The ASUS ZenFone 2 and the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 are two of the most recent and better budget smartphones to hit the market in sometime. The ZenFone 2 features 4GB of RAM and an Intel Atom Quad-Core processor and is priced at $300 while the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 features the Octa-Core Snapdragon 615 processor with 3GB of RAM and starts at $250. So let’s go ahead and put these two smartphones head to head to see which one comes out on top, here on PhoneDog.com.
If we take a look at the hardware first, the ZenFone 2 is much heftier than the Idol 3 not only in weight but in height and thickness. It has a thickness of 10.9mm at its thickest point since it does feature tapered edges. The Idol 3 measures in at a very thin 7.4mm thick throughout the entire body since it does not feature these tapered edges of the ZenFone 2 does feature.
Some key differences between the two devices in terms of button placement and cords is that the ZenFone has the power sleep button up top while the Idol 3 has it located on the left hand side, which is just much easier to press and access. Well, it’s definitely easier than the ZenFone 2 which is very awkward to press the sleep button when it’s located on the top of the device. The Idol 3 also has front-facing stereo speakers whereas the ZenFone 2 has a rear mono speaker that is just not very good. It’s not facing towards me first of all and it doesn’t have a very crisp sound whereas the speakers on the Idol 3 are JBL-certified and they face towards me and they just sound better in just about every way.
The ZenFone 2 has capacitive touch navigation buttons whereas the Idol 3 has on-screen buttons. Both devices have a microSD card slot for expandable storage, which is awesome. Both devices have 13MP rear-facing camera sensors as well. In terms of their build quality, they’re actually very similar. They both feature a brushed metallic back cover. The ZenFone 2 has slightly more texture but it is very similar to the Idol 3. However, it is removable and it does give you access to the dual SIM card slots and the microSD card slot and you can swap out the back cover but you can’t swap out the battery. And there is no metal going on around either device unfortunately.
Both devices have 5.5-inch IPS 1080p displays and they both look pretty good. But I do prefer the display on the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 for a few different reasons—it’s brighter, it’s more color accurate, and it’s just more enjoyable to view content on than the display on the ZenFone 2; which is okay but nothing more.
Both devices run Android 5.0 Lollipop. The Idol 3 runs Android 5.0.2 Lollipop and has less apparent skin on top of it. It’s very similar to Stock Android but with a few exceptions—the icons are square-ish in shape and there are a few extra software features like double tap to wake the screen, turn over to mute incoming calls, turn over to activate the alarm, and you can also use this device upside down and still make calls as if you were using it right side up so it’s totally reversible and will calibrate itself accordingly.
The ZenFone 2 has a very apparent Zen UI skin on top of Android 5.0 Lollipop and it too has square icons. I wouldn’t say the Zen UI is totally ugly. It’s pretty flat and pretty basic for the most part. It does run Android so you can always change the launcher and the icons and scroll effects and themes and preferences. And actually, you can customize a lot of stuff in here. There’s an option to use this device one-handed or to use it with gloves. You can even change the file format of a screenshot from JPEG to PNG. It has double tap to wake, which is a necessity since the power sleep button is located in a terrible spot. It’s safe to say that the ZenFone 2 is much more customizable out of the box than the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3. I will note that the ZenFone 2 does have more bloatware preinstalled onto the device right when you boot it up. And you can remove some of it but you can’t remove all of it.
In terms of the performance, both devices run very well. With the Idol 3, we have a Snapdragon 615 Octa-Core 64-bit processor with 3GB of RAM. With the ZenFone 2, we have a Quad-Core Intel Atom Z3580 processor clocked at 2.3GHz and it’s equipped with 4GB of RAM. And that’s kind of what the ZenFone 2 has going for it. That’s probably what you think of when you think of the ZenFone 2. It’s that crazy high amount of RAM. And it could be a placebo effect but the ZenFone 2 does feel like the faster device when swiping through applications and multi-tasking. It makes sense, I guess—4GB of RAM is pretty darn impressive. I didn’t notice too much of a difference when playing Riptide 2 though. They seemed to handle their own pretty darn well. The ZenFone 2 does feel like the more powerful device overall. But since we’ve kind of platooned on the performance in terms of how fast processors are able to perform, the difference is minor.
Taking a look at the cameras, each device has a 13MP rear-facing camera sensor that takes very similar results. However, after analyzing each image on my 5K iMac in detail, I did notice that the ZenFone 2 does tend to produce brighter, more exposed images than the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3. And they do have more detail. Images captured from the ZenFone 2 look crisper than the Idol 3. They both feature the same megapixel count though and they both feature an f/2.0 aperture lens so low light performance is going to be very similar as well. But if you want the crispest picture quality, then the ZenFone 2 does deliver the better results.
However, in terms of the front-facing camera sensors, I do prefer the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 as it has an 8MP camera sensor that does capture some more detail than the 5MP camera sensor found on the front of the ZenFone 2. So the ZenFone 2 has a better rear-facing camera, the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 has a better front-facing camera.
In terms of the battery life, the ZenFone 2 features a 3000mAh battery while the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 features a 2910mAh battery; both of which are non-removable. I found the ZenFone 2 to deliver anywhere from 3-4 hours of screen on-time with the OneTouch Idol 3 delivering anywhere from 4-5 hours of screen on-time; which was enough to last me through an entire day. You’d think the ZenFone 2 would have better battery life but that’s not the case. I’d like to think that it’s the Snapdragon 615 processor that really does help conserve more power.
So to sum it up, these are two of the best budget smartphones currently on the market. For $300, the ASUS ZenFone 2 has 4GB of RAM and an Intel Atom processor that just makes this phone a speed beast. It rivals some of the flagship smartphones while costing a fraction of the price. It also does capture crisper images than the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3. But the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 does have a more minimal build, it has a better display, a lighter skin on top of Android Lollipop, loud front-facing stereo speakers, and better battery life. It’s also $50 cheaper.
If your decision hinges on which smartphone is faster or captures the better images, then you’re going to want to pick up the ZenFone 2. But if you want the best all-around smartphone, the winner is the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3.