Asus ZenFone 6 is without a doubt – and I do not hesitate to say this – one of the most interesting smartphones of this year.
Asus ZenFone 6 ZS630KL - do not mistake this with the Asus ZenFone 6 model from a few years back – is a smartphone that connects an interesting idea for a camera with an almost flagship specifications and finish and a capacious battery. And all this in a reasonable price. A recipe for a success?
|Asus ZenFone 6 - video review
video: GSMchoice.com, via YouTube
- Construction, set, quality of assembly
- Display, security
- Interface, efficiency
- Battery, sound, communication
- Photography and video
- Summary. Advantages and disadvantages
Construction, set, quality of assembly
Asus ZenFone 6 is sold in an inconspicuous box that contains a large set. There is a USB cable, needle for opening the cards’ tray, 18W quick charger and decent – for a manufacturer’s set – earphones.
There is a plastic cover added to the set, which is supposed to protect the back of the phone. It does its job – though it is not resistant to scratches itself and it loses its looks quickly.
The construction of ZenFone 6 is based on a metal frame closed between two glass panels. The back one is arced, thanks to which the smartphone lies in hand comfortably, though it is slick. The front is a Gorilla Glass 6 panel with 2.5D edges. The housing comes in two colours – I received the darker one, which shines in the sunlight effectively. The smartphone is beautiful – but it quickly gathers fingerprints. Fortunately, it is easy to remove them.
The thing that distinguishes ZenFon 6 the most is its camera, or rather the way it is placed. The camera sits in a turning mechanism, which eliminated the selfie camera and resulted in a bezel-less display. The mechanism – according to the manufacturer and my experience so far – is durable and should remain failure-free.
Every resistance stops the movement of the arm, so there is no fear that something will damage cogs, and there is a lot of them. The camera is protected from a fall damage – when the smartphone will detect that it is falling – the module will hide immediately.
Moving the mechanism with our hands should not damage it either, but if we will try hard enough – it is possible to destroy it. I have been using the smartphone for a month – and the only problem that I have observed is the dust gathering in cavities around the camera module. You can see it on a few photos in this text.
The dust did not damage anything for now, and the rest of the housing still looks like brand new. This gives some hope that the whole should be durable. Unfortunately, the usage of the interesting mechanism prevents the housing from being waterproof.
It is a pity – but I understand that it cannot be any other way. Let us take a look at the placement of other elements. On the left side there is a tray for two nanoSIM cards and a microSD one – a round of applause for the triple slot!
On the upper side there is one of the microphones – and the camera mechanism fragment, while on the lower one we can find USB-C and minijack sockets, as well as one of the speakers. The second speaker can of course be found in the narrow bezel above the display – and they both create something similar to stereo. Close to the front speaker, on a really narrow bezel surrounding the display, the manufacturer managed to fit a notifications LED.
The right side is taken by buttons – power, volume control… and an additional one, which can be ascribed with a selected activity. In default, it runs the Google Assistant, but we can change its work – to a single, double and longer press.
As I have mentioned before, the display of ZenFone 6 is surrounded by a narrow bezel. It is a minimalistic one – though it is slightly wider near the lower edge. Despite this – the front of the phone looks attractive, and the display with curved edges is not disfigured by any hole or a notch. Unfortunately, even though ZenFone 6 has a flagship hardware, the manufacturer did not placed an AMOLED matrix.
It is probably due to costs. We have a traditional LCD matrix with a 6.4-inch diagonal and a 1080x2340 pixels resolution. Basically, the display cannot be criticized. It is bright, it remains readable in sunny days, colours representation is appropriate, and in addition we can modify the balance and colours intensity…
Readability angles are decent, just like the minimum brightness level, there is the eye protection mode as well – so it is almost flawless. Almost, because in the horizontal orientation there are problems with polarization – if we are wearing such glasses.
There is no AMOLED, so there is no fingerprint scanner under the display. And this is great! ZenFone 6 has a classical scanner placed at the back of the housing.
It is an active one, so we do not need to press the power button in order to unlock the phone. The sensor is fast and errorless – I have absolutely no concerns towards it. It has a touchpad function as well – by swiping a finger through it we can slide down the notifications bar.
To make it more interesting, we can use the facial recognition feature. Unfortunately, it works slower than the scanner, because it requires the camera to switch to the selfie position. And it takes a while…
As a consolation, the verification process is pretty fast, and it is almost errorless. Of course in weaker lighting the module works slightly worse – but this is typical for this type of solution – based on an image, not infrared.
ZenFone 6 uses the Zen UI 6 interface, based on Android Pie. If you remember the Zen UI add-on from previous years – forget about it, there are no traces of bloatware and obnoxious colours. The interface was cleaned, toned down and moved towards pure Android.
Fortunately, the manufacturer left positive features that distinguish this add-on. The interface can have a flat or a tray version, and apps on the desktop can be connected into folders – even automatically. Folders can have various looks, we can change the size and the grid of icons, we can switch to the dark or shades of grey mode as well.
