Review: Infinix’s Best Smartphone Yet Has a Lot to Offer at a Reasonable Price

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For the last 18 or so months that Infinix has managed to reignite passion in the budget smartphone category in Kenya and elsewhere, its biggest weapon has been consistently being able to put on the table desirable devices at unmatched rock bottom prices. Even then, there have been compromises we couldn’t overlook. The display panel and what protects it. The front-facing and the back camera. Who wants selfies that look like they’ve been lifted off a new oil canvas painting? The battery life (somehow). The frequency of software updates to patch annoying bugs. The performance. Some of these are worthy trade-offs and compromises considering the price but still… Fast forward to January 2016 and there’s an Infinix smartphone that just seems to get it right without leaving you in shock when you look at the pricing.

The Infinix Zero 3 is not the first of its name but I hope it is the first of what we can now expect to be a standard from the Infinix brand. I don’t know how this will manage to hold up after a year of vigorous use but I can tell you what I was able to get after two weeks with it in, hopefully, a few words.

Specifications

See here.

Design

Infinix pulled all the stops in order to deliver a device worthy of being the Zero 2’s successor.

Infinix Zero 3 Design - Exterior

The most notable upgrade on the Infinix Zero 3 is the design. In place of the plain looks of the Zero 2 one gets a more vibrant device with flat sharp corners. By contrast, the Zero 2 had more rounded corners.

The Infinix Zero 2 boasted of having a dual speaker setup at the bottom. Its successor takes one step back. Centrally tucked right after the Zero branding on the lower half of the device’s back is the speaker.

Infinix Zero 3 - Camera

Just as was the case on the Infinix Zero 2, the microSD card pop-up tray, the volume rocker and the power button follow each other in that order on the right-hand side of the device. The dual micro-SIM tray is on the other side of the device. On many occasions when doing SIM swaps I have ended up popping the microSD tray instead of the SIM tray since, like in the Zero 2, there is no slight hint which is which. One has to learn by heart. If you’re the sort that is always swapping memory cards and SIM cards then you’ll get used to this pretty quickly. If you hardly ever do that and you’ll be fine once your Safaricom/Airtel/Equitel line(s) are setup then you won’t have any issues to start with.

Infinix Zero 3 - Camera, microSD card slot, volume rocker and power button

The front of the device houses the 5.5-inch full HD display. At the very top is the front-facing camera sensor on the left, the earpiece at the centre and the LED flash on the right. In between the earpiece and the flash is something you may not recognize unless you are so keen, the proximity sensor. While it looks like you can simply park a four-wheel drive on the bezels, you’ll appreciate them when you are holding the device in landscape and doing things like gaming or watching a video. They make it easy to hold and interact with the device at the same time.

Infinix_Zero_3_1

The back of the device is where you come face to face with the biggest change in the design of the device. Instead of the Kevlar back that was on its predecessor, the Infinix Zero 3 has a textured back that you can’t feel since there’s a transparent plastic top that does just fine resisting the urge to be scratched. The back is not removable.

Display

Infinix Zero 3 - Display

The Infinix Zero 3 gets a bump in the size of the display from the 5 inches on the Zero 2 to 5.5 inches. The underlying tech also changes. The Zero 2 had an AMOLED display. That has been dumped in the Zero 3 for an IPS LCD panel. The change is welcome since the Zero 2’s display was oversaturated and colours were almost unreal to the naked eye. In exchange, you get a brighter display though still not bright enough for you to read PDFs out in the sun comfortably. Using the device with auto brightness on most of the time was more than satisfactory, though.

Just as was the case with its predecessor, the Infinix Zero 3 is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3. That means it is likely to survive an accidental fall and you won’t have to visit a CarlCare centre looking for a screen replacement. However, that is not a license for you to experiment. The concrete always wins, FYI.

Camera

The Infinix Zero 3 packs a Sony CMOS IMX230 camera sensor with Sony’s Exmor RS technology. Forget the many terminologies, here’s what you need to know about it in a few words: it is fast (you shouldn’t miss a moment), images have less noise and are really sharp. In short, it is good.

