Last year at CES, ASUS showed off a number of new competitive smartphones boasting the ZenFone brand name. Among them was the 3x optical zoom-equipped ZenFone Zoom. Since then, we’ve heard very little else about the photography-focussed Android device. Until now…

One year after its initial unveiling, the ZenFone Zoom is ready to be launched on US soil. Although clearly camera-focussed and not fashion-forward, the phone does look a lot more premium than the regular ZenFone 2. All around the device is a metal frame with a gently curved edge and some solid-looking buttons. What’s more, the curved back is coated with real, soft, textured leather similar to the ZenPad S we reviewed recently. The volume rocker doubles as a zoom toggle, and the phone also has dedicated buttons near the bottom edge for recording video and snapping images.

As you can see from the images, the camera sits inside a rather large, round hump on the back of the device. It reminds me a little of Nokia’s old PureView Lumia smartphones. But the hump isn’t there for design, obviously. Because the camera features optical zoom, the lenses need the space to move forwards and backwards to offer 3x zoom without losing any image quality.

ZenFone-Zoom-header

On the front, ASUS has equipped the ZenFone Zoom with a 5.5-inch full HD IPS display covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 4. Inside, there’s a powerful Intel Atom Z3590 processor clocked at 2.5GHz and paired with 4GB RAM. It has 64GB internal storage — which you can expand up to 128GB via MicroSD — and a 3,000mAh battery. The camera on the back features a 13MP sensor with f/2.7-f/4.8 aperture, dual flash, laser auto-focus, 3x optical zoom and optical image stabilization (OIS).

Perhaps the biggest downside with the Zoom is that it runs Android 5.0 Lollipop rather than 6.0 or even 5.1. Hopefully, with it being launched in 2016, ASUS will quickly push out new software to keep it up to date.

Still, if you’re after a smartphone with a better-than-average camera and powerful components, you’ll be able to buy the ASUS ZenFone 2 from B&H Photo on February 1st for just $399 unlocked and contract-free.

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