A better small phone than the iPhone 13 Mini

Asus’ Zenfone collection wasn’t at all times small. Simply a few years in the past, the Zenfone 7 and Zenfone 7 Professional got here with the regular 6.7-inch display that had been and nonetheless are a dime a dozen in the Android area. However beginning with final yr’s Zenfone 8, Asus pivoted route with one mandate: the phone should be small. The engineers and designers had exhausting numbers to purpose for, in truth: the width of the machine should be much less than 70mm. The quantity, Asus reps say, is as a result of it’s about the furthest the common human thumb can attain throughout horizontally. Asus succeeded in that objective, and the Zenfone 8 was an easy one-hand phone, and maybe attributable to utter lack of competitors, it was named the greatest small Android phone by nearly each tech publication.

However different than being small, the Zenfone 8 didn’t have every other outstanding options. It ran on the identical chip as each different Android flagship, had mediocre cameras, and maybe most damningly, it had one in all the plainest and most generic designs I’ve ever seen.

XDA Best Award

All that adjustments with the Zenfone 9: it’s acquired a visually putting design that appears and feels nice, an improved essential digital camera supported by a miniature gimbal stabilization system, a model new Snapdragon flagship chip which may be making its debut in North America, and sure, Asus nonetheless managed to maintain the phone small. With a beginning worth of $699, the Zenfone 9 is a no brainer suggestion for not simply individuals on the lookout for a small phone, however these on the lookout for a terrific worth flagship.

And by the manner, discover I didn’t take the simple manner out and say the Zenfone 9 is for these on the lookout for a “small Android phone.” No, I believe that is the greatest small phone, interval. Apple has most likely already axed its Mini line, but when it had been nonetheless making Mini iPhones, it ought to take some notes from Asus.

Asus ZEnfone 9

Navigate this overview:

Asus Zenfone 9: Pricing and Availability

The Asus Zenfone 9 will go on sale in lots of elements of the world, together with the US, Canada, UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan quickly. In the US, the Zenfone 9 has a prompt retail worth of $699 for the base 8GB/128GB mannequin, whereas that very same mannequin begins at €799 in Europe.

    The Asus Zenfone 9 is a small phone that packs a robust flagship chip and a gimbal digital camera system that works.

Asus Zenfone 9: Specs

Specification Asus Zenfone 9
  • IP68 mud and water resistance
  • Polycarbonate again
  • Gorilla Glass Victus entrance
Dimensions & Weight
  • 146.5 x 68.1 x 9.1 mm
  • 169g
  • 5.9-inch Samsung AMOLED
  • 120Hz
  • 1080 x 2400
  • 800 nits peak brightness
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1
RAM & Storage
  • 8GB LPDDR5 RAM + 256GB UFS 3.1 storage
  • 8GB + 256GB
  • 16GB + 256GB
Battery & Charging
  • 4,300mAh
  • 30W wired quick charging assist
Safety Facet-mounted fingerprint scanner
Rear Digicam(s)
  • Main: 50MP Sony IMX766, f/1.9, supported by gimbal system
  • Extremely-wide: 12MP IMX363, f/2.2
Entrance Digicam(s) 12MP IMX663
Port(s) USB Kind-C
  • Twin 5G
  • 4G LTE
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 5.2
    • BLE Audio assist
    • Snapdragon sound assist
    • AAC/LDAC/LHDC/aptX Adaptive
  • Multi-functional NFC
Software program ZenUI based mostly on Android 12
Different Options
  • Headphone jack
  • 30W charger included

About this overview: Asus offered my colleague Adam Conway and I with a Zenfone 9 every for testing. This overview was written after practically two weeks of testing the phone. Asus didn’t have any enter on this overview.

Asus Zenfone 9: {Hardware} and Design

  • 5.9-inch display makes for a really easy-to-use one-hand phone, but it’s not too small like an iPhone 13 Mini display
  • A main aesthetic enchancment over the Zenfone 8
  • Actually, actually good battery life for a small phone

Asus Zenfone 9 in the hand

One grievance I typically hear from phone followers is that cellular manufacturers save the greatest {hardware} options for giant telephones, leaving the smaller telephones in a decrease tier. Properly, Asus engineers made an excellent level throughout a current media briefing: making a small flagship in 2022 is far more tough than a decade in the past as a result of high cellular parts have drastically elevated in dimension. In response to Asus, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chip powering the Zenfone 9 is 10% bigger in dimension than final yr’s Snapdragon 888; the Zenfone 9’s improved digital camera system is 40% bigger than the Zenfone 8’s cameras; and the Zenfone 9’s battery and thermal system are additionally a lot bigger than final yr.

