As global smartphone manufacturers continue to follow similar design formulas, phones are doing very little to distinguish themselves from one another with every passing year. While most manufacturers opt to go bigger with their flagship models, Asus did quite the opposite – they went smaller. Asus's new compact flagship, the Zenfone 9, is a pint-sized powerhouse.
Design: Small, playful, and feels good in the hand
The Zenfone 9 is a very compact phone. It is available in four colours: sunset red, starry blue, midnight black, and moonlight white. The straight edge frame is made of aluminium, giving it a robust feel. The polymer back feels sturdy, does not leave fingerprints, and is a lot lighter than glass back phones.
The volume buttons and ZenTouch button – which serves as a fingerprint scanner – is located on the right side of the phone. A speaker, USB-C port and SIM card slot are placed on the bottom, and lo and behold, you will find a headphone jack at the top.
The buttons feel good, and the Zenfone 9 fits nicely in the hand due to its size. Using the phone is a lot more ergonomic than with smartphones with larger screens. All in all, the Asus phone scores very well in terms of usability and size.
Screen: Bright and colourful
The 5.9 inch screen is made by Samsung just like the Zenfone 8. We again see an AMOLED screen with a resolution of 2400 by 1080 pixels, and it comes with a refresh rate of 120Hz which makes for a buttery smooth experience. You can also choose to set the refresh rate to 60Hz or 90Hz in order to save the battery. The brightness also goes up slightly higher than its predecessor making it easier to see what's on your screen under direct sunlight.
Hardware: A wolf in sheep's clothing
Smartphones have been mini-computers for many years, but the Zenfone 9 is a powerful one at that. The base model has 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage, but you can also opt for versions with 16 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage.
Under the hood is the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor. That is Qualcomm's fastest chip at the moment. Multitasking is no problem, neither is playing a heavy 3D game.
The processor generates heat, but Asus has also thought of that. As there is more internal space, there is room for a larger cooling system.
A headphone jack is also on board, something we rarely see on high-end devices. There is room for two SIM cards, but unfortunately you cannot expand the memory.
The smartphone is also IP68 certified dust and waterproof.
The output of the two stereo speakers is loud and the fingerprint scanner is quick and accurate.
In the box, you will find a plastic back cover for the phone and also includes a fast charger.
Software: Bare software, lean update policy
On the Zenfone 9, we see Android 12 with the manufacturer's own ZenUI shell. The software is very similar to stock Android but has its own theme. However, you will find many options to adjust the device completely to your own liking.
The phone has its own gallery app and sound recorder, and comes preinstalled with Netflix, Instagram and Facebook Messenger.
The power button on the right side can be used to launch apps quickly or to turn on the flashlight. Tapping twice on the back lets you perform a chosen action. There is also a one-handed mode so that only part of the screen is used. Finally, there is the 'corner tool', with which you open apps or shortcuts by swiping from the side of the screen.
Cameras: Better than before
Cameras are always an essential in a modern flagship phone, so the improved optics here are another important step forward, especially in terms of video. The 50Mp Sony IMX766 sensor used in the Zenfone 9 main camera is a solid performer that will deliver great photos.
The Zenfone 9 adds a 6-axis gimbal module for optical image stabilisation, so video footage should be rock solid, and night mode photos have extra clarity.
It is joined by a 12MP ultrawide lens, using Sony's IMX368 sensor. However, this lens is limited to electronic stabilisation. There is also a 12MP (Sony IMX663) camera in the front,
Optical zoom is not available, but you can digitally bring objects up to two times closer. There is a button in the camera app for this. A night mode, pro mode and all kinds of extra camera options can also be found.
Battery: Fine For a Day's Use
The battery capacity has been increased from the Zenfone 8, it now packs a 4300 mAh battery. In practice, this ensures that you can easily get through an intensive day.
If we look at the charging speed, Asus is not doing badly, but not particularly well either. Half an hour on the supplied 30 Watt charger ensures that the battery is about 55 percent charged. A full charge takes about an hour and ten minutes.
The Zenfone 9 is a full-fledged flagship in a small size and with remarkably few compromises. The 5.9-inch display makes this one of the smallest phones on the market, especially for an Android phone.
The Zenfone 9's big selling point is top-notch performance from a compact body. To that end, Asus has managed to cram the very latest Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chip into a chassis that measures just 147 x 68 x 9.1mm and weighs a mere 169g.
Dimensions: 146.5 x 68.1 x 9.1 mm
Weight: 169 g
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1
RAM: 8/16GB LPDDR5
Memory: 128/256GB UFS 3.1 storage
Display: 5.9in 120Hz AMOLED display
50Mp, f/1.9 Sony IMX766 main camera with OIS & gimbal-stabilisation
12Mp, f/2.2 Sony IMX363 ultrawide camera
12Mp, f/2.45 Sony IMX663 front-facing camera
Battery: 4300mAh, 30W wired charging
Sound: Dual stereo speakers with Dirac HD Sound
Connectivity: USB-C, Wi-Fi 6/6E, Bluetooth 5.2
Network: Sub-6GHz 5G
Durability: IP68 rating
OS: Android 12 with Zen UI
Where to Buy?
The availability of the Zenfone 9 is not optimal. For the time being, the smartphone can be found in retail shops like Yousuf Communication and Brother Electronics. The base variant's price starts around Tk75,999.