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ASUS ZenFone 8 review: A small flagship phone filling big boots

By Liu Hongzuo - 10 Jul 2021
Launch SRP: S$999

Benchmark Performance, Battery, Conclusion

Benchmark Performance

The ASUS ZenFone 8 contains the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset. It puts the phone in the running as a 2021 flagship Android smartphone against competitors with identical chipsets - like the Xiaomi Mi 11 and Oppo Find X3 Pro. Competitors with flagship-tier chipsets built on a similar manufacturing process, like the Exynos 2100, are also up for consideration, pitting the ASUS phone against the Samsung Galaxy S21 series as well.

The ZenFone 8 variant we have on hand also comes with 16GB LPDDR5 RAM and 256GB UFS 3.1 internal storage, which costs S$100 more than the 8GB RAM based model at S$999. This should lend it additional processing power next to all other comparison phones that typically 'only' have 8 to 12GB. 

We’ve pit it against phones with SD888 (Xiaomi Mi 11, Oppo Find X3 Pro), SD888-equivalents (Samsung Galaxy S21), and friends of similar physical sizes, even if they offer dissimilar performance (Apple iPhone 12 Mini, Google Pixel 4a). We’ve also thrown in an SD865 phone from last year to compare against 2020’s flagship chipset and devices (OnePlus 8T).

