Proponents of integrated Android phones, which are said to be most popular in Germany and Scandinavia, have had a difficult few years. Mobile phones in general are getting bigger and bigger, and Sony made the last small mobile phone in 2018.
Although most people prefer larger cell phones, there should at least be room for a specialized manufacturer to make smaller cell phones. Asus took advantage of that last year with the Zenfone 8, and is now following it up with the Zenfone 9.
Now don’t exaggerate how small the Zenfone 9 is, it’s still marginally smaller than the iPhone 13, and it’s closer to a centimeter longer than Sony’s latest compact model. But the Zenfone 9 with its 5.9-inch screen in 20:9 format is still a bit smaller than the 6.5-inch cellphones that have become fairly standard.
Above all, the Asus Zenfone 9 is imbued with the goal of being easy to use with one hand. Here it is interesting to compare with the spring Samsung Galaxy S22, which is also compact in shape. Compared to the S22, the Zenfone is slightly thicker, longer and noticeably thinner, but above all, it feels noticeably better in the hand.
It depends not only on the dimensions. The design is more angled according to current trends, providing well-grip surfaces. But what definitely goes against current trends is the choice of support materials. Asus ditched the glass again this time in favor of plastic with a surface texture reminiscent of fake mocha. It’s an excellent grip without making the phone look cheap. I have long argued that plastic is a better choice of material than glass for the back of a mobile phone, while at the same time it annoys me when plastic looks like a cheap imitation of glass. The material is guaranteed to be safe against fingerprint stains, but if it looks dirty and corroded over time, it’s hard to tell. Since the phone is waterproof according to IP68, it is basically possible to wash the back if it becomes dirty over time. This kind of back, which Xiaomi has also adopted with the Xiaomi 12S series, seems like a way forward for phones that are more breakable and less fragile without feeling cramped.
It is said that it is difficult to make mobile phones compact these days, with the demands placed on better battery life and cooling of the increasingly powerful processors. Asus makes it look easy. Here we have Qualcomm’s most powerful chipset, the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1, which delivers one of the best results we’ve measured in performance tests. According to Asus, cooling is an area in which the phone has been improved compared to its predecessor. In 3DMark’s long-term test, performance drops after the first laps, which is unusual. At the same time, the metal frame in particular gets very hot, while the back is much cooler.
Admittedly, the battery is a little smaller than the 5,000 mAh we’re used to as standard, but so is the display, which is one of the biggest consumers of batteries. The battery is larger than that of the Zenfone 8 and in combination with a more power efficient chipset promises better battery life. In our battery test with Youtube streaming, we got over 13 hours of screen time which is excellent.
A 30W charger is included, not super fast but faster than expected thanks to the use of charging technology from the middle of the battery instead of one end, allowing you to charge faster without draining the battery. I charge the battery from empty to 25 percent in about 12 minutes.
The Amoled screen is smaller, which is the whole point of the model, but it still has an HD resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate. Brightness is excellent, although the screen doesn’t really impress in the same way in direct sunlight as Samsung mobiles do.
The RAM and storage are comparable to what you find in other top models, from 8/128 GB to 16/256 GB. The memory card slot is missing, but most other models are also loud. The only thing I miss compared to other top models is wireless charging.
I see the fact that there was room for a 3.5mm headphone jack as a pure bonus, but a sign that audio is something Asus has invested in. The Zenfone 9 has stereo speakers where the Swedish company Dirac was used to calibrate the sound. According to Asus, the speakers deliver 50 percent more sound than other speakers of the same size. The speakers are asymmetrical and most of the sound comes from the bottom speakers and there is a lot of gunpowder in them which is good for watching movies. Another area where the Zenfone 9 is not to be noticed is that the Zenfone 9 is smaller than average.
Asus has made an effort to make the design easy to use with one hand even after making the phone compact. The fingerprint reader is located in the on / off button relatively far on the side so that it is easy to reach. Asus has also made the button itself programmable. You can choose what happens when you double click, long press and even if you slide the button. When scrolling, you can, for example, choose to pull the status bar down or scroll up and down on a webpage. However, I’ve noticed that the swiping motion in particular is easy to make accidentally, as long as you’re holding the mobile, at least for me a left-handed.
