There is a very large hole in the smartphone market, especially the premium smartphone market.  That hole is about the size of the new Asus Zenfone 10.  Virtually every single premium smartphone in 2023 is large but our pockets are not getting any bigger.  

What about those who want a powerful smartphone that takes great photos and doesn’t scrimp on any specs aside from size?  Unfortunately, we have been starved for an answer here, especially after Sony left the worldwide smartphone market.  Asus though, have slotted into the gap nicely with their Zenfone phones – a compact premium smartphone with everything you could ask for.

Last year Dan absolutely loved the Zenfone 9 so this year when we were sent the Zenfone 10 we were excited to see what another year of evolution did to the best compact smartphone on the market.  

Charles Darwin would be impressed with the Zenfone 10 and its evolution, although not everything has seemingly improved there is enough here for us to once again be impressed.

Hardware and design

As soon as you pick up the Zenfone 10 you will feel its quality.  It is a solid phone and although it is lighter than the Pixel 8 (172g v 187g) it feels better built. The shape of the phone is the same as last year with it being relatively boxy.  It won’t win any beauty competitions, but it feels safe and secure in the hand and not like it is about to slip out at any time.

It feels this way due to the back of the phone being covered not in a mirrored glass like so many devices these days but with a coarse matte material.  The Zenfone 10 will not surprise you with any slipping and sliding around and off benchtops etc.

The size of the Zenfone 10 is the big selling point here though of course and measuring at just 146.5 x 68.1 x 9.4mm, although slightly thicker, it is smaller than the Pixel 8 at 150.5 x 70.8 x 8.9 mm. 

The Zenfone 10 is easy to use with one hand, and even easier if you use the Zenfone software to place the UI into a single hand mode.  I preferred the normal mode but it was easy to pocket and use with a single hand.

The right-hand side of the Zenfone 10 houses the volume rocker and the power button that doubles as a fingerprint sensor – called the Smart Key.  The fingerprint sensor is accurate and fast but I would recommend you make sure you set it at requiring the button itself to be pressed rather than press and touch.  The Smart Key button can also be used for gestures including pulling down the notification shade which is extremely useful if there is something you do quite a bit, this shortcut will make your life easier.

When I had it set to touch the phone often unlocked itself while I was putting it into my pocket.  So many times I picked the phone out and it had navigated to various apps and screens (at one stage it changed the description of an EFTM chat we have going – sorry Trevor).  It is possible that the sensor is TOO sensitive.  Changing it to press only though solved this issue. There is also a Pocket Mode to make the display less responsive while in the pocket — this worked too but strange I haven’t needed this for any other phone in the last five years.

The rear of the device has the dual rear camera along with subtle ASUS Zenfone branding and logo.  This year they have not included any writing of the version of the Zenfone nor the cameras included like they did last year.  Regarding the camera bumps I’m not entirely sure why manufacturers include such massive bumps as part of their rear cameras – the cameras aren’t actually that big.  Is it to give the illusion of the camera being bigger (and therefore better of course) than they are?

The bottom of the phone houses the USB-C port, speaker and SIM tray – dual SIM support for the Zenfone 10 which is nice but the next big ticket item is at the top of the phone.  The 3.5mm headphone jack.  Very few phones have headphone jacks these days so it is nice to see Asus keep this, although I wonder just what had to give way to allow this to be included?  Just how many people use wired headphones with a smartphone these days? 

The astonishing thing about all this is that the Zenfone 10 also includes IP68 dust and water resistance, as well as Corning Gorilla Glass Victus on the front, making this phone quite durable to everyday knocks – or accidental dunkings. 


As you would expect on a smaller phone, the display is smaller, this time a 5.92-inch FHD+ (1080P) AMOLED panel which is not ideal but with a display this small a higher resolution will just make everything on the display show even smaller.

The display gives you the ability to lock the refresh rate to 60, 90 or 120Hz or you can have it adjust manually on the fly between 60 and 120Hz.  It is disappointing that they haven’t included a display that can drop all the way down to 1Hz when required to save battery life but if there’s one thing you don’t have to worry about with the Zenfone 10, it’s the battery life.

