Asus always does things a little differently in the mobile space. Looking back at the company’s releases over the past year, there are eight phones in total. In fact, once we group all the different ROG Phone 5 variants and ignore the Snapdragon Insiders demo devices, there are actually even fewer different models. In fact, we’re looking at two “mainstream” flagship phones and a gaming flagship with a higher chipset version.
If we had to categorize Asus in recent years, “boutique” manufacturers would come to mind. Choice and availability are fairly limited, as are the company’s sales numbers, but the quality of each phone is high. Asus has managed to maintain and maintain a certain reputation for its smartphones, which is an admirable achievement in itself.
However, that doesn’t mean the company’s 2021 lineup is without problems. Let’s review the transcript.
Winner: Asus Zenfone 8
We kicked off with an easy victory. When it comes to a small and portable flagship Android phone, the Zenfone 8 hardly has any competition. With its 148 x 68.5 x 8.9mm, 169g body, it does make the regular Samsung Galaxy S21 5G look huge by comparison. To be sure, Sony has the Xperia 5 III, but it has something special about it, and it comes at an eye-popping price.
The Zenfone 8 managed to deliver plenty of time in most departments and hit 2021 flagship standards. Its highlights include an excellent aluminum and Gorilla Glass construction and IP68 rating. Its 5.9-inch display may be small, but it packs powerful modern features like HDR10+ support with a 120Hz refresh rate and 1100 nits of peak brightness. You also get an excellent pair of stereo speakers, and Asus even managed to fit a 3.5mm audio jack and a 32-bit DAC for a full and versatile multimedia experience.
Perhaps the most impressive bit here, however, is the inclusion of the flagship Snapdragon 888 5G chipset, and more importantly the impressive way in which Asus has managed to keep things cool. While the Zenfone 8’s small body can get pretty bad in the process, Asus has managed to keep the chip’s stellar performance under constant pressure.
The Zenfone 8’s dual-camera setup is probably its weakest part, and while it still delivers solid performance, it falls short of current flagship hardware standards. Asus didn’t even shy away from enabling 8K video capture, which just shows how confident the engineers are in their cooling solution. With all these features and connectivity, it’s also surprising how long the Zenfone 8’s 4,000 mAh battery can last on a single charge. A lot of this comes down to the very clean and optimized ROMs Asus has been using for the chip design of its phones.
Loser: Asus Zenfone 8 Flip
Let’s start by saying that “losers” might be a bit harsh here, but we have to stick to our format. Compared to its Zenfone 8 sibling, the Zenfone 8 Flip is a bit of a failure in popularity, and certainly in the wider smartphone space. The Zenfone 8 Flip launched at a slightly higher price, forcing it to pass some big dog competitors, while also offering fewer upgrades than last year’s model and no IP68 rating, the Zenfone 8 Flip was in a tough spot from the start. situation. Its uniqueness – the excellent pivoting main camera – unfortunately wasn’t enough to sway the public’s interest.
Having said that, the Zenfone 8 Flip definitely piqued our interest. This is simply a solid, well-rounded flagship. Granted, Asus may not have put as much effort into the Flip as it did with the vanilla Zenfone 8 in some other areas. It only has a 90Hz display, skips ingress protection and a 3.5mm audio jack, just to name a few omissions. On the other hand, it adds a 3x telephoto camera and also joins in a larger 5,000 mAh battery.
Bottom line here – we absolutely love the Zenfone 8 Flip. However, we do appreciate that it doesn’t add much more than its predecessor.
Winner: Asus ROG Phone 5
Few names are as synonymous with mobile gaming as ROG. This is a well-deserved and hard-earned honor from Asus. There’s actually a saying that the engineers at Republic of Gamers and their hard work are the single biggest reason for the existence of modern gaming smartphones as a product niche, and very few of them have been around for an entire year. Even in the face of constant pressure from the competition, and despite some dubious decisions recently, we still don’t think any other smartphone can deliver an overall gaming experience like the ROG Phone 5.
