In the market for a large, powerful smartphone that can meet all your media needs while not coming up short in terms of battery life? If so, the ASUS Zenfone 3 Ultra might be exactly what you’re after. It’s a sizeable phablet that’s got power to spare for just about everything you need it to do.
Read through our review to see exactly what we mean!
Big is beautiful
First off, the Zenfone 3 Ultra is really quite a big phone – it boasts a screen that’s all of 6.8 inches in size, which is a mere 0.2 inches shy of small tablets like the late, lamented Google Nexus 7. This fact alone will drive some people to look elsewhere, while it will get others to make a beeline for this phone.
While the market has trended towards big phones lately – you’ve got quite a few models with 5.5-inch screens cropping up nowadays, and you might be hard-pressed to find an Android phone with a screen too much smaller than that that’s offered by a mainstream manufacturer – the Zenfone 3 Ultra is definitely one of those models that takes the cake when it comes to screen size.
Massive phones like this boast plenty of innate advantages – their screens can be bright and great to look at without too much of a negative effect on battery life, given that their batteries are pretty hefty as well – but also come with some drawbacks given their size and heft. We’d say that ASUS has done all it can to try and emphasize the Zenfone 3 Ultra’s big-phone strengths and counter its weaknesses.
First off, the phone’s physical design gets our nod. It’s an all-metal phone with a gently rounded frame and which thus sits nicely in the hand when used without a case. It’s been simply and cleanly designed with few if any frills – the back or sides aren’t textured, like some other phones are – and yet this one sits nicely in the hand. Or hands, we should say, because the phone’s sheer size makes two-handed operation a necessity in nearly any circumstance. ASUS boasts that the Zenfone 3 Ultra doesn’t have any antenna lines despite its metal construction.
The Zenfone 3 Ultra bucks the current Android trend of putting the fingerprint sensor at the rear – it’s located in the home button under the Gorilla Glass 4-enhanced 1080p IPS LCD screen. The phone also comes with two nano-SIM trays, which are separate – one can also accept microSD cards if you’re not the sort who requires a second line. Down below are located the USB type C port and two speaker grilles.
Capable and functional
The ASUS Zenfone 3 Ultra doesn’t pretend to be a flagship phone, but it does do its job more than adequately. The phone isn’t the most powerful available nowadays – it runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 and Adreno 510 GPU, and starts with 3GB RAM and 32GB built-in storage – but that being said it proved more than capable of taking on whatever we chose to throw at it during the testing period.
The big, bright and beautiful display proved color-accurate and sharp and clear no matter what we viewed on it, making this phone a great choice to watch movies and check out pictures on while on the go. Videos didn’t stutter or lag and we swiped through picture albums and browser tabs, among other things, without problems. And even when used outdoors, the display didn’t falter or wash out.
We need to add that we were duly impressed by the phone’s speaker set. While there are a few better sounding phones out there, the speakers are more than good enough for couples or very small groups to enjoy media on. They offered crisp and clear sound, and even boasted basic bass capabilities. Kudos to ASUS.
What about the Zenfone 3 Ultra’s picture-taking abilities? Well, ASUS saw fit to equip it with a 23MP f2.0 main camera and an 8MP f2.0 front-shooting camera – both of which proved more than decent. The main shooter excelled in daytime usage, quickly taking pictures and video that were true to life. While it didn’t prove to be a standout in low-light usage, the images and video it took were more than decent for a non-top-flight phone. The front shooter was equally decent and also boasts a range of beautification options for users who might be interested in such features.
A wide range of regular daily use scenarios didn’t faze our test Zenfone 3 Ultra one bit, and neither did being put through its paces as a gaming device. It proved quite the gaming partner, as we were able to enjoy playing graphics intensive games on it without it huffing and puffing.
The Zenfone 3 Ultra runs ASUS’ ZenUI 3.0 and Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, and the user experience is enhanced with the usual run of customization features; nothing too significant to write home about.
Oh, and we have to say that we were handily impressed by the phone’s battery life: this big phone has a big battery, a 4600mAh non-removable whopper. This unit gave it impressive battery life, maxing out at more than 30 hours on average. Neither did it take too long to charge fully; it took under two hours to fully recharge from empty, which is quite impressive in anyone’s book.
The bottom line
The ASUS Zenfone 3 Ultra is a big phone par excellence. It’s pretty good for watching stuff on, even as a group, and it’s not at all bad at taking pictures and video. As a whole, it does what you need it to do and doesn’t break too much of a sweat while doing it.
While this phone isn’t a top-of-the-line smartphone, it doesn’t pretend to be. Its appeal centers around its massive screen and that’s a feature it takes full advantage of and builds on in great fashion. And while there’s no hiding its size, we argue that this phone wears its heft quite well.