It was Lenovo Phab 2 Pro that first came with Google "Tango" -- an Augmented Reality (AR) platform for smartphones -- but it failed to cast a spell on the Indian market.
Taiwanese smartphone maker Asus has now unveiled Zenfone AR that is the first premium-category smartphone which is not only Tango-enabled but also packs Google "Daydream" -- a Virtual Reality (VR) platform.
The Rs 49,999 smartphone sports top-notch specifications like Snapdragon 821 chipset, a whopping 8GB RAM and 23MP "TriTec" camera at rear.
On the left is a SIM card slot and the right side houses the power key and volume rockers with Asus' trademark concentric circles. The headphone jack sits at the bottom, along with a USB Type-C port and a speaker grill.
Here is what works for the device
Zenfone AR is a welcome change from the slabs of metal and glass that come out of pockets. The leather-rich back panel renders a premium look and good grip.
Given the large 5.7-inch screen size, this is definitely not a compact phone. But, at 170 grams, it won't tire your hands even if you hold it for a long time. The aluminium frame keeps the phone sturdy and solid.
The bottom-firing speaker was pretty loud and won't let you miss any call. We found it to be loud and rich enough to enhance the VR experience.
What differentiates it from other flagship Android smartphones is its AR and VR capabilities.
The way it manages to cram in a complete AR platform in a rather slim frame is impressive.
We accessed the dedicated app store to download Tango apps and especially liked the BMW app that projected a virtual car in the front. The AR details, which we discovered during the virtual tour, was impressive.
The optimised Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipset on board efficiently handled this resource-heavy task.
The WQHD Super AMOLED display (2560x1440) with 515ppi makes for a rich VR experience. It is protected by a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The display has excellent viewing angles and its sunlight legibility is great.
The TriTec camera with a 23MP primary sensor, a motion tracking and a depth-sensing sensor, captures images in great detail.
The colours were not oversaturated and the highlights were not gimmicky. The camera interface that you get is not the most modern-looking one but impresses when it comes to capturing still images.
The 8MP front snapper surprisingly took photos with great detail. It does not oversharpen images like many other smartphones in the same category -- like those from OnePlus. Also, there are many "beauty" filters to choose from but we liked the ones clicked with the filters off.
What does not work
The Taiwanese tech major had confirmed that Zenfone AR features vapour-cooling system to avoid overheating but the device did heat up when we turned on the camera to check its imaging capability.
While some heat emanated while testing its VR capabilities, it did not reach a point that made us uncomfortable (while wearing the VR headset, which looks amazing).
Asus' ZenUI interface, however, has a lot of bloatware.
Conclusion: This is Asus' serious attempt in making a really good-looking mainstream smartphone. With a big RAM and abundant memory (128GB and expandable up to 2TB), Zenfone AR makes for an exciting alternative to the likes of OnePlus 5.
(Krishna Sinha can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)