Some companies have been skimping on the retail packages, but Asus is not one of them - the Zenfone 3 comes with a full complement of accessories. We start with a bulky charger that only delivers 10W of power (5V @ 2A). The phone does support fast charging, though. It can reportedly slurp up enough power for 2 hours of talk time in only 5 minutes of charging.
The charger couples with the USB Type-C cable, which can also carry data (at USB 2.0 speeds only).
Finally, there's the in-ear headset with a one-button remote. They look a bit plain, but the phone will make them sing with Hi-Res audio (4x CD quality).
The Asus Zenfone 3 measures 152.6 x 77.4 x 7.7mm and weighs 155g. That makes it more compact and lighter than the iPhone 7 Plus, for example.
2.5D Gorilla Glass on both the front and back, coupled with the rounded off sides makes for a "smooth" in-hand feel. No sharp corners, nothing to make it feel bulkier than it is. The sides, by the way, are painted metal with a glossy, unpainted groove on either side, a nicely eye-catching design. The Zenfone 3 is beautiful and feels like a premium product.
There's a repeating motif, the Zen design, which features a concentric-circle pattern. You can see it on the back of the phone, on the front (it's the default wallpaper on the screen) and even on minute details like the Power and Volume buttons.
The chamfer of the metal frame has been cut by diamond tools for a precision finish. The forms of the frame flow nicely into the contoured Gorilla Glass on the front and back. Asus boasts a 77.3% screen-to-body ratio on the 5.5-inch Zenfone 3.
The way light falls on the matte metal sides and glints off the shiny chamfer flows through the 2.5D glass is particularly attractive. That beauty is only spoiled by the gallery of fingerprints that quickly accumulates (it's a high maintenance phone).
The Zenfone 3 ZE552KL comes in Sapphire Black (like ours), Moonlight Silver (white glass, gold metal), Shimmer Gold (all gold) and Aqua Blue. For one reason or another, the circular pattern on the back of our unit is only visible when there is a strong direct light source.
On the front, the top and bottom bezels are well populated. Above the screen is the 8MP selfie camera on the right and the tiny notification light on the left. The proximity and ambient light sensors are hidden below the glass too.
Under the screen are three capacitive keys. Note that they are not backlit, making them a little hard to use in the dark (at least at first while you get used to their locations).
The two hardware keys are on the right - a Volume rocker above the Power key. Both are big enough and have a concentric circle texture that makes them instantly recognizable by touch. We're quite happy with these keys, they are equally easy to use with both hands.
On the left is the two card tray - it can carry either a nanoSIM + microSIM or you can swap in a microSD card for the nanoSIM.
There's a wired port and a microphone each on the top and bottom sides of the Zenfone 3. Asus kept the 3.5mm headphone jack (on top) and went with a USB Type-C (on the bottom). Also on the bottom is the loudspeaker, which boasts 5-magnets and a dedicated amp for greater bass and lower distortion.
The back is by far the busiest place on the phone. If we had to nitpick, we'd say the square camera module does not jibe with the circular pattern that permeates the rest of the Zenfone 3. Same goes for the prolonged rectangle of the fingerprint reader, but swipe gestures here play an important role (more on that later) so we're willing to forgive that one.
The camera does protrude from the back, but don't worry too much about scratches, the camera lens is protected by a sapphire cover.
Then there's the Laser AF system (dark element on the left), the dual-LED, dual-tone flash (right), which shares a window with the color correction sensor.
The camera sensor also supports Phase Detection autofocus, the software helps out with continuous AF tracking. Then there's the optical image stabilization module, which works in 4-axis and is helped by the electronic stabilization (which adds roll correction into the mix).
We love the design of the Zenfone 3 ZE552KL, though we do wish Asus picked something more fingerprint resistant for the back (even applying a coating to the glass would have helped). The phone is perfectly put together with no gaps or tolerances.