Asus is convinced, that the compact smartphone is still promised a bright future. The Taiwanese, therefore, launches the Zenfone 9, the smallest Android smartphone on the market. But not the least impressive. Test.
On the smartphone market, compact models can be counted on the fingers of one hand. In 2022, apart from the Galaxy S22 and iPhone 13 mini, fans of the genre didn’t have much to eat.
Asus was therefore expected as the messiah for the fans. In 2021, the Taiwanese manufacturer took an important turn by choosing to launch its premium model in a mini format. The Zenfone 8 was already a very pleasant smartphone on a daily basis but deserved some improvements. In 2022, the Zenfone 9 will therefore take over and there is no shortage of arguments to impose itself on the compact smartphone market. And not only…
So small, so cute
It’s hard not to fall in love with the Zenfone 9. This year again, Asus is betting on the compact format for its most high-end smartphone. A daring (not to say risky) bet that actually limits its target.
This in no way detracts from the build quality of the product. Starting with the rough coating affixed to the back of the device. No glass, but a plastic that recalls the texture of a racket grip (for tennis or badminton players) or rubber. This choice has two advantages: the Zenfone 9 does not mark fingerprints and it is held firmly in one hand.
Always with the aim of distinguishing itself, the Zenfone 9 proudly displays its two photo optics, surrounded by a chrome trim, and particularly imposing. If the multiple inscriptions on the back are cheaper than anything else, the whole remains both elegant and original.
At the front, the integration of the screen would have deserved a little more attention, the chin being much wider than the rest of the borders. On the aluminum color contours, we find, on the right, the power button – which also acts as a fingerprint reader – as well as the volume keys. The little surprise is on the upper edge: Asus has chosen to keep the 3.5 mm jack.
Finally, note that the Zenfone 9 is neither thin nor light. This small aesthetic sacrifice does not detract from the space-saving nature of the device and also allows Asus to integrate a large battery into this small chassis (see the part devoted to autonomy).
On a daily basis, using the Zenfone 9 is a real pleasure. The compact format allows very pleasant one-handed handling and the screen is large enough for a pleasant multimedia experience. Everything is also IP68 certified. A little gem.
Small screen, big quality
In the past, a 5.9” smartphone would have been the norm, not a compact model. But in 2022, the reduction of the contours of the screen makes it possible to integrate a diagonal of this size in a mini format.
Small in size, the screen of the Zenfone 9 is big in quality. Since it is based on AMOLED technology, it first displays infinite contrasts. Asus takes care of its customers and opts for a panel with a variable refresh rate of 120 Hz for more fluid scrolling and animations. No need for QHD + on a screen of this size, the Full HD + definition here is more than enough to take a full view.
Although small (has it already been said?), the screen of the Zenfone 9 is very comfortable on a daily basis. In our opinion, it is the best compromise between one-handed use and viewing comfort. Lovers of compact smartphones AND multimedia will therefore find what they are looking for. Others will also be able to enjoy this very beautiful screen in all environments.
The results of our tests in the 01Lab laboratory confirm these impressions. The Zenfone 9 screen has an average brightness of 856 cd/m2 and a peak brightness in HDR of 961 cd/m2. Asus does not reach the scores of the best models on the market (more than 1,200 cd/m2) but competes with its direct competitors, the Galaxy S22 and the iPhone 13 mini. We’ve seen worse as references, right?
The “hot” must go on
Performance is a philosophy at Asus. From its PCs to its gaming smartphones, the experience must be fluid. The Zenfone 9 necessarily inherits this creed and therefore contains the latest chip from Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1. Associated with 8 or 16 GB of RAM, it displays the highest scores on the various benchmarks.
The Zenfone 9 thus ranks as one of the most powerful smartphones on the market, despite its small size. In its category, it obviously outclasses its competitors even if the iPhone 13 mini holds it high.
So much power in such a small model inevitably has a disadvantage: it heats up. A lot. A 15-minute gaming session can raise the temperature to more than 45°, thus causing a little discomfort for the user. We, therefore, do not recommend this device for tenacious players and advise them instead to turn to the latest ROG Phone, another smartphone from Asus, designed for gaming.
Other manufacturers would no doubt have chosen to drastically reduce performance (throttling) when the temperature increases too much. Not ASUS. When it heats up too much, the Zenfone 9 still provides 80% of its maximum power, which allows you to do everything without ever encountering the slightest problem (slowdown, bug, or other).
Historically, compact smartphones have always had a defect: their autonomy. Space constraints have always been a problem for engineers, forcing them to integrate small batteries. If capacity is not everything, a minimum is still required.
At Asus, we have chosen to leave more room for the battery, even if it means sacrificing photo optics (we will come back to this). Thus, the Zenfone 9 has a generous 4,300 mAh battery. Combined with careful optimization, it makes the Zenfone 9 the most enduring compact smartphone on the market, by far. Better, it even comes to position itself at the top of the basket, all sizes combined.
With a versatile autonomy of 18:40 (according to our tests at 01Lab) and 14:40 in video streaming, it even climbs into the top 10 of the most enduring smartphones. For comparison, the iPhone 13 mini barely exceeds 15 hours of versatile autonomy.
On a daily basis, therefore, count a day and a half before going through the recharging box for sustained use, a little more if you do not force too much on video and gaming. Never has a compact smartphone recorded such performance. Hat.
The Zenfone 9 is also…
The Zenfone 9 comes with a 30W charger to restore all its energy to the battery in 1h13. It takes 24 minutes to reach 50%. A score is quite correct but not extraordinary. Unfortunately, wireless charging is missing.
The Zenfone 9 embeds a pure version of Android 12 with ZenUI bringing some small in-house features. Special mention to the on/off button (with fingerprint reader) which can trigger other actions depending on the type of movement. The interface is light and fluid, but fans of customizations of all kinds may feel a little cramped.