The ASUS ZenFone 8 is the small phone to beat in 2021

The ASUS ZenFone 8 is the small phone to beat in 2021

I remember the first time I was ever truly excited about a smartphone. When HTC (remember when they were relevant?) released the Evo 4G on Sprint, it was the first Android phone to be widely considered a proper iPhone competitor. It was also considered a huge smartphone at the time as its 4.3-inch display dwarfed the competition. Fast forward to 2021 and there’s no shortage of massive phones with 6-inch and above displays, but there’s only a handful of small phones on the market. Today, ASUS is taking aim at the neglected compact phone market by unveiling the ASUS ZenFone 8.

In today’s smartphone market, good, cheap phones are a dime a dozen. Flagship phones are also easy to come by, with dozens of options from many different brands. Small phones are rare but can be found if you look hard enough. We’ve seen a few smaller (by today’s standards) phones recently come out, but most of them are either overpriced, lack flagship-tier specs, or have hard-to-ignore deficits compared to their bigger siblings. The ASUS ZenFone 8 is the rare small phone that isn’t obviously compromised in some way to sell you a bigger model. In fact, it’s arguably the better option compared to its bigger, more expensive sibling, the ZenFone 8 Flip.

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This is my review of the ASUS ZenFone 8 after a month of use.

ASUS ZenFone 8 Specifications - Click to expand

Specification ASUS ZenFone 8
Build
  • Colors: Obsidian Black and Horizon Silver
  • IP68 water and dust resistance
Dimensions & Weight
  • 148 x 68.5 x 8.9mm
  • 169g
Display
  • 5.9″ FHD+ (2400 x 1080) Samsung E4 AMOLED display,
  • 90.02% screen-to-body ratio, 20:9 ratio, 445ppi,
  • 120Hz refresh rate, 1ms response time, 240Hz touch sampling rate,
  • 112% DCI-P3, 151.9% sRGB, Delta E average < 1, 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio,
  • 800nit outdoor readable brightness,
  • 1100 nits maximum brightness,
  • Corning® Gorilla® Glass Victus,
  • SGS Eye Care 6.5% & SGS Seamless Pro (120Hz)
SoC
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
    • 1x Kryo 680 (ARM Cortex X1-based) Prime core @ 2.84GHz
    • 3x Kryo 680 (ARM Cortex A78-based) Performance cores @ 2.4GHz
    • 4x Kryo 680 (ARM Cortex A55-based) Efficiency cores @ 1.8GHz
  • Adreno 660 GPU
  • 5nm manufacturing process
RAM & Storage
  • 6GB LPDDR5 + 128 UFS 3.1
  • 8GB LPDDR5 + 128 UFS 3.1
  • 8GB LPDDR5 + 256 UFS 3.1
  • 16GB LPDDR5 + 256 UFS 3.1
  • No SD-card reader
Battery & Charging
  • 4000mAh
  • 30W wired fast charging (3.3V-11V/3A)
  • Supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0/USB PD 3.0 PPS
Security Optical under-display fingerprint sensor
Rear Camera(s)
  • 64MP Sony IMX686 image sensor with OIS
    • 1/1.7″ sensor, Quad Bayer Technology, 0.8µm/1.6µm effective pixel size, f/1.8, 78.3° FoV (26.6mm to 35 mm equivalent), 2×1 OCL PDAF,
    • Up to 8K (7680×4320) video recording at 24fps with EIS
  • 12MP Sony IMX363 image sensor
    • 1/2.55″ sensor, 1.4µm pixel size, f/2.2, 113˚ FoV (14.3 mm to 35 mm equivalent)
    • Dual PDAF, Real-time distortion correction, supports 4cm Macro shot
    • Up to 4K (3840×2160) video recording at 60fps with EIS
  • Dual LED flash
  • Video features
    • HyperSteady: 1080p video recording at 30 or 60fps
    • Motion Tracking video: 4K video recording at 60fps
    • Time-lapse: 4K video recording
    • Slow Motion: 4K video at 120fps/1080p video at 240fps/720p video at 480fps
Front Camera(s)
  • 12MP Sony IMX663 image sensor
    • 1/2.93″sensor, 76.5˚ FOV, 1.22µm effective pixel size, F2.45 (27.7 mm to 35 mm equivalent ),
    • Dual PDAF, records up to 4K/30fps or FHD/60fps
Port(s)
  • USB Type-C (USB 2.0) with OTG support
  • 3.5mm Audio Jack: Headphone with Qualcomm Aqstic WCD9385
Audio & Vibration
  • Dual super linear speakers with Dirac HD Sound (7-magnet top speaker, 3-magnet bottom)
  • 10x12mm @top, 12x16mm @bottom with Dbass foam balls
  • Powered by dual Cirrus Logic CS35L45 Mono AMP
  • Linear vibration motor
  • Triple microphones with OZO Audio Zoom & Noise Reduction Technology
Connectivity
  • Integrated Snapdragon X60 modem
    • Bands
      • WW SKU
        • FDD-LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3,4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 26, 28, 34)
        • TD-LTE (Bands 38, 39, 40, 41, 42)
        • WCDMA (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 19)
        • EDGE/GPRS/GSM (2, 3, 5, 8)
        • 5G Non-Standalone (NSA): n1, n2, n3, n5, n7, n8, n12, n20, n28, n38, n77, n78
        • 5G Standalone (SA): n77, n78
      • US SKU
        • FDD-LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 30, 34)
        • TD-LTE (Bands 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 66, 71)
        • WCDMA (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 19)
        • EDGE/GPRS/GSM (2, 3, 5, 8)
        • 5G Non-Standalone (NSA): n1, n2, n3, n5, n7, n8, n12, n20,n25, n38, n40, n66, n71, n77, n78
        • 5G Standalone (SA): n77, n78
    • Speeds
      • DC-HSPA+ (DL/UL): 42/5.76 Mbps ; up to LTE DL 5CA (DL/UL) 2000/150 Mbps;
      • 5G NR FR1: DL 3.8Gbps (5DL+FR1: EN-DC 2+1.8), UL 542Mbps, and 4×4 MIMO
        support
  • WiFi 6 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax [6E]), 2×2 MIMO, tri-band 2.4 GHz/5 GHz/6 GHz WiFi
  • Bluetooth 5.2 (EDR + A2DP) & HFP + AVRCP + HID + PAN + OPP
  • Bluetooth audio codecs: LDAC + aptX, aptX HD, aptX, Adaptive + AAC
  • NFC
  • FM radio (not in EU)
  • GNSS support: GPS (L1/L5), Glonass (L1), Galileo (E1/E5a), QZSS (L1/L5) and NavIC (L5)
  • Dual SIM dual standby
  • Dual Nano SIM (DSDV 5G LTE+LTE)
Software Android 11 with ZenUI 8
Sensors Accelerator sensor, E-Compass sensor, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, Gyro sensor

