Asus Zenfone 7 Pro review
The Zenfone 7 is no ordinary smartphone, that much is certain. In a sea of slabs with little personality and hardly anything to set them apart beyond the size of their camera bumps, the Asus Zenfone series readily stands out.
It was last year's Zenfone 6 that pioneered the motorized flip-up assembly, though that one was a notably more compact one. For this generation, the Zenfone has added a telephoto, an omission that was hard to ignore last time around. The other modules have grown in pixel count and sheer size alike and with the tele now joining them the Flip Camera has gotten quite bulky.Zenfone 6 (left) next to Zenfone 7 Pro
Asus quotes a 2.2x increase in torque for the new motor, all the while making it 40% smaller, and with more precise position control too. The Flip Camera now rotates faster than on the Zenfone 6 and does so with a slightly quieter and more high-pitched whir. The mechanism is rated to 200,000 actuations, or 110 a day for 5 years - we can't imagine you'd be flipping the thing 110 times a day, plus we don't think you'd be holding on to the Zenfone or any other phone for 5 years.
With the Flip Camera retracted, the back of the phone doesn't stand out much. Asus has chosen two color schemes for the Zenfone 7 and 7 Pro - Aurora Black and Pastel White, and we have the white one here for review. It's got a base pale blue to pale pink gradient with a subtle pearlescent effect on top. Aurora or Pastel, it's Gorilla Glass 3.
The central position of the Flip Camera when tucked against the Zenfone 7's back means the handset is immune to wobble - the bane of off-center big camera bumps. This one is big too, don't get us wrong - it sticks out by about 1.8mm from a phone that's already not one bit svelte.
The Zenfone 7 is 9.6mm thick - that 5,000mAh battery had to go somewhere, and with the flip-up mechanism taking up a sizeable chunk of space, the phone had to grow in the Z-direction. It's not just the thickness, though - the Zenfone is quite heavy at 230g. It's a substantial handset that will get tiring on your pinkie in prolonged scrolling sessions.
Another thing that can be pinned on the Flip Camera, another good one too, is keeping the display cutout-free. This generation, you're getting an OLED, and it's a Samsung-made 6.67" unit. The bump in size is less of an upgrade than the change in technology - getting an LCD on the Zenfone 6 was alright but we admit sitting in the OLED camp when it comes to our phones.
The chin is slightly thinner on the Zf7 than it was on the Zf6, but the sides are virtually the same, and we'd hardly call the bezels minimal. They're not big, but they're not thin either. The display is protected by a sheet of Gorilla Glass 6.
With the switch to AMOLED, you'd expect that Asus went for an under-display fingerprint reader. That's not the case, however, and you'll find the sensor on the right side of the phone, built into the power button - or Smart key as per Asus literature.
The Zenfone 6 had a Smart key itself, but it was a dedicated extra one towards the top of the right side, above the volume rocker. With the Zenfone 7, it's all in one - Smart key and fingerprint reader, in what we'd normally call a power button.
It's positioned nicely for access with either hand if you're going to use it for Power button and Smart key purposes. However, it doesn't provide quite the same ambidexterity for print recognition as a display-mounted solution. If you want to unlock your Zenfone 7 with the left index finger, you're likely to run into more unsuccessful attempts than if you stick to right thumb operation.
The midframe is made from 6000-series aluminum, a single chunk of it per phone. It's interrupted in several spots by white antenna strips - the Zenfone 7 has an extensive list of supported 5G bands, more of them than most other 5G phones we've encountered.
The status LED count is also in the Zenfone's favor against pretty much any current high-end phone - the Zenfone has one, others don't have any. It's located on the bottom of the phone, next to the USB-C port so it should be visible whether you keep the handset lying on its back or face down (if anyone does that).
The primary mic and loudspeaker are also in these whereabouts. You may have noted there's no 3.5mm headphone jack on the Zenfone 7, an unfortunate if entirely logical development.
On the other hand, Asus has kept the dedicated microSD slot - triple-slot trays are our favorite.
There is one major trade-off that comes with the Zenfone 7's unorthodox form factor - it's not water-resistant. It's not inconceivable that the moving bits make it impossible or at least impractically difficult or expensive, but the end result is that the phone has no IP rating.
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