Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra Review: A ROG Phone without the sparkle?

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Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra Intro

In the past few years, Asus has carved a niche of its own in the smartphone carpentry, so to speak. The Zenfone line has been focusing on small and powerful Android flagships since the Zenfone 8, and the idea was perfected with last year’s Zenfone 10.

Fast forward to… now, and we have a very different picture and a shift to the aforementioned focus. Enter the Zenfone 11 Ultra. It’s a departure from the “compact” idea and a venture into the “ultra” territory for Asus.

The phone is big, packed full of hardware and software features, and could potentially cater to all those Asus fans who wanted a large screen phone but, for some reason, didn’t like the ROG series. Today we’re going to find out how good the first attempt by Asus to give us an Ultra flagship is.

As you can see above, the Zenfone 11 Ultra iPhone 14 Pro Max total score is now slightly higher than at the time of writing. That is no error: we have implemented a new rating system at PhoneArena that gives readers a better idea of the performance of a phone across different categories. Remember to look at the scores and compare them to the average for the class, and we believe you will find these scores tremendously useful. Learn more about the new PhoneArena Review Scoring system here.

What’s new about the Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra

  • 6.78-inch LTPO screen, 120Hz (144Hz), 2,500 nits peak brightness
  • New 32MP, 3X optical zoom telephoto camera
  • 5,500mAh battery with 65W fast wired charging and wireless charging support
  • 12/256GB base memory configuration
  • Snapdragon 8 Gen 3
  • AI Experience

Table of Contents:

Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra Specs

Look, there’s a telephoto camera now!

Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra Design & Colors

ROG Phone without LEDs?

 

In stark contrast to previous Zenfone models, the Zenfone 11 Ultra takes pages from the ROG book. The phone is substantial and far from the compact footprint of its predecessors, with a flat 6.78-inch screen and ever-so-slightly curved back glass.The back is light blue or gray with a frosted glass matte finish and glossy lines running across, creating a cool pattern. The camera bump is protruding quite a bit from the body and houses the three cameras and an LED flash.

One thing worth mentioning is that Asus has decided to put almost all ports on the bottom, there’s the USB-C port on the left, the SIM tray, and next to it is the loudspeaker. A 3.5mm jack completes the picture. And the picture is quite busy. There’s nothing on the left side of the phone and on the top side, too.

Overall, it’s a clean design, but it reminds me too strongly of the ROG Phone 8 Pro. The camera bump, overall shape and size, the screen, the layout of the buttons—it’s all identical between the two phones. Which begs the question: why do we need a non-gaming ROG version called Zenfone Ultra? But more on that later.

Time for the Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra unboxing treat. Sadly, there’s some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that there’s no charger in the box, so in order to take full advantage of the supported 65W fast charging, you have to get the appropriate fast charging brick.

The good news is that there’s a plastic back cover included, so you don’t have to buy a case. Funny thing: with the cover on, the Zenfone 11 Ultra looks even more similar to the ROG Phone 8. There’s also a USB-C cable inside the box and some paperwork (probably informing you how many dolphins have been saved by not including a charger in the retail box).

Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra Display

The OLED panel inside the Zenfone 11 Ultra is great! No doubt about it. It’s very bright (actually, it’s currently sitting at the top of our own brightness test), it can do a 1-120Hz dynamic refresh rate (plus 144Hz in game mode), and it’s pretty color accurate as well.The 6.78-inch screen comes with a resolution of 1080 x 2400 pixels, resulting in around 388 PPI pixel density, which is not super high, but the image is still pretty crisp and detailed.

There are several settings to fine tune your picture as well. You can choose from Optimal, Natural, Cinematic, and Standard color settings, customize the colors via a slider, and also control the color temperature. There are nice options such as Always-On, Lift to check phone (wakes up the phone when you lift it), Night Light, Smart Screen (keep the screen awake when you’re looking at it), and more.

Display Measurements:


The fingerprint scanner is of the optical variety, and it’s nested under the screen. It works fine, but nothing to write home about. There’s also a Face Unlock option, but it only uses the front camera without fancy 3D scanning, so it’s probably not as secure as some other systems out there.

Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra Camera

Same old, but with a telephoto
In the past, Zenfone models used to have only two cameras: wide and ultrawide. Now, the sheer size of the Zenfone 11 Ultra has made it possible to add a dedicated telephoto camera. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The main camera uses a 50MP, 1/1.56″ sensor made by Sony, with f/1.9 lens above it. The ultrawide is a 13MP sensor, paired with f/2.2 lens offering 120-degree field of view. And finally, the new telephoto camera (new, because the other two have been carried over from the previous two generations of Zenfone devices) is a 32MP, 3x optical zoom, f/2.4 camera.

