Asus Zenfone 8 Flip Review: The selfie master returns
“The Zenfone 8 Flip’s unique motorized camera module makes it the best selfie camera you can buy, but the rest of the phone fails to standout due to a hefty body and a recycled design.”
- Motorized camera means amazing selfies
- Excellent audio
- Great for gaming
- Fast, reliable software
- No water resistance
- No wireless charging
- Big and heavy
If you’re expecting the Zenfone 8 Flip to be a radical departure from the Zenfone 7 Pro, then disappointment is headed your way, as the phone is externally almost identical to the 2020 flagship phone. It’s also not really Asus’ big release for 2021, as evidenced by the lack of a “Pro” suffix. This honor actually lies with the “compact flagship” Zenfone 8.
So should you care about it at all? Yes, because there have been some all-important changes internally, and the technically very clever motorized camera module means it’s still one of the best smartphones you can buy if you really love taking selfies. Just don’t expect the rest of the phone to excite you in the same way.
Give or take a few tenths of a millimeter, the Zenfone 8 Flip is exactly the same size and shape as the Zenfone 7 Pro. Asus may have kept the body of the Zenfone 8 at less than 70mm wide to facilitate one-handed use, but it hasn’t done the same with the Zenfone 8 Pro. It’s wide at 77mm, thick at 9.8mm, and heavy at 230 grams. The back is made from glass, the chassis from metal, and the flip camera module from liquid metal for strength and lightness.
The flip camera is the reason you’ll buy the Zenfone 8 Flip, as it enables you to use the rear cameras for selfie duties too. The motor — a wonderful piece of small-scale engineering — quickly flips the camera out and over the top of the phone, so the three cameras face you. It’s a very mechanical experience, as you can hear and feel the motors and gears all working in unison, a very unusual tactile sensation on a modern smartphone. It’s fast and smooth, and Asus has upgraded the components to improve durability, now promising it’ll last for at least 300,000 flips compared to 200,000 on the Zenfone 7 Pro.
I like the flip camera. It’s unique, works really well, and provides features completely unavailable on any other smartphone. However, the overall Zenfone 8 Pro package feels dated as the design hasn’t changed at all over last year’s phone, and arguably, it’s not that different from the Zenfone 6 Flip either. The Zenfone 8 Flip is big, heavy, thick, and when compared to phones like the OnePlus 9 Pro, the iPhone 12, and the Samsung Galaxy S21, simply not refined or pretty enough. It makes the Zenfone 8 Pro a harder sell, despite the attraction of the flip camera.
The 6.67-inch Samsung-made AMOLED screen on the front of the Zenfone 8 Flip is unbroken by a hole-punch or notch, due to the flip camera making such a thing irrelevant. It has a 90Hz refresh rate, 200Hz touch sampling rate, 1,000 nits maximum brightness, and niceties like a DCI-P3 color gamut. Asus claims the bezels are smaller than the Zenfone 7 Pro, but I can’t see much difference.
It’s the popular 20:9 aspect ratio, shared by phones like the Galaxy S21 and OnePlus 9, and as you’d expect, it’s great for watching a video and playing games. It’s an FHD+ resolution, but I didn’t miss the higher resolution provided by phones like the OnePlus 9 Pro under normal circumstances, and it does help extend the battery life too. It doesn’t have any extreme curve on either side, making it mostly flat which may appeal as well.
For extended watching sessions the size and weight made the Zenfone 8 Flip more fatiguing to hold than lighter and more compact devices, and while the screen is bright and colorful, the lack of front-facing selfie camera cutout isn’t enough to make me want to use it over one of the other truly stunning phone screens, such as the iPhone 12 Pro, OnePlus 9 Pro, and Galaxy S21+.
There are three cameras total on the Zenfone 8 Flip, and they are all inside the same module. The main is a 64-megapixel Sony IMX686 with an f/1.8 aperture, phase detection autofocus, and 8K video recording with electronic image stabilization. The second is a 12MP Sony IMX363 wide-angle camera with an f/2.2 aperture and autofocus, and the third is an 8MP camera with 3x optical zoom.
For a rear camera, the Zenfone 8 Flip’s setup is decent but not outstanding, but for a front camera setup, it’s about the best you can get. All the features above, plus various video modes, are ready for selfies too. That means wide-angle selfies, 3x zoom selfies, and even 8K video selfies if you really want, and absolutely no other phone provides the same functionality in its front-facing camera.
Even the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra with its tiny rear screen isn’t as easy to use for high-quality selfies as the Zenfone 8 Flip, as you’re staring at the full 6.67-inch screen when taking them. The Asus camera app is great too, with plenty of speed to match its functionality. The flip module can be set at different angles using a shortcut menu, which can help you take photos from unusual angles. The motorized flip camera has an auto panorama mode — where it moves for you, rather than you moving the phone — and a tracking mode too.
All this is very well, but does the camera take good photos? It’s technically very similar to the Zenfone 8’s camera, which means its photos are highly shareable due to the strong HDR effect and bright, eye-catching colors. I think they look great, and I much prefer this over an underexposed shot that I have to edit before I want to share. It’s not very consistent though, and the wide-angle camera has problems in difficult lighting. I’ve stuck to using the main camera and the 3x optical zoom, which adds versatility to the Zenfone 8 Flip’s camera.