  ASUS ZenFone 8 Xiaomi Mi 11 Oppo Find X3 Pro Samsung Galaxy S21 OnePlus 8T Apple iPhone 12 Mini Google Pixel 4a
  ASUS ZenFone 8 Xiaomi Mi 11 Oppo Find X3 Pro Samsung Galaxy S21 OnePlus 8T Apple iPhone 12 Mini Google Pixel 4a
Launch SRP
  • From S$999
  • From S$999
  • From S$1599
  • From S$1248
  • From S$899
  • From S$499
Operating system
  • Android 11 on ZenUI
  • Android 11 on MIUI 12
  • ColorOS 11.2, based on Android 11
  • Android 11 (One UI 3)
  • OxygenOS 11, based on Android 11
  • iOS 14
  • Android 10
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
  • Samsung Exynos 2100, 5nm octa-core (2.9GHz + 2.8GHz + 2.2GHz)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
  • A14 Bionic
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G Octa-core (2x2.2 GHz Kryo 470 Gold & 6x1.8 GHz Kryo 470 Silver) with Adreno 618 GPU
Built-in Memory
  • 8/16GB RAM (LPDDR5)
  • 8GB RAM (LPDDR5)
  • 12GB RAM
  • LPDDR5
  • 8GB (LPDDR5)
  • 8GB/12GB RAM
  • LPDDR4X
  • 4GB RAM
  • 6GB LPDDR4X RAM
Display
  • 5.9-inches 2,400 x 1,080 pixels (445 ppi) AMOLED, 20:9 ratio, 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+, 1,100-nits brightness
  • 6.81-inches 3,200 x 1,440 pixels (515 ppi) AMOLED, 20:9 ratio, 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+, 10-bit colour
  • 6.7-inch / 3,216 x 1,440 pixels (525 ppi) / 120Hz refresh rate / 240Hz touch sampling rate / AMOLED Display
  • 6.2-inch, Dynamic AMOLED 2X, Infinity-O
  • 2,400 x 1,080 pixels (421ppi)
  • 120Hz adaptive refresh rate
  • Eye Comfort Shield
  • 6.55-inch / 2,400 x 1,080 pixels (402 ppi) / 120Hz refresh rate / Fluid AMOLED Display
  • 5.4-inch Super Retina XDR display
  • 2,340 x 1,080 pixels resolution
  • 476 pixels per inch
  • HDR
  • TrueTone
  • 5.81-inch / 2,340 x 1,080 pixels (443 ppi) / OLED display
Camera
  • Rear:
  • 64MP main, 1/1.7-inch sensor size, 0.8μm pixel size, 1.6μm with Quad Bayer, f/1.8, 4-axis OIS, 2x1 OCL PDAF
  • 12MP ultra-wide, 113° FOV, f/2.2, Dual PDAF, 4cm macro shooting
  • Front:
  • 12MP, 1.22μm pixel size, Dual PDAF
  • Rear:
  • 48 MP main, 1/1.33-inch sensor size, 0.8μm pixel size, 1.6μm 4-in-1 Super Pixel, f/1.85, OIS
  • 13MP ultra-wide, 123° FOV, f/2.4
  • 5MP telemacro, f/2.4
  • Front:
  • 20MP, 0.8μm pixel size, 1.6μm 4-in-1 Super Pixel, f/2.2
  • Rear:
  • 50MP, Sony IMX766 1/1.56-inch sensor size, f/1.8, All Pixel Omni-Directional PDAF, OIS
  • 50MP, Sony IMX766 1/1.56-inch sensor size, f/2.2, 110° FOV, 4cm Macro, All Pixel Omni-Directional PDAF
  • 13MP Telephoto, f/2.4, 5x Hybrid Zoom, 20x Digital Zoom
  • 3MP Microlens, 60x magnification, f/3.0
  • Front:
  • 32MP, f/2.4
  • Rear:
  • 12MP, f/1.8, wide-angle 1.8µm, Dual Pixel AF, OIS
  • 12MP, f/2.2, ultra-wide, 1.4µm, 120° FOV
  • 64MP, f/2.0, telephoto, 0.8µm, PDAF, 3x Hybrid Optic Zoom
  • Front:
  • 10MP, f/2.2, portrait, 1.22µm, Dual Pixel AF
  • Rear:
  • 48MP, Sony IMX586, f/1.78, 4-in-1 pixel binning (1.6µm @ 12MP)
  • 16MP, Ultra-Wide-Angle, f/2.2, 123° FOV
  • 2MP Macro
  • 2MP, Monochrome
  • Front:
  • 16MP, Sony IMX471, f/2.4, 1.0 µm
  • Rear cameras:
  • Dual 12MP camera system
  • Ultrawide: 13mm, f/2.4
  • Wide: 26mm, f/1.6
  • 2x optical zoom
  • 5x digital zoom
  • OIS (wide)
  • Smart HDR for both cameras
  • Night Mode for both cameras
  • Deep Fusion for both cameras
  • 4K, 60fps
  • Dolby Vision 4K, 30fps
  • Slow-motion up to 240fps at 1080p
  • Front camera:
  • 12MP, f/2.2
  • Night Mode
  • Deep Fusion
  • Smart HDR
  • Main camera: 12.2MP, F1.7, AF with dual pixel PDAF, OIS + EIS
  • Front camera: 8MP, F2.0
  • Google Night Sight
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 6/6E (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, 2x2 MIMO), Bluetooth 5.2, L1+L5 GPS, L1 GLONASS, E1+E5a GALILEO, USB-C, NFC, 3.5mm audio jack
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6, Bluetooth 5.2, L1+L5 GPS, G1 GLONASS, E1+E5a GALILEO, Beidou, USB-C, NFC
  • Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4Ghz, 5.1Ghz, 5/8Ghz), Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot, Bluetooth 5.2, A-GPS, Beidou, Glonass, Galileo, GPS
  • LTE / 5G (NSA, SA, Sub6)
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot, Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, LE
  • GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO
  • NFC
  • 5G NSA, 5G SA, LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4G, 5G, 2x2 MIMO), NFC, Bluetooth 5.1 (aptX, aptX HD, LDAC, AAC, SBC), A-GPS, Beidou, Glonass, Galileo, GPS (L1+L5 Dual Band)
  • 5G (sub-6GHz)
  • Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax/b/g/n/a/)
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Ultra-wideband chip
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 5.0, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC, AAC
  • Glonass, Galileo, QZSS, BeiDou
  • NFC
  • USB 2.0 Type-C
Storage Type
  • 256GB internal storage, UFS 3.1
  • 128/256GB internal storage, UFS 3.1
  • 256GB internal storage
  • UFS 3.0
  • 256GB
  • No microSD card slot
  • 128GB/256GB internal storage
  • UFS 3.1 2-lane
  • 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
  • 128GB internal
Battery
  • 4,000mAh
  • 33W wired fast-charging
  • 4,500mAh
  • 55W wired fast-charging
  • 50W wireless fast-charging
  • 10W reverse wireless charging
  • 4,500mAh
  • 65W SuperVOOC 2.0
  • 30W AirVOOC (wireless charging)
  • 4,000mAh
  • 25W Super Fast Charging
  • 15W Wireless Fast Charging
  • 4,500mAh
  • 65W Fast Charging (10V/6.5A)
  • Built-in lithium-ion
  • Up to 15 hours video playback
  • 3,140mAh
  • 18W Fast battery charging
Dimensions
  • 148 x 68.5 x 8.9mm
  • 164.3 x 74.6 x 8.06mm
  • 163.6 x 74.0 x 8.26mm
  • 71.2 x 151.7 x 7.9mm
  • 160.7 x 74.1 x 8.4mm
  • 131.5 x 64.2 x 7.4mm
  • 144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm
Weight
  • 169g
  • 196g
  • 193g
  • 169g
  • 188g
  • 133g
  • 143g

