ASUS ZenFone Zoom Review: An Android With True 3X Optical Zoom

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Asus ZenFone Zoom Design and Build Quality

There's really no other way to say it -- the ZenFone Zoom is a relatively large phone. Though the 5.5-inch screen has become somewhat normal in the smartphone space, the 185 grams of heft and the thick frame aren't easily dismissed. The reason is simple: this is half point-and-shoot camera, half smartphone, which means that you're going to compromise thinness to some degree in order to cram in a better-than-average camera with optical zoom and high quality lenses.

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To ASUS' credit, the ZenFone Zoom's backing is made from real leather. Though it still has a plastic feel with plastic underneath that leather, it does an impressive job of making the phone look slimmer than it is and its contoured shape makes it easier to cradle and use in one hand. We're pretty big on wrapping our phones in cases to begin with, so if you're in that crowd, the larger size probably won't be that off-putting. Plus, you're getting something that's exceedingly rare on a phone, and that's a bonafide optical zoom. There's a 3x optical zoom lens assembly here, not to mention optical image stabilization, laser autofocus, and dual-LED + dual-tone flash.

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Stepping away from the optics for a minute, let's focus on the front. Head-on, the ZenFone Zoom looks almost identical to the ZenFone 2. There's a shiny lip along the bottom, sitting just beneath 5.5-inches of Full HD goodness -- protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The usual Android soft buttons are there, along with a 5MP front-facing camera, a silver ASUS logo and an earpiece slit. For a $399 phone (and yes, that's fully unlocked and off-contract), the panel is stunning. We said the same thing when gawking at the ZenFone 2, but it's great to see that nothing has changed there.

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ASUS has done a fine job dressing the phone up, paying close attention to the details. The ring around the phone's center is a soft, matte black, which looks awfully classy up close. The left edge is bare, but the lower-left corner has a notch where you can connect the (included) leather wrist strap. That's an odd thing to find on a phone, but a totally normal thing to find on a conventional point-and-shoot. We're guessing you now understand why it's included, and indeed, it's quite handy.

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The lower edge is home to a micro-USB port, while the 3.5mm headphone jack is situated up top. The right edge is perhaps the most interesting of all, boasting much more than a typical power button and volume rocker. There's also a small hardware toggle for the camera function; just hold that dot down for a second, and the phone launches into its camera app. Just beside that dimple is a dedicated camera shutter button.

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ASUS smartly positioned that shutter button on the opposite side of the device from its lens, ensuring that your fingers won't lazily find their way in front of the frame. The rigid faux leather back was quite nice to the touch, and added a layer of durability that made us comfortable toting this phone around sans case. It's tough to knock the overall quality here. For a $399 phone, it's built well. It oozes premium, and definitely punches above its weight.

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