The ZenFone 3 design is a complete departure from the ZenFone 2. Gone is the weird polygonal back and oddly placed controls of the previous model. In its place, we find a much safer and traditional looking design. It is quite an attractive looking phone and should appeal to far more people than the previous one ever did.
The front of the phone has a large Gorilla Glass panel that stretches end to end and has a subtle but palpable curve around the edges (or 2.5D contour as it's known). In the middle is the 5.5-inch display flanked by sizable but not substantial bezels.
Above the display are the earpiece, the sensors, and the front camera. Below the display are the three navigation keys. Unfortunately, these aren't backlit, which makes them hard to find in the dark. Asus continues to leave these keys without a backlight, even on expensive phones, which makes no sense and something the company should reconsider.
The phone employs an aluminum frame around the side that has a bead blasted finish and chamfer on either side. On the right side are the power and volume control buttons with Asus' tradition spun metal finish. The buttons are well placed and fall easily to hand and a far cry from the awkwardly placed power button on the top on the ZenFone 2 and the stiff volume buttons on the back.
On the right side is the hybrid SIM tray with support for one micro SIM + microSD or one micro SIM + nano SIM. On the bottom of the phone is the loudspeaker, Type-C connector, and a microphone.
On the top are the headphone jack and another microphone. The metal frame has very subtle and symmetric antenna bands on the top and bottom that are barely noticeable.
The back of the phone once again is covered in the same glass with curved edges. Underneath there is a spun metal pattern that isn't as clearly visible on our white model but looks quite fascinating on the darker colored models in the way it catches light.
Near the top is the raised camera with a sapphire crystal lens cover, so you don't have to worry about damaging it. Flanking it are the laser sensor on the left and dual LED flash on the right.
Below it is a fingerprint sensor. Near the bottom is an Asus logo. The phone is thankfully free of any other brandings.
The combination of glass and metal give the ZenFone 3 a very premium feel in the hand. Beyond the materials, the phone is very well designed, and the smooth curvature of the glass and metal give it a very pleasant feel in the hand. The 5.5-inch model we tested here is slightly on the larger size and those who want a smaller phone should perhaps consider the 5.2-inch Zenfone 3 model.
The ZenFone 3 comes with two display options; there is a smaller, less popular 5.2-inch model (ZE520KL) and the larger 5.5-inch model (ZE552KL) we have here for a preview. Both have an identical resolution at 1920 x 1080px and the other specifications are also identical on paper, including the maximum brightness of 600nits.
Since we only have the bigger model with us, our observations are based on this model only. Regarding image quality, this is one of the better displays we have seen, and one of the best Asus has pushed out. Never mind the 600 nits of brightness, which is almost unbearable indoors and more than perfectly visible outdoors even under direct sunlight. But the display calibration seems to be on point, at least to the naked eye.
Out of the box, the display has quite natural colors and pretty well sorted white point that is free of any color casts. On top of that, Asus even offers a basic calibration tool that lets you adjust the color temperature, hue, and saturation of the display. There is also the trendy blue filter that cuts off the blue light and makes the display warmer for reduced eye strain. We found it best to leave it at the default settings as they looked perfectly fine to us.