While the whole world was still hyped up about the launch of the OnePlus 7 Pro, Asus took this opportunity to come out with its new flagship. It’s called the ZenFone 6 and it has got its sight on the best budget flagship title. It also has some of the most unique design traits ever found on a smartphone.
While being $170 cheaper than the already capable OnePlus 7 Pro, is the ZenFone 6 a better value for your money? Let’s have a look at its specs and find out.
Design & Display
It would be criminal to talk about the design of the Asus ZenFone 6 and not talk about the flipping camera. In pursuit of maximizing screen real estates, manufacturers are coming up with creative new ways to integrate the front cameras. Asus has decided to come up with its own by completely eliminating the front camera. So in case you want to take a selfie, the rear cameras simply flip towards you.
While this may be a controversial design, you have to give credit to a relatively smaller manufacturer like Asus of coming up with something original like this. As impressed as I am by this, I cannot ignore possible reliability issues in the long run of having a motorized mechanism such as this.
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The rest of the design is the standard flagship build that we get to see so often now. Glass in the front and back, meeting a metal band in the middle. At the back, under the camera module, you get an “old-fashioned” optical fingerprint scanner. It may be yesterday’s technology but personally, I prefer this over its in-display counterpart.
Up front, you have a 6.4″ 2340×1080 IPS LCD display that’s just adequate. It’s not like the display is bad or anything. It’s just that the competition is way ahead in this department. We have flagships coming out with OLED panels with QHD+ resolutions and some even with 90Hz refresh rates. The least Asus could’ve done is to give the ZenFone 6 an OLED panel to at least bring it to the same league as its competition.
However, while the display may not good on its own, it does manage to make the phone look stunning. The screen-to-body-ratio is an impressive 92%. The bezels are almost non-existent like on the OnePlus 7 Pro and there’s no notch or hole-punch camera to hinder your viewing experience. Though, you get a slight chin at the bottom.
Coming back to the cameras, the ZenFone 6 only has two of them at the back. When the front camera is activated, the same module simply flips forward. Seems simple, however, there’s a lot more to it than just that. The camera software allows you to manually tilt the module at any angle you like. This means that you can even use your ZenFone 6 as a periscope, which is just one of the endless arrays of possibilities.
The camera software also comes with a unique object tracking feature in video mode that uses the movable camera module to its advantage by keeping the selected object in the frame. The ZenFone is also one of the few phones to use Laser Autofocus, which is a surprise considering how effective it is.
The camera module consists of two shooters; main and wide angle. The main camera has a 48MP sensor, 23mm focal length with an effective 79° field of view and an f/1.79 aperture. The secondary wide-angle camera has a 13MP sensor and an 11mm focal length giving you a 125° field of view. Since this module acts as the front camera as well, you get the same quality and bells and whistles for selfies as well.
Powering the ZenFone is the 7nm Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 855 along with Adreno™ 640 GPU. For anyone not familiar, this CPU/GPU combo is the basic recipe for every flagship in 2019 and I’m glad Asus went for it. It is also found in other flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S10, which means the ZenFone should be able to take on almost anything you throw at it with ease.
As far as RAM is concerned, you get an LPDDR4X module with options of having either 6 GB or 8 GB of memory. For storage, you get three options; 64 GB, 128 GB, and 256 GB. Additionally, you also have a MicroSD card slot that can accommodate up to 2 TB of storage. The expandable storage option is a sight for sore eyes as most high-end manufacturers are shying away from it.
The battery on the ZenFone is in a league of its own. It has a whopping 5000 mAh. For comparison, the Huawei P30 Pro “just” has 4200 mAh and it had one of the largest batteries in a flagship. Asus claims that the ZenFone will last 24 hours on a continuous 1080p video playback which, if true, makes it one the longest lasting smartphones ever to exist. However, with all this battery, you do get a fairly standard 18W fast charger with Quick Charge 4.0.
Software & Security
There’s not much to say about the ZenFone 6’s software. It comes out of the box with Android 9.0 (Pie) like every other recent flagship. On top of it, Asus has placed its own user interface called the ZenUI 6, which is pretty much close to stock Android. It does have some built-in features like Night Mode and a Screen Recorder. You do, however, also get a physical Smart Key that can be customized to do anything you want, which is neat. Apart from that, there’s nothing else much noteworthy about the software.
Same is the case with security. As mentioned earlier, the ZenFone comes with an external optical fingerprint scanner, which may be old but effective nevertheless. You do also get a Face Unlock feature which makes use of the RGB sensor in the camera to scan your face. Apart from it being less secure than the likes of Apple’s FaceID, it will also prompt the camera module to flip every time you turn on the screen. This will prove to be annoying over time and will age the flip mechanism a lot faster.
Price & Verdict
The Asus ZenFone 6, with all its revolutionary features and some minor shortcomings, will set you back at least $499. With this, you’ll get the base configuration of 6 GB/128 GB which will be adequate for your needs. At this price point, I must say that the ZenFone definitely does pack some punch. Even if it lacks some amenities, it does make up for it in performance, especially with this price tag.
Therefore, if you have at least $499 to spare, are looking for flagship-level raw performance without and don’t mind not having a good display, then the ZenFone 6 is definitely worth the purchase.