ASUS ZenFone AR Review – The Best Of AR And VR

August 15, 2017 - Written By Nick Sutrich

Tango and Daydream unite in one incredible package

Google’s Tango initiative brings the best of AR to cutting edge phones, and while Lenovo was the first to market with the PHAB 2 Pro later last year, that phone featured pretty middle of the road specs, and was incredibly large and heavy compared to most modern smartphones. Enter ASUS, who is bringing us a phone with Google Tango on board, all in a smaller, lighter and considerably sleeker package. It’s also powered by high-end specs, and even comes with Google Daydream support as well, making it the world’s first smartphone with both Tango and Daydream functionality. This all combined with a ton of features from ASUS creates one seriously compelling package on paper. Is this the ultimate VR and AR phone in one package? Let’s take a look.

Video Review

Specs

While you won’t find a lot of ASUS phones being sold by US retailers, the ZenFone AR changes that significantly by being offered through the US’s largest carrier: Verizon. The Verizon version of the ASUS ZenFone AR features 6GB of internal storage and 128GB of ram, offered for $648 outright, or $27 per month. ASUS also sells global unlocked versions of the phone, offering a version for $599 with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, or upping both categories with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage for $699. Both versions only come in black, with a leather back and a metal frame, as well as microSD card support up to 200GB via the dual nano-SIM slot.

Everything else is the same between the two models, including the custom Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 SoC with Adreno 530 GPU inside that’s been optimized for Google Tango. The display on the front is a 5.7-inch Quad-HD (2560 x 1440) AMOLED panel with Gorilla Glass 4 protection and glove mode support. A 3,300mAh battery powers the experience, and Android 7.0 Nougat with ZenUI ships with the phone. Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3.0 is supported, as well as dual-band Wifi up to 802.11ac speeds. Bluetooth 4.2 capability is here as well as aptX support for high-bitrate Bluetooth audio, and for those that want even higher quality audio, the 3.5mm audio jack supports 24-bit high-res audio too. DTS 7.1 HPX virtual surround sound is supported, and there’s also a USB Type-C port on the phone too.

An 8-megapixel camera sits on the front, but plays second fiddle to the bevy of cameras and sensors on the back, packed inside the ASUS TriCam system module. This module holds a 23-megapixel Sony Exmor IMX318 sensor as the main camera, sporting small 1.0-micron sized pixels on a ½.6” sensor. An f/2.0 77-degree lens covers the front, and the camera supports 4-axis OIS in photo mode, 3-axis EIS in video mode, triple autofocus (2nd gen laser, phase detection, contrast detection), as well as continuous autofocus. Alongside this main camera you’ll also find a motion tracking camera under the larger round lens, and a depth sensing camera under the top square lens. These two additional cameras, as well as a large number of sensors, complete the Tango experience. Even though the ZenFone AR packs all of these goodies into one device, the whole package is rather svelte, measuring in at 158.67mm tal, 77.4mm wide and between 4.6mm thin on the sides and 9mm thick in the middle, thanks to the curved back. It also weighs only 175g, which is only slightly above average weight in this size class, but feels lighter than the numbers suggest.

In The Box

ASUS is packing in some serious extras with the ZenFone AR, and it all starts with some important accessories for the phone itself. While many OEMs have started shipping their phones with simple film screen protectors on the device, ASUS ships the ZenFone AR with a tempered glass protector right in the box, which is the best kind of glass coverage you can get. In addition to that you’ll find a simple clear hard plastic case for protecting the rest of the phone too, meaning you won’t need to buy anything extra at all to have great protection out of the box.

A pack of manuals and warranty guides accompany the usual SIM tray eject tool, and there’s even a small Daydream leaflet in here to get customers interested in getting a Daydream VR headset with their phone. A USB Type-C to Type-A cable is included, as well as a 9V/2A charger for QuickCharge 3.0 capability. Lastly, ASUS threw in an extraordinarily stylish pair of premium earbud-style headphones in the box too, ones that look far more high end than your usual pack-ins.

Display

While Tango (AR) capability means a special camera and sensor setup is required, Daydream (VR) capability means the display has to meet certain requirements. Those cover the gamut from pixel density to contrast ratio, refresh rate and pixel persistence, among other things. The ASUS ZenFone AR display meets all these requirements, first by being a Super AMOLED screen with 515 PPI (pixels per inch) density. This 5.7-inch 2560 x 1440 resolution panel has an incredible pixel response time of 1 millisecond, meaning pixels light up essentially instantly, an important characteristic since AMOLED panels have the distinct advantage of being able to light individual pixels at a time. A 2 millisecond pixel persistence rate means that it only takes 2 milliseconds to change from one color to the next, helping keep any kind of motion blur down, and thus helping to alleviate motion sickness in VR, and keep a solid, crisp picture no matter the action on screen.

