Apart from the fact that the ZenFone AR is the first phone to have 8GB RAM in the world, it is also the first to have certified for both Google Tango (Augmented Reality) and Daydream VR (Virtual reality). The device is developed in between the developers of Tango and Daydream along with Qualcomm in cooperation with Google. The Snapdragon 821 processor is specially optimised to run Tango and Daydream smoothly. Now, a couple of questions that everyone would have about this futuristic phone from ASUS is whether it is for the consumers or targets a certain set of audience and whether that price tag is going to fetch it any customers, because barring that set of cameras, there are many other powerful phones available for a better pricing.
Quickly talking about the specs of the ZenFone AR, it is a power-packed unit in every way. A 5.7-inch Quad HD display with the 2560 x 1440 pixels resolution, Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection, Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB internal storage, 23-megapixel F/2.0 camera, Depth sensing and motion tracking cameras, 8-megapixel F/2.0 front-facing camera, 5-magnet speaker with NXP Smart Amp, Dual SIM, ZenUI 3.0 based on Android Nougat, and the set of sensors including Accelerator, E-Compass, Gyroscope, Proximity sensor, Hall sensor, Ambient light sensor, RGB sensor, IR sensor (Laser Focus), Fingerprint, and Barometer.
The sheet does tell you a lot about what the ZenFone AR is capable of, but in the end, we talk about the actual performance and experience as an end user.
Talking about the Tango, to start with, it generally implies to the set of sensors that the phone has in order to run the Augmented Reality apps. With the Tango, the Zenfone AR can detect the distance you are away from an object, be it a wall or floor or other daily objects and remember the key visual features of it in three-dimensional space. You can see the impossible in front of you with the Tango with different graphics and make you experience various things. Here, the TriTech system from ASUS is what is delivering the Tango capabilities with the three cameras, a primary shooter and the two other sensors that help make it better than the regular capturing.
The three cameras on the Zenfone AR do three different jobs to give you a different experience and use-case. The first camera, the 23MP sensor lets the users view the virtual objects in the user’s environment with sharp and effective details. This sensor also acts as the main photographic camera of the phone. The second sensor with an infrared projector lets the device measure the distance from the objects as mentioned before. Coming to the third one, it lets the Zenfone AR track its location as it moves through space.
Now comes how to use the Tango part. For now, there are a lot of games and education apps that are growing but later on, it will be the commercial applications that AR would be surely useful for. Though this is an early stage, the Play Store has a bunch of apps that you can try out to take advantage of the three cameras here and there are already a few commercial apps that include the shopping ones to give a virtual experience of the product before you think of purchasing it. One of such apps is the BMW Visualiser app; what it lets you do is, select a car model from BMW, augment it in front and you can have a nice walk around of the car along with the interiors. You can also customize the car the way you want.
Jumping right into the VR content, it is not new to anyone who has been up to date with the tech. Virtual Reality (Google Daydream) is very useful so as to make yourself experience anything new or very far away from where you are. For example, you can sit at home and experience the Giant Rollercoaster in the Amusement park. You can look around and feel no difference except for the environment that you are in. There are already many leading commercial VR content providers, so we just can’t say it needs to grow but it has grown impassively ever since its evolution. So everything’s super fine until now, but to have neat experience of the VR, the device has got to have a high-resolution display, but let’s be fair to the other devices in the market, each of them have been able to give a similar or a rather better experience in a few having a better chipset. Thus, we rather stick to the AR capabilities than the VR ones when we talk about the ZenFone AR.
The review unit we were provided had a few AR apps which are not free in the Play Store and a Google Daydream VR headset with which have tested the experience. So, the retail unit won’t be having any of the paid apps and no Google’s Daydream VR headset. But, if you are planning to get it along, it is bound to give a better experience for sure.
The actual camera performance is where you feel that the ZenFone AR has done no wrong, with the 23MP Sony Exmor RS IMX318 sensor with Sensor size of 1/2.6″, f/2.0 aperture is capable of capturing excellent pictures with a lot of details retained, and the support by both OIS (photo) & EIS (video) helps stabilize things especially when you are capturing pictures and there is no adequate light available. Asus TriTech’s autofocus with 0.03s focusing speed helps in reducing the focusing time and that is practically working well, not just on the paper. The Zenfone AR is capable of shooting in 4K and supports RAW file format.
The real test was with the battery life as the ZenFone AR has a 3300 mAh battery that doesn’t seem bad at all, but there is a lot being asked out of it with the features like Augmented Reality, or even the regular usage because the Quad HD display is said to drain out the battery at a pace. Again, to be fair, the phone cannot do much when you are using it with the AR apps for a long time and the battery can drain only in a few hours, but then, for a regular user, it is destined to last a day. Again, having such a device and not using the special features is a rare case, so it should be only the Quick Charge 3.0 that should be able to help charge the phone faster because the battery life is not really something to boast about in the phone.
Does the ZenFone AR stand good for a regular user?
Indeed. Only if they are ready to shell out about Rs. 50000 for the phone, and are ready to take advantage of the special capabilities, otherwise, it should be a bad deal. The phone has something that most of the other devices don’t come with, but again, a regular user doesn’t really want to use these all the time and the AR currently serves more to the services side where interior designers and brands can work upon to give some experience that was not possible on the small screens earlier.
The ZenFone AR is a powerful device, has 8GB of RAM to keep it good at multitasking and the camera as well is excellent, but it only comes down to the need of it when a regular user can settle well with a good performing chipset and not as much amount of RAM, all available for a lesser price.