What constitutes a high-end phone tailored for power users and, ideally, one that’s also affordable? Asus is keen to show us with the Zenfone 6 and it doesn’t hurt that after all the practical considerations the phone ended up having a super-cool rotating camera.
It’s a dual camera assembly mounted on a motorized rig that flips 180 degrees to take selfies – Asus has unimaginatively dubbed it Flip Camera. The actual modules are a Quad Bayer 48MP primary one and a 13MP ultra wide – so no telephoto. But on the flip (ahem…) side you’d be getting primary-camera-grade selfies, ultra wide ones too, plus some of the highest quality selfie videos on the market.
The display appears to be the sole compromise in the specsheet – in a segment dominated by OLEDs, the Zenfone 6 comes with an LCD. LCDs aren’t inherently bad, however, and we’ll see how this one performs.
Performance is key for power users, so there’s the Snapdragon 855 in charge of things. Those folks also have large collections of whatever, so Asus made sure to include a dedicated microSD slot. And since they’re constantly on their phones, the 6 has one of the biggest batteries around at 5,000mAh.
Asus Zenfone 6 ZS630KL specs
- Body: Aluminum frame, Gorilla Glass back, 159.1×75.4×9.2mm, 190g; Midnight Black and Twilight Silver color schemes.
- Display: 6.4″ IPS LCD, 1080x2340px, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 403ppi, Gorilla Glass 6.
- Camera: Motorized rotating dual camera assembly. Main module: 48MP, 1/2.0″ SONY IMX586 Quad Bayer sensor, f/1.79 aperture, 79-degree FOV (26mm equiv. focal length), laser/PDAF. Ultra wide module: 13MP, f/2.4 aperture, 125-degree FOV (11mm equiv. focal length), fixed focus. Dual LED flash.
- Video recording: Up to 4K [email protected] with EIS on the main cam, up to [email protected] with EIS on the ultra wide, slow-motion up to [email protected] or [email protected] (only on the main cam).
- OS/Software: Android 9.0 Pie, ZenUI 6.
- Chipset: Snapdragon 855 (7nm): octa-core CPU (1×2.8GHz & 3×2.4GHz Kryo Gold & 4×1.7GHz Kryo 485 Silver); Adreno 640 GPU.
- Memory: Up to 8GB RAM, up to 256GB UFS 2.1 storage, dedicated microSD card slot.
- Battery: 5,000mAh capacity, 18W QuickCharge 4.0 fast charging, 10W reverse charging.
- Connectivity: Dual-SIM; LTE-A, 6-Band carrier aggregation, Cat.18 (1.2Gbps/150Mbps); Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac/ax MU-MIMO; GPS, GLONASS, Beidou, Galileo; NFC; Bluetooth 5.0; FM radio. USB Type-C, 3.5mm jack.
- Misc: Rear-mounted capacitive fingerprint sensor, stereo speakers.
There are certain things you won’t find on the Zenfone 6 for one reason or another. Wireless charging, for example, would have pushed an already less than svelte phone into ‘too thick’ territory, while a proprietary super-fast charging tech like Oppo’s or Huawei’s would have meant a smaller battery or, again, an increase in thickness. And then, the lack of an IP rating is hardly a surprise given the moving bits, but then even the entirely static and more expensive OnePlus 7 Pro isn’t officially IP-rated either.
Admittedly this next one is the definition of nitpicking, but wouldn’t it have been great if the Zenfone 6 had an infrared emitter? Some power users can surely come up with uses for that.
Asus Zenfone 6 unboxing
The Zenfone 6 ships in a large black box with a glowing outline of the phone on top with a large ‘6’ inside it. Asus has also stamped the ‘Flip Camera’ logo on one of the sides in addition to the brand logo and the ‘Zenfone 6’ inscriptions.
After you remove the lid, you’re greeted by a gray cardboard sleeve with another instance of the ‘Flip Camera’ logo. Inside the sleeve you’ll find a clear hard plastic bumper case with just the right cutouts to allow the camera to rotate freely.
The phone itself is underneath and after dispensing with another layer of cardboard you reveal the accessories. You’d be getting a QuickCharge 4 adapter, quite a chunky unit, rated at 9V/2A and 5V/2A. It’s got a USB-A out and there’s a USB-A-to-C cable to go with it. Additionally, Asus bundles a set of in-ear headphones and a handful of different tips.
Design and 360-degree view
The Asus design team started off the Zenfone 6 project by settling on a screen size. The 6.4-inch 19.5:9 aspect display offered the best possible compromise between display area and ease of use, the last bit being dictated mostly by the width.
The IPS LCD is near bezelless, with a minimal frame on the sides and the top, and a slightly thicker chin. If you go out of your way looking for it like we do, you may notice the top bezel is marginally thicker than the sides. If you’re a normal person, you probably won’t notice it and/or care about it.
Asus has fitted a conventional earpiece which moonlights as a secondary loudspeaker. There are the usual ambient light and proximity sensors to the right of the earpiece, plus an RGB LED status/notification light.
