News And Reviews

News And Reviews

Asus Zenfone AR review

The Asus Zenfone AR is the first smartphone to offer support for Project Tango and Google Daydream, Google’s augmented- and virtual reality platforms. It boasts an advanced sensor array to provide the best AR experience possible – but how does it perform in real life, and can it compete with the best smartphones of 2017[1]? We’ve spent some time with the Asus Zenfone AR, and here’s what we thought.

Update: Google has announced that it is shutting down its Project Tango program, deciding to instead get behind ARCore, the company’s equivalent to Apple’s ARKit. Announced in a tweet[2], Google will end support for Tango on 1 March 2018, at which point no more apps and games will be available to download. This is bad news for the Zenfone AR and its array of Tango sensors, as content for the platform is already scarce and it won’t be getting any better. We’ve adjusted the score and verdict accordingly.

UK pricing and availability

Back when the Asus Zenfone AR was first announced at CES 2017, there was no mention of a possible UK release.

Asus isn’t a strong smartphone brand in the UK, so it wasn’t a huge surprise at the time. Fast forward to July 2017 and Asus confirmed that the Asus Zenfone AR is headed to the UK, and is now available to order from Asus[3] for GBP799.99.

Design and build

The Asus Zenfone AR nails the high-end look while using different materials to the glass-and-metal mashup featured on the majority of 2017 flagships. Don’t get us wrong – there’s still glass and metal, but much of the rear of the smartphone is covered in a soft touch leather.

While some may be confused by the inclusion of leather on a smartphone, it’s a smart move by Asus – along with providing a softer feel and a touch of old-school class, the leather is extremely grippy and makes it easy to comfortably hold the smartphone with one hand. Ideal if you’re planning on utilising the AR capabilities of the smartphone or if you’re simply a little clumsy. That soft leather back is combined with a sandblasted aluminium alloy frame with all the usual bells and whistles, from high-end chamfers that run along the edges of the display to the slight curvature of the edges of the body to make it more ergonomically friendly.

While the Zenfone AR doesn’t sport the bezel-less design popular with other 2017 flagships, it’s still a gorgeous smartphone packing a 5.7in display in a surprisingly thin form factor. It measures in at 158.7 x 77.7 x 9mm due to the slightly curved rear and protruding camera setup – although there’s good reason for the extra camera bulk, which we’ll come to below. It’s also surprisingly lightweight considering the amount of technology packed inside.

In fact, it’s lighter than Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus[4] (188g), weighing in at 170g, despite having a larger display and battery. The Home button features a built-in fingerprint scanner for extra security, making it easier to access your smartphone. It’s a standard mechanical button that clicks as you push it down, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, most 2017 flagships feature a solid-state Home button that vibrates when touched to simulate click feedback.

The solid-state nature provides more of a premium experience, something that we don’t feel when using the standard Home button on the Zenfone AR. It’s a minor detail when the phone can do so much, but it’s still worth considering as it’s a feature of the phone you’ll be using frequently. Potential buyers will also be happy to find out that the Zenfone AR sports a 3.5mm headphone jack at the bottom of the device, alongside a USB-C port.

If you’re not a fan of the black look of the smartphone, you’re sadly out of luck – unlike many other smartphones on the market, the Asus Zenfone AR is available in a single colour option.

Features and spec

While the Asus Zenfone AR may look like a standard flagship smartphone on the surface, it’s when you delve into its features and specification that it really shines.

Display

The Asus Zenfone AR sports a 5.7in Super AMOLED display with a QHD (1440 x 2560) resolution, boasting an incredible 515 pixels per inch. The quality of the display is amazing, offering crisp text and images with accurate colour reproduction, and is protected by Gorilla Glass 4, making it resistant (but not immune) to scratches.

It also boasts an incredibly fast 1 millisecond response time and 2 millisecond persistence, making it more than enough to provide a high-quality, lag-free Google Daydream experience. In fact, it’s one of the largest Daydream-compatible smartphones on the market at the moment alongside the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus. Like many other 2017 flagships, the Zenfone AR supports an always-on display, although this isn’t enabled by default.

But while the display provides incredible detail, we must admit that we’re slightly underwhelmed by its brightness. Even with adaptive brightness turned off and the brightness turned to max, it’s not as bright as its rivals, making it difficult to use in direct sunlight when out and about.

Processor, RAM and storage

The Asus Zenfone AR features the 14nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, specifically optimised for Project Tango’s AR capabilities. Asus worked closely with Qualcomm to distribute the various computer vision workloads, allowing for the best quality AR experience possible – but we’ll come to that in a bit more detail below.