There is also a 144Hz refresh rate but that only kicks in while playing fast-paced games.  

The brightness of the display goes up to 1,100nits peak brightness which is easily good enough to enable reading in sunlight – sure the Pixel 8 can go to 2,000nits but the 1,100 of the Zenfone is good enough.  

Inside the box Asus include a small case but this case won’t protect it from drops but will help protect it from scratches.  If you want a drop case there are some available at JB Hi-Fi, including the DevilCase Guardian which we tested out and were impressed with.  This fits well and will project your phone from a majority of slips, drops and falls.


The Asus Zenfone 10 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset and up to 16GB of RAM in the 512GB storage version – you only get 8GB in the 256GB version, but I am sure 8GB would be fine to run the OS as Asus have set it up.  Minimalistic but more on that below.

Accompanying the premium Snapdragon chipset is support for Wi-Fi 6/6E, and Wi-Fi 7, 5G, NFC, and Bluetooth 5.3, which while not essentially required in 2023, helps to future-proof the phone.

Asus has also included various audio enhancements in their software to help you get the best possible audio experience out of the phone.  I used them but, in the end, preferred the audio enhancements included in PowerAMP already (when playing FLAC files for quality music).  

The audio enhancements include dual audio speakers – but come one everyone, please stop listening to your music using tiny little smartphone speakers.  If you are on your own, cast to better speakers or headphones and if you are in public no one else wants to hear your music.  Also included is Qualcomm aptX Lossless and Adaptive, DIRAC and Dirac Virtuo support.  

The speakers are good quality but I am never ever going to be looking for high quality audio from smartphone speakers.  Get yourself some decent earbuds or headphones if you want good quality audio.  For YouTube videos though the speakers were loud enough for me to easily hear it clearly from the other side of the room.

Asus has really focussed on the audio with the Zenfone 10 with an AudioWizard to allow you to access the audio for all of the connected devices.  It’s a nice quick way to alter the sound output but I used it sparingly.

Battery life and charging

The battery is not massive but a respectable 4,300mAh but that is plenty enough to drive the 5.9-inch 1080P display for over a day with more than 7 to 8 hours of screen on time with my heavy usage.  The smaller, lower res phones always offer better battery life – it would be even better if Asus included a slightly upgraded display to support refresh rates down to 1Hz.

The Zenfone 10 charges faster than the Pixel 8 at 30W – and it includes the 30W charger in the box but there is also support for 15W wireless charging, something that was lacking in the Zenfone 9.  The problem I had with the wireless charging is that all of my wireless chargers are stands and the Zenfone is so small and the charging wireless must be placed quite high (?) so that standing the Zenfone 10 in the stands did not charge it.  Placing it in the stand upside down worked though, strange one but something to be wary of just in case.


The cameras included on the Zenfone 10 are:

Rear camera:

  • Main:50MP IMX766, 6-axis Hybrid Gimbal Stabilizer 2.0, PDAF, f/1.9 
  • Wide:13MP ultrawide, f/2.2、FOV 120° and fixed focus

Front Camera:

  • 32MP RGBW, pixel binning 1.4μm(Actual output photo: 8MP), fixed focus

Asus is really pushing the camera capabilities of the camera system on the Zenfone 10 this year and rightfully so.  Given it is just a dual rear camera system it performs admirably.  

The problem is that this year the ultrawide camera is fixed focus which means there is no macro mode like there was on the Zenfone 9 – and something other premium smartphones do very well with their ultrawide camera.  The up close and personal photos were still quite good but if you are using your camera for macro photos a lot then this may not be the camera for you.  

This ultrawide lens feels like a big step back from last year’s offering with the lack of auto-focus.  Not only does this autofocus affect macro mode but there were times when the focus was entirely lacking while trying to take a quick snapshot.  Why Asus made this decision is unknown but consider how often you would use macro mode and quick shots before deciding if this phone is for you.

The Zenfone 10 offers 2x zoom which is ok but not great. Zoom more and the detail starts to be lacking.  

