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This compact Android is the best phone you've never heard of

Forget the phone-to-tablet handsets, the Asus Zenfone 10 has just about everything you'd want (and need) in a modern-day smartphone.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
Asus Zenfone 10 in hand
June Wan/ZDNET

At an age when handsets are getting larger and larger to satisfy our digital content consumption, devices like the Asus Zenfone 10 prove why we'll be just fine with something smaller.

You can make the argument that clamshell foldables like the Motorola Razr Plus and Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 are compact phones thanks to their smaller external displays, but then you're met with an unwieldy 6.8-inch-plus screen the moment you unfold them.

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The Asus Zenfone 10, with its 5.9-inch OLED display, is just a small fun-sized handset, no matter how you look at it. It's easy to pocket, causes the least amount of hand fatigue, and yet doesn't compromise on specs at all. At a starting price of $699, it's secretly the best phone that you've probably never heard of.

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That's the same story as last year's Asus Zenfone 9, which I called "The iPhone Mini alternative for Android enthusiasts" in my full review. It's easy to look at the iPhones and Samsungs when shopping for a new handset, but what Asus has done with its Zenfone line is nothing short of extraordinary.

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For how compact the device is, the Zenfone boosts specifications typically found on pricier (and larger) phones, including the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to 512GB of storage. The 144Hz display (up from last year's 120Hz) looks good, too, though a little more brightness would take it from "good" to "fantastic." 

Asus Zenfone 10 playing a YouTube video

The bezels are thicker than most phones, but full-screen videos with stereo speakers are still enjoyable.

June Wan/ZDNET

With this year's model, Asus has kept most of the design features from the Zenfone 9, meaning the texturized back cover is still in play, a physical side-mounted fingerprint sensor is used for biometric security, and there's a 3.5mm headphone jack for your in-line audio needs. My review unit came in a charming red finish that made it a sin to put a case over. And from my two weeks of use, the sandpaper-like material has held up fairly well, with little to no discoloration to be seen.

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As far as performance goes, the Zenfone 10 absolutely flies through most apps and games, with my use cases ranging from scrolling through Reddit to photo-editing on Lightroom. The base 8GB of RAM working alongside the flagship Snapdragon processor was more than capable for my needs, but there is a 16GB of RAM variant should you want the best multitasking configuration. This is a small phone at the end of the day, so I don't imagine most people to be doing any split-screen tasks or using multiple app windows. Investing in a foldable may make more sense if you do.

Asus Zenfone 10 laid next to larger Android phones

Here's how the Asus Zenfone 10 (second from the left) stacks up to modern-day phones in terms of size.

June Wan/ZDNET

Besides that, I'm a big fan of Asus' approach to software. From the initial boot-up, you're given the options of a Stock Android-themed home screen or one that's optimized for Asus' services. Both are just as customizable, but I found the latter more practical to use, like how the brightness slider in the notification panel is more reachable. 

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Other small touches, like how the search bar in the app drawer is located on the bottom as opposed to the top, and the fact that pressing and holding the power button turns on the power menu by default, make the Zenfone 10 experience very enjoyable.

A 4,300mAh battery powers the Zenfone 10, which I've found to be more than enough to get through a day. In fact, I've been ending my days with around 40% battery left in the tank, making this one of the few phones that truly offers two-day endurance.

ZDNET's buying advice

At $699, the Asus Zenfone 10 competes closely with the OnePlus 11, Google Pixel 7 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy S23, all three of which field better software upgrade policies (three-to-four years versus Asus' two) and are made by brands that you can trust for after-sales support.

There are really two types of users that I'd recommend the Asus Zenfone 10 to: Compact phone enthusiasts and audiophiles who seek a modern handset that still has a 3.5mm headphone jack. If you're on either end of those spectrums, or both, no other phone will serve you better.

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