is beautiful and elegant. It looks and feels the part, considering that isn’t always the case with expensive Android phones. This rather pleasing design does manage its footprint well, and despite the 5.7-inch screen, it isn’t ungainly to hold and use.
The 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display is one of the most vibrant smartphone screens we have seen in a long time. It reproduces colours well, the viewing angles are good, and brightness is a strong point.
But we prefer Full HD (1,920x1,080p)-resolution smartphone screens, which provide the perfect balance between usability and battery life. That is exactly what Asus has tried to do, but the price point at which it is fighting rivals that have 2,560x1,440-resolution screens essentially ensures it’s more a case of the ZenFone 3 Deluxe (Rs49,999) falling behind on the specifications sheet rather than actual user experience.
In terms of performance, the ZenFone 3 Deluxe runs the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, with 6 GB RAM. On paper, that is a potent power package. However, the real-world usage experience is far from smooth. The custom interface that Asus insists on wrapping around Android, in all the ZenFone 3 series phones, is the problem. It is clunky, doesn’t seem well optimized, slows down at times, looks terrible, and seems to have a mind of its own (it starts installing apps without a by-your-leave the first time you set up the new ZenFone 3 Deluxe). The on-screen keyboard is problematic, the unnecessary customization options can irritate even the calmest person, and preloaded apps just make for clutter.
There were quite a few tall claims about the performance of the ZenFone 3 Deluxe’s 23-megapixel camera. But it isn’t head and shoulders above its rivals in any way. Good-light photos are crisp and detailed and the colours look accurate. In low light or inconsistent lighting environments, the photos aren’t always well detailed, and there can be very visible colour and exposure inaccuracies.
There is no denying the potential of the ZenFone 3 Deluxe, and it could truly have been one of the great smartphones of the Android ecosystem. But while Asus has pretty much gotten it spot on in terms of hardware, the phone is let down by clunky and downright annoying software.
There is no way we can recommend the ZenFone 3 Deluxe over the OnePlus 3T at the moment—at Rs29,999, the latter will also save you money.