Asus Zenfone 9 – small but big


With the Asus Zenfone 9, Asus delivers a relatively compact smartphone that is hardly inferior to the larger competition in terms of functions. On paper then. In this Asus Zenfone 9 review you can read how you like the device in practice.

Asus Zenfone 9

Price from € 799,-
Colors black, white, red and blue
OS android 12
Screen 5.9 inch amoled (2400 x 1080, 120 Hz)
Processor 3.2GHz octa-core (Snapdragon 8+ (Gen 1))
RAM 8 or 12 GB
Storage 128 or 256 GB
Battery 4,300mAh
Camera 50 + 50 megapixels (rear), 12 megapixels (front)
Connectivity Wi-Fi 6E, 5G, bluetooth 5.2, GPS, NFC
Format 14.7 x 6.8 x 0.9cm
Weight 169 grams
Other Waterproof and dustproof, headphone jack
Website www.asus.com
8 Score 80 Rating: 80

  • Pros
  • Compact design
  • Performance
  • Long battery life
  • Negatives
  • Update policy too short
  • Can’t charge wirelessly

Asus has never broken through with its smartphones in terms of fame and market share, but perseveres bravely. The company focuses on gaming smartphones (ROG line) and compact models (Zenfone line). The Zenfone 9 is the latest model, and will be released in August 2022. I was able to test it for three weeks. In this Asus Zenfone 9 review you can read my findings.

Compact design

What immediately catches the eye when gripping the smartphone is its size. The Zenfone 9 is nice and compact and light, comparable to the Samsung Galaxy S22, Apple iPhone 13 and Zenfone 8 from last year. If you want a really small modern smartphone, you will find the iPhone 13 mini.

In my opinion, the 169 gram Zenfone 9 weighs in and strikes a nice balance between being small enough to use with one hand and large enough to provide a clear screen.

The smartphone has a plastic back that offers a lot of grip but also damages relatively quickly. After the test period, there were several scratches on the back. Also keep in mind that the camera lenses protrude on the back, so that the smartphone does not lie flat on the table and the camera lenses scratch more quickly on paper. A case solves this.

The Asus Zenfone 9 is – as you would expect in this price range – water and dustproof and has a USB-C port for charging. The right side houses a fingerprint scanner that is fast and accurate.

The speakers of the smartphone can be nice and loud and sound surprisingly full. Given the compact design of the device, the sound quality is better than you expect.

A compliment to Asus, which also deserves praise for adding a 3.5mm headphone jack to the Zenfone 9. Apart from Sony and Asus, there are no longer any brands that provide expensive smartphones with a headphone port – they say because they don’t have one. space to see. Asus shows – with a compact phone, of course – that that argument is not a panacea.

Screen

The screen of the Zenfone 9 measures 5.9 inches and is therefore easy to operate with one hand. There is little that can be said about the screen quality. The Full HD resolution delivers a sharp image, the refresh rate of 120 Hz makes the image wonderfully smooth and the OLED panel shows colors that splash off the screen. Black is also really black. The screen can also be nice and bright, comparable to the competition.

A layer of Gorilla Glass protects the display against scratch, drop and impact damage (not tested) and the display supports an always-on mode that, among other things, shows the time when the screen is further off.

The screen of the Zenfone 9 is a joy to look at, just like the screens of the Samsung Galaxy S22 and Apple iPhone 13 (mini). Although iPhones do not have a 120Hz screen, but a 60Hz screen, which makes the image look less smooth. You notice this especially if you are already used to a 90Hz or 120Hz screen.

Asus Zenfone 9 Specifications

Samsung (Galaxy S22) and Apple (iPhone 13 mini) have already proven that small can also be nice. Asus itself also, with the Zenfone 8. The Zenfone 9 raises the bar a little higher. It is one of the first smartphones to run on the lightning-fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen1 processor.

Asus puts a minimum of 8 GB and a maximum of 16 GB of RAM in the smartphone. While 8 GB is common in an expensive phone, 16 GB is relatively new and excessive in my opinion. I tested the 16GB version but noticed little difference when switching between apps with an 8GB smartphone. Keeping more apps and games in your RAM can be nice if you switch very often, but I would save money myself by taking the Zenfone 9 in an 8GB model. Where you can choose from 128 GB or 256 GB storage memory; not expandable via a MicroSD card.

In terms of functions, the Zenfone 9 is well equipped. Wifi 6E (Evolution), 5G, NFC, make it up. Everything you expect in an expensive phone is there and works properly.

