one of the best value for money of the year

A few weeks after ROG Phone 3, Asus is back in the game with ZenFone 7 and ZenFone 7 Pro, two high-end smartphones with an innovative design and a powerful technical platform. Positioned more or less at the same price as the recent OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro, they even anticipate the arrival of their “T” versions. But are they doing it enough? And above all, are they doing it well? Answer in this test of the Pro version.

In July, we had the pleasure of testing the ROG Phone 3, the ultimate benchmark in mobile gaming, powered by the brand new Snapdragon 865+. Even though this smartphone is aimed at Android users who need some power under the hood and a large, fluid and dynamic display, the ROG Phone 3 is also a high-end smartphone, offering great services on the market. all other usual uses: messaging, office automation, photo, video, etc.

We knew at the time that the ROG Phone 3 would not be the only one to animate the catalog of the Taiwanese brand. We were also eagerly awaiting the successor to ZenFone 6, which is, in the opinion of many journalists (including yours truly), one of the best value for money of 2019, even teasing OnePlus where it hurts. Among our most recurring questions about the ZenFone 7, there were two more burning than the others: what would be its price and what would be its platform?

A week ago, Asus answered his questions and presented the ZenFone 7, but also the ZenFone 7 Pro, adopting the OnePlus strategy that made so much cringe a year and a half ago. And today, the day of the start of pre-orders of the two models, we invite you to discover the ZenFone 7 Pro with us and to answer another question: is OnePlus’ strategy really the right one ?

Price and availability

ZenFone 7 Pro is therefore the improved version of ZenFone 7, but also the most expensive. So count 799 euros for its purchase, either 100 euros more than the ZenFone 7 classic. Among the big differences between the two mobiles, you find the chipset (865+ on one side, 865 on the other), storage (256 GB internally, compared to 128 GB) and optical stabilization in photos. Unlike the ZenFone 6, only one version of the ZenFone 7 Pro is sold with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. In France, it will be the same for the ZenFone 7 (8 + 128 GB).

asus zenfone 7 pro test

The OnePlus 8 Pro is its main rival. This last is sold 100 euros more with half the storage (and still without possible expansion at OnePlus). So this is a very big advantage for Asus. We believe that the Chinese brand will present this fall “T” versions of its flagship from earlier this year, with the Snapdragon 865+. But this is just speculation. And, if it does, it will certainly be more expensive than the ZenFone 7 Pro.

The ZenFone 7 does not enjoy the same advantage, since it is sold, excluding promotion, at the same price as the OnePlus 8, with identical configuration. Proof of this is that Asus likes OnePlus’s strategy.

The ZenFone 7 Pro, like the ZenFone 7, will be available from September 10 in France, whether on the official Asus website or in specialist brands, such as Fnac, Darty, Boulanger or LDLC. A pre-order period begins today and will continue until launch.

Technical sheet

asus zenfone 7 pro test
What’s in the box

The ZenFone 7 Pro has a spec sheet that is not that different from the ROG Phone 3: they share the same chipset and the same main photo sensor. The ZenFone 7 Pro wants to be better in photos, thanks to a trio of sensors where the macro lens is replaced by a telephoto lens with optical zoom. It loses slightly in battery. It gains a bit in screen size. And it only has one real speaker. They are both 5G compatible. And the materials that dress them are the same. Here are all the details of the ZenFone 7 Pro technical sheet.

ZenFone 7 Pro
Screen 6.67 ”
Full HD + definition
resolution 391 pixels per inch
AMOLED backlight
90 Hz refresh rate
HDR10 +
Chipset Snapdragon 865+ (7nm)
BONE Android 10
Zen UI 7
RAM 8 GB LPDDR5
Storage 256 GB UFS 3.1
microSD No
Main sensor Rotary sensor
64 MP Sony IMX686 f / 1.8, PDAF autofocus with optical stabilizer
12 MP f / 2.2 wide-angle PDAF
8 MP f / 2.4 telephoto (3x optical zoom, 12x hybrid) with optical stabilizer
Selfie sensor Rotary sensor
Drums 5000 mAh
Quick charge 30W
5G Yes
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi ac, NFC
Biometrics Fingerprint reader on the edge
Audio Single speaker
No 3.5mm jack (USB Type-C to 3.5mm jack adapter not included)
Three microphones
Water resistance No