Turning to panel to its darkest setting and scrolling slowly in high contrasting situations often causes a purpling effect on AMOLED panels, but one that’s only noticeable in this specific condition. You’ll notice this on the ZenFone AR’s screen under the same conditions, but the significantly higher response time of the pixels makes this effect almost unnoticeable. The panel gets very dark, which makes it easy to see at night without eye strain, but it doesn’t do a very good job of getting bright enough to easily see it in direct sunlight. This is about the only negative to the display, however, as every other measurement is par excellence. White balance is great, if not a tad warm, which generally is more attractive looking than a cold panel. Colors are over saturated out of the box and look ultra punchy, but a simple navigation to the display settings reveals an excellent “standard” display option, as well as a simple slider for changing the hue and saturation to your liking.

An always-on display mode is present and offers a good number of different options, including some basic theme support and different options for the way the screen looks, although it’s not nearly as full featured as Samsung’s always-on display. ASUS even includes a glove mode, for using the screen with regular gloves on during the colder months (read: you don’t need to buy special “smartphone gloves” to use this screen). ASUS also sells a special cover with a circular cutout on the front, giving quick access to the time, and other handy tools like music playback management and more.

Hardware and Build

If you’ve ever held a Galaxy Note 3 or 4, you’ll know what to expect here. Hard metal edges and a soft leather back mean this one feels luxury in a very different way from many other modern smartphones, which are often made of glass to keep them waterproof. Lack of waterproofing could be a game breaking deal for some, but it’s a tradeoff for having such a nice material on the back. This leather material doesn’t smell like leather, so it’s likely a plastic faux-leather derivative, but it feels closer to actual leather than some other faux leathers do. The texture is nice and tacky, but not sticky, and gives a significant grip advantage over metal or glass smartphones.

The back is also curved; something many 2017 phones have dropped for whatever reason, even though it provides better ergonomics when holding a phone this size and makes it feel more comfortable in general. The edges are rounded off, but tapered when meeting the front or back, creating a comfortable shape on the sides for fingers, but having an obvious deviating line when meeting the top and bottom edges. Something about the design makes it feel lighter than other smartphones its size; something that simple mathematics don’t show, but the overall design of the phone certainly feels lighter in a strange way.

All the ports are located at the bottom: 3.5mm and USB Type-C, alongside the single speaker. On the right is a metal power button, sitting just above the mid-point, with an elongated volume rocker just above it. Both buttons feature a circular groove pattern, although they aren’t distinguishable from each other when blindly feeling them, other than the size. The left side holds the dual nano-SIM tray, and a single microphone sits up top. On the front you’ll find a physical home button/fingerprint reader, flanked by two capacitive buttons; back and overview (multi-tasking). The back of the phone features the excellent looking metal panel that holds in the TriCam system, and the ASUS and Tango logos are etched into the faux leather near the bottom. Overall it certainly looks visually more like a phone from 2014 or 2015, but it feels excellent in the hand nonetheless, and really looks great in general despite some fairly large bezels.

 

Performance and Memory

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 is a fantastic chipset no matter how you slice it. While the Snapdragon 835, launching in many 2017 flagships, is a faster chipset in many ways, the 821 can still outpace it in some areas. The differences between the quad-core architecture of the Snapdragon 821 can sometimes work better with apps and other systems than the octa-core Snapdragon 835, and at least when it comes to Tango-specific content, the Snapdragon 821 seems to have been an excellent choice. The ZenFone AR absolutely obliterates the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro in the performance area; the Phab 2 Pro being the first consumer-level Tango device, which was released late last year.  The difference here is all in computing power; Lenovo’s phone uses the mid-range Snapdragon 600 series, while ASUS went for a top-of-the-line 800 series chipset. While some of these decisions may have been based on availability, seeing as how this is a custom Snapdragon 821 built for Tango, it nonetheless provides a significantly better experience overall when concerning AR content in particular.

