It's been a while since Asus completely stopped launching budget and premium smartphones in India. For a few years now, the company has been focusing only on its ROG smartphone lineup catering to the gaming crowd. The ROG Phone 5 offers good hardware but it's aimed at a niche audience, and Asus hasn't really had anything else for the rest of the market in India. That's all about to change now. The Asus 8z might sound familiar, and that's because this phone was announced in 2021. Known internationally as the ZenFone 8, it was all set to launch in India as the 8z (due to a trademark dispute). Asus says it held back this phone's launch until now because of the pandemic and supply chain issues, but it's finally available.
The Asus 8z might seem like it's a little late to the party, but apart from not having the latest and greatest SoC, the rest of the specs make it seem as though this phone can still be considered premium even today. Can the Asus 8z help the company make up for lost time? I put it to the test to find out.
The Asus 8z is priced at Rs. 42,999 in India and comes with 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage. It is available in two colours, Obsidian Black and Horizon Silver.
The main draw of Asus' previous flagship in India, the Asus 6Z (Review), was its rotating camera module. For the Asus 8z, it is the compact size. Compact Android flagships are a rare breed, and the 8z is a good break from all the phones with huge displays that are currently on sale. Asus is targeting buyers who want a compact smartphone without compromising on performance or build quality.
The Asus 8z runs the risk of coming across as a little bland. I had an Obsidian Black unit which has no gradient patterns or accent colours to break the monotony, except for a contrasting blue power button. Asus seems to have taken some inspiration from the Google Pixel series in this regard. You get a frosted finish on the rear glass which does a good job of keeping fingerprints away. The dual-camera module at the back protrudes only slightly.
The Asus 8z has a 5.9-inch AMOLED display with thin bezels surrounding it, but with a slightly thicker chin at the bottom. It has Corning Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and Gorilla Glass 3 at the back for scratch protection. The frame is made of metal and feels premium to the touch. Asus has curved the sides of the rear glass where it meets the frame which makes it easier to grip the phone. The volume buttons are on the right while the left is completely blank. You do get a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top, making the 8z one of very few flagships to still have one.
A neat addition at the bottom of the frame is a notification LED which lights up when the phone is charging and blinks when you have unread notifications. It's right between the bottom-firing speaker and the USB Type-C port. Asus does provide a case in the box. The 8z is IP68 rated for dust and water resistance.
The Asus 8z's display has a full-HD+ resolution, 120Hz maximum refresh rate, and a 240Hz touch sampling rate. This AMOLED panel has a peak brightness of 1,100 nits and has an integrated fingerprint scanner. Asus also offers stereo speakers on the 8z.
Powering the Asus 8z is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, which was last year's flagship 5G SoC. The Asus 8z has two nano-SIM slots with support for 5G and 4G as well as VoLTE. Other connectivity options include Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 6, FM radio, NFC, and five satellite navigation systems. This phone has a 4,000mAh battery and supports Qualcomm QuickCharge 4. A 30W charger is bundled in the box.
In terms of software, the Asus 8z runs ZenUI on top of Android 12. The UI looks and feels a lot like stock Android but this can be customised to suit your taste. You can change icon shapes, font styles, and accent colours. It also has a dark mode for system elements as well as apps, and this can be automatically triggered post sunset. Privacy indicators, an Android 12 feature that notifies you when the camera or microphone is in use, is also present. My 8z unit was running the December 2021 security patch which is quite dated.
Asus does preinstall a few third-party apps on the 8z such as Netflix, Facebook, and Messenger; the former could only be disabled while the other two could be uninstalled. Asus has gesture navigation enabled by default in the UI and it has also added a few special gestures to perform certain actions. For instance, a three-finger swipe down will take a screenshot, and I used this quite often.
Asus has also added some functionality to the power button. A single press puts the device in standby mode as usual, but you can configure what the phone does when you double-press and long-press this button. Depending on what you choose, the 8z can launch a particular app, toggle the Wi-Fi state, or activate the flashlight. Similarly, you can get the 8z to launch Google Assistant by long-pressing the power button instead of showing the power menu.
There are five battery modes on the Asus 8z. You can choose from ‘High Performance' to ‘Ultra Durable' based on your usage. The smartphone is set to ‘Dynamic' by default but the advanced options let you fine-tune how it performs. Asus has also added a one-handed navigation feature which shrinks UI elements for easier access. Interestingly, you can customise the extent to which the UI shrinks.
The Asus 8z offers snappy performance and I never had to wait long for an app or a game to load. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC was able to run pretty much any app from the Google Play store. The display was crisp and had good viewing angles. With it set to 120Hz, scrolling was super smooth and the UI felt fluid. The stereo speakers on the Asus 8z do complete justice to the display and complement the media experience nicely. The audio output isn't tinny but I noticed the bottom-firing speaker sounded louder than the earpiece.
