Two things we love about a smartphone.
ASUS today launched the Zenfone 9 series. It continues a renowned tradition of compact and minimalist design. However, the flippy camera? Yeah we may not see that anymore from this point forward.
The internals of the phone is pretty much from your everyday flagship. Back in the early days, the Zenfone number series was affordable and was primarily targeted toward budget consumers. Now, due to ASUS’ reorganization of their mobile business, the phones became flagship and geared more towards enthusiast users, as well as gamers thanks to the popular ROG Phones.
Inside is a compact (for today’s standards) 5.9in. FHD+ (2400x1080px) Samsung OLED screen with 120Hz refresh rate, 240Hz touch response rate, and support for HDR10+. The phone also boasts of a Delta-E <1 colour accuracy, 112% DCI-P3 colour gamut which is quite rare on a smartphone as most stuck with 100% DCI-P3, as well as SGS-certified Low-Blue-Light Seamless Pro Motion Speed which helps with the refresh rate. Despite the small body, ASUS took the effort to make sure that your movie and video experience is as crispy as it is world accurate. The phone is also IP68 water and dust resistant.
Like the previous phone, the Zenfone 9 consists of only two cameras, three if you count the dot notch at the front which thankfully is located at the side. The primary camera is the trusty 50MP Sony IMX766 sensor with 2µm pixel size, f/1.9 aperture, and OIS. The other is a 12MP Ultrawide Camera. It uses the Sony IMX363 camera sensor with a 113-degree field of view. This ultrawide camera also functions as a macro camera, eliminating the need for an additional gimmicky sensor. Finally, the front camera is the 12MP Sony IMX663 which is also used on some midrange handsets. The primary camera is also the same one used on the gaming-centric ROG Phone 6 and 6 Pro.
The phone has a gimbal stabilizer in place of the Optical Image Stabilization.
The phone uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset with a 4nm TSMC process. ASUS is also providing two years worth of major upgrades to its OS. It runs Android 12, a nearly pure Android 12 experience, kinda like NothingOS and early versions of OxygenOS. This ensures a smooth-sailing performance without the unnecessary bloat. If ASUS is going minimal, then using a near-stock Android skin is definitely the best decision to make.
While other phones could just leave the audio alone, ASUS took the time to take advantage of the DiRAC tuning, Hi-Res Audio certification, as well as Qualcomm aptX lossless audio hardware it has. The phone has a built-in equalizer so for those who miss LG’s amazing audio hardware and capabilities may want to purchase the Zenfone 9 instead.
The phone has a dual speaker system. The top speaker has 3 magnets each measuring 10x12mm; meanwhile the bottom has a 7-magnet speaker system each measuring 12x16mm. If you think the audio experience couldn’t go better… Lucky for you, IT CAN get better. Unlike other flagships, the Zenfone 9 did not miss out on the trusty 3.5mm jack! It will be a mainstay for a while on ASUS phones and hopefully it stays that way. ASUS is truly underrated these days on the smartphone space. Nothing says quality over quantity than ASUS.
For those that prefer wireless, we mentioned that the phone supports aptX lossless audio. The built-in equalizer has four presets from Dirac as well. Bespoke configuration is also available for ASUS headphones and wireless earsets.
Despite being 5.9in. the phone carries a large-enough battery. This battery has a capacity of 4300mAh complemented with 30W fast charging. Now, this may seem slow for a flagship but come to think of it, the phone is pretty much intended to be compact and to be used with one hand. Inside the box is the 30W charger but also ASUS has two battery modes that limit the charging speeds. The Steady mode limits the charging rate to 18W and the Ultra Steady mode limits it to 10W.
If you charge the battery to 100%, the battery will degrade only to 15% in 500 charge cycles. This means the phone can last longer than usual without throttling itself after a couple of charges. Did we forget to mention that the phone’s battery has a larger capacity than the Galaxy S22 Ultra?
A major change from the previous phone is the placement of the fingerprint sensor. It is now embedded in the so-called ZenTouch button that also functions as a multi-use gesture button. This works similar to TCL’s Smart Key where a user can program it to run certain tasks. The most common method is using it as a Google Assistant key
ASUS somehow got a hold of the Game Genie which was an early cheating program for games. That’s where the company ended up after the massive failure of the Aladdin console and the rise of Cheat Engine and other code indexing programs.
Kidding aside, this feature has nothing to do with the cheating hardware used in retro games. Instead, this is ASUS’ game booster and manager that was adopted from the ROG Phone series. It made its way here onto the Zenfone 9. The phone also has a specially-built VC cooling system so that you don’t put a frying pan on the camera lenses.
The phone has three configurations, all the way to 16/256. It starts with the 8/128 configuration. The base price is EUR 800 (~Php 45.4K) which is expensive and you can also get a ROG Phone 6 for a little more. However, this phone is clearly targeted at audiophiles and those that want a phone that is lightweight and compact while the ROG Phone 6 is intended for the hardcore mobile gamers.
It will be available in Europe, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Then the second batch of phones will be available in North America, Japan, Indonesia, and Latin America. Price depends on the VAT. It comes in Midnight Black, Starry Blue, and Sunset Red colours.
ASUS is also providing a bonus! The Connex accessories set allows you to attach a kickstand and a card holder at the back of your phone. These cases are also programmable so that they open an app of your choice. If you’re paying for a flagship, you’re also pretty much paying for the convenience, so why not grab the opportunity?
Hopefully what we said in the first statement isn’t true and a Zenfone 9 Flip would also be released soon. It’s a pretty niche feature that honestly became unique to ASUS. Samsung tried it and that did not go anywhere. Oppo was one of the early contenders for the flip camera but also has ditched it for the more traditional notches.
- 5.9in. FHD+ (2400x1080px) Samsung OLED, 120Hz refresh rate, 240Hz touch sampling rate, 445ppi, 1100 nits peak brightness
- 112% DCI-P3 colour gamut
- Delta E<1 colour accuracy
- IP68 water and dust resistant
- Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
- Always-on Display
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 (4nm)
- 50mp (main), f/1.9, 2µm pixels, 2×2 OCL PDAF, 6-axis Gimbal Stabilizer, Sony IMX766, OIS
- 12mp (ultrawide), f/2.2, 1.4µm, 113°, 14.4mm focal length, 4cm macro, Dual PDAF, Sony IMX363
- FRONT: 12mp, f/2.45, 27.5mm focal length, Dual PDAF, Sony IMX663
- 4300mAh battery, 30W fast charging
- QC 4.0 compliant
- Steady Mode: 18W limit
- Ultra Steady Mode: 10W limit
- Android 12
- 2 major upgrades
- Side-mounted fingerprint sensor (ZenTouch button), USB-C
- 3.5mm jack, stereo speakers, Hi-Res Audio, Dolby Atmos, Qualcomm aptX lossless audio, Dirac tuning, built-in equalizer
- 5G services, Wi-Fi 6/6E, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, Triple-band Wi-Fi
- Midnight Black, Starry Blue, Sunset Red
- 8/128: ~EUR 800 (~Php 45.4K)
- 16/256: TBA
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