The ASUS ZenFone AR is a device that cannot really be compared with anything else in the market. This is because it supports incipient Google platforms dedicated to emerging technologies. The Lenovo Phab2 Pro is the only other phone with support for Google Tango. Daydream is supported by the Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy S8+, Huawei Mate 9 Pro, ZTE Axon 7, and the ASUS ZenFone AR. ASUS ZenFone AR is the only phone currently available that supports both Tango and Daydream. There is nothing yet like the ASUS ZenFone AR, but it is every phone of the future.
Build and Design: 8.5/10
The ASUS ZenFone AR looks and feels every bit like an alternative premium device, unlike any other flagship you have seen. The most noticeable feature is the TriCam setup on the back, which protrudes very slightly from the “burnished leather” back casing. The back is like a softer version of the Sandstone finish available in the OnePlus cases. The finish definitely feels premium, but appears like it could act as a gunk magnet, especially in hot, humid and dusty conditions.
The screen is on the larger side, at 5.7-inches, with a 79 percent screen to body ratio. The glass on the front is the Corning Gorilla Glass 4. All of this is framed by aerospace grade aluminum. The profile is pretty slim and tapers towards the edges making it appear even slimmer. The width is 4.6 mm, and the device weighs only 170 grams. Considering how big the device is (158.7 mm by 77.4 mm), the phone seems impossibly light and thin. The lightweight device is ideal for long VR and gaming sessions, as fatigue would set in sooner with heavier devices. The phone still feels solid, and looks like it can take a bit of abuse.
The SIM card tray feels a little flimsy though, and liable to break easily unless handled delicately. Considering how rarely this part is used though, it is an acceptable part to compromise on. The SIM card tray is on the left side of the phone. The SIM card tool itself has a nice rounded design, which allows for a strong and steady grip, much like the phone itself.
The snappy and accurate fingerprint sensor is housed in the home button itself. The volume rocker buttons and the sleep/wake button are to the right of the device, towards the top. Along the bottom edge are the 3.5 mm jack, the reversible USB-Type C connector that supports DisplayPort, and the speaker grille. The top and bottom edges have two antenna cuts each, which are discreetly hidden and not visible from the front or back of the device.
The phone is available in only in black, which is really the only colour option this device needs.
The main features on the phone are the support for Tango and Daydream. The TriCam system on the back powers the AR capabilities of the device. The main camera is a 23 MP shooter, with support for RAW images. There is 128 GB of internal storage, which is a necessity considering the heavy file sizes of AR and VR applications. The expandable storage option is ample, supporting up to 2 TB of external storage. Users also get 100 GB of cloud storage on Google Drive along with the device.
The phone has a 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 quad-core processor clocked at 2.35 GHz. While this may not be a top of the line offering from Qualcomm, the 821 processor has been optimised for Tango, which makes it the ideal platform to use for this phone. The Phab2 Pro, the only other Tango enabled smartphone has a Snapdragon 652. The ASUS ZenFone AR uses an Adreno 530 GPU. There is 8GB RAM on the device, which is enough to handle the demanding AR and VR applications.
The device has a hybrid SIM tray. One slot supports a nano SIM, and the other can be used for either another nano SIM or a microSD card. If a dual SIM setup is used, only one of the SIM cards support 3G or 4G connectivity at a time. Either of the SIM card slots can be used for 3G and 4G connections. The device supports VoLTE.
As far as connectivity options are concerned, the phone has Bluetooth, Wi-Fi direct, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and NFC. The Bluetooth standard is 4.2, which is not the latest but very few phones have the state of the art 5.0 standard. Both the Bluetooth and NFC connectivity options are required for interfacing with the Google Daydream VR headsets.