Ex­pen­sive Re­al­ity

ASUS ZenFone AR

HWM (Singapore) - - Front Page - By Liu Hongzuo

Barely two months af­ter the ZenFone Zoom S comes ASUS’ lat­est ex­per­i­ment – the ZenFone AR (ZS571KL). This is the sec­ond smart­phone to sup­port Google Tango’s aug­mented re­al­ity en­gine (the rst be­ing Len­ovo’s Phab 2 Pro). How­ever, the ZenFone AR is one of the rst to sup­port both Tango, and Google’s vir­tual re­al­ity plat­form, Day­dream VR.

If you’re used to midrange smart­phones, the ZenFone AR’s choice of bezels, glass dis­play, and but­ton place­ments shouldn’t come as a surprise, though it keeps the 3.5mm head­phone jack in­tact. It also has an alu­minum al­loy frame, and it fea­tures a sand­blasted nish with cham­fered edges.

Aes­thet­i­cally, the ZenFone AR’s rear doesn’t do the phone jus­tice. We didn’t mind the out­dated bur­nished faux leather look (fash­ion is cycli­cal, af­ter all) but the av­er­age con­sumer de­serves bet­ter than a plas­tic im­i­ta­tion when they are pay­ing nearly $1,200 for a de­vice. A pol­ished glass rear or alu­minum back would likely be more at­trac­tive, and def­i­nitely less pa­tron­iz­ing to both fans and con­verts.

The dis­play is a 5.7- inch, Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440 pix­els res­o­lu­tion) Su­per AMOLED with a 79% screen-to-body ra­tio. It’s made of Go­rilla Glass 4. Com­mon prop­er­ties and ex­pec­ta­tions of AMOLED screens in­clude its warmer color tem­per­a­ture. This char­ac­ter­is­tic lends its vi­brant ap­pear­ance, which may be a pre­ferred ex­pe­ri­ence for some users.

The ASUS ZenFone AR runs on An­droid 7.0 OS (Nougat) with its very own skin, ZenUI 3.0. ASUS did away with the ju­ve­nile out­look by opt­ing for sin­gle-hue pal­ettes in­stead of the gra­di­ents it once loved. Their no­ti­fi­ca­tions drop­down and set­tings also have a cleaner look.

The name­sake of this de­vice stems from its in­clu­sionin of Google Tango, which makes aug­mented re­al­ity apps func­tional on a smart­phone. Tango re­quires a com­bi­na­tion of sen­sors and Google’s soft­ware, and it al­lows a smart­phone to un­der­stand hu­man con­cepts like three­d­i­men­sional phys­i­cal space, rel­a­tive dis­tance, and depth­per­cep­tion.

By far, the most use­ful fea­ture that also demon­strated Tango’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties was Mea­sure (a Google made app), and it was lim­ited to the phone cam­era’s depth-

CON­CLU­SION Too lit­tle, too ex­pen­sive, too late?

sens­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The other pre-in­stalled AR apps don’t ex­ploit the pre­ci­sion of­fered by Google Tango, and nei­ther do they add value like the ex­am­ple pro­vided above. It’s a mixed bag of half-baked con­tent, bloat­ware, and bla­tant ad­ver­tis­ing.

Then there’s Google Day­dream. Like Tango, Day­dream’s prac­ti­cal­ity is lim­ited to the apps that are avail­able in the store, but it was nowhere as des­o­late as AR. The Day­dream View head­set and con­troller are quite in­tu­itive for most Google VR apps be­cause of the view-cen­ter­ing fea­ture that also re-cal­i­brates your con­troller with ease. Games work best with the VR ecosys­tem, and it’s the only genre that works well at the mo­ment. Sadly, the Day­dream View head­set and re­mote aren’t of­fi­cially sold by Google in Sin­ga­pore.

The rear cam­era is a 23-megapixel Sony Ex­mor RS IMX318 sen­sor. It’s sup­ported by a six-el­e­ment lens with an aper­ture of f/2.0, 4-axis Op­ti­cal Im­age Sta­bi­liza­tion, and TriTech Aut­o­fo­cus – a com­bi­na­tion of laser, phase de­tec­tion, and con­trast de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus that de­buted on the ZenFone 3. Im­age qual­ity seems to be on par with what the ZenFone 3 Deluxe of­fered. Good points are its color con­trol, and its gen­eral at­ten­tion to de­tail within the fo­cused area. It’s ac­cept­able, but still be­low ex­pec­ta­tions, as it hasn’t re­ally im­proved from the cheaper ZenFone 3 Deluxe, which we al­ready weren’t all that im­pressed with.

The ASUS ZenFone AR has an av­er­age bat­tery up­time for daily tasks, and it’s suf­fi­cient at per­form­ing its in­tended AR pur­poses. If we’re look­ing strictly within the ZenFone range, this is cer­tainly ASUS’s most pow­er­ful phone to date, even if it has sub­par imag­ing per­for­mance for its class.

Mod­er­ate phone ca­pa­bil­i­ties aside, phone prices are de nitely on the rise and that begets cer­tain base­line ex­pec­ta­tions. Cer­tainly, it is ex­pected you’d pay more for Tango fea­tures as it does re­quire ded­i­cated hard­ware and sen­sors, but there’s the Len­ovo Phab 2 Pro that can of­fer that for $300 less. You also won’t be pay­ing for a cur­rent ag­ship pro­ces­sor any more. So, again, ASUS brought in a promisin­gon-pa­per prod­uct too late to the game. The ZenFone AR didn’t x our bug­bears from the ZenFone 3 Deluxe, and it’s just no longer a com­pet­i­tive op­tion in the cur­rent smart­phone cli­mate for price, per­for­mance or fea­tures, even af­ter tak­ing Tango and Day­dream into con­sid­er­a­tion.

The ASUS ZenFone AR comes with a Qual­comm Snap­dragon 821 quad­core chipset – a 2016 pro­ces­sor – while other 2017 ag­ships come with a cur­rent-gen Snap­dragon 835.

The phone uses a 23-megapix­els res­o­lu­tion sen­sor for its rear shooter, sup­ported by TriTech Aut­o­fo­cus – a com­bi­na­tion of laser, phase de­tec­tion, and con­trast de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus.

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