My first encounter with the ZenFone Zoom was just last month at the Sinulog Festival in Cebu, which helped set expectations for what this camera-centric smartphone can do. But spending just a couple of hours with it won’t help me form a proper impression of this smartphone. Now, we’ve been handed a unit to spend more quality time with. You can expect a longer review from me in the near future but for now, let’s just try to dissect the ASUS ZenFone Zoom.

The ASUS ZenFone Zoom is housed inside this giant box with a few extras thrown in.

The ASUS ZenFone Zoom is housed inside this giant box with a few extras thrown in.

The ZenFone Zoom comes with a stack of Zencredible Cards (which are rather reminiscent of Cards Against Humanity) and a Zenny figure).

The ZenFone Zoom comes with a stack of Zencredible Cards (which are rather reminiscent of Cards Against Humanity) and a Zenny figure.

The ZenFone Zoom veers away from plastic to give this smartphone a more high-end feel. ASUS takes its cue from LG and wraps the device’s back with burnished leather. It adds a nice texture to it and somehow gives a better grip but it does have a slight plastic feel to it still. It provides a contrast as well with the metal frame. The Zoom isn’t exactly slim at around 12mm but it needs to be that way to house that 3X HOYA lens at the back. And unlike other camera-centric phones, this can be considered rather slim (ASUS claims it’s the world’s thinnest optical zoom smartphone). Even with its optical zoom capabilities, the lens doesn’t jut out of the back of the device. You could be zooming in on something and no one would be the wiser.

Included in the box are a charger and USB cable, standard earphones, and a matching leather strap you can attach to the phone.

Included in the box are a charger and USB cable, standard earphones, and a matching leather strap you can attach to the phone.

Looking at it from behind you would think I was lugging around a camera, especially since you can even attach a leather strap to it to keep the device secure on your wrist. It’s a good thing the lens is recessed into the back cover, too, lessening the likelihood of scratching the lens when you put the phone down on its back.

The burnished leather surrounds the camera sensor.

The burnished leather surrounds the camera sensor.

This camera sensor reminds you the ZenFone Zoom is anything but your regular capable smartphone.

This camera sensor reminds you the ZenFone Zoom is anything but your regular capable smartphone.

And yes, the Zoom is still a phone. When you turn it over, you see the familiar shape and look of a ZenFone device. Unlike the old ZenFone 2 and its ilk the power button and volume rocker that also doubles as the zoom toggle are no longer at the back of the device. These are now relegated to the right side along with a dedicated camera button and video recorder button. The 3.5mm audio port is on top and the microUSB port is at the bottom. There are mics at the top and bottom of the device.

The power and volume rocker/zoom toggle is housed on the right side. From this angle you can notice that the lens hardly comes out of the back of the device.

The power and volume rocker/zoom toggle is housed on the right side. From this angle you can notice that the lens hardly comes out of the back of the device.

There's also a dedicated camera and video recorder buttons at the bottom right-hand part.

There’s also a dedicated camera and video recorder buttons at the bottom right-hand part.

The underside houses the microUSB port, a mic, and a  place where you can attach the leather strap and keep the phone secure as you shoot.

The underside houses the microUSB port, a mic, and a place where you can attach the leather strap and keep the phone secure as you shoot.

The  3.5mm audio jack is located on top of the device.

The 3.5mm audio jack is located on top of the device.

You can open the back of the device with a bit of difficulty (it doesn’t pry off easily) to put in your SIM and microSD card. But no, it doesn’t look like you can replace the battery.

Once you manage to pry off the back cover, you get easy access to the microSD and microSIM slots.

Once you manage to pry off the back cover, you get easy access to the microSD and microSIM slots.

When you power on the device, you are greeted by the familiar ASUS ZenUI interface, which is unfortunately littered with tons of bloatware still. You can uninstall these but I don’t appreciate the extra step.

It's all ZenFone in the front.

It’s all ZenFone in the front.

Running on a 64-bit Intel Atom Z3590 2.5GHz quad-core processor, Android 5.0 Lollipop, and 4GB of RAM you get a smooth experience from the get-go. There are no heating issues so far even when used for continuous shooting. I have to see though how it’ll be once I use it more. So far, I have no complaints.

Of course, the main focus of this device is its camera. You also get the familiar ASUS camera app with loads of features to tinker around with. If you loved tinkering with your camera’s settings, you’ll like playing around with this device. You have a Manual mode to fully customize your images and videos (except video recording doesn’t give you the ability to tinker with shutter speed), but if that isn’t your cup of tea, you can also just opt to use the preset settings.

If you've used a ZenFone device before, the camera interface won't be that much different for you.

If you’ve used a ZenFone device before, the camera interface won’t be that much different for you.

One of the best things about ZenFone Zoom is its macro photography capabilities or even just being able to zoom in (pun unintended) on an object. This was taken with the Zoom with HDR turned on. The photo came out a bit blue-ish but tinker around with the settings and you should get it right.

One of the best things about ZenFone Zoom is its macro photography capabilities or even just being able to zoom in (pun unintended) on an object. This was taken with the Zoom with HDR turned on. The photo came out a bit blue-ish in the late afternoon light but tinker around with the settings and you should get it right.

I’d have to spend amount of time with the ZenFone Zoom to get more out of it. But I still think we’re getting off on the right foot.

Here’s a quick rundown of the specs:

ASUS ZenFone Zoom

Display5.5" Full HD IPS with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection & anti-fingerprint coating (1,920 x 1,080 resolution, 403ppi)
Operating systemAndroid 5.0 Lollipop with ASUS ZenUI
Processor64-bit Intel Atom Z3590 2.5GHz quad-core
Memory4GB RAM
Storage128GB internal, expandable up to 128GB via microSD
Connectivity & I/O portsGSM/GPRS/EDGE; WCDMA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+; FDD-LTE; Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0; 3.5mm audio jack; GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
BatteryNon-removable Li-Po 3,000mAh
Dimensions & weight158.9 x 78.84 x 11.95~5mm, 185g

The ASUS ZenFone Zoom retails for P26,995.