OnePlus dominated the affordable flagship segment in India until last year, before Asus entered the market with the ZenFone 5Z at a competitive price which meant consumers now had more worthy options at that price point. Now, the 6Z aims to do exactly that (minus the ZenFone branding), all over again, this time with better cameras, better software experience and a never-seen-before battery on a flagship. Since the top-end OnePlus offering no more belongs to the ‘affordable flagship’ category, Asus has a good chance to “flip” OnePlus over in the race to be the new budget flagship champ. How well have they managed to do that though? Let’s find out.
Asus 6Z Review: Design and Build
The Asus 6Z has a typical glass sandwich design with a metallic frame and while there are no fancy gradient color-shifts that we are seeing of late even on mid-range smartphones, the 6Z looks premium and feels comfortable to hold in hand, albeit slightly hefty. What contributes to the heft is the huge 5000mAh battery, something that no manufacturer has provided in a flagship smartphone to date. The glass back does attract a ton of fingerprints, but the fingerprint scanner is in the perfect location and can be reached comfortably in a natural position. The Asus branding and the cyan accents around the power button provide a cool look to what is otherwise a pretty generic build.
The USB-C port, speaker grille, primary mic, and the headphone jack, yeah, there’s still one, reside on the bottom edge, the power and volume keys are to the right accompanied by a customizable smart key, and on the left is a triple slot which can take in two SIM cards and a microSD card, again, something that we don’t generally see on flagship smartphones. Good job understanding the consumers’ requirements, Asus.
The earpiece up top also doubles up as a front-firing speaker to form a stereo setup and Asus has also somehow managed to cram in a notification LED on the thin bezel. Glad that Asus is including features that are disappearing from most smartphones. The stereo speakers are plenty loud, probably the loudest in the segment and if you consume a lot of media, you will surely appreciate it. Not just the speakers, but the output from the headphone jack is also sublime and Asus is also kind enough to include high-res audio earphones within the box.
Not AMOLED, but a gorgeous display, nevertheless
On the front is a gorgeous 6.4-inch IPS display with Full HD+ resolution and bare minimal bezels, except for the slightly chubby chin. The viewing experience on this display is fantastic and while it’s not an AMOLED panel, the blacks are still deep and colors pop-out well. The fact that there is no notch or cut-out in the display makes for an uninterrupted viewing experience. The brightness of the panel, however, could have been slightly higher in outdoor environments, but on the “flip” side, the screen can get really dim which can be helpful for reading or using your phone in the dark.
Asus 6Z Review: Flippin’ Cameras
One of the major highlights of the 6Z is its cameras. Unlike pop-up cameras on recent smartphones, Asus has opted for a flip mechanism and have done away with a dedicated front-facing shooter altogether. The advantage here is twofold – One, the screen can go from edge to edge since there’s no need for additional space to put the front-facing cameras, and two, your selfies will be of equally good quality like the pictures from the rear camera since they are essentially shot from the same 48MP Sony IMX 586 sensor. And guess what? You also get an option to shoot wide-angle selfies to fit in more people. How good are the cameras though?
On most occasions, the Asus 6Z captures good quality images with accurate colors and sharp details, but some shots lack contrast and saturation, something that can hopefully be fixed via a software update. The dynamic range is also handled well, and shadows don’t appear to be dark while highlights aren’t completely blown out either. In darker environments too, the 6Z hold its own and managed to click good pictures, but the brightness levels seem to be a little low, again, something that needs to be tweaked with updates. There is also a built-in night mode which does not make a ton of difference other than increasing the exposure a bit and sharpening the image, but it’s there when you want to use it.
The 13MP wide-angle shooter does not impress all that much and if there’s insufficient lighting, it ends up producing dull images with washed-out colors, but if used well for the right situations, it does increase the field of view considerably and is pretty good with selfies in our experience as it manages the skin tones well. Since the primary shooter flips over to take selfies, the quality is actually impressive, and the included portrait mode blurs the background in a very subtle fashion with proper edge detection, which makes the image looks very natural compared to some aggressive bokeh we’ve seen on numerous phones.[Click here for Full resolution images and additional samples on Flickr]
Note: Some low-light samples are missing due to some unavoidable reasons. We will add them soon.
Another cool feature of the camera is that you can set the module to whatever angle you want to, or there’s even a motion tracking mode that essentially moves the camera sensor to follow the subject. The Panorama mode is also something unique on this smartphone as you don’t have to move the phone manually, but the sensor itself flips outward slowly capturing multiple shots to stitch them together, which means you can shoot a panorama with yourself in the frame too!
Asus 6Z: Camera2api and Gcam mod
The much popular Google Camera Mod is also supported on the 6Z and further improves the quality of images, by boosting up contrast levels, making the images look more pleasing to the eye. Here’s a link on how to install the G Cam mod on your Asus 6Z to take better quality photos.
While pictures from the camera are great, the flip-out mechanism itself doesn’t feel reassuring as at times it refuses to close completely and produces concerning noises. Also, if you shake the phone, the module tends to pop-out of its cavity slightly and doesn’t sit flush unless you toggle the front camera on and off from within the camera app. These are some issues we noticed in everyday usage, so it’s advisable to be wary of it.
Asus 6Z Review: Performance and Gaming
Performance is another area where the 6Z is right up there with the competition. Just like most 2019 flagships, the 6Z sports the Snapdragon 855 chipset with either 6 or 8GB of RAM and 64 or 128GB of onboard storage. Unlike last year’s 5Z, the 6Z has an almost-stock approach to the UI which is a welcome move given that the interface is cleaner while still retaining essential features and functionality like gestures, built-in screen recorder, twin apps, etc.
As you would expect from the internals within, switching between apps and playing hardcore games was a breeze on the 6Z and the clean UI also makes for a stutter-free experience. Playing PUBG on Smooth and Extreme settings resulted in a constant frame rate of 60fps and the large battery means that you can play on and on without any interruption.
Asus has been pretty regular, albeit slow, with updates on the 5Z, listening to user feedback and implementing it, so software support shouldn’t be a matter of concern. The 5Z which was launched last year is also a part of the Android Q Beta program, so it’s safe to say the 6Z will also receive equally good treatment in terms of support.
We mentioned initially that the phone does feel rather hefty and that’s due to the 5000mAh battery inside, and frankly, it’s well worth the extra few grams. On each day of testing, it was practically impossible to kill this thing in a single day despite heavy usage, so if you use your phone moderately, you can easily get through two days of usage, and if you play a lot of games, a full day of usage is still easily achievable. There’s a Quick Charge 3 adaptor within the box, which takes a little less than two hours for a full charge, which is understandable given the huge capacity. Undoubtedly one of the best phones out there if battery life is of utmost importance to you.
Well, looks like the 6Z is almost a perfect smartphone, right? Yeah, almost is the key here. There’s no IP rating so don’t take it near the pool or in the rain. There’s no wireless charging and the flipping camera mechanism isn’t the most reliable and acts iffy at times.
However, if these shortcomings don’t seem major to you, the Asus 6Z is shaping out to be a great option starting at Rs 31,999. The OnePlus 7 retails for Rs. 32,999 and does almost everything that the 6Z does, except for the flip-out camera of course, and the big battery. But the reliability of Oxygen OS and the brand’s fan-base are the biggest threats to what otherwise is a smartphone that does basically everything, and does it well.