The ASUS Zenfone 8 Hands-On Review: A New Compact Directionby Andrei Frumusanu on May 12, 2021 1:30 PM EST
Today ASUS is launching their new mainstream line-up of flagship devices, the Zenfone 8 series. Unlike last year’s iteration of the Zenfone 7 which was defined by the flip-camera design, ASUS is mixing up the formula this year with the new Zenfone 8, a completely different phone in a completely different form-factor, targeting a niche in the market which ASUS sees as an opportunity to differentiate itself in.
The Zenfone 8 is defined by its size: with a 5.9” screen and a width and height of 68.5 and 148mm, it’s by far one of the smallest flagship SoC powered devices in the market. It’s an extreme departure from the Zenfone 7 – however ASUS also introduces the Zenfone 8 Flip, essentially a Snapdragon 888 upgrade over what we’ve seen in the Zenfone 7, though this variant of the Zenfone 8 will be limited in terms of market availability, and today’s article will focus on the smaller Zenfone 8.
|ASUS ZenFone 8 Series|
|ZenFone 8 Flip||
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
1x Cortex-X1 @ 2.84GHz
3x Cortex-A78 @ 2.42GHz
4x Cortex-A55 @ 1.80GHz
Adreno 660 @ 840MHz
|DRAM||6 GB LPDDR5||6/8/16 GB LPDDR5|
|Storage||128GB UFS 3.1
|128/256GB UFS 3.1|
2400 x 1080 (20:9)
2400 x 1080 (20:9)
|Size||Height||165.08 mm||148.0 mm|
|Width||77.28 mm||68.5 mm|
|Depth||9.6 mm||8.9 mm|
|Weight||230 grams||169 grams|
30W charging (PD3.0)
30W charging (PD3.0)
0.8µm pixels (1.6µm 4:1 16MP)
0.8µm pixels (1.6µm 4:1 16MP)
3x optical zoom
1.4µm pixels Dual PDAF
113° FoV ultra-wide
|Front Camera||Flip-camera Design
Front cameras = Rear cameras
|Wireless (local)||802.11ax WiFi-6
Bluetooth 5.1 LE + NFC
|Other Features||Triple-function Power Button w/ Capacitive Fingerprint Sensor||IP68
Under-screen fingerprint sensor
|Launch Price||21,999 TWD
The Zenfone 8 and 8 Flip are powered by the new Snapdragon 888. We’ve reviewed the SoC quite extensively over the last few months in a wide range of devices from various vendors – the chip is characterised by increased performance coming at a cost of quite higher power usage due to the shift to a regressed 5nm process node.
ASUS equips the Zenfone 8 from 6 to 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM depending on the SKU model you chose, and comes equipped with 128 or 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage, with no microSD option this time around.
As noted, what really differentiates the Zenfone 8 from its predecessors as well as from other smartphones in the market is its more diminutive stature. At 148 x 68.5 x 8.9mm and only 169g weight, the Zenfone 8 is one of the smallest phones in the market, especially amongst devices powered by the latest flagship hardware internals.
ASUS states that this was a deliberate market positioning that they are experimenting with: the company has seen that while there’s tons of competitors in the now regular “larger” form-factor of phones, there’s actually very little options when it comes to smaller devices. Sony’s Xperia 5 series was one of the rare ones out there with a phone width below 70mm, however many people didn’t like Sony’s extremely elongated aspect ratio, and ASUS pointing out that the Zenfone 8 is now also the only option out there with a device height of below 150mm.
ASUS’s strategy here is I think excellent, and allows them to fill a niche in the market and compete for customers who are looking for such devices. The ergonomics of the Zenfone 8 are generally excellent due to its smaller size, but ASUS also designed the phone to have good in-hand feel due to the curved back glass design as well as the rounded metal frame of the phone.
The build quality of the phone is excellent, and I particularly notice the removal of the plastic “gasket” piece between the phone frame and the display glass that’s usually found on cheaper devices in the market.
The screen itself is a 5.9” OLED with 2400 x 1080 resolution, with an upgraded refresh rate of up to 120Hz, and a touch input of up to 240Hz. Unfortunately there is no variable refresh rate here, neither software nor hardware, so anything above 60Hz comes at the cost of battery life.
The Zenfone 8 uses a “regular” hole-punch front camera module instead of a mechanical flip mechanism of the rear cameras, which is completely fine due to the design limitations of such a much smaller device. I found it a bit weird that ASUS adopted this metallic ring design around the camera – I’ve seen it used before on other devices and I was not fan of it as it really draws the attention to the camera instead of making it inconspicuous. At least here on the Zenfone 8 it’s centred perfectly within the display hole.
The camera setup on the Zenfone 8 is extremely simple: it features the same main camera and ultra-wide module as found on last year’s Zenfone 7 Pro series, meaning a 64MP IMX686 main camera module that bins down to 16MP 1.6µm in regular auto mode pictures and features a f/1.7 optics with OIS, and a 113° UWA module powered by a 12MP IMX363 and f/2.2 aperture with autofocus capabilities. Generally we were not very impressed with this camera setup on the Zenfone 7 last year, and have similar low expectations of the Zenfone 8 – we’ll quickly check out some samples later in the piece.
The bottom of the phone features your typical SIM tray, which this time around does not feature a microSD anymore, USB-C port, as well as a good quality main speaker. Between the USB port and the speaker hole there’s actually also a small LED notification light – something that over the years has seen been deprecated by various vendors in favour on always-on displays. I greatly appreciate this feature as it’s much more power efficient compared to AOD notifications.
At the top of the phone, we find the mythical and elusive 3.5mm headphone jack. Over the many years we see countless vendors drop the feature and trying to promote wireless headphones which cost, more, have worse audio quality, and are prone to degradation due to batteries. Sony and ASUS are two vendors who did drop the headphone jack in the past and reintroduced them in subsequent generations due to negative feedback, so I applaud ASUS for also including it here on the Zenfone 8.
What’s new for ASUS, is the Zenfone 8 is an IP68 rated device, which was one feature limitation of the mechanical flip-camera design of the Zenfone 7, and continues to be so for the Zenfone 8 Flip.
Today’s hand-on review focuses around the Zenfone 8 as that’s what ASUS had sent out as samples, but the company is also launching the Zenfone 8 Flip. This phone is essentially identical to the Zenfone 7 with the exception for the upgrade to a new Snapdragon 888 SoC. Unfortunately, the 8 Flip will see a much more limited release compared to the Zenfone 8, notably with it not launching in the North American market.