Asus made a string of announcements at CES that will see the new Zenfone 4 Max Plus, ZenBook 13 and a new-look Lyra come out this year.
Much of what the company had to show was iterative, rather than truly ground-breaking, but the group of products I got to see were still pretty interesting.
Lyra Trio and Lyra Voice
Starting with the router side, which is going to see the biggest difference, the Lyra mesh Wi-Fi system gets a big redesign. Rather than the UFO-style form factor of the original set, the new one will come in two distinct versions.
The main one, which was only there as a pre-production build, is made to look like something an architect would model. The new Lyra Trio is kind of like a tent missing three sides. Its open concave form factor does have a purpose though. Asus says the antennas inside can protrude vertically easier this way.
It will be a similar concept in that it supports multi-unit mesh networking with MU-MIMO built-in and extra goodies to augment the home Internet connection. Since it was only a mock-up of the finished design, there was no way to test or gauge performance.
Even more interesting is the Lyra Voice. Basically, what you have here is a mesh router with a built-in speaker and Amazon Alexa integration. It would almost be as if you amalgamated the Lyra router with an Echo and Ultimate Ears speaker. I didn’t get to hear how it sounds, but the point is that you can utilize it as a router or mesh point, listen to music on it, and tell Alexa what to do through it. It also has the same Lyra features the Trio has.
Moreover, the units are interchangeable. If you already have the existing Lyra, you can add a Trio or Voice to your system, so you don’t have to fully upgrade everything.
Both products are coming to market within the first half of the year.
AiMesh for Asus routers
This was another interesting announcement in that it applies to current Asus routers. Essentially, a free firmware update will allow users to create a mesh network with different compatible routers.
This applies only to the RT-AC68U, RT-AC86U, RT-AC88U and RT-AC3100 models. The newly-revealed RT-AX88U will also be among them. If you have one of these, the update will let you use it as either the central unit in your mesh or as a node in an existing mesh. Check for the update, which is now available.
Zenfone 4 Max Plus
Asus will be making a series of the Max smartphones, playing up on their larger battery capacity for all-day performance. This is a decidedly mid-range or affordable handset, driven by its 5.7-inch display with 18:9 aspect ratio and 4130mAh battery.
It will also have a Face Unlock feature and dual rear cameras, including a 120-degree wide angle. It’s actually the same lens used in the Zenfone 4.
The phone is also launching as soon as February, though Canadian pricing is still unconfirmed.
No major surprises on this one, but Asus will be coming out with a new ZenBook 13 laptop that features a 13.3-inch display, running on an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor with 16GB of RAM and 1TB SSD drive. Battery life is rated at 15 hours. It also weighs 2.17 pounds, which is very light.
While the company did say that select ZenBook and VivoBook models will get Alexa integration this year, it never confirmed the ZenBook 13 would be one of them. Look for it to launch in the next six months.