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Small phone lovers rejoice: The Asus Zenfone 8 is a fantastic option

For those of us who remember the early days of smartphones, “handsets” were fairly small devices that worked great for one-handed use. But thanks to burgeoning specs and features—as well as user demand for more screen real estate—phones have become larger and larger, and now smaller options are hard to find. Into this landscape walks Asus and its Zenfone 8, the company’s latest mainstream flagship device. This sub-6-inch phone doesn’t sacrifice power for size, and it’s a fantastic option for small phone lovers.

Asus Zenfone 8 Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

Left to right: Asus Zenfone 8, Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate, and Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra.

At PCWorld we know Asus more for its laptops and PC hardware components, but its phone division has been making some very strong devices for many years now. In fact, a couple of months ago, Asus released the ROG Phone 5, which I consider to be the one of the best “gaming phones” available. The Zenfone line is aimed more at mainstream users, and despite having a small marketshare worldwide, it’s garnered a nice following.

For the Zenfone 8, Asus wanted to make “the ultimate compact Android phone,” aiming it at the small phone market that has been traditionally underserved. And, wow, did they swing for the fences. The 5.9-inch FHD+ AMOLED Samsung panel runs up to 120Hz and has a peak max brightness of 1100 nits. Display nerds will also enjoy hardcore specs like 112 percent DCI-P3 and Delta-E<1 for super accurate colors. This display is beautiful in every environment and a real treat for small phone lovers.

Asus Zenfone 8 Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

Inside the Zenfone 8 is the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G chip paired with up to 16GB or LPDDR5 RAM and up to 256GB of UFS3.1 SSD and cooled via heat-pipe. Comparing Zenfone 8 to my time with the ROG Phone 5 sporting similar specs, I found the mainstream phone to be just as snappy and responsive. Nothing was lacking for power, and I was super impressed with its performance in both normal and heavy tasks, like gaming. The phone did get a bit hotter under heavier workloads than the ROG Phone 5, but with the size reduction that didn’t surprise me and it wasn’t a serious problem.

The 4000mAh battery probably contributed to that heat as well, because that’s a huge battery to put in a phone. But despite the power and size, the battery did get me through a full day of use with the display refresh rate set to auto. The 30W Hypercharge system—which Asus claims is the “most powerful charger of any phone below 6 inches”—helps to top off the phone in an emergency. 

Asus Zenfone 8 Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

More than enough screen to read articles.

When it comes to software, ZenUI 8 is based off Android 11 and sticks pretty damn close to stock but with some smart improvements. Added features are all smart additions and help to get the most out of this hardware: Battery care options are plentiful; there’s some extra sound tuning for more pleasing audio out of the dual speakers; and the same feature-rich Game Genie software found on the ROG Phone 5 can be used to configure your gaming experience.

All of these features and more are easy to navigate within the settings and are powerful additions to Android, but ZenUI 8 is not without its quirks. I had problems using my third party launcher with the newer swipe navigation system, and saw some odd flash frames when exiting apps. With a bit more ironing out, ZenUI would easily become my custom Android OS of choice. 

Asus Zenfone 8 Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

One-handed mode ensures even the smallest hands can reach the top.

Probably the weakest part of the Zenfone 8 is the design—it’s very basic and uninspiring. This doesn’t bug me too much, though, as the phone will most likely live in a case, and Asus’ focus is more on one-handed usability rather than flashy aesthetics. Asus said they put a lot of time and research into finding the best blend of height and width to support single-handed use, and here they hit the nail on the head.

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ASUS Zenfone 8 packs Samsung OLED and Sony cameras into a smaller 5G flagship

ASUS has revealed its latest Android smartphone, with the Zenfone 8 promising 5G and a 120Hz display in a smaller package. The Snapdragon 888-powered handset comes in smaller than rivals, thanks to a 5.9-inch AMOLED screen supplied by Samsung.

