Hands-on: AR and VR together in one phone

  • Asus Zenfone AR Price: TBC (I'll guess a lot)
  • Asus Zenfone AR Release date: TBC

Asus hasn't had a huge presence at at CES 2017, but it’s still managed to unleash a couple of phones that are pretty exciting.

Considering I don’t recall ever being intrigued, excited or even interested in a single previous Asus phone, that’s quite something.

WATCH: Asus Zenfone AR hands-on

The Zenfone AR is the first _phone_ to boast both Google’s Tango augmented reality platform and its Daydream virtual reality operating system, both of which are still very new and still rarely properly supported.

Daydream support is the more mainstream of the two standards at play here and it joins the Pixel duo and Moto Z in supporting Google’s Daydream View, and the myriad of apps that go with it. Thanks to the 5.7-inch 2,560 x 1,440 display, it’s also the biggest screen so far to support the service and Daydream apps and games look their best here.

Related: Best Android phones

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The Tango AR platform is a little more obscure, having so far been limited to the bulky Lenovo Phab 2 Pro. It uses the three cameras on the back – one a regular 23-megapixel sensor, one for motion tracking and the other for depth – to map your surroundings and it can do some clever things. While the demo Zenfone was severely lacking in any sort of AR demos, there are apps that fit clothes to your body and let you see how furniture will look in your lounge very accurately.

What’s really interesting here though is that the Zenfone AR isn’t a bulky beast, and even I would have forgiven it being as such due to the magnitude of sensors.

It’s actually very sleek, with a metal rim and almost leatherette back. Size might be an issue for some – the screen is a phablet sized 5.7-incher – but I didn’t have much trouble navigating around the UI and reaching all of the corners.

Related: What is Google Tango?

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To make VR and AR work well there needs to be plenty of power, and the Zenfone has that in swathes. There’s 8GB RAM, a Snapdragon 821 CPU and up to 256GB of internal storage. As you can probably guess, there was no lag in sight.

Asus might have crammed a lot of tech into a svelte body, but it still can’t design an Android skin to save its life. Android 7.0 Nougat might be here, but the ZenUI is a ghastly mixture of awful icons, weird notification bubbles and so many annoying screen transitions. Android is beautiful now, stop ruining it.

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The 3,300 mAh battery seems a bit on the small side, with everything that’s going on, but I’ll wait to judge it and there’s USB-C with fast charging.

Asus Zenfone AR: First impressions

Props to Asus for cramming both Daydream and Tango into a _phone_ that looks this good, but good luck to anyone who can use ZenUI on a daily basis without running into a wall. Still, I haven’t ever been this excited to fully review an Asus phone. Bring on the Tango.