Asus Zenfone 9

Regardless of that, Asus nonetheless managed to maintain the Zenfone 9’s general footprint roughly the identical (and the weight precisely the identical) as the Zenfone 8. Measuring 146.5 x 68.1 x 9.1 mm and weighing 169g, the Zenfone 9 remains to be a really small phone by 2022 requirements. My thumb can certainly attain the different facet of the display simply, although it nonetheless must stretch a bit to achieve the high corners. However that’s completely a non-issue, as a result of Android’s UI, plus Asus’ software program fine-tuning, means I by no means have to achieve the very high of the display to do something. There’s no annoying “swipe from higher proper nook” motion that the iPhones make me do a dozen occasions a day. I’ll speak extra about this later in the software program part, nevertheless it’s completely baffling to me how one-hand unfriendly another phone UIs are.

Asus Zenfone 9

Asus engineers mentioned two issues helped them hold the Zenfone 9 the identical dimension as the 8 regardless of having bigger parts: switching to a polycarbonate (aka plastic) again plate that’s lighter than the glass again used final yr, and the Zenfone 9 makes use of a boxier kind as a substitute of the curved, tapered sides and corners of final yr. This successfully frees up sufficient area for Asus to cram parts in with out rising the top and width of the phone.

It’s small, not tiny, and that’s nice information

In the large phone vs small phone debate, I’m at all times in camp large phone. Certain, small telephones are simpler to carry and shove into pockets, however we dwell in an age when many (most?) of us stare at our phone screens extra than every other display. And whether or not it’s studying a press launch, watching a TikTok video, and even framing a photograph, content material appears manner better on an iPhone 13 Professional Max than on an iPhone 13 Mini. I’ll sacrifice a little bit of hand consolation and pocket area for a extra immersive display that doesn’t require me to squint.

iphone 13 mini and asus zenfone 9

The Asus Zenfone 9 is small, the iPhone 13 Mini is tiny.

The Asus Zenfone 9’s 5.9-inch display is about the good small phone dimension in 2022 — something smaller is simply too small

The Asus Zenfone 9’s 5.9-inch display is about as small as I’m keen to go. Something smaller, like the iPhone 13 Mini’s 5.4-inch show, simply feels too cramped for contemporary apps, notably social media, that are all about stunning visuals. I believe the Zenfone 9’s general form is about the good “small phone” dimension in 2022.

A plastic again that’s really good

I’m a fan of this polycarbonate again plate, which has a sandstone-like, grippy texture. The again facet is completely clear in three of 4 quadrants, with the higher left nook housing two giant digital camera lenses and a few textual content and odd arrow markings. I’m often not a fan of random textual content and markings on telephones, however they’re small sufficient right here that I’m nice with it, and I like the strikingly giant, symmetrical double digital camera rings. Sadly, my overview unit is in maybe the dullest colour (black), nevertheless it’s nonetheless a significant aesthetic enchancment over final yr’s bland, blah slab. I’d say my black mannequin Zenfone 9 appears good, however the blue and crimson variations look nice.

Asus Zenfone 9

The aluminum chassis has flat sides however just isn’t as hard-angled as an iPhone 12 or 13, the edges are barely chamfered, so the corners don’t dig into my palm. The metallic railings home a number of attention-grabbing elements. The primary is a touch-sensitive panel on the proper facet, proper beneath the energy button that doubles as a fingerprint scanner. This panel lets you assign app launches or actions to a swipe. The second cool bit is the existence of a 3.5mm headphone jack. Personally, I’ve moved onto Bluetooth earphones way back, however there are individuals on the market who nonetheless lament the lack of this port, so Asus has them coated. Lastly — and this final bit is only a superficial flourish — however the SIM tray cowl curves together with the phone’s nook. It’s a pleasant little design contact that takes a bit extra engineering work than most different SIM tray covers.