Honestly, it’s hard to briefly cover every aspect of the ROG Phone 5 and do it justice. It all comes down to incredible attention to detail. Once again, Asus has managed to take common off-the-shelf components like the Snapdragon 888 and spend enough time on low-level optimizations, cooling, performance tweaks, and high-level software controls and tweaks to squeeze every last ounce of performance. chip. The same line of thinking applies to other areas that are critical to the overall gaming experience, such as hardware-level input and output latency optimizations and a great 144Hz 10-bit HDR AMOLED panel and OS optimizations.
It’s all wrapped in an instantly recognisable gaming look and premium casing, with more hardware for extra gaming edge, like industry-leading AirTrigger 5 and ultrasonic buttons, as well as proprietary side connectors and a plethora of accessories on offer, For example AeroActive Cooler 5.
Loser: The Asus ROG Phone 5’s Accessory Ecosystem
While overall, the ROG Phone 5 is still an impressive and feature-rich device and the best gaming phone out there, its ecosystem takes a step backwards.
The ROG Phone 5 represents a bigger design change from the ROG Phone II than the old ROG Phone 3. Literally, because the ROG Phone 5’s footprint has expanded enough to break compatibility with a ton of pre-existing ROG Phone accessories. Excellent and unbeatable, even though ROG Phone 5 no longer supports very niche and exuberant gadgets like TwinView Dock 3 and Mobile Desktop Dock.
To be fair, Asus never actually committed to keeping its accessories compatible forever, and if it did, it would limit its innovation. However, this move takes away some impressive achievements from the ROG accessory ecosystem.
On the subject of design, we also had issues with the new side connectors. The once very secure and sturdy Type-C-derived connector is now even more fragile on the ROG Phone 5. In fact, we even managed to damage one of our AeroActive Cooler 5 units during our review.
Speaking of the AeroActive Cooler 5, not only is it more finicky than previous iterations, but it’s also no longer included in the box with the base ROG Phone 5 and needs to be purchased separately.
Loser: ROG Phone 5’s confusing model lineup
Asus has struggled with naming, variants, and SKUs for its entire product. As some of you may recall, Zenfone older models actually required users to know the full model number, like they were on a laptop just to figure out what version to get. This has also plagued the ROG Phone lineup, albeit to a lesser extent.
Asus’ ROG Phone 5 series made things worse. The original ROG Phone 5 series came in three models – the vanilla version was available in 8GB/128GB, 12GB/256GB and 16GB/256GB configurations, depending on the region. The Pro and Ultimate editions add some design changes and even more enhanced storage versions. There are also no more Strix “smaller” models.
Things got more confusing with the launch of the ROG Phone 5s and 5s Pro. Both devices replace the Snapdragon 888 with the 888+ and offer an upgraded, industry-leading 360Hz touch sampling rate on their displays. The original ROG Phone 5s is based on the original ROG Phone 5, so it has an RGB logo on the back and skips the PMOLED ROG Vision Display and the extra rear touch input that the Pro and Ultimate editions once had.
This vanilla ROG Phone 5s also has the same RAM and storage configuration as its predecessor, up to 16GB/256GB. Oddly, it can only have the Storm White color, which was previously exclusive to the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate.
You can clearly see how quickly this can get messy. Thankfully, Asus is phasing out its original ROG Phone 5 model in favor of a 5s model, depending on your opinion, as supplies run out.
On the fence: Asus ROG Phone 5s
Buying the ROG Phone 5s with the new Snapdragon 888+ instead of the original model with the Snapdragon 888 for the same retail price sounds like a good deal on paper, but it’s not. You can check out our ROG Phone 5s Pro in-depth review for a more in-depth analysis of what the problem is, but it basically boils down to the Snapdragon 888+ running very hot, even hotter than the regular Snapdragon 888. The industry-leading cooling system on the ROG Phone 5 can’t keep up with it.
At the end of the day, you end up with a phone that runs hotter and feels hotter to the touch thanks to the thermal transfer design, but doesn’t offer much real benefit in terms of performance. We absolutely understand why Asus felt the need and pressure to switch the chipset on the ROG Phone 5s to the hot Snapdragon 888+. Not doing this looks bad in terms of PR. You can’t claim to be top of the line without the latest and greatest hardware.
Still, all things considered, even if we can’t blame Asus for the ROG Phone 5s, the fact remains that the product ended up getting worse.