Going from 8 to 9, Zenfones kept the overall size and form factor, but introduced a new, bold and blocky design. With the 10, Asus is making no dramatic changes of this sort and the theme is fine tweaks - so fine, in fact, that you may be hard-pressed to tell the two generations apart at a passing glance.Zenfone 10 (left) next to Zenfone 9
One of those subtle touches is the design of the camera lens housings with the new model opting for smaller metal rings and more glass instead. It's not like the old model looked bad for it, and it's not like the new one necessarily looks better either - it's more of a change for the change's sake.
Depending on how... particular you are about such things (and this reviewer here is), you may appreciate the minimization of the amount of text on the Zenfone's back. The previous generation was somewhat of a minor offender in this respect, while the new one sticks to just a stylized triangular A logo and Asus Zenfone branding, no camera specs and not even a model name. The two tiny red triangles/arrows that point towards the cameras are a nice touch too.
The polymer back cover is mostly unchanged and it still offers plenty of grip, while being mostly fingerprint-proof (except for the black colorway, which does tend to show some smudges). 'Premium' might not be the first word on your mind, but the material and finish has certainly got character and it's unlike most other solutions out there. It's worth noting that Asus has decreased the amount of visible 'grain' on the finish, though we wouldn't say that's impacted grip or feel in any meaningful way.
We got all colorways in the office, including the brand new Aurora Green option. The rest of the colors (Eclipse Red, Comet White, Starry Blue, and Midnight Black) are mostly unchanged from the previous generation, though the red and white do have different names.
All but the white colorway come with a black aluminum frame treated to a matte finish, while that Comet White option gets a silver-looking frame. The rings around the camera lenses are styled to match the frame, even if their size has been minimized for this generation.
As was the case on the previous generation, the two separate camera modules stick out by a different amount, so that the Zenfone 10 doesn't wobble quite as much as it would have if the lower-placed ultrawide camera's protrusion matched the one of the main camera.
The cameras actually both stick out a little less than they did on the previous generation, but that's a roundabout way of saying that the phone is ever so slightly thicker altogether. The extra 0.3mm are at least partially accounted for by the newly installed induction coil for wireless charging. It's a difference that's barely perceptible, but one that renders cases for the Zenfone 9 incompatible with the Zenfone 10.
That's the only direction in which the Zenfone 10 has grown - the footprint has stayed at 146.5x68.1mm. A 3g increase in weight is about as negligible as they come too, so the Zenfone remains one of the most compact high-end phones you can get.
Asus does like to point to that 68mm number and compare it to rivals that are wider than 70mm, but that does also mean that the Zenfone has one of the smaller displays on a small phone - not that the 5.9-inch panel is dramatically smaller than the Galaxy S23's 6.1-inch one, for example, but compactness has to come from somewhere.
The bezels around the display aren't the slimmest either though they are probably at least partially mandated by needing to fit components somewhere without adding extra thickness. Same as last year, the shiny ring around the selfie camera is possibly more irksome than the black border surrounding the display.
Since we made it to these quarters, let's also mention the earpiece that's behind a mesh that just barely eats into the Gorilla Glass Victus layer protecting the display. The 3.5mm jack is also hard to miss in this picture - Asus is persisting with that feature, much to the delight of folks who enjoy wired headphone connectivity.
There aren't really any changes to the placement of the rest of the bits around the Zenfone's perimeter. The bottom is home to the USB-C port, primary loudspeaker and main mic. The SIM card slot (with its eject pinhole still nearly into the curved section of the frame) will take two nano SIMs, but no microSD - Asus may be a headphone jack holdout, but the memory card option has been gone since the Zenfone 8.
The hardware controls on the Zenfone 10 are exactly the same as on the 9. That includes the fingerprint-equipped Side Key that's not just your easiest way for secure entry into the phone (for which it does a quietly good job), but can also be set up to do things upon double presses, long presses and swipes.
Whether it's past experience with the 9 or a change of handling habits, but the Zenfone 10's entirely identically placed Side Key is giving this reviewer less trouble than last year's model. Even if you do find it a bit lower than you'd consider ideal, however, habit will quickly take care of that. And if you're a smartphone leftie, the location is particularly easy to access with a left index finger.
Physically, the Zenfone 10 keeps everything that made the 9 one of the best small handsets on the market. The handset is very pocketable, handles great, and looks quite unlike anything else (well, apart from the previous generation, of course).