Technically talking, going by spec sheet numbers, the Zenfone 9’s 5.9-inch 120Hz OLED panel isn’t at the stage of different high-end flagship screens. The Zenfone 9 display just isn’t an LTPO panel, for instance, so you will need to select between 60Hz, 90Hz, or 120Hz refresh fee (or let the phone change for you routinely); the decision of 1080 x 2400 packs fewer pixels than WQHD+ screens, and the most brightness of 800 nits doesn’t get as shiny as the Galaxy S22 Extremely or iPhone 13 Professional display.

Asus Zenfone 9

However you recognize what, this doesn’t actually matter to 99% of individuals, together with myself. Possibly XDA’s resident show knowledgeable Dylan Raga could say in any other case, however I don’t suppose most individuals can take a look at this panel and say “oh yeah this isn’t as nice as the Galaxy S22 Extremely panel.” The display is sharp sufficient, the colours pop sufficient, and the solely time I discovered the most brightness missing is after I’m out underneath harsh open daylight. We should additionally keep in mind the Zenfone 9 prices 30-40% cheaper than all the different telephones I simply talked about. This display is completely good for what it’s.

SoC, reminiscence, and different {hardware} bits

The Asus Zenfone 9 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1, making for one in all the first telephones to achieve North America with this chipset. I’ve already examined a few units with this chip, and the essential takeaway is that it has noticeably better power effectivity. This, coupled with the comparatively bigger 4,300 mAh battery makes for surprisingly good battery life for a small phone. In truth, the Zenfone 9 could have the greatest battery lifetime of any small phone I’ve utilized in the previous couple of years. Telephones like the iPhone 13 Mini and Pixel 4a by no means may final a full day trip for me, the Zenfone 9 can generally do it. I’ll elaborate on battery life extra in the efficiency part. The battery may be charged at a most of 30W speeds (charger included) however there isn’t a wi-fi charging.

The Zenfone 9 begins with 8GB LPDDR5 RAM and 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage, with the subsequent possibility up doubling storage to 256GB. The very best mannequin doubles the RAM too to 16GB. The dearth of an in-between 12GB possibility is a bit odd. My overview unit is the highest 16GB model, and efficiency has been quick and easy. However I believe the 8GB RAM mannequin ought to carry out simply nice.

Different {hardware} bits vary from good to nice: there’s IP68 water-and-dust resistance; stereo audio system that sound good for a small phone (however undoubtedly missing in the oomph {that a} bigger phone can pump out); and an honest haptic engine.

Asus Zenfone 9: Cameras

  • 50MP essential digital camera supported by a miniature gimbal system does certainly produce extra secure movies
  • Colours may be too contrasty at occasions
  • The ultra-wide digital camera is simply okay


The Zenfone 9’s dual-lens digital camera system includes of a 50MP f/1.9 essential (extensive) digital camera and a 12MP ultra-wide digital camera. The principle shooter makes use of a Sony IMX766 sensor, a extensively used and confirmed sensor with a 1/1.57-inch picture sensor. Whereas the 1/1.57-inch just isn’t going to impress a spoiled reviewer like me (as a result of I’ve been utilizing 1-inch sensors recently), it’s nonetheless a significant dimension enhance over final yr’s Zenfone 8 or the iPhone 13 Mini’s picture sensor.

However extra apparently, the essential digital camera is supported by a miniature three-axis gimbal stabilization system that retains the lens in a floating state. If you happen to transfer the phone round, you’ll be able to really see the lens shift. This know-how just isn’t new, Vivo has been utilizing it in its flagship phone for years, however that is the first time North American shoppers can have entry to this know-how.

gimbal camera Asus zenfone 9

You may see the digital camera lens shift round as you progress the phone.