You can select different angles for the flip module at the touch of a button, but I’ve struggled to find a scenario where this makes much sense. The auto-panorama mode is effective and improves stitching due to the elimination of shake while panning. Motion tracking also uses the motorized module and keeps up very well provided the subject isn’t moving too quickly. While all these fun little features work well, they are a little gimmicky, and probably won’t be used very often.
The Zenfone 8 Flip has a good rear camera, which takes photos you’ll be happy to share without messing around with much editing, and an amazing front camera that takes better selfies than just about any other phone. It’s an odd statement when you know the rear and the selfie camera are one and the same, but when comparing to other phones like this, the Zenfone 8 Flip’s unique camera feature ensures it stands out from the selfie crowd.
Performance and software
Asus’s ZenUI interface is built over Android 11 and is close to the experience you get on a Google Pixel phone, so it’s relatively free of unnecessary apps, features, and flourish. It’s a clean, easy-to-use piece of software, complete with many Android features I like left in place, including a great dark theme, a simple Settings menu, standard notifications without changes to the notifications shade, and a simple power-off screen when you hold the power button. It may sound silly, but these make the phone logical and pleasant to live with on a daily basis. It has also been totally reliable.
I’ve really enjoyed gaming on the Zenfone 8 Flip, through a combination of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888’s monster power, the 20:9 aspect ratio screen, and the excellent audio I’ve come to expect from Asus. It’s not quite on the ROG Phone 5’s level, but it’s pretty close with a deep, tuneful, and distortion-free sound at almost any volume. I’ve happily played Asphalt 9: Legends for way more than an hour in a sitting (shhh, don’t tell my editor) on the Zenfone 8 Flip, and it’s where the weight and size can give the phone an advantage, as its heft makes it easy to grip.
The 5,000mAh battery fares much better than the cell inside the Zenfone 8. With moderate use connected to Wi-Fi, it lasted me coming up to two days, and even with some extended gaming sessions and WhatsApp video calls, it’s easily longer than a day. The phone supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0 and Asus’s own 30W HyperCharge using the power block included in the box. It does not have wireless charging.
Price and availability
The Asus Zenfone 8 Flip comes with 8GB of RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of storage space, and starts at 799 euros, which converts over to $972. The U.S. price and availability have not been confirmed at the time of writing. The Asus Zenfone 7 Pro was sold in the U.S. for around $800, so should the Zenfone 8 Flip make it too, we predict it will be somewhere around this cost.
Living with the Zenfone 8 Flip was like returning to early 2020. The design wasn’t really a winner before, it’s just too heavy, and to see it repeated again in 2021 is unfortunate and makes the phone look and feel dated. The size and weight will put some people off, but I found it worked in the phone’s favor for gaming, especially when paired with the excellent sound. However, you definitely know you’re carrying a 230-gram phone around in your pocket.
The Zenfone 8 Flip lives and dies by how much you want the flip camera. If you take a lot of selfies, it’s unsurpassed in terms of features and on-paper specs, and you’ll get some great results from it compared to any phone with a single camera on the front. But if you’re serious about mobile photography in general, there are better phone cameras for not much more money.
An impressive piece of engineering it may be, but the flip module means the Zenfone 8 Flip doesn’t have water resistance, and the phone doesn’t have wireless charging either. Asus makes a good case for wireless charging not being included — it prefers to help manage battery longevity with wired charging and special modes — it’s sometimes helpful, and both it and an IP68 rating are generally considered a spec-sheet basic these days.
Where does this leave the Zenfone 8 Flip? It’s typically Asus: A well-made, well-thought-out, and well-specced device that caters to a niche with a unique feature. It’s the same deal as the ROG Phone 5 for gamers, and the Zenfone 8 with its compact flagship design. You’ll know straight away if you’ll love the versatility offered by the Zenfone 8 Flip’s flip camera, but if its selfie skills don’t get you all excited, there are better phones for you out there.
Is there a better alternative?
Yes. Based on the Zenfone 8 Flip costing around $900 (we don’t know the official U.S. price yet), the $969 OnePlus 9 Pro or the $1,000 Apple iPhone 12 Pro are our top recommendations. Both have masses of power for playing games, beautiful screens, and very capable cameras. They’re generally better all-rounders than the Zenfone 8 Flip, with helpful everyday features like very fast wired charging, wireless charging, and more attractive, lighter designs.
If you shop around the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra can sometimes still be , and for this it’s amazing value. Normally it wouldn’t be a viable alternative to any phone that costs under $1,000. If you want to spend less than the $980, the $699 Google Pixel 5 and the $830 Apple iPhone 12 are both excellent.
How long will it last?
Asus includes a special case inside the box for the Zenfone 8 Flip which can lock the flip module in place so it won’t unexpectedly activate. The company says the mechanism is stronger than before and good for at least 300,000 flips, plus it automatically retracts when it detects a fall. The module makes any kind of water resistance impossible, so you’ll have to be careful if you want the phone to last.
Asus promises two Android system updates, plus there’s 5G onboard if you use the fast network now, or plan to in the future. There are multiple battery charging modes, including a scheduler, to help the battery maintain its ability for several years too. The only thing stopping the Zenfone 8 Flip’s hardware from not feeling fresh in two years’ time is the design, which is already a year old.
Should you buy it?
No. Unless you’re really into selfies, and can imagine a scenario where an 8K video selfie would be something you’d want, the Zenfone 8 Flip doesn’t quite have the all-round appeal of many of its competitors.