There was a time when cell phones seemingly only ever got smaller, and likewise, some of us look fondly on those days when phones easily fit in our pockets and purses. Nowadays, we are mostly stuck with glass front and backed behemoths if we are seeking out a flagship, where devices like Asus’s ROG Phone 7 surely aren’t shy about their size and weight.
Thankfully, Asus is also delivering the Zenfone 10, complete with a compact body and a 5.9-inch screen that keeps things small without sacrificing performance. From its processor to its cameras — not to mention a wide range of color options — the phone is a pleasure to both use and hold. And while some compromises have to be made to keep things small and pocketable, at the end of the day, if you’re the sort of person who appreciates small form factors, I can confirm the Zenfone 10 hits this mark in stride. In fact, it’s one of my favorite Android phones of the year.
Asus Zenfone 10
The Asus Zenfone 10 is a compact device, and even though you get a screen that’s almost six inches, compared to modern behemoths, it’s tiny in comparison. Thankfully, this is also a full-featured smartphone, offering flagship specs like a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and 16 GB of RAM in a compact footprint, all paired with a price that’s more than fair for what you get.
- Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
- 5.92” AMOLED, 144Hz
- 8GB, 16GB
- 128MB, 256MB, 512MB
- USB-C, headphone jack, sim slot
- Operating System
- Android 13
- Front camera
- 32MP RGBW（Actual output: 8MP）
- Rear cameras
- Main：50MP 6-axis Hybrid Gimbal Stabilizer 2.0, 1/1.56”, f/1.9 Wide：13MP, f/2.2, FOV 120°
- Wi-Fi 7 ready, Bluetooth 5.3
- 68.1 x 146.5 x 9.4 mm
- Midnight Black, Starry Blue, Aurora Green, Commet White, Eclipse Red
- Wired 30W HyperCharge、Wireless 15W Qi cert
- Great performance in a small formfactor
- High refresh rate screen perfect for gaming and apps
- Freedom to customize close to stock
- Headphone jack
- Pinhole camera in screen
- Lopsided bezels with aggressively rounded corners
- Staggered launch with no US release date
- No carrier support
Availability and network
Much like the Asus ROG 7, availability for the Zenfone 10 will follow after today’s launch. There’s no specific date on offer just yet, but it should land sometime in Q3. While it would be nice to see Asus offer timely global launches, the company is ultimately a small player in the smartphone market, which also explains why you won’t be able to buy a Zenfone from a carrier.
As for network coverage, I’ve been using the Zenfone on T-Mobile without issue for the last two weeks. Calls are clear, 5G data is fast, and even Wi-Fi calling works without a hitch. I’ve had zero issues with carrier compatibility, though your mileage may vary depending on your network and location.
Display and design
I’d say the star of the show is the 5.92-inch 1080p OLED high refresh rate display. It’s a 144hz screen, but Asus has capped the maximum for regular use to 120 FPS. You can still boost up to 144Hz in supported games, but that’s the only place you’ll see the refresh rate hit these highs. Still, I’m not too bothered by being capped to 120Hz for daily use. As intended, it conserves a little battery compared to using it at peak at all times, and it’s not like most people will see the difference anyway. My only complaint about the screen is the cutout for the camera and the rounded corners. Rounded corners may look cute, but I’d prefer to see the entire screen, which is why I also dislike camera punchouts.
And it’s not like the bezels are tiny on the Zenfone 10, with a chin larger than the forehead. In my opinion, Asus could expand the forehead to properly match the bottom bezel, and it might just find enough room for the selfie cam above the screen, just like on the ROG Phone, which looks clean with its even bezels.
But even though I don’t personally agree with the rounded corners, they do match the round edges of the phone nicely, ultimately looking something like an iPhone from the front, as a fullscreen device surrounded by a metal frame. But once you flip the phone over is where you’ll immediately see a difference.
