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Asus Zenfone AR Review- The Swift, The Bulky, The Unique

Highlights

Rs. 49,999

Pros

    • Bright and Lively display
    • Decent Performance
    • Better Software Response
    • Extended Battery Life
    • Fantastic Camera Performance

Cons

    • Heats While Using AR
    • Low light Camera Performance is Mediocre
    • ZenUI feels blotchy
    • Expensive
    • Bulky Form Factor
    • Customary Build

Yet again the Taiwanese Electronics Maker Came Up with a Surprising Innovation, offering Tango Enabled Augmented Reality and Daydream Technology, the Asus Zenfone AR, it shall definitely be an eye-catcher amongst the others.
  • Review

Introduction

Indeed, the smartphones are evolving at a faster pace than ever before. We’re constantly seeing smartphone manufacturers announcing faster and better devices every passing day. While most of the manufacturers are opting for a higher spec sheet, the others are just picking up a different path. We saw the manufacturers like LG, Motorola and Sony opting for the modular approaches, while Lenovo, Asus and Xiaomi leaped the bars by transforming the customary build. In a battle to be unique, Asus announced an entire line-up of modern devices including smartphones, Notebooks and laptops. And here we have one such transformational product with us, the Asus Zenfone AR.

Most of you may have heard of the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro that arrived in the market promising an advanced AR experience. The handset was a giant slab of a smartphone, built to Google’s specifications for its Tango AR product, it didn’t make a great case for being either an awesome phone with some AR capabilities or a visionary AR device that doubled as your daily phone.

That was one of the reasons why Asus Zenfone AR started shipping with even more promises. Arriving at a premium price tag, the Zenfone AR packs the entire spec sheet for Tango AR capabilities as the Phab 2 Pro, but coming at a handy form factor. It is powered by a Snapdragon SoC and also supports Google’s Daydream Software for an optimised VR experience.

Well, the Zenfone AR certainly looks like an eye-catcher in comparison to the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro. However, does it actually stands a chance to be futuristic? let’s find out in the review below.

Design

As soon as you look at the Asus Zenfone AR, you may notice the difference between the device and its counterparts. Unlike any other flagship devices, the Zenfone AR doesn’t pack a metal or glass built. Rather, the handset is build out of a burnished leather back that does not feel slippery and is combined with a gunmetal aluminium frame that feels premium.

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The Asus Zenfone AR weighs 170 grams and it isn’t the lightest among the others. However, the device feels solidly constructed and one may not feel issues with the overall build quality of the device.

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The Zenfone AR features a 5.7-inch display and comes packed with a glass screen protector inside the box.

asus zenfone ar review

The front side of the smartphone occupies a physical home button at the bottom integrated with a fingerprint sensor. The button is accompanied by two capacitive Back and Overview buttons, while the top is occupied with an earpiece that picks up pocket lint easily, an LED light, an Ambient Sensor, a Proximity Sensor and the 8-megapixel front facing selfie camera.

asus zenfone review

The right side of the Asus Zenfone AR packs all the keys including volume rockers and power lock/ unlock keys. The antenna bands are located at the top and bottom of the metal frame, while the lower section also packs the USB Type-C port charging connector, 3.5mm headphone socket, primary microphone and loudspeaker.

The left side packs a flimsy looking hybrid SIM card tray, while the overall built of the device feels sturdy.

The rear side of the smartphone packs a huge camera module with a brushed metal that goes well along with the leather finishing. It houses a TriCam system consisting of a 23-megapixel rear camera module, plus separate motion sensing and depth sensing cameras. All three are protected by sapphire glass. It also includes the laser autofocus system window and a triple-LED flash.

While the lower rear section of the Zenfone AR consists of the Asus and Tango Logo engraved on the leather back.

Specifications and Performance

The Asus Zenfone AR boasts a 5.7-inch AMOLED display at the front with a Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection. It’s a QHD display and offers a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels with a pixel density of 515ppi. The display is crisp to look at and higher resolution certainly helps while using the VR headset. The screen is fantastic and the viewing angles are also great in indoor conditions. However, as soon you go out in the direct sunlight, you may easily notice the unavoidable reflections that interfere with screen legibility.

The Asus Zenfone AR is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 quad-core processor with two cores clocked at 2.34GHz and the other two cores clocked at 1.6GHz. The smartphone is backed by 8GB of RAM, out of which 5GB is available for use. And 128GB of internal storage can be expanded via a microSD card for upto 200GB.

