Tech Review: ASUS Tangoes with Augmented Reality

You’ve probably seen computers and accessories made by ASUS but for most of us here in the U.S., ASUS isn’t the first name we think of when it’s time to shop for a new smartphone.  You might want to re-think that.  ASUS moving into the U.S. smartphone market and their newest phone is designed to make a splash in the world of augmented reality.  The ASUS ZenFone AR is one of the first to support Google’s Tango platform.  I took it for a test.

Hardware

When I pulled the ZenFone AR out of the box I was immediately impressed with the feel of the phone.  It's solid, yet thin.  The screen is a good 5.7".  The back of the phone is a black soft leather.  It feels rather luxurious.  Powering up the ZenFone AR proved that the guts seemed to match the look.  The screen looks great and the quad-core processor helps this baby hum along.  I am surprised that the battery only promises 14 hours of usage time when other phones promise at least 10 more hours (S8 claims 27 hours!).  That's a concern considering the battery in the ZenFone AR is actually pretty big at 3,300 mAh.

Camera

Tango uses sensors along with a great camera to create AR magic.  The ZenFone AR packs a 23 Megapixel camera!  It takes great pictures with insane resolution for a smartphone.  I'm not convinced that we really need anything more than 12 Megapixels but it doesn't hurt, right?  The camera app has all the bells and whistles you'd expect included selfie panorama mode and beauty mode to soften your face.  The depth of field mode works well but you do have to wait while the phones takes 2 separate pictures.

Software

ASUS, like so many other phone makers, did modify Android to some extent.  It's not vanilla Android but it's not too far away.  They did put their own flavor on the icons and menus and there are a few unique options.  Otherwise, it's close to what we expect from Android and I think most people would be happy that ASUS didn't mess too much with a good thing.  Keep in mind that I'm a bit of an Android purist and prefer my OS like my ice cream, vanilla.

Tango

Tango is all about augmented reality!  We're pretty family with AR with apps like the IKEA app that lets you place furniture virtually in your home or Pokemon Go! that lets you kill Pokemon on your screen.  The difference with Tango is that it has the sensors and brains to actually do it right!  It's actually amazing how much of a difference it makes.  Using the measure app I measured a few surfaces in our offices at Fox31.  It doesn't skip a beat.  It never loses sense of where it is or which direction it's facing.  It also measured things down to a fraction of an inch with amazing accuracy.  I downloaded the Wayfair app and placed some furniture (virtually, of course) around our office.  It worked great!  There was very little calibration or maneuvering, it just works!  I see the potential and think it will grow with more apps.  For now, Tango works well but is novel at best.  I wouldn't see myself using it on a daily basis.

Overall

The ASUS ZenFone AR is an impressive option from a company that many of us don't typically think of for a phone.  It's built well, has the guts to keep up and proves that Google's Tango platform is cool!  The real question is, would you buy a ZenFone instead of other high-end Android options?  Probably not.  Samsung is still king.  None the less, the ASUS is a sold $100 less and if we see a sale it could easily be priced near $500.  At that price, it's a great option for anyone who loves Android and wants to own the latest in Android advancements.

The ASUS ZenFone AR is available right now from Verizon for $648 and should be available unlocked soon directly from Amazon.