Some smartphone form factors only go down in history as one-off experiments, but the Asus Flip Camera isn't that. Improved and enhanced, it returns for a second year in a row on the Zenfone 7 showing that phones can still have moving parts and be cool.
It holds three cameras now, a 3x telephoto joining the regular and ultra-wide modules. These two have gotten better too - the main cam now uses the 64MP Quad Bayer sensor in place of the 48MP unit on the Zenfone 6, while the ultra-wide cam gets a big sensor and dual pixel autofocus.
For this generation, Asus talked to Samsung and got a nice 6.67-inch AMOLED, with a middle-ground 90Hz refresh rate too.
A big screen better have a big battery behind it, so the Zenfone 7 comes with the same 5,000mAh capacity power pack of the 6, now with faster charging.
This perhaps is a good juncture to point out that there are two Zenfone 7s - a vanilla one and a Pro, with minor differences between them. The Pro gets the Snapdragon 865+ chipset, OIS on both the main cam and the telephoto, and 256GB of storage. The Zenfone 7 proper makes do with the Snapdragon 865 non-plus, non-stabilized optics all around (on otherwise the same cameras), and just 128GB of storage.
Inside the box you get the HyperCharge adapter that supports up to 30W of power output, a USB-C-to-C cable to go with it, two protective cases. Both are made from hard plastic and have mostly the same shape and coverage. One is transparent, the other is pale blue on our Pastel White review unit and black on the Aurora Black version.
The Zenfone 7 is no ordinary smartphone, that much is certain.
It was last year's Zenfone 6 that pioneered the motorized flip-up assembly, though that one was a notably more compact one. For this generation, the Zenfone has added a telephoto, an omission that was hard to ignore last time around. The other modules have grown in pixel count and sheer size alike and with the tele now joining them the Flip Camera has gotten quite bulky.
The Flip Camera now rotates faster than on the Zenfone 6 and does so with a slightly quieter and more high-pitched whir. The mechanism is rated to 200,000 actuations, or 110 a day for 5 years.
With the Flip Camera retracted, the back of the phone doesn't stand out much. Asus has chosen two color schemes for the Zenfone 7 and 7 Pro - Aurora Black and Pastel White, and we have the white one here for review. It's got a base pale blue to pale pink gradient with a subtle pearlescent effect on top. Aurora or Pastel, it's Gorilla Glass 3.
The Zenfone 7 is 9.6mm thick - that 5,000mAh battery had to go somewhere, and with the flip-up mechanism taking up a sizeable chunk of space, the phone had to grow in the Z-direction. It's not just the thickness, though - the Zenfone is quite heavy at 230g. It's a substantial handset.
Another thing that can be pinned on the Flip Camera, another good one too, is keeping the display cutout-free. This generation, you're getting an OLED, and it's a Samsung-made 6.67" unit.
With the switch to AMOLED, you'd expect that Asus went for an under-display fingerprint reader. That's not the case, however, and you'll find the sensor on the right side of the phone, built into the power button.
It's positioned nicely for access with either hand if you're going to use it for Power button and Smart key purposes.
The midframe is made from 6000-series aluminum, a single chunk of it per phone. It's interrupted in several spots by white antenna strips - the Zenfone 7 has an extensive list of supported 5G bands, more of them than most other 5G phones we've encountered.
On the bottom of the phone the primary mic and loudspeaker are also in these whereabouts. You may have noted there's no 3.5mm headphone jack on the Zenfone 7, an unfortunate if entirely logical development.
On the other hand, Asus has kept the dedicated microSD slot.
The Zenfone 7 runs Android 10 with ZenUI 7 on top.
There is, however, an extensive list of added features behind this seemingly stock facade - all well-organized and bringing added value. A new addition with the Zenfone 7 is the Smart Key - what we'd normally call the power button that houses the fingerprint reader as well. It has two possible actions - double press and press and hold. Either can be set to launch any app of your choosing or operate basically any function on the phone - toggle a setting, take a screenshot, launch the timer.
The double press action can be set to open Google Assistant, while press and hold launches Assistant in listening mode.
The Zenfone may lack the gaming-centric aesthetic of the ROG Phone 3, but has Game Genie on board just as well. It's an in-game overlay that gets automatically enabled for games but is supported for any other app, as per your desired settings.
The Zenfone 7 Pro is powered by the Snapdragon 865+, the tweaked version of Qualcomm's top-tier chipset with overclocked CPU and GPU. It's the same chip you can find in Asus' own ROG Phone 3 and the Galaxy Note20s in some parts of the world.
The otherwise identical 1+3+4 CPU core configuration in the S865+ has the prime core ticking at up to 3.1GHz (as opposed to 2.96GHz on the S865) while the GPU's clock rate is upped to 645MHz (otherwise 587MHz). The Zenfone 7 non-Pro, meanwhile, has that regular Snapdragon 865 inside.
The Pro is available in a single configuration with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. The vanilla model has 6GB and 8GB options, both with 128GB of storage. The storage is the fast UFS 3.1 in all versions.
In the AnTuTu, our Zenfone 7 Pro even inched ahead of the ROG Phone 3 in the single-core test - an insignificant advantage, but enough for bragging rights.
With the High performance mode's entire premise for continued high output, the Zenfone 7 Pro does get quite hot after prolonged high load.
The Zenfone 7 Pro brings improvements in the imaging department - ones that couldn't have fit in the Zenfone 6's Flip Camera. The triple-cam setup now comes with an extra telephoto cam and upgraded main and ultra wide angle modules.
The main camera now uses a 64MP 1/1.7" IMX 686 sensor - one of Sony's Quad Bayers that's meant to capture 16MP images. It's paired with a stabilized 26mm equivalent focal length lens with an f/1.8 aperture.
The ultra wide angle camera now uses a 12MP Sony IMX 363 sensor - a 1/2.55" imager with 1.4µm pixels and dual pixel autofocus. The Zenfone's ultra wide is capable of focusing all the way down to 4cm so you can do close ups, but also use it to exaggerate perspective with nearby subjects and not just for vast (and vastly boring) landscapes. The lens has an f/2.2 aperture and what's looking like a 17mm equivalent focal length - so say a few hardware apps and visibly not as ultra wide as some competitors.
On to the newly added telephoto camera. It uses a lens with an equivalent focal length in the whereabouts of 80mm and its aperture is f/2.4. This gives it 3x optical zoom power when comparing against the main cam. The resolution on this one is 8MP and Asus isn't quoting Sony as the supplier of this sensor, so we reckon it isn't.
While both the main cam and the telephoto on the Zenfone 7 Pro feature OIS, the Zenfone 7 has no optical stabilization on any of its cameras.
The Camera app on the Zenfone looks like most camera apps, but with controls added to operate the flipping mechanism. The simple tap-to-switch button that does the 180-degree flip can be operated by sliding too, for precise manual angle adjustment. Then there's the custom angle switch which lets you save three custom positions of the Flip Camera for quick access.
The Zenfone 7 Pro is a fine smartphone indeed. It offers a remarkably balanced package of display, endurance, performance, and image quality. It's perhaps the best option if selfies are a top priority.
The Zenfone 7 Pro then comes at a sensible price for all that it can do just as well as most competitors and the things only its Flip Camera is capable of.
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