Asus Zenfone 9 review: the flagship phone you should utilize with one hand

Asus Zenfone 9

MSRP $699.00

“The Asus Zenfone 9 is sufficiently small for use with one hand, but still has all the ability of a large flagship phone. While this compromises battery life and camera features, it’ll be an appropriate trade-off for some.”


  • Compact and straightforward to handle
  • Powerful processor
  • Neat, lightweight design
  • Strong audio features
  • Primary cameras take good photos


  • Gimbal disappoints
  • Screen doesn’t get vivid enough
  • No wireless charging

Since flagship smartphones must squeeze in additional cameras, greater screens, and even styli to appeal lately, the general size of the devices has increased too. Thus, there have been calls for brands to also do the alternative — make small phones with flagship processors. Asus has listened to your calls and made the Zenfone 9, and it has a complete lot going for it.


The Zenfone 9’s size follows Asus’s own directive of creating a smartphone that’s lower than 70mm wide and under 150mm tall to make it perfect for one-handed use, which began with the anonymous and reasonably neglected Zenfone 8. This time, the corporate has used a squared-off shape and right-angle corners to make sure it may well pack as much contained in the phone as possible, and turned to aluminum for the frame and a polymer material reasonably than glass on the rear panel to cut back weight.

The back of the Asus Zenfone 9.Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The result’s the Zenfone 9 weighs 169 grams, it’s 68mm wide, and 146mm tall. This makes it a number of millimeters less wide than the iPhone 13 and the Galaxy S22, and in regards to the same height, however the slab-like design makes it thicker than each at 9.1mm. The screen is barely smaller than the iPhone 13 and S22 at 5.9-inches. If the 6-inch Google Pixel 5 was your last ideally-sized phone, then the Zenfone 9 may suit you because it is less wide, only 2mm taller, and about 15 grams heavier.

I’ll be honest at this point and say the Zenfone 9 (and its contemporaries mentioned above) are too small for my very own personal liking, but I appreciate others will feel in a different way. That said, it’s extremely convenient to slide the phone right into a pocket and forget it’s there, and to make use of everything of the operating system with my thumb as I hold the phone in a single hand. The sunshine weight can also be helpful, as there is totally no fatigue when using the Zenfone 9 for long periods of time.

It’s extremely convenient to slide the phone right into a pocket and forget it’s there.

Despite the flat sides, the brand new polymer rear panel has been curved nicely at the sting, so the phone never digs into your palm or fingers. The bizarre material has a novel, almost textile-like texture — and in contrast to glass or metal, it won’t collect fingerprints or smudges. The 2 large cameras are set inside metal rings to provide the back some identity, and I actually like the sunshine grey text, numbers, and shapes used around them. The back of the Zenfone 9 looks and feels implausible.

The side of the Asus Zenfone 9, held in hand.Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

What are the downsides of the Zenfone 9’s small size? There really aren’t any while you only consider the design. It’s convenient, it’s pretty, it’s going to be fairly durable, and it’s suitable for everybody to make use of — no matter hand size. But this isn’t our verdict on the phone as a complete, and the downsides of a small phone come afterward.

Screen and performance

The 5.9-inch, Samsung-made AMOLED screen has a 2400 x 1080 pixel resolution, a 120Hz refresh rate, a 240Hz touch sampling rate, plus Gorilla Glass Victus over it. Inside is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor, similar to the one utilized in the ROG Phone 6 gaming phone, and either 8GB or 16GB of RAM. The essential version comes with 128GB of cupboard space, but you may pay more for a 256GB model. For reference, our review model is the 16GB/256GB version.

The Asus Zenfone 9's screen.Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

While the diminutive size is nice for convenience, it doesn’t make the Zenfone 9 spectacular for multimedia. It’s not that the screen is bad, but should you spend loads of time watching video, taking a look at photos, or playing games, an enormous screen makes the entire experience more enjoyable. It still all looks good on the Zenfone 9, just smaller. And when you’ve gotten this amount of power at your disposal, it’s a little bit of a shame to not make the most of it.

Yes, power. The Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 is an absolute beast. Nothing seems to hassle it, and it plays Asphalt 9: Legends and Diablo Immortal with no problem, so it shrugs off general on a regular basis tasks with ease. The extra RAM will keep more apps running within the background, although 8GB will probably be enough should you’re not a prodigious multi-tasker. While Asus has in-built a vapor cooling chamber, the Zenfone 9 still gets quite warm to the touch when playing games. It’s never burning, but you’ll notice it.