Design and handling

The design of the ZenFone 7 Pro is based on that of the ZenFone 6. So you will find at the front a large touch screen without notch, hole and border. At the back you find the rotating photo block which becomes a selfie sensor when the need arises. Asus has therefore chosen to re-trust this amazing design, which will catch the eye of those who love different phones (but not too much).

asus zenfone 7 pro test
asus zenfone 7 pro test

We also find the same materials as in ZenFone 6. Mineral glass to dress both sides. As in 2019, the screen is protected by Corning Gorilla 6, while the back is covered with Gorilla 3. Liquid metal still covers the rotating photo block. We will see in the part dedicated to the photo the changes which it benefits. Aluminum is still present on both edges, with these beautiful visible separations to isolate the antennas. The lines of the smartphone are rarely straight and the angles round off for a more natural and pleasant grip.

asus zenfone 7 pro test

The ZenFone 7 Pro is not an exact rework of the ZenFone 6, despite these many commonalities. He is taller : 6 mm more in height, 2 mm more in width. It is thicker : 0.4 mm more. And especially it is heavier : 40 grams more on the scale. Or a total weight of 230 grams. It therefore almost catches up with the ROG Phone 3 which peaks at 240 grams!

asus zenfone 7 pro test

Another difference, the ZenFone 7 Pro abandons the fingerprint reader on the back of the phone. It is now hidden inside the power button, which becomes a multi-function key. Indeed, Smart Key, a customizable hardware button that appeared with ZenFone 6 and previously placed on the right edge above the volume control, disappears. It’s merged with the power button: that’s a lot of function for one and the same component (with the risk of wear and tear that this creates). However, it is now much easier to unlock the phone. So this is very good news.

asus zenfone 7 pro test
Power button merges with Smart Key and fingerprint reader

Two other differences to note on the design side. First the notification LED. This disappears from the top left corner of the phone (it was integrated into the border above the screen). She is relocated to the lower edge, next to the USB Type-C port. This is an unusual location. And it takes a little getting used to. And once the mobile is placed on a table, whether it is right side up or upside down, if the edge is not facing you, the LED is no longer visible. Second notable difference: the 3.5 mm jack port disappears. We will discuss the consequences of this change again in the audio part of this test.

Screen quality

The screen is also different between ZenFone 7 and ZenFone 6. It is now bigger (6.67 inch, which is 0.27 inch better). And this while keeping the same definition (Full HD +). This means that the resolution drops very slightly, going from 402 to 395 pixels per inch. However, this resolution remains sufficient for all the uses offered by this phone and it would have been a shame to put a strain on the autonomy for that.

asus zenfone 7 pro test

Another important point, the new panel is Super AMOLED and no longer IPS. This means that it offers more contrast and that the range of colors displayed seems to be more extensive. In use, the AMOLED panel does offer more vibrant colors and an excellent contrast ratio. As with the ROG Phone 3, the ZenFone 7 Pro displays fairly accurate colors. Note that Asus, as always, offers settings to change the color profile to your preferences.

asus zenfone 7 pro test

Asus announces a maximum brightness of 1000 nits, which is very high. However, this brightness is not accessible manually and only activates in direct sunlight. The maximum manual brightness is 750 nits. In use, the ZenFone 7 Pro is brighter than the ROG Phone 3, especially outdoors. Be careful with autonomy, however. Finally, note that the ZenFone 7 is compatible HDR10 + and 90 Hz, which was not the case with the ZenFone 6. The refresh rate setting is either automatic or manual (60Hz or 90Hz). If you watch movies and series often, 60Hz may be enough. If you’re gaming (which is largely possible with the ZenFone 7), you might prefer to go for 90Hz.

