Asus ZenFone 6 hands on: Flipping the script to take on the OnePlus 7 Pro

Even if they hadn’t released within days of each other, it’s impossible not to compare the Asus ZenFone 6 to the OnePlus 7 Pro. They both have Snapdragon 855 processors, funky selfie cams, and near-stock Android skins. And they’re both a whole lot cheaper than their premium counterparts.

But while we expected the OnePlus 7 Pro to stand out in the field, the Asus ZenFone 6 may be one of the most surprising phones of the year so far. Where last year’s ZenFone 5z was an iPhone imitator with an ugly notch, forced AI camera gimmicks, and a heavy-handed skin, Asus has completely reimagined its smartphone experience for this year’s model: The camera cutout is gone, the AI scene detector is little more than a toggle, and ZenUI has been all but jettisoned. It’s a refreshing change that makes the ZenFone 6 feel more like a reboot than a annual refresh. That’s exactly what Asus needs to take on OnePlus 7 Pro, the ZenFone 6’s most obvious competitor. 

asus zenfone 6 back Christopher Hebert/IDG

The back of the Asus ZenFone 6 is glass, but there’s no wireless charging on board.

Let’s start with the specs. The ZenFone 6 is an incremental upgrade over the 5z, but Asus has added enough to keep pace with OnePlus’s upgrades:

  • Display: 6.4-inch FHD+ LCD
  • Processor: Snapdragon 855
  • RAM: 6GB/8GB
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB
  • Camera: 48MP, f/1.79 + 13MP ultra wide (125 degree FOV)
  • Battery: 5,000mAH

While the ZenFone 5z had relatively standard dimenseions of 153 x 75.65 x 7.7mm, the ZenFone 6 is slightly larger, measuring 159.1 x 75.44 x 9.1mm. The girth is especially noticeable, though the ZenFone 6 has a slightly tapered design that brings it down to a respectable 8.4mm at the edges. When you hold it, however, you can definitely feel that it’s substantially thicker than other phones. At 190 grams, the ZenFone 6 weighs a good deal less than the 206-gram OnePlus 7 Pro, but the uneven weight distribution makes the ZenFone 6 feel heavier and more cumbersome.

asus zenfone 6 front Christopher Hebert/IDG

The Zenfone 6’s 6.4-inch LCD screen isn’t nearly as bright or balanced as other OLED phones.

Asus has given the ZenFone 6 a near-all-screen design, with slim bezels and a dramatically reduced chin. The blue Asus logo stands out nicely against the black or silver glass back, as does the only other splash of color: a metallic blue rim around the power button. It even has a headphone jack. All in all, it’s a solid design that departs from the excesses of the ZenFone 5z. 

The ZenFone 6’s 6.4-inch display may be only a touch smaller than the 7 Pro’s 6.67-inch one, but the chasm between OnePlus’s Fluid AMOLED technology and Asus’s NanoEdge couldn’t be wider. The inherent differences between OLED and LCD are obvious, and the 1440p screen on the OnePlus 7 Pro is crisper and far more vibrant. The ZenFone 6’s display is substantially dimmer than the OnePlus 7 Pro’s, and what brightness it has isn’t nearly as uniform. When looking at a solid color, it’s easy to spot dark areas, especially near the edges. 

New dog gets new tricks

But the screen and the size may be tradeoffs most buyers will be willing to make to get the ZenFone 6’s flagship features: the camera and battery. While the OnePlus 7 Pro has a respectable 4,000mAh battery, the ZenFone 6 ups the ante to 5,000mAh, besting even the Galaxy S10 5G.

We’re still running tests, but Asus estimate up to 2 days of “non-stop use,” with 21 hours of Wi-Fi web browsing and 33.2 hours of talk time. For comparison, Apple estimates that the iPhone XS Max gets up to 13 hours of Internet use and 25 hours of talk time. So the ZenFone 6 will likely top the list as the longest-lasting of its Snapdragon 855 peers.

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