The extra horsepower also provides the ability to play VR content on Google’s phenomenal Daydream platform, when placed in a Daydream-capable headset of course. While you’ll need to purchase this headset separately from the phone to experience this content, it’s absolutely worth the extra money if you’re wanting to utilize one of the biggest selling points of the phone. You’ll find thermal output in general is similar to Google’s Pixel, which makes sense since this is utilizing a near identical chipset to that phone. When using the Google Pixel for Daydream VR, we noted in the review that the phone heats up significantly, even to the point where you can’t handle it outside of the case for a minute or two after heavy VR use. The ZenFone AR gets warm, but never gets hot like the Pixel does, although we noted a few additional times that obvious thermal throttling kicked in.

This thermal throttling keeps the phone from heating up too much, but also slows down the experience, although it didn’t last for more than a few seconds at a time when throttling kicked in. Daily performance is exactly what you would expect from a Snapdragon 821-powered phone too, which is to say it’s going to handle anything you throw at it with ease. Android 7.0 Nougat introduced a native way to run apps in split screen, and with 6GB or 8GB of RAM, the ZenFone AR keeps apps ready to go at a moment’s notice. You won’t have any trouble gaming, running the most intensive apps, or doing anything at all on the ZenFone AR. It’s among the fastest phones you’ll use anywhere without a doubt. ASUS packs the ZenFone AR with UFS 2.0 storage via the Samsung KLUDG8J1CB-B0B1 chip, which represents some of the fastest internal storage speeds you’ll find among modern smartphones. UFS 2.1 is faster, and can be found in a few other flagships, but 2.0 is still near the top of the charts for speeds.

Daydream and Tango Capability

What exactly do Tango and Daydream bring to the table? We’ve covered both of these platforms in the past, and while they aren’t new at this point in time, ASUS has launched the first phone that has the capability to run both without needing an extra device. In fact the leap forward that we’ve seen in computational power over the last 2 years has enabled the combination of two extremely taxing systems to be melded into one powerful device. Both of these systems require significant amounts of sensors, the right camera layout and options, enough processing power to keep users from experiencing motion sickness, and a display that’s top notch. The ASUS ZenFone AR sports all of these things, and it handles both of these extreme tasks with style.

Let’s start with Daydream capability, which is Google’s own VR platform, built into Android, and unlocked when the right hardware requirements are met. While the launch of Daydream only covered two phones late last year, Daydream can be experienced on many different phones, including of course the ZenFone AR. Google’s Daydream platform features its own set of apps, specifically designed to meet the strict requirements of the platform, which provide a quality VR experience that’s tough to beat. While Samsung’s Gear VR features more content and features than you’ll find on any other mobile VR platform, Google’s platform isn’t even one year old yet and still features tons of content to get familiar with.

Over the past 9 months or so since we published our Daydream View review, the platform has grown steadily and now features hundreds of apps and games to choose from, both free and paid. Google has tweaked the software and some UI layout here and there since our review, but the experience is largely the game as we found on the Google Pixel. Google has improved the controller though, and the movement feels even more responsive than ever, with games that support even more functions than ever before. There are simply too many new games and apps to cover even a fraction of the experiences out there, so be sure to check out our Daydream review below, and take a look at Google’s full Daydream list for all your options.

Tango as a whole hasn’t grown nearly at the rate of Daydream, and part of the problem is that the ZenFone AR is only the second consumer-level device on the market with Tango capabilities. Unlike Daydream, which requires the use of a headset to suspend the reality around you (and create virtual reality), Tango attempts to use your smartphone’s screen and camera to augment reality (AR). While AR has been in tech news a little more lately because of Apple’s AR Kit release, Google’s Tango ecosystem is worlds beyond anything else out there in the mobile space, and in some circumstances on any other type of device. Tango is special not just because it’s a controlled ecosystem, but because of the way it functions.

Unlike a single camera that cannot sense depth, or even a dual camera system that might be able to sense simple depth for photos, the TriCam system on the back of the ZenFone AR sports a motion sensor and a dedicated depth (infrared/IR) camera. These hardware components, combines with Tango’s special software algorithms, allow the ZenFone AR to track motion, perceive depth and even learn the physical area around the phone and how movement relates to that space. That means that virtual objects are truly “there” when placed in real world physical space, and the illusion of reality that Roomscale VR creates within a headset is recreated on your phone’s screen.