Identical to Vivo’s gimbal system, don’t anticipate Asus’ gimbal to carry out miracles. It’s not going to thoroughly take away shakes and bobs the manner a big dimension gimbal can do for actual cameras. However this miniature gimbal does assist stabilize extra so than a typical OIS system. An Asus rep says the gimbal permits for an extra three-degree of motion in the the X- and Y-axis (the up and down motion), plus compensate for a little bit of “yaw motion,” which is when the phone is wobbling left to proper whereas dealing with the identical route. Conventional OIS programs don’t compensate for yaw actions. I’ll let video samples do the speaking, the under video clips present the Zenfone 9 stabilizing a yaw motion shake, adopted by a bunch of handheld video samples shot in varied lighting circumstances, together with on a rocky Hong Kong tram.

A few takeaways from the video samples, the gimbal does offset a few of the shakes that got here from jerking the phone’s yaw motion forwards and backwards, and it does assist produce extremely easy panning pictures even after I was holding the phone with one hand. However stroll and speak footage will nonetheless exhibit that up-and-down bobbing motion, notably after I was climbing stairs. Night time movies may even exhibit extra micro-jitters than daytime footage. General, I’m very proud of the video footage, and contemplating the phone is so small and light-weight, I believe will probably be one in all my go-to journey cameras.

In truth, Asus considered this and has designed a case hooked up to a retractable string that may then be clipped onto a backpack strap or a chest strap. The concept is the Asus Zenfone 9 may be an motion digital camera that adventurers can go away strapped to their chest always. I didn’t get the likelihood to do that case accent, however I undoubtedly plan on getting one to make use of for my private journey vlogs.

Nonetheless Images

It’s uncommon for me to deal with the video efficiency of a digital camera earlier than nonetheless pictures, however I did so right here as a result of the gimbal stabilization is exclusive, and the Zenfone 9’s cameras can produce pictures of inconsistent high quality. Typically, when the lighting is true and my hand remains to be sufficient, pictures from the essential digital camera can look nice, with vibrant colours, glorious sharpness, and a little bit of actual bokeh.

However the shutter is a bit sluggish even throughout the day, and so at night time when telephones are likely to dial down the shutter pace and resort to nighttime mode, I’ve to maintain completely nonetheless, or else pictures will seem blurry. I took the Zenfone 9 for an evening out with associates and snapped over 100 pictures, and possibly 25 of them had blurry topics. Asus’ colour science can be overly contrasty, notably the reds.

I need to make this clear: I’m nitpicking right here as a result of I’m used to testing the absolute high flagship digital camera telephones. And if I really take into account the Zenfone 9’s considerably lower cost tag, then the cameras are nice. If I evaluate the Asus Zenfone 9 digital camera towards one thing like an iPhone 13 Mini, Asus’ cameras completely maintain up.

The ultra-wide and selfie cameras may be evaluated the identical manner — it’s completely nice in a vacuum, or on this worth vary, however naturally loses to dearer flagship telephones. Extremely-wides look nice throughout the day, however in decrease gentle scenes, the pictures begin displaying quite a lot of noise and a major drop in sharpness. The selfie digital camera additionally suffers from the sluggish shutter of the essential digital camera — if I shoot in low gentle circumstances the topics should keep nonetheless for properly over a second and a half, or else somebody’s face will probably be blurry.

I’ve added full-resolution photographs in the Flickr album under for many who could need to pixel peep for themselves. In the end, the Zenfone 9’s digital camera system is strong in images and superb at videography. At the danger of beating a lifeless horse — at this $699 worth, Asus has extra than delivered. The one real looking grievance Asus ought to look into is fine-tuning colour science and the shutter pace throughout the day. In any other case, it’d be unrealistic to demand a bigger picture sensor or an actual zoom lens.

Zenfone 9 Photo samples

Asus Zenfone 9: Software program

  • Has nearly each shortcut gesture I can consider
  • UI design may be very one-hand pleasant — even when the display was greater
  • Quick efficiency

The Zenfone 9 runs Android 12 with Asus’ ZenUI on high, and I’m a giant fan. ZenUI appears easy and clear like vanilla Android, nevertheless it’s jam-packed with customization choices that supply shortcuts to tug off smartphone duties. For instance, the capacitive contact bar talked about earlier may be custom-made to carry out completely different actions when swiped. The facility button too, may be assigned particular duties when lengthy pressed or double pressed.

