Recently, Chinese tech giants OPPO and Xiaomi showcased their prototype phones sporting under display camera technology. I firmly believe that the latest attempt to do away with the notch is the way to go forward. Unfortunately, the tech is still in its infancy and therefore, buyers seeking a bezel-less experience today will have to look elsewhere.
This brings us to ASUS’ latest flagship, the 6Z (first impressions), which kills the notch in the most interesting way – by shipping with an articulating camera. You see, unlike the herd of pop-up camera phones, the 6Z ships with a dual-rear camera setup which flips up from the rear to face the front whenever you want to click selfies. Cool, right? But, is there more to the device than its X factor? To find out, I put my primary SIM inside the ASUS 6Z and after almost two weeks, here’s what I found.
Specs at a glance
|Resolution||1080 x 2340 pixels|
|CPU||Single core, 2.84 GHz + Tri core, 2.42 GHz, Snapdragon 855|
|Internal memory||64 GB|
|External memory||Up to 2 TB|
|Capacity||5000 mAH, Li-Polymer, Non removable|
|Talktime||Up to 33.3 Hours (3G)|
|Primary camera||48 MP|
|Network support||Dual SIM 4G|
|Other options||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS|
|Operating system||Android 9.0 Pie|
Design and Display
I’ll cut straight to the chase here – the design of the ASUS 6Z is paradoxical in the sense that it feels robust and delicate at the same time. You see, the flipping camera, cool as it may be, is among the most frangible mechanisms I’ve seen in a while. Now, I’ve reviewed a handful of smartphones with motorised components in them, but you’ll have to take my word for it – none felt as fragile as the ASUS 6Z.
Also, bear in mind that the motor didn’t fail on me, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it would. You see, every time I switched to the selfie camera, the entire chassis of the phone sent vibrations down my hand. What’s more, the stepper motor is quite audible when it’s turning its gears, which ideally, shouldn’t be the case. Furthermore, there were numerous instances when the motor didn’t open all the way up or hovered over the base of the unit at a small angle. And, even when it is closed, you can tap the camera module with your finger and feel how loose it is.
I’ll reiterate – the motor was never stuck for more than a few seconds during my stint with the phone. In fact, most of the time, the camera module would heat up after clicking a handful of photos and it was only then that the motorised components caused trouble. But, after testing the phone for a good number of days, I’d rather have a tiny notch than a fragile piece of machinery in my phone. Despite that, I’m willing to give the company the benefit of the doubt in the hope that these issues are specific to my review device. I’ve reached out to folks at ASUS for a replacement unit and I’ll update the article with any relevant changes.
So, that pretty much sums up the bad stuff about the ASUS 6Z’s design and – spoiler alert – about the phone too. You see, barring the issues with the motor, the design of the ASUS 6Z is as solid as it gets. The handset has been constructed using a mix of glass and metal, and it has a meaty trim which feels extremely grippy in the hand. The phone has a good heft to it too, but it doesn’t feel unwieldy. In fact, despite shipping with motorised flip camera module up top, I never felt that the phone was top heavy.
Moving on, the back of the device has the company’s logo carved in b lue, which looks exquisite and matches the blue accents on the power button as well. The phone even comes with a headphone jack, which is a sight for the sore eyes for budding audiophiles like me. Lastly, you’ll also get a dedicated Google Assistant key towards the right fascia of the phone which can be reprogrammed to perform several different tasks, such as capturing screenshots, opening the camera and so on.
The ASUS 6Z ships with a dual-speaker setup which gets quite loud. The sound output from said speakers isn’t the cleanest in the market, but if you’re into watching movies on your phone, then they should suffice. What’s more, the handset also comes with dual-SIM capabilities and on the whole, I didn’t face any connectivity issues during my time with the device. On the flip side, the bundled microphones struggled to relay my voice clearly over to the other end. That’s something you should take note of if you take a lot of phone calls on a day to day basis.
