The Zenfone 9 was revealed to the world at the end of July and arrives as Asus’ latest bet for the traditional audience that is not interested in the ROG model with gamer appeal and is looking for a powerful cell phone in a compact body. You may have already checked out the device’s technical sheet on the TudoCelular website, but now you’ll see a preview of what the Asus novelty has to offer in these first impressions in partnership with our HDBlog brothers.
design and accessories
The Zenfone 9 brings beautiful advances compared to the Zenfone 8, such as a more powerful chip, a new sensor for the main camera and a more generous battery, all without compromising the differential of being one of the most compact cell phones on the market.
The new top of the line from Asus even got slightly smaller and narrower, but it’s chubby to house the bigger battery. We have a 9.1 mm thick device that seems a lot for today where manufacturers are more concerned with thin design to win over the public, as much as most prefer a battery that lasts longer.
The design has changed to follow the market trend with straighter devices and leaving the curves aside. The Zenfone 9 is just the right size to ensure good ergonomics and doesn’t make it difficult to use with just one hand. The glass back finish has given way to matte plastic; it may feel like a throwback, but the feel to the touch is still pleasant.
The camera block has also been dropped and this is an increasingly common trend. It’s now just two individually arranged cameras at the rear and they’re bigger and more prominent than before due to the new advanced image stabilization system.
Each camera has a metallic bezel, while the single LED flash is farther away from the main sensor. The Zenfone 8 has only the name Asus Zenfone stamped on the central part, while the new one comes with several writings referring to the name of the device and also to the optical set of the camera, which generates a more polluted look.
In addition to the all-black model, which is the one with the most stains and finger marks, we also have the Zenfone 9 in blue, red and silver. The latter is the only one with light metal sides, while the others have a dark metallic finish. The sides are also flat and there is just a slight curvature to the edges.
Asus has kept the standard headphone jack as well as the IP68 certification, which ensures that the Zenfone 9 can be wet or even submerged in water. The drawer for the chips at the bottom continues without microSD support, while the biometric reader left the screen and is now incorporated into the power button; it supports navigation gestures, which Asus calls Smart Key.
It’s good to see that the company hasn’t abandoned the charger like Apple, Samsung and others have been doing. The Zenfone 9 comes with a 30W charger and even comes with a gift case in the box, a hard plastic accessory that protects the device well.
screen and hardware
The screen is the same size as before, but the bezel is thinner. It’s good to see that Asus has managed to make better use of the front area on its new top-of-the-line phone. The camera for selfies remains in the upper left corner, while the lower edge is still wider than the others.
The panel adopted is a Super AMOLED with 5.9 inches and a resolution of 1080 x 2400 pixels, in addition to having a refresh rate of 120 Hz. In theory it looks like we have the same screen adopted in the predecessor, but the brightness is a little stronger. There is HDR10+ support for enjoying movies and series on Netflix, as well as watching technology-compatible videos on YouTube.
It is possible to lock the panel at 60, 90 or 120 Hz. There is also the option to leave it in automatic mode and the system decides what is best for the battery to last longer without compromising fluidity when necessary. The colors are saturated by default and are a bit far from reality, but Asus gives you the option to calibrate as you wish.
- 5.9-inch AMOLED screen with Full HD+ resolution
- Display with hole and 120 Hz refresh rate
- Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 Platform
- 8GB or 16GB LPDDR5 RAM
- 256 GB of UFS 3.1 internal storage
- 12 MP front camera
- Two rear cameras:
- Main lens with 50 MP sensor
- Ultra wide-angle lens with 12 MP sensor
- 5G connection, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, USB-C 3.0 and headphone jack.
- 4,300mAh battery with 30W fast charging
- Android 12 under the ZenUI 9 interface
- Dimensions: 146.5 x 68.1 x 9.1 millimeters
- Weight: 169 grams
Although the screen does not seem to bring a notable advance, the main hardware has its novelties such as the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Plus platform that delivers much more power than the Snapdragon 888 of the previous model and does not eat up as much battery or heat up as cell phones with Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 launched at the beginning of the year.
In addition, we have three memory combinations, ranging from the simplest with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage, to the most complete with twice the RAM and internal memory.
The battery has grown from 4,000 mAh to 4,300 mAh, which is a remarkable feat as the Zenfone 9 is the same size as the Galaxy S22 which has only 3,700 mAh of battery. Not to mention that it supports 30W fast charging, while the Korean rival is limited to just 25W of power.
Zenfone 9 comes with Android 12 modified by ZenUI. Asus promises two major updates for the model, which should guarantee up to Android 14 in the future while promising two additional years of security updates. It’s little compared to what we have in advanced models from Samsung, but it’s within what the market offers.
The system has a look similar to the Android standard, it doesn’t come full of useless apps, but it has many features to go beyond what Google designs for the little robot. The highlight is the new Smart Key, which thanks to the built-in biometric reader has gained support for gestures to pull up the notifications screen, refresh the browser page or even control the music without taking your finger off the side.
There’s also Game Genie seen on other Asus models and it helps gamers who want to have all the gaming features in a single interface, even though the Zenfone 9 doesn’t have the same gamer appeal as the ROG Phone 6.
While it is still common to see launches with multiple cameras on the rear, Asus continues to focus on the essentials. In the case of its new top of the line, we only have the main camera with a 50 MP sensor, the Sony IMX 766, in addition to a 12 MP ultra-wide camera with a Sony IMX 363 sensor and autofocus to be used in macros.
The highlight of the new set is an advanced gimbal module that combines physical stabilization with electronics to reduce shake to the maximum without making the footage awkward as with some phones with optical stabilization. While the front camera features the same 12 MP sensor as the Zenfone 8 with autofocus.
The camera app has received minor improvements since the Zenfone 8 was released last year. It won’t make a drastic change in usability, but it’s more intuitive and has gained new features. The Pro mode was quite complete with several tweaks to get the most out of the new sensor.
The first images captured show that the Zenfone 9’s photographic set has potential. The photos have good colors, lots of detail and contrast without exaggeration. The ultra-wide also captures good photos and is not far below the most powerful sensor, not to mention that the autofocus helps to capture small details of close objects.
The front makes good selfies with images rich in details, vibrant colors and correct sharpness thanks to the autofocus that is still rare to find on many cell phones. The camcorder is capable of recording in 8K at 24 fps, while the ultra-wide shoots in 4K at 60 fps and the front camera at the same resolution, but only at 30 fps.
Does gimbal stabilization really make a difference? The first impression is that we see more stable videos than many devices we have tested. The Zenfone 9 really manages to reduce camera shake as much as possible when walking and even the ultra-wide, while it doesn’t have the same advanced mechanism, it also greatly reduces shake.
First impressions of the Zenfone 9 are quite positive. The design has evolved, despite the change of materials, the screen is practically the same as before, but now we have more powerful hardware, bigger battery and more advanced camera with improved stabilization system.
Of course, it remains to be seen how it will perform on a daily basis and whether the battery will do the trick, but it is a device with good specifications and that reached the international market for €799 in its entry-level version with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, while the most complete comes to €899 like double the memory.
When converting to our currency we would have something between 4,200 and 4,800 in the quote in mid-2022 and without considering taxes. It is good to remember that the Zenfone 8 arrived for R$ 4 thousand around here in 2021, so we can expect a higher price on the new one. Will it be worth the investment? We’ll answer that question in our full review.