After months of leaks and teasers Asus finally revealed the ZenFone 6 at an event in Valencia, and it certainly offers something different to most flagships on the market. It boasts a gorgeous all-display design with a camera array that flips between the back and front to cover all your photography needs.
But, is it a gimmick or has Asus cracked the formula for the perfect bezel-less design? We’ve spent some time with the Asus ZenFone 6, and here’s what we think.
Pricing and availability
The Asus ZenFone 6 is available to pre-order via the Asus e-Store in the UK and Europe right now, with units shipping on 30 May.
What’s most interesting is the price; it’s a lot cheaper than some of its rivals on the market. It starts at £499 for the 6GB/128GB variant and, for those that want the high-end experience, there’s also an 8GB/256GB variant for £599.
What the flip?
There have been many different attempts from manufacturers to achieve a bezel-less display while still providing access to the all-important front-facing camera, from notches to pop-up cameras, sliders and, with the introduction of the Asus ZenFone 6, Flip Cameras too.
The flippy nature of the camera module is interesting; rather than featuring a front-facing camera that would encroach on the display, the phone’s rear-facing cameras can be flipped to face forwards.
The module sports a 48Mp Sony IMX586 sensor, with 1.6um pixels and an aperture of f/1.79, alongside a 13Mp 125-degree wide-angle camera, laser autofocus and a dual-LED flash. The flippy nature of the camera module provides users with incredible-quality front-facing lenses, and allows users to access advanced shooting modes previously exclusive to rear-facing cameras.
Photo quality is generally great, with impressive detail and clarity, and the HDR+ mode produces gorgeous, detailed images in challenging lighting conditions.
Take a look at the below image of St. Pancras hotel; even when zooming in, you can make out fine details like the brickwork of the building and street signs. The level of detail somewhat negates the need for a telephoto lens, as cropped images taken by the 48Mp sensor generally look great.
The 48Mp sensor performs well in low-light environments too, although the phone’s dedicated Night Mode simply can’t compete with that provided by the likes of Huawei, Samsung and Google. There’s a decent level of light, but there’s a slight sacrifice to overall clarity.
The 13Mp 125-degree wide-angle camera is great for group selfies, especially when combined with the flippy nature of the phone. It performs well in well-lit environments, but sadly, photos taken in low-light environments are noticeably dimmer than those taken by the 48Mp sensor.
Of course, there is a range of shooting modes that allow you to get creative with your photography. One of the highlights is the Portrait mode, complete with post-shot refocusing. It’s also impressively accurate when it comes to edge recognition, even in point-and-shoot situations.
Oh, and the ability to take a panorama without actually moving the smartphone is a novelty that we will personally never get over!
One of the cool features of the Flip Camera is manual control; you can adjust the angle of the camera using the volume button, allowing you to find the perfect angle for your shots. It makes taking photos of animals and children easier too, as you can position the camera at a 90-degree angle and take photos from a horizontal position.
If you’re worried about durability, don’t; the housing features a G-Sensor that’ll flip the camera back to its original position if it detects a fall, and the gear system should be good for over 100,000 flips – that equates to 28 selfies every day for 5 years. And a short video shown at the announcement showcased a child actively trying to force the camera open using a screwdriver, pins and more, and the module still functioned properly.
A vlogger’s dream
We haven’t even mentioned the impressive suite of video tools at your disposal on the ZenFone 6. The highlight is the ability to record [email protected] with electronic image stabilisation. Videos are smooth, high quality and produce cinematic sweeps instead of wobbly pans, although the EIS does come at a cost; a rather cropped shot.
You’ve also got access to a slow-mo mode that offers 480fps at 720p, or 240fps at 1080p. The promise of 480fps slow-mo is a little hollow though, as we noticed frame drops and jumps during slow-mo testing. We’re glad to report that the same wasn’t found when shooting at 240fps, suggesting that the camera and onboard tech just isn’t up to the task of processing 480 images per second.
There’s also a cool tracking mode that utilises the flippy nature of the camera to keep the subject in-shot. Simply tap on-screen to select your subject, and the camera will follow it even as it approaches the edge of the capture area. It’s the ideal for shooting mode for filming fast-moving subjects like kids and animals, and works surprisingly well, although you can make out the whir of the motors in the background of quieter videos.