The front of the Zenfone 6 is covered in the latest Gorilla Glass 6 for scratch and shatter resistance.
You can’t miss the lack of a seflie camera notch or punch hole, or any such in-between solutions. Asus has handled this gracefully by fitting that rotating main camera on the back.
No-nonsense top bezel • Flip camera front and back
The motorized camera is the Zenfone 6’s standout feature, but Asus insists it’s a byproduct of other decisions instead of being conceived this way. Well, we like where the development process got them.
The Flip Camera (capitalized, as it appears Asus is treating it as a brand) consists of two modules mounted on a rotating platform. It’s made of liquid metal, an alloy which Asus says is 4x stronger than steel. The platform is driven by a stepper motor which together with its gearbox occupies a large portion of the right ‘horn’ on the back – we’d go ahead and call the whole thing ‘huge’, because that’s what it is in smartphone terms.
The combination of a big battery and a camera assembly that takes up more than the usual amount of space created additional challenges when it came to the internal design. The solution was a two-piece stacked motherboard in the space above the battery and surrounding the camera. This is, of course, of little significance to you as a user, but it just goes to show the level of effort that went into the Zenfone 6’s design.
For all its uniqueness, the handset does feature a conventional capacitive fingerprint reader on the back. Under-display sensors only work with OLED displays and the Zenfone 6’s target price didn’t allow for that. We rather enjoyed the experience with this sensor – it’s well positioned and works quickly and reliably.
The back of the phone curves to the sides, making it feel more compact than it is. It measures 159.1×75.4×9.2mm which is an average footprint for the display size and slightly thicker than most. It does have that 5,000mAh battery to show for the extra thickness and that’s a tradeoff we can easily applaud.
Looking at that 360-degree spin you probably spotted an extra button on the Zenfone – that’s the Smart Key up top. By default, it’s used to summon the Google Assistant but is customizeable to do other things. More about that in the software section, but let’s just mention here that its high placement is both bad (not easily reachable with one hand) and good (unlikely to get triggered accidentally).
There’s an oversized power button above the midpoint on the right with a blue accent to match the logo on the back. The volume rocker is above it. All the buttons click nicely, there’s no mushiness or anything. The Smart Key additionally has four pimples giving it tactile distinction from the other buttons.
On the opposite side you’ll find the card tray, which takes two nanoSIMs and a microSD at the same time. Dedicated memory card slots are our favorite. We’re also fond of headphone jacks and the Zenfone 6 has one, on the bottom. That’s where the USB-C port is too, as well as the primary mic and the (primary?) loudspeaker.
All controls on the right • Triple card slot • Connectivity, plus mic and loudspeaker on the bottom
Sadly, the Zenfone 6 lacks an IP rating. That seems easily explained by the presence of moving bits that make sealing the body way tougher. On top of that, having dust and water protection on a phone is this price bracket is anything but a given, so we’re not sure we should hold that against it.
6.4-inch display is okay, not great
The Zenfone 6 is equipped with a 6.4-inch IPS LCD with 1080x2340px resolution in a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, for a pixel density of 403ppi. It’s got rounded corners, but no notches or cutouts whatsoever – that was a priority.
Asus explains its choice not to fit an OLED display with costs – the LCD helped stay within budget. Our tests showed that the display is, indeed, not the greatest bit about the Zenfone 6. A maximum brightness of 455nits in auto mode and 424 when adjusting the slider manually isn’t very high. In fact most recent OLEDs can actuallly go brighter, and LCDs should be able to pump out even more nits.
Besides the Adaptive brightness toggle, there’s also one for Brightness Booster. That should add some extra nits for short periods of time, and we were able to occasionally get 478nits readings. There was little consistency between tests, however, so we can’t really speak as to its effectiveness. Additionally, we can’t help but feel that’s one toggle too many.
The fairly high illumination of the blacks means a contrast ratio around 1200:1 – we’ve gotten used to at least 1600:1 from the better LCDs.
Additionally, the brightness slider isn’t remotely linear and we measured 200nits at the 86% setting.
Update, May 29: We dug further into our brightness testing, and came to some peculiar findings. In addition to our usual routine that’s based on an industry-standard software/hardware combination, we did a couple of low-fi tests as well. Opening a pure white image in Chrome got us the promised 600nits, precisely. Viewing the same image in the Gallery app we got 545nits, which is also about what we measured on a blank white area in the settings menu.
