Wednesday, March 8, 2017

ASUS ZenFone 3 Laser review

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With their latest refresh to the ZenFone lineup, ASUS is offering consumers several different options to choose from. We already reviewed the ZenFone 3 Deluxe and ZenFone 3, and have also covered the more recent and less traditional ZenFone 3 Zoom and ZenFone AR.


Now, we’re taking a look at ASUS’ entry-level ZenFone 3 Laser. So does the ASUS ZenFone 3 Laser bring enough to the table to stand out from competing options? Let’s find out with our comprehensive ASUS ZenFone 3 Laser review!


Design


What’s perhaps most interesting about the third generation of ZenFones is ASUS’ sudden departure from their past design language. When we thought about the ZenFone lineup previously, we thought of metallic plastic, ergonomic curves, and rear-facing volume buttons, features which were showcased excellently on the ZenFone 2 Laser.


Unlike its predecessor, the ZenFone 3 Laser is constructed of an aluminum body with plastic top and bottom caps, presumably to help with wireless reception. We’ve seen designs quite similar to this countless times in the past, but it remains difficult to ignore the high-quality in-hand feel of aluminum.



While the rear curve isn’t as dramatic nor ergonomic as it was in the past, we’re happy to see this bring the replacement of practically awkward slim side edges with larger curved side continuations of aluminum, which makes the phone easier to grip, especially with a single hand.


It’s not just the materials and shaping that make this a nice design, however, as other components like the satisfyingly tactile side buttons and seemingly engraved antenna lines are also quite nice. Of course, there are some minor compromises too, like the three capacitive navigation keys, which are ugly and do not illuminate. The rear camera hump can also be annoying when using the phone on a flat surface. Still, this design is well on par with what we expect to see from an entry-level device.



The Zenfone’s reader is in the form of a tall rectangular cutout



ASUS has placed a fingerprint reader on the back of the Zenfone 3 Laser, just below the camera module. Unlike traditional circular fingerprint readers, however, the Zenfone’s reader is in the form of a tall rectangular cutout. In fact, the Zenfone 3 lineup seems to be the first to feature this unique design. With that said, we didn’t notice a difference in speed nor accuracy when using the phone; overall, the reader performs well enough for the price.


Display


For the display, we’re looking at a respectable 5.5″ 1080P IPS panel coated in Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Color reproduction is great, viewing angles are decent, and the display is generally fairly good. It’s worth mentioning that you’ll be hard-pressed to find something significantly better at this price. With that said, we still have some notable criticisms.


Our biggest complaint has to do with maximum brightness, as it can be frustratingly difficult to use the phone outdoors. The auto brightness feature also tends towards lower settings, effectively requiring manual input for appropriate levels. ASUS has consistently failed to impress us in display brightness, and it’s a shame that the Zenfone 3 Laser continues that trend.



A much more insignificant issue, but surely a point of contention, is the black border around the display. Evidently, this grinds gears for people at varying levels, so we’ll keep this as objective as possible: the borders are reasonably small, unnoticeable day-to-day, but clearly don’t contribute to a stylish look. And with that, we’ll let you make your own judgements.



On a positive note, ASUS’ standard color customization options are included with the Zenfone 3 Laser. These options allow you to make adjustments to color temperature, enable a bluelight filter or “night mode,” or customize hue and saturation for a different look. These options are always nice to have, so we’re happy that ASUS has included them.


Performance



Although it’s not going to wow anyone with its benchmark scores, the Zenfone 3 Laser still performs well day-to-day. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 is, of course, an entry-level processor, but that hasn’t prevented ASUS from offering a well optimized experience. For example, some system animations have been sped up to give the illusion of a snappier device.


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