Unveiled back at CES 2017 earlier this year, the Asus ZenFone AR is a very interesting smartphone. Not only is it the second smartphone to feature Google’s Tango technology, it is also – in more ways than one – Asus’ best smartphone to date. Really, the ZenFone AR impressed me quite a bit when I got to put it through its paces at Qualcomm’s booth here in MWC 2017.
For one, the ZenFone AR is Asus’ highest-end smartphone to date. It features a sizeable – and sharp – 5.7-inch 1440p Super AMOLED display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor (supposedly optimised for Tango) paired with up to 8GB (!) of RAM, three choices of fast UFS 2.0 storage (64GB, 128GB or 256GB), a microSD card slot, as well as a 3,300mAh battery.
In the camera department, the ZenFone AR is packed with a 23MP f/2.0 rear camera complete with optical image stabilisation, Asus’ TriTech autofocus system, and 4K video recording at 30fps. As the ZenFone AR is a Tango smartphone, it also has depth sensing and motion tracking cameras on the back. The front-facing camera, on the other hand, is an 8MP f/2.0 shooter.
Unfortunately, the ZenFone AR showcased at Qualcomm’s booth seems to have some issues that prevent Google Tango from working, so I wasn’t able to try out this specific feature of the device. The camera itself, however, is quite an impressive unit. Autofocus speeds are fast, there’s barely any delay in between shots, and the image quality seems pretty decent too. In fact, I reckon the ZenFone AR has the most impressive camera performance yet – in comparison to other Asus devices, of course.
Build quality is also one of the ZenFone AR’s strong suits. The metal frame gives the device a premium look and feel, and I also rather like the leather texture of the rear cover. It reminds me quite a bit of the Asus ZenFone Zoom‘s leather cover. However, I do notice some flexing from the back cover of the ZenFone AR, which is a little concerning.
Powered by the very capable Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, the ZenFone AR operates very smoothly. There’s barely any stuttering or lag while I was using the device, and the overall user interface feels very responsive. I imagine the 8GB RAM of the ZenFone AR definitely helped in this respect too – that’s more RAM than many modern laptops today.
While the ZenFone AR is an impressive device, there are a couple of…well, oddities with it. For one, its 3,300mAh battery has to provide enough juice to power a 5.7-inch 1440p display. For a phone this big, there’s usually a bigger battery too for adequate battery life. Take the Huawei P10 Plus, for example: despite packing a smaller 5.5-inch 1440p display, it has a more generous 3,750mAh battery.
Other than that, the ZenFone AR is only expected to be released sometime in Q2 2017, and there’s still no information on how much it will cost. Mind you: this is a phone that was announced two months ago at CES 2017. While we’re almost certain that the ZenFone AR will eventually be available to consumers this year, the fact that there’s no pricing information on the device yet is rather…unnerving.
Regardless, I’m definitely looking forward to the Asus ZenFone AR. It’s a promising little device, and while Google Tango is still in relative infancy – the technology is only available on the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro for now – the ZenFone AR may help push the technology further. Let’s just hope the ZenFone AR won’t cost an arm and a leg when it’s officially available for purchase.