There are two huge and separate lenses on the back, perfectly round, one jutting out further than the other. And they are placed within a rear plate covered in a soft-touch coating that early felt like recycled cardboard upon first touch, offering a flat color for contrast, a choice of black, red, blue, white, and the new arrival this year, green.
I legitimately love the feel and look of the rear of the Zenfone 10, though there may be some concerns about staining, a noted issue with its predecessor; Asus has stated it worked to improve the coating this year.
Going back to the front, you get a single front-facing speaker at the top that doubles as your earpiece, but the bottom speaker isn’t front-facing, which is a bummer. It points down, making for an uneven sound. The volume rocker is situated on the right, with the power button underneath. This power button also houses a fingerprint sensor, and it works a treat.
Unlike under-display sensors, the button sensor works quickly and never bugged out on me. Along the bottom bezel is the centered USB-C port, with the sim tray to the left and the downward-facing speaker to the right. Best of all, there’s a headphone jack up top, one of my favorite features.
Overall, I’m a fan of the Zenfone 10’s design. Yes, it’s similar to last year’s model, but I feel the flat colors of the back with the large round cameras are striking, and the front offers a clear, familiar design that screams “phone.” Plus, I love the textured back. I use my phones with no cases, and I appreciate it when they don’t slide off every surface I set them on.
Other hardware and what’s in the box
Notably, the Zenfone 10 offers wireless charging, allowing users to charge it at 15 watts. While this isn’t super fast, you can always use the included USB-C cable and power brick to charge at 30 watts.
Beyond the included USB-C cord and brick, you can expect a black hard plastic case and user guide. And the phone — the box comes with the phone in it, of course.
Software and performance
One of my favorite things about Asus devices is the fact users are provided a choice of how to theme their phone, with an option that’s incredibly close to stock Android. Better yet, Asus improves upon stock’s design with features made to tie into it so that they look as native as possible, and you get to choose whether you use them over the regular option.
Will you prefer Asus’s notification drawer with the brightness slider at the bottom (obviously the better choice), or will you place it at the top of the screen like on stock Android? The beauty is the choice is yours, and you can even mix and match between stock and Asus’s optimized features.
Of course, Asus has put in work to ensure the device can be used one-handed. For example, there’s the Edge tool to quickly pull up shortcuts from the side of the screen. Then there are things like double-pressing the volume rocker to snag a quick shot while the phone is locked. There’s even a gimbal in the main camera sensor (we’ll get into this more in the next section), along with adaptive EIS to ensure shots stay steady and clear while holding your phone in one hand.
For me, the software works as expected, and the additional tools have proved handy. Asus even included its screen recording software from the ROG Phone. Of course, I prefer to operate at a smartphone’s maximum ability, so I crank up the frame rate to the max and turn off all power-saving features. Asus has built-in options to turn off things like OptiFlex, which is made to accelerate app launches of your most used apps.
This mode is made to conserve power, which I want no part of in my quest for maximum performance in my day-to-day use. Adaptive brightness, also off, sleep set to ten minutes of inactivity. Adaptive battery? You know that’s disabled too. Point being, I have control over my phone; perhaps some of Asus’s expertise in the PC gaming field is bleeding over to Android land. Either way, I always appreciate being given control over my hardware.
But the best part about turning off all these battery-saving features is that I get a true sense of performance, and rest assured, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is just as snappy in this tiny body as it is in the ROG 7. You might not be able to hold max performance as well as an ROG device, and its layers and layers of cooling (some of which has made its way to the Zenfone), but that’s the cost of shrinking the body, a price I’m more than willing to pay. Still, if you opt for the 16GB RAM model of the Zenfone 10, you’ll be chewing through games like Genshin Impact in no time. Even the 8GB model should be able to hold its own.
So yes, I’m not only pleased about the software on the phone, I’m happy with the performance as well. The only caveat is that updates are limited to two OS updates and four years of security updates. This is actually a recent improvement, so it will be unlikely to see Asus match giants like Samsung in this regard any time soon.
