Lenovo Phab 2 Pro Review: The First Tango Augmented Reality Smartphone

Lenovo Phab 2 Pro Tango AR Experience, Software And Camera Performance

So, what can you actually do with a Google Project Tango  Augmented Reality capable device? Think of it as akin to conjuring magic, only in a really cool, geeked-out way. Indeed, like a magician, you can make things in the world around you appear and disappear. You can see objects and understand their exact measurements and coordinates like some cybernetic organism from an episode of Star Trek. Sound impossible? Actually, it’s all quite logical.
Phab2 Pro Tango Dinosaurs

Camera Array

But wait, Dave, aren't those a tiny Velociraptor and Caudipteryx on your drafting table, sitting on top of the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro's box? Why, yes, these are my tiny dino friends that I've conjured up with the help of the above camera array, along with the Google Tango engine. The RGB camera projects the base environment on the screen. The depth camera, as you might expect, helps sense where objects are located in space along the Z axis of our three dimensions, and the motion tracking camera does the rest, pulling in positional data for the Phab 2 Pro to properly render augmentation to, yes, the reality around you. Cool? Very.

phab 2 pro dinosaurs among us

phab 2 pro holo app

Coming back down to earth a bit, the technology is certainly impressive and shows great promise. Although most of what's available on the Google Play store now for Tango apps (30 total currently) is fun, gimmicky sort of stuff. The American Museum Of Natural History's "Dinosaurs Among Us" is a really cool educational app that kids and adults alike will enjoy, giving you the ability to literally walk among some lower polygon count dinosaurs.

The motion tracking technology of Tango let's you see the 3D animations as well, around all sides as you walk. Think of it as a high quality 3D hologram that exists on-screen. And speaking of which, the Holo app let's you do some pretty crazy stuff with videos and still pictures. As you can see here, I've projected a rather enraged wrestler on to my desk. What's cool about this is the app works like a camera for video or stills, capturing any 3D model super imposed in any shot or video clip you might shoot, perhaps with an unsuspecting friend? For blackmail purposes? Oh the possibilities. 

phab 2 pro Lowes Vision AR app

On the more practical side, the Lowes Vision app shows what can be achieved with Augmented Reality in terms of home interior design or perhaps industrial design and planning applications. Here, I've positioned a leather club chair in the corner of a room where previously the space was unoccupied. As you can see above, you can measure spaces and objects precisely, and then project furniture, carpet, wood surfaces and other finishes into an area, to experiment and plan a finishing or remodeling project.

Without question, Augmented Reality has huge potential in many markets beyond just entertainment or fun, gimmicky apps. From industry to commerce and even sporting events and medical applications, the possibilities are endless. It's still very early in its evolution and the technology is still advancing, but again, the promise of AR is significant.  

phab 2 pro Android home phab 2 pro Android Settings

In terms of its operating system, Lenovo's Phab 2 Pro currently runs a bone stock setup of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. The UI is clean, unadulterated and easy to navigate. It's also quite nimble, powered by a Snapdragon 652 processor and 4GB of RAM. 

phab 2 pro camera modes

phab 2 pro camera settings

The standard video and still camera app on board the Phab 2 Pro is equally about as stock as it gets. Controls are rather simplistic, with standard features like HDR and Panorama shooting modes, but without the higher-end pro camera modes available on other flagship smartphones, that let you dial in things like ISO and aperture. Video shooting is also limited to just 1080p or 720p. 

camera shot 1HDR

camera shot 3

camera shot 4

camera shot 5

That said, the rear 16MP shooter on the Phab 2 Pro can produce solid results with little fuss and quick auto-focus, in its Auto mode with HDR enabled. All of the shots above were taken with HDR enabled, but with HDR disabled, colors and lighting can look muted. Indoor shots in low light (white table shot, with white chair rail and knick-knacks), had a tendency to show some grain and color reproduction wasn't always accurate, as you can see with the wide swing of white balance between the table itself and the chair rail. However, in total, camera performance with the Phab 2 Pro was generally satisfying. This phone's camera performance currently isn't on par with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S7 or iPhone 7, but it does still respond and deliver better than most.

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