So apparently brightness control is not consistent from app to app and you are unlikely to get the advertised max brightness level in all apps.
|Display test||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2||Contrast ratio|
|Asus Zenfone 6 ZS630KL||0.353||424||1201|
|Asus Zenfone 6 ZS630KL (Max Auto)||0.399||455||1140|
|Xiaomi Mi 9||0||428||∞|
|Xiaomi Mi 9 (Max Auto)||0||620||∞|
|OnePlus 7 Pro||0||436||∞|
|OnePlus 7 Pro (Max Auto)||0||616||∞|
|Samsung Galaxy A70||0||407||∞|
|Samsung Galaxy A70 (Max Auto)||0||607||∞|
|vivo V15 Pro||0||429||∞|
|vivo V15 Pro (Max Auto)||0||435||∞|
|Apple iPhone XR||0.425||700||1647|
|Samsung Galaxy S10e||0||389||∞|
|Samsung Galaxy S10e (Max Auto)||0||803||∞|
|Huawei P30 (Max Auto)||0||635||∞|
|Huawei Honor View 20||0.365||479||1313|
We have little praise for the way the Zenfone 6 handles color. While the display does look vibrant in the default Wide gamut mode, it’s not overly accurate. We measured an average deltaE of 5.5 and a maximum of 8.9 for our usual set of DCI-P3 swatches, with the the whites heavily shifted towards blue/cyan. The Standard mode was supposed to be tuned for accurate sRGB rendition but we measured an average deviation with a deltaE of 5.9 and a maximum of 9.7, which is not stellar.
Asus Zenfone 6 battery life
The Zenfone 6 packs a 5,000mAh battery – that would be the biggest battery fitted to a mainstream production phone with the Snapdragon 855. Yes, there’s the nubia Red Magic 3 (5,000mAh), which matches it and then the foldable Energizer Power Max P8100S (10,000mAh), but that last one likely isn’t happening at all.
The point is, high-end phones typically come with smaller batteries than the Zenfone 6. The OnePlus 7 Pro, for example, has a 4,000mAh power pack, the LG G8 ThinQ’s battery is rated at 3,500mAh, while the Xiaomi Mi 9 has a comparatively tiny 3,300mAh cell.
The Zenfone 6 does put its battery to good use. We measured close to 16 hours of web browsing over Wi-Fi or looping videos offline. In our testing the Zenfone was good for more than 36 hours of 3G talk time, which is also a lot. Adding the standby into the mix, we got an overall Endurance rating of 112h.
Our battery tests were automated thanks to SmartViser, using its viSer App. The endurance rating above denotes how long a single battery charge will last you if you use the Asus Zenfone 6 for an hour each of telephony, web browsing, and video playback daily. We’ve established this usage pattern so that our battery results are comparable across devices in the most common day-to-day tasks. The battery testing procedure is described in detail in case you’re interested in the nitty-gritty. You can check out our complete battery test table, where you can see how all of the smartphones we’ve tested will compare under your own typical use.
For comparison, the OnePlus 7 Pro (if set to 60Hz) calls it quits 4 hours earlier when surfing the web, while it marginally outlasts the Zenfone when looping videos. The Mi 9 can do an hour more than the Zenfone in the video playback test (a total of 17 hours), but similarly fails to come close to the Zenfone’s web browsing longevity (12:16h on the Mi 9). The LG G8 trails in the marathon race, with just 9:23h of web browsing and 11:09h of video playback. No high-end phone can remotely threaten the Zenfone’s call time – the OnePlus 7 Pro comes closest at 34:24h, a good 10 hours short.
The Zenfone 6 supports QuickCharge 4 and USB Power Delivery. It comes bundled with an 18W QC4 adapter, which tops up a fully depleted battery in 2:32h, while a 30-minute charge takes you to 35%. Neither number is truly impressive, but let’s not forget we’re talking about a 5,000mAh power pack here. Using a Power Delivery charger from a Pixel phone (they are all the same across all three generations), we were able to shave off 9 minutes from the full charge time, and we got virtually the same charge after half an hour.
Asus was keen to point out that fitting any sort of faster charging solution would have meant a less dense battery, effectively resulting in either a thicker phone to achieve the same capacity or a smaller capacity (to the tune of 4,000mAh). Neither was acceptable so they went with the 5,000mAh and QC4 combo.
The Zenfone 6 has a stereo speaker configuration with a main loudspeaker on the bottom and the earpiece serving as the other channel in the pair. In landscape the phone switches the channels to match the orientation, while in portrait the earpiece is always the left channel. The dedicated speaker is louder, naturally, though it doesn’t have a particular kick in the lows.
There’s no shortage of decibels, however, and the Zenfone 6 easily scores an Excellent rating in our three-pronged test.
|Speakerphone test||Voice, dB||Pink noise/ Music, dB||Ringing phone, dB||Overall score|
|Samsung Galaxy A40||66.2||68.3||73.6||Good|
|Xiaomi Mi Mix 3||67.9||71.6||73.7||Good|
|Oppo F11 Pro||67.6||72.3||80.5||Very Good|
|Realme X||67.9||73.5||80.4||Very Good|
|vivo V15 Pro||65.0||74.1||83.6||Very Good|
|Oppo RX17 Pro||68.3||72.7||81.8||Very Good|
|Samsung Galaxy A50||68.9||71.3||82.7||Very Good|
|Xiaomi Mi 9||70.1||74.2||81.6||Very Good|
|Samsung Galaxy S10e||71.2||76.8||80.6||Excellent|
|Asus Zenfone 6||77.0||75.9||81.2||Excellent|
|OnePlus 7 Pro||79.6||77.7||87.2||Excellent|
|Google Pixel 3a XL||79.3||77.1||91.1||Excellent|
The Asus Zenfone 6 did very well with an active external amplifier – its scores fell slightly short of most other phones, but they are still excellent in general terms. The degradation caused by headphones was well contained too – stereo crosstalk rose to just above average, but the other readings remained solid.