The smartphone runs on ZenUI 3.5 skin on top of the Android 7.0 Nougat operating system out of the box. The UI is similar to stock Android, but Asus has customised the icons, and there are themes to change the looks. Further, there are additional gestures that let you wake the device by double tapping on the screen or launch apps by drawing alphabets on the screen. The One-handed mode makes using the smartphone easy to function.

Just like the other Zenfone devices, the Asus Zenfone AR also comes packed with pre-installed applications like ZenCircle, a social media app, ZenTalk, which is a community and support app to help with after-sales service. And the handset also features the Beauty Live app, which helps in capturing beautiful videos and photos.

The Asus Zenfone AR comes at a premium price tag with last year’s flagship processor. While the other similarly priced smartphones pack the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC that offers a marginally better performance. However, the smartphone never disappointed us in terms of benchmark results or raw performance.

The Asus Zenfone AR played the games like Nova 3, Alphalt Xtreme, Need for speed: No limits without any lags or delays. There was no frame or shutter drop while playing the graphic intensive games. And the phone ran cool most of the time.

The video playback on the Zenfone AR is also pretty swift. The videos are lively and the colors are also pretty accurate with the blacks being absolutely black and RGBs being as sharp as possible.

Also we never saw any abnormal battery drains during our testing period and the smartphone lasted easily a day with regular use. When used as a hardcore user, the battery on the Zenfone AR lasted till evening and we had to charge it once again.

Moving on to the AR and VR experience on the Asus Zenfone AR. Well, as you know Augmented reality is a way to display information over real-world scenes. It adds objects to flat surfaces or even around you to give you an experience that you’re into the actual virtual world. The Asus Zenfone AR came with a bunch of applications packed inside it do the same. It has a BMW visualizer app that gives you the ability to access BMW i8 or BMW i3 from various angles and even gives you the ability to peek inside every part of the car.

There is a Measure app that gives you the freedom to use the triple-camera setup of the Zenfone AR to measure distances between 3D objects in real world units.

The iStaging application gives you the advantage to measure the furniture size to take a look if a device fits furniture could fit inside your house or not.

In any case the Zenfone AR was quick and never bothered us with its performance. Although the applications needed an update, all the applications functioned in an expected manner. However, after using the AR for roughly 15-20 minutes, the Smartphone heated instantly and one may feel the temperature while holding the smartphone.

Additionally, the Asus Zenfone AR is also compatible with Google’s Daydream Platform for Virtual Reality and the company claims that the display has a 1ms refresh rate and a 2ms persistence to help deliver smooth VR experience. Also, the screen switches to a 90Hz refresh rate as soon as the VR applications are launched.

During our testing period we found the VR experience swift. And the VR headset was also pretty comfortable during regular use. The YouTube VR was pretty neat during our testing time.

Camera Performance

What do you expect of a Rs. 50,000 smartphone? Well, I guess a camera performance as good as a digital camera. And the Asus Zenfone AR pretty much delivers it all. The Zenfone AR features a 23-megapixel rear camera sensor that has laser autofocus system with phase and contrast detection to help the phone lock focus in different situations. The rear camera sensor on the Asus Zenfone AR also packs additional features like Panorama, HDR, Super Resolution, Low light, Depth of Field, Slow Motion, and a few other modes. The Super Resolution mode captures different photographs and stiches them by making a 92-megapixel picture.

In daylight conditions the camera delivered vibrant results. The colors were accurate and the details were also pretty sharp. You can also captures pictures in Manual Mode that gives you the advantage to control multiple parameters and even shoot in RAW mode.

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Final Verdict

The Asus Zenfone AR isn’t any random smartphone. It packs high end specs and also comes at a premium price tag. The smartphones regular performance, camera performance and battery performance may never disappoint you in regular use. However, the AR features and VR features can only attract attention without much utility in real life conditions. The Zenfone AR opens the doors to a new era, and Asus certainly is a step ahead of the others.

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Bikram Singh Negi

Bikram Singh Negi

Holding camera at extreme destinations or playing games in metro train his love for tech never ends. Phones, Apps, Updates, Cameras and Tech gossip all in one roof, he’s a complete tech-package. Travelling or sampling new cuisine nothing would distort him from his passion.
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