[REVIEW] ASUS Zenfone 8 – Tiny Yet Powerful

Do you noticed the selection of smartphones now are big with at least a 6.4-inch display and above, especially flagship smartphones with an even bigger display, to as close to 7-inch. It has become a problem for one-handed operation and not forgetting it’s no longer pocket-friendly.

ASUS Zenfone 8 Hard Case

ASUS has taken the Zenfone 8 to a total different direction which is compact and practicality without much shortfall.

ASUS Zenfone 8: Design

At first glance of the design, the Zenfone 8 looks pretty boring and the only dual rear camera has me hesitate whether it deserved to be a true flagship smartphone that ASUS betting hard on it. It turned out, the camera configuration is pretty explainable and more into the camera later.

ASUS Zenfone 8 Rear Glass

The compact flagship features a glass sandwich design with aluminium chassis. The slight curved rear glass and rounded corner made the device comfortable to hold. It isn’t the thinnest but ASUS manage to add a 3.5mm audio port on the top.

ASUS Zenfone 8 Audio Jack

The front display is protected with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus while the rear luscious matte finish glass is Corning Gorilla Glass 3 that doesn’t pick up fingerprints easily. There’s isn’t any grip added, the provided hard cover case does the job and add protection in case you dropped it. Anyhow, glass is glass, it may break if you drop.

ASUS Zenfone 8 Smart Key

ASUS added a sharp colour Cyan Smart Key button that doubled as a power button. The button can be mapped to almost any application with double-press and press & hold actions. ASUS also added an unconventional LED notification next to the USB C port at the bottom along with the SIM card slot.

Overall built is high-quality and solid, not forget to mention how compact and comfortable to grip along with my wallet. I’m happy to learn the Zenfone 8 has IP68 water and dust protection.

ASUS Zenfone 8: Display & Stereo Speaker

ASUS Zenfone 8 Display

The Zenfone 8’s screen measured at 5.9-inch diagonal with Full HD+ resolution in a 20:9 aspect ratio. It’s an excellent E4 AMOLED panel custom by Samsung. It features a 120Hz refresh rate, 1,100 nits max peak brightness and HDR 10 and HDR10+ certified. Coming to colour it manages Delta-E <1 and reproduced 112% DCI-P3, 107% NTSC and 151.9% sRGB colour gamut. In nutshell, it’s a top-notch display with great colour reproduction.

There are obvious bezels especially the forehead and chin that I can live while the hole-punch cutout on the top left corner has a thin silver ring that can’t be hidden in dark wallpaper. In-display optical fingerprint scanner is pretty slow and inaccurate. Hope ASUS able to fix it with a software update.

It paired with a dual stereo speaker with one more at the earpiece. It may not get as loud as the ASUS ROG Phone 5 but it’s one solid pair of speaker. I hope for a more balanced output between the down-firing and earpiece.

ASUS Zenfone 8: Performance

ASUS Zenfone 8 is a tiny beast, sporting Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor with up to 16GB LPDDR5 RAM and ultra fast 256GB UFS 3.1 storage which the unit that we have for this review.

ASUS Zenfone 8 AnTuTu

On my synthetic benchmark test, the first AnTuTu V9 benchmark ousted the based model ASUS ROG Phone 5 with 820,676 points but it dropped to 777,963 on my fifth runs without stop. While Geekbench 5 is scored 1,117 (Single-Core) and 3,427 (Multi-Core).

It runs smoothly with any apps or games that I throw at it, even the highest graphics gaming settings. There’s no lag or apps killing in the background while switching between apps. This is thanks to the speedy LPDDR5 and ample 16GB of RAM.

ASUS Zenfone 8: Camera

It may fall short in competing with other flagship smartphones in this department. ASUS went with a 64-megapixels SONY IMX686 wide camera with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and a 12-megapixels ultrawide angle SONY IMX363 that does autofocus.

There’s no telephoto camera by using the Quad Bayer binning technology, it able to shoot a lossless 2x digital zoom to crop. With autofocus on the ultrawide, this allow the camera to shoot close up photo without depreciate image quality. Additional to it, I can focus an object with wider depth of field background. Autofocus on ultrawide wasn’t new but there isn’t many smartphones adopting to it.

The overall image quality is pretty sharp and details with a more natural colour profile without pushing much on the contrast. I prefer a flatter image for more space to do post-processing and colour adjustment to what I want. When coming to low-light, here where it flop with bad noise control especially on the ultrawide. Night mode does help but it tends to have some grainy artificial on the image.

Here are some photos taken from the ASUS Zenfone 8

ASUS Zenfone 8: ZenUI 8, Android 11

The phone runs on ASUS ZenUI 8 skin based on Android 11, the UX is clean and feel pretty at home with no bloatware app installed except Netflix which you can uninstall with few taps. There are plenty of tweaks and features tucked in the settings. You will get Game Genie to boost your gaming experience, AudioWizard to tune the sound output with the high-end 32-bits Hi-Res DAC, Smart Charging mode and much more.

If you think the 5.9-inch still too huge to operate with single hand, ASUS has this one-handed mode where it can be activate by a swipe down on the very bottom of the screen. The whole screen will drop down so the top of the screen is within reach. ASUS promise two years of software update and we will be expecting Android 12 or maybe Android 13 to be made available on this device.

Overall software experience is pretty good with little to complain

ASUS Zenfone 8: Battery

The 4,000 mAh battery is rather small for a 2021 flagship smartphone but by looking at the display size, resolutions and smart battery management, it should be alright for full-day use. On my real test, I streamed a 3 hours show, the phone battery dropped by just 25% which suggested it could possibly last 12 hours with a full charge.

Averagely I left about 15% to 20% by the end of the day with roughly 5 hours of screen-on-time, which isn’t bad nor amazing. When it does run out of juice, a 30 minutes charge with the provided 30W charger can top up to 70% that can last me one full day. ASUS also implemented Battery Care which found on ROG Phone 5 to prolong the battery lifespan. Sadly no wireless charging here.

ASUS Zenfone 8: Price

The starting price of the ASUS Zenfone 8 is RM 2,699 for 8GB of RAM and 128GB storage. With an additional RM 600, you get to double up the RAM and storage to 16GB and 256GB. It available now exclusively online on Shopee and offline stores at ASUS Digital Stores and Authorized dealers.

Where to buy

I do also have a short video review if you keen to watch

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ASUS Zenfone 8 Review
  • Build
  • Design
  • Performance
  • Camera
  • Features
  • Battery
4.4

Verdict

The amount of engineering in crafting this compact device deserves it to be one of the best compact Android flagship smartphones for 2021. The ASUS Zenfone 8 may not be for everyone but hey! there’s a compact “flagship-tier” for us to choose and there isn’t much like this in the market.

Pros

  • Robust and Premium Compact Built
  • High-quality Samsung AMOLED Display
  • Excellent Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Performance
  • 3.5mm Hi-Res Audio DAC
  • IP68 Water & Dust Protection

Cons

  • No Storage Expansion
  • No Wireless Charging
  • Hit or Miss Optical In-display Fingerprint Reader

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