Infinix_Zero_3_16

The Zero 3’s camera is the first one I have used on an Infinix smartphone and really liked. The work of a smartphone camera is simple: to take great photos. End of story. That’s not asking for too much, right? The 20.7-megapixel camera at the back and the 5-megapixel sensor on the front do exactly that. The dual-tone LED flash at the back helps when there’s need for proper lighting. Another LED flash at the front of the device makes sure the selfie-crazed are not ignored.

Infinix_Zero_3_17

For the video freaks, the main camera can shoot 4K video at 30 frames per second.

The pros among us have not been forgotten. There is a “Professional” mode on the viewfinder that users can switch to for manual controls. If you are the sort who loves having control over the white balance, the ISO and the like, this will be your home. Though I am not a camera buff, I tried it just for the sake of this review and the results were pleasant.

With the camera setup, Infinix already did a lot and I am not sure where else you can turn to get such decent shooters without having to sell some body parts. So it is odd to ask for some extras like optical image stabilization which is clearly missing.

Both cameras (more so the front one) at times overprocess the images they capture.

Here are is a sample:

IMG_20160127_154551

Software

Infinix_Zero_3_9

The software on the Infinix Zero 3 is not any different from that on other Infinix devices we have reviewed recently like the Note 2. There’s Android 5.1 Lollipop with a custom overlay on top, XUI. That means you also get lots of apps you may or may not need. As we have noted before, you can delete all of these if they are not your cup of tea (it is what I did anyway).

What you’ll find different are a few things. Like the new features and apps that arrived recently after the device received an update.

Performance

The best thing about the Infinix Zero 3 besides the refreshing design and the good camera is how it handles everything you throw at it. It is fast and it looks like it is well optimized for what its makers anticipated you’ll be doing. It is not surprising to see why. The device packs one of MediaTek’s top of the line processors, the Helio X10. There’s 3 GB RAM as well which comes in handy.

Infinix_Zero_3_14

Applications are kept in memory for as long as you want them to be and there are no random freezes and force closes. Lag is also a word that won’t cross your mind because you won’t encounter it.

Battery

One is guaranteed at least a full working day without looking for a charger. I average 10 to 12 hours on a single charge. Based on your usage, this can stretch to up to 16 hours. The same is the case with the overall screen on time. I average 4 hours but when I am wholly on Wi-Fi and the device’s LTE radios are on French leave, I get an extra hour.

Again, battery use is highly subjective and depends on how you use your device. The 3,030 mAh unit which you can’t swap with another easily is more than enough to see you through your most pressing hours. I usually turn on ultra power saving mode when the battery level drops below 10% and just by doing that I get an extra 3-4 hours which is more than I need to be near a socket and get a refill.

Infinix_Zero_3_Battery_Life

Others

Connectivity on both Safaricom and Airtel networks is excellent. Calls are clear and there’s nothing to suggest otherwise. The Zero 3 is Infinix’s second LTE smartphone in the Kenyan market. We had expected its predecessor to be the first but since it never was, the Note 2’s LTE variant takes the honour. It was only recently made available in Kenya. In fact, just a few days before the Zero 3 was made official. I am yet to test that particular model but I know about the Zero 3: it’s just fine on LTE.

Double tap to wake and double tap to sleep work well. Other gestures like drawing C on the lockscreen to activate the camera app also work just fine and come in handy. For some reason, the M gesture fires up Google Music and not the new music application Infinix bundled in the last update.

The Good

  • Camera
  • Sleek design
  • LTE
  • Excellent performance
  • Well-priced

The Bad

  • Overheats when charging and when you push it to its limits like when you play some resource intensive games.

Final Word

The Infinix Zero 3 is, at the moment, the best smartphone Infinix has ever brought to the Kenyan market. Its blend of acceptable performance, a good camera and eye-popping design makes it quite a steal at its offer price of Kshs 18,500. For that amount, you will be hard-pressed to find an alternative that is as compelling as the Zero 3.

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