Asus Zenfone AR Review
1. Introduction and Design
Asus is no stranger to niche devices, although AR and VR are slowly beginning to shed this perception. Being the first mobile device to support both Tango and Daydream, Google’s AR and VR platforms, the ZenFone AR retails as much less of a niche product than it would have only a few short years ago – advances in AR/VR technology aside. Instead, Asus’ newest phone is also their most high-end, and can easily be viewed as a flagship, even when the pending ZenFone 4 Pro eventually seizes this title with its Snapdragon 835 processor, more befitting of flagship status.
The AR is no slouch though, coming with either six or eight gigabytes of RAM and a Snapdragon 821 SoC, users aren’t starved for performance. Of course, the 23-megapixel camera and two accompanying sensors for depth and motion tracking seem to only bolster this device's flagship case, packing a collection of shooting modes that would make even Samsung blush. Then, there’s the price. $599 gets you a six gig of RAM 64 GB storage configuration, while $100 more nabs you the tantalizing 8/128GB option – yes, we said 8 gigabytes of RAM. Verizon customers only have access to a single exclusive version which mixes 6GB RAM with 128GB storage – though, we’re sure they won’t be complaining. We’ve had the opportunity to test the two highest-end configurations. So, what’s the verdict on the ZenFone AR’s prowess as a flagship-level competitor? Let’s check it out.
The ZenFone AR’s front is a plain, all-black face, save for the silver “Asus” lettering below the earpiece, as well as the back and multi-tasking haptic buttons at the bottom, when lit. Annoyingly for VZW customers, you cannot set these buttons to always be illuminated as you can on the unlocked versions. Slightly raised from the bottom bezel is the clickable, elliptical home button/fingerprint sensor, which we found to feel a bit cheap when clicking, unlike the volume rocker and power button along the right side. It’s not that the button feels loose in the frame at all, but rather the too-firm tactile feel and loud click combine in such a way that just makes us wish there were no button at all.
Thankfully, this is the only less-than-premium-feeling component. Holding the ZenFone, your hands easily grip the thick metal edges, their slight roundness aiding this experience. On the back, you’ll feel the burnished-leather casing which carries a much finer texture than the burnished-leather seen on last year’s ZenFone Zoom. The rectangular metal block, which encases the phone’s optics, has a slight curve to it as the entire backing does. The sensors themselves are just barely recessed from the metal block, though the block itself does protrude from the back.
Super AMOLED is the technology of choice here, and the ZenFone has most of the anticipated pros and cons of this well-known display type. Colors are bright, vivid, and pleasing to look at but a slight bluish hue affects this screen – a problem that is made immediately apparent by the device's trouble with viewing angles. Holding the phone and tilting it just slightly off axis from a parallel angle with your face will betray a very noticeable blue tint which you’ll be correcting often. Display coloring tweaks and color modes are available, but the stock configuration is likely your best bet. Otherwise, the 2560 x 1440 (WQHD) resolution produces great clarity with 512 ppi and is quite comfortable and pleasing to watch videos, read, or view pictures – at the right angle, of course.