Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra review: Just another big phone

The Zenfone is everyone’s favorite small Android phone, except not this year: the Zenfone has gone Ultra.

Asus has adapted its gaming phone, the ROG Phone 8, into a normie phone. It’s big, heavy, and costs $899. It’s completely harmless if big phones are your thing (they’re not mine, personally), but after a week of testing I don’t see any compelling reason to choose it over any of the other big , heavy phones that are already on the table. .

It’s possible that Asus will release a smaller Zenfone 11 later this year, but the company has no way of saying whether it plans to do so. The last great little Android phone may be dead, or it may not. In the meantime, another big Android phone just dropped – and it’s a fine device, but I’m not sure we needed it.

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See, I get the appeal of a big phone. You know what a big phone has a lot of? Screen. Screen as far as the eye can see! The Zenfone 11 Ultra offers – again, like the ROG Phone 8 Pro – a 6.78-inch OLED panel. It can go up to 144 Hz, but only in gaming mode. The rest of the time it goes up to 120Hz or, because it’s an LTPO screen, down to just 1Hz to save battery life. However, it’s only 1080p, so it’s not as bright as its competitors with 1440p displays, such as the OnePlus 12 and Samsung Galaxy S24 Plus.

Big phones also come with big batteries, and I have no complaints about the Zenfone 11 Ultra’s massive 5,500mAh battery. I easily got through a full day without dropping below 50 percent, and I’d feel pretty confident stretching this battery to two days. It also supports wireless charging – not Qi2, just regular 15W Qi.

The Zenfone 11 Ultra uses a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset, the top processor of choice for Android phone makers, and the base model comes with a beefy 12GB of memory and 256GB of storage. I doubt I’ve pushed my gaming phone DNA to the limit Zakstad 2 sessions – designating commercial zones and adjusting income tax sliders probably isn’t what the Republic of Gamers had in mind – but the 11 Ultra handled every task I threw at it with ease.

Like previous Zenfones, the 11 Ultra works on AT&T and T-Mobile, but not Verizon. Hypothetically, you could be use it on the Verizon network if you live in an area with good 5G coverage and you have a physical SIM card. Just theoretically speaking.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for full-time use, though, as you’ll occasionally see an unsettling “No Service” notification pop up at the top of your screen, and while texting and data work fine, putting the phone on making calls can seem like a no-no. -go. A kind of crucial ‘telephone function’.

In an abstract sense, I like the design of the Zenfone 11 Ultra. For example, if I saw it in an ad in a design magazine, the cool blue finish and the architectural camera bump would look kind of nice, you know? But if I’m honest, it’s not my favorite.

The black bezels and camera bump seem out of step with the slim, slightly matte back panel. But I’m especially irritated by how heavy and… stretched it is. More than once it slid out of my jacket pocket and into the gap between the driver’s seat and the center console with an alarming thud. I didn’t enjoy this for a moment.

Asus is moving with the times and including a handful of AI features on the 11 Ultra, including a call translation feature that seems to work exactly like Samsung’s version. Nice to have, but the AI ​​noise cancellation for calls seems useful in a broader sense. It works both ways: it cleans the audio for the listener and the speaker. Google’s version for the Pixel only eliminates noise on the other end of the call, so you shall can hear more easily when they are in a noisy environment. I couldn’t test it because I use Verizon.

AI features are great and all, but one thing is more important to most people? The camera. The Zenfone’s coolest camera trick remains the gimbal stabilization. During video recording, bumps and movements are smoothed out incredibly well – and if you need proof that it really works, you can get a closer look at the main camera lens to see it move.

There’s even a HyperSteady mode that corrects larger movements; shaking the camera violently back and forth just looks like moderate swaying. There’s a lot of harvesting going on and you need a lot of light to use it, but it’s cool.

Outside of video mode, the 11 Ultra looks pretty average. The cutouts in portrait mode are surprisingly good, and the system chose shutter speeds fast enough to take sharp enough photos of my child playing indoors. But the 11 Ultra’s cameras are a bit inconsistent overall: the auto white balance occasionally jumps around and photos sometimes have an overly bright, overexposed look. Sometimes not! But that’s the problem: inconsistency.

‘Tis the season for big Android phones, as the Zenfone 11 Ultra comes hot on the heels of the Samsung Galaxy S24 Plus, the S24 Ultra and the OnePlus 12. They all use the same chipset (well, provided you get the S24 Plus in the US) and not one has a screen smaller than 6.7 inches. I can clearly recommend three out of four of these phones, but I’m just not sure about the Zenfone.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra is the obvious choice for someone who wants to get the most out of their phone. The $799 OnePlus 12 is the way to go if you want a big screen and want to spend a little less. For everyone else, there’s the Galaxy S24 Plus: the crowd-pleaser that’s readily available with plenty of trade-in and carrier deals. The Zenfone simply doesn’t deserve any headspace for itself here.

Maybe if it had an excellent camera or better network support in the US, or, I don’t know, a thoughtful form factor that’s unlike anything else on the market. The Zenfone 11 Ultra does a lot of things well, but isn’t great by any means. As it stands, it’s just another big phone.

Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge

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