Asus is already among the well-known cell phone brands in India, credit goes to its Zenfone lineup which is updated with every passing year. The company’s initial Zenfone models were then succeeded by the Zenfone 2 lineup, which is now put to rest by the latest Zenfone 3 series. Asus finally got rid off its typical bulky design with its Zenfone 3 lineup and gave it a classy, premium look. Do check out our reviews of the Zenfone 3 and the Zenfone 3 Max.
I recently got my hands on the Asus Zenfone 3 Laser, which is a successor to last year’s Zenfone 2 Laser. The Zenfone 2 Laser was launched with different screen sizes and processors. This time, Asus discarded the confusion and chose to stick with a single variant. It comes in a slimmer, lightweight design along with and a fingerprint scanner on the back. Nonetheless, are these upgrades worth the price? Let’s find out!
The Asus Zenfone 3 Laser (ZC551KL) sports a 5.5-inch Full HD screen with Corning Gorilla Glass protection and 2.5D curved glass on top. An oleophobic coating on the screen makes it less prone to fingerprints and smudges. The screen supports up to 10-point multitouch. What it means is up to 10 fingers can interact with the screen simultaneously. There is an ambient light sensor, so you can opt for automatic brightness. Even though the display isn’t bright enough under direct sunlight, it is accurate enough in terms of the colour reproduction. Similar to other Asus phones, it has a Bluelight filter to adjusts screen colours according to your requirements.
The device comes in a metal unibody design mixed with a bit of plastic on the top and bottom. Even though the back has a glossy metal finish, it does not make the phone slippery in any way.
The right side of the device has a volume rocker and a power button; the left side has nothing beyond a SIM card tray. Up front, there is an earpiece, a selfie camera, and a proximity sensor right above the display. The 3.5mm audio jack sits on the top whereas the microUSB 2.0 is at the bottom. There is a usual set of capacitive buttons on the front to perform the tasks. It also has a protruding camera lens on the back resulting in a camera bump. A dual-tone LED flash and a laser autofocus unit sit on the either sides of the camera module.
It looks like Asus has simply recycled the design since it is pretty much identical to one on the Zenfone 3 Max. In fact, it won’t be easy to differentiate between the two if you are not familiar with them already.
The overall performance of the Asus Zenfone 3 Laser was smooth and up to the mark. It’s powered by a 64-bit octa-core Snapdragon 430 processor clocked at 1.4GHz paired with 4GB RAM for multitasking. It’s the same chipset which is currently found on most budget smartphones like Lenovo K6 Power and Xiaomi Redmi 3S Prime. What is surprising is that these are available at almost half the price of the Zenfone 3 Laser.
The multitasking experience was seamless and I encountered no issues while switching between multiple apps simultaneously. However, the device gets warm almost instantly after gaming, multitasking, or while installing some app/game from the Play Store.
I played a couple of graphic-intensive games like Asphalt 8 and NFS No Limits. Both the games ran exceptionally well without any occasional stutter or frame drop. But then, the heating issue still remains to be addressed. Running a couple of benchmark tests, the Asus Zenfone 3 Laser managed an AnTuTu score of 44254 which is normal for any mid-range device. Similarly, Geekbench gave a single-core score of 640 and a multi-core score of 1987. Asus Zenfone 3 Laser competes with Motorola Moto G4 Plus in terms of AnTuTu score. However, the latter is marginally faster while recording 45885 benchmark score.
It comes with a fingerprint scanner on the back which is not snappy. It took me almost 1.5 seconds to unlock the phone. Despite this, I have nothing much to complain about a fingerprint scanner since its performance was fairly accurate.
Asus Zenfone 3 Laser houses a 13-megapixel rear snapper with a Sony-built IMX214 sensor and a dual-tone LED flash. The camera lens carries a f/2.0 aperture which allows more lighting. Even though the camera is the selling point of this device, the overall photography experience turned out to be lackluster. Most of the outdoor shots that I clicked (with HDR) were surprisingly grainy which resulted in average picture quality. The pictures clicked outdoor were over-exposed in Auto mode.
Some of the indoor shots that I clicked were no different either. Focusing was slow which often resulted in blurry or shaky images. Indoor shots are mostly under-exposed in Auto mode. Although it can be adjusted by long-pressing on the screen, but again it is a bit time consuming. Switching it to manual mode gives a number of options to tweak images according to your choice. However, pictures remain mostly noisy even in manual mode. If this is a software issue, Asus may be able to fix it up with an update.
Comparing this camera to that of Moto G4 Plus, the Zenfone 3 Laser is nowhere near the competition. The overall photography experience on Moto G4 Plus is much better, thanks to its 16-megapixel camera using OmniVision PureCell Plus with f/2.0 aperture.
It also features EIS (Electronic Image Stabilisation) to minimize blur which gives the option to stabilize video recording. However, no major improvements were observed. The camera interface supports numerous modes like Low-Light, Night, Beautification, HDR Pro, Super Resolution and much more to choose from. Up front, there is also an 8-megapixel secondary camera for selfies which performs comparatively better.
The Asus Zenfone 3 Laser runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Zen UI 3.0 on top. The user interface is sadly bloated with a lot of apps pre-installed which is disappointing. Packing in this amount of third-party apps may not be a good idea since it unnecessarily eats into user-available storage. But thankfully, you can uninstall these apps anytime you want. Despite the lack of near-stock Android experience, the UI has an app drawer to navigate through all your applications.
The Zen UI launcher gives options to group, sort, lock, or hide your applications with a few taps. It is also possible to customize the grid size and decide the number of apps you want to see on every page. It also lets you filter your visible apps preference from options such as downloaded, customized, or frequent. Two software modes that I found helpful were Easy mode and Kids mode.
To begin with, the ‘Easy mode’ enables a very simple interface and layout with a limited set of core functionalities. The ‘Kids mode’ on the other side requires parental control. All you need to do as a parent is enter 4-digit PIN in order to control what your children can do with the phone.
Memory, Battery, Connectivity
The Asus Zenfone 3 Laser equips 32GB onboard storage out of which around 24GB is available for users. This internal memory is further expandable up to 128GB through a microSD card support. It embraces a hybrid SIM slot which has become common these days, leaving users with either dual SIM capabilities (Micro + Nano) or storage expansions using a memory card.
Under the hood, the Asus Zenfone 3 Laser packs in a 3000mAh battery which is not user replaceable. Its average battery capacity manages to deliver a full working day of battery backup on moderate to heavy use. Unfortunately, there is no fast charging support enabled on this smartphone.
In terms of the connectivity, the Asus Zenfone 3 comes with the standard set of options like 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, microUSB 2.0 port and a 3.5mm audio jack. This phone is fully compatible with Reliance Jio’s free data and calling offer.
The Asus Zenfone 3 Laser is currently priced at Rs 16,999 which makes it difficult to recommend, especially since there are better options available in the market. In spite of good graphics performance, the mediocre camera experience on the Zenfone 3 Laser kills the magic. Despite design improvements, it eventually loses ground to more affordable options like Xiaomi Redmi 3S Prime and Lenovo K6 Power.