Tango apps and games only number into the dozens, but the ones available are generally pretty interesting, and some are incredibly useful too. Many companies have jumped onto the “interior decorating” bandwagon of letting you virtually preview products in your home. We ran a special video about this with the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro a few months ago, and since then we’ve seen The Gap, iStaging, EasyBuild, Signal Mapper, MagicPlan and Rooomy Reality release onto the Play Store, just to name a few. There have also been a handful of games and creative apps released since our last Tango review, including HoloPaint and HoloGrid: Monster Battle, but the offerings here are far slimmer than the app options. It’s pretty clear that gaming is less of a concern for most Tango developers, and that Tango’s physical space learning capabilities are the biggest highlight.

Benchmarks

As should be expected, the ASUS ZenFone AR sits right in line with most late-2016 and early-2017 flagship devices in terms of performance. Snapdragon 835-powered phones will score higher than the ZenFone AR, but real-world performance doesn’t seem to reflect the difference in these numbers. Check out the suite of benchmarks we can below, including 3DMark, PCMark, GeekBench 4 and AnTuTu V6.

Wireless Connectivity

For the first time in quite a while, ASUS has landed a contract with a major US carrier, and the biggest one of all at that. Verizon Wireless exclusively carries the ZenFone AR through its stores, offering a special version that works best with its network. Other US customers aren’t out though, as ASUS offers an unlocked model that will work on pretty much all GSM carriers in the US. This same version works worldwide too, supporting 4G LTE bands across the globe.  LTE CAT 12 speeds are possible, as well as 3-carrier aggregation via LTE bands B2/B4/B5/B13/B12/B29, and LTE Roaming bands B1/B3/B7/B20.

Native VPN support, file server support and wireless display sharing is featured under network settings, but there appears to be no support for WiFi Calling or VoLTE either. It’s possible the Verizon version will have these options, but our unlocked unit did not. Signal strength in general was excellent, and I never had any issues with network connectivity on T-Mobile’s US network. Wireless 802.11 b/g/n/ac are supported on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and Bluetooth 4.2 is here as well.

Battery Life

Battery life in general was average at best, and I struggled to get through a full day with heavy use on a single charge. Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 is supported and will charge the device fairly quickly, although you’ll need a specific 9V/2A charger (such as the one included in the box) to take advantage of this. Even using a QC3.0 certified charger didn’t quickly charge the phone, which is a bit odd, but worth noting in case you’re in a pinch and need to quickly charge the phone. In testing using a non-supported charger, the phone charged 30% of the battery in about 45 minutes, meaning you’re going to want to make sure to use the official charger in most cases.

On average I was able to get 2.5 hours of screen on time during a day’s use; less if I heavily used Daydream or Tango experiences on the device. As both Tango and Daydream are extremely performance intensive, Daydream being more so than Tango, games and apps on either platform will drain your battery significantly faster than any other regular app or game on the phone will. You can expect around 3 hours of full Daydream gaming before needing a full charge. Given the nature of Tango apps, there’s probably not many scenarios where you’ll be spending this long of a period of time in such apps in any given day, but Tango experiences will generally drain the battery less than Daydream ones will.

Sound

More and more phones are shipping with some form of virtual surround sound, and ASUS is here to tout what might just be the best virtual surround in any phone to date. DTS Headphone:X 7.1 provides 7.1 virtual surround sound, playing back supported sound as if there were 7 speakers arrayed around your head. This virtual surround doesn’t require special headphones, but it does require media playing that supports virtual surround, specially DTS Headphone:X 7.1 for best effect. The ZenFone AR also supports 24-bit/96Khz High-Res Audio playback via the 3.5mm audio jack on the phone. The ZenFone AR produces some incredible sound in many scenarios, but not all. Bluetooth and wired headphones sound great in general, and there are about half a dozen different kinds of headphones to choose from for optimization too. Sound output to a car audio system, however, was a little too narrow and bass-heavy, drowning out some of the more nuanced parts of songs in favor of heavy thumping.

Users who want to cut the cord will rejoice at the Bluetooth 4.2-powered audio here, as it supports the high-bitrate aptX codec on supported Bluetooth headsets. This provides higher quality audio than regular Bluetooth by delivering music via higher bitrates over the same Bluetooth technology. Even the speaker on the phone itself is excellent; something that can’t be said of every device, especially ones with a single bottom-firing speaker. ASUS has built a brand new 5 magnet speaker with an NXP smart amp, allowing high volume levels with little to no distortion. It’s not as good as a front-facing pair of stereo speakers would be, but ASUS has made sure the quality from the speaker is at least top notch, and not only delivers clean sound with wide range and plenty of volume, but sound that doesn’t rattle when too loud.

