Asus ZenFone 8 Flip full review

Asus shocked fans by ditching the Flip camera module synonymous with the ZenFone line on the standard ZenFone 8, deciding instead to offer a more compact smartphone than much of the competition, but the larger ZenFone 8 Flip is here to scratch that flipping itch for 2021.

The ZenFone 8 Flip may look familiar, and that’s because it’s near-identical in design (and most other areas) to its predecessor, the ZenFone 7. That may be a disappointment for some but given the smartphone’s limited release in 2020, it makes sense for Asus to upgrade the internals and put it in front of a wider audience.

The question is whether the flip camera system is worth the premium compared to its more capable and cheaper sibling? It’s a tough one.

Design & Display

The ZenFone 8 Flip isn’t a small or compact phone by any means – that’s left to the 5.9in ZenFone 8. In fact, at 9.6mm thick and 230g, it’s quite the opposite. It’s hard to ignore the fact that the ZenFone 8 Flip is bulky and it’s noticeable when you first pick it up.

As with most smartphones, you’ll adjust as you use it, but there are certainly thinner and lighter big-screen phones, like the 7.8mm, 202g Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus available in 2021.

Size aside, the ZenFone 8 Flip is a good-looking smartphone, offering a combination of aluminium and glass and it’s curved on the rear to help it sit more comfortably in the palm of your hand. It’s available in two colours too; Glacier Silver and Galactic Black.

The main draw of the 8 Flip is the flipping camera system that allows the trio of rear-facing cameras to rotate and face the front. It’s an intriguing idea that Asus has developed since its reveal in the ZenFone 6, with the ZenFone 8 Flip sporting a new motor for better performance and finer angle control – but more on that later.

The 'liquid metal' camera module sits flush within the body, but there’s still a camera bump, and with only Gorilla Glass 3 protecting it, you might find a scratch or two appear over time – it has already happened to our sample.

A benefit to having a flippable camera system – aside from all the creative opportunities it enables – is that you don’t need a front-facing camera embedded into, or above, the display. The ZenFone 8 has a 6.67in all-screen display, with only a slim bezel that surrounds it. There's no notch, hole-punch or anything else obscuring the experience at all.

In a world where dual hole-punch cameras exist, it’s a refreshing change to be able to see the entire display on the ZenFone 8.

It helps that it’s a nice display, even if it’s identical to that of the ZenFone 7; it’s a FHD+ AMOLED panel with a 90Hz refresh rate, 200Hz touch sample rate and a 1ms response time. The 90Hz refresh rate is a little low considering the smaller ZenFone 8 offers a faster 120Hz refresh rate, and some flagships have gone as far as 144Hz, but there comes a point of diminishing return – especially when it comes at the sacrifice of battery life.

The ZenFone 8 also offers support for HDR10+ content, but with a maximum brightness of 500 nits in tests it’s not the brightest panel out there, and you may struggle to use it in direct sunlight as a result.

There’s an in-display fingerprint reader that works well much of the time, although there’s also facial unlock available, too. It’s a bit of fun seeing the camera module quickly flip to check it’s you unlocking the phone, too!

Above and below the display you’ll find stereo speakers that sound surprisingly loud and clear when watching videos on YouTube and they help provide a more immersive stereo experience when playing games too. The issue is that it lacks the 3.5mm headphone port, a particular oddity when you consider the smaller and thinner ZenFone 8 does feature the port.

It’d be smart to keep the ZenFone 8 away from water too, as unlike its smaller sibling, the ZenFone 8 offers no kind of water or dust resistance. Underwater selfies will have to wait!

Cameras

Utilising the flip camera system is the selfie-taker’s dream. For those new to the series, the ZenFone 8 Flip utilises a motorised flip module to make the rear-facing camera setup available on the front of the phone too, and that’ll completely change your selfie game.

You’ll get a main 64Mp Sony IMX686 camera sporting an f/1.8 aperture and Dual PD autofocus capable of recording up to [email protected] video, although with EIS in place of OIS available on the standard ZenFone 8. That’s paired with a 12Mp f/2.2 113-degree ultra-wide sensor and an 8Mp telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom, and there are plenty of shooting modes available, including [email protected] slow-mo.

When was the last time you recorded [email protected] on your front-facing camera? The answer is probably never, let’s be honest.

