Asus Zenfone AR is the world’s first ever 5.7-inch Tango-enabled and Daydream-ready smartphone. The device was launched in India somewhere in July 2017. When it comes to Augmented reality, there are only two devices on the market using this technology. Both Lenovo and Asus tried to push forward this new piece of tech which was introduced by Google.
Asus Zenfone AR is the second Tango smartphone in the market (first being the Lenovo’s Phab 2 Pro). No doubt, this device is a big improvement in terms of performance than the Lenovo’s take at the AR. Everyone at TechFAE was really excited to try out this intriguing smartphone. We are a little bit late to the party but it doesn’t matter since we witnessed a new future piece of tech.
Before jumping into more details about this device, let’s first have a look at some of the specifications.
Asus Zenfone AR – Specifications
- Display: 5.7-inch Super AMOLED
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 Quad Core
- GPU: Adreno 530
- Primary Camera: 23MP, f/2.0, OIS, phase detection autofocus, depth & motion tracking sensors
- Secondary Camera: 8 MP, f/2.0, 1080p
- OS: Android 7.0 Nougat with Asus ZenUI
What is Project Tango and Augmented Reality?
Since the USP of this device revolves around AR and VR, you should know about this two-term first. AR or Augmented Reality is basically the addition of the content to the reality more like an overlay. You already know about VR right? It is like a simulated environment which places the user inside an experience. AR is completely opposite of it. VR lets you experience the virtual world while AR lets you put the virtual objects in real world.
Google, under the name of Project Tango, started working towards AR and the first ever device supporting AR was launched by Lenovo. And now Asus is one of the brands which has contributed to AR with the help of Google.
Now you have the general idea behind the AR&VR as well as Project Tango. Without wasting any time, let’s jump right into the review.
Build Quality and Design
Asus has managed to create a device which meets the Project Tango specifications without compromising on look and feel. Generally, Asus premium smartphones follow a similar aesthetic with Zen design. That’s not the case with Asus Zenfone AR. This time the brand decided to go with something new and yeah! they managed to impress us. The Zenfone AR has a leathery back which looks amazing and feels premium without any doubt.
The back panel is covered with black burnished leather which is soft to touch and also provides a solid grip. On the back, you will see a metal strip which holds three cameras which we will talk about later on. That’s it, nothing else at the back. The design aesthetics is pretty simple and clean just the way I like it. At this price point, there is no edge-to-edge display present (found in Samsung Galaxy S8) instead of a traditional one.
When other smartphone-makers are using metal or glass for premium look, Asus went with leather and managed to impress everyone.
The sides of the phone are made of aluminium having gunmetal grey colour which again adds to the premium feel.
Asus Zenfone AR is far more comfortable, lightweight and looks far better as compared to the Lenovo’s take on the Tango. That was the overview of the smartphone’s design and build quality. We loved the new material choice by Asus. I would love to see more of their devices having this design aesthetics.
Asus Zenfone AR comes with 5.7-inch super AMOLED QHD display with the 2,560 x 1,440 resolution. The brand went with AMOLED as well as QHD display because Google wants them for Daydream. Everything is nice and crisp and so is the viewing angles which is excellent as well.
With great colour reproduction, the photos look natural and lifelike. Colours are vibrant without being overly saturated. The brightness of the display under the sunlight is just perfect. It is clear enough for you to use your smartphone without facing any trouble. You also get a Bluelight filter which protects your eyes while reading in the dark.
One of the best parts of this smartphone is going to be the display which looks and feels premium and gives a great experience be it while watching movies or playing around with Daydream VR.
Software and Performance
Asus Zenfone comes with its very own UI known as ZenUI on top of the Android operating system. Asus ZenUI is famous for its customizations and features. But the only thing which has always disappointed us was the excessive bloatware on the device. With ZenUI 4.0, the software layer is completely revamped for the good.
Now, you will see very less bloatware in the software. Heavy bloatware was used to be the biggest problem with their UI but happily, it is solved now. On top of that, the UI now looks pretty neat and clean. From notification panel to tiny small details, Asus did a fantastic job with their UI. The best part of using Asus Zenfone 4 Selfie is definitely going to be the smoothest and richest software experience.
