Asus ZenFone 6 quick review: Flip Camera is cool, performance good and price could be just right
At MWC 2018, Asus surprised the world with its ZenFone 5Z flagship phone. This was an Android smartphone with top-of-the-line specifications and a design inspired by the Apple iPhone X. With an overall premium build, the phone looked like a great option for those seeking smartphones under Rs 40,000. In 2019, manufacturers are trying different tricks to make their flagship phones standout and Asus has also gone for the same idea. Hence, with the ZenFone 6, which is its flagship offering for this year, it has made sure that the phone should turn head. Or at least its own head, which is what its sizable camera module on top of the phone looks like.
The ZenFone 6 is unlike any other Android smartphone I have seen this year - thanks to its unique Flip Camera module. The Flip Camera makes Asus offer a no-notch uninterrupted fullscreen display and an eyeball-grabbing presence. Coupled with solid specifications, including the flagship Snapdragon 855 chipset and a huge battery, the ZenFone 6 does stand apart from the crowd. Asus will bring the ZenFone 6 to the Indian market soon and while it hasn't revealed the Indian prices yet -- it could be around Rs 39,000 -- it seems that Asus may make it difficult for buyers of the OnePlus 7 and the upcoming Honor 20.
I got to spend some time with the ZenFone 6 before the launch and I have to say that this is one of the most exciting smartphones I have seen in 2019 so far.
Asus ZenFone 6 design and build: Looks fancy
Asus makes some of the most exciting looking smartphones across all price points and the ZenFone 6 is no exception. The rear gets fancy gradient colours and Asus has adopted a new vertically-aligned logo that sits in the centre. I am not a fan of bold branding ideas on phones but it does add to the phone's presence. The unique looking camera module, made of Liquid Metal, houses a dual camera setup -- more on the camera later.
With the Flip Camera module, Asus removes the necessity for a display notch. Hence, the ZenFone 6 gets a narrow-bezel fullscreen display that has a noticeable thick chin. And before you ask, the display uses an LCD panel - hence the thick chin. This is also the reason why there's a capacitive fingerprint sensor at the back.
Look around and you will also see - (drum roll) a 3.5mm headphone jack. The headphone jack is rare these days and Asus deciding to retain it is good news for audiophiles. Apart from the usual volume rockers and the power button, there's a Smart Key that can trigger the Google Assistant. Asus will allow users to customise the key to open other apps as well.
The ZenFone 6 also gets a very rare feature for 2019 flagship smartphone - a triple card slot that can house two SIM cards and a micro SD card together.
With all these goodies, the ZenFone 6 is slightly bulky and on the heavier side. However, it does have a lot of presence and if you love showing off, then you will love the ZenFone 6.
Asus ZenFone 6 specifications: Power-packed package
When it comes to specifications, Asus smartphones are with the best in business. The ZenFone 6 proves that once again with a specifications list that will appeal to geeks. The fullscreen display measures 6.3-inches and uses a full HD+ LCD panel. As usual with a 2019 flagship phone, the ZenFone 6 gets a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset. The phone will offer an option to choose between 6GB, 8GB and 12GB RAM along with 64GB, 128GB and 256GB storage options. It will run on Android 9 Pie out-of-the-box with the ZenUI skin on top. A massive 5000mAh battery is set to look after the power requirements with support for 18W fast charging.
While it's unfair to deliver a conclusion with a brief experience, I felt that the user experience in on par with what its rivals offer. The new ZenUI is a clever mix of Asus' older ZenUI and stock Android. Therefore, the interface looks and feels slick similar to how it does for stock Android phones. At the same time, it also offers a host of customization options and smart additions that add to the user experience. With a Snapdragon 855, you can expect the ZenFone 6 to run everything smoothly. Until the full review of the ZenFone 6 is done, I can only say that it feels fast and the UI looks great.
Asus ZenFone 6 camera: That Flip Camera is not a gimmick
At the briefing, Asus talked a great deal about the camera module and how it offers new opportunities for shutterbugs. The camera module relies on a stepper motor that can change angles by a variation of 2 degrees. This mechanism allows the user to manually control the movement of the camera module and offers more versatility while shooting videos - you can shoot photos without aiming the phone directly at the subject.
The implementation that Asus has gone for is quite similar to what we saw in the Samsung Galaxy A80 with its sliding flip camera. Reliability is still a question but Asus assures that the Flip Camera module should sustain itself well as the Liquid Metal material of the module will protect the lenses. It will also retract itself if it detects a drop above a height of 1.5 metres.
As for the cameras itself, Asus is using a combination of a 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 sensor as the primary unit and a 13-megapixel wide-angle camera as the second unit. The output from these should be on par with what we have seen in similarly priced smartphones.
Asus ZenFone 6 first impressions:
The ZenFone 6 seems to be an impressive flagship smartphone and is a great option for those who want something different from what the competition offers. The Flip Camera module holds lots of promises and should offer great versatility for shutterbugs. With flagship class specifications, performance should be fast. The question is - how will it fare against its rivals and how easy it is to live with on a daily basis? Wait for our review to get answers to these questions.