Where the Zenfone 6 truly impresses is loudness – its volume is higher that just about all of its competitors, save for the Nokia 9 PureView, which it only matched. Good job, Asus!
|Test||Frequency response||Noise level||Dynamic range||THD||IMD + Noise||Stereo crosstalk|
|Asus Zenfone 6||+0.03, -0.01||-85.8||86.8||0.0012||0.014||-76.2|
|Asus Zenfone 6 (headphones)||+0.05, -0.01||-81.1||82.7||0.0068||0.059||-52.0|
|OnePlus 7 Pro||+0.03, -0.01||-93.0||92.6||0.0023||0.021||-89.6|
|OnePlus 7 Pro (headphones)||+0.10, -0.05||-92.0||91.4||0.0034||0.106||-74.8|
|Huawei P30 Pro||+0.04, -0.02||-90.5||90.4||0.0014||0.013||-93.0|
|Huawei P30 Pro (headphones)||+0.14, -0.23||-90.4||90.3||0.0046||0.211||-47.0|
|Samsung Galaxy S10||+0.03, -0.04||-92.2||92.0||0.0015||0.0079||-92.7|
|Samsung Galaxy S10 (headphones)||+0.06, -0.03||-91.9||91.7||0.0020||0.037||-77.0|
|LG G8 ThinQ||+0.01, -0.03||-94.1||93.5||0.0013||0.0069||-87.6|
|LG G8 ThinQ (headphones)||+0.05, -0.05||-93.8||93.1||0.0041||0.063||-61.8|
|LG G8 ThinQ (headphones, QuadDAC)||+0.03, -0.02||-93.7||93.1||0.0014||0.030||-67.4|
|Nokia 9 PureView||+0.01, -0.02||-94.0||94.0||0.0013||0.0064||-93.2|
|Nokia 9 PureView (headphones)||+0.06, -0.04||-93.6||93.5||0.045||0.097||-54.8|
|Xiaomi Mi 9||+0.02, -0.01||-93.9||93.1||0.0015||0.0066||-91.9|
|Xiaomi Mi 9 (headphones)||+0.05, -0.04||-92.6||93.5||0.0026||0.072||-58.7|
Asus Zenfone 6 frequency response
Android 9.0 with ZenUI bits hidden here and there
The Zenfone 6 boots Android 9.0 Pie in mostly stock attire, though there’s a healthy helping of Asus ZenUI bits hidden underneath. Android Q is right around the corner and Asus is planning for the Zenfone 6 to be among the first devices to get it this fall. An update to the next OS version (Android R) is also promised, as are security patches for the next two years.
The lockscreen and homescreen implementations are close to what you’d find on a Pixel, as is the app drawer. A minor difference is the folder view, where you’d get a full screen interface unlike the pop-up view in Google’s implementation, but still the icons are conveniently placed in the bottom half of the screen (unlike, for example, Samsung’s OneUI which pushes the icons high up).
The Zenfone 6 offers three types of navigation and the default is the classic three-button nav bar. There’s a gesture based option that replaces the onscreen buttons with swipes where the buttons are. In those two scenarios you can assign a long press on the task switcher button (or a swipe and hold for the gesture) to capture a screenshot or take you to multi window (or, you know, do nothing other than open the task switcher). Then there’s also the pill-based solution, if you’re into the Pixel way of doing things.
Lockscreen • Homescreen • Folder view • Navigation options
To get to the navigation in the first place, you have the usual unlocking options – PIN, password, and pattern, and then fingerprint and face unlock. Fingerprint enrollment takes about a dozen taps including the peripheral ones. The sensor is always on and is quick to unlock – not the quickest around, but certainly not keeping you waiting. Repeated attempts were a rarity, the norm in our experience was unlocking on the first try.
Then there’s face unlock, which is pretty fast all in itself. However, you need to wake the phone up first, then swipe on the homescreen to trigger the flip camera, which does slow down the entire process considerably. The reasoning behind this approach is obviously to prevent unnecessarily of the motor in a pocket, but perhaps a toggle to skip the swipe step will be appreciated – if you’re waking the phone, you probably want to unlock it also and the proximity sensor should be able to handle the pocket scenario.
The notification area is pretty standard. Asus has added a twist to the quick toggles, and it displays 4 icons per row instead of 3 for a total of 12 – there’s room, why not. Another proprietary feature is the option to pick which icons to shows in the status bar – or, rather, which ones to hide. There’s little to note when it comes to the multi window implementation – it’s pretty basic, just as the task switcher – it gets the job done, but nothing more.
Notifications • A dozen toggles • Hide a bunch of status bar icons • Multi window
Asus includes a bunch of in-house apps, which do try to stick with the stock Android aesthetic. The Clock, Dialer, Gallery and File manager have been tweaked by Asus, but won’t have you scrambling to find what’s where.
