OnePlus should be worried—it’s gone from a virtually uncontested position of strength in the budget flagship category for the past couple of years, to fending off increasing competition from newcomers like the Black Shark 2, and also the Pixel 3a from Google, and the successor to the Asus Zenfone 5Z, now simply the Asus 6Z.
The new Asus 6z, whose top end variants go on sale from Monday July 1, packs in the expected hardware like the Snapdragon 855 processor, and 6GB/8GB RAM, but what really makes the phone stand out is the new approach to the camera, making this not just one of Asus’ most versatile new phones, but one of the most interesting picks around in the segment.
The 6/64GB base variant is now available at Rs. 31,999 which undercuts the OnePlus 7 on pricing—and with the 6GB/128GB (Rs. 34,999) and the fully loaded 8GB/256GB variants (Rs. 39,999) are on sale from Monday July 1st on Flipkart.
Asus 6Z – Pros
Design: With the 6Z, you have to talk about the articulating camera first, since it impacts so much of the design of this phone. The rear camera does double duty for photos and selfies, so Asus is able to give the 6Z a full-screen, notch-free display without compromising on the camera.
It’s an attention grabber and everyone will take note when you use the face unlock, or snap a selfie with this phone. The curved Gorilla Glass 3 rear blends into the metal chassis, while Gorilla Glass 6 serves to protect the front, and the overall feel in the hand is good. Fortunately, even though this is a big phone with a 6.4-inch screen with a large 5000mAh battery, it’s more comfortable to hold than the OnePlus 7 Pro.
Three dedicated slots for two nano SIMs plus a memory card are a bonus, as is the dedicated smart key which invokes Google Assistant, but can be customized to perform custom actions. However, unlike most other phones that are now releasing with an in-screen fingerprint scanner, the Asus 6Z goes with a rear-mounted scanner, which gives the phone a slightly traditional look.
Also, although the flip-over selfie camera looks eye-catching, it has its limitations. Place it on the table and you can’t activate face unlock or switch to selfie mode. Worryingly, the mechanism hits the table a little hard at these times. Each time the motor moves, the body vibrates discernibly, and it gets pretty loud as well.
Camera: The Asus 6Z’s flip module houses two cameras, a 48MP Sony IMX586 shooter and a 13MP ultra-wide (125-degree) camera. This does double-duty as the selfie camera as well, and you can flip it 180-degrees to point at you or stop it at any point in the arc using an on-screen slider or the volume keys.
It also has an auto-panorama feature, where the camera moves to capture the image instead of you moving the phone; and the cameras can even track movement while shooting videos.
The 48MP primary camera shoots at a default pixel-binned 12MP resolution and takes sharp pictures that are pretty color accurate, save for the oddly boosted reds. The HDR+ shooting mode works well to bring out the details in the shadows and highlights, and the portrait mode shots are good with the edges as well. The wide-angle goes way wider than those on the Huawei P30 Pro but it goes soft on details, so it’s best used only when there’s plenty of light. Both cameras are prone to over-sharpening images so that’s something to watch out for.
Clearly, the biggest benefit is for the selfies, with the same HDR+ mode and the super-wide-angle delivering excellent selfies even for large groups. Videos are clean and crisp too, even though the camera module forgoes OIS in favor or EIS (due to the associated additional weight of adding OIS). The 4K 30fps ultra-wide videos and 60fps regular videos are a treat to watch as long as they’re shot in abundant light. Low light is where the Asus 6Z struggles.
Display: With all that screen real estate at its disposal, Asus has done a bang-up job with the display on the Asus 6Z. The 6.4-inch full-HD+ screen supports the HDR10 standard and the full DCI-P3 color space with a maximum brightness of 600 nits is sharp and offers vivid colors—basically, the panel is as high quality as LCD panels get. Watching videos and playing games is a thing of joy, and the audio performance with the stereo speakers is on point, plus there’s support for apt-X and apt-X HD which makes wireless audio sound great as well. Naturally, it struggles a bit with darker colors and deep blacks, which is a trade-off you’re making with an LCD panel.
Software and Performance: Gone is the cluttered ZenUI of yore, and in place you get the near-stock Android setup with little to no bloatware. Asus has slipped in some finetuning—a Dark Mode for example and some tweaks to memory handling and app launch times—which makes the software experience comparable to the best on the Android side of things, right up there with Oxygen OS on the OnePlus devices.
The phone is quick and fluid with top-line hardware. It may scrimp on the super-speedy UFS 3.0 storage (the 6Z has the older UFS 2.1 kind) but makes up with software-level boosts in the form of the AI Boost mode and really, there’s little to complain while you’re pushing the Asus 6Z on games like PUBG or Asphalt, though it runs hot after extended gaming sessions.
Battery Life: Unless you’re flipping the camera up and down all day—which I assure you you will be doing in the first couple of days till the novelty runs out—the 5000mAh battery gives you stellar longevity, with upwards of seven hours of screen on time and nearly two days of regular usage. No wireless charging, so you’ll have to deal with the relatively slow 18W charging, which takes nearly 3 hours to fully charge from empty.
Asus 6Z – Cons
Minor Annoyances: For everything the Asus 6Z gets right, you know already that the camera mechanism has to be handled with care, the phone has the occasional thermal management issues, it lacks an AMOLED panel and expectedly, there’s no wireless charging or water resistance either. Redemption is in plenty with the performance, software and battery departments, plus a flip camera that way more than the gimmick we initially expected.