ASUS Zenfone 8 Review
After having the ROG Phone in the spotlight for a few years, ASUS has finally brought back the Zenfone in the Philippines. For 2021, they’re offering two — the compact Zenfone 8 and the fancy Zenfone 8 Flip. What we have here is the former. So, how’s the performance? Is the compact build enough for you to get this phone? Find out in our review.
Design and Construction
When you take the Zenfone 8 out of its box, you will immediately notice how compact it is. It’s narrow at 68.5mm and thin at 8.9mm but a bit tall at 148mm. It’s not as compact as, let’s say, the iPhone 12 mini, but compared to other Android devices we’re accustomed to, the Zenfone 8 will snug pretty well in your hands. We can attribute the small footprint to the 5.9-inch screen.
It has noticeable bezels, though, which give off an old-school look. In addition, it has a hole punch on the upper left for the 12MP selfie camera and earpiece/loudspeaker in the top bezel.
On the right, we have the volume rocker and the power/lock button that also doubles as a smart key for quickly launching apps and features, like the camera app or Google Assistant. The buttons are solid and clicky, and given the dimensions of the Zenfone 8, they’re easy to reach.
Up top, we have the 3.5mm audio jack and secondary microphone.
Down at the bottom are the dual-SIM (nano) slot, main microphone, USB-C port, and main loudspeaker.
Flip it on its back, and you will see the protruding camera module that houses the 64MP main shooter, the 12MP ultra-wide, microphone, and LED flash. Right in the middle is the “ASUS Zenfone” branding.
The unit we have here is the Obsidian Black model that uses a new anti-glare frosted-glass finish. It looks really sleek, hides fingerprints and smudges, and has a nice texture to it. It looks and feels premium, has a decent heft, and thanks to the 3D curved back and frame, it’s easy to grip. Users will also appreciate its IP68 dust and water resistance, which is a feature the Zenfone 8 Flip doesn’t have.
Display and Multimedia
As mentioned earlier, the Zenfone 8 sports a 5.9-inch screen mounted with Gorilla Glass Victus. It’s still a relatively large screen but compared to the 6-inch plus standards nowadays; it’s small but still good enough for watching videos and playing games.
It uses a Super AMOLED panel, so you’re getting punchy colors and deep blacks, has great viewing angles, and has a Full HD+ resolution for a pixel density of 446ppi. You can also choose between 5 screen profiles (Default, Natural, Cinematic, Standard, Customized. For the refresh rate, you’ll get a maximum of 120Hz but can be lowered to 90Hz and 60Hz, or you can set it to Auto and let the system adjust the refresh rate based on the task.
The Zenfone 8 packs stereo speakers, and they sound good and immersive, thanks to the Multi-magnet stereo speakers with dual Cirrus Logic CS35L45 smart amplifiers and Dirac HD Sound. The triple microphones result in good audio pick-up. It even has ASUS Noise Reduction Technology and OZO Audio Zoom, which dynamically pinpoint and amplify sounds corresponding to the zoomed video.
While most smartphones are equipped with at least three cameras, the Zenfone 8 went against the tide again by only equipping it with two. We’re looking at a 64MP main and a 12MP ultra-wide. However, these two are enough for most cases. For selfies, we have a 12MP shooter.
When it comes to features, it has slo-mo, time-lapse, portrait, panorama, motion tracking, Beautify, Pro mode, Night mode, Auto HDR, and AI scene detection.
Performance is good and snappy. The quality is also good as the images produced have plenty of details, punchy yet accurate colors, and great dynamic range. Even in dim conditions indoors, the cameras could capture as much light as possible to produce clear and bright images. Low-light performance is not as good, though, as some shots tend to get muddy. When it comes to zooming, you’re limited to 8x digital zoom since there’s no telephoto camera.
Selfie performance, on the other hand, is also good with nice portrait effects. But like most smartphones, if you want the best quality, you have to shoot in bright conditions.
You can shoot at up to 8K 30 FPS or 4K 60 FPS when it comes to videos. Quality is also good, smooth, and stable, thanks to video stabilization. Audio is recorded in stereo, so you’re getting immersive audio as well.
OS, UI, and Apps
Running the software side is ZenUI 8 based on Android 11. It’s a familiar UI and mostly follows the standard stock Android. It has rounded icons and uses an app drawer by default that you can bring up by swiping upwards. You can navigate using gestures or the traditional navigation buttons. And since it’s smaller compared to your typical smartphone, navigation is easier with one hand.