Clock • Dialer • File Manager • Gallery
Perhaps more interesting are Mobile Manager and Power Master utilities. The former lets you stay on top of data usage, memory utilization, and privacy. Power Master has the battery saving modes options, as well as a battery care function which monitors your charging habits and administers advice accordingly.
Asus also has a powerful screen recorder available. It’s activated by a toggle in the notification shade, but a long press on the icon lets you tweak the resolution, quality, audio source, and other granular settings. You can also record calls with the built-in sound recorder.
Mobile Manager • Battery care • Screen recorder • Sound recorder
Everyone and their grandmother has a gaming mode these days and the Zenfone 6 will not be left behind. It’s called Game Genie, and offers the expected functionality, and then some. Sure, it keeps alerts at bay and can disable the navigation buttons, but also lets you stream directly to Twitch or YouTube and it can record macros to execute in-game.
And we’ve kept the best for last. The hardware Smart Key is set up by default to activate Google Assistant. However, you can assign the three actions (press, double press, long press) to different tasks – toggle DND mode, toggle the sound mode, take a screenshot, or even turn on the flashlight. Quite useful, right, Bixby?
Power users demand performance, naturally, and the Zenfone 6 delivers. Looking at GeekBench first, we see that the Asus smartphone’s numbers are among the highest in the Android world when it comes to the single-core test – effectively, only the Exynos 9810 powered Galaxy S10s can outperform the Zenfone. The Mi 9 is on par with the Asus offering, while the OnePlus 7 Pro’s result is marginally lower. Of course, the per-core power of Apple’s processors remains unmatched and the iPhone XR is way ahead.
It’s worth pointing out here, that the Zenfone’s software recognizes benchmarking apps and offers to go in a performance boost mode – it’s not cheating, if you’re aware, right? The results we got out of it, however, weren’t markedly better than the regular ones, and with the abundance of power the Snapdragon 855 has, an extra couple of percent improvement is mostly irrelevant.
GeekBench 4.1 (single-core)
Higher is better
- Apple iPhone XR4818
- Samsung Galaxy S10e4518
- Asus Zenfone 63505
- Xiaomi Mi 93503
- Asus Zenfone 6 (Zen Power Boost)3499
- LG G8 ThinQ3419
- OnePlus 7 Pro3402
- Huawei P30 (perf. mode)3351
- Huawei P303295
- Honor View 203211
- OnePlus 6T2431
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 32429
- Nokia 9 PureView2405
- Samsung Galaxy A702391
- Google Pixel 3 XL2363
- Google Pixel 3a XL1615
- Oppo F11 Pro1560
In the multi-core test, the Zenfone 6 puts out some of the highest scores as well, even though it’s bested by both the 7 Pro and the Mi 9 by a thin margin. For what it’s worth, the Zenfone outperforms the S10e, while the XR’s CPU advantage isn’t as pronounced here – it still takes the top spot, of course.
GeekBench 4.1 (multi-core)
Higher is better
- Apple iPhone XR11437
- Xiaomi Mi 911181
- OnePlus 7 Pro10943
- Asus Zenfone 6 (Zen Power Boost)10800
- LG G8 ThinQ10735
- Asus Zenfone 610721
- Huawei P30 (perf. mode)10114
- Samsung Galaxy S10e10081
- Huawei P309789
- Honor View 209530
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 39065
- Nokia 9 PureView8986
- OnePlus 6T8977
- Google Pixel 3 XL8088
- Samsung Galaxy A706584
- Oppo F11 Pro6020
- Google Pixel 3a XL5176
In Antutu is where we got the biggest difference from the Zenfone 6’s boost mode. The 4% increase allowed it to inch ahead of the Mi 9 and OnePlus 7 Pro, whereas it’s slightly behind in the regular mode. Obviously, that’s splitting hairs and these marginal difference have few real-world implications.
Higher is better
- Asus Zenfone 6 (Zen Power Boost)377024
- Xiaomi Mi 9372006
- OnePlus 7 Pro364025
- Asus Zenfone 6361679
- Apple iPhone XR341196
- LG G8 ThinQ331537
- Samsung Galaxy S10e325192
- Huawei P30 (perf. mode)314595
- OnePlus 6T293994
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 3292353
- Nokia 9 PureView288473
- Huawei P30287960
- Honor View 20275413
- Google Pixel 3 XL258244
- Samsung Galaxy A70167750
- Google Pixel 3a XL159110
- Oppo F11 Pro150218
In graphics benchmarks, the Zenfone 6 continues its excellent streak, matching or outperforming competitors.
