Asus Zenfone AR review: There is more here beyond AR and VR

Asus Zenfone AR is a smartphone that has been optimised for both Google Tango’s AR and Google Daydream’s VR. And it is the first device to be able to do that. Here is our full review of the Asus Zenfone AR smartphone.

Written by Nandagopal Rajan | New Delhi | Updated: August 10, 2017 6:24 pm
Asus Zenfone AR, Asus Zenfone AR review, Asus Zenfone AR specifications, Asus Zenfone AR video, Asus Zenfone AR mobile, Asus Zenfone AR features, Asus Zenfone AR feature, Asus Zenfone AR DayDream, mobiles, smartphones Asus Zenfone AR review: The Asus Zenfone AR is Google Project Tango and DayDream ready. Here’s how it fared in the review.

The technology sector always has a few buzzwords. While terms like cloud have been run to the ground with overuse over the years, new ones like machine learning and artificial intelligence are now gaining ground. But two other terms that have been around for a while are AR (Augmwnted Reality) and VR (virtual reality). Well over a decade after we started using these terms, we finally have a device that is able to offer both in your hands.

Asus Zenfone AR is a smartphone optimised for both Google Tango’s AR and Google Daydream’s VR. And it is the first device to be able to do that. This means the phone has the kind of display that offers a great VR experience on front and a camera-sensor combo at that back to enable the context needed for AR to work. We checked out the reality behind Asus Zenfone AR.

Asus Zenfone AR specifications: 5.7-inch 2K Super AMOLED display | Snapdragon 821 processor | 8GB RAM + 128GB storage (expandable up to 2TB) | 23MP main camera + motion-tracking camera + depth-sensing camera and 8MP front camera | 3300mAh battery | Android 7.0 Nougat with Asus ZenUI 3.5 |

Asus Zenfone AR price in India: Rs 49,999

Asus Zenfone AR virtual reality review

My first tryst with smartphone virtual reality was when Samsung launched its Gear VR a couple of years back. Well, things have moved forward and the Asus Zenfone AR smartphone is made to work with the Google Daydream Kit, which includes the headset and controller. On the phone, Daydream as well as a bunch of other VR apps are preloaded. But obviously the best experience is on Daydream as it is a full platform and not just a one-trick app.

The Asus Zenfone AR uses a WQHD (2560x1440p) Super AMOLED display to ensure users get a good VR experience. The goodness of this display is visible as soon as you pop the headset on with the starlit Google Daydream sky on view. In fact, this was such a soothing experience that I kept this on for a while with no content playing.

However, with content playing I had a bit of an issue with clarity, given that I also wear spectacles. I was always thirsting for more sharpness on all the apps that I played. I guess this could also be because most of this content is being streamed in.

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However, the overall experience was good, and I say this with a lot of conviction as someone who does not enjoy VR much because of the lack of orientation and nausea that it triggers in me. This time I could get away with 10-minute spurts of VR with just a teary eye. The only issue for me was the Google Daydream controller, which kept losing its link to the phone.

You also need to be careful how you place this phone in the headset. For me, the phone kept restarting while I was using the headset. Later I figured out that this was because the way I was keep the phone in the Daydream headset, the strap kept putting pressure on the power button forcing the phone to restart.

Asus Zenfone AR augmented reality review

For those who still don’t get it, augmented reality is when you can do seemingly real world stuff virtually. The best example is Pokemon GO, which lets people capture virtual beings in their real world surroundings. But then you don’t really need a specialised device to play that game. In fact, there have been a bunch of AR apps for a long time. Over half a decade back, Nokia had a LiveSight view for its Here maps telling you about locations around you. But having extra hardware only improves the AR experience.

Asus Zenfone AR, Asus Zenfone AR review, Asus Zenfone AR specifications, Asus Zenfone AR video, Asus Zenfone AR mobile, Asus Zenfone AR features, Asus Zenfone AR feature, Asus Zenfone AR DayDream, mobiles, smartphones However, the trouble with AR is that there is only so much you can do with it. I don’t see any use case that lasts more than half an hour a day.

So Asus Zenfone AR has hardware that understands space and motion and thus optimises it for use with Google Tango. The rear camera console is huge and houses a 23MP camera with a depth sensing camera and a motion sensing camera, which opens up many possibilities for this phone. For now, it is able to offer a great experience with apps like Measure and Tango Target. In fact, my son just loved trying is hand at the HotWheels AR app where he had to go around the room picking parts of the tracks.

However, the trouble with AR is that there is only so much you can do with it. I don’t see any use case that lasts more than half an hour a day. But is that something you would like to spend a fortune for? Well, that’s a call customers will have to take.

Asus Zenfone AR performance review

Given that this phone wants to make an impression with both its AR and VR capabilities, it was only natural for it to have a processor that could take all this load. So the Zenfone AR is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor with 8GB RAM that offers a good experience with both virtual and augmented reality, both of which use up serious processing power.

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Also, this means that with regular tasks the phone is pretty smooth and seamless. So this would be a good device to consider for those who need a powerhorse. Plus, the phone’s graphic capabilities are also pretty neat with the Adreno 530 GPU. The benchmark scores put in the top drop near the OnePlus 3, which is not bad. While using either AR or VR the phone clearly drained its battery faster than in normal use. But that is expected, whichever phone you use. The battery otherwise can last close to 12 hours with 4G.

Asus Zenfone AR camera review

This bit about the phone was the real revelation. The phone’s rear camera packs a lot of preset modes as with other Asus phones. The depth of field mode is what really fascinated me as it came up with some real stunners, though despite its three camera setup for AR this does not have a second camera to assist in photography.

Asus Zenfone AR, Asus Zenfone AR review, Asus Zenfone AR specifications, Asus Zenfone AR video, Asus Zenfone AR mobile, Asus Zenfone AR features, Asus Zenfone AR feature, Asus Zenfone AR DayDream, mobiles, smartphones Picture on Left taken in a Depth of field view, and the picture on right in normal camera mode.

 

Asus Zenfone AR, Asus Zenfone AR review, Asus Zenfone AR specifications, Asus Zenfone AR video, Asus Zenfone AR mobile, Asus Zenfone AR features, Asus Zenfone AR feature, Asus Zenfone AR DayDream, mobiles, smartphones Asus Zenfone AR camera sample: Image in low-light. (Image resized for web)

The phone performs really well in low light and latches onto subjects really fast. It is also one of the fastest clickers I have used, even when the light is low. Overall, this is one of the best cameras on Android phones at the moment when you consider the versatility and final results.

Asus Zenfone AR verdict

When I started reviewing the phone for its AR and VR capabilities, it dawned on me that this is a pretty good Android phone overall with good features and dependable performance. Given its good design quotient with faux leather back and metallic sides, along with the subdued Zen UI and high quality camera, I would suggest that you should consider this phone as a good all-round Android option.

Asus Zenfone AR, Asus Zenfone AR review, Asus Zenfone AR specifications, Asus Zenfone AR video, Asus Zenfone AR mobile, Asus Zenfone AR features, Asus Zenfone AR feature, Asus Zenfone AR DayDream, mobiles, smartphones Asus Zenfone AR camera sample: Image in High-Resolution mode. (Image resized for web)

While I would recommend the phone for its overall capabilities, I am not sure it is time yet to buy a phone just for AR or VR. For anyone to do that these technologies have to be able to offer more for the consumer in terms of usability and productivity. Also remember, this is not a cheap phone by any standards, thankfully Asus has packed in only premium features in the phone.

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