Zenfone 6: First Impressions

Asus Zenfone 6

The mobile industry has been witness to two big trends since the last couple of years. First was the steady increase in price, arising from the premium segment of phones. We saw phones crossing the ₹80k barrier and then the iPhone managed to cross the ₹1 lakh barrier. The second trend has been to squeeze in as much screen onto a phone as possible by reducing bezels and thereby space for various modules on those bezels. The iPhone again managed to mainstream the (in)famous trend of notches with multiple brands using their own iterations (or just plain copy-pasting) of the same on their devices.

Asus’ latest phone is a result of their team trying to find the best solutions to these two trends. Enter Zenfone 6. At first look, the Zenfone 6 looks like a refreshing departure from the handsets that Asus has been churning out in the past few years. It isn’t trying to copy Samsung’s hole punch display or Apple’s notch, it’s trying to present its own solution and honestly, it’s pretty good!

So, let’s get the specs out of the way really quickly. The Zenfone 6 runs the top of the line Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor. You can choose from various configurations 6GB RAM with 64/128GB of storage or 8GB RAM with 256GB storage. It has a beautiful 6.4inch FHD+ IPS NanoEdge Display which covers the entire front of the phone apart from the little chin at the bottom. You also get dual speakers, Dual-SIM and a dedicated microSD card expansion slot and, wait for it, a 3.5mm audio jack! All of this gets powered by a mammoth 5000mAh battery with a Quick Charge 4.0 support.

Now let’s talk about the main thing for which this phone is making headlines – the camera. Asus’ answer to the growing notch trend is their Flip Camera. It’s basically a rotating camera module housing two sensors attached to the rear of the device with a hinge. It’s not something that we haven’t seen before; OPPO did it with the N1 way back in 2013 and Samsung used their ‘swivel camera’ in the Galaxy A80, but Asus’ rendition is one of the best and least prone to failure. There are a number of reasons why we say that.

First, you get the same camera experience throughout. The flip camera enables the Zenfone to use its primary camera for selfies too, which leads to a no-compromise experience. Secondly, the module itself looks more reliable with the camera modules safely enclosed in a liquid metal casing. It might not look as snazzy as the OPPO Find X’s upper body sliding module or Vivo Nex/OnePlus 7 Pro’s slide-out module, but it has a swag of its own and we’re definitely not complaining.

Build aside, the camera is capable of taking some really good shots. You get two lenses here – the 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor(also used on the OnePlus 7 Pro) with f/1.79 aperture, 13MP wide angle lens with f/2.4 aperture and 125-degree field of view. The primary camera uses pixel stacking to deliver a 12MP image from a 48MP camera. The output image retains good details and delivers a high dynamic range. There are a wide number of options to choose from while shooting. The secondary wide-angle camera is extremely useful for images with a wider perspective like group images, events, and landscapes. You’ll definitely be the go-to person with this camera when it comes to group selfies because of the sheer number of people you can accommodate in the frame.

Asus also allows you to do some wacky tricks with its flip module. You can manually control the rotation of the module and make it stop at any angle to take interesting shots. The panorama mode automatically moves the camera module while you hold the phone still allowing you to create some excellent vertical or horizontal panoramic shots. You can also use this moving mechanism for capturing video while tracking the motion of an object or person.

Finally, Asus has also introduced its new Ultra-night mode. It allows you to capture more detail in the night. It’s not in the league of Google’s Night Sight or Huawei’s P30 Pro but then, these phones are way more expensive than the Zenfone 6.

On the software side, Asus has drastically cleaned up their UI. It is a welcome move as the inconsistent and bloated ZenUI was a pain to use. This time around they’re taking a direction very similar to what OnePlus does with their OxygenOS – clean almost stock software with limited and useful features added on to it. All the previous clunky stuff like the Selfie Master, UI themes, Zenimoji is gone. They’ve optimized the transitions, removed all unnecessary jargon thereby delivering a bloat-free, consistent and smooth user experience. All the useful stuff like Dark Mode, Digital Wellbeing, gesture navigation, NightLight is still here. Overall, the Zenfone 6 is an excellent performing device which can handle anything that you throw at it.

So, wrapping it up – the Zenfone offers good build quality, a crazy camera implementation delivering some really good shots, beautiful full-screen display, excellent battery life, fast and clean user experience, and a headphone jack. What’s missing is water resistance and wireless charging. The overall package makes it a serious competitor to the OnePlus range of affordable flagships and will pitch it against the OnePlus 7. With the India launch being just around the corner, Asus’ pricing and marketing strategy will be key to deciding if they can make their presence strongly felt in a segment which has been dominated by OnePlus in the Indian smartphone market for the last few years.