For security, ASUS has stuck with the basics and has furnished the 6Z with a capacitive fingerprint sensor which is located below the phone’s camera module. The sensor is both, extremely rapid and accurate, so no complaints here. You could impress your friends by using the phone’s facial recognition feature too, which works well when there’s enough ambient light. At night, you’ll probably want to stick to the fingerprint sensor though.
Now, the reason ASUS went to all the trouble and outfitted the 6Z with motorised components is to offer buyers a notch-less display. To that extent, the 6Z ships with a 6.4-inch LCD panel with FHD+ resolution which looks brilliant and offers an immersive media consumption experience. I did miss the deep, dark blacks from the OnePlus 7 Pro’s OLED panel, but for the price, the display on the 6Z is pretty good too. The panel gets sufficiently bright as well, so I didn’t stumble across any issues whilst using it outdoors either.
Thanks to its articulating cameras, ASUS’ 6Z is now the benchmark to beat when it comes to taking selfies. Unsurprisingly, the handset scored 98 on DxOMark’s selfie tests, which makes it the best phone to click self portraits. My experience with the phone’s camera has been a bit of a mixed bag, but on the whole, buyers looking for a solid camera performance in the affordable flagship space should take a good hard look at the ASUS 6Z.
Specs-wise, the handset ships with two sensors comprising a 48MP, Sony IMX586 lens with f/1.79 aperture and a 13MP wide-angle lens with a 125-degree field of view. I’ve summed up my experience with the phone’s camera below in the form of bullet points, so take a gander –
1 – The ASUS 6Z clicks beautiful images during the day. I tested the handset’s cameras across a variety of scenes and always managed to get away with a stunning photo. The daylight shots exhibited plenty of details and accurate colours, which is great for photo purists. Moreover, the handset features two HDR modes, namely HDR+ and HDR++ or HDR enhanced. Now, during my time with the phone, I noticed that in the latter of the two modes, the 6Z would bring up the highlights quite a bit, thereby overexposing a bright scene. Therefore, if the sun is scorching on your head, make sure to switch to the HDR+ mode.
2 – The ASUS 6Z’s cameras are backed by some wicked software processing too. Case in point, the photo of the tungsten bulb I’ve included here in which you can clearly make out the details in the filament but, the phone also managed to resolve the background perfectly. In a similar fashion, the wide-angle shooter on the 6Z lets you paint the picture on a wider canvas without distorting the edges of the photo. What’s more, thanks to its 13MP resolution, wide-angle images boast plenty of details too. I’d also like to point out that the viewfinder on the 6Z is butter smooth, and I’m willing to bet it’s running at a higher fps than competing devices.
3 – The smartphone shoots good photos at night too. The phone comes with a built-in night mode, which outputs photos which are on par with the competition. The only downside is that more often than not, the images have noticeable lens flaring in them. You can somewhat reduce the glares by tweaking the exposure manually but even then, you’ll notice light sabers come out of a lamp post.
4 – I compared the phone’s camera to my OnePlus 7 Pro too, which is running on the latest firmware. Now, the camera quality of the 6Z is easily on par with OnePlus’ offering and the differences in the photos from the two phones can be boiled down to their respective software processing. OnePlus tends to dramatise the shot by bringing up the contrast quite a bit, whereas ASUS’ 6Z enhances the shadows as well as the highlights and outputs a relatively dull, yet accurate photo.
If you look closely in the comparison shot, you’ll notice how vivid the reflection of the clouds is in OnePlus 7 Pro‘s (review) shot. However, at the same time, the trees around the corner have been exposed better on the 6Z. Suffice it to say, the 6Z has what it takes to compete with the very best in the segment.
5 – As for selfies, the ASUS 6Z is quite frankly, the best phone for selfie enthusiasts right now. In fact, I had to beautify the photos every now and then because I personally felt attacked with the level of details in the photos. What’s more, thanks to the phone’s articulating camera module, you’ll also get a front-facing flash, which will help you click good photos even at night.
