The ASUS Zenfone series has been high on my list of devices to review for many years. With the launch of the Zenfone 8 and Zenfone 8 Flip in Australia for the first time, I’m finally getting some hands on time, with the Zenfone 8 Flip on the review bench.
ASUS announced two Zenfone 8 phones, but it’s the Flip we’re reviewing this time around. The focus for the Zenfone 8 was a compact flagship, and while the Zenfone Flip 8 is slightly larger and isn’t quite as full featured, it still has a lot of the same design language and powerful hardware underneath.
The Zenfone Flip 8 is launching this month for $1,199 so it puts it firmly up against the higher-end of the mobile market here in Australia. I used the ASUS Zenfone 8 Flip for a full two weeks, and here’s how it went.
Hardware and Design
ASUS announced the Zenfone 8 and the Zenfone 8 Flip earlier this month, and while the Zenfone 8 is considered the the flagship, the Zenfone 8 Flip still has a lot of oomph where it counts, with a top of the line (for 2021) Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
The differences between the Zenfone 8 models show trade-offs and benefits, with the Zenfone 8 Flip getting a telephoto lens on its camera module, as well as a larger 5,000mAh battery, where as the Zenfone 8 gets an IP68 water/dust resistance rating, OIS in the camera, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a 120Hz display with Gorilla Glass Victus.
Beyond the features, the most obvious physical difference between the two is the camera system which flips the whole rear camera array over the display to act as a selfie camera when needed. This flippable camera array of course means you don’t have a dedicated selfie camera on the front, but also means you don’t have a big notch in the front of the big Samsung-made 6.67-inch OLED display on the front.
The display itself is beautiful, though it’s ‘only’ 90Hz as opposed to the Zenfone 8 which has a 120Hz panel. It’s fast, bright and responsive though and looks good even in bright daylight. As a nod to their ROG heritage, the Zenfone 8 Flip display also supports a 200Hz sampling rate, so if you’re into gaming it should be quite responsive as well.
The actual phone design – beyond that flipping camera module – is a fairly traditional rectangle, with a gentle curve on the sides of the rear of the phone that make it comfortable to hold – though the gloss finish on the rear is an absolute fingerprint magnet (Matte finish next time please).
The volume rocker and power button – which is delightfully coloured blue, making it stand out against the black finish of the phone – are on the right, with the SIM tray on the left.
The volume and power buttons are nicely ‘clicky’ and sit halfway up the phone making them easy to reach even with one hand – something that goes nicely with a refined one-hand mode ASUS have built into the software.
You do get stereo sound on the Zenfone Flip 8, though no 3.5mm headphone jack – that flip module doesn’t leave a lot of room at the top of the phone. ASUS has partnered with DIRAC to supply audio tuning with four audio profiles and a 10-band graphic equaliser to let you tune the audio to your own personal taste.
While the sound isn’t going to blow you away, but the DIRAC tuning does let you make it sound a little better to your personal taste. The sound is clear, though can’t really be turned up with the speakers tending to distort a little when volume is pumped up.
Lastly, if you’re worried at all about the fingerprint magnet on the rear of the phone, you’ll be happy to note that ASUS includes a case, specially designed to accommodate the Flip camera module in the box. The case is sturdy and has discrete ASUS Zenfone branding inlaid on the back, and also has a small switch that can be toggled to lock the flip module in place. It’s a decent case, and ASUS get a nod for including it in the box.
ASUS has included a very large 5,000mAh battery in the Zenfone 8 Flip. It’s quite a big battery, though it’s also pushing the 6.67” FHD+ display, powering 5G and a SD888 processor. In terms of daily use, the Zenfone 8 can consistently last a full day with around 5-6 hours of screen on time.
In terms of charging, the Zenfone 8 Flip includes a 30W ‘HyperCharge’ Adapter in the box. This is a decent speed, with the Zenfone 8 Flip able to charge up about 50% full in just 30 minutes.
There’s also some battery ‘smarts’ included with the ASUS ZenUI software, like scheduled charging which can throttle charging so it’s not sitting at 100% charging overnight. Batteries don’t respond well to continual charge once they reach 100% so this should extend the life of your battery long term.
There’s no Wireless Charging onboard, with ASUS saying they didn’t want to sacrifice battery space to maintain the size. While it’d be nice to just make it thicker, ASUS says thicker phones can be unwieldy, and they’re right, but I’d like to see a phat Zenfone 8 Flip with wireless charging.
