ASUS 6Z review: ASUS’ best phone yet, but is it enough to stop the OnePlus 7 juggernaut?

ASUS 6Z 19

Rating: 8.6/10

Pros:

  • Excellent audio performance from the 3.5mm jack
  • Great set of stereo speakers
  • Phenomenal battery life
  • Super fast performance
  • Best phone for selfies and selfie videos
  • Extremely versatile flip camera features

Cons:

  • The flip camera doesn’t feel very rigid
  • Low light camera performance is average
  • Heats up while gaming
  • The display lacks the “wow” factor of an AMOLED panel
  • Noise cancellation in calls is below average 

Introduction:

The notch is dying and all of Mr. Phone couldn’t be happier. #SayNoToTheNotch is finally in full swing now. From in-display selfie cameras to pop-out ones, brands are inching closer to the full-screen dream every passing day. However, ASUS has ideas of its own. The newly-launched ASUS 6Z flagship achieves an obstruction-free display by introducing a flip camera. By far, this is the whackiest idea we’ve seen yet. 

But how does it function in daily life? That is the question I shall be answering in our review of the ASUS 6Z and of course comparing it to both – the OnePlus 7 and the OnePlus 7 Pro. Let’s get down to the Mr. Phone review of the Jekyll and Hyde of phones in 2019. 

ASUS 6Z design: Jekyll and Hyde

As far as the design goes, the 6Z has an unassuming full-screen front fascia that completely flips and transforms itself into a different beast altogether. Yes, the flip module is Mr. Hyde to the 6Z’s otherwise Dr. Jekyll personality. It is flashy, it is attractive, and you can see mouths opening wide every time someone sees it for the first time. But the first question everyone asks is – will this thing last? I mean, won’t it break easily?

ASUS 6Z 1

Honestly, I don’t generally worry about moving parts and that is what I said in my first impressions of the 6Z as well. That said, after using the phone for a while, I have a few niggles. 

  1. When the stepper motor moves, the entire body vibrates and that doesn’t give me confidence in the whole mechanism. 
  2. The whole module is exposed on the outside, unlike a pop-out selfie camera. Once again, that means it is more perceptible to external damage. 
  3. During usage, the module failed to open a few times for it to be a problem. But, that is a problem that could be fixed with a software update so this is not really a complaint. 
  4. Also, if you place the phone on a table and open an app like Instagram, to maybe post a selfie, the flip module tries to open and therefore hits the table hard before it pops a “cannot open” message. Not that anyone takes a selfie with a phone on the ground or a table, but if you hit the flip button by mistake this could hinder the whole mechanism. 
  5. Even without the changeable sounds, the motor is pretty loud in my opinion. 
  6. Using the flip camera module for face unlock is a bad idea. It is not very fast and it triggers open at any time. But, the rear fingerprint scanner is plenty fast and placed at a convenient location, so I can’t really complain here. 

ASUS 6Z 3

So yeah, I am not very ecstatic about the flip camera but I am not entirely negative either. It has a bit of a learning curve to use it properly, including the extra features in the camera app which I shall explain later. Anyway, ASUS has a feature in place to identify and close the motor automatically in case of a sudden fall. It works well. 

Apart from the motor, most of the design elements of the 6Z are pretty great. For example, the glass-sandwich body is protected by a metal railing with beautiful chamfered edges. There’s also a headphone jack, and the SIM tray has three dedicated slots for two Nano cards and a memory card. The power button and the volume rocker are on the right edge. Both these physical buttons offer excellent tactile feedback as well. Now, there is also a dedicated Smart key which has been added primarily to invoke the Google Assistant. But, it has three levels and you can customize it to do actions of your choice. For example, a long press of the Smart key takes a screenshot for me. Pretty handy no? 

ASUS 6Z 2

As for the phone’s size, the 6Z is big but not as big as the OnePlus 7 Pro. It is also lighter than the OnePlus 7 Pro and the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom at 190g, despite using a larger 5000mAh battery. Moreover, the gently sloping curve on the rear means that the phone is easy to hold in the hand. In my time with the phone, I didn’t use it with a case because I was pretty confident that it wouldn’t fall out of my hand. There’s also a tiny notification LED at the top right corner in the small bezel. 

