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The flip-out camera and incrementally larger display have been a focal point for Asus throughout their most recent lineups. With their Zenfone 8, it seems the manufacturer has headed in a different direction. Rather than competing with other large display options, the company has instead opted to miniaturize. Who doesn’t want a mini Android iPhone? 

You can still get your hands on a flipping camera with the ZenFone 8 Flip model but it is now a separate entity and secondary as opposed to a standard cross-range feature. The ZenFone 8 is priced as an upper-midrange class option and will cost you €599 on the current European market. This is about $730, but the US pricing hasn’t yet been finalized. It is expected to come in somewhere between $599 and $799. The smaller display dimensions come in a %.( inches and you have a conventional rear camera. Unlike previous models, it will be available for purchase in Northern American states as well.

WIthout its showy camera design, it is far more comfortable in your hand and Asus has been able to afford the little guy some great high-end features. The processing power is impressive, so you can rest assured that the downsizing comes without any real sacrifice to the hardware.

Things we liked: 

  • Well-thought-out design
  • Compact
  • Durable high-end build 
  • Rated IP68
  • High-performance Snapdragon 888 chip

Things we didn’t like:

  • Battery life doesn’t wow
  • OS hasn’t changed much
  • No telephoto lens

ZenFone 8 Design and Display

As mentioned in our overview the ZenFone 8 may be smaller in stature but that doesn’t mean it isn’t mighty. It is kitted with a Snapdragon 888 chipset, one of the latest flagship processors on the market. You can get your hands on a 6, 8, or 16GB of RAM version of the mini but mighty model. Today’s reviews are based on a 16GB unit. The response of which is impressive, interactions are unhindered and it is quick to perform smoothly no matter how demanding the user. You can leave several things open and running and rapidly switch from app to app with ease making it an efficient flagship model with powerful performance.

Equipped with a 5.9inch OLED panel that provides a 120Hz refresh rate running with its snapdragon chip, no task is too much. User interaction is swift, all swiping and scrolling, animations are polished and the differences are noticeable when pitched against a standard 60Hz or 90Hz screen. The iPhone has a default display setting that actively switches between a 120 / 90 / 60Hz refresh to help prolong the battery life. It is dependant on the type of app you are currently using but can be manually overridden if you choose so. Allowing users to select the refresh rate that they prefer.

ZenFone Design
ZenFone Display. Image credit: theverge.com

In terms of design decisions, Asus says that the aspect ratio was one of the biggest considerations in the display department. Ultimately they opted for a narrower format as portability was at the heart of their plans with this mini model. The aspect ratio settled upon is 20:9 making it easier to slip in and out of your pockets. It also grants the owner more maneuverability, you can sit comfortably with it in your jeans and bends and stretch as much as you want to. In a jacket, it doesn’t protrude and there is no risk of it slipping out like a larger phone might. The mobile also carries a high IP certification keeping it protected against dust particulates and at IP68 will even cope with accidental water submersion.

It boasts a Gorilla Glass Victus panel covering that adds an extra level of durability and the display features an integrated fingerprint sensor for security and convenience. The back is also protected adequately with a frosted Gorilla Glass 3 finish. More matte than glossy in appearance. While the front is flat the back has slightly curved edges that again feel great to handle and give it a better purchase in your hands as well. Typically a smaller phone is lightweight but this one has a little weight to it. Weighing 169 grams (5.9 ounces) the presence is surprisingly dense for its size. Overall the aesthetics are high-end and classy with the durable panel nestled in an aluminum frame that even sports a bonus headphone jack.

ZenFone 8 Design
Image credit: theverge.com

The positioning of the power button is exactly where your right-hand thumb naturally rests whilst it is in your hands. It has a distinctive bright blue color to highlight it. The in-screen fingerprint sensor is also well-positioned within comfortable reach. It actually seems a little higher up the display than some competitive models with the same feature but is actually comfier and less of a stretch from where your hand naturally lies when your phone is in use.

Some people prefer larger over smaller phones, but there is no arguing that the ZenFone 8 feels great in the hands. The majority of us have grown accustomed to a larger phone but this smaller model has a lot to offer and feels very natural to hold. Design decisions such as the curved back edges and positioning of physical attributes show the amount of thought Asus has put into it. The phone is made for its users. In her review for The Verge, Allison Johnson described the ZenFone 8 as a device that feels like it was adapted to her and not the other way around.

Software and battery performance

With a smaller housing comes an inevitable battery downsize. The phone’s predecessors (ZenFone 6 and 7’s) harbored a 5,000mAh battery but this one has been given a 4,000mAh. As a moderate user that isn’t going to make a huge difference, you will likely get a full day’s use from it, but if you are a heavy user it might. When Allison reviewed it she left Strava running for 20 hours accidentally and still had some juice left the day after. So the battery is less capable, nothing to write home about but more than sufficient. Importantly, it supports 30W wired charging that gives a full recharge in just over an hour at a power outlet. However, as a flagship-class model, it is a little outdated as it doesn’t support wireless charging like many of its competitors.

Asus offers a total of 5 different battery modes to choose from to assist users with making the most of their day-to-day battery life. The modes also ultimately help to stretch its overall lifespan. You have to strike a balance between optimal phone performance and battery longevity. Users can select custom charging limits so that they don’t overcharge and you can even stagger the charges throughout the night so that the device reaches fully charged in time for your morning alarm. It may not be a class-leading battery fitted into this upper-end phone but the battery doesn’t really need stretching for an average daily user. Should you find yourself far from an outlet, however, the range of modes built-in gives you the option to stretch it out as and when required.