User interface

ZenFone 7 works with the interface ZenUI, here in version 7. It is based on Android 10. This interface changes very slightly compared to that of ZenUI 6 (ZenFone 6) by integrating in particular the new features of Android 10. Like version 6, ZenUI 7 is very close to the ergonomic characteristics of Android, a general trend that is confirms here too. Few changes therefore compared to the navigation and handling imagined by Google.

asus zenfone 7 pro test

Unsurprisingly, you will therefore find two home screens: Google Search, Play Store, Chrome and the Google folder on the main screen; some home apps on the secondary screen with business partners (Netflix, Instagram and Facebook). Application drawer. Notifications and quick settings area (with direct access to battery modes, dark theme, multi-window mode, refresh rate setting and a setting specific to the rotating camera). Google Assistant screen (also accessible with a long press on Home or a double click on the Smart Key).

asus zenfone 7 pro test

The biggest changes are to be found on the menu side Settings where you find some additional options, a happy mix between the additions already offered with the ZenFone 6 and the innovations of ROG Phone 3. In particular, you will find all the more battery-friendly charging modes (we will talk about this in the autonomy section), as well as the screen settings (as we have previously).

asus zenfone 7 pro test

In the game ” Advances », You will also find the manager of the mobile, with the secure folder and the cleaning tool, the settings of Smart Key (here called the Side Key), OptiFlex (to cache the most used applications), Twin Apps (to use two accounts with a single application) and Game Genius, a light version of the eponymous application present on the ROG Phone 3.

asus zenfone 7 pro test
Game Genius in Dead Trigger 2

As always, Asus is customizing a few in-house applications to bring a little more functionality: File Manager (with built-in FTP access for wireless transfers), Weather (with Accuweather), Data Transfer (to transfer data from a mobile to a other) or Camera. We will see in a few lines the changes made to this interface compared to that of the ZenFone 6. Too bad Asus does not take the opportunity to integrate a video player worthy of the name. Fortunately, the Play Store is there to overcome this problem.

Performance and autonomy

Let’s move on to the performance part. A very interesting part, because the ZenFone 7 Pro is equipped with the famous Snapdragon 865+, powerful octo-core from Qualcomm, a Full HD display and 8 GB RAM. We can therefore make some comparisons with the ROG Phone 3 which has double the RAM and a similar configuration on the SoC and display. And to say it right away: the performance of the ZenFone 7 Pro lives up to the promise.

asus zenfone 7 pro test

As you can see from the screenshots above and below, the ZenFone 7 Pro performs extremely well, well above other smartphones on the market today. We are sure others will join them in the coming months, especially at Apple, Xiaomi or OnePlus. In the meantime, the ZenFone 7 Pro is clearly up to the task. Note that the smartphone detects when an application is resource hungry, such as a game or a benchmark, and offers you to switch to performance mode. This mode optimizes the speed of the chipset and sets the refresh rate at 90 Hz.

asus zenfone 7 pro test

ZenFone 7 Pro results aren’t far removed from ROG Phone 3. On some tests, like AnTuTu or GFXBench, it follows it. On others, like Geekbench or 3D Mark, it exceeds it. We believe the difference is in interface optimization and Android integration. Not to mention the many software bricks that clutter the platform. An example: on ROG Phone 3, Game Genius is enabled by default. This is not the case on the ROG Phone 3. So we are very (pleasantly) surprised by the performance of the phone.

asus zenfone 7 pro test

In use, it therefore hardly ever slows down, except when the graphics chipset is faulty. This is particularly the case with very greedy emulators, such as Dolphin and especially Citra. No other Android app has succeeded in flexing this overpowering smartphone. Dead Trigger 2 has positioned itself on the best possible graphics quality, with a 90Hz refresh rate. That’s a sign.

asus zenfone 7 pro test
Citra Emulator
asus zenfone 7 pro test
Dead Trigger 2

Obviously, so much power (not counting 5G which will also be very greedy when it arrives) has two consequences. The first one : the smartphone heats up relatively quickly if you play for a long time or if you film for a long time. The heat is dissipated to the outside through a layer of graphite placed between the screen and the motherboard and heat pipes that lead the hot air to the aluminum edges. No ventilation here or accessory with fan.

