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Asus Zenfone 10 Review

A few weeks ago, I experienced a twinge of disappointment. I was casually scrolling through X when I stumbled upon a post claiming that Asus was discontinuing its Zenfone smartphone line. At that very moment, I had the Zenfone 10 in my hand, and it seemed that it would be the last of its kind. What a letdown! But as they say, it pays to fact-check. So, I decided to reach out to Asus, and a spokesperson promptly dispelled the rumor, stating, "It won't be the last Zenfone."

Asus Zenfone 10 Review

My initial disappointment was not unwarranted. In today's smartphone landscape, small-sized devices are a rare find, and those equipped with a headphone jack are even scarcer. While wireless earbuds have become the norm, and dongles can provide a tethered connection, I, for one, always appreciate having the option to plug in my headphones. Despite its imperfections, if you're in the market for a compact and stylish phone with that nearly extinct headphone jack, consider voting with your wallet and opt for the Zenfone 10. You never know when this option will vanish. Zenfone Design: Asus introduced an appealing design language with the Zenfone 9, and it has seamlessly carried it over to the Zenfone 10. This year, I have the red variant, but it's also available in white, blue, black, and green, each color option exuding its own charm. The phone's rear is crafted from a bio-based plastic that offers a delightful texture reminiscent of construction paper. While it may not convey the luxury feel of a glass-backed phone, it provides added durability, reducing the risk of cracking in case of accidental drops (which I can attest to, as I experienced only minor scratches after a drop). Compatibility and Software Updates: Asus has historically struggled with its software update policy, but there has been some improvement this year. Instead of offering a standard two-year update commitment, the Zenfone 10 promises four years of security updates, although it will only receive two Android OS upgrades. The phone launches with Android 13, which means it won't receive updates beyond Android 15. While this still falls short of some competitors, the extended software support means you won't need to upgrade your phone as frequently. Compact Size and Battery Life: Despite its small size, the Zenfone 10 outperforms many competitors in terms of battery life. Sporting a 5.9-inch screen, it's among the smallest smartphones currently available, with alternatives like the 6.1-inch Samsung Galaxy S23 and the upcoming Sony Xperia 5 V not significantly larger. However, the Zenfone 10 feels more compact due to its narrower build. Remarkably, this compact phone boasts a 4,300-mAh battery capacity, delivering impressive endurance. While other similarly sized phones typically last a full day on a single charge, the Zenfone 10 managed to power through a full day and extend into the late afternoon of the second day without requiring battery-saving mode. If you seek a small phone without compromising on battery life, this one is a winner. Additionally, it includes a charging brick, a rarity in today's market. Headphone Jack and Expandable Storage: One standout feature is the presence of a headphone jack at the top of the phone, marking the third compelling reason to consider it. The 3.5-mm port, which has all but vanished from high-end phones, is a boon for analog enthusiasts who dislike carrying dongles. While there is no microSD card slot for expanding the 128 GB of storage, you can opt for the 256- or 512-GB models if you require additional space. Wireless Charging and Software Options: A new addition this year is wireless charging, a welcome feature for many users. However, it's worth noting that due to the phone's compact size, the charging coil may not align with certain wireless charging stands. For instance, I encountered alignment issues with the second-gen Google Pixel Stand, but other wireless charging pads worked seamlessly. Upon setting up the phone, you have the option to choose between Asus' software interface or stock Android. While the latter offers a cleaner design, Asus allows customers the flexibility to select their preference. Both interfaces are devoid of excessive software gimmicks, making it an excellent choice if you prefer a simple and uncluttered experience. It's worth noting that Asus' approach differs from the sometimes overwhelming software additions found on Samsung phones, making the Zenfone feel like a breath of fresh air. Performance and Display: Under the hood, the Zenfone 10 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset with 8 GB of RAM, delivering snappy app launches, smooth scrolling, and efficient gaming performance. Even during extended gaming sessions, such as playing "Dead Cells" for 30 to 45 minutes, the phone maintains a comfortable temperature. The AMOLED screen boasts a 144-Hz refresh rate, which can be enabled in mobile games using Asus' Game Genie software. Otherwise, the refresh rate adjusts automatically based on on-screen activity. I opted for a consistent 120 Hz refresh rate for a smooth experience, although this contributed to slightly shorter battery life. The display is sharp and vibrant, but it can be challenging to view in bright sunlight, requiring some squinting. Camera and Stabilization: The Zenfone 10 features two primary rear cameras—a 50-MP main camera and a 13-MP ultrawide camera, both enhanced by a six-axis gimbal stabilizer system, a carryover from the previous model. This system is designed to deliver remarkably smooth video footage, even in situations involving significant movement. I conducted side-by-side comparisons with the Google Pixel 7 and found that the Zenfone 10 outperformed it when using standard stabilization at 4K resolution. While the Asus may not match the Pixel's richness of colors in video footage, it excelled in stabilizing the clips, even during brisk movements. However, when enabling HyperSteady stabilization, it's necessary to switch to 1080p resolution, resulting in a noticeable drop in video quality. In this regard, the Pixel's active stabilization mode provided smoother footage, albeit at the expense of video quality. I also tested the Zenfone with Insta360's Flow gimbal, which yielded superior image quality and stabilization. The Zenfone struggled with HDR and exhibited fluctuations in brightness during video recording. Ultimately, for users seeking exceptionally stable footage, investing in a smartphone gimbal system may be a more reliable choice. In terms of photography, the Zenfone 10 delivers commendable results. Its Night mode allows for detailed low-light shots, although motion can introduce some blurriness (particularly evident when photographing moving subjects in low-light conditions). Similar to video recording, the phone may struggle in high-contrast scenarios, occasionally resulting in overexposed skies or overly dark shadows. In bright sunlight, the Zenfone tends to oversaturate colors, a characteristic also observed with its selfie camera. Fortunately, these shots are consistently sharp, and oversaturation can be adjusted if desired. If you prioritize a compact phone with a headphone jack, the Zenfone 10 is a compelling choice, particularly if you value extended battery life. However, if the headphone jack is not a decisive factor for you, consider whether a day's worth of battery life suffices. If so, alternatives like the Galaxy S23 and Pixel 7A offer longer software support and, in some cases, enhanced camera capabilities. Ultimately, your decision may hinge on your specific preferences and priorities.

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