In the tray we can find the browsing panel and the last used apps list. We can divide the screen, use the one-hand mode or gestures. Besides waking the phone with a double tap or muting by turning the phone, we can find a slightly forgotten drawing gestures on a locked screen: by drawing an appropriate letter, we can quickly run a selected app. There is another interesting feature: we can record the screen, for example while gaming.
Gestures can replace the bar with system buttons, but if we prefer to keep them visible, we can change their arrangement. The notifications panel looks and works typically, and the switches panel is enhanced and editable. In the software we can find Mobile Manager for maintaining and checking the system, we can clone apps, as well as optimize the work using OptiFlex. It enhances running apps and helps to save power.
There is the Game Genie mode as well, which optimizes the phone for gaming, Asus adds a few apps of its own – like Gallery or Files Manager. Basically, the interface is friendly and light and I asses it positively.
I assess the efficiency of the phone just as positively. Inside we can find Snapdragon 855 and 6 or 8 GB of RAM. This can only work great. And it is so in practice, there is nothing to dwell about. I did not experienced a single lag while using ZenFone 6. This is confirmed by benchmarks results – the smartphone lands in top places.
However, it is worth noting that if we will force ZenFone 6 to make an extensive work, it heats up noticeably, and the increased temperature has a slight effect on its performance. A few rounds of benchmarks results in increasingly lower scores. In an everyday usage we will not experience any drops in efficiency – even during longer gaming sessions we cannot witness any disturbing symptoms suggested by numbers from benchmarks.
The reviewed device – besides 8GB of RAM – had a large internal memory, 256GB. This should be enough for some users – and if not, I will remind you that we can use a microSD card, while using DualSIM at the same time.
The battery is one of the biggest (literally) advantages of ZenFone 6. The capacity is 5000 mAh, which is why charging the battery takes over 2.5 hours – and with an 18 watt charger! Half an hour gives slightly above 30%, and a half will appear after the first hour. We cannot bend the rules of physics, but the long charging time is fully compensated with lifespans. Two days of an intensive work? Not a problem!
With a normal usage three days of work is a norm, and if the phone is used seldom – four days will be normal. Placed aside and working only in the standby mode, ZenFone 6 achieved six days. Battery results are pleasing – especially that we are talking about a smartphone with a top specification. If it only had wireless charging, I would have drown in ecstasy.
Asus ZenFone 6 can please us when it comes to the sound as well. It has two speakers that play loud and clear, but are they stereo?
I have a feeling that the receiver plays a bit quieter than the lower one, and in addition – it transmits lot less lower tones… Still – we can listen to it without disgust, and the power of the smartphone proves to be enough to listen to it in an average room, tent or while camping.
Earphones added to the set are decent as well, though it could have a bit more bass. For those added to the set – they are positive, I will remind that the smartphone has a minijack – so we can connect something better.
In the software we can find Audio Wizard, thanks to which we can enhance the sound using a few predefined settings – or our own, manual sound correction, unfortunately unavailable for the speakers of the phone – we can only use it for external devices, like earphones. In addition, there is the DTS:X device and the Outdoor Mode – that enhances the power of speakers on the expanse of the sound quality.
Asus ZenFone 6 has of course a recorder and an FM radio, which does not have an icon in the tray, we can only find it in the switches panel. The Private Listening is an interesting feature – it automatically switches the sound between the receiver and the speaker, depending on how we hold the phone. Lifting it up to our ear will launch the Private mode…
When it comes to the sound quality during calls, I do not have any major concerns, besides one: the receiver is a bit small and we need to place it exactly on the level of our ear, in order to hear our interlocutor.
Holding the smartphone with our arm will not work when it comes to ZenFone 6. Besides this – the sound is good and it has enough power for a comfortable conversation.
The microphone works great as well. The camera app is enhanced with the possibility to record calls, while the text communication is entrusted to the classical Google keyboard. All communication modules worked appropriately during tests, I will add that there is NFC.
Photography and video
It is high time for the main feature that is Flip Camera. I have written a lot about the camera mechanism of Asus ZenFone 6 at the beginning of the review, so now I will only talk about photos and videos. The biggest advantage of the camera is not in its interesting mechanism, but that we can always use the exact same functions and capabilities – no matter if we are taking classic photos or taking selfies. Usually selfies cameras are weaker than the main ones – but not in this case. Thanks to the fact that the main camera because the front one, ZenFone 6 was commend by DxO, which awarded it with a high amount of points for selfie… Funny, is it not?
Thanks to the fact that the camera mechanism moves, we can set it under different angles – which gives us a variety of photography options. For example, we can record what is in front of us, by holding the smartphone in a natural way, slightly tilted towards us. It is much more comfortable from a bike holder or a selfie-stick, and finally – we can make a support for the phone with the bended module, which works as a substitute of a tripod. There are a lot of scenarios of using the mechanism – and I am sure that I did not discover them all.
No matter how we will set the camera, we can use the camera of Asus ZenFone 6, which has a 48-megapixel camera with an f/1.8 lens and the focal length of 26 mm and the 13 Mpx wide-angle lens with 125 degrees field of view. Photos taken during the day are not far from the quality offered by other flagships.