GFX 3.1 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)
Higher is better
- Apple iPhone XR97
- Asus Zenfone 671
- Asus Zenfone 6 (Zen Power Boost)71
- Xiaomi Mi 970
- OnePlus 7 Pro68
- Samsung Galaxy S10e67
- LG G8 ThinQ65
- OnePlus 6T60
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 360
- Nokia 9 PureView60
- Huawei P30 (perf. mode)56
- Huawei P3054
- Honor View 2053
- Google Pixel 3 XL44
- Google Pixel 3a XL20
- Samsung Galaxy A7015
- Oppo F11 Pro14
GFX 3.1 Manhattan (onscreen)
Higher is better
- Apple iPhone XR60
- Asus Zenfone 657
- Asus Zenfone 6 (Zen Power Boost)57
- Samsung Galaxy S10e57
- Xiaomi Mi 956
- OnePlus 6T53
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 352
- Honor View 2050
- Huawei P3048
- Huawei P30 (perf. mode)48
- LG G8 ThinQ33
- OnePlus 7 Pro33
- Nokia 9 PureView33
- Google Pixel 3 XL24
- Google Pixel 3a XL19
- Samsung Galaxy A7013
- Oppo F11 Pro12
GFX 3.1 Car scene (1080p offscreen)
Higher is better
- Apple iPhone XR60
- Xiaomi Mi 942
- Asus Zenfone 642
- Asus Zenfone 6 (Zen Power Boost)42
- Samsung Galaxy S10e42
- OnePlus 7 Pro41
- LG G8 ThinQ40
- OnePlus 6T35
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 335
- Nokia 9 PureView35
- Huawei P30 (perf. mode)33
- Honor View 2030
- Huawei P3029
- Google Pixel 3 XL28
- Google Pixel 3a XL11
- Oppo F11 Pro8.5
- Samsung Galaxy A708
GFX 3.1 Car scene (onscreen)
Higher is better
- Apple iPhone XR58
- Samsung Galaxy S10e40
- Asus Zenfone 636
- Asus Zenfone 6 (Zen Power Boost)36
- Xiaomi Mi 935
- OnePlus 6T31
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 330
- Huawei P30 (perf. mode)28
- Honor View 2028
- Huawei P3026
- LG G8 ThinQ20
- OnePlus 7 Pro19
- Nokia 9 PureView19
- Google Pixel 3 XL12
- Google Pixel 3a XL11
- Oppo F11 Pro7.4
- Samsung Galaxy A707
We should also point out here, that the Zenfone does heat up substantially under load – the area up top where the mother board is, but also the rest of the body. That’s good, because heat is inevitably generated, and the fact that the whole phone warms up, means it’s being dissipated. However, it’s not enough, and the performance does drop after sustained load due to thermal throttling. A quantitative measurement is the Antutu score which dips by up to 12% after 5-6 runs, but no more. In any case, the Zenfone 6 has raw power to spare, so it will rarely make you wait in day to day usage.
48MP Quad Bayer main camera, 13MP ultra wide, both flippy
The Asus Zenfone 6’s Flip Camera is, in fact, two cameras. Or, if you think about it, four cameras – two rear ones and two ones for selfies. Philosophical musings aside, there’s a primary 48MP main module and a 13MP secondary one with an ultra wide angle lens.
The main cam uses the Sony IMX586 sensor, that’s on everything these days. It’s a 48MP Quad Bayer imager with a Type 1/2″ overall size and 0.8µm pixel pitch. Paired with an f/1.8 aperture 26mm-equivalent lens it has no OIS, which we have seen on some setups with this sensor. Auto focus relies on a combination of phase detection and laser AF.
The ultra wide camera has 13MP to work with and its lens covers a 125-degree field of view (so around 11mm equivalent). Its focus is fixed.
The camera app’s interface is straightforward and has the usual things in plain sight. You switch modes by swiping side to side, there’s a main/wide toggle and a 1.0x/2.0x zoom button for engaging the digital zoom (the ‘.0’ is a bit unnecessary, don’t you think?). On the opposite end of the viewfinder there’s a shortcut to settings, an HDR mode toggle, aspect ratio switch, flash control and a library of filters.
Asus has added a few twists, however. What is commonly a toggle to switch between front and rear camera does flip the camera 180 degrees to capture selfies as expected. Press and slide it, however, and you get manual control over the camera’s rotation. You can have the volume rocker do the same too. Speaking of hardware controls, you can set the Smart Key to act as shutter release – lefties rejoice.
Another custom bit about the camera app is the always available shutter release timer. Press the shutter release button and slide it up to select any delay between 1s and 10s. One of the best things about the Zenfone’s camera app though, is the fact that the viewfinder operates at a 60fps refresh rate.
There’s a Pro mode, naturally, letting you adjust photographic parameters manually. Shutter speed can be set between 1/3200s and 32s, the ISO range is 25 to 3200, exposure compensation can be set in 1/3EV steps from -2EV to +2EV, while white balance has both light temperature adjustment and pre-sets. There’s a live histogram too, which is nice, but it could have been bigger.
Having a motorized cam means you can have certain tasks automated. For example, you can shoot 180-degree panoramas without moving the phone thus avoiding issues with stitching. Of course, if you don’t want the full sweep, you can stop it at any time.
The other feature Asus advertises is motion tracking. The idea is that the Flip Camera will follow a subject if it moves across the frame, but you won’t necessarily have full control over where your dog happens to want to go.