Alongside the Snapdragon 821 processor, you’ll find a whopping 8GB of RAM and a Qualcomm Adreno 530 GPU, which is more than enough power to handle the graphical demands that come with augmented- and virtual reality. In terms of storage, you can choose between 64- 128- and 256GB, all expandable by up to 256GB via the included microSD card slot. We’ll come to our benchmark results later to see how it compares to the competition, but generally speaking, the Zenfone AR is a powerful beast.

It can handle just about anything you can throw at it, including AR apps and detailed 3D games available on Google Play.

Accessing the multitasking menu, switching between apps, activating the camera and more – all of it was instant without even a hint of stutter or lag.

Keep reading to find out about the Zenfone’s AR and VR capabilities, along with information on battery life, cameras and software.

References

  1. ^ best smartphones of 2017 (www.techadvisor.co.uk)
  2. ^ Announced in a tweet (twitter.com)
  3. ^ order from Asus (uk.store.asus.com)
  4. ^ iPhone 7 Plus review (www.techadvisor.co.uk)

LG UltraGear VR headset release date, UK price, features & specs rumours

At the Game Developers Conference 2017 in San Francisco, LG announced its new virtual reality headset prototype, which will be powered by Valve’s SteamVR platform. This brings it into direct competition with the HTC Vive[1] headset – currently the only VR device using SteamVR – as well as the proprietary Oculus Rift[2] and Playstation VR[3] variants that launched in 2016. Though it hasn’t been officially announced, Dutch-speaking site Mobiel Kopen discovered an LG trademark[4] application for the name LG UltraGear.

Categorised as “Head-mounted holographic displays; Virtual Reality headsets”, it’s believed that this is the name of LG’s upcoming VR headset. So what does LG bring to the party? We take a look at the latest LG UltraGear rumours.

Oh, and if you’re new to the world of virtual reality, take a look at our complete guide to VR[5].

LG UltraGear VR release date and UK pricing rumours

So far there are no firm details on either the release date or price. One LG spokesperson did say that the unit would probably be comparable to the HTC Vive, which currently sells for GBP599, and we’d expect it to need high end PC[6] hardware to run smoothly. We’ll update this page as soon as LG announces more details, so be sure to check back regularly to see what the South Korean giant has in store.

LG UltraGear VR design, features and spec

The most distinctive part of the LG SteamVR headset design is the way that you can adjust the visor position.

Most units we’ve seen so far resemble blacked out safety goggles, with the only adjustments that can be made to the chassis being how tight the elasticated strap is fastened. LG has taken a rather novel approach and come up with a visor that slides forward and then can be flipped up over the wearers head – something like you’d see on an old Knight’s helmet or a welding mask.

The benefits of this design is twofold. First, it means you can talk to people who might come into the room, or take a quick drink or snack, without having to remove the helmet entirely.

Second, if you wear glasses you can adjust the distance of the visor from your face, thus making it easier to find a comfortable sweet spot when wearing the device. Inside the helmet you’ll find twin 3.64in OLED panels with resolutions of 1440×1280 for each eye, both of which refresh at a rate of 90Hz. The PPI is a very impressive 540, which should keep images crystal clear, plus the field of view is a generous 110 degrees.

The headset also comes with two handheld controllers similar to that used by the HTC Vive that use the Lighthouse tracking technology to act as your hands in the virtual world.

What is SteamVR?

SteamVR is a platform for virtual reality hardware and software. Created by Valve, the company responsible for the Half-Life, Portal, and Team Fortress game franchises, not to mention Steam, the now de-facto entry-point for PC gaming, it allows companies to build VR equipment that conforms to the wide variety of games available on Steam. So far this has been the sole preserve of HTC’s Vive, but LG’s announcement means that there will soon be competition in this emerging Virtual Reality area.

LG UltraGear VR headset release date, UK price, features & specs rumours

Rather than just standalone headsets, SteamVR employs the use of two base stations that users place in corners of the room.

These stations track the position of the VR device to give it a sense of place and movement in the Virtual world.

As well as being a great way to create an immersive experience within a game, this Room-scale technology (which Valve calls Lighthouse) also means VR is no longer a sedentary activity, with the added safety feature of warning players if they’re about to run head first in a very unvirtual wall.

