The Zenfone 3…Some with 6GB of RAM, and Some with Near 7-inch Screens

zenfone3Computex, Computex, Computex…who knew so much stuff would get revealed there? The thrust of the announcements seem like something more fitting for Mobile World Congress, but I guess not. Personally, I don’t care where this stuff gets announced.

Anyways, yesterday I talked about ASUS’ coming $599 robot (and that I’m not that positive on it), but it turns out that ASUS pretty much announced an entire hardware ecosystem at Computex 2016, and they are clearly aiming their sites at Apple (and every other multi-platform manufacturer, really). The Zenbook has become a serious Macbook competitor, and there was even a Microsoft Surface/iPad Pro competitor, new high-end gaming machines (modular ones, at that) and laptops…all announced and soon to come, but they aren’t what I want to talk about here (though I may bring up this new hardware ecosystem on Sovryn Tech). As this is the Dark Android Project, I want to talk about the smartphones they announced.

Readers of the Dark Android Blog know that I’m a big fan of the ASUS Zenfone series (the Zenfone 2 was my daily driver for some time), particularly since they came with Intel processors instead of ARM–which allows for the installation of a multitude of operating systems–and that the Zenfone 2 and Zenfone ZOOM in particular had 4GB of RAM at a time when that was rare (and it still sort of is), also don’t include fingerprint readers (which are serious security concerns), all at very low pricepoints.

SIDE NOTE: Don’t forget, I generally recommend only tablets if you want to set up a secure device, which is much the purpose of the Dark Android Project. But I get it, people want smartphones, so from time to time I like to talk about and potentially recommend the latest phones getting released.

Then a little while back the ASUS Zenfone 3 was leaked about, and I said then that I would keep you posted on it. Well, here’s the news, and we’re not just getting one new Zenfone 3, we’re getting three of them: The Zenfone 3, the Zenfone 3 Deluxe, the Zenfone 3 Ultra.

The ZenFone 3 is certainly a pretty phone. As with other ASUS products, it keeps the spun aluminum design, with glass covering the metal. A 5.5-inch 1080p display adorns the front of the device. ASUS has stuck with the ZenFone 2‘s capacitive, hardware buttons. The ZenFone 3 has a Snapdragon 625 powering that display, and 3GB RAM. The fingerprint sensor is on the back–yes, unfortunately, the Zenfone 3 line has fingerprint sensors–although it’s rectangular and not square or circular like other rear-facing sensors. USB Type-C is also included, a first for an ASUS device, and a speaker sits alongside it. The camera, meanwhile, is a 16MP affair that has ‘ASUS TriTech autofocus,’ which uses 2nd generation laser, phase detection and continuous autofocus to achieve a sharp, focused image in just 0.03 seconds. Impressive stuff. Lastly, 32GB storage is on offer here, with microSD support should you want more.

For most things, the ZenFone 3 Deluxe seems similar. The screen is .2-inch bigger at 5.7-inches, although it keeps the 1080p Full HD resolution (which isn’t a bad thing since lower resolutions means much better battery life, and it doesn’t matter how pretty a screen is if it can’t turn on). As you may be able to guess, the Deluxe utilizes the Snapdragon 820 for maximum power, and an impressive 6GB RAM for top performance (reason alone to grab this thing, in my opinion). The storage capacity is doubled for the Deluxe, going in for 64GB plus microSD, although a 256GB (!) model is coming later this year. On the back is a 23MP camera, using the brand new Sony IMX318 sensor, with 4-axis OIS for stable, blur-free shots. It also doesn’t use the glass back of the standard ZenFone 3, but the real tour de force here is the fact that it doesn’t have any plastic antenna lines like other full unibody phones, which is something even Apple could not pull off.

Onto the ZenFone 3 Ultra, with a massive 6.8-inch screen, which isn’t the largest screen I’ve ever seen on a smartphone, but it’s about time someone brought it to a more mainstream consumer base. As with the previous two models, the resolution is still stuck at 1080p (which is a good thing, again, to save battery). This model has a different processor again, a Snapdragon 652, and 4GB RAM. As you’d expect from such a massive phone, the battery is large, 4600mAh capacity, which should last for quite a while. It’s also equipped with Quick Charge 3.0 technology for fast recharging. ASUS has also swapped the capacitive home button with a physical home button on the Ultra.

The ZenFone 3 will cost $249, while the Deluxe will put you back $499 (with no word on the price of the 256GB model). The Ultra will be $479. The lack of use of Intel chips (not a surprise since Intel downsized their mobile production) and the inclusion of fingerprint, readers is unfortunate, but these are still very nice phones. The near 7-inch Zenfone 3 Ultra is particularly interesting to have such a powerful phone in such a massive size, and it might be the one I’d choose, if I were to choose. Bear in the mind these are still technically budget options (and the pricepoints are still solid), and will likely not be Android Daydream-ready (Google’s new VR platform), so if you’re big on Virtual Reality, you’re probably going to want to skip out on these phones (especially slapping the Ultra on your face…yeesh).

Again, these are very powerful phones for a very low price, and worth it if you don’t care about VR. And damn…that 6.8-inch Ultra….

Carpe lucem!

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