The Zenfone 11 Ultra is the weirdest phone of 2024, for all the wrong reasons

OPINION: Asus launched the Zenfone 11 Ultra this week, the first big-screen phone in the Zenfone collection in a couple of years. Framed as a ‘larger alternative to the compact Zenfone,’ the Zenfone 11 Ultra looks to cash in on the demand for bigger smartphones in 2024 – and it’s one of the strangest launches of the year so far, for all the wrong reasons.

Let’s start with the launch itself, which surprised me not because of the announcement of the Zenfone 11 Ultra – it had been heavily leaked in the weeks leading up – but because there’s no regular Zenfone 11. So, what makes the Zenfone 11 Ultra an ‘Ultra’ if there’s nothing to compare it to? Surely if there’s no base version, that makes this phone the Zenfone 11. 

At my pre-launch briefing, other journalists and I asked Asus reps where the regular Zenfone 11 was. While I’m paraphrasing here, the response was essentially, ‘the Zenfone 10 is still very much the flagship compact having come out less than a year ago.’ That makes some sense – why would Asus cut the life of the Zenfone 10 short if it was released less than a year ago?

But, if that’s the logic, why not just delay the launch of the Zenfone 11 Ultra until the Zenfone 11 is ready? I can’t see any real benefit to the Ultra launching specifically in mid-March. 

Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Also, it’s pretty flawed logic because there’s another phone that recently got replaced after less than a year on the market, and it was none other than Asus’ own ROG Phone 7 series, replaced by the ROG Phone 8 series after just eight months on the market. Why can’t Asus do the same with the Zenfone 11?

Launch semantics aside, the Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra is a rather odd phone because it’s essentially a carbon copy of the ROG Phone 8. Not just the overall design but the tech, sporting almost identical screen technology, performance, camera hardware, and even battery capacity. 

The only notable difference is that the Zenfone 11 Ultra doesn’t offer the gaming-specific features of the ROG Phone, elements like AirTriggers, advanced cooling, support for advanced accessories and the dot-matrix LED panel on the rear that allow it to come in at a cheaper price point of £869/$899. 

ROG Phone 8 Pro Edition

I don’t know about you, but I was hoping for something a little bit different from an entirely different smartphone range. But hey, at least it’ll be easier for Asus’ production lines to handle… 

The fact that the Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra is based on the ROG Phone 8 made me even more frustrated when I noticed that the Zenfone suffered from overheating issues when playing demanding 3D titles. Of course, most phones get a little warm when pushed to the max, but the Zenfone got so hot I couldn’t even pick it up after a 20-minute gaming stress test. 

Why on earth would the Zenfone get so hot when the near-identical ROG Phone 8 was explicitly designed to stay cool under load? I get that Asus wants to keep the top-end cooling exclusive to the gaming phone, but to hamstring the cooling of the Zenfone so much is just annoying. 

Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Asus also spent a lot of time highlighting the AI features of the Zenfone 11 Ultra at its announcement, with the phone able to perform GenAI tasks like voice note transcription, AI noise cancellation on calls, translation in calls, generating AI wallpapers and semantic search all on-device.

There’s a catch, however. While I was able to test the features for my review, Asus informed me that it won’t actually be available on the Zenfone 11 Ultra at launch, instead coming via an OTA update a little further down the line.

If one of the biggest features of 2024 isn’t ready at launch, why not delay the launch? Maybe by a few months to, say, align with the release of the expected Zenfone 11? What a concept. 

So yes, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the Zenfone 11 Ultra is one of the biggest oddities in the smartphone market in early 2024. Let’s hope that the next Asus launch isn’t quite so… chaotic.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Hot Deals & Shop
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Shopping cart