Asus has been with us for a long time now, but their smartphones aren’t the most popular at the moment. Sure, I reviewed some Asus smartphones in the past, but I wasn’t that impressed with any of them. Asus Zenfone AR was released in January this year, and it’s supposed to be a high-end smartphone, but will its performance justify the price? Find out in the Asus Zenfone AR review below.
Design and Build Quality
Asus Zenfone AR is a big phone, and it will not fit well if you have small hands like me. I struggled to even touch the opposite corner of the screen, as the phone doesn’t have that bezel-less, modern design. Instead, Zenfone AR doesn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of design, and from a distance, it’s far from impressive and definitely not eye-appealing. The phone isn’t that stylish either, but I like the back of the phone, as it’s made from synthetic leather that is really looking and feeling like a real leather. Of course, I would like the real one, but what’s there is there.
From the sides, we have an aluminum finish which is a great material, although it’s a little softer, and not that hard like stainless steel for example. When in hand, the phone feels very comfortable, even to the level of surprise, as it doesn’t look that good. If nothing, Zenfone AR will provide a comfort while using it, plus your hands won’t sweat that much due to the light synthetic leather and aluminum sides. The build quality isn’t excellent, and I’m sure not impressed by the lack of water-proof characteristics. Shame on you, Asus for not including this for a phone that is this expensive!
To make things better, Asus really worked hard on this display, which is a pleasant surprise here. It’s a Samsung-style AMOLED display, packing a 1440p resolution, and a size of 5.7 inches. It’s a big display, making the phone look even bigger, because of thick bezels. Nevertheless, I was surprised that the screen is very sharp and colorful. The color reproduction is top notch, and the brightness is really good. As this is an AMOLED screen, you’ll not experience any unnecessary backlight, and will get very dark black, and very bright white color. You can even make Zenfone AR’s display monochrome if you want to save energy more. Overall, the screen is amazing, being a pleasant surprise from Asus.
Performance and AR/VR Support
On the performance side, Asus Zenfone AR comes equipped with Snapdragon 821 CPU, which is a quite interesting choice here. I was expecting Snapdragon 835, as it’s still a very expensive phone, and don’t get me wrong- Snapdragon 821 works really well here, but underwhelming for the price. Aside from that, there is Adreno 530 GPU, that is great for gaming, and the two variants of 6GB and 8 GB of RAM. Performance-wise, Zenfone AR is packed with enough power to make your gaming and multitasking a stellar experience.
This ’AR’ abbreviation stands for Augmented Reality, so this phone supports Google Daydream and Tango AR/VR. I guess, this is why the phone is so expensive. This works well, but not that well, as it’s still under development. I like the visuals when it comes to VR, as there is a low-persistence OLED screen, that is generally known to be great for VR. Furthermore, the apps need more optimisation, and that is a job for developers, so I would still wait a few months, or a year before VR really comes to life.
On the back of the phone, the camera department looks really high-end, and it’s not strange, having in mind that this is a 23 MP camera, capable of taking very quality photos. The colors are nice, precise and the most important, real. You’ll not get too punchy colors, but you won’t get too cold; just about right. In the night, Zenfone AR performs very well, even surpassing a phone like Xperia XZ. The details are amazing, and it’s better to use Auto mode when shooting in the night. This time, Asus really did a good job.
The second factor about a camera is video quality. Although it can shoot 4K videos, I didn’t find them anything exceptional. Sure, it’s a high resolution, and details are not that bad, but it doesn’t exceed average levels. The front-facing 8MP camera is a good solution, offering Insta-worthy selfies.
Again, average performance comes from the battery. Its 3300mAh doesn’t sound that bad on paper, but in reality, it surely isn’t great. It’s not bad either. It just feels underwhelming for a phone with almost six inches in screen size and 1440p resolution. If you like streaming videos a lot, then I have bad news for you. This phone will eat your battery if you stream at highest brightness levels, comparing very bad to its rival in price Galaxy S8. However, there is a Fast USB-C Charging and will charge your battery relatively fast. Alternatively, you can use some of the power-saving modes to prolong your battery life.
So, is Asus Zenfone AR really worth the price of $650? Well, both yes and no. In terms of design, this phone looks very cheap from the distance and generally doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Performance-wise, I expected Snapdragon 835 CPU, which could easily increase the overall performance. Other than that, the phone really shows its greatness when looking at the display, using camera and VR, which is a great experience here. Now, it all comes down to your needs. If you don’t need a VR like me, you can go with some of the better phones for the same price. If you care about design, Zenfone AR also isn’t for you, at least because of visuals. To wrap it up, Asus Zenfone AR is a mixed bag of both good and bad features, and if it would be a little cheaper than I would consider it a viable option for buying.