There’s no doubt the cameras on the Zenfone 10 stand out. Some may find them a little gaudy or ostentatious. For me, I just want to slap a skin on the back that uses both cameras as the eyes for a whacky face. That’s what I think of looking at the cameras: big ol’ anime eyes, which really leans into the kawaii-ness of the device, a fitting description. But how the cameras look is the least important thing about them.
The reason the top lens juts out over the bottom wide-angle lens is because it houses a gimbal to ensure steady shots with one hand. Video is a focus here, of course, which is why that gimbal is paired with something known as adaptive EIS. This will auto-adjust the FOV, essentially cropping on the fly to ensure the subject is stable and in focus with a steady framing.
While I don’t personally take a lot of videos, I can say what the camera outputs is more than acceptable. Asus says the difference will be best noticed with side-by-side video from competing cameras, so the actual benefit is pretty slight compared to the competition. What this really means is Asus offers competent cameras that can keep up with the big boys, and that’s what matters.
But as a diligent user mainlining the phone for the last two weeks, I of course, took some photos to show how things turned out. For me, I’m more than pleased with the results. Shots are clear and colorful, working well in both bright and dim settings. No, the photos probably won’t outclass Samsung or Google in every situation, but they are plenty good enough, which is really all I ask of my phone cameras.
Asus has improved the selfie cam from last year, now adding white pixels to the RGB to create RGBW, which ideally allows for better shots in low light. While I don’t have the Zenfone 9 to compare, I can say most low-light selfie shots turned out, though some were a little pixilated.
The Zenfone 10 comes with a 4,300mAh battery, and it’s plenty enough to power the device at 120Hz with all the battery-saving features off for a little over a day. Personally, I don’t use many apps, and so my standby time was phenomenal when barely using the phone; I’m talking over two days battery.
With medium use, I easily could get a day and a half, and with a heavy workload, I still managed to get over a day. Suffice to say, the battery life is great. After all, you only have to power a 5.92-inch screen at 1080p.
At this size, there isn’t much flagship competition that compares to the Zenfone 10. The closest in both size and price right now would be the base Samsung Galaxy S23 at 6.1 inches clocking in at $800, which should be close to the US pricing whenever the Zenfone launches in the US. So you get a similar size, at a similar price, with similar performance, since the S23 offers the same chip. Plus, the S23 is available right now, and is regularly offered on sale.
And since there are so few devices that compete at this size and price, your other option is to wait for the Pixel 8, which is currently rumored to offer a 6.17-inch screen. While the price remains a mystery to all but Google, ideally, the price will be pretty competitive if history is any judge.
Should you buy it?
Like any retail purchase, this fully depends on your needs. For me, the answer is a resounding yes, as I wish there were even more small phones on the market. I’m nostalgic for the days when tech kept shrinking, and while I’m normally using a giant device like the ROG phones, this reprieve using the Zenfone 10 is an absolute breath of fresh air. I’m now more reminded than ever that there used to be a time when my phone wasn’t the absolute center of attention, demanding it with its size in my pockets. Using the Zenfone 10, I have to keep checking if it’s even in my pocket. That’s how light it is, and I absolutely love it.
Just know what you’re getting into before you buy. Large hands will have trouble typing, gamers won’t see as much detail on such a small screen, and you surely won’t want to perform demanding work on the thing like you would on something larger. But if you’re familiar with using smartphones at this size and miss it, then it’s very clear this is one of the very few options at your disposal, and thankfully Asus has delivered one heck of a device. If you miss the heyday of smaller phones that didn’t weigh you down, the Zenfone 10 is easily the best flagship options at this size that’s available in Android land.
Asus Zenfone 10
Small phones can be hard to come by, especially if you’re on the hunt for something high-end. But this is where Asus shines with the Zenfone 10, targeting what is now a niche market with an excellent flagship that delivers on performance and form factor, with a headphone jack to boot.