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ASUS' Zenfone 8 series includes a compact flagship and a flip camera

·Senior Editor; Engadget Chinese Editor in Chief
·5-min read

Now that the ROG Phone 5 is out of the way, ASUS can finally focus on refreshing its main smartphone line for the masses — especially those who are particularly fond of the company's unique "flip camera." The good news is that ASUS' freshly announced Zenfone 8 Flip still offers this handy feature, but that's not the case with the simply-named Zenfone 8. Better yet, this is a compact flagship, which is a rare item in today's mobile market. 

ASUS' new direction here may be surprising to some. Sony had long ditched the compact flagship strategy, and according to reports, Apple's iPhone 12 mini hasn't been doing so well, either. Still, the Taiwanese company claims there is a sizeable market segment longing for such a package, hence its dual-flagship strategy this year.

Starting with the Zenfone 8, we're looking at a palm-friendly body with a matte aluminum mid-frame and curved frosted glass back, along with a color option of either black or silver. Its footprint comes in at 148 x 68.5mm, with its width being somewhere between the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 mini. The whole package weighs 5.96oz (169g), and it's rated with IP65 and IP68 protection against dust plus water — a first for an ASUS smartphone, at last. 

I find that this smaller form factor allows for an easier grip with less strain on my fingers, which makes a nice change to my usual handling of bulkier smartphones — the ROG Phone 5 and the LG Wing, most recently.

ASUS ZenFone 8
ASUS ZenFone 8

The Zenfone 8 packs a lot for its size, thanks to some engineering hack using a two-layered logic board linked with an interposer connector board. You'll find a 5.9-inch 2,400 x 1,080 AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate and in-display fingerprint reader, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G processor, a 4,000mAh battery (with 30W charging) and triple mics, along with some powerful stereo speakers and even a 3.5mm headphone jack — both optimized by audio specialist, Dirac. 

You also get up to 16GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage, plus a 64MP main camera (Sony IMX686 sensor) with OIS (optical image stabilization), a 12MP ultra-wide camera (IMX363) and a 12MP punch-hole selfie camera with auto-focus (using the new IMX663). Needless to say, the Zenfone 8 is very much a true flagship phone, albeit a relatively small one.

ASUS ZenFone 8
ASUS ZenFone 8

As for the larger Zenfone 8 Flip, it's actually very much just a slightly refreshed Zenfone 7. And I do mean the Zenfone 7, not the Zenfone 7 Pro, as the Zenfone 8 Flip as inherited the former's lack of OIS on its main camera. With the exception of the new Snapdragon 888 processor, new 256GB storage option and new in-display fingerprint reader (as opposed to the old capacitive reader on the power button), the hardware is otherwise largely identical to its predecessor — even down to the dimensions and the hefty weight of 8.11oz (230g). Like the smaller variant, you also get to pick between black and silver here.

Here's the familiar-looking spec sheet: a 6.67-inch 2,400 x 1,080 AMOLED screen with a 90Hz refresh rate, 5,000mAh battery (with 30W charging), 8GB of RAM, triple-camera flip module, stereo speakers, triple-card slot (microSD and two nano SIMs) and triple mics as before. For those who care, there's still no 3.5mm headphone jack here, which is a shame given that the much smaller ZenFone 8 has one. 

ASUS ZenFone 8
ASUS ZenFone 8

The Zenfone 8 Flip shares the same main and ultra-wide cameras as the Zenfone 8, but the former has an extra 8MP telephoto camera (OmniVision OV08A sensor) with 3x optical zoom. As for the flip module's durability, ASUS claims that its lifespan has been bumped up from 200,000 flips to 300,000 flips, which translates to more than 5 years of usage if you do 150 flips a day. 

And if you want extra protection, you can pick up a RhinoShield SolidSuit case which offers a slide cover for the flip camera. This tough case lets you turn on the camera instantly whenever you slide the cover down while the phone is on standby.

On the software side, ASUS' ZenUI 8 (based on Android 11) adds some new camera features, namely automatic bracketing (single-click 3 shots with EVs), document mode (auto crop and PDF export option), customizable watermark (using text and emoji) and more. The Zenfone 8 Flip adds a unique feature: the self-explanatory object focus mode, which is great for show-and-tell vlogging.

ASUS ZenFone 8
ASUS ZenFone 8

Much like its predecessor, the Zenfone 8 and Zenfone 8 Flip will eventually make their way to the US, but there is no info just yet. But if you do reside in Europe, the Zenfone 8 is available immediately and will start from 599 euros (about $725) with 6GB of RAM plus 128GB of storage, whereas the Zenfone 8 Flip will be available "a few days later" for 799 euros ($965), and this is for the top-spec 8GB RAM plus 256GB storage model. We'll keep you posted on US availability.

Update 5/13/18 4:55AM ET: The full list of Europe prices for the Zenfone 8 are as follows: €599 for 6/128, €669 for 8/128, €729 for 8/256 and €799 for 16/256.

The Zenfone 8 will also be launching in the UK soon with the following price tiers: £539 for 6/128, £599 for 8/128 and £699 for 16/256. As for the Zenfone 8 Flip, it'll be available for £699 (8/256).