The side of the Asus Zenfone 9.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The side of the Asus Zenfone 9.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The 3.5mm headphone jack on the Asus Zenfone 9.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Watch videos, and the screen’s high level of contrast and exquisite colours really jump out, and it’s much more vibrant than the natural tones of the iPhone 13. It’s typical performance for a Samsung AMOLED, and it closely matches the Galaxy S22. Nevertheless, despite a claimed 800 nit outdoor brightness, it never quite gets vivid enough for my taste. I often reached for the brightness control, only to seek out it was either at its maximum, or about 80% of its max setting, where the ultimate 20% didn’t really make much difference to visibility.

I’ve left the screen on its Auto setting for the refresh rate. It has proven effective, with 120Hz smoothness delivered when I would like it, and if it does drop to 60Hz at any time, I haven’t noticed. I actually have noticed the speakers, though. There are dual speakers on the Zenfone 9 and Asus has worked with Dirac (because it has on the ROG Phone) to tune them. They get very loud but aren’t especially nice above about 70% volume, and there’s masses of vibration through the polymer rear panel from 50% or so.

Holding the Asus Zenfone 9 to show how it's able to be used one-handed.Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Play with the AudioWizard app, and you may manually adjust the equalizer or pick from 4 different sound profiles. It’s set to Dynamic by default, but I discovered switching to Music reduced a few of the harshness and placed higher emphasis on voices, which is useful when watching video. Continuing the Zenfone 9’s excellent audio package is support for Snapdragon Sound, AptX Adaptive, and AptX Lossless (with chosen headphones just like the NuraTrue Pro). And there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack too.

The Zenfone 9 truly delivers flagship smartphone performance, visuals, and audio — just in a compact package. That can be enough for some, but should you really need to make essentially the most of all this raw ability, then do think hard about whether a bigger screen would mean you find yourself getting more out of your phone over time.


The Zenfone 9 has a 6-axis gimbal to make the camera stand out from the competition. It operates when taking video or stills, and in contrast to optical image stabilization (OIS), your complete camera module moves by up to 3 degrees in any direction to compensate for movement, leading to smooth video and sharp stills without image deterioration. Asus then throws in electronic image stabilization (EIS) to suppress motion further, plus the camera even intelligently predicts movement ahead of time.

The Asus Zenfone 9's camera module.Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

There are two cameras on the phone. The foremost 50-megapixel Sony IMX766, which has the gimbal attached, and a 12MP Sony IMX363 113-degree wide-angle camera. Each have autofocus, there’s 8K video recording, a macro mode built into the wide-angle camera, and a 12MP selfie camera with autofocus inside a hole-punch cutout within the screen.

It’s not the primary time a gimbal has been used on a smartphone, with Vivo including one on the X70 Pro+ and X80 Pro, and it’s presumably here on the Zenfone 9 to provide the camera some extra appeal within the face of heavy competition. Unfortunately, in my tests up to now, it hasn’t really impressed me.

I attempted the #AsusZenfone9's video-steadying gimbal camera feature out when walking, running, and driving.

See it here in comparison with OIS on the iPhone 13 Pro. It's decent – keeping a subject central, when running – but inconsistent as within the automobile, the iPhone's video is best.

— Andy Boxall (@AndyBoxall) July 28, 2022

It’s at its best when shooting video handheld and attempting to maintain an object within the frame, where it compensates for natural, flowing motion effectively. But while you shoot while in motion, the outcomes aren’t pretty much as good as other phones that don’t have a gimbal.

For instance, I mounted the Zenfone 9 in my automobile and drove down a very bumpy piece of road, then did the identical with the iPhone 13 Pro. The iPhone’s footage is clearer and steadier and with less obvious digital correction. The Zenfone 9’s video is shakier and fewer clear, and the exposure and overall quality aren’t pretty much as good either. It was the same situation when running with the Zenfone 9 and shooting video. It’s not a foul feature, but don’t expect it to be dramatically higher than a superb OIS system.

Stills look great, provided you don’t mind some heavy-handed HDR effects, because the Zenfone 9 likes to sharpen up scenes with extra contrast and saturation. The outcomes are sometimes immediately shareable, but won’t at all times please purists. Consistency between the foremost camera and the wide-angle camera is nice, and the selfie camera takes balanced photos with good skin tone (but can get flustered in poor lighting). One thing to notice is previews on the phone’s screen make photos look worse, and it was only after taking a look at the photos within the gallery — and on a monitor — that the strong performance shone through.

