ASUS Zenfone 6 / 6z Review

- Introduction -
- Physical features -
- Audio -
- Display -
- Bootloader unlocking -
- Repairability -
- Custom ROM & Kernel Availability -
- Other issues -
- Conclusion -

Introduction

What would happen if ASUS were to try & create the Pocophone F1's spiritual successor / competitor? The answer is simply the Zenfone 6 / 6z / I01WD.

The Zenfone 6 will be referred to as the 6z.

Physical features

The 6z feels like your everyday premium device - glass sandwich, heavy.

The top section houses the secondary mic, as well as a glance at that flippy camera.

USB-C charging port, speaker, headphone jack, & primary mic on the bottom corner,with the headphone jack at bottom-left corner. The jack's position isn't the best, but at least it's there.

Left section houses the volume & power buttons, as well as a "Smart" key that won't be used all that often (or at all).

Right section is home to the dual SIM + microSD tray. One thing to note is that the tray's attachment point is facing the back.

The front section merely holds the 6.4' 19.5:9 LCD & an earpiece grill at the top.

The back holds the cameras & fingerprint scanner. Said camera, which also takes a good chunk of the top portion, can flip forward for selfies (read : voluntary face surrendering) & also houses the earpiece / top speaker.

The 6z can also use screen protectors from Redmi K20 / Mi 9T (and their "pro" variants), as well as Mi Mix 3.

JerryRigEverything durability test video

Audio Quality

The 6z has a bottom loudspeaker + earpiece stereo combo & a headphone jack.

The speaker quality is slightly better than the F1 (less highs), but also slightly quieter. As usual, the earpiece is somewhat drowned out by the loudspeaker.

If you have flashed a custom kernel (or enabled outdoor mode on stock OS), the speaker's sound changes. It's louder & bassier, at the cost of essentially removing nearly all presence the earpiece could offer.

The headphone jack quality is kinda passable. Loudness wise, it's in the "average" territory.

Display

The 6.4' 19.5:9 LCD is one of the better LCD displays around. No notch, no punch hole, just some slight bezels & somewhat thicker bottom bezel bordering the good-looking display. There is some uneven backlighting on the bottom, though it's not as serious as the F1.

Bootloader unlocking

Bootloader unlock requires the latest UnlockTool from ASUS. It is a step forward from the Pocophone, as it doesn't require any kind of account. However, it has some flaws, such as:

Repairability

Repair difficulty on the 6z is in line with most glass-backed PDAs, ignoring the stacked motherboards & camera + earpiece module combo & the back glass that's very hard to safely remove without damaging something, such as the button ribbon cable & the back glass itself. As a matter of fact, I lucked out on not cutting the button ribbon, despite the back glass getting utterly destroyed as I finally opened it up - the adhesive there is tougher than the one on V30.

Inside, everything seems modular, although once we reach the camera + earpiece, things get a bit dubious, as the camera + earpiece module doesn't use common connectors, & in some cases, such as JerryRigEverything's, the camera stops working after a reassembly. The USB-C port & the headphone jack is on the same board, forcing a replacement of both if either stops working.

JerryRigEverything's teardown video | PBKreviews' teardown video

Custom ROM & Kernel Availability (as of 15/2/2021)

Custom ROM availability on the 6z sucks & have their own issues, which I'll mention below:

15/2/2021 update for ROMs : With Lineage (and Lineage-microG) not flashable by TWRP, the only option for a decent custom ROM on the 6z is OmniROM.

On the kernel side... there's basically none. Proton & Kirisakura could be mentioned, however, Proton's still in beta (stable release hasn't been updated to account for latest firmware since 2/10/2019) & Kirisakura is maintained, albeit not always updated.

27/1/2021 update for kernel : Adding in some tidbits about how ASUS releases kernel source & how it affects kernel development. Typically, kernels are released unzipped in a git repo (like GitHub). However, in ASUS' case, they release the code as a zip file, forcing developers to rebase the entire kernel on basically every firmware update. As the kernel's a big project on its own, rebasing also requires lots of time & testing from the developer's side.

Other issues

Here are the horrible ones:

However, the 6z has a silver lining between these issues:

Conclusion

Personally, I can't recommend the Zenfone 6 anymore - Russian roulette motherboard, reboot-triggering camera, basically dead development, & difficult initial repair procedure has killed what would otherwise be a PDA I can recommend without regret.

Perhaps... had ASUS delayed the Zenfone 6 a bit & did some quality fixes while they're at it (improved QC, more motherboard testing, etc.), I'd give the 6z a truly glowing recommendation. They may have done this already, but there's no evading the fact that there's a 6z with faulty motherboard out there. So, if you really want to get the 6z (despite my recommendations against it of course), get them new & safeguarded with a warranty, test them for a while on stock ROM & locked bootloader for a while (in most cases, this allows you to keep the warranty, at the cost of privacy), in case any issues appear (so that you can hopefully take advantage of the warranty & get the 6z repaired / replaced for free at the very least), & flash it to your desires once you know that your 6z is mostly trouble-free (at this point, your warranty's over, but, assuming you have a problem-free 6z, this probably won't be an issue).

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