Software

While some manufacturers opt for minimalist skins with few features and lots of style, it’s difficult to tell what ASUS might have forgotten to include here, as the ZenFone AR seems to do everything and anything you could possibly think of. Starting from the screen off, you’ll find a number of quick ways to launch any app on the phone, including double tapping the home button, volume down button, or drawing a number of different, predefined letters on the screen. ASUS also features an always-on screen mode that displays various notifications like missed calls, messages and so on. This gives you information about what’s going on without needing to turn the screen on. You’ll also find the ability to define 3 different lockscreen shortcuts for more quick launch access.

ASUS’ homescreen launcher is a mix of old and new, using the “old” navigation style of pages instead of a long vertically scrolling list. It also lacks the ability to long press for more options, something added natively in Android 7.0 Nougat, although it does feature direct Google Now integration via the left-most page. Pulling down the notification shade reveals a row of 5 quick tiles, and expanding the shade to the full length of the screen reveals a large set of 12 icons that are paginated, totaling 26 icons in all. One hand mode is enabled by double tapping the home key while the screen is on, virtually shrinking the screen for easier one-handed use.

ASUS’ theme market features hundreds of different skins and themes for the phone, fully theming every single element on the device. Some theme engines on phones only change the wallpaper, or maybe the icons on the home screen at best, but the overall UI is left stock. ASUS provides nearly every color and style combination you can think of here, and there are tons of options added all the time, both regularly and seasonally. You’ll also find a kids mode that locks everything on the phone down, with the exception of a chosen set of apps. Locking down is done via a PIN, and even calls can’t be answered without the PIN. Then there’s of course the matter of included apps, and aside from the usual calculator and the like, ASUS is packing in a ton of freebees in the form of apps and games, many of which normally cost money. Pre-loaded Tango experiences include BMW i Visualizer, iStaging, Google Measure and Slingshot Island. Pre-loaded Daydream experiences include Archer E. Bowman, Hunter’s Gate, Google Arts and Culture, YouTube VR and street view. Standard pre-loaded smartphone games include N.O.V.A. Legacy and Marvel Future Fight.

Camera Software

Much like the rest of the software side of the house, there seems to be little that ASUS might have forgotten to include with the ZenFone AR. ASUS interface is an excellent one, as it’s not just familiar, but also provides quick access to important and regularly used features without having to move through menus or flip through screens to find what you want. The bar along the bottom, from left to right, features a mode switching button, dedicated record button, shutter button, manual mode button and gallery button. Along the top you’ll find the setting, HDR toggle, front/rear camera toggle and flash toggle buttons. Context sensitive buttons will also appear on screen when the software detects a certain type of scene, such as an owl icon appearing when low light mode is recommended to be enabled.

You’ll find essentially every kind of mode you might think of, and likely many you haven’t. HDR Pro is a boosted HDR mode that increases saturation and brings out extra dynamic range over the standard HDR method, boosting those overly dark areas in a shot. Beautification mode softens skin tones, while children mode automatically focuses on kids’ faces and allows you to play silly sounds to get their attention. ASUS uses a few tricks in some modes too, such as a 92-megapixel super high resolution mode that’s supposed to enhance detail, and a low light mode that combines pixels for significantly enhanced low light photos. There’s a built-in QR code scanner and GIF animation mode, and you’ll also find software depth of field tricks and other Instagram-style effects too. There’s a ton of others too, like smart remove mode that attempts to remove moving objects or people from shots, and a time-rewind function that takes pictures before the shutter is primed, allowing you to flip through the shots to pick the best one.

Manual mode is incredible, and offers some of the better manual controls you’ll find in the industry. There’s not many that can match LG’s manual controls, but ASUS does a better job than most, and offers adjustment options like manual focus, shutter speed, ISO, exposure value and white balance settings, with a great stabilizing line to help you even out the shot and avoid those annoying slightly tilted shots. Unlike some OEMs, ASUS doesn’t arbitrarily keep the ISO and shutter speed values low, but offers some pretty great manual options here, with values ranging from 50-3200 ISO, and shutter speeds from an incredibly fast 1/50000th of a second to a massively long 32 second long shutter.

