Asus Zenfone 3 ultra Review (6.8") Not as large as you think

By June 14, 2018

Many users use their smart phones daily for messaging, emailing, social media, browsing the web, gaming, media consumption. Their ideal screen size rates from 5” to 5.7” in 16:9 aspect ratio or 5.8 to 6.2" in 18:9 aspect ratio which is almost the same in terms of width.  This size ensures the balance between one hand handling of the device with a screen size large enough to have a comfortable user experience.

This is not the case from everyone as a trend of large screen enthusiasts (that began in the Asian market) is expanding all over the world year by year.

This trend is proved by the sales of Asus as they are still selling their almost 2 years old 6.8” phablet (released on August 2017) and Xiaomi is refreshing for the 3rd time their Mi Max product line with a 6.99” 18:9 screen (that will be available this July). Both manufacturers are the major players at the moment that offer  large screen phablets   you can buy right now from your local market or via e-commerce.

Despite the users that want a normal sized phone those guys’ moto is ”the larger the better” and we will examine if they are right or wrong later on.

 

screen sizes 850x500

 

As my standard routine, while doing a long-term review, I switched several months ago to Asus Zenfone 3 Ultra and used it as my daily driver.

Before getting too technical let's discuss the everyday handling in terms of size of this big phablet.

This is not the first time that I will experience an oversized phablet as my first device with a 6.8" 16:9 screen was a Lenovo Phab Plus.

The performance of the Phab Plus was not adequate for my needs and I had to downgrade to a 6.44” (with a humble MTK 6750) and later to a smaller 6” phablet to be able to run smoothly all the apps that I used in my daily workflow.

The transition was not just hard, but very very hard, especially for tasks that benefit from a large screen, like remote support, e-book / manual reading, navigation, productivity and media consumption. The difference of the screen size had a huge impact to my whole user experience as I had to turn on my laptop in order to be able to complete some tasks.

Even transitioning to a 6.44” 16:9 screen phablet the different in experience is easily noticeable when using the phone (a person that has used a 6.8" device over an extensive period of time can get into my mind right now). The rest will say “What the heck is he talking about? That smartphone is huge". I have to confess that the first time that I used a 6.8” phablet I have made the same assumption myself.

 

Serious Techie Asus Zenfone 3 Ultra Back

 

 SIZE  & HANDLING

 

In reality it is not as big as you think and it can fit in almost the same places that a 6” can (except in back pockets as you are risking to damage it). You will adapt the handling of the device after a couple of days and you will not notice the size difference. After some time when holding a smartphone with a smaller display it will look unnatural and the screen is going to feel so tiny that you will wonder how you have managed to use a smartphone with such a small screen for so many years :) .

People that have small hands will have to use it exclusively with both hands. In my case, I have average sized hands and I can make phone calls easily by one hand or reply for example to a viber message. Attaching a holding ring at the rear of the phablet, makes everything far easier.

Another positive of having a large screen worth mentioning, is how easier is text typing as the larger screen has more “breathing room” for your fingers. It has the ideal size for typing as it is narrower than a tablet and wider than an average smartphone. As a result, you can type faster with less finger stressing.

People that use their phablet for long hours every day and therefore suffer for eye strain will benefit from the 6.8” screen too (by choosing the right scaling from setting menu) as everything can be displayed larger and the eyes make less effort to focus.

It is small enough to be used as a phablet and big enough to be used as a small tablet. With a device like this you can leave your tablet at home as it is a combination of both worlds.

 

It is known that 95% of the time we are using our smartphones vertically (the only exception is when consuming media or gaming) and Zenfone 3 Ultra is unbeatable with that wide screen under the hood.

You can type or work effortlessly for long hours with less eye strain in comparison to smaller screen smartphones and it renders obsolete the need to seek a device with a larger screen like your pc or tablet for specific tasks.
 

 

 SCREEN

 

Asus Zenfone Ultra features a massive 6.8” IPS 16:9 screen with 1920 by 1080 resolution that it is covered with Gorilla Glass 4.  It supports Tru2Life+ technology that uses a 4K TV-grade image processor for optimizing contrast, sharpness, outdoor readability and blur-free motion.


 

 CPU & PERFORMANCE


It is powered by a  Qualcomm 652 CPU build with 28mm lithography that is ranging in mid-range area in terms of performance paired with a 4GB ram and a 64GB storage.

 

AsusZenfone3ultraBenchmarks

 

The device is very responsive and snappy and there is not too much bloatware (as I got it with Android 6 and upgraded directly to android 7 I do not know about the bloatware or how the phablet was responding in battery consumption with the older OS).   You can perform all your daily tasks easily with no lags. Most games run smoothly but you have to switch the settings to mid or low in some games that are using intensive 3d graphics.

As I mentioned earlier I am using every day the device for productivity and media consumption, messaging, remote support, blogging and social media. I have not noticed any hiccups in performance.

The device is using ZenUI skin. It is versatile enough and even if you haven’t used an Asus phone in your life you will adjust easily. It has nice features, feels mature and is better than other manufacturers custom UIs that I have tried. If you want to give it a try you can download it to your device from google play store.

 

 

CAMERAS

 

Taking pictures especially in daytime is a nice experience with very good results. It features a 23MP Sony IMX318 Exmor RS with f/2.0 aperture as rear camera paired with dual led (dual tone) and laser focus.  It features a crazy 92MP Super Resolution that stiches together many pics to achieve a gigantic picture (that I have seen no real use) and they have many settings on board for someone most experienced with photography. Worth mentioning the low light feature that it uses pixel merging technology which combines neighboring pixels of the same color that increase the light sensitivity but the size of the picture drops to 4MP.