It’s a QHD panel, with 120Hz refresh and 1ms response time. ASUS says it boasts 112-percent DCI-P3 color gamut coverage, and it’s HDR10+ certified too. On top is a layer of Gorilla Glass Victus.

Although not exactly small, it definitely leaves the Zenfone 8 smaller than many rivals. At 148 x 68.5 x 8.9 mm it’s shorter than a Galaxy S21, for example, which should make reaching the top of the display when using the phone one-handed a little easier. There’s also an in-display fingerprint sensor.

On the back there’s a 64-megapixel camera, using Sony’s IMX686 sensor with OIS and an f1/.8 lens. It has PDAF and a dual-LED flash, and supports up to 8K video recording with electronic stabilization. It’s alongside a 12-megapixel ultra-wide, using a Sony IMX363 sensor, with a 113-degree field of view and Dual PDAF autofocus. That can record up to 4K/60fps or 1080p/60fps video.

Finally, there’s a 12-megapixel front camera, using Sony’s IMX663 – a first, ASUS says. That has a 76.5-degree FOV and f/2.45 lens, with Dual PDAF and support for up to 4K/60fps or 1080p/60fps video. ASUS has fitted three microphones, with digital wind filter, mic focus, and acoustic focus settings for emphasizing the audio from different subjects.

Inside, along with the Snapdragon 888 there’s Dual SIM with dual-standby support, up to 8GB of LPDDR5 memory, and up to 256GB of storage. WiFI 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 are standard, too, and ASUS adds a 4,000 mAh battery which charges via USB-C.

As for the design, it’s a fairly sober handset with a frosted-finish antiglare glass rear. It’s IP68 water and dust resistant, but there’ll only be one color: Obsidian Black.

All in all, ASUS says, this is the most powerful Zenfone in the company’s series of Android handsets, and like predecessors it’ll run the ZenUI 8 UI interface along with some enhancements for single-hand operation. No word on pricing at this stage, beyond the expectation that it’ll be under $800 or thereabouts, but ASUS says we can expect the Zenfone 8 to go on sale from late Q2 in North America.

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ASUS ZenFone 8 Flip leak shows the camera gimmick is back

There was a point in time in the mobile industry’s history that smartphone makers were scrambling to figure out ways to push out almost all the bezels from a phone’s face. Some utilized popup cameras while others settled for small punch-hole cutouts. ASUS, however, employed a somewhat unique and quirky “flip camera” system in the ZenFone 7 Pro that hit two birds with one stone. While most popup cameras have seemingly disappeared, ASUS is bringing the flip back in its 2021 flagship, at least based on this latest leak.

The idea behind the flip camera isn’t actually new, just that this particular design hasn’t actually been used before. In 2014, the OPPO N1 also allowed to use of the same main camera for normal photos and selfies but rotated its forehead to make that possible. After the ZenFone 7 Pro, Samsung launched the Galaxy A80 with almost the same principle but used a sliding mechanism instead.

Given how popup cameras have gone out of fashion, it’s a bit surprising to hear that ASUS hasn’t given up on that yet either. 91mobiles reports that the flip camera will make a comeback, this time under the name ZenFone 8 Flip. It sheds the “Pro” moniker to align with the plain ZenFone 8, which will have nearly identical specs save for the flipping camera and displays.

Both phones will be powered by the latest Snapdragon 888 with an expected 8GB of RAM. The flip-free ZenFone 8 is the “mini” of the two with a 5.92-inch FHD+ screen while the ZenFone 8 Flip gets a more massive 6.67-inch screen. Both phones get a 64MP main camera and 12MP macro shooter, with the ZenFone 8 Flip getting an extra 8MP telephoto camera and, of course, the motorized flipping mechanism.

Whether or not that mechanism will help sell the phone this year is, of course, a different question entirely but it’s clear that ASUS is betting heavily on it. Details about the ZenFone 8 Flip and the ZenFone 8 are expected to land next week on May 12.

