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ASUS ZenFone 3 Laser first impressions: a premium upgrade

|August 18, 2016 |Android Phones, Mobiles, Asus, First impressions

"The ZenFone 3 Laser features a laser autofocus sensor with 0.03-second autofocus speeds"

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ASUS launched the third iteration of its ZenFone range at an event in India today. Apart from the ZenFone 3 (first impressions), ZenFone 3 Deluxe (first impressions) and ZenFone 3 Ultra (first impressions) that were unveiled at Computex earlier this year, ASUS also launched the ZenFone 3 Laser, which went official in Vietnam a month ago, alongside the ZenFone 3 Max. The successor to the ZenFone 2 Laser (review), the smartphone, as the name suggests, features a laser autofocus sensor for snappy camera speeds. Interestingly, the ZenFone 3 Laser is also the most affordable smartphone ASUS launched today, carrying a price tag of Rs 18,999. We managed to get our hands on the device at the launch event today, and here’s our first impressions.

The most affordable member of the ZenFone family broadly follows the new design of the ZenFone 3 series, with a few compromises. The device we played with certainly looked premium, with its gold body and metallic accents. ASUS says that the ZenFone 3 Laser is made of aluminium alloy, but the back panel feels quite plasticky to the touch. The smartphone is quite slim at 7.9mm, making it easy to handle despite its large screen size, which measures 5.5-inches. The screen features 2.5D curved glass which gently slopes down towards the frame, lending a nice finish to the façade. The screen gets full HD resolution rendering it quite sharp, and in our short time with the device, we found the text and icons to be crisp, and the colours vivid and punchy. There’s also a layer of Gorilla Glass 3 on the screen for protection.

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Above the display, you’ll find the earpiece, front 8MP camera and sensors, while below is a row of non-backlit Android navigation keys outlined in a metallic finish. Moving over to the ports and buttons, the right spine is home to the power button and volume rocker, while on the left you’ll see an ejectable tray that accepts two SIM cards. The ZenFone 3 Laser is a hybrid dual-SIM device, meaning that one SIM card slot doubles up as a microSD card slot. The bottom edge of the smartphone is home to the primary microphone, micro-USB port and loudspeaker grill, while at the top you’ll see the secondary microphone and 3.5mm audio jack.

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The back panel features a matte finish that didn’t pick up fingerprints during our usage. At the very top, you’ll see the 13MP f/2.0 primary camera, which protrudes slightly from the rear. It’s flanked by the laser autofocus sensor and dual-LED flash. Below the camera you’ll find the rectangular fingerprint sensor.

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The camera app is the usual ZenUI affair, with various shooting modes like Manual, HDR Pro, Low Light and more. The smartphone also comes loaded with ASUS’s PixelMaster 3.0 technology. ASUS says that the camera features autofocus speeds of 0.03 seconds. We didn’t get to test the cameras much at the demo zone, so we’ll save our comments on camera performance for our review.

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The ZenFone 3 Deluxe runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow as a base with the latest version of ZenUI on top. The smartphone is powered by an entry-level octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor, mated to 4GB of RAM. There’s 32GB of storage on the device, out of which around 23.56GB was available on the demo unit. The storage is expandable up to 128GB via microSD. Fuelling the ZenFone 3 is a sealed 3,000mAh battery. In terms of connectivity, the smartphone supports 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0 and A-GPS.

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Ever since ASUS launched the original ZenFone 5 back in 2014, we’ve come to associate the brand with powerful, value for money devices. With the ZenFone 3 lineup, ASUS has decided to opt for a more premium price range, and the top-end ZenFone 3 Deluxe, priced at Rs 62,999, is a clear indication of that. As for the ZenFone 3 Laser, the smartphone looks like a capable enough device on paper, but it will face a ton of competition from the current favourites like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (review), Lenovo Vibe K5 Note (first impressions) and LeEco Le 2 (review)– all of which offer better specifications for a much cheaper price. That said, ASUS is also planning to sell the ZenFone 3 through offline retailers and in ASUS exclusive stores across the country, in addition to e-commerce websites, so the easy availability might work in its favour. We’ll just have to wait and watch. 

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