Hands-on review: COMPUTEX: Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe

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Zenfone 3 Deluxe represents a major upgrade to Asus’ spelling-challenged smartphone series with a component design and specs you won’t find on any other Android today.

The phone is making a name for itself with 6GB of RAM, when the best phones in 2016 so far top out at 4GB of RAM. You should be able to open more apps on its 5.7-inch display without slowdown.

Yes, the ZTE Axon 7 was just announced to have a 6GB of RAM variant, but it wasn’t shown off at its Beijing launch event next to its still-very-promising 4GB version. I could test the Asus Zenfone 3 at Computex 2016.

6GB of RAM and ready to go

It also includes the latest Snapdragon processor, starts with 64GB of internal storage and includes a 23MP camera, all of which are impressive numbers on paper.

But do these Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe specs compute into anything meaningful? The release date isn’t for several weeks, according to Asus, so I went hands on with the forthcoming Android 6.0 Marshmallow phone while in Taipei, Taiwan to determine find out more.

Design

The Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe is being touted as the world’s first full-metal unibody phone with an invisible antenna design, and that’s technically true.

Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe review

It beats Apple’s iPhone 7, rumored to be anti-antenna lines too, by three months, and the new LG G5 has a gap meant for modular add-ons; it isn’t really unibody. Samsung Galaxy S7 is made of glass.

That leaves the Zenfone 3 Deluxe to steal some thunder with a sleek look of its own. I like the full-metal body and the seamless unibody design, and the invisible antenna lines are a nice perk.

What’s more important to me than any of that, though, is the fact that the phone does away with the plastic that made last year’s Zenfone 2 design downright unlikable. I dug the specs and the software customization, but it felt cheap. Like, not even good plastic. This new design begins to right that wrong.

Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe review

It measures 156.4 x 77.4 x 7.5 mm, which doesn’t make it as thin as the Nexus 6P (7.3mm thin), but it’s close and, when testing it, it felt better than the thicker, non-Deluxe Zenfone 3 (7.7mm thin).

The power button and volume rocker are now on the right side (instead on of the back), but there’s an oddly shaped rectangular fingerprint sensor on back. You don’t actually press it in. There’s still capacitive soft buttons for home, back and recent on the front, going against the trend of using purely on-screen buttons. I tend to like my buttons always being at the ready like this and not sometimes vanishing at the worst possible moments.

Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe review
A slight camera bump and top-mounted headphone jack

I had a big problem with Zenfone 2’s top-mounted power button, which I described as “squishy.” I’m happy to report than while the Zenfone 3 Deluxe side-mounted buttons feel a bit shallow, they’re at least clicky. This is all the more important now because the Deluxe camera can be launched by hitting the volume down button twice when the phone is asleep.

Like a lot of phones in 2016, it pivots to USB Type-C, sticks with one speaker (but of course promises stellar audio, according to the company’s marketing efforts) and comes in three colors: Titanium Gray, Glacier Silver and Sand Gold.

Display

Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe has a spacious 5.7-inch screen that competes with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 in size.

Its large Super AMOLED panel takes on a 79% screen-to-body ratio. That means less bezel and more screen space to work with.

Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe review
A better screen, but still 1080p

Under the Computex lighting, it also appears to be brighter, fixing be biggest issue I had with the Zenfone 2. Taking last year’s phone outside snap photos was a headache due to its dull screen; I couldn’t see what I was shooting and just hoping the photos turned out okay (they didn’t, last year’s camera was also mediocre).

I’ll have to test it outdoors in a full Zenfone 3 review soon, but the brightness seems to have been ratchet up thanks to the new AMOLED display.

Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe review
Clearly still a prototype, as you’ll read I was reminded of on the next page

What remains, though, is the same is 1080p resolution. You won’t find a pixel-dense quad HD (aka 2K) panel like the Android rivals that Asus is trying its best to mimic.

I’m okay with Full HD 1080p displays on phones of this size, but the company does appear to be working on an Asus VR headset.

As I experienced with the Huawei VR headset, 1080p can be problematic when the screen is sitting two inches from your face.

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