The Zenfone 9 is my favorite phone of the year so far: here’s why

The honeymoon period should have worn off by now, but I just finished writing our Asus Zenfone 9 review. The majority of the phones I review are either put back in their boxes and placed in a drawer or are sent back to the maker. However, I don’t want to return the Zenfone 9.

In fact, my favorite Android phone has replaced the Pixel 6 Pro with the Zenfone 9. It has more power than I need, a small frame that makes it convenient to take around, and in our testing, a battery life that is nearly twice as good as the Pixel’s.

There are many features of the Zenfone 9 that I adore, but there are three in particular that set it apart from any other smartphone released in 2022 to date. But I don’t have rose-colored glasses on when I look at this phone. It has shortcomings, particularly those that are software-related, but I don’t believe they really negate what I appreciate about this gadget.

The perfect size

While I have big hands, certainly enough to dwarf most mice and controllers, I actually prefer smaller phones. I really enjoy the 6.1-inch iPhone or the smaller Galaxy S or the Pixel A. I don’t like massive slabs that are difficult to use one-handed.

The Zenfone 9 wins in my book since I can use it singlehandedly without issue. Reaching across the screen with my thumb causes no problem, something I cannot say for the huge iPhone 13 Pro Max I use on a daily basis.

I’d like to say the Zenfone 9 is just the perfect size. The 5.9-inch display is just big enough to not make me squint to see it (something I noticed at times when I reviewed the iPhone 13 mini). The phone’s body is large enough to house a 4,300 mAh battery and all the hardware needed for the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset. There’s even room for a headphone jack.

A week later and the size difference between the Zenfone 9 and the iPhone 13 Pro Max continues to amuse me.

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Surprisingly great battery life

You could anticipate that the battery life would be poor for a little phone. Just take a look at the 2020 iPhone 12 tiny. In our tests, the iPhone 13 mini performed better, but it fell short of the 10-hour average that we prefer to see from smartphones in our unique battery life test.

The Zenfone 9 chuckled as it observed everything. In our tests, it lasted more than 13 hours, earning a spot on our list of the best phone batteries. In our test, a phone will continually browse the internet at 150 nits of brightness. It’s not ideal, but it should give you a good indication of how long a phone will last under normal use.

In my usage, the Zenfone 9 can go almost three days without a charge. Granted, I don’t use it as much as my iPhone 13 Pro Max since, but still. I have to recharge the Pixel 6 Pro every night with the same usage pattern. During my review period, I only had to recharge the Zenfone 9 once and that was after some intense gaming and a full run through Blade Runner 2049.

It appears that Asus got it right. Usually, I seek for aggressive background task killing when I see a phone with absurdly good battery life. On the Zenfone 9, emails and Slack pings are received without a hitch, the former frequently before my laptop’s Gmail site does.

Battery life goes a long way in how I feel about a phone, and the Zenfone 9’s definitely earns it a top spot in my mind.

The performance I need

Asus didn’t skimp on specs for the Zenfone 9. It sports a Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset, the best processor you can get in an Android phone right now. Asus paired that chip with either 8GB or 16GB of RAM, making for a device that can power through any task, even intense gaming, with ease.

In practice, the Zenfone 9 is everything I could have wanted in terms of performance. While most of the CPU power will be lost on a lot of people, it’s the GPU that you’ll notice. Phones like the Nothing Phone (1) with its mid-range Snapdragon 778G+ do great for normal day-to-day tasks. Load up a game, however, and that’s where it shows its mid-range-ness.

Other flagships might be larger, but the Zenfone 9 punches well above its weight. In fact, it’s more powerful than other top-tier options like the Galaxy S22 Ultra, OnePlus 10 Pro, and Pixel 6 Pro. The iPhone 13 series still outclasses it, but the distance between them is so narrow that a normal person is unlikely to tell the difference.

Zenfone 9: What I don’t like

Now, don’t think that I’m sitting here just gushing about the Zenfone 9. Yes, I have been up until this point, but the phone isn’t perfect. It has two flaws that irk me, both of which could be fixed if Asus wanted to.

The first is that the Zenfone 9 will only see two years of Android updates. In a world where most other Android phone makers do three or four, this is unacceptable. I see no reason why the Zenfone 9 can’t go longer.

As for pricing, $799 for a phone isn’t bad, but it’s still a lot of money for phone that effectively hits end-of-life in 2024. Asus could at least offer three years of support.

The second issue I have is far less severe, but I don’t like how the Zenfone 9 processes some photos. In my testing, I noticed overly warm tones in a lot of the pictures I took. Honestly, I could only tell in some cases when compared with the same shot from the Pixel 6 Pro.

Outside, it’s not so bad, but indoors, it creates a sickly yellow tinge. The camera hardware is good, but Asus needs to work on the post-processing algorithms. The Zenfone 9 is so close to being a good camera phone. Not the best, mind you, but more than just good enough like it is now.

Zenfone 9 outlook

I’m having a blast with the Zenfone 9. I prefer to take it up and operate it one-handedly because it is so simple. It has several positive attributes, including outstanding battery life and first-rate performance, which I find appealing. There is even a headphone jack on this excellent phone!

It’s certainly not perfect. The software support timetable is really bad, and the cameras aren’t even adequate. But I believe that, for the most part, the Zenfone 9’s advantages outweigh its drawbacks. The two years of platform changes are beyond my comprehension.

Zenfone 9 outlookEven so, the Zenfone 9 is still my favorite phone this year. It outclasses other handsets like the Galaxy S22 and OnePlus 10 Pro, and it comes as close to the iPhone 13 as a non-gaming phone has to date.

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