Where ASUS don’t focus on the camera for their ROG series of phones, the Zenfone series are a completely different kettle of fish, with the latest Sony IMX camera sensors on board. The Zenfone 8 Flip has a triple camera array with a telephoto camera added to the mix. The main shooter is a 64MP Sony IMX686 main sensor, while you also get a 12MP Sony IMX363 Ultra-Wide sensor with 112˚ Field-of-View and an 8MP sensor with 3x Optical zoom.
There’s obviously no selfie camera on board with the flippable camera module easily, and quickly able to flip over the top of the phone when required. ASUS has ensured the module is ready for a LOT of use with the enhanced motor module rated for 300,000 flips – that’s 150 flips per day for 5 years! They also have a G-sensor programmed to retract the module if a fall is detected.
The module is smooth, and I’ll tell you right now, a heck of a lot of fun to flip back and forth – and I guarantee you that whoever picks the phone up will definitely try this out.
In terms of quality of the photos, the Zenfone 8 Flip is quite the shooter. The 64MP main sensor offers up a crisp, in-focus shot which captures the vibrancy of colours and brightness. Details in the photos are distinct and easy to pick out, so overall it’s a pretty impressive shot, even in low light.
The Ultra-Wide camera offers a decent option for shooting wide, though 112˚ isn’t as wide as I’d like. That said, it does the job and also supports a macro mode which can shoot as close as 4cm. I don’t tend to use macro mode often – who does? But it is handy to have when you need it. The quality isn’t quite as good as the 64MP main shooter, but it’s still a good shot.
The 3x Optical zoom is handy, though in front of an 8MP sensor you tend to get shots that are grainy and lack the details of shots from either the main or ultra-wide sensors. You can push the zoom out to 12x which uses digital. It’s not exactly the best shot – but it is there if you need it.
You’ll find Pro Mode for still shots, as well as other camera modes including portrait mode which offers a decent blurring of the background, while keeping the subject crips and in focus. You also get a panorama mode – and yes, the Flip module can slowly flip to capture a lovely panorama.
On video, you can just shoot or opt to take advantage of the Pro Video Mode. You can set all your White Balance, ISO and exposure settings for video, and also shoot in up to 8K/30 video, though you’ll probably want to opt for the 4K/60 option which is a little better.
Overall, the camera on the Zenfone 8 Flip is very well done, and sits right up there with the best on the market.
Launching with Android 11, and running the March 2021 security update, the Zenfone 8 Flip will get updated. ASUS has pushed the April 2021 security update in the time I’ve been reviewing the phone and ASUS says they’ll offer at least two OS updates.
As far as ZenUI goes, it’s clean, fast and has almost no bloatware pre-installed. You get all the features of Android 11: Dark Mode, Digital Wellbeing, Gesture navigation etc. but not a lot of cruft. There are some utility apps – Gallery, Weather, Calculator, Sound Recorder and Data Transfer app – but for the most part it’s just Android 11 with just a few inclusions to improve the user experience.
One of those improvements is the new one-handed mode. Swiping down on the home screen compacts the whole UI so you can easily reach the notification panel and more. It’s a handy thing when you need it, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it pushed to the main Android build.
ZenUI keeps it simple, and this obviously helps with things like performance and of course battery life. It’s clean, fresh and does the job well.
Should you buy this phone?
After 7 years of Zenfone, ASUS has refined their phones to a fine point and it’s hard to miss the quality, and care taken with designing the phone. ASUS has packed it with top of the line features where needed and the overall package is impressive.
That’s not to say it’s perfect though. The phone is ‘missing’ features like Wireless charging, IP65/68 protection, headphone jack and ‘only’ has a 90Hz refresh rate on the display. But these are all features that aren’t deal-breakers to a lot of users.
The Flip module on the phone definitely improves the quality of your front-facing photos – if that’s important to you. If it’s not, then it’s certainly an eye-catching talking point.
Overall, the ASUS Zenfone Flip 8 is a great phone. The flip camera module is a distinctive feature which will certainly improve your selfie game and provide those high quality shots you want.
At $1,199 it’s a powerful phone that ticks a lot of boxes with the bonus of excellent selfies. The Zenfone Flip 8 launches in Australia this month, and it’s definitely worth taking a look when it arrives.