asus zenfone 7 pro test

The second consequence is autonomy. This consumes a Snapdragon 865+. Fortunately, Asus has integrated a battery of 5000 mAh, like on the ZenFone 6. The battery lasts a little more than a day with mixed use and can even last a day and a half if you just surf the web, listen to some playlists on Deezer or Spotify, take pictures and send messages on social networks.

asus zenfone 7 pro test

ZenFone 7 Pro is compatible 30 watt fast charge and comes with a charger compatible with this power. It takes a little less than half an hour to charge the battery to half and a good hour and a half (even a little more) to fully charge the smartphone. As with the ROG Phone 3, the ZenFone 7 is equipped with tools for improve battery life. For example, you can use slow charge or programmed charge, or restrict the load to 80% or 90%. Of course, this will have consequences for autonomy. It’s up to you to choose the settings that suit you best. Note that the mobile not compatible with wireless charging : This is the price to pay for having a large battery.

Audio qualities

On the audio side, the smartphone is equipped witha loudspeaker located on the lower edge. The earpiece goes with it to form a stereo system for gaming, watching a movie or making a call without the need for a headset. The sound produced by the smartphone is rather clear and quite powerful. Which is fine for a video.

The main speaker is the only one to offer good bass, which imbalances the audio experience. We advise you, when you really want to enjoy music to plug in headphones. Besides, the ZenFone 7 Pro is not DTS or Dolby certified. It also does not take advantage of Dirac spatial sound. Abandonment of the DTS. No Dolby. Which tends to prove that the loudspeaker is not a priority in this product.

asus zenfone 7 pro test

This is especially true for video games. If you don’t have a controller and the only controls available to you are the touchscreen, the main speaker will be blocked by your finger if you hold the phone vertically. This is proof for us that the ZenFone 7 Pro was not designed to play, even if it offers enough power.

During a call, the earpiece provides clear voice sound. And the main microphone, located on the bottom edge, between the speaker and the USB Type-C port, will let you be heard on the other side of the line of course. In hands-free mode, we still advise you to use a headset, wired or not, to make your calls.

A few remarks on the audio. First, even though it doesn’t appear in the photos, the ZenFone 7 Pro (as ZenFone 7) is delivered in France with a pedestrian kit. This kit, identical to that of the ROG Phone 3, is equipped with a remote control with microphone to deport the usual controls. Second note, the ZenFone 7 Pro does not have a 3.5mm jack port to connect headphones. And there isn’t an adapter that comes with it either, unlike the ROG Phone 3.

Last point, the ZenFone 7 is equipped with three microphones, against two for its predecessor. The first is the main pickup, on the lower edge. The second is the microphone for active noise reduction, on the upper edge. And the last, the new, is located in the back, under the rotating photo block. He is there for capture sound during video shooting. This is a good idea that will be put to good use with the new Pro Video mode.

Photo experience

Ideal transition to approach the last part of our test: the photo. And this is no small feat, because photography is one of the main arguments against the competition. The ZenFone 7 Pro is equipped witha triple photo sensor in a rotating unit. This block is therefore used for taking traditional photos as well as self-portraits. Quite simply, this makes it one of the best “selfie-phones” on the market.

asus zenfone 7 pro test

Here are the specifications of the three sensors: main sensor 64 megapixels (definition of 16 megapixel photos by default in Quad Bayer mode), lens opening at f / 1.8, phase detection autofocus and optical stabilizer; sensor 12 megapixels with wide-angle lens opening at f / 2.2 and Dual Pixel autofocus; 8 megapixel sensor with telephoto lens opening at f / 2.4, phase detection autofocus, optical stabilizer and 3x optical zoom (up to 12x in hybrid).

asus zenfone 7 pro test
Main sensor. HDR enabled

The whole thing is associated with a photo application similar to that of ROG Phone 3, pro modes for photo and video included, with two differences. First, ROG Phone 3 has a dedicated macro mode. The ZenFone 7 Pro takes close-up shots with its wide-angle sensor. Then, the ZenFone 7 Pro includes a tool to adjust and control the opening angle of the optical unit. Because, thanks to this, you can take photos from improbable angles and create panoramas automatically, like the ones you can see below.