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Asus ZenFone 6 hands on: Flipping the script to take on the OnePlus 7 Pro

Even if they hadn’t released within days of each other, it’s impossible not to compare the Asus ZenFone 6 to the OnePlus 7 Pro. They both have Snapdragon 855 processors, funky selfie cams, and near-stock Android skins. And they’re both a whole lot cheaper than their premium counterparts.

But while we expected the OnePlus 7 Pro to stand out in the field, the Asus ZenFone 6 may be one of the most surprising phones of the year so far. Where last year’s ZenFone 5z was an iPhone imitator with an ugly notch, forced AI camera gimmicks, and a heavy-handed skin, Asus has completely reimagined its smartphone experience for this year’s model: The camera cutout is gone, the AI scene detector is little more than a toggle, and ZenUI has been all but jettisoned. It’s a refreshing change that makes the ZenFone 6 feel more like a reboot than a annual refresh. That’s exactly what Asus needs to take on OnePlus 7 Pro, the ZenFone 6’s most obvious competitor. 

asus zenfone 6 back Christopher Hebert/IDG

The back of the Asus ZenFone 6 is glass, but there’s no wireless charging on board.

Let’s start with the specs. The ZenFone 6 is an incremental upgrade over the 5z, but Asus has added enough to keep pace with OnePlus’s upgrades:

  • Display: 6.4-inch FHD+ LCD
  • Processor: Snapdragon 855
  • RAM: 6GB/8GB
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB
  • Camera: 48MP, f/1.79 + 13MP ultra wide (125 degree FOV)
  • Battery: 5,000mAH

While the ZenFone 5z had relatively standard dimenseions of 153 x 75.65 x 7.7mm, the ZenFone 6 is slightly larger, measuring 159.1 x 75.44 x 9.1mm. The girth is especially noticeable, though the ZenFone 6 has a slightly tapered design that brings it down to a respectable 8.4mm at the edges. When you hold it, however, you can definitely feel that it’s substantially thicker than other phones. At 190 grams, the ZenFone 6 weighs a good deal less than the 206-gram OnePlus 7 Pro, but the uneven weight distribution makes the ZenFone 6 feel heavier and more cumbersome.

asus zenfone 6 front Christopher Hebert/IDG

The Zenfone 6’s 6.4-inch LCD screen isn’t nearly as bright or balanced as other OLED phones.

Asus has given the ZenFone 6 a near-all-screen design, with slim bezels and a dramatically reduced chin. The blue Asus logo stands out nicely against the black or silver glass back, as does the only other splash of color: a metallic blue rim around the power button. It even has a headphone jack. All in all, it’s a solid design that departs from the excesses of the ZenFone 5z. 

The ZenFone 6’s 6.4-inch display may be only a touch smaller than the 7 Pro’s 6.67-inch one, but the chasm between OnePlus’s Fluid AMOLED technology and Asus’s NanoEdge couldn’t be wider. The inherent differences between OLED and LCD are obvious, and the 1440p screen on the OnePlus 7 Pro is crisper and far more vibrant. The ZenFone 6’s display is substantially dimmer than the OnePlus 7 Pro’s, and what brightness it has isn’t nearly as uniform. When looking at a solid color, it’s easy to spot dark areas, especially near the edges. 

New dog gets new tricks

But the screen and the size may be tradeoffs most buyers will be willing to make to get the ZenFone 6’s flagship features: the camera and battery. While the OnePlus 7 Pro has a respectable 4,000mAh battery, the ZenFone 6 ups the ante to 5,000mAh, besting even the Galaxy S10 5G.

We’re still running tests, but Asus estimate up to 2 days of “non-stop use,” with 21 hours of Wi-Fi web browsing and 33.2 hours of talk time. For comparison, Apple estimates that the iPhone XS Max gets up to 13 hours of Internet use and 25 hours of talk time. So the ZenFone 6 will likely top the list as the longest-lasting of its Snapdragon 855 peers.

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