About this review: I received the ZenFone 8 from ASUS four weeks ago. The device received one update before launch and is currently running software version WW_30.10.46.64. ASUS did not preview or provide any inputs for this review.

ASUS ZenFone 8 Forums

    There are few small phones on the market with flagship specifications, but the ASUS ZenFone 8 is one of those rare devices. Surprisingly, it doesn't skimp on battery life or performance and doesn't cost a fortune, either.

ASUS ZenFone 8 Review Highlights

  • It’s compact and easily fits in one hand. It weighs less than most flagship phones.
  • Premium metal and glass components, including fingerprint-resistant matte-frosted glass
  • IP68 rating
  • Included bumper case is quite nice
  • Main camera produces great images with true-to-life colors and sharp details
  • High-quality Samsung AMOLED panel
  • Flagship-tier performance
  • Long-lasting battery life
  • Fast charging
  • ZenUI 8 doesn’t mess with stock Android too much but offers loads of options on top
  • Bootloader is easy to unlock
  • Surprisingly loud speakers
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 5G and Wi-Fi 6E support
  • Non-expandable storage
  • No telephoto camera
  • Background highlights are often blown out in selfies
  • Wide-angle and selfie cameras struggle in low-light
  • Refresh rates are fixed at 60, 90, or 120Hz
  • Optical under-display fingerprint scanner is hit-or-miss
  • No wireless charging
  • Average at best haptics

Navigate this review

  1. Design: How small is the ASUS ZenFone 8, really?
  2. Camera: How good are the cameras on the ZenFone 8?
      1. Picture Quality
      2. Video Quality
      3. ZenUI 8 Camera App
  3. Display: Does the ZenFone 8’s smaller display still offer a good viewing experience?
    1. Panel Quality
    2. Display Features
  4. Performance: How fast is the ASUS ZenFone 8?
    1. Benchmark Performance
    2. Real-world Performance
    3. Gaming Performance
  5. Battery & Charging: Does the ZenFone 8 have good battery life?
    1. Battery Life
    2. Charging Speeds
  6. Software: A taste of ZenUI 8 based on Android 11
    1. User Interface
    2. Features
    3. Development and Modding Proposition
  7. Miscellaneous: Audio, Vibration, Connectivity & More
  8. Conclusion: Should you buy the ASUS ZenFone 8?

Design: How small is the ASUS ZenFone 8, really?

Before I answer the question posed in this section’s title, I need to give you a bit of a backstory. The last phone I reviewed was the OnePlus 9 Pro, an ultra premium flagship phone with a massive 6.7-inch display. The OnePlus 9 Pro was a breath of fresh air for me since it was much thinner and lighter than the two phones I used before it: the ASUS ROG Phone 5 and the ASUS ZenFone 7 Pro. Despite the fact that I loved the ROG Phone 5 and ZenFone 7 Pro, I — or rather, my hands — grew tired of holding those behemoths, so I felt that the OnePlus 9 Pro’s relative compactness was a nice change of pace. So when I held the new ZenFone 8 for the first time in my hand, it was an even nicer change of pace.

I have pretty big hands, so I’m able to hold most flagship phones in one hand with ease. Comfortably holding and using most phones in one hand is still nigh impossible for me, though, since most flagships are too heavy or too tall (or both). In comparison, I can comfortably hold the ZenFone 8 in one hand for hours (not that I’ve done that) and I can almost reach every corner of the display with my thumb. With dimensions of 148 x 68.5mm, the ASUS ZenFone 8 isn’t