After a one-year hiatus, Infinix came back with to the smartphone market with its 2020 flagship, the Infinix Zero 8.
Going for Kshs 29,000, the Infinix Zero 8, as I have experienced it over the last few days, has, in a nutshell, made the year-long wait, worthwhile.
The biggest differentiator between the Infinix Zero 8, its successors as well as the competition in the market has to be the design.
Looking to stand out with something different, Infinix went with an interesting design, which fully comes into view on the back of the device, that can hardly be seen anywhere else. It sets the Infinix Zero 8 apart, makes it stand out. It’s been a while since Infinix made such a bold statement design-wise. In the recent past, the Chinese brand has focused on catching up with industry trends, not setting them for the entire budget smartphone market as they are doing with the Zero 8.
The tone of the geometric patterns at the back is set by the rhombus-like camera hump which, interestingly, is put together in such a way that our common complaint of devices such as the Zero 8 wobbling when placed on flat surfaces like desktops and tables, is taken care of.
The good looks are complemented by an equally acceptable feel when one lifts the device for the first time – and every other time, subsequently. It’s solid, sturdy and ergonomic. The latter point is enforced by the placement of the power button which also doubles up as the fingerprint scanner thanks to the biometric sensor being embedded there.
The front design, defined by slim bezels and an acceptable chin that is slightly larger than them comes together nicely even though there’s no hiding that near-7-inch display and its capsule-like cutout to accommodate the dual front-facing camera.
Talking about the display, the 6.85-inch IPS panel… it’s… Inviting? It’s so big and there’s no effort to make it feel any lesser. Its 20.5:9 aspect ratio makes sure of it. And, it is a joy to use all the time. Of course, there’s the added rider that this is Infinix’s first high-refresh-rate display.
With the display set at 90Hz right out of the box, every user gets to experience the improved motion from their very first interaction with the device. It is only with prolonged usage, over coming days and weeks, that one gets to experience the full gamut of the display experience which is a mixed bag given the poor optimization of most applications for such displays.
The one downside of the Full HD panel on the Infinix Zero 8 is the brightness is a bit on the lower side. Take it outdoors or, if like yours truly, your work-at-home desk is set by the window, and your eyes will have to get used to taking second looks.
There’s a separate review for the Infinix Zero 8’s 6 cameras – 2 on the front for selfies and 4 at the back for everything else. Read it here.
The Infinix Zero 8 is powered by a Mediatek MT6785 Helio G90T chipset which has to work with the 8 gigabytes of memory available. From my experience, there is nothing to complain about. Even Infinix’s numerous animations, which are normally a source of the lag and stutter in most devices, are handled just fine.
Need to play a game as a way of winding up your day? It’ll do it. Need to chat up your pals over Google Duo in these social distancing times or hop on to a meeting or a class on Zoom when you’re running late? The Zero 8 will take that and still spare room for you to fire up a document from Google Drive to compare notes. What more could you ask?
The Infinix Zero 8 arrives running version 7 of XOS codenamed Dolphin. Is it as fast as the animal it is named after?
XOS 7 is fast, clean and offers more whites and greens than one would expect in this day and time when dark modes are all the rage.
Talking about the system-wide dark mode (referred to as “Dark theme” on the Zero 8), a defining feature of Android 10 on which XOS 7 is based, it can be toggled on and off quickly through the Quick Settings menu just like the rest of the user interface’s “modes”: game mode, WhatsApp mode, bike mode and one-handed mode.
As is always the case, XOS 7 is heavily customized. There are lots of added features and settings as well as pre-installed applications. Given that a lot of these can be turned off, uninstalled and/or disabled, there shouldn’t be any qualms, right? Wrong.
The add-on features result in so many notifications and alerts that clutter the notification dropdown and can easily overwhelm anyone – even someone who knows their way around various Android skins like yours truly. The recourse? Going with a third-party launcher.
Sure, there are advantages to doing that like more customization options but that eats into the proper Infinix experience that the company would like you to have and which, in my personal experience, is actually something you can live with if there weren’t 1,000 other distractions when all you want to do is read your girlfriend’s long rant on WhatsApp. Your excuse for failing to reply could be that some wayward notification distracted you and you forgot all about and it’d be valid. Seriously, though, it’s about time that there was a good balance between all these add-on features, which, I understand, are widely used, and practicality. They go a long way in ruining the user experience on what is otherwise some very fantastic hardware.
