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Asus ZenFone AR Review

There is no denying that smartphones are evolving at a rapid pace. We constantly see manufacturers release models that are faster and better than the ones that came before. While most companies focus on improving existing features, there are a few who try to take their phones down different paths.

We have seen manufacturers like LG and Motorola try modular approaches, Nextbit with cloud storage and Lenovo with Google’s Project Tango for augmented reality. Asus seems to have joined the list with the ZenFone AR, the first device to support AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality).

The ZenFone AR isn’t the first AR device, it was the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro which debuted Google’s Project Tango on a smartphone. Google picked Asus to make the next Tango phone, and the ZenFone AR is the result of the collaboration. But does this device make a strong case for augmented reality on smartphones? We find out.

Asus ZenFone AR look and feel

While today’s flagship devices are all metal and glass, the Asus ZenFone AR stands out thanks to its burnished leather back. The ZenFone AR does not feel slippery and its gunmetal aluminium frame combined with the leather back give this phone a premium feel. It weighs 170 grams and definitely feels solidly built.

The ZenFone AR sports a 5.7-inch display and our review unit came with a glass protector pre-applied, which Asus says will ship in the box for buyers. The capacitive Back and Overview buttons are placed on either side of a physical Home button that has an integrated fingerprint scanner. Above the display is a slightly recessed metal earpiece that picks up pocket lint very easily. Next to that is a notification LED, an ambient light sensor, a proximity sensor, and the 8-megapixel front camera.

The metal frame has antenna bands at the top and bottom, while all the buttons are positioned on the right. Considering the huge footprint of the device, the power button is well positioned but you might have to stretch a little to hit the volume buttons. At the bottom, the ZenFone AR has a USB Type-C port, 3.5mm headphone socket, primary microphone and speaker, while the top has a secondary microphone for noise cancellation. The left side only has the hybrid dual-SIM tray, which we found a little flimsy for an otherwise well-built phone.

The huge camera module on the rear has a brushed finish which goes well with the leather back. It houses what Asus calls a TriCam System consisting of a 23-megapixel camera, plus separate motion sensing and depth sensing cameras. All three are protected by sapphire glass. You can also see the laser autofocus window and triple-LED flash. Lower down at the rear, there are Asus and Tango logos engraved into the leather.
Asus ZenFone AR specifications and software

The front of the ZenFone AR is dominated by a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The display resolution is 1440×2560 pixels (QHD) resulting in a density of 515ppi. It is crisp to look at and the higher resolution does help the VR experience. We found the screen to have good viewing angles but its size does make it harder to avoid reflections when using it outdoors.

The Asus ZenFone AR uses a 3300mAh battery with a stepped design to make the most of the space available inside its body. There is support for Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, and NFC. The USB Type-C port is capable of USB 2.0 speeds and also DisplayPort output over USB. This is a dual-SIM phone with support for 4G and VoLTE. You can pop in two Nano-SIMs or one Nano-SIM and an SD card.

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