With the ZenFone 8, Asus has released a compact Android phone with real flagship technology. And that at an affordable price. As our test shows, fans of handy smartphones only have to make a few compromises with the ZenFone 8.
Is that supposed to be a flagship smartphone? Unfortunately, the ZenFone 8 immediately shows where Asus has saved in order to be able to offer the smartphone from 670 euros (RRP): on the design. The display frame is slightly larger than on current flagships, so the camera should have been placed in the frame instead of in a hole in the top left of the screen. The back is as minimalistic as the back can be: In the middle you can see the "ASUS Zenfone" lettering, above just a camera dome with two lenses, as we know it from numerous cell phones.
The selfie camera is in a hole in the top left of the display. Picture:
The color of the power button differs from the rest of the smartphone. Picture:
However: The frame is made of durable metal, the screen is protected by the robust Gorilla Glass Victus, the back is made of Gorilla Glass 3. And thanks to IP68 certification, the smartphone is also safe from rain showers. An optical fingerprint sensor is housed in the screen. Since this technology is less secure than the old capacitive fingerprint sensor, I won't get used to it anymore, as much as it is trendy.
Even the mid-range Oppo Reno 4 Pro 5G (right), which is half as expensive, has a more imaginative design than the Asus ZenFone 8 (left). Picture:
Here is the size difference between the ZenFone 8 (left) with a 5.9-inch display and the Oppo Reno 4 Pro with a 6.5-inch display. Picture:
Conclusion : Externally, the ZenFone 8 could also be a mid-range cell phone, but the high-quality workmanship is convincing.
Display: bright, AMOLED, 120 Hertz
With the 5.9-inch Full HD + screen with high-contrast AMOLED technology, it becomes clear that the ZenFone 8 is a real flagship. The display offers a refresh rate of up to 120 Hertz, as it should be in the upper class. The refresh rate can be switched between 60 Hertz, 90 Hertz, 120 Hertz and "Automatic" in the menu. Thanks to the 120 Hertz, movements appear sharper and smoother – and because average users spend a lot of time scrolling through apps and websites, this makes smartphone use smoother and more pleasant.
The display is bright enough for use in the midday sun. Picture:
There is a reason not to leave the refresh rate at 120 Hertz in every scenario: The high refresh rate drains the battery. And not too short, after a day at the latest it is empty. With modern flagships you are used to a running time of over a day up to several days, but the 120 Hertz must be deactivated for this. After all, the display is bright enough that it can be easily read in the sun.
Conclusion : The AMOLED display is bright and shows moving content sharply and smoothly thanks to 120 Hertz.
Technology & equipment: Snapdragon 888, 5G, Wi-Fi 6E
The ZenFone 8 also leaves nothing to be desired in terms of technology. The current flagship chip Snapdragon 888 with 5G modem ensures high performance, apps start noticeably faster than on my Galaxy Note 9. There is a model with 128 GB of internal memory and one with 256 GB of memory, both of which are unfortunately not expandable via microSD card. For most users, however, the storage options offered should be large enough. This also applies to the 8 GB of RAM, although a model with a full 16 GB of RAM is also available.
Practical: A 30 watt power supply is included. Picture:
A 5G modem is of course on board for fast Internet on the go in a future that will probably come at some point. The frequency expansion for the brand new Wi-Fi 6E was only released for Germany in July 2021, currently there are not even routers for the Wi-Fi 6 successor. The main advantage lies in the relief of frequencies that are popular today, which should ensure reliable, high-speed internet. Wi-Fi 6E is hardly widespread in smartphones so far, not even the iPhone 12 Pro Max or the Galaxy S21 (with the exception of the Ultra model) bring the new standard with them.
Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX Adaptive is also high end. Although there are even faster adapters than the supplied 30-watt power supply, the 4,000 mAh battery is also charged quickly with this. In addition to stereo speakers with good sound and a decent volume, there is also a jack connector for headphones.
Even a headphone jack is provided. Picture:
Conclusion : Technically everything is on board that one can expect from a modern flagship – and even a little more.
Cameras: Great for daylight photos and selfies
The ZenFone 8 uses a dual camera consisting of a 64-megapixel main lens with optical image stabilization and a camera for ultra-wide-angle shots with 12 megapixels. The selfie camera with 12 megapixel resolution has a practical autofocus, which is not a matter of course. It helps to bring the subject into focus.
The ultra-wide-angle lens would come in handy for architectural shots … Image:
… but the main camera takes the better quality photos. Picture:
The selfie camera has an auto focus … Image:
… and therefore also delivers excellent images. Picture:
The selfie autofocus reliably captures the subject … Image:
… so the recordings are very sharp and rich in detail. Picture:
A practical scale is used in the camera app to align the horizon … Image:
… and that helps for suitable results. Picture:
In terms of quality, the main camera takes really good pictures in daylight. It can keep up with the best smartphone cameras at the front. In low light, on the other hand, the photos are simply bad. Although this decrease in quality with the decrease in light is typical for cell phones, it is particularly pronounced with the ZenFone 8. The night mode helps for decent photos, but the user has to keep the smartphone still for a few seconds. This is not an option in every situation.
The ultra-wide-angle camera unfortunately has a tendency to overexposure, oversaturation and blurring, which is often found with this type, which makes the pictures look a bit cartoon-like, almost like from a cartoon. The selfie camera knows how to convince thanks to autofocus and makes very attractive self-portraits. The selfies taken with the portrait mode of the main camera are even extremely good, very sharp and rich in detail with the right focus.
If there is enough light, the main camera enables photos at a high level … Image:
… until it gets darker. Picture:
Night mode helps, but requires holding still for several seconds. Picture:
The main camera photos are sharp and rich in detail. Picture:
The ultra wide angle camera does not reach this high level. Picture:
Photo with the main camera. Picture:
Close-up with the main camera. Picture:
Close-up with the main camera. Picture:
Despite my initial skepticism, very good portraits can be taken with the main camera. Picture:
If there is enough light, the selfies are also great. Picture:
In low light, however, the selfie camera image also fails:
Photos with the ultra-wide-angle camera look washed out. Picture:
Conclusion & alternatives: Inexpensive mini flagship
The ZenFone 8 is a recommendable flagship phone for Android fans who want a more compact smartphone. There are small weaknesses, but these are offset by great strengths and a low price for a high-end device. It's nice that there is once again a good, handy Android smartphone with top technology, which is rare.
The ZenFone 8 stood up to my critical scrutiny. Picture:
The Sony Xperia 5 III is also quite compact with its 6.1-inch display and has flagship technology, but costs significantly more money and is currently still a long way off. If you can live with a 6.2-inch display, you can choose the Samsung Galaxy S20 5G or the successor, the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G. The Galaxy S21 5G offers technology that is comparable to that of the ZenFone 8, a more fashionable design and three rear cameras instead of just two, but costs a few hundred euros more.
Buy now from Samsung Galaxy S21 5G
|I liked that||I didn't like that much|
|+ Bright AMOLED display with 120 Hertz||– quite short battery life in 120 Hertz mode|
|+ Top photos in daylight||– Bad photos in low light (unless with night mode)|
|+ Flagship technology||– Moderate ultra wide angle camera|
|+ Very good workmanship||– Unimaginative design|
|+ Inexpensive for what is offered|