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ASUS 6z review: a powerful all-rounder with one weak link

Back in 2015, OPPO launch a unique smartphone in the form of the N3, which featured a motorised rotating camera module that enabled you to take high-resolution selfie photos. While this design feature was eventually phased out by the brand, cut to 2019, and you’ll realise OPPO was way ahead of the curve. At a time when pop-up selfie cameras are all the rage, ASUS decided to take inspiration from the past, and launch the 6z (ZenFone 6 in other countries), which features a unique Flip camera module, not unlike what the OPPO N3 sported all those years ago. This of course gives you access to the best selfie cameras in the market right now, but coupled with powerful internals, also makes the 6z a capable flagship phone. After using the device as my primary phone for a few weeks, here’s all you need to know if you’re interested in purchasing this device.

Design and display

Compared to other phones in the market, the 6z takes a rather austere approach to design, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Constructed from a mix of glass and metal, its curves fit nicely in the hand, and the phone has a nice heft to it too. The front of the device features a nearly full-screen design, except for a few millimetres at the bottom that’s taken up by a chin. There’s no notches or punch-holes on the 6z’s display, thanks to its Flip camera. When the selfie camera is activated, the dual camera module flips up from the back to pop up over the display. While the idea is certainly unique, the camera module itself is fragile. There were a few occasions when I found the module didn’t retract fully, and seemed to be hanging out a few degrees from the back panel. Shaking the phone also seemed to dislodge the camera module from its recess in the back panel, which is worrying. The vibrations of the motor can also be felt distinctly, more than the pop-up camera modules you’ll find on most phones these days, and these factors make me question the longevity of the camera module.

As for the rest of the design elements, you get a power button outlined in blue to match with the ASUS branding on the rear, a USB Type-C port, 3.5mm audio jack (yes!), dual-SIM cards, a dedicated microSD card and a Smart Key. The Smart Key is set up to summon Google Assistant by default, but you can also change the functions assigned. I personally used it to switch between Vibrate, Mute and Sound modes – a short of makeshift Alert Slider inspired by OnePlus. A traditional fingerprint sensor is also present at the rear, and while its fast and accurate, it feels outdated compared to in-screen fingerprint sensors that you’ll find on most flagships now. Face unlock is also present, but is a bit slow because of the Flip camera.

The display on the 6z measures 6.4-inches and offers full HD+ resolution, but its an LCD panel which is disappointing considering the OnePlus 7 and Redmi K20 Pro both offer AMOLED displays. That said, the display offers clear visuals, punchy colours and good viewing angles, and is perfectly legible in sunlight too. It also comes with Gorilla Glass 6 protection, and is HDR 10 capable too.

Cameras

The ASUS 6z’s Flip camera module comes with a 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor with f/1.79 aperture, laser autofocus and PDAF. The secondary camera is a 13MP 125-degree ultra-wide lens. Both cameras support 4K video with EIS, although the primary camera lets you shoot at 60fps, while the latter only allows up to 30fps. Rest assured, you get the same cameras for selfies too. In terms of the results, images display plenty of detail and output true-to-life colours in daylight. The results are natural and realistic, and a pleasant change from the over-saturated images you see from the likes of Samsung and Xiaomi. The wide-angle camera works impressively for landscapes, with no distortion or fish-eye effects to mar the results. The low-light prowess is also impressive, although I noticed flares around light sources. That said, enabling the night mode works beautifully to solve this issue, and bring out detail and sharpness in darker areas. Take a look at the camera samples and see for yourself.

Software and Performance

ASUS is known for its near stock interface, and the 6z is no different. Instead of the older ZenUI, the 6z runs ASUS UI atop Android 9. You get a few enhancements and extra features, atop a largely vanilla and bloatfare-free experience. A few extras like a system-wide dark mode and screen recorder are also present.

Powering the 6z is a Snapdragon 855 chipset. It’s available in three configurations, with up to 8GB RAM and 256GB of storage. I had the mid-level unit with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, and found it to be fluid and responsive, with no freezes or lags while multi-tasking or playing resource hungry games like Asphalt 9. That said, I did face some issues when it came to calls – the earpiece outputs harsh, tinny audio, making it uncomfortable if the caller is in a noisy location. The proximity sensor also gave me trouble by activating the display when I was on a call, leading me to wonder if this has to do with the camera module that’s placed right behind it.

The 5,000mAh battery of the 6z is its most underrated feature – over two days of usage I managed to get over 8 hours and 20 minutes of screen time, with 8 percent of battery remaining. This is truly exceptional for a flagship phone. In our battery drain test, the phone ran for 17 hours, although charging it with the bundled charger took longer owing to its beefy capacity.

Competition

The ASUS 6z is priced at Rs 31,999, Rs 34,999 and Rs 39,999 for the 6GB + 64GB, 6GB + 128GB and 8GB + 256GB variants respectively. At that price, its biggest competitor is the OnePlus 7 (review), which offers 128GB of storage for its base variant. While the 6z has the advantage of a bigger battery, the OnePlus 7 makes up for this with 20W fast charging and an overall better usage experience. The Redmi K20 Pro is another serious contender – you get a more sturdy pop-up selfie camera, in-display fingerprint sensor and AMOLED display at a much cheaper price. However, the 6z gives you better cameras, a bigger battery and a clean interface.

Verdict

The 6z has a lot going for it – excellent performance, stock interface, good cameras and long battery life, all at an affordable price point. However, its key selling point – the Flip camera – is also its weakest link. Given the issues I’ve faced with the module during my short review period, I’m concerned about how the camera will hold up in the long term.  For this reason, I’d advise you to wait until ASUS addresses the issues with the phone before investing in the 6z.

Pricebaba’s rating: 7.5 / 10

What works:

  • Smooth performance
  • Good cameras
  • Excellent battery life
  • Clean interface

What doesnt:

  • Flip camera module is flimsy
  • Base variant comes with just 64GB storage
  • Earpiece is tinny

Photos by Raj Rout

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