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ASUS Zenfone 8 Review: Small But Yet Mighty

The past generations’ Zenfone series smartphones had always been well-remembered for their one of a kind flip-out cameras which really stand out of the crowded smartphone market that’s flooded with so many uninspiring designs.

This year, the familiar flip-out cameras expectedly made it’s return in the brand new ASUS Zenfone 8 Flip – one of the two devices that was launched under the newly minted Zenfone 8 series.

ASUS Zenfone 8 Rear Design -1

What’s different this year however, is that ASUS had also launched the vanilla Zenfone 8 that lacks the signature flip-out cameras, but is instead blessed with a super compact form factor.

Indeed, one of the main selling point of this year’s Zenfone 8 revolves around it’s pocket-size form factor which is currently missing in the Android smartphone sphere, but present in it’s greatest rival.

However, does the Zenfone 8 has anything else to offer apart from it’s unique form factor? Let’s find out in our Asus Zenfone 8 review!

Design & Display

The ASUS Zenfone 8 isn’t just small, but is also sleeker than ever with a thickness of around 8.9mm. It’s amicable size allows the phone to easily fit on the palm of your hand which helps greatly when it comes to single-handed use.

ASUS Zenfone 8 Rear Design -3

Coupled with it’s featherlight weight of 169 grams, the Zenfone 8 is definitely a joy to hold whether you’re using the phone in portrait when video-calling, or in landscape orientation when gaming or binge watching.

ASUS Zenfone 8 Rear Design -4

The Obsidian Black variant which we’d received for review brings along a slightly understated, matte black finish that gives the phone a really classy and elegant outlook which kind of reminds me of the Xiaomi Mi 11 (Review).

ASUS Zenfone 8 Rear Design -5

Compared to those glossy back panels that many smartphone makers seem to love, the matte finish on the Zenfone 8 certainly does a better job in handling those unsightly smudges or fingerprints.

Also, the rear panel of the Zenfone 8 is also backed by a layer of Gorilla Glass 3 to further protect the phone against accidental drops or scratches. That aside, the adoption of a glass back also makes the phone feels way more premium than those with a plastic back.

ASUS Zenfone 8 Front Design -1

Coming to the frontside of the phone, we’ll be looking at a vibrant 5.9” AMOLED display which comes with a hole-punch cutout on the upper-left corner of the screen to accommodate it’s selfie camera.

Overall, the Zenfone 8’s front display is a high-end affair, offering sharp details with it’s FHD+ screen resolution and accurate color reproduction thanks to it’s impressive 112% DCI-P3 and 151.9% sRGB color gamut coverage, as well as HDR10 and HDR10+ support.

ASUS Zenfone 8 Front Design -2

Interaction and scrolling also feels buttery-smooth with it’s fast 120Hz refresh rate which is also adaptive in nature, meaning it will automatically adjusts the refresh rate based on the onscreen content to lengthen it’s battery life. That being said, you still have the ability to manually set the refresh rate between 60Hz/ 90Hz/ 120Hz based on your liking.

And yes, the screen can also gets really bright with a peak brightness of 1,100 nits which offers good readability in both outdoor and indoor lighting conditions. Most importantly, auto brightness also feels responsive and reliable for every day’s use.

Just like any other flagship phones like the OPPO Find X3 Pro (Review), the Zenfone 8’s front display is also reinforced with the latest Gorilla Glass Victus for extra durability. Speaking of this, it’s also worth pointing out that the Zenfone 8 is IP68 rated for water and dust resistance too.

Performance

Unsurprisingly, the ASUS Zenfone 8 is powered by Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 888 chipset which is found in almost any other high-end Android smartphones in the market including the mobile gaming champion, ROG Phone 5 (Review).

What this means is that you’ll be expecting the same supercharged performance like any high-end phones in the market. True enough, every workload ranging from multi-tasking to gaming felt incredibly smooth on the Zenfone 8.

Even when indulging in high-intensive game titles like PUBG Mobile and Need for Speed No Limits, I barely encountered any unpleasant stuttering or laggy-ness that would affect my gameplay.

Likewise, the phone did run well in high graphic settings for a couple of games too, but got slightly heated up after several games. Despite that, the heat is pretty much manageable most of the time, and will probably went unnoticed when you’re fully engrossed in your gameplay.

