Asus Zenfone 8 Review: The powerful tiny giant

Flagship smartphones are often characterised by top-of-the-line processor, huge displays and triple or quadruple cameras.

However, Asus Zenfone 8 seems to buck the trend. It features Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 888 5G processor. But it only has a 5.9-inch display and a rear dual-camera system without a telephoto camera.

Taking the Zenfone 8 out for a spin. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Asus is targeting this particular segment of consumers who are tired of big chunky smartphones but yet want the best performance. And I don’t think there are any flagship compact Android smartphones right now in a similar mould like Zenfone 8.

PRICE: From $999 (available in Lazada and Shopee)
PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G
DISPLAY: 5.9-inch FHD+ Amoled, 2,400 x 1,080 pixels, 120Hz refresh rate
OPERATING SYSTEM: ZenUI 8 (based on Android 11)
REAR CAMERAS: 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle, 64MP f/1.8 wide-angle
MEMORY: 256GB; 8GB or 16GB RAM
BATTERY: Non-removable 4,000mAh
WEIGHT: 169g

Available in silver and black (version reviewed), the Zenfone 8 is immaculately built. The metallic body feels solid and sturdy.

In fact, the smartphone has a IP68 rating for resistance against water and dust. The display is also protected by Corning Gorilla Glass Victus.

The Asus Zenfone 8. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

The volume rocker and power button resides on the left side of the smartphone. On its top, there is a 3.5mm headphone jack. Yes, your wired headphones can be used with this smartphone.

A headphone jack can be found on the top of Zenfone 8. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

The display might be a small 5.9 inches, but it is a superb display. It has a refresh rate of up to 120Hz like a flagship as well as outdoor brightness of 800 nits. So, you can still see the display clearly under bright sunlight.

Due to the small display, the Zenfone 8 is compact and very suitable for one-hand usage.

The Zenfone 8 is only slightly bigger than the iPhone 12 mini. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

I don’t know why Asus includes a customisable one-hand mode. Because I find myself not needing to use it at all. All the apps on the display are easily reachable with my thumb. I can also reach the on-display fingerprint sensor without any issue.

I also like that the Zenfone’s smooth back is not much of a fingerprint and smudge magnet. However, it does feel a tad slippery. So you might want to be careful about that.

With a flagship processor like Snapdragon 888 5G, performance is almost guaranteed. In the GeekBench 5 benchmark tests, the Zenfone 8 scored 1,125 (single-core) and 3,684 (multi-core).

+ Excellent performance
+ Super one-hand usage
+ Great build quality
+ A headphone jack (OMG!)

– Display might be too small for some
– Lack of telephoto camera
– Does not come with expandable storage
– No wireless charging

That means it performs better than the flagship smartphones like vivo X60 Pro – score of 1,015 (single-core) 3,387 (multi-core) – and Samsung’s flagship S21 Ultra that scored 939 (single-core) and 3092 (multi-core).

And thanks to display’s 120Hz refresh rate, scrolling through any browser or social media feeds feel much smoother.

With the great display and fast processor, there are no lag playing games like Mobile Legends: Bang Bang or PUBG Mobile.

But the small display does make it harder to see during gameplay. I can’t help but squint when playing games due to my ageing eyes. Not the display’s fault though.

Furthermore, the Zenfone 8 does not come with expandable storage. So, you are stuck with the 256GB built-in storage.

The Zenfone 8’s rear camera system only comes with an ultra-wide-angle camera and wide-angle camera. It does not have a telephoto optical zoom camera.

Nonetheless, the pictures taken under bright sunlight by Zenfone 8 are pretty good with sharp details and accurate colour reproduction.

The ultra-wide-angle shots by Zenfone 8 do not show much distortion on its sides. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

In addition, the ultra-wide-angle shots display very little distortion on its sides, which is commendable. Some flagship smartphones have failed in this respect.

The night shots taken are also surprisingly good with very little visible noise and capture details competently.

This playground is actually pitch dark in real life. Nice job by Zenfone 8. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Not to mention, the front-facing punch-hole camera does a great job in shooting portraits with nice bokeh effects that do not “cut” into the main subject.

Portraits shot with the front-facing camera are pretty decent. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

In terms of battery life, the Zenfone 8 performs superbly. It lasted 9 hours 55 minutes in our usual video-loop battery test whereby we loop a 720p video with the display set at maximum brightness and 120Hz refresh rate.

By comparison, the longest record is still held by Oppo’s flagship Find X3 Pro, which lasted 10 hours 32 minutes (with a 120Hz display).

Mileage will of course differ based on usage. But like every Singaporean does on a normal day such as checking emails, reading news feed and scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, I found that the Zenfone 8 still has around 50 per cent battery life by the time I go to bed.

However, it does not come with wireless charging. Some might prefer this convenience, while others will not find this lacking.

If you are looking for a compact but super powerful Android smartphone, the Asus Zenfone 8 will fit the bill perfectly.

FEATURES: 7.5/10
DESIGN: 7.5/10

Trevor Tan

Started out with dreams to become a street photographer, Trevor Tan somehow became a tech journalist with over 16 years of consumer tech experience. Maybe he plays too much video games and buys too many new gadgets.
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