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Asus ZenFone 8 review: a compact rival

The Asus ZenFone 8 was launched alongside the ZenFone 8 Flip and went on sale worldwide just a few months ago. This phone boasts flagship features, but it is much cheaper than phones from leading manufacturers such as Samsung and Apple, and it is also smaller in size.

But does lower cost mean there are big trade-offs? I spent some time with the ZenFone 8 to see if this phone is worth investing in.

Design and build

As Goldilocks would say, this phone isn’t too big or too small – it’s just right. It can be easily used with one hand and fits comfortably in most pockets, but the screen is still big enough to watch videos and you can play games without feeling like you’re running out of space.

The dimensions of this phone are 148 x 68.5 x 8.9 mm and the weight is 169 g, which makes it more compact. However, it is a solid construction that feels safe. The addition of a hard matching case will be a welcome relief for other clumsy people. It also has an IP68 rating, which means it is splash and dust resistant.

If you’re looking to choose between the ZenFone 8 and the 8 Flip, one hurdle might be the inclusion of a headphone jack in this phone, a feature that many flagships are ditching today.

ZenFone 8 is available in two color options: Black and Silver. I tested the black version with a matte back. It’s not as flashy as other phones in this price range, but it’s sophisticated, sophisticated, and upscale to the touch.

The power button and volume controls are located on the right side of the device, while the fingerprint sensor is under the display. It worked well enough – problems only appeared after washing hands, but overall it’s better than what I’ve seen on other phones like the Oppo Find X2. There is also facial recognition software if you prefer.

At the bottom, you’ll find a USB-C charging port and a SIM card slot. In terms of connectivity, there’s Bluetooth 5.2, built-in Wi-Fi 6 / 6E, and NFC.

Dirac speakers produce a rather harsh sound for a smaller phone. I enjoy listening to podcasts or music in the background and can clearly hear all the details. There is also support for aptX bluetooth devices.

Display

One of the ZenFone 8’s biggest assets is its screen, which is a 5.9-inch Full HD + AMOLED display. The phone has a body ratio of 84.2%, with a small punch-hole selfie camera at the top left. The bezel is a little thicker, but it doesn’t take away any excess from the blank screen.

Asus ZenFone 8

The display features a 120Hz refresh rate, 1ms touch response time, and 240Hz touch sampling rate. The screen is bright, crisp, colorful and great for watching videos or playing games. It’s also bright enough to be used in direct sunlight without too much trouble.

You don’t have to use 120Hz all the time, you can choose from four system performance modes: high performance, agility, reliability, and ultra-reliable.

If your phone has a higher refresh rate, the battery will drain much faster. If saving battery power is important to you, I recommend lowering the quality for everyday use and keeping that 120Hz for the moment you really want it.

Specifications and performance

The specs of this phone are as impressive as the 120Hz display as it is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G chip. The phone I tested is paired with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, although there are different versions of RAM and storage available both in the UK and overseas with up to 16GB of RAM available.

These specs aren’t just impressive on paper – they’re reflected in our benchmarks, where the phone scores close to the iPhone 12 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21.

These numbers also make it a great phone for everyday use. I can easily multitask without any lag (like watching a floating Twitch window while watching Twitter). Decent RAM and storage give ample room for apps and games, especially since Google Photos stores images and videos in the cloud.

Unfortunately, unlike the 8 Flip, there is no microSD card slot here if you want to expand your room even further.

ZenFone 8

Camera

There are three main camera lenses on the Asus ZenFone 8. First, there is a 64MP main camera with a Sony IMX686 sensor, f / 1.8 aperture and optical image stabilization (OIS). The images this camera produces are bright, crisp and detailed.

The dynamic sensor in this camera optimizes lighting for the best shot – automatically switches to night mode if you’re shooting in the dark. As with most smartphones, the most impressive shots are taken outdoors in daylight.

Asus ZenFone 8 camera test

It can’t compete with the likes of the Samsung S21 Ultra or iPhone 12 Pro Max, but a few hundred pounds less is hard to complain about.

The 12MP ultra wide-angle lens is equipped with a Sony IMX363 sensor and Dual PD autofocus. When it comes to textures and details, the image quality between this and the main sensor is severely degraded. However, the colors are mostly the same – wider lenses on cheaper phones sometimes appear less vibrant.

There is a 12MP camera on the front of the phone. This is the first phone on the market to feature a Sony IMX663 sensor and you get Dual PD autofocus too. The quality of these shots varies with lighting conditions – the best shots are obtained either in natural light or in light from behind the camera.