It’s a looker
Aside from the camera module, the Asus ZenFone 6 is a sleek bit of kit, featuring a completely bezel-less 6.4in display covered in Corning’s sixth-gen Gorilla Glass and a curved rear that fits to the contours of your hand, making it comfortable to use one-handed. On the rear, you’ll find a fairly standard fingerprint sensor below the flippy camera array, along with Asus branding.
It’s admittedly a little chunkier than other smartphones, measuring in at 159.1 x 75.4 x 9.2mm and 190g, but the curved rear helps negate this to a level where we barely notice the difference.
You’ll also notice a ‘Smart Key’ on the side of the smartphone. This, by default, can be used to summon Google Assistant with ease, but it can be customised to perform a variety of actions, from opening the camera to enabling the torch.
The phone comes in two variants; a rather generic Midnight Black, and a more eye-catching white-to-blue gradient nicknamed Twilight Silver, with matching metal band. Oh, and rather importantly, there’s not only a 3.5mm headphone port but a notification LED too!
Flagship specs through-and-through
The ZenFone 6 is certainly a good-looking phone, but it doesn’t stop there. Let’s talk about that gorgeous HDR10-enabled FHD+ display; it measures in a whopping 6.4in and boasts a tall 19:5:9 aspect ratio. It’s bright, crisp, detailed and boasts an incredible 92 percent screen-to-body ratio.
Most importantly, it’s free of any thick bezels, notches or hole-punch cameras, giving you an unrivaled, uninterrupted viewing experience that simply isn’t offered by the likes of Apple, Samsung or Google. That didn’t stop Asus from including stereo speakers to complete the premium experience, though.
Beneath the display, you’ll find Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 855 processor alongside an Adreno 640 GPU, either 6- or 8GB of RAM and 128- or 256GB of UFS 2.1 storage, depending on the variant that you opt for (there’s also a cheap 6/64GB variant, but it’s not available in the UK and much of Europe). If the built-in storage isn’t enough for you, you can expand it by up to 1TB via the microSD card slot.
That should be more than enough to power pretty much any app or game on Android with little-to-no lag, and we must admit we’ve not experienced any during our time with the 8GB/256GB variant. It’s also backed up by our benchmark results, with the ZenFone 6 producing similar results to top-of-the-range smartphones including the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus and Huawei P30 Pro.
The ZenFone 6 also looks to stand out from the crowd in the battery department, sporting an incredible 5,000mAh battery that Asus claims can provide either two days of standard use, 26 days on standby, 33.3 hours of talk time or 21 hours of web browsing. We’ve found that we can get through a 15-hour day with standard usage (browsing, snapping, texting, etc) and go to bed with around 40 percent battery remaining, and in 2019, that’s the dream.
When it does need a top-up, Quick Charge 4.0 can provide users with a speedy charging experience, but unfortunately, the 18W charger isn’t included in the box.
The ZenFone 6 is also a powerhouse of connectivity, offering USB-C connectivity with reverse charging alongside the likes of 4G LTE support, Bluetooth 5, dual-band Wi-Fi, NFC, a suite of GPS systems and even FM Radio functionality, although the increasingly-common wireless charging isn’t present here.
And, like most other Android-based smartphones being released at the moment, the Asus ZenFone 6 sports Android 9.0 Pie, but it separates itself from the crowd by guaranteeing an update not only to Android Q, but Android R in 2020 too. It’s also a part of Google’s Android Beta program, allowing users to sign up to experimental builds of Android months before release.
Though it may not look like it, the smartphone actually features a custom ZenUI. While it keeps the stock Android look and feel, there are enhancements available to users including the ability to double tap the display to wake, automatically adjust volume based on the environment, enable a system-wide dark mode and, our personal favourite, the ability to access the notification shade with a swipe of the rear-facing fingerprint sensor.
The Asus ZenFone 6 is one of our favourite smartphones of 2019; rather than following the trend of notches and hole-punch camera cutouts, Asus has implemented an innovative Flip Camera system that provides a high-end shooting experience on the rear and front, without compromising on screen real estate.
Images captured are detailed and vibrant, and although the Night Mode doesn’t perform quite as well as some rivals, it’s a small gripe in an otherwise impressive camera system. The range of video modes and the ability to record at [email protected] with EIS is a nice touch, too.
Beyond the camera setup, the ZenFone 6 is a stunning bit of kit; it boasts a curved rear that fits nicely into the palm of your hand, a glossy design and most importantly, a 6.4in full-screen display free of bezels and notches. And with a 5,000mAh battery that comfortably provides all-day usage, there’s not much to complain about.