asus zenfone 7 pro test
asus zenfone 7 pro test

Let’s move on to the result. The ZenFone 7 Pro produces very balanced photos, with many details, thanks to its main sensor. The sensor manages to juggle between areas of light and shadow without a false note. The colors are right. Unlike some Chinese brands, the contrast is not exaggerated, even when HDR mode is active.

asus zenfone 7 pro test
Main sensor. automatic mode

Portrait mode is good, but we would have liked to have more pronounced auto bokeh. Special mention to the focus tools which allow adjustment of background blur after shooting. Beware of filters that Asians love and which soften the skin texture or brighten the complexion. Sometimes it’s too much!

We find, as with the ROG Phone 3, some problems with the wide-angle lens: aberrations appear on the sides when the algorithm straightens the shot. This sensor is slightly less bright than the main sensor. But the photos retain the other qualities seen previously: beautiful colors, details and a good balance.

asus zenfone 7 pro test
From left to right, From top to bottom: panoramic lens, main sensor, telephoto zoom 3x and telephoto zoom 12x

The sensor with optical zoom offers a balanced result during the day. But there is less light, less contrast and less detail. It’s no surprise that these are the shortcomings of telephoto lenses. 3x zoom is good. Up to 6x zoom, noise remains under control, even if the algorithm smoothes excessively. With the 12x zoom, these flaws are simply accentuated. By day, you will have fair results. At night, you will have difficulty distinguishing your subject.

asus zenfone 7 pro test

A few words on the night mode: it is accessible either through the dedicated mode or in automatic mode. As with the ROG Phone 3, two exposure times are available: 4 or 7 seconds. Another note: night mode is deactivated with the telephoto lens. If you have a theory on the reasons for this choice, we agree … The shots taken with night mode are bright, but not as intensely as at Oppo (Find X2 Pro, for example). With this mode, you get detail, colors and even contrast.

asus zenfone 7 pro test
Main sensor. Night mode
asus zenfone 7 pro test
Panoramic lens. Night mode

Be careful not to move while shooting. Despite the presence of the optical stabilizer of the 64 megapixel sensor, many pictures were blurry after our photo shoot. It is sometimes more interesting to capture an image in automatic mode without night mode to have a clear shot.

asus zenfone 7 pro test
Telephoto lens. Automatic mode. 2x zoom

On the selfie side, we don’t have much to add, since you will find the same photo quality for your self-portraits and your group selfies as what you experience in classic portraits. Note that it is possible to unlock ZenFone 7 Pro with facial recognition. This is clearly not as quick and easy as with a digital code, a diagram or the biometric fingerprint reader.

Conclusion

In absolute terms, the ZenFone 7 Pro is a very good choice among back-to-school smartphones. It offers great power for all uses, even the most demanding. It has good features, whether it’s the screen, the photosensors, or the battery. And year after year Asus is refining its ZenUI interface with new services to optimize and customize usage. The price increase compared to the ZenFone 6 dampens our enthusiasm a little. But it is clear that the 200 euros requested in addition are largely justified.

asus zenfone 7 pro test

In addition, the ZenFone 7 Pro is well positioned compared to other brands. And it’s a great competitor for the OnePlus 8 Pro. It was even created to be better: cheaper, more efficient, a more generous battery and a different design, the ZenFone 7 Pro is paradoxically more balanced with its Full HD 90 Hz screen (versus a Quad HD 120 Hz panel). Even the fourth Color Filter sensor in its photo unit does not appear to be a considerable advantage that justifies the 100 euros requested by the Chinese brand.

But we can’t help but think that Asus could have played an even better shot, sticking to its 2019 strategy and keeping a single high-end ZenFone alongside the ROG Phone 3. Was it worth picking up, for example? the Snapdragon 865+, clearly under-exploited when not in use for gaming, in a product aimed at the discerning techie, the lover of trendy design and self-portraits? We don’t think so.

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