Well, that’s a rare beast – the Asus Zenfone 9 is a small phone with a big battery and powerful chipset. It really is a beast, in our test it outperformed Exynos-powered Galaxy S22, SD 8 Gen 1-powered Xiaomi 12 and others.
This was in performance mode and the phone can’t last long at full throttle, but Asus’ new vapor chamber cooling system coped better than expected with the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset.
The Zenfone 9 measures 146.6 x 68.2 x 9.5mm and weighs 165g. For comparison, the Galaxy S22 measures 146 x 70.6 x 7.6mm and weighs 167g (albeit with a 600mAh smaller battery). The iPhone 13 mini measures 131.5 x 64.2 x 7.7mm and weighs 141g. So the Zenfone isn’t a mini, but it’s about as small as Android flagships (we know tiny androids exist, but they seriously compromise on features).
The Zenfone has an IP rating, Gorilla Glass Victus, a 120Hz display with always-on mode, up to 16GB of RAM, a large 4,300mAh battery with decently fast 30W charging (0-100 % in over an hour in our tests) plus a pair of good quality speakers tuned by Dirac.
Speaking of audio, there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack, which most phones skip, and there’s a 10-band equalizer to boot. Also, there are many settings for charging, gaming, etc., so you can customize the device to your liking.
This feels more like an enthusiast phone than a mid-range offering (Zenfone is Asus’ mass-market series).
However, the Zenfone 9 has some weaknesses. For starters, we would have been happy about a microSD slot. The 128/256GB storage will probably be enough for most, but it would have been another advantage over mainstream models.
However, software support is the biggest black spot on the phone. Asus has only committed to two major operating system updates (and Android 13 is just around the corner) and “at least” two years of security patches. That’s not much considering the $700/€800 price point and the software on the phone is mostly stock Android with some Asus magic on top.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 ($800/€850) gets four OS upgrades and five years of security patches. That’s better than Google’s Pixel 6 (3 upgrades, 5 years of patches). And way better than the Pixel 6a, which is more comparable in size (but only gets 3 years of patches instead of 5).
The S22 isn’t as fast as the Zenfone and it hasn’t grown in terms of battery life, but it does have a 3x telephoto camera rather than relying on the main sensor’s zoom. The Zenfone is chunkier (9.1mm vs 7.6mm) and while we liked the material on the back, we feel like all the lettering and stickers belong to the ROG series, not here.
The Pixel 6 ($600/€650) is quite a bit larger, so it doesn’t make a great comparison. The Pixel 6a ($450/€460) is closer to the mark. Its OLED panel lacks a high refresh rate mode and is only protected by Gorilla Glass 3 (the phone as a whole is rated IP67). It uses the same Tensor chipset as the flagship Pixel, but the main camera is a small, ole 12-megapixel sensor that has to rely on Google’s processing magic to snap decent shots.
Samsung Galaxy S22 5G • Google Pixel 6a
The Sony Xperia 5 IV will probably be its closest competitor, but that doesn’t exist yet, so let’s look at the Mark 3 ($800/€900) instead. It’s the same width (68mm), which we think is more important than the extra inch of height. This has a 120 Hz display, a microSD slot and a 12-megapixel telephoto camera with dual focal lengths that offers 3x and 4.4x magnification. The large 4,500mAh battery didn’t last as long as the Zenfone (100h vs. 108h Endurance), but that’s with the older Snapdragon 888 chipset. Sony isn’t great with updates either, so it can’t hold that over Asus.
Sony Xperia 5III
If you want a proper mini phone with high-end features, the Apple iPhone 13 mini ($700/€800) is pretty much the only option. It forgoes luxuries like an HRR display or a telephoto camera, and rumor has it there won’t be an iPhone 14 mini to correct those flaws. Also, the small size means the battery life isn’t great (75 hours of endurance). Fortunately, all iPhones from late 2016 or newer are running the latest iOS.
Apple iphone 13 mini
The Asus Zenfone 9 will soon be available in Europe, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and a few weeks later in North America, Japan, Indonesia and parts of South America. You can already read our review (and don’t miss our video review) if you want more details on the pros and cons.
Alright, time to vote – buy a Zenfone 9 or go for something else?
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