Focus, colours representation, exposition – everything is as it should be. Details representation is perfect, and in addition we can use the HDR+ mode, in order to extract more contrast and details in poorly lighted shots. During the day it is worth using the 48-megapixel mode, but when the amount of light drops down, it is better to use the option of connecting adjacent pixels of the Quad Bayer matrix and switch to 12 megapixels.
If we need a wider shot, there is a wide-angle lens – however, here we need to remember that the focus is fixed (especially when taking selfies) and with a lower brightness, that is why in weaker lighting effects will be worse than if using the main matrix. Wide angle photos cover wide fields – but we must remember about characteristic distortions of image. Fortunately, in this case, despite the wide field of view of the lens – they are not that big.
If the field view from a 125 degrees lens will still not be enough – we can switch to panorama. You do not like them, because it is difficult to move the phone along a straight line? In ZenFone 6 we just need to hold the phone still and press the button – the rest will be taken care of by the automat controlling gears of the camera. In other words – we do not need to move the whole phone – the camera moves itself, which makes taking a wide-angle panorama much easier – even with a selfie ;)
In a dual camera there has to be background blurring. In Asus ZenFone 6 it is decent, but like in most cases, cutting out more complex objects from the background, like leaves or hair, leaves a lot to be desired.
Despite this – I am pleased – especially with selfies. There is a digital zoom – it is a decent one, though of course we cannot count on a perfect details representation.
Night is the enemy of most smartphone cameras, and auto mode in ZenFone 6 is not fond of it either. After dark there is a large, visible noise, fortunately colours are close to those that we see while taking photos. Let us say that this is a level typical for this year’s “budget flagships”.
The situation changes after switching to the dedicated night mode. Most of all, we will notice a lower amount of noise, though the side-effect of filtrating will be a “smoothening” of a photo – visible in a bigger zoom. This is not a deterioration in details representation – on the contrary, after noise reduction they are more visible. The night mode will dim too bright parts of the shot, while lighting the darker ones – and the shot will have a more attractive looks. I definitely advise against using the auto mode while taking night shots. I recommend switching to night or the manual mode, because it is available in the camera app as well.
I have no concerns towards the quality of videos recorded by ZenFone 6. There is no optical image stabilization – but the electronic one works great. We can even risk saying that in some conditions it matches the optical one. Recordings are possible in the maximum resolution of 4K in 60 frames per second – what is important, still with the usage of EIS. It is difficult to have any major concerns towards the sound – microphones are sensitive. Sometimes, when there is a lot of wind – a bit too much. In addition – there is slow motion – from 480 frames per second in HD to 240 frames per second in Full HD. Using the “mobility” of the camera, we can trace the recorded object. If it only remains on a contrast background, the camera will follow it as long as the turning axis allows it.
|Asus ZenFone 6 - sample videos
video: GSMchoice.com, via YouTube
The camera interface is simple and readable, though I would change one thing. In Zen UI the camera modes are switched with a swiping gesture. This is comfortable when they are 2-3. In ZenFone 6 due to the large amount of modes, a panel with icons – in my opinion – could have been much better. Now, to reach to the end of the list, we need to swipe a lot…
Asus ZenFone 6 is an almost complete flagship, offered in an attractive price.
Depending on the memory configuration (6+64, 6+128 and 8+256) we need to pay 499, 559 and 599 euro respectively. This is a great offer – even if we will take disadvantages of the phone into consideration.
This is one of the cheapest phones with the Snapdragon 855 CPU, and the efficient SoC is only the beginning of advantages. Another one is the capacious 5000 mAh battery, and the next – the cards’ socket not in the hybrid solution. It is worth remembering about the presence of the minijack, great fingerprint scanner and attractive stylization.
In order to appreciate advantages coming from using a moveable camera module – we just need to try it. I will only say that thanks to the mechanism, the front camera is as good as the back one and it offers identical capabilities.
And they are great, though not astonishing. It is best to use night mode after dark, and during the day – from the high resolution matrix. We can record videos – even in motion. Taking panoramas is made extremely easy, while background blurring – befits the price segment to which ZenFone 6 belongs.
To be picky, I will mention about the lack of waterproofness and inductive charging and about the average quality of night time photos in the auto mode. I have mixed feelings towards the display. It is basically good – but why not AMOLED? I understand – price – but because of this I have a feeling that ZenFone lacks this last element that could make me want it and recommend to all of you with a full conviction. Still, for its price, this is a great phone.
Advantages and disadvantages
- powerful battery
- flagship efficiency
- moveable camera
- bezel-less display
- friendly interface
- lack of bloatware
- minijack and radio
- Dual SIM without hybrid solution
- cover in the set
- greatly working fingerprint scanner
- quick charging and appropriate charger in the set
- automatic panorama
- night mode
- good, dual camera for selfies ;)
- decent speakers
- notifications LED
- additional button
- lack of waterproofness
- lack of inducting charging
- long charging time despite 18 W
- LCD instead of AMOLED
- problem with polarization in horizontal orientation