Also read: OnePlus 7 Pro review: the maker of “flagship killers” makes a killer flagship

ASUS 6Z display: not the best feature of this phone

The 6Z has a 6.4-inch IPS LCD FHD+ panel with an aspect ratio of 19.5:9. It is a fairly crisp display with the DCI-P3 color gamut. That said, I noticed a weird greenish tint when I tilted the phone. I have a feeling this is an issue with my particular unit. 

ASUS 6Z 7

Anyway, this LCD has HDR10 support and it can go to a maximum brightness of 600nits. It is plenty bright for regular usage scenarios but I’d have liked a slightly brighter display for HDR videos, actually. Moreover, in bright sunlight, I had to actually crank up the brightness to maximum to view content properly. That said, the full-screen display means that you get the best possible multimedia experience, which brings us to the next section. 

Also read: OPPO Reno, Reno 10x zoom hands-on review: zoom, zoom, zoom baba

ASUS 6Z multimedia: audiophiles rejoice!

Yup, watching videos on the 6Z is a joy with no obstructions whatever. Obviously, the inky blacks of the AMOLED panels on phones like the Reno 10x Zoom, OnePlus 7 and 7 Pro are missing here. That’s my only concern in an otherwise great HDR panel. AMOLED panels have spoilt me silly and add 90Hz refresh rate to it as we have on the OnePlus 7 Pro, and this display feels slightly underwhelming in my opinion. 

Now, there is one area where the ASUS 6Z shines – the audio performance. The 6Z has a set of stereo speakers with two dual NXP TFA9874 smart amplifiers, which has been upgraded from the previous generation 5Z. The speakers can get super loud but that’s not it, the dedicated Outdoor mode makes the phone sound even louder. Note that it is loud but not very crisp in this mode. 

ASUS 6Z 15

Now, my most favorite thing about the 6Z is that it is Hi-Res certified by the Japanese audio society which has a stringent procedure for certification. Which means that the 6Z can play back 24-bit/192KHz FLAC files with ease and it sounds incredible doing it. I tried my Tin Audio T3 and the Whizzer Kylin audio IEMs and boy they sounded pristine! The OnePlus 7 Pro definitely doesn’t sound as good but the Reno 10x Zoom comes close. This is also because ASUS has enabled Qualcomm’s Aqstic codec for audio. Obviously, the phone also supports apt-X and apt-X HD and therefore your wireless audio is going to sound great too. 

Also read: nubia Red Magic 3 Review: focus on gaming, not on the cameras

ASUS 6Z software: what a volte-face!

The best thing about the ASUS 6Z has to be its software. The fact that you get a near-stock Android setup with very tiny Zen UI embellishments is a masterstroke by ASUS. Going back to the drawing board was definitely a good choice by ASUS this time around. Moreover, ASUS is actually supporting the developer community by opening the boot-loader and sending samples to a few senior XDA members so they can go wild with the open-source development. I really like this about ASUS. This is one of the very few brands out there that actually care for the core Android community. 

ASUS 6Z 8

I really liked the near stock Android experience on the 6Z. Features like Digital Wellbeing and much more from Android Pie are all here. Also here is ASUS’ very own Optiflex tech and a few other embellishments. It is actually the best of both worlds. Moreover, there is literally no bloatware now. This is possibly the best software experience you can expect from on an Android phone. It is right up there with Oxygen OS on the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro. 

ASUS 6Z camera: best selfie cameras, for sure

The 6Z’s flip module houses two cameras – the 48MP primary Sony IMX586 camera attached to an f/1.79 aperture lens and a 13MP ultra-wide camera that can go as wide as 125-degrees or 11mm focal length. And obviously, this also becomes your selfie camera setup when you flip the module. Let me break down the camera performance for you. 