Camera settings • Panorama
Out of the box, the Zenfone 6 shoots in HDR auto mode and in good light the phone captures very nice images. There’s a lot of detail and the photos are nearly free of noise. Dynamic range is quite wide already even before resorting to the more complex HDR+ Enhanced processing. Colors are really nicely reproduced too.
Daylight samples, main camera, 12MP, HDR Auto
Now, if you want some extra pop out of your photos, switch to the HDR+ Enhanced mode. You’ll get a nice boost in micro-contrast, and noticeably brightened midtones. We’re definitely liking this look and we’d use it all the time if it wasn’t for the much increased capture time – it takes several second even in broad daylight. Even so, we didn’t witness any ghosting on moving subjects.
Daylight samples, main camera, 12MP, HDR+ Enhanced
The 48MP Quad Bayer sensor isn’t really designed to output at 48MP, but it can do it if you so insist. When there’s a lot of light to work with, you do stand to gain some extra detail, but even in moderately dimmer conditions you’re better off sticking with 12MP – it’s plenty.
Daylight samples, main camera, 48MP
Tapping the 2x button in the viewfinder will net you a 12MP image – a crop from the center of the sensor. What we said about the 48MP shots applies here as well – if there’s an abundance of light, you might get a usable shot, otherwise don’t bother.
Daylight samples, main camera, 2x zoom
The Zenfone’s ultra wide cam takes alright shots – they’re not quite in the same leagues as the ones from the main cam, but realistically no ultra wide smartphone cam on the market can claim that. We have to point out that it’s one of the wider lenses available, yet distortion is very well contained.
Daylight samples, ultra wide camera, HDR Auto
Update, August 08:We revisited the Zenfone 6’s camera performance after a major firmware update (which also prompted a comparison against the other flippy cam on the market, the Galaxy A80). We didn’t find a significant difference in daylight photos, but here’s a few sample shots taken post the update.
Daylight camera samples, post-update
In low light, the Zenfone 6’s main camera doesn’t excite, but gets the job done. Detail is good but there’s a fair amount of noise present and an overall softness to the images.
Low-light samples, main camera, 12MP, HDR Auto
HDR+ Enhanced makes little difference in these cases, though we could say it reduces noise by a tiny margin.
Low-light samples, main camera, 12MP, HDR+ Enhanced
Night mode does make a difference. It evens out the exposure by bringing down the highlights and brightening the shadows. Noise is also almost entirely removed in the process. Looking at the night shots from up close, however, reveals an overall softness. It’s generally not the best implementation of night mode we’ve seen, but it’s an improvement over low-light shots taken in the regular photo mode.
Low-light samples, main camera, 12MP, Night mode
Update, August 08:The update changelog included an explicit mention of Supernight mode, so we reshot some of the low-light scenes. Indeed, we observed certain differences, and not just in night mode. Photos taken in the regular photo mode have improved detail and definition, as well as better controlled noise – they’re overall nicer.
Low-light camera samples, post-update, HDR Auto
Night mode shots have been improved, as promised, and we’re now getting a more natural look as opposed to the slightly watercolor processing of the ‘before’ photos. There’s once again a noticeable improvement in fine detail. Still, night mode shots don’t bring a huge difference over the regular photo mode.
Low-light camera samples, post-update, Night mode
Moving on to selfies, we’re getting what we expected – some of the best shots of our ugly mugs. Seeing how this is the same camera as the one we already praised above, let’s just say that skin tones are spot on too.
Selfie samples, main camera, 12MP, HDR Auto
HDR+ Enhanced helps a bunch in challenging light and high contrast situations and delivers generally superior images.
Selfie samples, main camera, 12MP, HDR+ Enhanced
Few phones on the market today offer a truly ultra wide selfie camera and the Zenfone 6’s Flip camera places it in that elite club. We can think of two uses for that – for adding context and for including more people in the frame. Since friends are hard to come by, here are a few samples to illustrate the former use case.
Selfie samples, ultra wide camera, HDR Auto
Portraits or selfie portraits, it’s all the same on the Zenfone 6. The Flip Camera isolates subjects competently and the phone creates natural-looking blur. You can adjust the strength both while taking the shot and after the fact in the gallery.
Portrait samples (also, selfie portrait samples)
The portrait mode is not limited to humans and you can also use it to emphasize other stuff around you. It’s equally proficient at that too.
Portrait mode on non-human subjects
One of the most obvious use cases for the motorized camera is for capturing panoramas. The images are a little over 2,000px tall and the stitching is essentially flawless.
Once you’re done with the real world samples, head over to our Photo compare tool to see how the Asus Zenfone 6 stacks up against the competition.
Asus Zenfone 6 against the OnePlus 7 Pro and the Xiaomi Mi 9 in our Photo compare tool
The Zenfone 6 records video up to 2160p at 60fps and it supports electronic stabilization all the way up to that mode, unlike most current phones which can only stabilize 2160p/30fps footage. The stabilization can be turned off too if you’re supporting the phone otherwise, giving you the native FoV instead of the resulting crop from the stabilization. You can also choose between the H.264 and H.265 codecs.
