Faced with the arrival of many Chinese manufacturers (Huawei, OPPO, Xiaomi...), Asus has had some difficulties in our countries to stay competitive in the smartphone market. Since last year, the Taiwanese manufacturer has been slowly coming back to the forefront. Its new flagship officialized in Valencia wants to allow the brand to shine again. But is ZenFone 6 able to compete with competitors such as Galaxy S10+, Huawei P30 Pro or other OnePlus 7 Pro? We had our hands-on with the device and are ready to deliver our first impressions.
A more affordable price than the competition
It was in the Spanish city of Valencia that Asus chose to hold its press conference for the presentation of its new ZenFone 6. The smartphone will be available in black on the brand's website from May 25. A silver version will be available in mid-June.
As far as prices are concerned, Asus has remained very reasonable with a price starting at 499 euros (about $560) for the version with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Count respectively 559 euros and 599 euros for the 8GB version of RAM/128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM/256GB of storage. The smartphone is thus positioned slightly below the OnePlus 7 while offering a little less internal storage. Compared to other flagships on the market, the ZenFone 6 remains much more accessible overall and therefore fits between the premium mid-range and the very high-end.
Bezel-less and a swivel camera!
Like other smartphones on the market, the ZenFone 6 has the good idea to offer a large 6.4-inch bezel-less display. Aesthetically, the device is therefore pleasant to look at but also to use since no notch or hole is present.
In addition, unlike the solutions offered by the OnePlus 7 Pro or the OPPO Reno x10 Zoom, the front camera is not hidden in a pop-up or shark fin format. Instead, Asus opted for a rotating camera that he called "Flip camera". Thus it is the double dorsal camera that can rotate 180 degrees to be used for selfies. Asus guarantees 100,000 movements for its motorized rotating camera, or 28 camera movements per day for five years. For added protection, a sensor on the module also detects the acceleration rate, allowing the rotating camera to automatically return to a safe position in the event of a fall.
If this choice may surprise you, it is quite clever and rather original in a market that, with the exception of folding smartphones, has become quite classic. Asus thus stands out from the competition. An interesting choice in my opinion because it prevents Asus' smartphone, whose reputation when it comes to true high-end smartphones is yet unproven, from offering a pale copy of what already exists. It remains to be seen whether the use of this rotating camera is practical on a daily basis.
Interestingly, Asus decided to keep a traditional fingerprint reader and not a reader under the screen. It's a question of cost (a reader under the screen is more expensive) but personally, given current technology, it's not necessarily a bad decision. I have already shared my opinion on the subject.
Other positive features include a mini-jack, stereo sound and LED notification, while on the negative side, the ZenFone 6 does not require wireless charging and sealing. I also remain skeptical about the Asus logo written in blue on the back of the black model. If it makes the brand stand out clearly, I would have appreciated a little more discretion.
For the rest, this ZenFone 6 is an elegant smartphone thanks to a combination of metal and glass. The handling is good and the solidity seems to be there, but the smartphone is quite heavy (weight of 196 grams) and has a certain thickness because of its large battery.
Not AMOLED but IPS
Top of the range, Asus has opted for a 6.4-inch IPS display, the colors seem bright and the brightness seems to be very correct (Asus promises 600 nits), even in sunny environments like Valencia.
The definition is Full HD+. This is not necessarily a problem for most users, but big players will certainly prefer the latest OnePlus smartphone (OP7 Pro) because of its definition and refresh rate above 90 Hz. In any case, a more complete test will allow us to know more about the screen's capabilities.
ZenUI 6 and Android Pie on the menu
Often criticized in the past (and rightly so) for its bloatware-infested interface, Asus has evolved and now offers a particularly clean and refined OS, very close to an Android stock version, but not everything is perfect yet. We still find non-removable apps (Facebook, Messenger and Instagram to name but a few) that are still resisting, but Asus is making significant progress.
With the ZenFone 6, Asus also introduces ZenUI 6, an Android version based on Android Pie. The redesigned interface includes new animations and has been designed to make it easy to use with one hand. A dark mode is also part of it.
During my first use, the ZenFone 6 is pleasant to use and offers remarkable fluidity. Asus has also promised the next two major Android updates, Android Q and Android R, for his new smartphone.
Power under the hood
With the Snapdragon 855 and its 6 or 8 GB of RAM, ZenFone 6 is perfectly equipped to compete with other flagships . My experience obviously didn't allow me to thoroughly test the smartphone and push it to its limits, but I'm not worried about the device's performance, the ZenFone 6 seems well equipped for all types of use and makes no compromises on that point.
A rotating camera
Contrary to what one might have hoped, the ZenFone 6 does not carry the famous magic trio of wide-angle + telephoto + ultra-wide-angle lenses. We have "only" a double camera. The tiltable motorized rotating camera module contains a 48MP Sony IMX586 main camera (f/1.79 aperture) and an ultra-wide 13 MP secondary camera of 125 degrees and 13MP, powered by a motor that rotates the module 180 degrees to rotate the cameras.
When I got started, I found that the focus is fast and the shots seem to be correct. Asus also offers HDR+ and Super Night mode for better results when lighting conditions are degraded. Asus bet on the photo and the bet seems at first sight rather successful considering the price of the device.
Bigger battery, longer life?
This is a tradition often at Asus since the brand has developed a habit of offering rather durable smartphones. In all likelihood, ZenFone 6 should not disappoint us. Despite a rather high technical data sheet, the ZenFone 6 has a battery with a capacity of 5000 mAh. This is enough to last maybe 2 days with intensive use and to compete with the Huawei P30 Pro in this respect, and Asus has also opted for the Quick Charge 4.0 fast recharge. Unfortunately, wireless charging isn't possible.
Asus Zenfone 6 (2019) technical specifications
|Dimensions:||159.1 x 75.4 x 9.2 mm|
|Battery size:||5000 mAh|
|Screen size:||6.4 in|
|Screen:||2340 x 1080 pixels (403 ppi)|
|Front camera:||13 megapixels|
|Rear camera:||48 megapixels|
|Android version:||9 - Pie|
|Internal storage:||128 GB
|Chipset:||Qualcomm Snapdragon 855|
|Number of cores:||8|
|Max. clock speed:||2.8 GHz|
|Connectivity:||HSPA, LTE, NFC, Dual-SIM , Bluetooth 5.0|
First verdict: a real surprise
With its ZenFone 6, Asus makes a bid for originality and pleasantly surprises on the aesthetic level with a rotating camera. With its attractive design and good technical features, the new flagship of the Taiwanese manufacturer has some sex appeal, especially since its performance is also expected to be excellent. Add to that a promising camera and a more affordable price than many rivals and it looks like that Asus has designed a nice product that could become the ideal competitor for the OnePlus 7 and the future Honor 20 Pro.