Asus Zenfone AR: thought for augmented reality and virtual reality

PROS:

  • Finishes.
  • Contrasting and faithful screen.
  • Good overall performance.
  • Very good autonomy (except AR / VR).
  • Integration of discrete Tango.

CONS:

  • Heats up quickly.
  • Bright screen.
  • Interface loaded.
  • Disappointing photo performance.

BOTTOM LINE :

At the end of the day, we can only be both packed and frustrated by this Zenfone AR. Beyond the virtual reality, already seen and reviewed elsewhere, the presence of the Tango system is interesting, but still in its infancy. Everything is not working perfectly and we feel that the demand for resources is enormous. The Zenfone AR is clearly not a smartphone for everyone, especially given the investment requested. Let’s wait for a Zenfone AR 2 for maybe finally appreciate these technologies.


Asus Zenfone AR is one of the few smartphones to offer both compatibility with the Daydream virtual reality platform and augmented reality, Tango. What to plunge the user into another world? Not exactly. The Zenfone AR is both an excellent showcase for these two alternative realities, but also a reflection of their imperfection.

The Asus Zenfone AR is a resolutely high-end smartphone. It features a 5.7-inch Super Amoled WQHD screen (2560 x 1440 px). It is powered by a SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, coupled with 6 GB of RAM and relies on an internal memory of 128 GB, expandable by microSD. For the photo, the Zenfone AR is based on a 23 Mpx back sensor, surmounted by a stabilized lens opening at f/2 and a front sensor of 8 Mpx. The power supply is provided by a 3300 mAh battery and the animation is left to the care of Android 7.0 Nougat with the overlay ZenUI of Asus.

The particularity of this smartphone lies notably in the integration of the Tango system, dedicated to augmented reality. It is based on the main photo sensor and two other modules, allowing you to retrieve depth information and track movements. The Zenfone AR is also part of the smartphones compatible with the Daydream platform of virtual reality.

ERGONOMICS AND DESIGN

As for design, Asus did not totally upset the rules by integrating Tango. The front side of the Zenfone AR remains very suitable, with black bands wide enough above and below the screen. The occupancy rate of the front panel is thus only 72%. A relatively disappointing score given the optimization work done by some competitors.

The part underneath the screen is not totally lost, since it contains the navigation keys and the fingerprint reader. The latter works without problems and unlocks the smartphone instantly. However, it is necessary to push the button which receives it to make it work, the fact of simply depositing its finger on it remains without effect.

On the back of the camera, Asus chose to put on a leatherette that remains flattering for the retina and pleasant in hand. We can blame the metal edges of the smartphone to be a bit too prominent. No miracle with a screen of 5.7 inches and optimization so limited, it is necessary to arm with both hands to fully use the Zenfone AR.

Zenfone AR has great difficulty keeping a cool head when it is strongly urged. We raised up to 46.7 ° C on the front of the smartphone after a CPU and GPU session.

SCREEN  

Asus went to draw its screen from the side of Samsung. There is therefore a Super Amoled slab of 5.7 inches, in definition WQHD (2560 x 14470 px). A resolution of 515 dpi is obtained, sufficient for the vast majority of uses, but which finds a serious limit in virtual reality. Placed in a dedicated headphone, the Zenfone AR lets see its frame of pixels and the experience remains disappointing. It must be said that to date, no one has really found the perfect recipe for this use so demanding.The interest of an Oled slab remains the almost infinite contrast ratio it offers. An undeniable advantage against the many smartphones still making the choice of the LCD. However, the maximum brightness does not exceed 345 cd / m², which does not help the readability in full sun, despite a correct reflection rate of 13%. In the dark, the screen is able to go down to 5.1 cd / m², which allows a consultation of the Zenfone AR without dazzling too much.

Asus has taken care of its colorimetry since, by default, we measure a very good delta E at 2.8. It is still necessary to play with the cursor in the parameters (5 steps towards the warm) to obtain a perfect color temperature (6480 K). This small adjustment also makes it possible to lower the delta E to 2.2.

Zenfone AR has a globally reactive screen. We measured a tactile delay at 68 ms, below the average of our comparison (87 ms) and zero remanence; thank you Oled.

INTERFACE AND NAVIGATION

The interface of Zenfone AR is the image of what has been offered by Asus for some years. The base of Android 7.0 Nougat is well concealed under the overlayer ZenUI of the Taiwanese manufacturer and this one does not really slow down. A user accustomed to Android will not be lost in navigation, but Asus marks its entire graphical imprint of the OS.