Nearly each third-party shortcut gesture I can consider, like double faucet to lock display, three-finger swipe right down to seize a screenshot, or draw a form on a sleeping display to regulate music playback, are all right here. There’s a one-hand mode (despite the fact that you’ll nearly by no means want it with this phone), and there’s the skill to make again swipe gestures much less or extra delicate. There’s the skill to double faucet on the again of the phone to set off an motion. It’s fairly overwhelming the variety of issues you are able to do and customise right here.


Contemplating the display is simply 5.9-inches, the Zenfone 9 is clearly a straightforward one-hand phone, however I believe ZenUI is so properly optimized to account for one-hand utilization that even when the display was one thing like 6.3-inches, it’d nonetheless be very simple to make use of one-handed.

Apps in a folder, for instance, open in the backside half of the display to allow them to be simply reached by thumb. It’s such a logical kind of design component that one way or the other most phone manufacturers don’t provide us. Apple’s iOS, for instance, opens a folder smack dab in the center of the display, which is ok on the iPhone 13 Mini, however think about this on an iPhone 13 Professional Max.

And therein lies one in all my largest gripes with the complete iPhone Mini expertise: Apple needed to make the phone overly small simply to compensate for the proven fact that iOS just isn’t one-hand pleasant.

Apple needed to make the phone overly small simply to compensate for the proven fact that iOS just isn’t one-hand pleasant

On an Android phone, even when I’m utilizing a 6.7-inch display, I can simply place all my most used apps at backside of the residence display for simple thumb attain. That may’t be executed on an iPhone, the place apps should sit in top-down, left-to-right order. So both I fill my residence display completely with apps (which I don’t like doing as a result of I discover that clunky) or cope with the proven fact that apps are greater up on the display than desired. Take a look at the photograph I snapped a yr in the past under, of an iPhone 12 Professional Max and an LG Wing — which phone appears simpler to make use of with one hand?

The iPhone 12 Pro Max and the LG Wing.

iPhone followers suppose phone screens should drop to iPhone SE or iPhone Mini petite sizes to be simply used with one hand. That’s not the case. The Zenfone 9’s 5.9-inch display is simpler to function one-handed than even the Mini’s 5.4-inch display and makes the 6.1-inch iPhone 13 display really feel unwieldy.

Asus Zenfone 9: Efficiency and battery life

  • Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 may be very battery environment friendly
  • Considered one of the smoothest telephones we’ve ever examined

This part was written by my colleague and XDA Senior Technical Editor, Adam Conway.

The Asus Zenfone 9 is one in all the first smartphones to hit the cabinets with Qualcomm’s all-new Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1, and it’s seemingly going to be the first to achieve the United States. Whereas this can be a “Plus” variant of the chipset, we’ve noticed when testing the Asus ROG Phone 6 Professional that this explicit chipset represents extra of a year-on-year enchancment than only a mid-cycle refresh.

The Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 options an improved Qualcomm Kryo CPU, with a Cortex-X2 prime core clocked at 3.2Ghz, three Cortex A710 efficiency cores clocked at 2.8GHz, and 4 Cortex A510 effectivity cores clocked at 2.0GHz. Qualcomm claims that the upgraded CPU is 10 p.c quicker than the one on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and gives 30 p.c better CPU energy effectivity. We made comparable findings in our testing of the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 reference machine that Asus beforehand shared with us.

Geekbench 5 Asus Zenfone 9 Result

CPU Throttling Check

Asus Zenfone 9 CPU Throttling Test

CPU Throttling Check is a freely obtainable app on the Google Play Retailer, and it repeats a easy multithreaded check in C for as brief as quarter-hour. We elevated the size of time to half-hour. The app charts the rating over time so you’ll be able to see when the phone begins throttling. The rating is measured in GIPS — or billion operations per second. It’s basically a check that may measure the sustained efficiency of a chipset. The phone will get extraordinarily sizzling after I run this check, nearly burning my hand to the contact, however I’ve by no means skilled that in every other situation on this machine.

The Asus Zenfone 9 throttles fairly closely after some time, however that’s due to how sizzling it will get. As a result of it’s a smaller machine, there’s much less floor for warmth dissipation.