Night mode *should* turn on automatically when in auto mode but it doesn’t seem to do it every time.  You can turn night mode on manually though, so it isn’t an issue, just something to be aware of.

The big-ticket item in the camera is the second generation of the 6-axis Hybrid Gimbal Stabiliser (v2.0).  This is amazing and is just mind blowing how good it was.   Thanks to the upgraded Snapdragon chipset, the 6-axid gimbal stabiliser and Asus’ Adaptive EIS which takes video from three different FOVs and then combines them, the result is an amazingly virtually motionless video.

I hadn’t really tested the 6-axis Hybrid Gimbal Stabiliser 2.0 all that much until I went to the Motley Crue concert the other night and even the seats and stands were literally rocking and my hands were moving as well, the video was nearly perfectly still (see above).  I have seen something similar on the iPhone (Action Mode) and this was equivalent and possibly even better than that.  You can see the comparisons below — unfortunately my ankle isn’t up to running just yet so the action is minimal.


The Zenfone 10 launches with Android 13 running ASUS’ ‘ZenUI’ over the top. The review Zenfone 10 seems to be stuck on security update from April 2023 only but Asus insist that an update from October/November should be available for retail version — For some reason review units are different. One good thing is that Asus do provide the update file on their website if you want to venture into manually applying the update yourself.

Asus has only promised two Android OS version updates which means that Android 15 will be the last update it sees which is disappointing given the long updates Google are offering on the Pixel phones these days — and Android 15 will be on many phones by this time next year.  Android 14 is just about cooked though and will start rolling out to the Zenfone 10 in Q1 2024 – not ideal and something Asus really need to put more effort into if they want to sell more smartphones at this price.

The ZenUI interface retains a lot of what makes stock Android simple and easy to use, but adds in a few touches to make it a little easier to use. 

There are usability improvements in the form of one-handed mode, which allows you to quickly access the notification panel. As well there is the one-handed ‘edge’ tool which sits waiting on the side of the display for a swipe in and shows a list of your most used apps. The Smart Key programming with the power button is also a very nice feature letting you quickly access apps you use, or simply swiping down to access notifications if you need to.

I loved the way Asus has set up their software enhancements allowing for you to keep certain sections of the UI as stock Android (see Pixel software).  There are places where you can choose whether to opt for Asus software or stick to Google’s.  I used a mixture of both throughout the system.  This is how Android should be, the ability to customise the UI how you want it and tailor it to how you prefer to use your phone.

Who buys the Asus Zenfone 10?

Compact phones are really not a thing anymore.  For folks who prefer a compact phone, and a lot of people do, they just haven’t had that option in recent years, the Zenfone 10 is for them.  The Pixel 8 is small but this is even smaller.  

Even with the smaller size the phone performs at a premium level with apps opening quickly and switching between apps is a breeze.  The camera is definitely acceptable and although lacks a dedicated macro mode, auto-focus and a decent zoom, works well for such a small phone.  

Do not expect it to perform at an ultra-premium Pixel 8 Pro or iPhone 15 Pro Max level but the images are at a premium level.  The video stabilisation on the other hand is next level.  I’d be comfortable putting it up against anything else on the market – and I will in a few weeks once I can run on my injured ankle.

For camera comparisons keep an eye out for the smartphone camera shootout coming in the next couple of weeks.

The Asus Zenfone 10 is a bump in performance over the Zenfone 9 from last year and although the camera lacks in some areas in comparison it is the best compact smartphone on the market.  

If you’ve had enough of looking like Maxwell Smart (for those old enough to know about his shoe phone) then this is the phone for you with a compact size with very little compromise. The Asus Zenfone 10 is not cheap and although it is better than the Pixel 8, it does cost $300 more. I feel that Asus should have either added a third camera (and autofocus to their wide angle camera) for that price or dropped the price a bit.

To get your hands on the ASUS Zenfone 10, you can head to the ASUS e-store or JB Hi-Fi. The ASUS Zenfone 10 with 16GB RAM / 512GB storage is priced at $1,499 AUD, while the Zenfone 10 with 8GB RAM and 256GB of storage will be priced at $1,299 AUD.