Moving on, the ASUS Zenfone 8 also features up to 16GB worth of ultra-fast LPDDR5 RAM and 256GB UFS 3.1 storage in the memory department, which I believe is probably more than sufficient for most users even if you’re a power users.

Cameras

For photography, the ASUS Zenfone 8 relies on a versatile dual-cam system on the rear side that includes a 64MP Sony IMX686 main camera, as well as a 12 megapixels Sony IMX363 ultra-wide lens.

ASUS Zenfone 8 Main Camera Sample -2
Daylight Sample
ASUS Zenfone 8 Main Camera Sample -3
Evening Sample

Under good lighting conditions, it’s 64MP shooter is able to deliver flattering photos with wide dynamic range and exposure that result in vivid and pleasant colors. Likewise, photos also appear sharp most of the time with ample details and minimal noise.

ASUS Zenfone 8 Low-light Sample -2
Low-light Sample #1
ASUS Zenfone 8 Low-light Sample -4
Low-light Sample #2

In low-light scene, it continues to click highly usable photos with impressive sharpness, as well as good color contrasts and details even without activating it’s dedicated night mode.

But if you choose to shoot with night mode, you’ll get slightly more saturated color that might help to make certain scenes look better – though it may appear slightly unnatural.

ASUS Zenfone 8 Ultra-Wide Sample -1
Ultra-wide Sample

In the ultra-wide mode, photos taken during daylight are pretty good as well, offering pleasant-looking color profile with adequate details. Just like it’s main camera, you can also use night mode for it’s ultra-wide lens if you wish to brighten up the scene a little.

Besides allowing users to indulge in building or architecture photography, it’s ultra-wide lens also doubles up as a macro camera too. This means you can also use it to take super close-up photos of subject that are 4cm distance away from the camera.

ASUS Zenfone 8 Macro Sample
Macro Sample

Quite impressively, it’s ultra-wide lens also does an applaudable job in this aspect with sharp-looking images that come with a pleasing bokeh effect at the background. For sure, it’s ultra-lens is more reliable and capable than those 2MP or 5MP macro cameras that we see among mid-range phones.

ASUS Zenfone 8 5x Zoom Sample
5x Zoom Sample

Since the Zenfone 8 lacks a telephoto lens, it relies on digital zooming via it’s main camera which gives you satisfactory photos when you shoot between 2x to 5x zoom factor. No insane zooming here, but 8x zoom is probably sufficient for most users.

As for selfies, the phone features a 12MP Sony IMX 663 front-facing shooter that clicks Insta-worthy photos that you will proudly share with your friends. Photos generally looks natural with ample details, and it’s portrait shots offer decent depth estimation as well.

Battery & Charging

To keep it’s light on, the ASUS Zenfone 8 draws power from a respectable 4,000mAh battery which is good enough to provide you with a day’s worth of battery life under moderate usage.

No doubt, the Zenfone 8 fell short (slightly) in this aspect owing to it’s ultra-slim chassis that offers limited space to house a larger battery. But that’s a trade-off we gladly accept for it’s aesthetical benefits – plus it’s battery life is still great overall on a day-to-day usage.

Beyond that, the phone also carries support for 30W fast-charging that’s capable of filling a flat battery from 0 to 100% below the 1.5 hours mark. It’s not the speediest in this segment, but is still acceptable.

Verdict

Priced at S$999, the ASUS Zenfone 8 is definitely a phone to reckon with for those who doesn’t want to fork out more than a thousand bucks on a smartphone.

It offers all the flagship features that matter most to users including a top-notch display, blazing-fast performance, powerful camera system, as well as a clean user interface that’s free of bloatware.

At the same time, it also keeps the phone affordable by ditching niche features like telephoto lens that’s good to have on a phone, but has limited use case or benefits for most users.

On top of that, I’ve grown to appreciate it’s smaller size which makes the phone incredibly nice to use with one hand and easy to slot into the pocket. It’s a kind of experience that no other Android smartphones can replicate, and that’s exactly what makes the ASUS Zenfone 8 stands out.

For those who’re interested, the ASUS Zenfone 8 is priced at S$999 and S$1,099 respectively in Singapore for it’s 8GB+256GB and 16GB+256GB models, and could be purchased directly via ASUS official online store.

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