Camera test

As you might expect from such highly-specced cameras, the ZenFone 8 Flip produces great results in a variety of shooting conditions. Colours are generally vibrant, the detail is crisp and the portrait mode edge detection is much more accurate than any standard selfie camera you’ll find in 2021. It can’t quite compete with ultra-high-end flagships like the iPhone 12 Pro Max or Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, but it offers a versatile shooting experience that photographers will adore.

The main sensor is the star of the show, with the fast f/1.8 aperture allowing the sensor to capture more light, a feature especially helpful when shooting in darker environments. The ultra-wide and telephoto lenses produce great shots in lighter environments.

There’s also a great level of consistency between what’s shot on the main and ultra-wide lenses, with a similar level of detail and dynamic range. Some ultra-wide shots can come across as a little more saturated than those from the main sensor but this is easily remedied in the Gallery app. Shots taken on the telephoto lens aren’t quite as vibrant, but the detail remains.

Of course, there are plenty of features available on the ZenFone 8 Flip that take advantage of that flipping module. As well as being able to quickly flip to a forward-facing position with the tap of a button, you’re able to adjust the angle yourself, allowing for some truly creative angles while still being able to see the display perfectly.

In fact, you can now save three custom angles for easy access, and with the ZenUI overlay, the controls are available in third-party apps like Instagram and Snapchat too.

There are also special shooting modes, like object tracking that’ll move the module to keep the subject in the shot and an automatic panorama mode that uses the module to take a panoramic shot free of stitching issues, made possible by the adjustable camera system.

The flip module itself has been redesigned for the ZenFone 8 Flip, offering a more durable design that Asus claims is good for 300,000 flips – or over 150 flips per day for 5 years. It’s stronger this time too, with a 50% more powerful output allowing the module to move faster. Importantly, the 0.5mm microstep solution provides great angle control and smooth motion, although it is still audible when in use.

Don't worry about damaging the module if you drop your phone either, the built-in G-sensor can detect sudden falls and retract the camera to a safe position relatively quickly. It works as advertised.

There’s also an updated Pro camera mode available on the ZenFone 8 Flip for those that want to take their mobile photography a step further, introducing bracketing with different exposure values and the ability to save custom shoot presets for easy access.

Specs & Performance

While there’s a focus on cameras with the ZenFone 8 Flip, it’s still a powerful smartphone – albeit not quite as powerful as its smaller sibling, the ZenFone 8.

The ZenFone 8 Flip features the latest and greatest Snapdragon 888 chipset, but while the Flip’s offering caps out at 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM (the same as that used in the ROG Phone 5) the smaller ZenFone 8 offers up to a whopping 16GB of RAM.

The differences in real-world use are negligible, and the ZenFone 8 Flip does outperform similarly specced smartphones like the Snapdragon 888 & 8GB RAM-equipped Samsung Galaxy S21, although the 8GB limit does mean it can’t beat all the high-end competition in benchmark tests.

Regardless of how it compares to other 2021 flagships, the ZenFone 8 Flip is a joy to use day-to-day.

It’s able to handle just about anything you can throw at it, from scrolling through Twitter and Facebook – complete with autoplaying videos – to playing high-end mobile games like Call of Duty Mobile without even the slightest hint of stutter. That’s further enhanced by the 90Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time of the display, making everything feel very ‘instant’ on the ZenFone 8 Flip.

There’s more than enough room to download your favourite apps and games too, with either 128- or 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage to choose from; and if that’s not enough it can be further extended via the built-in microSD card slot.

The inclusion of the Snapdragon 888 also means 5G, and Asus has also thrown in Dual-Sim capabilities, Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 6e (in markets where it’s certified) and NFC for good measure.

Battery Life

The Asus ZenFone 8 Flip is a bulky smartphone, there’s no doubt about it, and that’s partly down to the huge 5000mAh battery found at its core. The available battery power will comfortably get you through an average day’s use without scrambling for the charger when in the phone’s Dynamic power mode, but it won’t quite stretch to a second day – at least it didn’t in my experience.

If you do need to squeeze a little more life from each charge, you’ve got the option of toggling on the ultra-battery saving mode, disabling all non-essential functions to extend the battery as much as possible. You could also drop the refresh rate from 90- to 60Hz, but where’s the fun in that?

When it does eventually need a top-up, 30W HyperCharge provides a speedy – but by no means industry-leading – charging experience. In testing, the ZenFone 8 Flip regained 25% charge in 15 minutes and 44% in 30 minutes, trailing behind the claimed ‘60% in 25 minutes’ on offer from the standard ZenFone 8.