Long battery life

The Asus Zenfone 9 contains a 4300 mAh battery. A large capacity for such a compact smartphone, but not exceptional. Logically, larger devices also have a larger battery. The Zenfone 9 lasts at least a day on a battery charge. That also seems to be thanks to the Snapdragon processor, which is more energy-efficient than its predecessor (the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1). Great, especially because the processor is also faster.

The Zenfone 9 charges with a maximum of 30 watts. That is not special in 2022, because competing devices can charge with 65, 80 or even 150 watts. Although there are also models from Samsung and Apple that charge slower than the Zenfone 9.

The Asus device takes half an hour to charge from 0 to 56 percent and has a total of more than seventy minutes to fully charge. It is nice that the charging adapter and USB-C cable are included in the sales package. More and more brands, including Samsung and Apple, only supply a charging cable (in their own words to save the environment).

It is also nice that you can indicate in the settings of the Zenfone 9 that the battery should not be charged further than 80 or 90 percent. This way the battery wears out less quickly. Of course you can also simply charge up to 100 percent.

As mentioned, the Asus Zenfone 9 cannot charge wirelessly. A missing function on an otherwise very complete smartphone, and also a shame given the selling price of the device. Especially when you know that the Samsung Galaxy S22 and iPhone 12 and 13 series are equally compact and can charge wirelessly. Asus makes a mistake in this area – how much you think that differs per person.

Two cameras

Two camera lenses are placed on the back of the Zenfone 9. Although they look like induction hobs, they are that striking. The lenses also protrude a bit from the housing and all in all, they are very similar to the design of modern Huawei smartphones. That said, Asus opts for two 50-megapixel cameras: one for ‘normal’ photos and videos and one for extra-wide wide-angle images. It is nice that the wide-angle camera has autofocus and therefore also works as a macro camera, so from centimeters away at a flower, animal or object.

The camera performance of both camera lenses is very good and comparable to most competitors. Photos and videos look colourful, sharp and realistic. A 2x zoom mode in the camera app brings the view closer through the primary camera. That works fine, but don’t expect miracles from the zoomed-in photo.

The photos below were taken with the primary camera in automatic mode.

Below is a photo comparison between the primary camera (left) and wide-angle camera.

In dark situations, the Asus Zenfone 9 also holds its own, as long as you leave the night mode on. It works well and is on by default in the dark, and you can also force it. Without night mode, the Zenfone 9 won’t produce the best photos when it’s really dark. But even with the night mode on, the iPhone 13 and Google Pixel 6 do slightly better in this area.

The selfie camera of the Asus Zenfone 9 is more than fine. The built-in portrait mode is nice, which works accurately and adds a cool depth-of-field effect to your selfies.

Cleaned up software gets too few updates

So far, the Asus Zenfone 9 is a very complete smartphone that actually makes no real mistakes. That will change with Asus’ update policy. For completely unclear reasons, Asus has decided to give the Zenfone 9 two version updates and two years of security updates. With Android 12 installed and a release in August, it means that you can count on Android 13 and 14 and security updates until August 2024. And that’s where it ends as far as we know.

Surely the technical developers of the Zenfone 9 burst into tears when they heard this from their colleagues? Such an interesting smartphone, and then an update policy that is miles behind the competition. For example, Google guarantees three version updates and five years of security updates for its modern Pixel devices, Samsung opts for four version updates and five years of security updates and any iPhone gets five to six years of complete updates.

The Asus Zenfone 9 gets updates even shorter than many budget smartphones and that is not good. It is hoped that Asus will repent and improve its update policy, but when purchasing the Zenfone 9, you can (unfortunately) not count on that.

The update policy is a gaping hole in an otherwise fine software jacket. Asus leaves the Android 12 software visually largely intact and provides few commercial apps. The software is full of useful functions, such as assigning actions to the fingerprint scanner, a one-handed mode and the option to quickly take a screenshot. You can also easily determine which icons you do and do not want to see in the screen bar at the top, for example.

It all shows that Asus has put a lot of thought into its software. Personnel hours and therefore saving money on the update policy is therefore an extra waste.

Conclusion: buy Asus Zenfone 9?

With a solid update policy, the Asus Zenfone 9 hit the bull’s eye. A high-end smartphone with a fairly aggressive sales price, complete software, premium specifications and a pleasant user experience. Now the device is anything but prepared for years of use; after all, the software support will stop in August 2024. That is incompatible with the suggested retail price from 799 euros. And so the Zenfone 9 is the best smartphone that I can actually recommend to anyone except people who have no problem with a bad update policy.

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