A key positive for me and many nerds hanging around here is that Infinix hasn’t stripped off some of the privacy upgrades that come with Android 10 that we almost never talk about like randomized MAC addresses (a MAC address is a key device identifier used to identify the device when connecting to networks). Better yet, just as is the case on desktop PCs (running Windows 10), one is able to set any wireless hotspot they are connected to as a metered connection in order to turn off data-intensive features and save on data. This may not mean much when one is on Wi-Fi network where they don’t have to look over their shoulder but it can come in handy when one is tethering their Zero 8 from another smartphone and saving data is of the essence.
It’s an Infinix smartphone, what do you expect? The Infinix Zero series, unlike its Note siblings, is known for staying on top of everything, especially sleek designs and boundary-pushing image sensors. The Notes are known for their high endurance. The Infinix Zero 8 brings the performance and power of a flagship (from a budget brand) and matches it with the endurance of a lowly mid-ranger that doesn’t have much going and it’s a good match.
Throughout my usage of the device, I averaged over a day of battery life on a single charge. A “Power Boost” option in the battery settings, which have been renamed to “Power Marathon” (huh?) would often promise about another hour of usage on top of the about 2 hours the phone estimated I still had to go with just a quarter of the battery juice remaining.
I did not need to use the boost offered at any time because charging up the Infinix Zero 8 is a breeze. Using the included 30W charger, the device charges fully in just an hour. In case one is in a hurry, just 15 minutes of juicing up gets one 40% charge, more than enough to, at least in my case, go out and get back to the house before needing another top-up – with GPS on throughout for navigation the entire time.
Making and receiving calls as well as using the Infinix Zero 8 to browse on 4G networks is just fine.
However, what is not fine as far as connectivity options go is that the device just couldn’t pair up with my wearable, a smartwatch even though the same had no issues connecting to another one of the Zero 8’s rivals in the market: the realme 6. I ran into similar issues when reviewing the Infinix Note 7 2 months ago and I expected the Zero 8, being a flagship device, to fair better in this regard. It didn’t. I realize that this is a problem only a small section (maybe, none at all) of people have or will have but it is worth pointing out.
- Fantastic design. Do you even realize you are dealing with plastic? Never.
- Camera. Especially at night when using the “Supernight” shooting mode as well as the selfies one gets from the front-facing cameras.
- Performance is above board.
- Fast fingerprint sensor.
- XOS 7 is clean and fresh.
- Sound. It is a glaring weak link.
- Much as XOS 7 is such a breath of fresh air and is well optimized on the Infinix Zero 8, it quickly deteriorates into a sea of bothersome alerts every few minutes that can wear you out.
For many, it is interesting to hear a sub-Kshs 30,000 device being referred to as a flagship but that is what the Infinix Zero 8 is for Infinix. Its 2020 flagship smartphone. As we have seen above, it brings to the mid-range smartphone segment flagship-class features. 64 and 48-megapixel hero sensors on the back and the front respectively, a high-refresh-rate display that could still use some further calibration and a standard Android experience that is as feature-packed as it could ever be. Oh, and there’s HDR10 support. Yes, that, however dubious the claim may be.
Would you ask for more?
Yes, I personally would. A stereo speaker setup for one. A toned-down approach to the software as well. Not much. That’s because the Infinix Zero 8 covers the rest of what we consider basics just fine. The 6 cameras punch above their weight and deliver a delightful experience in sufficient and low lighting and the included chipset handles just about anything. At 128 gigabytes, the onboard storage is more than enough.
Should you get it? That’s a tough question but yes, if you are able to, get it. It’s earned its stripes.
However, you are not lacking in options a situation which only serves to solidify whatever device you end up going with at this price point.
At its price, the Zero 8 goes against a number of formidable competitors. However, its strength is in the design and the cameras where it delivers immense value for money and towers above the realme 6, for instance. The realme 6, on the other hand, offers a more compact body, a fluid 90Hz display that offers a much better experience and the same performance chops and fast charging speeds as the Zero 8. Given that it is more or less the same device as the Tecno Camon 16 Premier, the other notable device in the Zero 8’s price range, it’s down to one’s preferences when it comes to picking the Zero 8 over the Tecno and vice versa.