The camera system is identical to the one in the Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro, down to the gimbal-like stabilization system on the main camera. We leave you to make what you will out of all this.

Main Camera – Day

The quality of the photos, taken with the main camera of the Zenfone 11 Ultra is… unchanged. What do we mean? It’s the same sensor and algorithms used in previous iterations of the phone, and while this camera gets the job done, the Zenfone 11 Ultra is far from the competition and the “camera” phones of late.

Low-light samples

The low-light performance is a mixed bag, the phone automatically switches Night Mode on when it detects that the light is not sufficient. You can get decent results if you have a steady hand, but overall, the Zenfone 11 Ultra is not on the level of other smartphones when it comes to night shots. The algorithms also tend to turn red into purple, and sometimes produce overprocessed images.

Zoom Quality 3x

Here’s where it’s painfully obvious that the telephoto territory is new to Asus. We don’t want to bash the Zenfone 11 Ultra, but with so many periscope cameras doing crazy hybrid zooms and great optical portrait shots, we find the 3x telephoto of the Zenphone is a bit lacking.

The tonality of the shots is different to the other two cameras, and the phone overexposes the images. The dynamic range isn’t great either. In perfect lighting conditions, you can get some decent shots but overall, we’re not impressed with this telephoto lens.

Portrait Mode

Portrait mode uses software algorithms to add that ever-so-desirable bokeh effect to your pictures. You can control the effect by a slider from f/10 to f/0.95 and we suggest you stick to a less extreme setting to get the best out of it.

Of course, you can use the telephoto camera to snap a portrait, but doing so will take you out of the Portrait mode. It’s also worth mentioning that Portrait mode works with the front camera, as well.

Ultra-wide Camera

The Ultrawide camera is not that ultrawide at 120 degrees but produces decent images. The competition doesn’t pay that much attention to ultrawide cameras in general, and there are far too little phones with advancements in the ultrawide department.

That being said, the camera is good, and switching between the main and the ultra conserves the tonal quality of the picture, and some of the details, as well.

Selfies

When in comes to the selfie camera, the Zenfone 11 Ultra uses a 32MP front snapper with RGBW pixel configuration – meaning there’s a white pixel to help with low-light performance. You can also use portrait mode and add some bokeh to those pictures, as well as beautify them. Just keep that bokeh slider in check because you might end up with your ears cut off.

Video quality

Video Thumbnail

Video Thumbnail

Well, the cherry on top in the camera system is the gimbal-like image stabilization, and during video recording it’s definitely awe-inspiring. The Zenfone 11 Ultra shoots pretty good 4K videos, and the aforementioned stabilization adds a cinema-like quality to them.

We have rigorously tested the camera on the Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra and above you can see the results of those tests. We carefully measure the performance of all cameras in various test scenes, ranking the performance across important metrics like exposure, subject exposure, color accuracy, detail, artifacts and more. We do these tests for both photos and videos. 

 

Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra Performance & Benchmarks

A true powerhouse

Asus knows how to build powerful phones, and all the expertise from the ROG division has been applied to the Zenfone 11 Ultra. The phone just flies through everyday tasks, and it also topped our performance charts without breaking a sweat.

It’s partly due to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, but the cooling is also pretty solid, as the Zenfone 11 Ultra is able to maintain sustained high performance. There’s a version with 12GB of RAM and one with 16GB, so you won’t feel squeezed in the RAM department.

Performance Benchmarks:

There’s the option to turn off UI animations, Asus took this one out of the developer’s settings menu and has been offering it as a normal option for the past couple of Zenfone iterations. If you want your phone to feel extra snappy and don’t care for UI eye-candy, this is a great option.

Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra OS / Android version

Here’s where things start to get interesting. Yep, it’s AI again, you’ve guessed it right. Normally, Asus offers a clean-ish version of Android with a separate option to switch to the Asus Optimized UI and use a couple of tweaks and additional features. You can do that on the Zenfone 11 Ultra, but now there’s some AI magic going on.
It’s nothing groundbreaking, sadly. You have contextual search in a few places, such as the Gallery, App Drawer, and Settings. And it doesn’t work all that well. I tried to search for “flowers,” and it gave me trees instead, and it didn’t recognize my selfies when I tried to search for “people.”

It’s worth noting that Asus promises other, more potent AI features such as AI Call Translate, Tanscript, and AI Wallpapers, but they will probably land with a future update.

