Google’s AR and VR worlds blend beautifully in the $600 Asus Zenfone AR

zenfone ar
The Asus ZenFone AR is here, incorporating both of Google’s most exciting VR projects: Daydream and Tango. Even better news is the availability in the United States, and not just as an unlocked version, but through the Verizon network too. Here’s everything you need to know about the Asus ZenFone AR.

Pricing and availability

The Asus ZenFone AR is now available unlocked in the U.S. from August 3, and comes in two different versions. A ZenFone AR with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage is yours for $600, while the more powerful 8GB model with 128GB of storage is $700.

Perhaps more surprising is the chance to buy a ZenFone AR from Verizon. The network will only carry the 6GB version, but it will come with 128GB of storage space, fitting in-between the two unlocked models. It’s priced at $648, or at $27 per month for 24 months.

Powerful hardware

The ZenFone AR’s depth-tracking sensors react to forward, backward, and strafing motions — if you take a step forward in a Tango game, digital objects on the screen stay in perspective as you circle around or duck under them. Project Tango can identify objects in the real world, like a desk in a living room and the walls of a home office. And even more usefully, it can calculate the dimensions of those objects. Want to get a bed’s length? The ZenFone will provide the measurements in your metric of choice.

The ZenFone AR — the latest addition to Asus’ ZenFone line of smartphones — is the “thinnest” and “lightest” device to support Tango, a feat made possible by Asus’ proprietary TriCam system: A 23-megapixel PixelMaster 3.0 primary camera, a motion-tracking camera, and an infrared camera in a configuration that “reduces their footprint within the phone.”

Some of those same sensors enable support for Daydream, Google’s virtual reality environment. It’s the spiritual successor to Google’s debut VR effort, Google Cardboard, but far more holistic in scope: it consists of three components; a headset, a motion controller, and a suite of virtual reality apps including HBO, YouTube, Hulu, Gunjack, Hunters Gate, and more.

It’s worth noting that not all of those components come in the box. Prospective buyers will need to shell out for a Daydream-compatible virtual reality headset like Google’s Daydream View. Rumor has it that the company’s working on an self-contained augmented reality headset with Tango-like tracking technology, but it’s unclear whether it’ll interface with the ZenFone AR.

The rest of the ZenFone AR’s hardware isn’t anything to scoff at. It packs Qualcomm’s Tango-optimized Snapdragon 821 and Adreno 530 graphics card — not the silicon behemoth’s latest processor, granted (that’s the Snapdragon 835), but one that Qualcomm guarantees delivers “VR with high-resolution display, ultra-smooth graphics and high-fidelity sensors for precise head tracking.” And it sports up to a massive 8GB of RAM, plus a 5.7-inch WQHD (2560 x 1440 pixels) Super AMOLED screen, and a powerful five-magnet speaker system.

Maintaining all that hardware is a vapor-cooling system which Asus says enables the CPU and GPU to work “more efficiently,” and delivers “enhanced performance to prevent overheating.”

New Tango apps

The ZenFone AR is launching alongside new augmented reality experiences from Asus, all designed to work with Google’s Project Tango.

The smartphone maker partnered with Gap to develop Dressing Room, an augmented reality experience that lets users “try on” the clothing retailer’s latest fashions. And it teamed up with BMW to develop the i Visualizer, a Tango-enabled app that allows users to configure, customize, and walk around BMW’s i3 and i8 cars in a digital environment.

The BMW app is launching in select BMW dealerships in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Norway, Spain, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Netherlands, China, and Japan in the coming weeks. Later this year, it will become more broadly available from the Google Play store.

“In our initial tests, as people entered the car virtually in the app, we saw them ducking down, as if there were really a roof there for them to bang their heads on. It’s a level of detail which means this technology offers the customers real added value,” BMW’s group vice president of sales strategy and future retail said in a press release. “You can list out a car’s features on a sheet of paper or a webpage, but this doesn’t help customers with the emotional connection […] Videos can help, but Tango gives people a much more immersive experience.”

Update: The Asus ZenFone AR is now for sale in the United States.

Mobile

5G is the swift kick VR and AR gaming needs to come to fruition

There's a lot of hype surrounding augmented reality and virtual reality, but is it really the next big thing? We take a look at where the new mediums stand, as well as how 5G is poised to help them break into the mainstream.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. S10 Plus vs. S10e vs. S10 5G: Which should you buy?

With four stunning Galaxy S10 phones to choose from, Samsung is bombarding us with choice, but which one should you buy? We compare the S10, S10 Plus, S10e, and S10 5G in various categories to find out exactly how they differ.
Mobile

Samsung goes big with the next-gen Galaxy S10 5G smartphone

Samsung has announced a whopping four new Galaxy S10 devices, from the low-cost S10e to the triple-camera S10 and S10 Plus. But it's the Galaxy S10 5G that steals the show as it's among the first 5G-ready smartphones to hit the market.
Virtual Reality

Getting into VR is spendy. Which headset is truly worth your hard-earned cash?

Virtual reality has finally gone mainstream, but how do you find the best VR headset for you? Check out a few of our favorites, whether you want the best of the best or a budget alternative for your mobile device.
Mobile

Here Technologies’ cellular map can tell when you’ll lose coverage on the road

Here Technologies' wants to make it a little easier for companies to know where cellular coverage is available on the roads. The company has announced a new coverage map that offers data about road coverage.
Mobile

Here's how you can watch the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event today

Samsung's skipping Mobile World Congress 2019 to launch its next big smartphone a week earlier in San Francisco. We're fully expecting the Galaxy S10 to show up, but what else will be there? Here's what to expect.
Mobile

Samsung’s Galaxy S10e unapologetically rips a page out of iPhone XR’s playbook

Samsung's Galaxy S10e -- a new entry in the Galaxy S-series -- has a few things in common with Apple's lower-cost iPhone XR. From the price tag to the color, we take a look atthe similarities.
Mobile

The 2-year-old Nokia 6 is now being updated to Android Pie

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.
Mobile

Samsung beefs up just about everything in its Galaxy S10 smartphone range

Samsung has unveiled its 2019 flagship smartphone lineup, and there aren't just two phones as usual -- there are four. There's the Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, as well as a new entry called the S10e, as well as the Galaxy S10 5G.
Product Review

If price is top of mind, Samsung’s Galaxy S10e is the flagship phone to buy

Samsung’s Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus are joined with a new entry into the Galaxy S family -- the Galaxy S10e. It costs a little more than the original price of the Galaxy S9, but it’s meant to be the more affordable phone compared to the…
Mobile

What we like and don’t like about the Galaxy S10

Samsung’s Galaxy S10 takes the elegant design to new heights, boasts incredible screen and camera tech, and offers speedier connectivity, but we don’t like the price and a few other things. Here’s what we like and don’t like about…
Home Theater

Samsung Galaxy Buds first look: Ear candy or ear worm?

Samsung’s answer to the oddball design of Apple's AirPods is the new Galaxy Buds, which are cheaper, better looking, and bring some neat features. Can Galaxy Buds snuff out the AirPods?
Product Review

Samsung's Galaxy S10 phones are its most refined yet. Be prepared to pay up

Samsung has unveiled its lineup for its most popular smartphones, and it includes the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus. The two flagship phones boast hole-punch cameras, fingerprint sensors embedded in the display, and beefier batteries.
Mobile

Folding smartphones hinge on the success of the Samsung Galaxy Fold

The Samsung Galaxy Fold has arrived, and it goes on sale soon. Folding out from a 4.6-inch display to a tablet-sized 7.3-inch display, this unique device has six cameras, two batteries, and special software to help you use multiple apps.