The Asus ZenFone 8 was released alongside the ZenFone 8 Flip and went on sale globally just a few months ago. This handset boasts flagship features, but is a fraction of the price of phones from leading manufacturers such as Samsung and Apple – and it’s smaller too.
But does the lower cost mean that there’s some big compromises? I’ve spent some time with the ZenFone 8 to see if this is a phone worth investing in.
Design and build
As Goldilocks would say, this phone is not too big, nor too small – it’s just right. It can be used one-handed easily and will slip inside most pockets comfortably, but the screen is still large enough to enjoy videos on and you can play games without feeling like you’re short on space.
Measuring 148 x 68.5 x 8.9 mm and weighing 169g, this is a handset on the chunkier side. However, it’s a robust design that feels secure. The addition of a tough matching case will be a welcome relief to the fellow clumsy folks out there. It also comes with an IP68 rating, meaning that it’s protected against some splashes and dust.
If you’re looking to choose between the ZenFone 8 and 8 Flip, then one deal breaker could be the inclusion of a headphone jack on this phone – a feature that many flagships forgo these days.
The ZenFone 8 comes in two colour options: black and silver. I tested the black version, which comes with a matt sheen finish on the rear. It isn’t as flashy as other phones in this price range, but it’s refined and sophisticated and feels high-end to the touch.
The power button and volume controls sit on the right-hand side of the device, whilst the fingerprint sensor is under the display. This worked reasonably well – I only had issues after just washing my hands, but overall it’s better than what I’ve seen on other phones such as the Oppo Find X2. There’s also facial recognition software, should you prefer that.
On the bottom, you get a USB-C charging port and a SIM slot. Connectivity wise, there’s Bluetooth 5.2, integrated WiFi 6/6E and NFC.
The dirac speakers produce quite punchy sound for a smaller phone. I can happily listen to podcasts or music in the background and can clearly hear all details. There’s also support for aptX Bluetooth devices.
One of the biggest draws of the ZenFone 8 is its screen, which is a 5.9in Full HD+ AMOLED display. The phone has a body ratio of 84.2%, with a small punch hole selfie camera on the top left. The bezels are slightly on the thicker side, but don’t take away too much from the clear screen.
The standout feature on this display is the 120Hz refresh rate with 1ms touch response and a 240Hz touch sampling rate. The screen is bright, clear, colourful and excellent for watching videos or playing games on. It’s also bright enough to use in direct sunlight without too many issues.
You don’t have to use the 120Hz all the time, with the option to select one of four system performance modes: high performance, dynamic, durable and ultra durable.
Having the phone on higher refresh rates drains the battery much more quickly. If battery conservation is important to you, then I recommend dropping down the quality for day-to-day use and saving that 120Hz for when you really want it.
Specs and performance
The specs of this phone are just as impressive as that 120Hz display, as it is packed with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 5G chip. The handset I tested is paired with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage, though there are different RAM and storage versions available both in the UK and internationally, with up to 16GB RAM available.
These specs don’t just impress on paper – it’s reflected in our benchmarking tests, with the phone achieving figures close to the iPhone 12 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S21.
These figures also make it a great phone to use day-to-day. I can easily multitask without any lag (such as watching a floating Twitch window whilst browsing Twitter). The decent RAM and storage options give plenty enough room for apps and games – especially considering Google Photos stores images and videos in the cloud.
Sadly, unlike on the 8 Flip, there is no microSD card slot if you want to extend your room any further.
There are three main camera lenses on the Asus ZenFone 8. First, there’s the main 64Mp camera with Sony’s IMX686 sensor, f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilisation (OIS). The images that this camera produces are vivid, clear and detailed.
The dynamic sensor in this camera optimises the lighting for the best shot – automatically dropping to night mode if you’re taking a shot in the dark. As with most smartphones, the most impressive shots are outside in daylight.
It can’t quite compete with the likes of the Samsung S21 Ultra or iPhone 12 Pro Max, but at several hundreds pounds less, it’s hard to complain.
The 12Mp ultra-wide angle lens comes with Sony’s IMX363 sensor and Dual PD autofocus. There is a drop in quality between this and the main sensor when it comes to textures and details. However, colours are mostly the same – wider lens on cheaper phones sometimes look less bright.