  1. The 6Z’s app has been laid out well and it is easy to use, no complaints there. But the beauty of the default camera app is that it runs at 60 fps! The first time we used the camera, it was clearly a revelation and it looks so good. 
  2. The 6Z’s 48MP camera, which shoots pictures at default 12MP resolution, takes extremely crisp pictures with great color accuracy as well. Yes, it struggles with the reds and pinks at close up where it tends to boost the colors, but otherwise, I had no problem with the accuracy or the crisp details on offer. 

     

  3. You can also shoot 48MP full resolution shots but the new HDR+ algorithm doesn’t work at such high resolution. Unfortunately, the 48MP shots didn’t look as good at 100% crop even when I was shooting in broad daylight. I’d really stick to 12MP pictures on the 6Z.
  4. ASUS has a new HDR+ algorithm and it is really, really good. It genuinely brings out a lot of details in the highlights and the shadows as I experienced it. However, it takes some time in post-processing and at that time if there are any moving vehicles then it causes ghosting. 

     

  5. Coming to the dedicated 13MP wide-angle camera, it is one of the widest cameras I’ve used on a smartphone. However, the quality is average at best with soft details. I think phones like the P30 Pro and the Galaxy S10+ offer far better quality wide-angle cameras. However, ASUS did issue an update to get Night mode working on the wide-angle camera and that is a first for any phone. Great stuff. 

  6. Portraits from the 6Z are clean and crisp with good edge detection as well. But the background blur looks a little too aggressive making Ashish look like a cutout in this image. 
  7. Coming to selfies, ASUS could very well be the undisputed champion of selfies now. I have never looked this good and I was always itching to take a selfie with the 6Z. Who’d have thunk that ASUS would make the best selfie phone in the market? That’s not it, you get the same great HDR algorithm and the wide-angle camera to fit in more people. This is by far the widest selfie you can get from any phone. So go ahead, fit in all the imaginary friends in your head because you are spending most of your time watching phone reviews on YouTube. 

  8. I love the 6Z for capturing videos. Yes, both the regular and the wide-angle camera lack OIS but the EIS is so good and it works even at the highest 4K 60fps setting. The wide-angle camera tops out at 4K 30fps, though. The footage looks clean, crisp, and vibrant. Even the control over highlights and shadows is great. This is truly one of the best phones for video recording with great sound as well. And to think of it, you can also shoot the same quality videos of yourself. I think if you use a phone to vlog often, the 6Z can definitely be a great option right next to the Samsung Galaxy S10+. Best part you can shoot 4K wide-angle videos as well! All that said, indoors the footage feels a little too soft IMO. 

  9. Low light performance is where the 6Z struggles. I wasn’t particularly a fan of the output. However, the Night Mode does improve things a bit by bringing in sharpness, color, contrast, and clarity to certain pictures. That said, the Night Mode still leaves a lot to be desired. I think the OnePlus 7 Pro is better at low light shots. 

     

  10. That’s not it, though. ASUS uses the flip module in the most unique ways to enhance your photography experience. Firstly, you can manually control the module, rotate it, and place it at an angle to capture photos at inaccessible locations. You can also use it to shoot auto Panoramas which is so cool and the stitching is just perfect. But if you are shooting outdoors, it cannot do HDR so ensure that you capture panoramas only in ideal lighting conditions. There is also a special motion tracking video mode that locks on to a subject and uses the camera’s motor to track the subject. It works really well in good lighting conditions. But it also records the motor’s sound, which is annoying.

Also read: OPPO Reno, Reno 10x zoom hands-on review: zoom, zoom, zoom baba

The 6Z’s camera setup is actually pretty good and I quite enjoyed using the camera. I’ll have a camera comparison with the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro soon, so subscribe to our channel for that. Oh btw, there’s already a working port of GCam out for the 6Z thanks to ASUS being friendly with developers. So yeah, in case you are planning on buying the 6Z, you can really look forward to having fun with the cameras on the phone. 

ASUS 6Z performance: it has SD855, what more do you need?