References

  1. ^ HTC Vive review (www.techadvisor.co.uk)
  2. ^ Oculus Rift review (www.techadvisor.co.uk)
  3. ^ PlayStation VR review (www.techadvisor.co.uk)
  4. ^ discovered an LG trademark (www.mobielkopen.net)
  5. ^ complete guide to VR (www.techadvisor.co.uk)
  6. ^ Best PCs for VR (www.techadvisor.co.uk)

The best Christmas movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Now TV

It’s CHRISTMASSSS! (Yes, we’re excited too). It’s also the school holidays and we’ve rounded-up the best Christmas movies that you – and your kids – can watch on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Now TV to help cheer you up. So get the mulled wine and mince pies ready and tune in to these brilliant (and often extremely cheesy) Christmas movies.

Remember that even if you’re not signed up to one of these streaming services, it’s worth checking if they have one of your favourites available – each of them offers a free trial, so you can sign up for Christmas and cancel in January without ever paying a penny. Got a festive favourite that isn’t on this list? Check out our exhaustive guide to where to watch all of the best Christmas films[1].

Best Christmas movies on Netflix

Netflix[2] has the weakest selection of Christmas movies of the three big streaming services this year, though you’ll also find lots of non-festive favourites there[3] if none of these take your fancy.

If you’re not a member already, take advantage of the one-month free trial[4] to cover the festive period.

Jingle all the Way
1996
PG
Running time: 1hr 29m
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arthur Christmas
2011
U
Running time: 1h 37m
Starring: James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy

Scrooged
1988
PG
Running time: 1h 36m
Starring: Bill Murray

A Very Murray Christmas
2015
12
Running time: 56m
Starring: Bill Murray

Love Actually
2003
15
Running time: 2h 15m
Starring: Hugh Grant, Martine McCutcheon, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightly… and a lot more

The Night Before
2015
15
Running time: 1h 41m
Starring: Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie

Best Christmas movies on Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime Video’s[5] Christmas selection is pretty great this year, headed up by comedy classic Elf, and there are plenty of other festive films worth checking out. To watch them you’ll have to be a Prime member, but there’s a one-month free trial[6] to take you through to January. Plus, remember that you’ll also get free next-day delivery – ideal for any last-minute gift purchasing.

Elf
2003
PG
Running time: 1h 32m
Starring: Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel

Christmas with the Coopers
2015
12
Running time: 1hr 47m
Starring: John Goodman

Nativity!
2009
U
Running time: 1hr 41m
Starring: Martin Freeman

Frosty the Snowman
1969
U
Running time: 25m
Starring: Jimmy Durante

Scrooged
1988
PG
Running time: 1h 36m
Starring: Bill Murray

White Christmas
1954
U
Running time: 2h
Starring: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye

Gremlins
1984
15
Running time: 1h 46m
Starring: Zach Gilligan

It’s a Wonderful Life
1946
U
Running time: 2h 10m
Starring: James Stewart

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
1989
PG
Running time: 1h 37m
Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid

Best Christmas movies on Now TV

The best Christmas movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Now TV

Now TV’s Sky Movies bundle[7] has one of the best collections this Christmas, but it does cost GBP9.99 per month, making it a bit more expensive than its rivals.

You can try it out for 14 days for free[8] though, which should be enough time to take advantage.

We’ve picked out some of the best but there are lots more.

Frozen
2013
PG
Running time: 1h 42m
Starring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel

Scrooged
1988
PG
Running time: 1h 36m
Starring: Bill Murray

The Grinch
2000
PG
Running Time: 1h 40m
Starring: Jim Carrey

It’s a Wonderful Life
1946
U
Running Time: 2h 5m
Starring: James Stewart

Bad Santa
2003
15
Running Time: 1h 35m
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton

A Christmas Carol
2009
PG
Running time: 1h 36m
Starring: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth

The Polar Express
2004
U
Running time: 1h 40m
Starring: Tom Hanks

Krampus
2015
15
Running time: 1h 38m
Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Collette

Love Actually
2003
15
Running time: 2h 15m
Starring: Hugh Grant, Martine McCutcheon, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightly… and a lot more

White Christmas
1954
U
Running time: 2h
Starring: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye

References

  1. ^ where to watch all of the best Christmas films (www.techadvisor.co.uk)
  2. ^ Netflix (www.netflix.com)
  3. ^ Best movies on Netflix (www.techadvisor.co.uk)
  4. ^ one-month free trial (www.netflix.com)
  5. ^ Amazon Prime Video’s (www.amazon.co.uk)
  6. ^ one-month free trial (www.amazon.co.uk)
  7. ^ Now TV’s Sky Movies bundle (watch.nowtv.com)
  8. ^ try it out for 14 days for free (www.nowtv.com)