Portrait mode is really consistent again. Even fine details, such as stray hairs, are not lost against a blurred background – the camera is able to detect differences and create more natural contrast.

Asus ZenFone 8

This phone doesn’t have a dedicated telephoto lens, so it’s not the best option if you like using the zoom function.

For videophiles, the Asus ZenFone 8 can record up to [email protected] with OIS. The phone also has triple microphones, which means if you go into professional editing mode, you can choose which audio to focus on if you like. Videos are crisp, detailed and stable, and sound is just as good.

Battery life

The 4,000mAh battery is one of the worst features of the ZenFone 8.

During the internal battery test, he managed to last only five hours and 25 minutes. Of course, this was with the 120Hz maximum refresh rate enabled. You can extend your battery life by switching to performance mode – long mode is the best option if you want to use it all day.

This can be annoying for those looking to use dynamic mode to take full advantage of this 120Hz refresh rate without having to manually change it.

ZenFone

Fortunately, charging is relatively fast. With the help of a 30W HyperCharger, the phone went from 64% in 30 minutes, and overall it takes just under an hour to fully load. Unfortunately, it cannot be charged wirelessly.

I also noticed that when charging, the device heats up a lot. This does not seem to affect performance, but it should be kept in mind.

Software

The Asus ZenFone comes with Android 11 running on Asus’ ZenUI. Apps are laid out neatly and tidily, with a minimum of apps preinstalled. To be honest, it’s hard to say that this is a shell of pure Android – the user interface is very close and, if anything, the differences only improve the capabilities of the software.

Firstly, it is a one-handed operation. You can easily activate this from the quick menu at the top of the phone, and once enabled, you simply swipe down from the other half of the phone screen. This allows all applications to be positioned lower on the display for easy access.

ZenFone

You can adjust the gesture sensitivity and screen size for these two things. While not necessary for a phone of this size, it is still useful for accessibility.

The System Performance Manager also lets you tweak the thermal limit, CPU performance, GPU performance, RAM performance, and more, according to advanced settings, rather than the four default settings that come with your phone. This will be especially useful for mobile game lovers.

Price and availability

Prices for the Asus ZenFone 8 start at £ 599.99 / $ 629.99 for the 8GB and 128GB variant, with the cost increasing if you go for the higher storage / RAM options. At this price point, it is roughly equal to the value of the Google Pixel 5.

The phone is usually available on the Asus UK website but is out of stock at the moment. You can also get it from Amazon in the United Kingdom. In the US, the phone is only available on the Asus website, which is back in stock at the time of writing.

Zenfone 8

This phone is £ 200 less than the Asus ZenFone 8 Flip. If you’re not desperate to get a pivot camera mechanism, then you probably shouldn’t fork out for the Flip – especially when you consider that this phone has no IP rating, a lower refresh rate, and no headphone jack.

It’s also worth noting that while the ZenFone 8 doesn’t boast a flamboyant design like some flagships, the performance is indeed comparable to some big-name phones that cost a lot more.

To see how the Asus ZenFone 8 compares to other phones on the market, check out our list of the best smartphones for 2021. You can also check out the discussion between ZenFone 8 and 8 Flip on our weekly Fast Charge podcast.

Verdict

The Asus ZenFone 8 offers a crisp display, flagship performance, and great camera setup, all at an extremely competitive price – ahead of its sibling ZenFone 8 Flip. The smaller design is a good option for those who don’t want to settle for a larger phone.

The battery life is short, but provided you are happy to use it in rugged mode and can enjoy the 120Hz display, you can extend it all day long. Overall, this is a contender for the smartphone market for 2021.

Specifications

Asus ZenFone 8: Specifications

  • 148 x 68.5 x 8.9 mm
  • 169 g

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G

  • 8GB / 16GB LPDDR5 RAM

  • 128/256 GB memory

  • 5.9-inch AMOLED display (120Hz, 1ms response time)

  • 64MP main camera Sony IMX686 with OIS, 12MP ultra-wide camera Sony IMX363, 12MP front camera Sony IMX663

  • 4000mAh battery with 30W HyperCharge support

  • Dual Stereo Speakers with Dirac HD Sound

  • USB-C

  • Headphone jack
  • Wi-Fi 6 / 6e

  • Bluetooth 5.2

  • 5G connectivity

  • IP68 rating




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