We shot in H.264 exclusively, and the 4K60 is treated to a 75Mbps bit rate, 4K30 gets 42Mbps, while 1080p is encoded at 30Mbps and 20Mbps for 60fps and 30fps respectively. Audio is always recorded in stereo at 192kbps.
Video quality is excellent across the board. We’d actually prefer the 60fps modes for their more natural processing vs. the slightly too sharpened 30fps footage in both 4K and 1080p. In any case, all four modes produce videos with great detail. Colors are rendered accurately and we have no complaints about the dynamic range either.
The ultra wide camera can’t do 4K60, but its 4K30 footage is easily good enough. It’s a bit noisy, yes, but if you’re pixel-peeping your ultra wide videos, you’re missing the big picture. 1080p/30fps looks sharper than 60fps here, so make sure you stay on the right side of this trade off, depending on your needs.
We were a tiny bit skeptical about the stabilization in 2160p/60fps, but it does actually work, and it works well. Whether walking or panning, the Zenfone 6 has got you covered, producing stable footage. Mind you, this comes at the expense of absolute sharpness, though the penalty is indeed marginal and only visible side by side.
Update, August 08:The changelog listed optimizations in EIS and we were thrilled to test those out after having already been quite happy with the ‘before’ state. The thing is, we’re now witnessing a particular jitter that wasn’t present in stabilized 4K60 vids before the update. Some optimizations. All other modes work fine, and even if there’s an improvement here and there, it’s not significant enough for us to point out. The 4K60 downgrade, however, is pretty obvious. If Asus had it right from the beginning, they’ll probably get it back right in a future update, but that’s just how it is right now.
Here’s a glimpse of how the Asus Zenfone 6 compares to rivals in our Video compare tool. Head over there for the complete picture.
Asus Zenfone 6 against the OnePlus 7 Pro and the Xiaomi Mi 9 in our Video compare tool
If you’re looking for a smartphone with a motorized flip camera, your choices are pretty limited – it’s either the Zenfone 6 here, the Oppo N3 from way back in 2014, or the Samsung Galaxy A80.
The Galaxy A80 will deliver the flipping and the pop-up mechanism is motorized too, but due to the nature of its design, you won’t be getting the automated panoramas or the waist level shooting capabilities, so there’s one in favor of the Zenfone’s Flip Camera. The Asus offering has the more potent chipset (S855 vs. S730), and it’s got the dedicated microSD slot, while the A80 doesn’t have one at all. The Zenfone also has a headphone jack and stereo speakers, both missing on the Galaxy. The Galaxy does have a superior display with a fingerprint reader underneath, and it’ll charge faster, though it won’t last quite as long. The Zenfone is more affordable, however.
On to the conventional camera phones that compete in terms of pricing rather than rotating cameras now. The Xiaomi Mi 9 quickly springs to mind – it offers a trifecta of cameras on its back, including the telephoto that the Zenfone is missing. The Mi 9 has a superior displayand doesn’t look half bad in the endurance match-up despite the much smaller battery. The Xiaomi is lighter and slightly more compact, but lacks a microSD slot. You do maybe stand to save some cash if you go the Xiaomi way, depending on where you are in the world.
The OnePlus 7 (non-Pro) is slightly more expensive than a Zenfone 6, base model against base model, though you do get twice the built-in storage on the OnePlus phone. The Zenfone does allow you to expand it, however, unlike the 7. Asus will also give you the better cameras including an ultra wide perspective that the 7 is missing. The OnePlus does have the better display.
If you’re willing to wait it out a bit so the price can drop as it typically does, the LG G8 ThinQ could potentially make sense, particularly if you’re those parts of the world where the G8 comes with 3 cameras on the back. Regardless of region, the G8 is IP68-rated, so that’s peace of mind the Zenfone can’t deliver. The G8’s OLED display is brighter but, for a change, even more off-key than the Zenfone’s – pick your poison. Ah, there’s the matter of the G8’s comparatively dismal battery life.
Samsung Galaxy A80 • Xiaomi Mi 9 • OnePlus 7 • LG G8 ThinQ
Come in for the cool motorized camera, stay for everything else – that’s pretty much what the Zenfone 6 is all about. That is, if you manage to look past its not quite stellar display – other than that Asus has managed to pull off quite the package for a very reasonable price.
Easily some of the best possible selfies you can get from a smartphone today is only the flip side to an excellent camera experience across stills and video, in daylight or at night. And you’ll have no problem making it through the night either thanks to the biggest battery this side of the midrange. Add to that some nice-to-haves that are increasingly harder to find in the high-end segment like a headphone jack, a status LED, and a dedicated microSD slot, and we can see how the Zenfone 6 makes a really compelling case for itself.
- The Flip Camera is a unique solution that’s simply cool but also offers nice functionality.
- Class-leading battery life, reasonable charging speeds.
- Excellent image quality in daylight and low light, unrivaled selfies (because, you know, flip camera).
- Great video quality, capable stabilization.
- One of the most affordable phones with the top-performing Snapdragon 855.
- An OLED screen would have been appreciated.
- No telephoto camera.
- No Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) support even though the chipset supports it