In addition to offering applications of its own for just about everything (from the application of SMS to that for the weather), Asus continues to load its smartphone with unsolicited applications. Games, Facebook, Instagram or messaging apps come to nibble the space normally devoted to the user.

Tango and Daydream complies, we also find a whole range of applications dedicated to virtual and augmented reality. The first of the two does not find great novelty compared to other smartphones. Daydream compatibility primarily provides access to a catalog compatible with Google’s headset and the accompanying controller. The catalog has about sixty titles currently, a good part of which is paying. For virtual reality, some 30 applications are now available on the Play Store.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 platform is more than enough to offer unmatched fluidity in common applications. Finally, it is especially in those that specifically puts forward Asus that performance is the least remarkable. As indicated above, the terminal heater starts its performance in VR and AR, which remains problematic. We can not put everything on Asus’s back on this side, because this kind of application requires a lot of optimization work on the part of the developers.

MULTIMEDIA

The Zenfone AR integrated video player is, like most others, capable of decrypting the most common formats. Only the AVI misses the call and requests to switch to a third-party application. Anyway, the 5.7-inch screen of Asus’s smartphone make it a good tool for lovers of movies and movies series.

The headphone output of Zenfone AR does not shine particularly with its power. This should still be suitable for the majority of headphones. The distortion is very well contained, the dynamic remains average, while the reproduction of the stereo is rather mediocre. The Zenfone AR has only one loudspeaker, placed on the bottom edge. It is not extremely powerful and its average precision will restrict it to a use for calls, or even a few videos from time to time.

VIDEO GAMES

Besides the offer of play in RV, the Zenfone AR is not really limited in its choice of videogames titles. Its graphics chip Adreno 530 opens the doors of demanding games without slowing down. Here again, there will be a tendency to rise in temperature. However, we did not notice any performance degradation caused by heating on non-VR titles.

PHOTO

The Zenfone AR features a main 23-megapixel photo sensor. When used for photography, it works alone and not with the other two modules. Unfortunately, Asus does not seem to have given the same care to the Zenfone AR as to the very good Zenfone Zoom S. In daylight, the result is good, but we feel that the electronic noise was swept under the carpet with great strokes of smoothing. We obtain less detailed pictures than we can expect from a sensor of such a definition.
As often with Asus, the colors are relatively saturated. This flatters the retina, certainly, but not the fidelity of the colors. The optical quality is not optimal, as shown by progressive degradation as one moves away from the center of the image. On the other hand, should be noted regarding reactivity; it is very good both for development and catching.Sensors with high pixel density rarely give good results in low light. Here, the Zenfone AR’s 23 Mpx sensor does not deviate from the rule and only catches little light under difficult conditions. The loss of detail is very clear and the dark areas are completely blocked. If the focus always gives as much satisfaction, it is no longer the case of the speed of capture. Fortunately, optical stabilization is part of the game, we dare not imagine what it would have been otherwise.

Video capture can go up to a UHD definition. However, it will be avoided very often because of the persistence that is found in the final result, causing the video to lose fluidity. The Full HD mode is much more powerful, for a well-controlled exposure on the whole. Again, the low light will not be the friend of Zenfone AR.

The front sensor of 8 Mpx deserves to be rid of the artifacts present by default. It delivers rather detailed images and manages well the exposure of the subject, even backward. One may reproach him, as with his dorsal companion, his unfortunate tendency to saturate the colors.

AUTONOMY

The Asus Zenfone AR has a battery of 3300 mAh, which is not huge given the format of the terminal and the uses for which it is intended. On our test protocol SmartViser, which simulates classic uses – no RV or AR therefore -, it takes the nice score of 16:18. This places it in front of a Samsung Galaxy S8 + (14h02), but behind a Huawei Mate 9 (17h54). The video playback test on Netflix confirms this good performance with 11:28 of continuous playback. In practice, the Zenfone AR can hold 2 days in standard use, and a good day and a half if asked for a little more.However, the uses of augmented and virtual reality are obviously very consumers. Playing in RVs with the Daydream headphones costs 10% of the Zenfone AR battery every 15 to 20 minutes depending on the title. The augmented reality is on similar bases. It will therefore be necessary to ensure that you have a charger at hand when you embark on one of these activities.

Fortunately, the charging of the device is rather fast and requires an average of 1h30 with the supplied mains adapter.

Asus Zenfone AR telephony side

The Zenfone AR has 2 slots for SIM cards, but you must choose between the 2nd SIM or the microSD card. The operation of the two SIMs is as usual in dual-standby , ie only one line at a time can access the mobile data, the other must be limited to 2G.

During calls, both the caller get on well and without the need to push the volume to one side or the other. We did not experience any significant stall during our test.

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