 

JetStream 2.0

JetStream 2 is a combination of a variety of JavaScript and Web Assembly benchmarks, including benchmarks that came before like SunSpider and Octane. It primarily tests for a system’s and browser’s ability in delivering a good web experience. It runs a total of 64 subtests, each weighted equally, with multiple iterations, and takes the geometric mean to compute the overall score.


 

AnTuTu 

Note: As of 9th March 2020, all AnTuTu benchmarks were removed from the Google Play Store. This move likely arose from Google's attempts to relieve the Play Store of apps that violate their policies. AnTuTu is working with Google to restore their app listing. For this review, we used the APK file that was available on AnTuTu's website.

AnTuTu is an all-in-one benchmark that tests CPU, GPU, memory, and storage. The CPU benchmark evaluates both integer and floating-point performance, and the GPU tests assess 2D and 3D performance, the memory test measures available memory bandwidth and latency, and the storage tests gauge the read and write speeds of a device's flash memory.

 

Geekbench 5

Geekbench CPU is a cross-platform processor benchmark that tests both single-core and multi-core performance with workloads that simulate real-world usage. Geekbench 5 scores are calibrated against a baseline score of 1000, which is the score of an Intel Core i3-8100.


 

3DMark Sling Shot Extreme

3DMark Sling Shot is an advanced 3D graphics benchmark that tests the full range of OpenGL ES 3.1 and ES 3.0 API features including multiple render targets, instanced rendering, uniform buffers and transform feedback. The test also includes impressive volumetric lighting and post-processing effects. The test's Unlimited mode ignores screen resolutions.

We’re also collecting scores with 3DMark’s new benchmark, Wild Life. Below are the test’s Unlimited Mode scores.

 

Performance Benchmark Remarks

Overall, the ZenFone 8’s benchmark performance is on par with other SD888 touting devices. Sure, it may perform better in certain metrics and worse in others, but all of it evens out to a high-performing 2021 smartphone.

What got us was how ZenFone 8 didn’t let its size get in the way of performing well, which was something we noticed in the Galaxy S21. In real-world usage, any hiccups experienced were down to UI and animation choices - the phone was capable of handling anything we threw at it.

 

Battery life

Our standard battery test for mobile phones has the following parameters:

  • Looping a 720p video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email

The ZenFone 8 offers a 4,000mAh battery with a 30W HyperCharge adapter in the box for fast charging. The phone offers Quick Charge 4.0 and PD charging profiles, but ASUS didn’t outright state the maximum charging speed the ZenFone 8 has. 

We think its 804 minutes of uptime is very respectable. It’s reminiscent of ASUS’s improved battery handling in its past ZenFone models. Having a less demanding 1080p display helps immensely too (the other alternatives like Xiaomi and Oppo on this list were running the test with a 1440p display). The closest rival it has is the Galaxy S21 with similar display specs and a 5nm chipset, but ZenFone 8 was able to get 200 more minutes. Mi 11 and Find X3 Pro’s performance could be chalked up to its higher-rated 1440p display, which likely draws more power.