In video recording mode it supports 4k at 24fps combined with a 3-axis electronic image stabilization. It gives very good results and of course it can take still photos while recording video. Autofocusing is working very well and I have not found any major problems in my usage scenarios.

The 8mp selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture with 84˚ field of view will cover you for selfies or skyping. It is struggling a bit in low light scenarios but it gets the work done most of the times.

In the meantime, lets clear out that is the best camera performer in large scale phablets until the Mi Max 3 becomes available for comparison.  

 

CONNECTIVITY

 

Connectivity is excellent as it supports all bands needed for Europe, Russia, Asia and Oceania.

The WW version supports plenty of LTE Bands (1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 18, 19, 20, 26, 28) and it will be usable for the most parts of the world. In comparison with Mi Max that misses some crucial bands it supports Band 20 that is very important for Europe and 28 for Oceania.  Also, it features a handy dual SIM tray that you can combine work and personal number in one device.

 

 BATTERY & CHARGING

 

A 4600 mAh battery powers the "screen beast” and battery consumption is excellent while browsing with Wi-Fi with an average screen on time of 8hours. With 4g always on (with normal signal strength) drops from 5 to 6 hours screen on time. While gaming with a demanding title you can get less than 3 hours.

It supports Quick Charge 3 but after the last OTA update it will not work with aftermarket wall chargers. Asus claimed that they had to proceed with that action in order to prevent accidents when owners are using low quality uncertified chargers. That is a pity as your QC3 power bank or car charger will not fast charge your device. Mine came with an 1A charger and not the fast charge one but I do not care because I am using magnetic charging cable that cannot pump more than 1A.

 

 SOUND AND MEDIA

 

The 5 magnet dual speakers at the bottom of the device have supreme sound quality and they are very loud. Maybe the best sound quality that I have heard from a mobile device.

Lastly it supports FM Radio and reverse charging.



 CLOSING THOUGHTS 

 

If you live in a country that unlimited data plans are available and you need a larger device (as those plans are not working with tablets) in most cases they work nicely with this device as it is classified as a smartphone and not as a tablet.

As we are not sure that the rival of Zenfone 3 Ultra, the Xiaomi Mi Max 3 (that will be released in July) will feature Band 20 for Europe and band 28 for Oceania until then is your only option if you need Large screen and good LTE Coverage. Screen wise  mi max 3 will use a 6.99"  screen with 18:9 aspect ratio and that means the width of the screen is like a 6.38" 16:9 screen. In terms of performance it is almost the same with Mi Max 3 that will use a Snapdragon 635 (that is just 20% faster than Snapdragon 625 that Mi Max 2 is using).

Size seems scary at first but it is not an issue after sometime. I am sure that for some of you, in case you get one, it will be very difficult to go to back to a smaller screen.

For big screen lovers until foldable smartphones become available the following years Zenfone 3 Ultra is a good alternative and ASUS announced that they will upgrade it to Android 8.

 

Serious Techie Asus Zenfone 3 Ultra Side 1

 

 

Asus Zenfone 3 Ultra
Category / type : Phablet
Screen : 6.8" 1920 x 1080 16:9 IPS+ display, Tru2Life+ technology: 4K TV-grade image processor for optimized contrast, sharpness, outdoor readability and blur-free motion, 95% NTSC,Gorilla Glass 4, Slim bezel (2.4mm), 178˚ viewing angle, 10-finger touch.
CPU : Qualcomm  Snapdragon  Octa-Core 652 1.8GHz Processor
GPU : Adreno 510
Ram/Storage : 4GB LPDDR3, eMCP 64GB
Dual SIM : Dual standby (one SIM card can connect to 3G WCDMA / 4G LTE service at a time; the other one can support 3G voice only)
Modem
: LTE Cat6 (UL 50 / DL 300 Mbps)
Network Bands   FDD-LTE Bands 1/3/5/7/8/18/19/20/26/28
WCDMA Bands 1/2/5/6/8/19
GSM 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
TD-LTE Bands 38/40/41
(WW version)
Wireless : 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi direct
Bluetooth : Bluetooth V4.2
I/O Interfaces : 1 x USB Type-C 3.0 slot, 1 x USB 3.0 slot, 1 x micro HDMI slot, 1 x 3.5mm Earphone port
Battery : 4600mAh
Fast Charge :

Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 (Locked only to Asus Certified Chargers)

Rear Camera : Single Sony IMX318 Exmor RS 23 megapixels, f/2.0 aperture,4-axis OIS, Dual-LED real tone flash
4K video recording, 3-axis electronic image stabilization
Front Camera : 8 megapixels, f/2.0 aperture, 84˚ field of view
Speaker : Dual 5-magnet speakers with NXP Smart Amp
Ports : USB-C connector(DisplayPort & 1.5A Reverse Charging supported)
3.5mm audio jack
FM Receiver : yes
Size / Weight : 186.4 x 93.9 x 6.8mm, 233grams

 

Serious Techie

Charalampos Moraitis: Computing Specialist with multiyear experience in the fields of 3D and VR, Networks and infrastructures, Mobile Applications, Web development, CAM and CNC machining.

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