Additional functions that should facilitate one-handed use are that you can operate the mode with one hand by swiping on the bottom edge of the screen. Then only the bottom half of the mobile screen is used until you choose to go back by pressing the top half of the screen. You can also select a function that is activated by double tapping on the back of the phone, such as turning on the camera or flashlight. I find this double tap function a bit grumpy, I struggle to find the right tap and often have to try a few times before I succeed in activating the function.
On the surface, the Asus ZenUI user interface is straight from the standard Google interface, but you don’t have to dig into the settings to find many small add-ons and extra settings. I have already mentioned two of them. When I start a game, I’m told that the phone goes into performance mode and I get a side menu with various gaming-related functions, which is the Zenfone 9 function inherited from the ROG Phone 6 gaming phone. On such a small screen, it’s easy to accidentally activate the side menu, which may It is annoying but you can of course turn off the function if it becomes a problem. You can set the scheduled charging so that the mobile phone does not lie and charges at the maximum level unnecessarily, which wears out the battery. Zenfone Tips has a review of some of the special Asus features, but you’ll find more in the settings.
The cameras on the back are two in number, a 50-megapixel main camera and a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera. On Android mobile phones, we are used to seeing many cameras, while most iPhone users are happy with these two cameras. Asus argues that using cameras such as depth sensors and macro cameras only take up extra space without adding functionality. On the Zenfone 9, regular 12.5MP photos are delivered, and the main camera can take photos with 2x zoom without losing sharpness by taking advantage of the higher sensor resolution. On the other hand, the wide-angle camera has autofocus and a close range of 4cm, which means that it can do double duty as a macro camera.
Impressive image stabilization
Compared to last year’s Zenfone 8, the main camera has been improved above all else, partly with a larger camera sensor, and partly because it received 6-axis optical image stabilization.
Image stabilization in particular is what impresses the Zenfone 9’s main camera the most. This is partly because it helps capture darker photos better by reducing vibration. I compare the camera on the Samsung Galaxy S22, including varying degrees of darkness. In most situations and especially in near darkness, the Asus Zenfone 9 takes darker photos better than the Samsung Galaxy S22. The ability to outperform Samsung in dark photography is a high mark.
Image stabilization is also impressive when I’m shooting. I can go and shoot with the camera at the same time and as a result of the photo it looks like I’m driving on rails.
One of the weaknesses of the camera is HDR photography, that is, multiple exposures are combined to prevent parts of the image from being over- or under-exposed. I think here the camera pulls in the dark direction, which in itself is a matter of taste. But I can also notice that moving elements in the background, such as cyclists and pedestrians passing by, tend to double exposure a bit. During the testing period, there will be a system update which, among other things, will improve the results from the camera, and in the photos I took after the update, I can’t find this effect, so it is possible that Asus has already been able to correct the shortcomings of HDR. In general, I think the photos from the main camera are good, with nice color reproduction. At maximum magnification, they can feel a bit harsh to sharpen and process, but there’s nothing wrong with reproducing detail. Photos zoomed in with 2x optical zoom look good, I may still be missing a true zoom camera but I respect the design choice made by Asus.
The wide-angle camera is often more ambitious than this type of camera, and the photo result, for example, is much better than what I get from the Galaxy S22’s wide-angle camera. However, it is significantly more sensitive to light than the main camera. As Asus rightly points out, the wide-angle camera is also good for close-ups, although it is easy to shade the subject when you hold the camera a few centimeters from the subject.
I’m a fan of smaller one-handed phones, and I’m a bit smitten with the Asus Zenfone 9. It fits better in the hand than the predecessor Zenfone 8, and even better than the previous Zenfone 8. The Samsung Galaxy S22. At the same time, it doesn’t compromise much compared to the larger top models. For those who want a mobile that is easy to use with one hand, the Asus Zenfone 9 seems like a certain recommendation.
questions and answers
Does the mobile phone have the always display function to show the clock even when the screen is off? Yes, Asus calls the Always On Panel feature.
How are the vibrators’ reactions? Totally okay but not great.
Does it come with a mobile phone case? Yes, a convenient zip case is included, and there are others to purchase, including one where you can mount accessories such as a card pocket or a tripod.
Samsung Galaxy S22: Samsung’s smallest top model is the selected option. Both have their pros and cons. The Galaxy S22, for example, has a camera with optical zoom and wireless charging, while the Zenfone 9 fits better in the hand.
Example of a camera
Pictures from the main camera can sometimes look a little dark in details.
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