Fast-charging took only 35 minutes to go from 0% to 50%, but 99 minutes total to go from 0% to 100%. Even with default battery settings, the ZenFone 8 is careful when it comes to fast-charging, where the charging speed tapers off as it approaches a full battery. That said, if you prioritise having a full charge within an hour, you can go into the settings and tweak its battery management features to make it more aggressive.

Noticeably, the ZenFone 8 lacks wireless charging, a feature available in many devices at its price point. 

 

Conclusion

Our gauntlet of tests and our experiences with the ZenFone 8 tells us it’s a good flagship smartphone that feels sensible to use, with performance that’s up to par, along with features of respectable quality - like its battery and camera work. Starting at S$999, the ZenFone 8 would make a great choice if you’re looking to upgrade from a premium midrange phone - more so if it’s an ageing one.

Where it does fall a little short are its other user experiences, which we’ve covered in our Features section and also managed to work around with some effort. It’s also a phone that requires a careful look into its Settings page in order to make it go above and beyond for you, but that also holds true for big-name brands. What really penalises it as a flagship offering, however, is the lack of wireless charging, and perhaps the lack of a telephoto lens - these are trade-offs needed to fit other components in the very small space it has.

With its price tag, it has to contend with the likes of the Xiaomi Mi 11, and the slightly pricier Samsung Galaxy S21 (which is probably more affordable now, given the passage of time and increased competition). Chipset performance aside, it’s a matter of trade-offs between these three options. Mi 11 has 1440p display when the other two do not, but ZenFone 8 fills an important gap that Xiaomi left out: IP-rated water resistance. Samsung’s Galaxy S21 aces in non-stock Android UI experiences with a similar size to boot, while ZenFone 8 has a much better battery life next to these rivals.

Of course, all these recommendations also consider that you accept and want a palm-sized device as your main consideration. It’s always a choice between a bigger screen against better portability. So, remember to factor in your tolerance between squinting and carrying bulky phones when deciding on the ZenFone 8.

That said, it’s almost unmatched in performance for a phone of its size, since existing smaller or equally small Android phones don’t carry the SD888 chipset as the ZenFone 8 does, and these small phones typically sacrifice battery uptime while the ZenFone 8 tries not to.

As a whole, the ZenFone 8 is a great phone facing greater competition. It’s also both a good and unique smartphone because of its compact size, worthy features, and palatable price, even if it’s not particularly flashy in any aspect. We welcome having more options in Singapore’s flagship Android space and finally, we can recommend a capable, high-end compact Android phone that's not from Samsung.

The trickier question then is should you choose the ASUS ZenFone 8 or the Samsung Galaxy S21 when hunting for a compact flagship phone? As iterated earlier, the Galaxy S21 has the upper hand in non-stock Android UI experience all through its operating system, a better camera system with its dedicated telephoto lens and a more capable, advanced and yet user-friendly camera interface, wireless charging and a more polished phone design as a whole. Where the ZenFone 8 gets the nod is its overall performance, much better battery life and being a tad more affordable. So it's a matter of which set of experiences do you want more out of your device.

The ASUS ZenFone 8 is available for purchase at an official recommended price of S$999 (8GB RAM + 256GB storage), with a S$1,099 alternative (16GB RAM + 256GB storage). If you’re convinced that it’s a flagship phone worthy of your money, you can purchase one from ASUS' online store.

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8.0
  • Design 7.5
  • Features 8
  • User-Friendliness 8
  • Performance 8.5
  • Value 8.5
The Good
Well-priced for performance offered
Choice of 8GB or 16GB RAM
Great battery life
Cleaner-than-before UI
Phone size ideal for one-handed use
3.5mm audio jack
IP68 water and dust resistant certified
The Bad
No wireless charging
No dedicated telephoto lens
Needs customisation for responsive use
Dated design
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