On the front of the phone, you get a 12Mp camera. This is the first handset on the market to feature Sony’s IMX663 sensor, and you also get Dual PD autofocus. The quality of these shots varies depending on your lighting conditions – with the best shots coming either in natural light, or with light from behind the camera.
The portrait mode once again is really consistent. Even little details such as stray hairs aren’t lost in the blurred background – the camera is able to tell the differences and create a contrast that feels more natural.
There isn’t a dedicated telephoto lens on this phone, so it’s not the best if you like to make use of the zoom feature.
For videophiles, the Asus ZenFone 8 can record up to [email protected] with OIS. There’s also triple microphones on the phone, which means that if you go into the pro editing mode you can choose what audio to focus on should you wish. Videos are clear, detailed and stable, and the audio is just as good.
The 4,000mAh battery is one of the worst things about the ZenFone 8.
During the internal battery test, it only managed to survive five hours and 25 minutes. Of course, this was with that 120Hz max refresh rate turned on. You can extend the battery life by switching the performance mode – durable mode is the best option if you want all-day use.
This may be annoying to those who want to use dynamic mode to make full use of that 120Hz refresh rate without having to manually change it.
Fortunately, charging is relatively quick. The phone went from flat to 64% in 30 minutes using the 30W HyperCharger, and overall takes just under an hour to get to full. Sadly, it cannot be charged wirelessly.
I also noticed that when charging, the handset gets quite hot. It doesn’t seem to affect performance but is something to keep in mind.
The Asus ZenFone comes with Android 11 running on Asus’ ZenUI. Apps are laid out neatly and cleanly, with minimal pre-installed app clutter. In all honesty, it’s hard to tell that this is a skin of pure Android – the UI is extremely close and if anything, the differences only enhance what the software can do.
Firstly, there’s the one-handed mode. You can activate this easily from the quick menu at the top of the phone, and once enabled you simple swipe downward from the second half of the phone screen. This allows all the apps to sit lower on the display for easier access.
You can customise the gesture sensitivity and screen size for both of these things. Whilst a phone of this size doesn’t necessarily need this, it’s still useful for accessibility.
The system performance manager also allows you to customise the thermal limit, CPU performance, GPU performance, RAM performance and more to suit advanced preferences rather than the standard four settings that come with the phone. This will be especially useful for any keen mobile gamers.
Price and availability
Prices for the Asus ZenFone 8 start from £599.99/$629.99 for the 8GB and 128GB option, with the cost increasing if you go for higher storage/RAM options. This price puts it around the same cost as Google’s Pixel 5.
The phone is usually available on the Asus website in the UK, but stock is currently out of stock at the moment. You can also get your hands on it from Amazon in the UK. In the US, only the Asus website has the phone available, which is again waiting on stock at the time of writing.
This phone is £200 less than the Asus ZenFone 8 Flip. Unless you are desperate to get the turning camera mechanism, then it’s probably not worth forking the extra for the Flip – especially when you consider that this handset comes with no IP rating, a lower refresh rate and no headphone jack.
It’s also worth noting that whilst the ZenFone 8 doesn’t boast a flashy design like some flagships, the performance does stack up against some of the big name phones which cost a lot more than this.
To see how the Asus ZenFone 8 compares against other phones in the market, check out our list of the best smartphones for 2021. You can also check out the debate between the ZenFone 8 and 8 Flip on our weekly podcast, Fast Charge.
The Asus ZenFone 8 offers a crisp display, flagship performance and a great camera set-up, all for an extremely competitive price – managing to outpace its sister phone, the ZenFone 8 Flip. The smaller design is a solid option for those who don’t want to settle for a big phone.
The battery life isn’t great, but providing you’re happy to use it in durable mode and can savour that 120Hz display, you can make it last through the day. Overall, this is a contender in the smartphone market for 2021.
Asus ZenFone 8: Specs
- 148 x 68.5 x 8.9 mm
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G
- 8GB/16GB LPDDR5 RAM
- 128/256GB storage
- 5.9in AMOLED display (120Hz, 1ms response time)
- 64Mp Sony IMX686 main camera with OIS, 12Mp Sony IMX363 ultra-wide, 12Mp Sony IMX663 front-facing camera
- 4,000mAh battery with 30W HyperCharge support
- Dual stereo speakers with Dirac HD Sound
- Headphone jack
- Wi-Fi 6/6e
- Bluetooth 5.2
- 5G connectivity
- IP68 rating