6 – Now, there are a few issues I faced with the phone’s camera. Firstly, the phone heats up quite a bit if you’re in the camera app for long. Moreover, the company has put a cap on full HD video recording at 60fps and you can only shoot for ten minutes at a stretch. Therefore, if you’re a budding videographer, then you might want to look elsewhere. Lastly, the company’s famed motion tracking is simply put, pointless. You see, first and foremost, you can only use the mode if the subject is moving to your left and even then, the whirring sound from the camera module’s movement is recorded in the footage.
To sum up, the ASUS 6Z has fantastic cameras, but it could do with some software tweaks to better its performance in the video department.
Performance, Software and Battery life
The ASUS 6Z is backed by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 processor which works alongside 6GB or 8GB of RAM. Correspondingly, the phone gets 128GB or 256GB of built-in, user-expandable storage. Now, going by the specs, it should come as little surprise that the phone easily handled everything I threw at it. Be it running intensive games like PUBG Mobile on the highest graphics preset, or juggling between half a dozen apps, the 6Z rarely ever gave me any reason to complain.
That being said, I did notice that the phone’s chassis gets a bit too warm to the touch if you push the device too hard. However, the temperature spikes didn’t translate into thermal throttling, so make of that what you will.
Coming to the software, the ASUS 6Z marks a departure from the company’s tacky ZenUI skin, and I couldn’t be happier. Instead, the 6Z now boots a near stock version ZenUI6 on top of Android 9, which offers a clean interface and penultimately, a much better user experience. Plus, much like the skin on OnePlus’ smartphones, the overlay on ASUS’ latest flagship also features some nifty tweaks, such as the ability to turn on a system-wide dark mode, a built-in screen recorder and much more. Moreover, the handset doesn’t ship with a ton of bloatware, to begin with, so you can install the apps you need and not worry about uninstalling the ones you don’t.
The battery life on ASUS’ latest handset has been exceptional – I’m talking close to NINE hours of screen on time out of which over two hours involved playing PUBG Mobile on the phone. To give you a better picture, the smartphone’s 5,000mAh cell managed to run PCMark’s battery test for 17 hours, which is a solid number. Rest assured, the ASUS 6Z is easily a two-day phone if you’re a moderate user. The downside of shipping with a beefy battery is that the phone takes quite a while to hit 100 percent charge levels. But, seeing how most buyers will probably only plug in the phone right before they hit the bed, it’s a non-issue.
Verdict and Competition
The ASUS 6Z is without a shadow of the doubt, one of the most compelling affordable flagships in the market right now. For its starting price of Rs 31,999, the handset offers stupendous performance, excellent battery life, gorgeous cameras, and a one-of-a-kind design which is bound to be a conversation starter. Unfortunately, the phone’s articulating module isn’t as sturdy as I would’ve liked it to be and the device is plagued with heating issues too.
Now, as I mentioned at the beginning of the review, these problems could be isolated to my review device only. But, until I can test another 6Z, I feel that those in the market for an all-rounder flagship would be better off with the OnePlus 7 (review) or OPPO’s Reno 10x Zoom (review) phone.
I really wanted the 6Z to win the bout of the affordable flagships because it is genuinely the best phone of the lot. Unlike the competition, the 6Z’s camera performance is consistent and it even features a headphone jack along with a massive battery which lasts unbelievably long. But, as good as the phone is, it’s difficult to overlook its hardware flaws. I should be able to test a different unit of the 6Z soon, so if you’re not in a rush, I’ll strongly recommend you sit tight and wait for my final, final verdict on the phone. Else, the market is ripe with excellent options and you should be able to find one that works for you easily.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Articulating camera looks cool
- Solid performance
- Class-leading battery life
- Clean software
- Reliable cameras for shooting stills
- Motor doesn’t feel sturdy
- Heating issues