ASUS has just announced the ZenFone 3 Zoom, which resides in the camera and battery life areas of their product stack. While we will discuss its performance below, this phone prides itself on a 5,000 mAh battery and two rear-facing cameras, which are paired for an interesting feature: optical zoom.
Instead of trying to fit a lens assembly into a smartphone that expands and contracts to zoom in and out, this phone switches between two cameras, one with a wide-angle lens, and the other with a telephoto one. Typically, cameras attempt to solve the “zoom” problem by including higher and higher megapixel sensors, which provides finer images but reduces low-light performance — you have to acquire a signal from a smaller and smaller fraction of the photons that hit your sensor.
Going one step further, because their users will need to crop less of their photo, ASUS used a fairly large, but 12 megapixel sensor for each camera. This means that the pixels are fairly big, 1.4 microns, allowing them to gather more light. This should translate to good and relatively consistent low-light performance at either zoom level, which are 2.3x apart.
As for the battery? That’s a lot of power. The original ZenFone 3 had 2,600 mAh with the same SoC. The ZenFone 3 Zoom almost doubles that. ASUS claims 40 days of 4G standby, but I’m more curious how long it can play games and watch videos untethered. Update: It was quick, but I believe they said over eight hours of live video streaming on a single charge.
Being based on last year’s mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC, it will perform like the base ZenFone 3, rather than the flagship ZenFone 3 Deluxe and its Snapdragon 820. Despite the chip’s GPU being listed at about a third of the performance of its bigger sibling, depending on clock rate, it is still capable of Vulkan and OpenGL ES 3.1 should ASUS ship a driver.
The ZenFone 3 Zoom is expected to be available in February, but prices and SKUs are TBD.
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