From time to time, an Android telephone comes out of left discipline and surprises all people with how good it’s. The most recent instance is the Asus ZenFone 6, which you could have seen, due to its distinctive gimmick: a rear digital camera that flips as much as turn out to be the selfie digital camera. It’s one of many many intelligent methods telephone corporations are attempting to make a really edge-to-edge display, and also you’re nearly assured to get a response if you present it off.
The ZenFone 6 is a $499 telephone — $599 in order for you upgraded RAM and storage — and the bar for telephones at that value level is considerably increased than it was. It’s not sufficient anymore for even a “funds” telephone to nail the fundamentals. It has to have one thing that units it aside and above the slew of different sub-$600 telephones. You in all probability assume the ZenFone 6’s camera-flipping trick is its fundamental characteristic, however that’s not my favourite factor about this telephone.
The most effective factor concerning the ZenFone 6 is the battery life, which is astronomically good.
The ZenFone 6 is a giant, thick telephone. It has a 6.Four-inch display, however due to minimal bezels, it’s not fairly as chunky as it would in any other case be. I discovered it exhausting to make use of one-handed and was stunned to see that it weighs lower than an iPhone XS Max as a result of it feels manner heavier.
However the advantage of making a giant telephone implies that Asus may match additional stuff inside. There are the entire mechanics required to get the whole digital camera module to flip out from the again to the entrance. There’s a 5,000mAh battery that may final without end; I’m getting two days of fairly heavy use with no downside. (That’s eight to 9 hours of display time, as Android counts it, together with hours of network- and processor-intensive video games.) Brute drive is probably not essentially the most elegant resolution to extending battery life, however till battery applied sciences enhance, it’s definitely the simplest.
All that house additionally means there’s a headphone jack, which is more and more uncommon however apparently nonetheless thought-about mandatory on midrange and lower-end telephones. Asus couldn’t match wi-fi charging in there, however that is perhaps extra of a value resolution than an area downside. Apart from, charging a 5,000mAh battery at wi-fi charging speeds seems like a nightmare. Apparently, Asus may have chosen a smaller battery with sooner wired charging speeds than the 18W it supported, nevertheless it opted to go together with the larger battery as an alternative.
I’m glad Asus determined to make that trade-off. In reality, I’m glad about a variety of the trade-offs that Asus made with the ZenFone 6.
The display is an ideal instance. It’s enormous, nevertheless it’s solely 1080 x 2340, so it’s not as tack-sharp as screens on different telephones. It’s additionally an LCD as an alternative of OLED, which suggests the blacks are much less black and it’s tough to see outside, however each selections imply that the ZenFone 6 might be cheaper. The lower-resolution display additionally implies that the telephone must push fewer pixels, which is a big boon to the battery life.
Asus pushed the display out near the sting of the telephone, but there’s nonetheless a bezel as a result of eliminating these previous few millimeters means including a number of hundred to the associated fee. However for all that, the display nonetheless appears to be like spectacular as a result of it’s large, the bezels are small, and there’s no notch or digital camera cutout.
Asus minimize prices with out making it really feel like a cut-rate telephone. There’s a fingerprint sensor on the again, which is glass however feels nearly like metallic. The telephone feels good and stable, however you may positively discover the seams between the totally different components that make up the physique. In comparison with the $479 Pixel 3A XL, the ZenFone 6 is a large improve in each manner however one: the digital camera.
All proper, I’ve made you wait lengthy sufficient: let’s speak about that wild digital camera. It flips! There’s a 48-megapixel fundamental sensor paired with a 13-megapixel huge angle lens. Flipping it round means you get the high-quality cameras on your selfies as an alternative of no matter tiny little factor can match above or contained in the display on different telephones. Plus — and I can’t emphasize this sufficient — it flips.
Clearly, I can’t communicate to its sturdiness over time, nevertheless it appears stable after every week of use, and Asus has given the same old guarantees that it’ll maintain up. The telephone doesn’t have a rated mud or water resistance IP quantity, so I’d keep away from letting both get wherever close to the mechanism. It’ll additionally auto-flip again to its dwelling place if it detects a fall.
It doesn’t transfer as rapidly as you need, taking possibly a second to do its factor, however that’s solely a half-second longer than many digital camera apps take to modify over to the selfie digital camera anyway.
Past exhibiting off the flip to your mates, you can too transfer it manually utilizing the quantity keys. Meaning you may maintain the telephone in numerous positions to get your shot. One factor I discovered early on is that it may be a bit of creepy. You seem like you’re holding your telephone to textual content, however actually, the digital camera has subtly flipped out so you may take a photograph, like so:
The rule for funds telephones was that irrespective of how good all the things else was, the digital camera was crap. The Pixel 3A broke that development, and whereas I feel the 3A is healthier than the ZenFone 6’s dual-camera setup, it’s not by a lot. The ZenFone 6 kicks out 12-megapixel pictures by default which might be surprisingly good for a telephone on this value vary.
Its pictures aren’t as contrasty because the Pixel or as spectacular because the OnePlus 7 Professional, however in first rate lighting, it was generally extra of a matter of desire than high quality between these telephones. One factor to know is that, in dim lighting, the ZenFone’s digital camera falls down, no less than when in comparison with the Pixel.
However with selfies, properly, the ZenFone stacks the deck through the use of its fundamental sensors, so these pictures are constantly higher than what you’re in all probability used to. I’ll additionally be aware that I like Asus’ digital camera software program — together with the easy-to-understand magnificence modes — however understanding what outcomes you’ll get between “Auto HDR+” and “HDR++” modes is a little bit of a crapshoot.
One of many causes this felt like such a shock is as a result of it didn’t come out of nowhere. It got here from Asus, which has a mediocre monitor document with telephones. Nevertheless it has cleaned up its act with the ZenFone 6, considerably altering its software program philosophy to concentrate on much less intrusive options. Like Motorola, Asus has made its model of Android really feel very near the vanilla model that you just get on a Google Pixel, with additional options tucked away in obtrusive locations in order for you them.
There’s a sport mode, nevertheless it doesn’t hassle you should you don’t need it. You’ll be able to select between a number of totally different core navigation options. There’s wacky stuff for making duplicate variations of apps, utilizing AI to optimize reminiscence utilization, and a bunch of different stuff that you could be by no means use. (However no less than they’re buried in settings as an alternative of in your face.)
I actually love the splendidly programmable additional button you can set to do plenty of various things. Sadly, Asus put it on the top-right of the telephone, so it’s practically unimaginable to achieve.
The Asus ZenFone 6 is the best choice at 500 bucks — so long as you don’t thoughts a giant telephone.
You will get a greater digital camera or a nicer display for a pair hundred extra with the OnePlus 7 Professional. You’ll be able to spend a pair hundred greater than that to get telephones which might be genuinely luxurious, just like the iPhone XS or the Samsung Galaxy Word 10. You’ll be able to spend manner much less and get a slower processor or a smaller telephone. Regardless that it looks like your telephone selections are dwindling, that’s probably not true. There are tons of choices.
It may be exhausting for a telephone to justify its existence amongst so many choices, however the Asus ZenFone 6 completely has. It’s a battery champion for not an excessive amount of cash that doesn’t sacrifice the stuff telephones often should, like display measurement, the digital camera, or velocity.
The flippy digital camera is a neat trick, however the true magic is getting the issues folks really need right into a $500 telephone.
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Pictures by Dieter Bohn / The Verge