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Asus ZenFone 6 Review

"Bennett McLaughlin" (2020-01-11)

Asus ZenFone 6 Review
The Asus ZenFone 6 is certainly intriguing, thanks to its revolving camera module and impressively large battery, but there's stiff competition out there that might undercut the otherwise promising value for money on offer here. If you like the makeup of the ZenFone 6 specifically, there isn't much else that compares, however, it doesn't really excel in any one area.
Asus has reimagined the ZenFone 6 in 2019 as a powerful new flagship Android smartphone with a focus on performance, battery life and a unique rotating dual camera.

sim đẹp onlineHaving spent a few weeks with the phone, it’s interesting to see what Asus has tried to do here. It’s sprinkled in a couple of headline capabilities, used on-trend design elements and given it a price that justifies the absence of any features that more expensive flagships still possess.
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On first impressions, this recipe feels like it works. However, dive a little deeper and there’s still a question mark over whether it’s collectively enough to convince you, the buyer, to throw your cash towards the Taiwanese tech giant’s new handset over more costly but more capable alternatives.

The Asus ZenFone 6 performs acrobatics to avoid using a notch
Notches, sliders, hole-punches, pop-ups – manufacturers have turned to all sorts of different methods and mechanisms in an effort to remove or conceal every element on the front of their devices that isn’t the display. In the case of the new ZenFone 6, it’s safe to say Asus has taken an outside-the-box approach to such a challenge.
The phone’s dual rear camera array sits high on the phone’s curved Gorilla Glass back, while on the front there’s no Samsung Galaxy S10-style hole-punch camera, certainly no notch and no OnePlus 7 Pro-esq pop-up snapper either. Instead, the rear camera module revolves around the top edge of the phone to face forward at the tap of a virtual button.

Related: One Plus 7 Pro review
On the upside, this means you have the might of the phone’s primary cameras at your disposal, even when snapping selfies. As demonstrated during launch and in my subsequent testing, watching 4K 60fps electronically-stabilised footage compared against the lesser front-facing video that the likes of the Galaxy S10 was able to muster, was pretty impressive.

On the subject of Samsung, it too has produced a phone with a rotating rear camera arrangement that doubles as the front-facer – the Galaxy A80 – Asus’ implementation is a little different, however.

The ‘flip camera’ (Asus has designed a rather swish logo to support this self-explanatory branding) as the company calls it, is housed within what it promises is a highly durable liquid metal housing, which is supposedly four times stronger than stainless steel.

The whole housing is then linked to a custom 13-piece gear system and has to squeeze some 32 signal cables and 17 power cables through a 2mm opening in the side of the module, into which the phones camera’s and various sensors reside.
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Related: Best camera phones
It all seems rather precarious, especially when you peek at the inner workings of the mechanism, as Asus showed during the phone’s launch in Valencia. As with OnePlus and Oppo before it – two companies who’ve also had to prove the technical reliability of the mechanised parts on their smartphones – Asus threw some numbers out in an effort to offer peace of mind to curious would-be buyers who might still sit on the fence.

The flip camera is tested to 100,000 actuations, which Asus equated to five years of intense use, assuming you were snapping in the region of 28 selfies a day. While this should instil confidence, as only the most extreme of narcissists would be able to approach such a frequency, this doesn’t account using it for face unlock or other use cases the company pushed, like vlogging, which is something to bear in mind.

Beyond revolving the camera around for a selfie, you also have the option to orient the snapper setup anywhere through its 180-degree range of motion. With this, you can pull off auto-panoramas – where the cameras move but the phone doesn’t – or take timed shots by setting the phone down on any flat surface while the cameras are positioned at 90-degrees.
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The panorama feature is a snappier alternative to a traditional panorama mode, where you have to awkwardly rotate slowly on the spot to capture the vista before you. The ZenFone 6’s implementation means you only have to hold the phone steady for a couple of seconds as it builds an image, although I found it best to hold the phone lengthways to avoid seeing my own face at the end of each capture every time.
Asus has even programmed in a dedicated camera control UI element so you can move it around from within third-party apps like Instagram and Google Lens; the feature works surprisingly well, and I’m yet to find an app with camera access that doesn’t play nice.
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The Asus Zenfone 6 camera hardware is made or broken by software
Sony’s sizeable 1/2-inch 48-megapixel IMX586 is the main camera sensor on the ZenFone 6, but it’s also found on the Honor View 20, Xiaomi Mi 9, OnePlus 7, OnePlus 7 Pro, Motorola One Vision, the aforementioned Samsung Galaxy A80 and a bevvy of other devices to boot.

It’s a popular component for good reason but seeing it in use across so many devices from so many different manufacturers does highlight the importance of competent algorithmic image processing.
Some modes and features, like Portrait and RAW capture, are available whether you use it as a front or rear camera, while others, such as Super Night, only apply when it’s serving as the phone’s main snapper.
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It’s also accompanied by a 13-megapixel ultra-wide angle sensor, which boasts an impressively-broad 125-degree field of view, complete with software-based distortion correction. It’s this secondary sensor that helps with depth data for portrait shots too.
As with even the most affordable phone cameras, an abundance of natural light always lends itself to well-defined snaps. Pictures look really nice under such conditions, with accurate colours, good detail and a pleasing sense of depth.
However, in some situations, namely macro shots, there’s noticeable aberration at the edge of frame (see above), meaning only centre-framed subjects remain sharply in focus. The issue isn’t always present, so it’s worth checking your shots before you’re done with your subject.
As scenes push towards higher contrast, it doesn’t take long for the ZenFone’s dynamic range, or lack thereof, to make itself known.
Shots look like they’ve been contrast-boosted beyond a level that could be considered, either under-exposing the overall image, leaving dark tones appearing almost completely black or over-exposing, pushing some of the brightest tones and colours into flat white, washing the overall image out in the process.
It’s also worth noting that while the inclusion of that ultra-wide angle camera lets you grab more dramatic shots than the main camera, the sensor used is nowhere near as capable, often revealing noise in the darker areas of frame – even when the overall shot is taken in abundant light.
It also lacks fine detail when compared to the main sensor (despite capturing higher-resolution images), making wide-angle shots far less usable outside of the likes of Facebook and Instagram.