Asus Zenfone 10 Review: Small, Long-Lasting, and Powerful
New this year is support for wireless charging, always a plus for me, though it’s worth noting that because the phone is compact, the charging coil may not line up with select wireless charging stands. I couldn’t get the right alignment with the second-gen Google Pixel Stand, for example, but it had no trouble recharging on all my wireless charging pads.
When you set it up, you get the option to choose between Asus’ software interface or stock Android. I find the latter has a cleaner design, but I appreciate the company giving its customers the option to choose. There are no crazy software tricks either way, so it’s great if you want something simple and uncluttered. Sometimes I find Samsung phones just have too much going on, and the Asus feels like a palate cleanser.
Asus has employed the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset with 8 gigs of RAM on the Zenfone 10, and like almost every other flagship smartphone these days, there’s not much to complain about. Apps launch quickly, scrolling is buttery smooth, and games like Dead Cells don’t make the phone too warm even after 30 to 45 minutes of play.
The AMOLED screen has a 144-Hz refresh rate, but this only works if you toggle it on in mobile games with Asus’ Game Genie software. (One of a handful of other gaming-friendly features.) Otherwise, you can set it to automatically switch the refresh rate based on what you’re doing on the screen. I just set it to 120 Hz to get that smooth action no matter what, but this is likely why I got slightly less than two days of battery life. The screen itself is sharp and colorful, though it can be tough to see on sunny days. It gets just bright enough, but there’s certainly some squinting involved.
There are two big cameras on the back of the Zenfone 10—a 50-MP main joined by a 13-MP ultrawide—and the party trick is the six-axis gimbal stabilizer system, just like on last year’s model. Essentially, it’s supposed to make your videos look super smooth, even if you’re moving a lot.
I did some side-by-side comparisons with the Google Pixel 7, and the Zenfone 10 easily beats it when you use the standard stabilization at 4K resolution. Colors in the video footage aren’t as rich on the Asus, but the clips are certainly more stable. Even when I broke into a run, the Zenfone delivered less jittery video.
However, when you turn on the HyperSteady stabilization, you need to change the resolution to 1080p. The quality immediately dropped, and I actually found the Pixel’s active stabilization mode delivered steadier footage (though video quality similarly took a nosedive). For good measure, I put the Zenfone on Insta360’s Flow gimbal and compared footage—image quality and stabilization were overall better when I used it with the Flow. The Zenfone also struggled with HDR and kept darkening and brightening the footage. The takeaway is if you really are chasing super stable footage, you probably just want to invest in a gimbal system for your smartphone. But the standard stabilization at 4K will more than satisfy in most situations.
For photos, the results are pretty good. Use Asus’ Night mode and you can capture fairly detailed low-light shots, though things can get blurry when you introduce some movement (like trying to take photos of my dog at night). Much like for video, it can struggle with high-contrast scenes too, so you might see the occasional blown-out sky or super-dark shadows. In bright, sunny conditions, the Zenfone tends to oversaturate, and this is true with its selfie camera as well, but thankfully these shots are all sharp—you can easily tone down the saturation if you’d like.
If you want a small phone but don’t really care about the headphone jack, then consider if a day of battery life is enough for you. If so, the Galaxy S23 isn’t too much bigger and has longer software support, an additional zoom camera, and a much brighter screen. The Pixel 7A is another good choice that has a nicer camera and is cheaper. But if the battery, size, and jack trump all, well, then you probably already pulled out your wallet.