ASUS ZenFone AR Review: World's First Google Tango And Daydream VR Equipped Smartphone

ASUS ZenFone AR Review: Introduction And Specifications

Owners of the ASUS ZenFone AR may be tempted to ask their friends and co-workers, "Do you even AR, bro?". Asking that question is a surefire way to solicit puzzled (and perhaps annoyed) looks, but once they see what the ZenFone AR is capable of, those dirty glances and quizzical faces will quickly morph into ones of excited curiosity, and maybe even jealously. That's because this whole augmented reality business is rather new, and the ZenFone AR is one of only two smartphones to support Google's Tango (formerly Project Tango) AR platform (Lenovo's Phab 2 Pro being the other).

The ZenFone AR also supports Daydream, Google's virtual reality play. Being Daydream-ready is not quite as exclusive as club Tango, though it is hardly a crowded one, with less than a dozen handsets meeting the requirements for Daydream. That said, the ZenFone AR is the only smartphone out there to support both Tango and Daydream, allowing ASUS to accurately market it as "the world's first Tango enabled and Daydream-ready phone."

ASUS ZenFone AR Main

Whether any of that is important to you is another question. As far as we are concerned, it is too early to tell if augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality experiences on smartphones will ultimately prove to be a bunch of short-lived gimmicks and fade into the background or forever change the game. Either way, hardware makers have hit the ground running with products that leverage these technologies. And so it goes with ASUS and its ZenFone AR.

One thing that is interesting about the ZenFone AR is that -- AR and VR notwithstanding -- it is not a cutting edge phone. If you strip those functions out, you are left with a decent overall handset, but one that is a little behind the curve with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 system-on-chip (SoC) running the show.

That would not matter a whole lot if the ZenFone AR was priced like a mid-range smartphone, but at $699, the MSRP is encroaching flagship territory (or at least it was until Samsung upped the ante with its $950 Galaxy Note 8). On the following pages, we will cover the design, features, and performance en route to offering an opinion on whether there is enough here to justify the asking the price, and how AR and VR experiences tie into that. Before we get started, let's have a look at all of the pertinent specs.

ASUS ZenFone AR Front

ASUS ZenFone AR (ZS571KL)
Specifications & Features
Display 5.7" WQHD (2560x1440) Super AMOLED
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 (2.35GHz optimized for Tango)
Dimensions 158.7 x 77.4 x 4.6-8.9 mm
SIM/Expansion Dual-SIM, microSD
Protection Gorilla Glass 4
GPU Adreno 530
OS Android 7.0 Nougat with ASUS ZenUI 3.0
Storage 128GB  (expandable via microSD)
Cameras Rear camera: 23MP PixelMaster 3.0 (Sony IMX 318 sensor)
f/2.0 aperture, 27mm focal length, 4-asix 4 stops optical
image stabilization, 3-axis electronic image stabilization,
dual-LED real tone flash, raw file support, blue glass IR
filter, zero shutter lag, 4K video at 30 fps (1080p/720p at
30 fps)

Front camera: 8MP (OV 8856 sensor)
F/2.0, screen flash
Networking 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi Direct
Sensors Accelerator, E-Compass, Gyroscope, Proximity, Hall,
Ambient Light, RGB, IR (Laser Focus), Fingerprint,
Power 3,300 mAh non-removable battery
BoostMaster Fast Charging
Audio 3.5mm audio jack, built-in speaker
Price $699 and carrier unlocked

While the engine that drives this phone is not cutting edge, ASUS did not skimp on storage—it outfitted the ZenFone AR with 8GB of LPDDR4 memory and 128GB of onboard storage, which you can expand with a microSD card. ASUS also offers a version of this phone with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage for $599.

If you want to take advantage of Daydream, you will also need to purchase a Daydream View headset separately. That will run you an additional $79, but then you will be able to stick the ZenFone AR inside and enjoy VR experiences, similar to how Samsung's Gear VR headset operates. Still, it would be nice if it came included here. And perhaps it will be at some point—keep your eyes peeled during Black Friday and Cyber Monday to see if Google and ASUS partner up. Same goes with the upcoming holiday shopping season.

ASUS ZenFone AR Contents

While a Daydream View is not currently bundled with the ZenFone AR, what you do get with the phone is an AC adapter with USB-C charging cable, headphones, an ASUS-brand SIM key (to pop open the SIM port/microSD card slot), and a user manual.

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