Asus Zenfone 9 Review And Full Details December 2022

Asus Zenfone 9 Review And Full Details December 2022

Compact size, big possibilities – the Zenfone 9’s tagline, printed on the very box of the phone, summarizes its priorities neatly. One of the most pocket-friendly high-end handsets on the market, Asus’s latest features a powerful chipset, a new main camera, and a battery capacity increase. Sadly, there’s no Zenfone Flip this time around – the small Zenfone 9 is the only Zenfone 9. And yes, it’s small. Asus has shaved off a few fractions of a millimeter here or there from the already tiny Zenfone 8’s dimensions and has kept the weight at 169g, making the larger battery all the more impressive. The Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1’s improved efficiency should do wonders with the extra juice, and the Fall version of the Qualcomm top-tier chipset is also even more powerful than the OG one.

The other key development is the gimbal-mounted main camera that also comes with a larger sensor than last year’s model. The ultrawide remains unchanged, but it does feature autofocus which is still not a given in 2022. Similarly, the also-reused AF-capable selfie camera sets the Zenfone 9 apart from the masses. The rest remains mostly unchanged. The 5.9-inch OLED display refreshes at up to 120Hz, the battery charges at up to 30 watts, there still is a headphone jack and stereo speakers, the body is IP68-rated. One somewhat surprising turn of events is the side-mounted fingerprint reader – the old phone had it under what’s otherwise the same display. Here’s a bunch more numbers.

The Zenfone 9 arrives in a matte gray recycled cardboard box with an oversized ‘9’ printed on the lid. Inside, you get a 30W charger and a USB-C cable to go with it. There is also a hard plastic snap-on case that covers the back and most of the sides and has raised surrounds for the cameras to ensure that the glass doesn’t go into contact with surfaces. The case is color-matched to the phone’s frame, too – so off-white on the Moonlight White version, black on the other ones. It’s not as soft to the touch as the handset’s own panel, though. For more about the design changes this year, join us on the next page.

THERE’S NO SHORTAGE of big phones these days. Apple even went so far as to nix a successor to last year’s iPhone 13 Mini and instead replaced it with the iPhone 14 Plus. Small phones are hard to come by, but they’re not completely extinct yet. If you’re tired of straining your fingers to reach parts of a screen, then the Asus Zenfone 9 is your friend. I have to mention a few major caveats before you read any further. This Android smartphone is available in the US, but it will not work on Verizon’s network at all. It works best on T-Mobile and AT&T. Asus also doesn’t support its smartphones for a long time. Most Android phone makers now offer three to five years of software support, but Asus is sticking with a paltry two. Get with the times! It’s a shame, because the Zenfone 9 has perks that are hard to find: a compact screen with flagship performance, plus a headphone jack. That’s super rare.

It might not look like a glitzy flagship phone, but there are a lot of goodies in this little package. It all starts with its size—at just 5.9 inches, it’s easy to wrap my fingers around. It’s not as small as the iPhone 13 Mini (5.4 inches), but it’s still one of the smallest screens out there today. This AMOLED display never felt too cramped with everyday tasks, but it did feel limiting when I watched episodes of Love, Death & Robots while on the exercise bike at the gym. I had to bring the phone close to my eyes to catch details in the “Night of the Mini Dead” episode (fitting). Otherwise, the screen is sharp, looks colorful, and manages to get just bright enough to use on sunny days. The 120-Hz refresh rate is a treat too, and a feature you won’t find on the iPhone 13 Mini—every swipe and scroll feels smooth.

Size isn’t the only thing that makes this phone so nice to hold; it’s also the texture Asus uses on the back of the device. It’s soft and feels kind of like the rubber mats on a playground. I like when phone manufacturers play around with designs and textures (RIP LG)—props to Asus for making this phone feel distinct, unlike its predecessor. Just know that this rear material can scuff up; it’s easy to clean, but you’ll still see some light marks.

There’s a side-mounted fingerprint sensor embedded in the power button, and it’s a quick and reliable way to unlock the device. A headphone jack sits at the top if you prefer to wear corded earbuds—this port is a rarity on flagship phones these days—and the Zenfone 9 has stereo speakers that get loud and sound pretty great. It also packs a near-field communication (NFC) sensor so you can make tap-to-pay payments. The screen is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus, and it has IP68-rated water and dust resistance, which is as good as you’ll find on most high-end phones these days.

What’s missing? Wireless charging. You can only recharge this phone with a cable, but there’s good news here too: Asus is one of the few phone makers these days that still includes a charging adapter along with the USB-C cable. (It even comes with a case, though it’s not terribly protective.) Speaking of charging, Asus has managed to fit a 4,300-mAh battery into this small phone, which comfortably lasts a full day. Actually, it usually gets me through a day and a half with average use. It’s pretty great!

Let’s not forget about its mighty performance. It’s powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset, which is the absolute best you’ll find on Android right now. I never once saw this phone stutter, whether I was playing a game, scrolling through Twitter, or responding to an email.

Asus doesn’t offer long software support, but despite launching with Android 12, I’m already running a beta version of Android 13 on the Zenfone 9. The official version will likely land sometime in December, so at least you won’t have to wait long. I also like that the interface is pretty close to the base version of Android: simple, clean, and pretty. It’s just a shame the support window is so short—it likely won’t get Android 15 in 2024.

Big Cameras
What helps make the Zenfone 9 look distinct from some of its peers are the two massive camera circles on the back. They’re unusually large. This is because both the primary 50-megapixel camera and the 12-megapixel ultrawide have a unique six-axis gimbal to help stabilize video footage so it doesn’t look janky.

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