When we think of Asus smartphones, we think of the cyberpunk-looking ROG (Republic of Gamers) range of devices that established the Taiwanese company as a mobile esports gadget maker. Then there is the ZenFone range, known for its everyday usability, appealing to consumers who want to be more experimental with their photos, as well as a durable device.
The latest in the ZenFone line is the 8z AKA the ZenFone 8, launched on March 1 (it was supposed to launch in May 2021).
Asus is one of many tech brands that have long used recycled and recyclable packaging. So, the 8z comes in a grey cardboard casing with a power adaptor and a USB-C charging cable. It has three colours: obsidian black, horizon silver and moonlight white — all with a matte finish on the plastic body.
The 5.9-inch (20:9 ; 2400 x 1080) Samsung AMOLED display will suit those who prefer smaller smartphones. But, at 169 grams, it is heavier than the average smartphone, owing to the Corning Gorilla Glass Victus screen. Despite its larger rear multi-lens camera system, you would not find it unbalanced as you would an Asus ROG, Samsung Galaxy, or iPhone Mini devices.
Make sure you are updated to the latest Android OS before using it regularly. The 8z is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G Mobile Platform as well as Qualcomm Adreno 660.
The first thing you will notice is the vibrant display that reaches 1100 nits of brightness with a 120Hz framerate – not a surprise for an Asus device. The display is HDR 10 and HDR10+ certified, making it ideal for mobile photography, videography, streaming videos and gaming. Most mid-range smartphones compromise a little on display but Asus has ensured the 8z offers visual quality as well as strength with Victus.
Along the side of the device is a bright blue ‘Smart key’ which is not just a power button but also a shortcut button that can add two customisable actions through a combination of presses and holds.
Despite the powerful processor and the 4000mAh battery, the 8z is not as optimised for heavy streaming or gaming as a ROG phone. After about 20 minutes of gaming, the phone started to heat up quite a bit. At least the device supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 5 charging.
A robust rear camera
So far, the Asus 8z feels comparable to the ‘affordable to mid-range’ Samsung A or M ranges, the iPhone SE, and the OnePlus Nord line; but Asus claims the 8z’s robust rear camera system sets this device apart.
The main rear lens is a Sony flagship IMX686 64-megapixel image sensor with 1/1.73-inch large sensor size, 0.8 µm pixel size, with an f1.8 aperture. The Quad Bayer technology, which we have seen in previous ZenFones and Huawei’s P20 and Mate 20, helps you take some lovely low-light images without resolution loss or adding unpleasant grain. Shooting videos on this lens is a treat; enjoy an 8K Ultra HD (7680 x 4320) video at 24 frames per second.
The Ultra Wide rear lens is a Sony flagship IMX363 12-megapixel dual-pixel image sensor sporting a 1/2.55-inch sensor size. With an f2.2 aperture, panoramic shots in low-illuminance environments will be stunning. The same lens also supports a 4-centimetre macro shot for close-ups. With this lens, you can also shoot in 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) video at 30 / 60 frames per second, with Motion Tracking tech.
Both the rear lenses have RAW file support, with up to 32 seconds long exposure. This alone will draw in consumers who want a DSLR experience with a smartphone. The front camera, though, is a bit of a let-down; even in optimal lighting, there was a washed-out feel to photos.
The rear camera and the durability do not justify the ₹6,000 - ₹8,000 difference from its counterparts. That said, when it comes to photography in the mid-range segment of smartphones, the trophy belongs to the Pixel a series (Pixel 4a and 5a).
Worth the price?
While not offering too much by way of surprises, the Asus 8z reminds me of a time when smartphones were simpler – and thankfully, there is a large market in India for such a breed. While futuristic features are always welcome, innovations are most effective when it still feels slightly familiar.
The 8z may be a reliable, long-term purchase but ₹43,000 is a steep price, considering there are many similar phones in the market with a lot more personality.
The Asus 8z is available for purchase at ₹42,999 from authorised offline and online retailers.