UI Stutter/Jank check

To quantify how properly the Asus Zenfone 9 can preserve 120 FPS in real-world situations, we ran a modified model of Google’s open-source JankBench benchmark. This benchmark simulates a handful of frequent duties you’ll see in on a regular basis apps, together with scrolling by way of a ListView with textual content, scrolling by way of a ListView with photographs, scrolling by way of a grid view with a shadow impact, scrolling by way of a low-hitrate textual content render view, scrolling by way of a high-hitrate textual content render view, inputting and modifying textual content with the keyboard, repeating overdraws with playing cards, and importing bitmaps. Our script data the draw time for every body throughout the check, finally plotting all the frames and their draw occasions in a plot together with a number of horizontal traces representing the goal body draw occasions for the 4 frequent show refresh charges (60Hz, 90Hz, 120Hz, and 144Hz).

The outcomes display simply how easy the Asus Zenfone 9 is with regards to general utilization. Just about all actions are able to sustaining a constant 120 FPS, which will probably be mirrored in the general utilization of the phone. From these outcomes alone, the Asus Zenfone 9 is one in all the smoothest smartphones we’ve ever examined when it comes to basic utilization.

Battery life and charging

The Asus Zenfone 9 packs a 4,300 mAh battery, which is about proper for a small phone. The smaller show coupled with the extra environment friendly chipset guarantee long-lasting battery life, although, and I’ve been in a position to get as a lot as eight hours of display on time on a single cost. Sometimes it’s between six and 7 hours, although.

I do know that from Ben’s expertise, his battery life hasn’t been fairly pretty much as good, although he additionally mentions that he takes quite a lot of pictures and shoots quite a lot of video. This may put any phone’s battery underneath stress, and it’s nonetheless a phone that Ben says will give him 5 to 6 hours of display on time. The phone lasts him a 12 to 13-hour work day, which is extra than every other small phone may do in his expertise.

Asus Zenfone 9 screen on time of 5 hours with 44% left

As for me, this phone has a few of the greatest battery lifetime of this technology of smartphones. The screenshot above is from a full day of utilization of the phone, the place I spent most of the day trip and about. That is the greatest battery life that I’ve had in a very long time on a phone.

To be sincere, practically each Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 machine has given me subpar battery life, whereas the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 is trying to be an absolute success. Asus seemingly has some stage of software program optimization occurring right here that contributes to a few of it, nevertheless it’s clear as properly that this chipset is simply much more environment friendly than the common Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.

The one problem that I’ve confronted with battery life and charging is an inconsistent charging time — oh, and absent wi-fi charging. The charging time although specifically has been terrible, as at occasions with the official charger provided in the field it has taken properly over an hour to cost, and extra like an hour and a half. I’ve additionally used the 65W charger that got here with the Asus ROG Phone 6 Professional and I acquired the identical outcomes, so I’m uncertain of what the trigger is. However, with such nice battery life you’ll solely actually need to cost this machine as soon as a day anyway.

Asus Zenfone 9: Must you purchase it?

Asus Zenfone 9

You should purchase the Asus Zenfone 9 if:

  • You desire a phone that can be utilized simply with one hand.
  • You shoot quite a lot of vlogs and wish better stabilization.
  • You desire a near-flagship phone with out paying four-digit costs.

You shouldn’t purchase the Asus Zenfone 9 if:

  • You desire a digital camera that at all times performs properly day or night time.
  • You get pleasure from taking zoom pictures.
  • You could have unhealthy eyesight and infrequently battle with smaller textual content, and therefore, may better use an even bigger phone.

The Asus Zenfone 9 is, merely put, the greatest small phone at this time. However even when the dimension factor doesn’t matter, the Zenfone 9 is a fully nice worth, notably in the North American area. To get a Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1, a gimbal digital camera system that actually works, a vibrant show, in a well-designed bundle that’s simple to carry, for simply $699? Absolute no-brainer suggestion for most individuals.

I’m glad Asus had the foresight to pivot the Zenfone collection to a smaller kind issue to distinguish itself from the sea of smartphones as a result of as a lot as I get pleasure from how each 2022 flagship is an effective performer, I’m beginning to really feel a little bit of boredom as all of them appear and feel the identical. The Zenfone 9 is a breath of contemporary air.

    The Asus Zenfone 9 is a small phone that packs a robust flagship chip and a gimbal digital camera system that works.