Every picture quality and other option imaginable is here too, all found in the settings menu. Specific image properties are all editable before taking the shot, including saturation, contrast, sharpness, noise reduction and backlight, giving you ultimate control over the end quality of your image.  In here you can also adjust the focus mode, light metering, timestamp, face detection, stabilization options, smart brightness for the display, guidelines, burst review, anti-flicker and even more.

Camera Performance and Results

ASUS’ camera is faster than ever on the ZenFone AR, and matches the speed of the majority of flagships on the market. Launching in under 2 seconds from screen off, the phone also focuses nearly instantly too, although not quite the absolute instant responses as the Galaxy S7/S8 and HTC U11 have. The majority of the shots taken with the ZenFone AR look phenomenal. The main camera sensor is packed with features, including the oft-forgotten instant HDR that Sony’s sensors first packed in a few years ago. This instant HDR method looks great, and takes shots with wider dynamic range and less blur than most sensors, although some software algorithms like Google’s HDR+ do a better job of getting clearer images at times.

The HDR Boost mode will highten this dynamic range even further, pulling tons of detail out of shadows that might otherwise not be. The downside to this mode is that shots tend to be a bit oversaturated, and have a bit more noise in those previously darker sections, although the tradeoff between shadow detail and slightly more noise is well worth it. ASUS also has an excellent image processing method that, in general, keeps shots clean looking without killing zoom detail. Having 23-megapixels to work with helps quite a bit too. In fact ASUS has a little trick for getting even more detail out of well lit shots (well lit is the real key here) called Super Resolution mode. This mode is similar to ones we’ve seen on other phones, like OnePlus ClearImage/HD image mode, and takes multiple photos at once, stitching them together to create one giant 92-megapixel photo. That’s not a typo, and while it doesn’t give quite the detail boost you might imagine judging by the numbers, it’s definitely a boost when zooming in.

Low light shots can be a mixed bag at times with auto mode, as they will generally feature lots of detail in well lit sections, but the tiny 1-micron sized pixels don’t accept a lot of light. To fix this problem in very low light conditions, ASUS features a low light mode that combines these pixels into larger virtual pixels, bringing the pictures size down to 5-megapixels, but bringing in an insane amount of light detail. Definitely use this mode in most low light conditions, especially if you’re not planning on printing or zooming into photos, as it sucks brings in so much light it doesn’t even seem like the same camera. Much of this is helped too by the 4-axis optical image stabilization that ASUS has for photos, keeping the camera lens steady even through long shutter speeds.  I saw the shutter speed drop as low as ½ a second, and even freehanding the camera left me with solid shots.

The 8-megapixel front-facing camera is pretty good, but often times I ended up with somewhat blurry shots. This contrasts with the generally high resolution nature of the image, and is a shame considering that the other properties of the image are generally great. Even low light shots look pretty good, and at least sharing these on social media should deliver good results. Video quality in general feels about the same, as the electronic image stabilization doesn’t do a great job of keeping the image stable in any situation I tried. Video isn’t unusable or anything like that, but it’s more jittery and bumpy than other flagships this year, although it does feature wider dynamic range thanks to the ability to record HDR video; something most phones don’t do. Check out the gallery below for all the review samples of images and video.

The Good

Grippy, solid build

Tons of pack-ins

Free Tango and Daydream experiences included

3.5mm audio jack

Ultra fast

Tons of software options

Absolutely killer camera software

Tango capability

Daydream capability

Excellent screen for VR

Unlocked and Verizon availability

High-res audio output

Bluetooth aptX support

DTS Virtual surround

Mostly excellent camera results

The Bad

Not IP rated for water or dust resistance

Some Bluetooth audio popping issues

Screen is too dim outside

Video stabilization isn’t great

Conclusion

ASUS has crafted an amazing phone, and likely their best phone ever. It’s more expensive than many ASUS phones, which often try to compete in the higher value-for-money market segment, but as a result it offers more premium features than those devices do. In addition to that, the ZenFone AR is the first device to support both Google Tango and Google Daydream ecosystems, making this the ultimate AR and VR phone. There’s some trade-offs when comparing to other 2017 flagships, like a slightly slower processor and no waterproofing, but you’ll be getting capabilities that no other phone on the market offers, and the best Tango experience to date. It’s an excellent phone all around, and one that easily competes with this year’s flagships on most levels.

Buy the ZenFone AR (Unlocked 8GB RAM) Buy the ZenFone AR (Unlocked 6GB RAM) Buy the ZenFone AR (Verizon)