Asus unveiled its 2021 flagship this week with the Zenfone 8, an Android phone that takes a distinctly different direction to many of the other best phones I have used this year.
I have to be honest and say I wasn’t especially excited about the arrival of Asus’ latest round of phones. The previous Zenfone’s have been fine, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the flippy camera module that stood as the previous generation’s highlight feature.
After spending a week with the Zenfone 8 I have been won over by its charms. While I haven’t quite finished the full review, I can already say this is one of the best Android phones of the year,
It doesn’t get this accolade by copying the OnePlus 9 or the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus. Instead it offers something rarely seen in the Android space – a small device that doesn’t sacrifice specs.
The 5.9-inch is smaller than just about all the competition. It’s smaller than the iPhone 12 and the Samsung Galaxy S21 and slightly narrower than the Pixel 5. This makes it ridiculously easy to hold and even easier to slide into a smaller pocket or purse. I use a lot of larger phones and switching to something this size is refreshing.
Now, this isn’t as small as the iPhone 12 Mini. I felt that phone was a little too small for the mass market, but the Zenfone 8 feels just right – big enough to enjoy bouts of Call of Duty Mobile and YouTube videos but small enough to use with one hand.
The Zenfone 8 also stands apart from the Pixel 5 (one of the only other mainstream small Android phones) by not coming with modest specs. Typically, smaller phones are hamstrung by mid-range chipsets and marketed as ‘Lite’ or ‘Mini’ options.
That’s not the case here. The Zenfone 8 is the flagship Zenfone for 2021 and the larger Zenfone 8 Flip is the more modest option. You’ve got the same Snapdragon 888 chipset as the high-end Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, up to 16GB RAM and a 120Hz Samsung OLED display that’s very accurate and bright.
This phone is just as capable as any of the other big-hitter Android phones, something that can’t be said about the Pixel 5.
But really what draws me towards the Zenfone 8 the most is the price. This is a flagship phone with the price that’s more in line with the best mid-range phones I’ve tested recently. If you order one now it’ll cost you £539 (or €599/¢599) and that price goes up at the end of May to £599. You can also pay an extra 100 for 16GB of RAM and 256GB storage. That makes it cheaper than the Pixel 5 for a lot more phone and cheaper than the iPhone 12 Mini. This phone is a great deal.
Whether the Zenfone 8 is a success remains to be seen. If Asus can get lots of units out, make it easy to buy and market it well there’s every chance this could be a real success.
If the Zenfone 8 is a success, then I would love to see this blueprint used by other Android phone makers to give us smaller Android phones that feel like true flagships.