That may not be as impressive as the 65W fast charging from the Oppo Find X3 Pro delivering 93% charge in 30 minutes, but at least the ZenFone 8 Flip supports QuickCharge 4.0 and USB-C PD, meaning you’re not tied to a specific 30W HyperCharge charger – although you do get one in the box, which is a nice surprise given many manufacturers are opting to ditch charging bricks with recent flagship phones.

The only real disappointment in the charging department is the lack of wireless charging support – it’s practically a given on high-end smartphones in 2021, especially at the €799 starting price.

Software

The ZenFone 8 Flip comes running Android 11 out of the box with Asus’ ZenUI-flavoured spin applied on top. While you may shudder at the thought of anything other than the stock Android experience, ZenUI is pretty close, only introducing a handful of features specific to the ZenFone 8 Flip – and unlike most skins, these are more of a help than a hindrance to the overall experience.

One new feature is the introduction of the ROG Phone 5’s System Performance Manager, allowing you to easily switch between four preset modes to adjust performance.

That’s fairly standard, but where Asus takes things a step further is with the ability to create custom profiles where you can specify limits on CPU and RAM performance, and you can adjust thermal performance if necessary too. It’s not a feature that most ZenFone users will find themselves using often, but it’s great for those who want to squeeze the most out of the components.  

What is more helpful is the introduction of the Advanced Battery Care system, also previously a feature exclusive to the gaming-focused ROG Phone 5. The aim of the system is to extend the overall life of your battery, helping it hold charge for longer periods and stave off the battery degradation that haunts all rechargeable tech sooner or later.

Asus has also committed to two full OS updates along with two years of security updates, meaning you’ll at least get the upgrade to Android 12 and Android 13 on the ZenFone 8 Flip.  

Price

The ZenFone 8 Flip is available in a single 8GB/128GB combination in the UK, and it’ll cost you £699. US pricing and availability is yet to be confirmed. That puts the 8 Flip in the same territory as flagships including the OnePlus 9 and iPhone 12, and it's available to buy exclusively from Asus right now.

That’s also £200 more than the 5.9in ZenFone 8 that, flip camera module aside, has plenty of upgrades compared to the ZenFone 8 Flip, and similarly priced flagships offer extras like OIS, wireless charging and a higher display refresh rate not present here. It’s not the easiest sell, then, but if you’ve got your heart set on the Flip camera system, it’s a premium you’ll have to pay.

If you want a better understanding of the wider market in 2021, take a look at our selection of the best smartphones, and if big screens are your thing, we’ve got a collection of amazing big phones too.

Verdict

The ZenFone 8 Flip is, on the surface, a solid 2021 flagship, even if it is just a minor spec bump compared to the ZenFone 7.

It sports a large 6.67in AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate, there’s a Snapdragon 888 chipset and 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM powering the mobile experience and the 5000mAh battery will keep you going all day without the need to top-up.

The flipping camera system remains unique in the smartphone landscape, offering a versatile shooting experience simply unmatched by the competition, even if the cameras themselves aren’t quite as high spec as the likes of Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra or iPhone 12 Pro Max.

The ability to access all three rear-facing cameras on the front of the display is great too, particularly for those that shoot vlogs and take high-quality selfies.

There is an issue though; it seems Asus doesn’t want the ZenFone 8 Flip to steal the spotlight from the smaller ZenFone 8. The 8 Flip features a lower display refresh rate and less RAM, and it doesn’t offer any kind of water resistance, optical image stabilisation or a 3.5mm headphone jack – all features of the standard model.

The 8 Flip remains tempting, but the decision to ‘clip its wings’ means it can’t truly compete with some of the best flagships out there. It really comes down to whether you want that motorised camera or not.

Specs

Asus ZenFone 8 Flip: Specs

  • 165.4 x 77.28 x 9.6mm
  • 230g
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G
  • 8GB LPDDR5 RAM
  • 128/256GB storage expandable via microSD
  • 6.67in AMOLED display (90Hz, 1ms response time)
  • Flip camera module: 64Mp Sony IMX686 main camera with EIS, 12Mp Sony IMX363 ultra-wide, 8Mp 3x optical
  • 5,000mAh battery with 30W HyperCharge support
  • Dual stereo speakers with Cirrus Logic amplifier
  • USB-C
  • Wi-Fi 6/6e
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • 5G connectivity