If you like to power use your Zenfone 11 Ultra, there are a couple of Advanced Options for you. You can set different functions on the power button with a double tap or a long press, you can also try and use the Back Tap option, and there’s the Edge Tool as well.

 
You can also find some interesting and useful Gestures in the menu of the same name. Double Tap to wake and turn off the screen is nice, Lift To Check Phone also works well, while drawing letters to control music, not so much.

The Zenfone 11 Ultra comes with Android 14 onboard and will get 2 years of major Android updates but 4 years of security patches.

Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra Battery

A big size equals a big battery

The Zenfone 11 Ultra has one big advantage over its much more compact predecessors. Its bigger size has allowed Asus to put a 5,500 mAh battery inside. It’s not the 6,000 mAh cell we’re used to seeing in ROG phones, but the longevity is very similar.

In a real life scenario, this phone will last around 24 hours if you put it through its paces, and if you’re gentle on the throttle, you can get 1.5–2 days out of it.

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:

We got over 16 hours of continuous web browsing at 200 nits, with the display refresh rate set to auto, over 14 hours of YouTube streaming, and almost 8 hours of gaming at 120Hz (a whopping result of 14+ hours at 60Hz). Pretty solid results.

Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra Charging Speeds

The Zenfone 11 Ultra comes with 65W wired charging support and 15W wireless. The charging times are pretty fast, we were able to charge the phone from zero to full in just 47 minutes. Again, the results are almost identical to the ones we got with the ROG Phone 8 Pro.

PhoneArena Charging Test Results:

There’s a cool option that some brands out there include, which is powering the phone directly from the wall when the battery reaches 100% charge. You can hook the phone up and game, or do intensive tasks, and the phone won’t charge and discharge the battery constantly. It’s a useful feature that will increase the longevity of the battery overall.

PhoneArena Wireless Charging Test Results:

The wireless charging caps at 15W and, as you might expect, is way slower than using a good old wired charger. It takes almost two full hours to charge the phone this way, but the option is there mainly for convenience and not for speed.

Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra Audio Quality and Haptics

The Zenfone 11 Ultra comes with two large linear speakers, and it shows (you can hear it). The sound is quite loud, with decent bass and nice detail. You get some distortion at max volume, but that’s to be expected.

You can also fine-tune your listening experience through the Dirac audio interface with different presets and a custom EQ. The phone comes with a 3.5mm audio jack and can definitely output a quality signal to a pair of good headphones.

The haptics are nice and crisp, nothing too strong, but the vibration motors inside the Zenfone 11 Ultra get the job done.

Asus Zenfone 11 Models 

Now, this is pretty interesting. The Zenfone 11 is the first Ultra model from the company. And while we asked Asus about a potential regular Zenfone 11 with a more compact form factor, nothing was confirmed or denied.

If we were the betting type, we would’ve said that a regular Asus Zenfone 11 is coming in the summer, but don’t quote us on that.

Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra Competitors

At $899, the Zenfone 11 Ultra faces some very tough competition. Pre-orders start on March 14, and early birds will get discounts and gifts, but $899 might be a hard pill to swallow for a Zenfone. First of all, the phone is so similar to the ROG Phone 8 Pro that many people would prefer buying the latter and getting all the bells and whistles.The OnePlus 12 is also a great option, and some might turn their gaze toward the Google Pixel 8 Pro, as it rocks the same price tag. Finally, you can get a Galaxy S24 Plus or an iPhone 15 Pro for $100 more, so there’s also that.

Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra Summary and Final Verdict

The Zenfone 11 Ultra is a very capable phone—super-fast, snappy, and with an amazingly bright screen. The real problem here is, at least the way we see it, that Asus has taken the ROG Phone 8 and streamlined it into a mainstream device.

It’s a valid marketing strategy. People do love big and fast phones but often feel reluctant to buy a “gaming” phone, so this might work. The thing is, while the previous Zenfone models were unique in the Android market due to their compact form factor, now the Taiwanese company has to compete with behemoths such as Samsung and Apple and fight off value propositions such as the OnePlus 12. It’s not an easy gig to pull off.

Pre-orders in the US are live now, early birds will get free Cetra TWS in-ear headphones in white with every order. US official sales channels are the ASUS eStore and Mobile Advance. Mobile Advance will also carry on the Amazon US marketplace, so you can get the Zenfone 11 Ultra through Amazon as well.

Disclaimer: We are still finalizing some of our tests for this device (due to unexpected irregularities) and we will update you with the final score on Monday, March 18th.


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