Asus Zenfone 6 first impressions: An innovative flagship in every sense

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Last year this time, major smartphone manufacturers like Oppo, Vivo, Honor, OnePlus, Asus were busy launching phones with a notch. But if one were to take a look at the current smartphone trends, it would appear that the notch has disappeared.

All-screen smartphones are the rage now, and this trend seems to be taking over the tech industry. Asus is the latest company to launch a phone with nearly bezel-less display. That s because the Zenfone 6 s back camera flips up 180 degrees to act as a selfie camera.

Starting at Euros 499 (or approx Rs 39,195 ) the Zenfone 6 seems refreshingly innovative. I have had a few minutes of hands-on time with the Zenfone 6 – which isn’t enough time for a full review, but it is enough time to get a decent first impression. Read on:

Asus Zenfone 6 first impressions: Design

In your hands, the Zenfone 6 feels premium with its glass and metal construction. The design is slightly unconventional, almost a subdued version of last year s ROG Phone. It feels expensive when you are holding it, which is a good thing.

Zenfone 6 feels premium with its glass and metal construction and notchless display. (Image source: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
Zenfone 6 feels premium with its glass and metal construction and notchless display. (Image source: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

The bottom still has a USB-C port, along with a bottom-firing speaker. Oh yes, a headphone jack is also there. Then there s a smart key on the right-hand side of the phone, which by default opens Google Assistant. Yes, the key is fully customisable.

Asus Zenfone 6 first impressions: Notchless display

The ZenFone 6 s display is big, bright and colourful. It measures 6.4-inches, has an aspect ratio of 19.5:9, and uses IPS LCD display tech with FULL HD+ 2340x1080p resolution.

Like many other phones released in the past few months, Asus has shaved off bezels on the Zenfone 6 leaving no room up front for components. Asus is calling this the all-screen NanoEdge display and there are no notches or punch-holes on the top adding more real estate. But how did the company managed to make a notchless display?

Asus Zenfone 6 from the back. (Image source: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
Asus Zenfone 6 from the back. (Image source: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Asus Zenfone 6 first impressions: Flip-up cameras

Well, to make the screen edge-to-edge, Asus introduced a mechanical flip camera serving as both the rear shooter and selfie snapper. The solution is clever, something we have never seen on any smartphone before.

The whole thing is complex. There s a custom 13-piece gear system that has 17 power cables and 32 signal cables, all wrapped up inside a single 2mm cable. Plus, there are other sensors inside. The camera housing is made of liquid metal which is lighter but four times stronger than steel . Asus says it has put the camera module through up to 100,000 flips which is equivalent to 28 selfies per day for 5 years.

With a touch of a button in the camera app, the dual rear camera unit (the primary camera is a 48MP unit with Sony IMX 586 lens and a 13-megapixel ultrawide camera at f/2.4), flips up to serve as the front-facing camera. It s only when you switch to selfie mode that the rear camera unit lifts up. So essentially, this means you re using the best possible cameras for both selfie and normal shots.

Asus introduced a mechanical flip camera serving as both the rear shooter and selfie snapper. (Image source: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
Asus introduced a mechanical flip camera serving as both the rear shooter and selfie snapper. (Image source: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Beyond taking selfies, the motorised flip camera system can be rotated up to 180-degrees. With this, you can take pictures at any angle that you wish. It was fun using the flip camera. It s different from the pop-up cameras seen on the OnePlus 7 Pro and Oppo F11 Pro.

One of the coolest camera features on the Zenfone 6 has to be a new motion tracking feature, where the camera automatically tracks the subject if it moves out of the frame.

The ZenFone 6 s flip-around camera system is sophisticated, but what happen if you accidentally drop the phone? Will it still work? Asus says the Flip Camera automatically retracts if you accidentally drop the phone. We tried it ourselves and found this self-defence mechanism effective.

Of course, there are downsides to the flip camera system. First, it doesn t offer optical image stabilization, only electronic stabilization. Second, moving parts means, given the phone s flip camera, water resistance is absent.

The ZenFone 6 s flip-around camera system is sophisticated, and it will continue to work even if you accidentally drop the phone. (Image source: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
The ZenFone 6 s flip-around camera system is sophisticated, and it will continue to work even if you accidentally drop the phone. (Image source: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Asus Zenfone 6 first impressions: Hardware and software

In terms of hardware, the Zenfone 6 is a beast. Under the hood, it runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor (the same chipset found inside the OnePlus 7 Pro), which is backed up to 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage alongside microSD support. I briefly tested the demo unit and found it snappy.

The battery on the Zenfone 6 will grab eyeballs for sure. The 5000mAh battery is just a bit bigger than what is available on most other flagship smartphones. Fortunately, it has Quick Charge 4.0 technology that pushes 18W via USB-C.

The Zenfone 6 ships with ZenUI 6, which is based on Android 9.0 Pie. Asus has revamped its user interface, and it seems that the company has made some progress in this department. The UI is closer to stock Android. It s clean, buttery smooth, and the experience is at par with what you get on the Pixel smartphones. Asus is also promising an update to Android Q in the near future.

Asus Zenfone 6 is not perfect, but the phone does manage to carve its own niche despite facing competition from the OnePlus 7 Pro and others. (Image source: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
Asus Zenfone 6 is not perfect, but the phone does manage to carve its own niche despite facing competition from the OnePlus 7 Pro and others. (Image source: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Asus Zenfone 6 first impressions: Early verdict

After using the Zenfone 6, I realised one thing: that innovation in the smartphone space is not dead. It s good to see that the companies like Asus are at least trying to find new ways to make the smartphone interesting.

I do understand that the Zenfone 6 is not perfect, but the phone does manage to carve its own niche despite facing competition from the OnePlus 7 Pro, P30 Pro, Galaxy S10+ and iPhone XS. Asus isn t telling when it plans to bring its new flagship to India, but I hope the release date will be announced soon.

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