When it comes to features, it has Dark Mode, Smart screen on (extends the screen on time while you’re looking at it or holding the device upright), Always-on, Smart key, Mobile Manager, Game Genie, Twin Apps, Safeguard (SOS), and OptiFlex (accelerates app launches).
As for apps, the device is pretty much bloat-free. It has the usual Google and ASUS apps. I don’t think you’ll have a storage problem, granted that you’re getting 128GB for the base model and 256GB for the most high-end.
Performance and Benchmarks
Powering the ZEnfone 8 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G SoC with a 2.84GHz octa-core CPU and Adreno 660 GPU. Our unit has 16GB RAM and 256GB UFS 3.1. That’s a powerful configuration worth of a smartphone, and we can notice that in the experience. Navigation is smooth, the cameras are snappy, while apps launch fast. Check the benchmarks below:
• AnTuTu v8 – 729,752
• 3D Mark – 5,703 (Wild Life), 1,493 (Wild Life Extreme)
• PC Mark – 16,424 (Work 3.0)
• Geekbench 5 – 1,121 (Single-Core), 3,558 (Multi-Core), 4,610 (OpenCL)
• AndroBench – 1,758.79 MB/s (Seq. Read), 769.04 MB/s (Seq. Write)
In terms of gaming, the Zenfone 8 can handle almost anything you throw at it, so we tested it using one of the most graphics-intensive mobile games out there, Genshin Impact. We noticed that the default graphics setting is Medium, which runs smoothly, but can still be cranked to Highest in 60 FPS. While playable, we noticed that it chokes now and then in certain scenes. We have to bring it down to 30 FPS for a smoother experience. This is weird considering that the ROG Phone 5 we reviewed, which has the same chipset, didn’t show this kind of symptom. Probably because that one is binned and overclocked. Still, I would expect more from a standard SD888.
As for the temperature, the Zenfone 8 can go up to a toasty 51 C, with the heat mostly observed beside the camera and at the top frame (in portrait). Good thing there’s a protective case to let us handle the heat while gaming.
Connectivity and Battery Life
When it comes to connectivity, the Zenfone 8 has everything for a flagship. There’s dual-SIM with 5G, WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, and SatNavs with dual-band GPS. And so far, everything is working well.
For the battery, it has a 4,000mAh capacity with support for 30W fast charging. If we’re not playing games, we can easily make this last well into the night before we charge. PC Mark rated the battery life at 11 hours and 55 minutes, which is good. And in our video loop test, which involves playing a 1080p video on loop at 50% brightness and volume in Airplane mode and Auto refresh rate, we got 19 hours and 33 minutes of playback, which is also good. When it comes to charging, we could replenish the battery in just a little over an hour.
The ASUS Zenfone 8 8GB + 128GB is priced at PHP 34,995, while the 16GB + 256GB model is at PHP 39,995. Those are lovely price tags for a flagship smartphone, especially the base model. This also puts the Zenfone 8 as one of the most affordable 16GB RAM-equipped smartphones in the Philippine market.
It’s not a simple decision to make, though, considering that in that price range, you’ll also start considering the likes of the OnePlus 9 5G, Xiaomi Mi 11, ROG Phone 5 Classic, and even the Zenfone 8 Flip. But if you really want a smartphone with a compact build and have the most RAM for the budget, get the Zenfone 8. But if you want more cameras, a larger screen, and smoother gaming performance, you might want to explore other options.
ASUS Zenfone 8 specs:
5.9-inch FHD+ (2400 x 1080) Samsung AMOLED display
120Hz refresh rate, 1100 nits
HDR 10, HDR10+ certified
Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G
6GB, 8GB, 12GB, 16GB LPDDR5 RAM
64GB, 128GB, 256GB UFS 3.1 storage
• 64MP Sony IMX686 F1.8 (wide)
• 12MP Sony IMX363 (ultra-wide)
12MP Sony IMX663 front camera
5G, 4G LTE
GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO, QZSS, NavlC
Dual stereo speakers w/ Dirac HD Sound
Multi-magnet stereo speakers with dual Cirrus Logic CS35L45 smart amplifiers
Triple microphones with OZO Audio Zoom & ASUS Noise Reduction Technology
ZenUI 8 (Android 11)
4,000mAh battery w/ 30W fast charging
Obsidian Black, Horizon Silver, Moonlight White
148 x 68.5 x 8.9mm