The Android smartphone scene is dominated by a few manufacturers capturing almost all sales, and then an undergrowth of promising competitors, struggling to get their share. This is especially the case in the high-end segment, where the battle has been between Samsung and Huawei, with Xiaomi waiting behind the scenes.
Asus has been struggling to gain a foothold in the smartphone market since 2014, and many of their ZenFone models have been technologically top-class. But despite this, the company has a market share that, even in Asia, where the impact is greatest, must be measured in single-digit percentages.
That’s why I’m probably speaking in vain, when I say that the ZenFone 7 Pro should be on the checklist if you’re going to go out and buy a top specs smartphone right now.
Asus ZenFone 7 Pro entices with its features and its price to those who want a fast and feature-packed phone without wanting lay down a four-digit amount on the counter for the most extreme models.
Three cameras turn into six
The most notable feature of the ZenFone 7 Pro is the rotating camera section retained from last year’s model. But of course with new – and more – cameras. The number is now up to three: Wide angle, super wide angle and telephoto. And since the camera bridge can be rotated 180 degrees, all three optics can be used as both rear and selfie cameras.
The front of the phone is totally dominated by the unbroken black surface of the screen, while the back is in either bluish black glass or mother-of-pearl white glass. Two cases are included in the package: a transparent plastic case for everyday use and a more robust one for off-road. The cases protect the back and the edges, but not the screen itself, which is made of Gorilla Glass 6.
The fastest available
On the processor front, Asus is in the front row. Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ is the fastest piece of processed sand that you can put in a mobile phone right now. The 3.1 GHz octa-core processor is a turbocharged version of the regular Snapdragon 865, which wasn’t slow in the first place.
The pro version of ZenFone 7 features 8 gigabytes of RAM and 256 gigabytes of storage. There is also a standard version of the ZenFone 7, which has the same specifications, except that you will have to settle for 128 gigabytes of storage and a regular Snapdragon 865 processor.
In a top mobile in 2020, there is of course support for 5G. So one is prepared when the network is rolled out over the coming months.
Top class screen
The screen on the ZenFone 7 Pro is now up to 6.7 inches. And where on ZenFone 6 we had to settle for an IPS screen, this time we have a real AMOLED screen with 90 Hz refresh rate. The resolution is FHD + (2400 x 1080), which is surpassed only by very few competitors. Asus is thus ready to compete on an equal footing with Huawei, Motorola and Xiaomi.
Look: No holes!
With the rotating camera, Asus has done a great job of giving users a large screen without notches and holes for the camera. One might suspect Asus of having invented the problem itself in order to justify the ingenious and quaint solution. But you will have to admit, that the result is a nice screen!
The colors are deep, and we have managed to push the brightness up to as much as 700 nits, which means that you can actually read the screen even in (moderate) sunny weather.
Asus was among the last to retain the analog headphone output minijack socket. It has been sacrificed this year due to space requirements inside the phone. All the while I, as an analog audio nerd, find it annoying, I must also admit that the problem is minimal, as the number of analog, wired headphones is the same free fall as the number of smartphones with corresponding headphone output.
A top mobile in 2020 can of course not be satisfied with two rear cameras, so the rotating camera bridge contains three really good lenses for different purposes.
The main camera is a wide-angle lens, equivalent to 26 mm in the old-fashioned 35 mm analog format. The Sony IMX686 sensor has 64 megapixel resolution and there is four-axis optical image stabilization.
The super-wide-angle camera, which corresponds to a 14 mm optics, must be “satisfied” with 16 megapixels, and the telephoto lens has an 8-megapixel sensor and a focal length corresponding to an 80 mm lens. It provides 3x optical zoom, compared to the main camera. With digital zoom, which simply cuts the image when you reach 12x zoom.
Thanks to the motion stabilization of four-axis, it can actually succeed in taking reasonably sensible spy photos with digital zoom.
The range of cameras nicely covers the subjects you can normally imagine taking snapshots of, and the quality is roughly on par with the Huawei P30 Pro. Although I miss the completely insane superzoom. In return, one can take selfies with 12x optical zoom. Something not recommended for people with sensitive stomachs!
However, the capabilities of the cameras only really come to light during video recording. You can film in up to 8K at 30 frames per second. And if you can make do with Full HD and 60 frames per second, you get access to a really well-functioning motion stabilization, reminiscent of having your mobile mounted in a gimbal. HyperSteady does not turn your mobile phone into a professional steadicam in the hands of a Hollywood cinematographer, but it can make amateur videos a less shocking experience.
Panoramic images are ZenFone 7’s special party trick, as they are taken automatically by rotating the camera bridge. It looks fascinating and it actually works fine. As soon as you learn to point the mobile at a 90-degrees angles to the subject – otherwise you end up taking panoramic pictures of yourself!
Asus ZenFone 7 Pro: Benchmarks
Thanks to the Snapdragon 865+ processor, the performance of the ZenFone 7 Pro is among the best we have ever measured. Even the formidable Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G must see itself distanced in speed.
A Geekbench 5 score of 1,000 in single-core and 3,381 in multi-core is nothing short of superb. The Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, OnePlus 8 Pro and Huawei P40 Pro all come close – but not quite up there. The 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme graphics test also sets a record with a score of 7,800.
The 5000 mAh battery is among the largest on the market. It can be seen on the PC Mark 2.0 battery test that ran for almost 12 hours at full flame. It is exceptionally long, so the risk of running out of juice before the day is over is virtually non-existent.
The Asus ZenFone 7 Pro is not just Asus’ supremely best smartphone to date. When it comes to raw speed, it is also the fastest mobile we have had on the test bench. On the camera front, it compares with the best on the market. And although the top model is expensive, it is still a bit cheaper than smartphones with the same processor, screen resolution and storage space.
The exciting question is whether it can lure mobile buyers away from the brands they are familiar with. While mobile king Samsung is untouchable, the world’s second-largest mobile maker, Huawei, has been put out of action due to the trade blockade, which has blocked the company’s access to new processors and Google’s all-important Android operating system. So maybe this is really ZenFone’s moment. I’m sure they are crossing their their fingers at Asus.