Let’s talk about the performance now. Asus Zenfone AR comes packed with Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 SoC coupled with 6GB of RAM. In terms of hardware, the device contains every single stuff a premium smartphone should have. The only problem is that the device is a little bit overpriced looking at the specs. Other smartphones like Samsung Galaxy S8 comes with SD835 and Adreno 540 which is more powerful than SD821 and Adreno 530. IF
If the device was priced a little less then I guess it was acceptable. There is no OS or any observable lag while using this smartphone. We played various games like Asphalt 8 and Real Racing 3. They worked extremely well. Overall, the hardware and software combination gave us a snappy experience.
Cameras and Augmented Reality
Time to look at the most interesting aspect of this smartphone i.e cameras. Asus Zenfone AR has a Tritech camera setup installed on the back. In other words, the device comes with three separate rear cameras. These are the special cameras used for making Augmented Reality possible. But the device uses only one camera while taking pictures. The remaining twos are specially used for AR feature.
The device comes with a 23-Megapixel camera which has laser autofocus, phase detection as well as contrast detection helping lock focus in different situations. The Asus camera app comes loaded with several camera modes like Beautification, Low-Light, HDR Pro, Depth-of-field and insane super-resolution mode. This super-resolution mode creates an image with an insane 92-megapixel resolution which is darn good.
Asus Zenfone AR single 23-MP camera was able to click much better photos as compared to dual cameras setup used in Galaxy S8+ or OnePlus 5T
The images captured by Zenfone AR looks more lifelike as compared to other major devices like Samsung Galaxy S8+. Thanks to the Low-Light mode, the smartphone produced clean photos with clear detail and vivid colour. When it comes to the 8MP front camera, the device delivered better colour and good colours shade. The front camera also comes loaded with several modes like Beautification, HDR Pro, Selfie Panorama as well as Low-Light.
Let’s talk about this Tritech cameras setup now. The device comes with three cameras: a 23-MP for your photos, a motion tracking and a depth-sensing both for your AR. The motion tracking cameras keeps track of the phone’s location as it moves through space and the depth-sensing camera helps in mapping the room with the help of an infrared sensor. With the help of these three cameras set up, Augmented Reality is possible.
Here are some of the samples of the rear camera of this device.
Asus Zenfone AR is powered by a 3,300 mAh non-removable battery. For me, the smartphone was able to last throughout a day. I played some games, switched social media apps every once in a while, used 4G connection or Wifi for the whole 24 hrs and even watched Youtube. The device still manages to stretch through the whole day.
The smartphone comes with all this forward-tech but you have to pay a price for it and in this case, it is battery life. The battery life reduces when you start playing around with Daydream and AR related apps. Not only this, the smartphone tends to heat depending on for how long you are using AR or Daydream. According to me, it is acceptable. When switched to Daydream and AR, the smartphone tends to use more power which results in reduced battery life and a little bit of heating.
The Verdict: Asus Zenfone AR
With Asus Zenfone AR, you can have a great overall experience thanks to the Daydream as well as AR. From hardware to software, everything works perfectly fine but the only thing which creates an issue here is the price. The smartphone lacks the FullVision display and dual camera setup at this price. Although, the single 23-MP was able to fetch us some amazing pictures in almost every single camera mode.
Since AR is still a developing technology, there is very few selections of apps which you can play around with. In short, if you want to be the first one to experience AR or you are a developer trying to create more AR related apps then you can go with this device.
Note: One thing to really consider here is that Google is now shutting down the Project Tango (not completely). The search-engine giant is now switching to a new much more flexible tech known as ARCore. With the help of ARCore, smartphone makers can introduce AR tech without any extra sets of cameras making Asus Zenfone AR Tritech camera system obsolete.
The decision of shutting down the Project Tango makes the verdict a little bit confusing. At this price point, you can still go for other major brands like Samsung, OnePlus and LG. But, you will still miss out the AR experience. Personally, I would suggest you get another smartphone instead of Zenfone AR because of this upcoming end of Project Tango.
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