I ran a couple of benchmarks on the Asus 8z to see how it performs. The smartphone automatically switched from the ‘Dynamic' battery mode to ‘High Performance' upon detecting a power-hungry app. However, in order to prevent this artificially inflating the benchmark scores, I changed it back to ‘Dynamic' for these tests. In AnTuTu, the Asus 8z managed to score 757,893 points. In Geekbench 5's single core and multi-core tests, the phone managed 1,062 and 3,570 points respectively. It handled graphics benchmarks quite well too, managing 57fps and 115fps in GFXBench's Car Chase and T-Rex tests, respectively. These scores are only slightly lower than those of the Samsung Galaxy S22, another relatively compact flagship, but this is to be expected given the generational gap between the two phones' SoCs.
Asus has brought over the Game Genie feature from its ROG smartphone lineup. This lets you block incoming calls and notifications when gaming, change the refresh rate of the display, and create macros. I played Battleground Mobile India (BGMI) on the Asus 8z and it defaulted to ‘HD' graphics and ‘High' frame rate by default. I bumped the graphics setting all the way up to ‘Ultra HD' and frame rate to ‘Ultra' to see if the Asus 8z could handle this game maxed out. To no surprise, it was able to run the game without any lag or stutter, but this impacted battery life. After playing the game at these settings the 8z became hot to the touch, especially the top of the frame. I also observed a 10 percent battery drop after about half an hour of playing BGMI.
The Asus 8z has a relatively small 4,000mAh battery, but with my use, it lasted me beyond one full day. If you are a heavy user, you might need to charge it near the end of the day. In our HD video loop test, the 8z managed to run for 10 hours and 50 minutes which is on the lower side compared to what some of the other smartphones in this price range can manage. Charging time is reasonable with the 30W charger. The phone got to 60 percent in 30 minutes and 92 percent in an hour.
The Asus 8z lacks wireless charging, which is one of the few flagship features that's missing from this phone.
While we're used to seeing flagship smartphones with multiple cameras at the back, the Asus 8z has just two sensors. The primary camera is based on a 64-megapixel Sony IMX686 sensor with OIS and an f/1.8 aperture, while the 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera has a Sony IMX363 sensor and a 113-degree field of view. This ultra-wide camera can also be used to take macros from only 4cm away, which makes this setup more versatile. For selfies, the 8z has a 12-megapixel Sony IMX663 sensor. There's no telephoto camera here, which means any kind of magnification from the rear cameras is digital.
Asus' camera app looks simple but is feature-packed and has multiple shooting modes. There is AI scene detection which works well in detecting objects or the type of scene in the frame. The app has a Pro mode for photos as well as video which lets you take complete manual control of the cameras.
I found daylight photos taken with the Asus 8z to have good dynamic range and details. The phone also managed colours well and text at a distance in landscape shots was legible even when I zoomed in to 100 percent. With the ultra-wide-angle camera, the quality wasn't a massive downgrade compared to the primary camera. There was a very slight shift in colour tone and mild barrel distortion in the corners, but not much else. You can also take macro shots with this camera but I couldn't get as close to my subject as I would have liked.
For close-ups, the Asus 8z took very little time to lock focus on the subject. Photos turned out very well with good details and a soft blur for the background. Portrait mode could detect faces and it also let me set the level of blur before I took a shot. The output had well-defined edges and good separation between the subject and the background.
While shooting in low-light conditions, the AI automatically enables “Night shooting” mode which takes four-second-long exposure shots. It managed to capture adequately bright photos, but light sources had unnatural halos around them. With Night mode, there was a slight improvement in detail in the darker areas of frames, but the difference wasn't immediately noticeable.
Selfies taken with the Asus 8z had good detail but skin textures appeared to be slightly smoothened. You can take portrait selfies and the phone does a good job of separating you from the background. Low-light selfies with a light source nearby turned out much better than those taken in dimmer environments. The 8Z could manage decent portrait shots even in low light.
Video recording tops out at 8K on the Asus 8z and it uses electronic stabilisation at this resolution. While shooting at 4K as well as 1080p, the 8z uses optical stabilisation. Footage shot with the 8z was generally stable with occasional stutters if I walked around while shooting.
Overall, the camera performance of the Asus 8z is quite good but it did get warm after taking photos or recording video for long stretches.
Flagship smartphones have gotten quite powerful over time and in the pursuit of better hardware, most devices have grown in size. Most smartphone screens are now greater than 6 inches, and that makes one-handed use difficult. The Samsung Galaxy S22 is one of very few Android smartphones to launch this year that offers flagship-level performance in a small package, but it also commands a steep premium. This is where the Asus 8z offers better value. It has a unique combination of premium build quality, powerful hardware, and compact size at its price level. However, if you don't want to limit yourself to Android, the Apple iPhone 12 mini (Review) and iPhone 13 mini (Review) also offer great performance. While the iPhone 13 mini is more expensive, the iPhone 12 mini is within reach, and we've seen its price drop below Rs. 40,000 during sales.
The Asus 8z isn't flawless. The compact body limits battery capacity, and while Asus has tried its best to optimise battery life, this phone is just no match for those with physically larger batteries. Priced at Rs. 42,999 in India, the 8z does offer good value as long as you don't mind charging it frequently.