Software and other features

Asus’s ZenUI is great, and among the finest non-Pixel software experiences you may have on an Android phone. It’s fast, cleanly presented, and mostly freed from filler. Yes, there are some silly pre-installed apps — a calculator, a weather app, a suggestions app, and things like Facebook and Netflix — but nothing too obnoxious. It’s based on Android 12, and most of Google’s foremost design elements remain, so it’s pretty and suitably customizable.

It’s essentially the identical system you get on the ROG Phone 6, just without the choice to activate the Republic of Gamers theme, which isn’t really an issue. It has been very reliable, I haven’t missed notifications, and it has run all of the apps I require. It’s very nice to make use of on a each day basis.

ZenUI is great, and among the finest non-Pixel software experiences you may have on an Android phone.

The fingerprint sensor is in the ability key and takes some getting used to, because it’s flush with the body and I discovered it quite hard to locate quickly. It also houses the Asus Smart Key, which adds gesture controls for some features. Just like the old Pixel 5’s rear-mounted sensor, a downward swipe opens the notification shade, or you may assign it to play media or refresh webpages. While the feature works, it’s very sensitive, and I needed to turn it off after some time because the notification shade was at all times appearing after I didn’t want it to.

Battery and charging

A 4,300mAh capability battery may not sound like much, but Asus only has a limited amount of room to work with contained in the Zenfone 9. It’s one other downside of demanding high specs inside a small device, and the use time reflects this. For those who don’t push the phone hard (by which we mean not playing games and watching video), it’s going to just last two days without requiring a recharge. The Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 is proving to be very efficient when it’s not being challenged.

The Asus Zenfone 9's charging port.Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Nevertheless, should you exploit the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 and luxuriate in the stunning screen, expect the battery life to fall quite dramatically by about 10% for half-hour of gameplay or 1440p video playback. Hit the Zenfone 9 hard with an hour of this, plus all the standard activity and a few photos or video, then it’ll last a day. It’s not terrible, and mostly expected for a battery with this capability, but should you’re going to make use of the phone as its specs encourage you to do, then be prepared to go to the charger every day.

A 30W charger is included within the box, and the phone supports Power Delivery 3.0 and Quick Charge 4.0, nevertheless it doesn’t have wireless charging. You’ll need greater than an hour to totally charge the battery using the Asus charger.

Price and availability

The Asus Zenfone 9 can be available within the U.S. within the near future, and the 8GB/128GB version will cost $699. In Europe, the worth has been set at 799 euros, and pre-orders will begin on July 28 through Asus’s online store and chosen partners.

Our take

If small and powerful is what you wish from a smartphone, the Asus Zenfone 9 delivers, nevertheless it’s not quite the complete flagship phone experience in a tiny package some should still crave, and the rationale why is pure physics. The dimensions of the battery and the complexity of the camera are constrained resulting from the dimensions of the phone. You just can’t fit a whopping battery and 6 cameras inside.

You find yourself with a compromise. For those who don’t care much about a very implausible, feature-packed camera but want the overt power to play the newest games and multitask to your heart’s content — but in a phone two-thirds of the dimensions of a Galaxy S22 Ultra or Pixel 6 Pro — it’s a powerful option. Nevertheless, should you plan on making full use of the Zenfone 9’s ability, the battery life may not at all times sustain. The screen, although attractive, isn’t as vivid as we’d like either.

Asus is superb at making capable, exciting smartphones for small segments of the phone-buying public. The ROG Phone 6 is the beneficial alternative for mobile gamers, and the compact Zenfone 9’s sheer, giant-killing power means it’ll immediately appeal to anyone uninterested in juggling a tablet-sized super phone.

Is there a greater alternative?

Do you wish a small phone with big power? The iPhone 13 and Samsung Galaxy S22 compete in size, weight, and price. Each are excellent. The iPhone 13 Mini is even smaller than the Zenfone 9, as is the iPhone SE (2022) and each use flagship-spec processors. But the dimensions is much more of a compromise than the Zenfone, and should you plan to play games, neither is the most effective alternative.

How long will it last?

The Zenfone 9 has an IP68 water resistance rating, so it’s relatively protected against water and dirt, and needs to be effective with a light dunking. The software is currently up so far, and Asus says it plans to deliver two major version updates and two years of security updates. That is average, but not so long as software commitments from Samsung and Google. Otherwise, the phone is cutting-edge, with an enormous amount of power inside. It should easily last you for 2 or three years before that you must take into consideration an upgrade.

Must you buy it?

Yes. The Zenfone 9 is as near a real compact flagship smartphone because it’s possible to get, and provided you understand the drawbacks that must include that, it’s an ideal purchase.

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