ASUS Zenfone 9 has a bigger camera in an easy-to-use body

With the launch of its latest smartphone today, ASUS is finally saying goodbye to the quirky “Flip Camera” feature, but still believes there is a market for compact brands. The new Zenfone 9 comes in only one size, which has kept the same 5.9-inch screen and weighs 169 grams as its predecessor, but has a larger processor, main camera, battery and thermals.

The biggest upgrades, as you might expect, are the processor and camera. Much like the ultra-modern ROG Phone 6 series, the Zenfone 9 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, which is a notable jump from the Zenfone 8’s Snapdragon 888. As for the camera, this time ASUS has opted for a 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 sensor, which It offers a pixel size of 1um instead of only 0.8um on the older IMX686.

Zenfone 9's Rear Cameras

Richard Lay / Engadget

The icing on the cake here is the new 6-axis hybrid gimbal stabilizer, which can apparently make corrections up to plus/minus 3 degrees without any visual degradation. This should help capture stills and clips – the latest in 8K resolution. On a related note, there are only two microphones on the Zenfone 9, as ASUS has eliminated the audio focus feature in video recording, thus no rear microphone.

Another important change here is the overall design. With the flat bezels back (thanks to the iPhone 12), the Zenfone 9 is able to accommodate the larger internals, and thus the larger 4,300mAh battery and more thermal material (plus two large “eyes” instead of a single boring camera island on the back) . The said battery works with ASUS’ 30W “HyperCharge” technology, which the company claims is “the most powerful charger for any phone under 6 inches”. The phone has also swapped out the metal back with a new plastic material not only to reduce weight, but also to add a high-grip anti-fingerprint layer. This comes in four colors: ‘Midnight Black’, ‘Starry Blue’, ‘Sunset Red’ and ‘Moonlight White’ (which is more of a light beige).

Power button for ZenTouch fingerprint reader on ASUS Zenfone 9.

Richard Lay / Engadget

Unlike its recent phones, ASUS has ditched the usual in-display fingerprint reader in favor of a capacitive sensor on the power button, dubbed “ZenTouch”. This smart switch allows instant switching of any particular app with a double tap, as it unlocks your phone at the same time. By default, you can also swipe down this button to pull down the notification tray for a quick peek, then swipe up to hide the tray. Alternatively, you can set this to refresh web pages, go to the home page or end of pages, or skip songs in music players. It’s all part of ASUS’ grand plan to improve one-handed operation on its latest phones.

Regardless of the appearance and software changes (ZenUI 9 based on Android 12), you’ll find the rest of Zenfone 9 fairly familiar. It’s exactly the same ultra-wide camera and selfie camera (both 12MP) as before, with the latter featured in the upper-left corner of the 2,400 x 1,080 120Hz AMOLED display. Both speakers tuned again by audio specialist, Dirac, which has already delivered impressive results on other recent ASUS phones; And you still have the option of connecting wired headphones via the 3.5mm jack. As for durability, it still has an IP68 rating for dust and liquid resistance.

Smart Backpack Stand for ASUS Zenfone 9

ASUS

To make the most of the enhanced camera mount, ASUS will introduce a “Smart Backpack Mount” that allows you to mount the Zenfone 9 to the backpack’s shoulder strap. With the main camera facing forward, you can wear the phone as an action camera. You can also easily insert or remove your phone from the magnetic mount on its own, with the retractable security cord attached.

Another accessory option from ASUS is the “Connex” modular case system. Instead of using a magnet like Apple’s MagSafe design, this protective case has several built-in eyelets that let you mount either a kickstand or a silicone card holder to the back of the Zenfone 9. You can also set an app — YouTube, by default — to auto-launch when done Turn the backrest outwards.

Connex modular case system for ASUS Zenfone 9

Richard Lay / Engadget

The Zenfone 9 is coming to the US, with prices starting at $699 (8GB RAM with 128GB storage), although actual availability will be announced at a later time, so stay tuned.

As for whether the “Flip Camera” will make a comeback, ASUS said it will only reconsider that idea if the technology makes it possible. The company shared that globally, the two Zenfone 8 sizes sold similar numbers, with consumers in Japan and Europe favoring the Zenfone 8. The smaller one at the moment, there won’t be more Zenfone “Flip” variants for the foreseeable future.

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