The Zenfone 10 is all about pocketability, and while it does things in its own way, there are alternatives if you're looking for a compact high-end phone. With a starting price of €800 for a base 8GB/128GB version and €50 extra for a more sensible 8GB/256GB spec, the Zenfone is not unreasonably priced, but it's hardly a bargain either. Let's explore the options.Zenfone 10 (left) next to Zenfone 9
It's more logical here than usual to start with the previous generation. The Zenfone 9, while still available, will save you €100 for a matching memory configuration - possibly more, depending on who you ask and when. Besides the money in your pocket, the 9 will give you more versatile ultrawide and selfie cameras (thanks to the AF on both, but there's also the additional video modes - 4K selfie videos and 60fps ultrawide capture). You'll be missing out on the latest chipset and while that's hardly a dealbreaker, the wireless charging on the 10 may be the one feature that justifies the premium. If, on the other hand, you're looking at the 10 as a potential upgrade path from the 9 you already own, you'd have some serious rationalizing to do - it's just too small of a step forward.
The Galaxy S23 comes as another obvious alternative. Samsung's latest compact sort-of-flagship packages more phone into less volume (since we're talking from the perspective of compactness), but still doesn't feel as small as the Zenfone 10 - maybe it's the nearly 3mm of extra width. The Galaxy is the more versatile cameraphone since it has a telephoto unit and a more capable selfie camera (though still no AF on the UW), and that could settle it right there. A nicer display, slightly better speakers, and Samsung's software (DeX, 4 years of OS upgrades to the Zenfone's 2) don't hurt either. By now, the S23 has settled at under €700 for a 128GB version and around €750 for the 256GB variant, and with these numbers in front of you, you really must be wanting that headphone jack to go Zenfone.
At under €800 for a 256GB spec, the Xiaomi 13 is another possibility. Just like the Galaxy, the Xiaomi also has a telephoto camera and a superior display, plus it charges notably faster, giving the Zenfone a hard time on some of the fundamentals. It's a bit more of full-size device though, the Xiaomi, and it weighs a bit more too, which may disqualify it from Zenfone comparisons if absolute pocketability is a top priority.
And while we're there, perhaps the Motorola Edge 40 could satisfy those. With a 6.55-inch display, it's hardly small, but thanks to its curved edges, thinness, and low weight (as much as the Zenfone), it does 'compact' in its own way - a better way, if you consider a philosophical display-to-bulk ratio. The Moto has faster charging, AF-capable UW, 144Hz display that you can use at 144Hz, and 'Ready For' PC-like capability. And you can get that for €200+ less than the Zenfone's price. But there are counter arguments - while plenty powerful, the Moto's Dimensity 8020 is no SD 8 Gen 2, and, well, the Zenfone 10 has a 3.5mm jack unlike the Edge 40.
Apple is no stranger to the 'compact high-performance' type of handset either, by the way - offering solid options if you're OS-agnostic. The 13 mini goes for €800, it's nearing 2 years old and has meh battery life, but is smaller than pretty much everything else, Zenfone 10 included, in every metric and will disappear in your pocket - if that's what's most important to you, then the mini has a case. If you're more into a properly functional form factor that still doesn't take up an entire pocket, the iPhone 13 proper will get you that, albeit at a premium over the Zenfone.
The Zenfone 10 continues in the footsteps of the 8 and the 9 and brings heaps of performance into an easily pocketable package. Its small size doesn't get in the way of achieving excellent battery life, the Snapdragon chip isn't all too bothered by the compact body, and there was room for the usual headphone jack, but also for the addition of wireless charging.
All that is great, but there's just not a whole lot of new stuff about the Zenfone 10, and some of the new stuff rubs us the wrong way. We're not entirely sure that the gaming-only 144Hz refresh rate on the display counts, and we most definitely aren't thrilled about having to change the camera section heading from 'AF all around' to 'AF gone'. And while allowances can be made for the absence of a zoom camera on a phone that small, that argument wears thin next to competitors with proper triple-cam setups.
We're not saying that getting the Zenfone 10 is a bad idea. It remains part of a relatively short list of phones catering to customers prioritizing compactness over everything else. But alternatives exist, and a lot of them make more sense. Like even the previous generation of the very same lineup.
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