Software-wise, the ZenFone 8 ships with Android 11. Asus has the intention of providing a minimum of 2 major OS updates as well as security updates as standard over 2 years. This is a little underwhelming for a flagship model when you consider Apple typically operates with a 4-5 year support schedule for customers. US buyers should be aware that the ZenFone 8 only has compatibility with AT&T and T-Mobile’s LTE and Sub-6GHz 5G networks. This could be a deal-breaker for anyone excited about using Verizon’s super-speed millimeter-wave 5G networks. That said, Verizon’s coverage for their hyper net venture is nowhere near widespread at the time being anyway, so unless you are in the thick of their millimeter-wave rollout network it’s a redundant point.

Camera capabilities of ZenFone 8

The ZenFone 8’s rear camera array is dual. Asus decided against cramming too much into the camera bump on the back. So there are no flashy depth sensors or (let’s be honest) rarely used macro lenses to be seen. The two cameras installed are pretty great and we have no complaints with capture quality. You have a standard 64-megapixel with OIS for the main lens that is supported by a 12-megapixel ultrawide one. It is no secret that they are last year’s cams. They match the cameras in the previous line-up without the flipping mechanism and sadly for some, the telephoto lens.

 

Asus Zenfone cameras
Asus ZenFone cameras. Image credit: itc.ua

The main camera gives you detailed 16-megapixel shots. The brightness is realistic and the color is vibrant. The contrast is somewhat overproduced giving it a slightly unrealistic look, a little HDR-like. But it handles love lighting pretty well in a regular mode, of course with some noise and less than idyllic clarity. The night mode boosts the capabilities adjusting it accordingly but you do need to have a good hand to get a clear still shot in the dark.

Portrait mode is a little disappointing when you initially fire it up. It has a beauty filter as default but honestly seems a little too much. The skin-smoothing is overboard, giving your face an unnatural flattened 2D look. Blurry and brightened to a high degree, thankfully it can be turned off which drastically improves it in our opinion. Unless you are going for the ‘caked in makeup under a spotlight’ look.

The ultrawide camera performs well, unsurprisingly it was Asus’s “flagship” grade sensor, back in 2018. But phones have improved dramatically in the camera department since then. The latest range of iPhone 12’s has had a real focus on photographic features. The sensor, though a little older, is still miles better than your average ultrawide lens. It gives great shots for scenic outdoor ventures. The front-facing 12-megapixel camera also does a commendable job. If phone photography is a major part of your life it probably isn’t going to wow you but for the average selfie taker, it is perfectly fine. When you switch to the selfie camera the beauty mode is deactivated. Given its overbearing presence, this can only be a good thing.

You have a lossless digital zoom that can be tweaked from 2x 16-megapixels. This is controlled via the icon on the shooting screen. This does a quick crop but in all honesty, only highlights the small sensor and lens limitations.

To summarise, it is an adequate array but won’t be blowing any minds given the bar has been raised a lot this past year or so. The lack of a telephoto camera is disappointing and a true optical zoom would be far better than the lossless digital zoom provided. It truly depends on how you use it as to how unimpressed you will be. A smaller device can’t be fitted with all the bells and whistles of a larger one. Many of us would rather sacrifice a telephoto lens to keep an ultrawide one anyway.

Bottom Line

There is an apparent demand for high-spec smaller void Android devices in the current market. The ZenFone 8 fits the bill but how does it compare to others that are also within the niche? In terms of size, the Google Pixel 4A is well-matched but it has a bargain-basement vibe with its plastic chassis and is nowhere near the ZenFone when it comes to specs. The processor is a step-down and Asus trumps them on the refresh rate too. 

Aside from a smaller capacity battery the ZenFone 8 competes well with other small Android models.

Likewise, when you compare it to iOS phones there it shows a lot of merit. TIt almost matches the iPhone 12 mini to a T. It has the same camera configuration and IP68 certification. The ZenFone is actually a little larger than Apple’s mini. Apple also has bigger storage options (up to 256GB) this of course comes with a significant price jump ($899) but you will also get extra OS updates and years of support. So there is a lot to consider.

Asus Zenfone 8
Asus Zenfone 8 Kit. Image credit: itc.ua

Truthfully, the ZenFone 8 may not find a wide customer base within the US. The iPhone 12 mini hasn’t had the reception that Apple was expecting. Apple products typically sell like hotcakes in the states. Perhaps we have just grown too used to oversized displays on our not-so-palm-sized devices?

The streamlined stature of the ZenFone 8 feels far less cumbersome and much more maneuverable, making it convenient and user friendly both in-hand and in-pocket but the smaller screen isn’t as enjoyable for many activities. If you are a larger screen user you will certainly notice the difference and maybe its sole purpose (like the Apple iPhone 12 mini) will be its downfall.

The lack of Verizon compatibility and shorter support window could also factor in as negatives for some. As could the smaller battery or camera combo. Anyone who needs power for days or wants a leading-class camera will be put off from the get-go.

But if you are specifically looking for a smaller option with a robust build and great performance then the ZenFone 8 is highly recommendable. For the right person, it is a perfect choice.

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