The 6Z has a Snapdragon 855 SoC and our unit has 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage. This is the UFS 2.1 kind. Therefore, storage speeds are fast if not OnePlus 7/7 Pro fast. SD855 is undoubtedly top of the line and therefore you get excellent performance with no stutters at all. ASUS’ AI Boost mode also gives you an additional software-level boost. In fact, in our AnTuTu test with AI Boost on, we got the highest AnTuTu score ever registered in Mr. Phone testing. You can see the comparison with OnePlus 7/7 Pro and the Reno 10x Zoom for yourself. With AI Boost off, the scores plummet south but stay in the OPPO Reno range. 

ASUS 6Z 5

That said, the Geekbench and 3DMark scores are not in the same league as these phones. This is even with AI Boost on. Anyway, I could play PUBG with ease. But all is not hunky dory, the camera module gets hot immediately. And, this is really not ideal for long gaming sessions. The thermal management is not that great on the 6Z, that’s for sure. Although, daily usage and casual gaming don’t offer such problems. I am sure this could change by the time folks get their hands on retail units. 

ASUS 6Z call quality and battery: excellent battery life but an average earpiece

Talking about cell reception and 4G performance, I had no qualms with both these aspects of my testing. But the call quality was below average. There was a lot of noise in calls even in quiet environments. 

ASUS 6Z 9

Talking about the 5000mAh battery inside. The stepper motor does suck some amount of power from the phone but otherwise, battery life has been stellar for me. I did constantly get upwards of 7 hours and 30 minutes of SoT, and at least a day and half worth of usage on the regular. This is incredible for a flagship phone. On the flipside, charging from 0 to 100 using the 18W fast charger takes 2 hours and 58 mins, which is a long time but you can live with it considering the capacity of the battery and its performance. 

Should you buy the ASUS 6Z?

Okay, so here we are. Should you buy the 6Z? Well, there are a lot of positives for the ASUS 6Z but the negatives can also dissuade a few folks. For example, if you are a tinkerer who loves to root phones you must consider the ASUS 6Z over any other Android phone. Also, if you love shooting vlogs, the 6Z could be perfect for you. If you are an audiophile, this is another one to consider over LG options. At least, you can be assured of software updates. 

Now, the points of concern are the motor – which you may or may not use that often based on your affection for selfies and the heating issues, that can be solved with a software update. Let’s compare the phone to its competition. Note this though, I don’t know what the phone will be priced at but I know that ASUS was pegging this one as a competition to the OnePlus 7 and not the OnePlus 7 Pro. So, it can be priced anywhere between 33k and 40k ballpark. 

OnePlus 7

Comparing it to OnePlus 7, it feels like a risk-averse, safe option compared to the 6Z. The OnePlus 7 is by far the best value flagship now that is until the Redmi K20 Pro comes about. And the OnePlus 7’s AMOLED panel and compact form factor is definitely more attractive. However, ASUS 6Z has legit improvements with better audio performance with its dedicated headphone jack, better battery life, and more. So, choose accordingly. 

OnePlus 7 - Feature Image

OnePlus 7 Pro

The OnePlus 7 Pro has the one thing that trumps the ASUS 6Z outright and that is the excellent 90HZ AMOLED curved display. This display has completely spoiled me silly. Also, the OnePlus 7 Pro after the latest update takes excellent pictures compared to the ASUS 6Z. Otherwise, the 6Z has the same improvements over the OnePlus 7 Pro that we spoke about when discussing the OnePlus 7. Oh also, the OnePlus 7 Pro is going to be significantly more expensive for sure. 

OPPO Reno 10x Zoom

Coming to the Reno 10x Zoom, I really love the design of the phone and the 10x zooming is a legit upgrade. Also, the performance and the multimedia experience is on par with all the phones under consideration. Color OS is its only Achilles heel but if you are someone who uses Nova Launcher anyway, that shouldn’t be a problem. So keep the Reno flagship in mind when you are looking at the 6Z as well. But, I’d still pick the 6Z over the Reno for sure. 

Yes, I haven’t discussed the Redmi K20 Pro yet because it hasn’t officially launched in India. I will reserve my judgments for when I see the phone. Until then, I really like the ASUS 6Z. It is a pretty compelling flagship for its price and a crazy ‘flippin’ one too. 

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Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?