Smartphones have been evolving so fast with new features and specs close to that of a full-fledged computer. But this? The ASUS ZenFone AR is the first smartphone to support both AR and VR. And this was built in partnership with Qualcomm and Google, hence the introduction of both Tango and Daydream VR in a single smartphone.
With the recent barrage of glass and metal backings, the ZenFone AR is a fresh breath with its burnished leather backing. The aluminum frame enhances the grip without feeling slippery. This has been the nicest feeling smartphone that I have used thus far. The chamfered edges of the frame do well to accentuate the frame’s bulge. Antenna lines are then found on the top and bottom parts of the frame, which should work best in portrait mode.
The front face is simplistic with an ASUS branding sandwiched between the screen and earpiece. Accompanying the earpiece is the notification LED and 8MP f/2.0 front camera.
On the lower end are the soft-touch Back and Recent keys with the Home/Fingerprint Scanner in the middle. I find the click that the Home Button provides is a bit underwhelming. It is hard and awkward to press at times, but nevertheless, provides a solid feedback.
The other buttons are then found on the right side of the frame. They feel how ASUS ZenFones’ buttons feel, so long time users wouldn’t find it a departure from what they are used to.
The two ports on the bottom (USB Type-C 1.0 @ USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio port) are well-spaced with outlines that provide better visibility. One mic is in the middle of the ports with the speaker grille being on the far end, right under the Recents key.
Despite its premium build, the flimsy SIM/microSD tray on the left is off-putting.
And on the top is a noise-cancelling microphone for those video recordings.
Going “back”, we see again the unusual leather backing with the trio of cameras near the top part with the NFC tag above it. It is well-noted that the TriCam System has its own housing.
On the bottom part is another ASUS branding with the Tango logo.
The 5.7-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display doesn’t fall short and saturation isn’t as much as Samsung’s out-of-the-box. At this screen size, the 517ppi of density is razor-sharp. Details are on point along with colors. As with Super AMOLED displays, ASUS enables its users to customize the colors along with the temperature. Watching 1080p and 1440p videos on it have been a treat.
As usual, the 10-point multitouch capability it provides is great. The responsiveness it also provides is top-notch. It’s been a treat to play Classic Drum on it.
ZenUI 3.0 doesn’t feel far from its predecessors. ASUS has done a good job of keeping a stock-like Android experience while having their own flavor of it. However, in terms of bloatware, we still get the usual ASUS treatment.
Initially, I thought that the quad-core CPU will be a hard limitation in terms of raw performance. The Snapdragon 821 chipset was a bit unexpected for a phone that is expected to do VR and AR. The quad-core Kryo CPU paired with an Adreno 530 did well in benchmarks and games.
AnTuTu v6.2.7 – 141,578
GeekBench 4 – (single core) 1883, (multicore) 4079
3DMark Slingshot Extreme – 2444
PCMark Work 2.0 – 5950
Games ran smoothly with no hiccups. The Adreno 530 held well on its own while being tolerably warm. The only game that dropped frames is Real Racing 3 and Modern Combat 5, which are still the most demanding titles of today.
Again, the response is near-instant while playing Classic Drum. Typing on the ZenFone AR is also gapless.
Out of its three cameras, only one (23MP, f/2.0) gets used for both photography and video recording. This also may be ASUS’s fastest camera in a smartphone yet. The instant HDR packed in with the main camera does great, considering that it was Sony’s implementation.
There’s a Super Resolution mode that takes multiple photos at once and stitches them back all together to form one supersized image. In turn, this image produced is much more detailed than the base 23MP that the main camera can provide in an instant.
As for the software, it in itself is still ASUS’s own while still having room for a plethora of features.
Video recording is up to 4K that seems to be supported with a 4-axis optical image stabilization.
With our standard ManilaShaker Battery Rating, the 3,300mAh Li-Ion pack lasted 24h 44m of moderate use.
Charging time (from 0% to 100%) took only 1hr 35mins. This is thanks to Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0.
The ZenFone AR is not for everyone. For its asking price of PhP 44,995, there are better options if you do not intend to use its AR features. However, it in itself is a well-rounded phone that doesn’t skimp on the fundamentals of a smartphone. It’s somewhat a shame that it’s only available in available in black.
ASUS Zenfone AR Specs
- 5.7 inches Super AMOLED Display
- 1440 x 2560 pixels QHD (~515 ppi pixel density)
- Corning Gorilla Glass 4
- Android 7.0 (Nougat)
- Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 821
- Quad-core (2×2.35 GHz Kryo & 2×1.6 GHz Kryo)
- Adreno 530
- 128 GB, 8 GB RAM
- Rear Camera: 23 MP
- Front Camera: 8 MP
- Non-removable Li-Ion 3300 mAh battery