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The ZWO ASIAIR Plus. Credit: Lee Pullen.

The ASIAIR Plus is astronomy imaging company ZWO‘s latest addition to their range of smart wi-fi controllers. The controller allows you to manipulate cameras, mounts, and accessories via an app on your phone or tablet. Also a power hub, it helps with cable management. The ASIAIR Plus aims to simplify astrophotography, boasting several upgrades over the previous ASIAIR models, including an antenna to overcome the wi-fi issues that plagued its immediate predecessor, the ASIAIR PRO (see Alan Dyer’s AGT review of the PRO here).

The ASIAIR Plus is a solid choice to control your kit and smooth out the steep difficulty curve inherent in astrophotography. The catch is that it forces you to use ZWO cameras and accessories, although it’s also compatible with lots of DLSR / mirrorless cameras, and a good range of mounts are supported. If this is a deal-breaker, consider PrimaLuceLab‘s EAGLE range of controllers. They’re more expensive, but Windows-based, granting access to a wide range of software solutions.

Getting hands-on

The ASIAIR Plus looks great with its race-car red body made of sturdy aluminium. It comes with lots of useful cables, but no power cable; it’s assumed that astroimagers will have a suitable spare already.

The ASIAIR Plus comes with a range of cables, but nothing to actually power the unit. Credit: Lee Pullen.

There are two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 connections for your accessories, along with an Ethernet port. Along one side are ports to power your various gadgets, such as dew bands. On the opposite side is a TF port for microSD cards, along with a USB Type-C port. 

Then there’s the antenna, the big new attraction. ZWO says that the wireless range is 65 feet (20 meters.) During my tests, the ASIAIR Plus was 50 feet (15 meters) from my wi-fi router, through with two brick walls and one set of glass windows intervening. The signal got weak, but the connection held, letting me control everything from the comfort of my living room sofa.

A range of ports offers flexibility. Credit: Lee Pullen

Under the stars with an ASIAIR Plus 

There’s a learning curve to using the ASIAIR Plus, but ZWO made it as beginner-friendly as possible. For example, the ASIAIR Plus plays very nicely with ZWO’s Electronic Automatic Focuser, giving pin-sharp focus with the touch of a button. Plate-solving is also accurate and remarkably fast. Guiding is automated and reliable, using a multi-star approach. During tests I routinely obtained an RMS error of under 0.5″, which is good for my skies.

There are lots of ways to attach an ASIAIR Plus. Here, it’s attached to the author’s telescope’s dovetail, under the drawtube. Credit: Lee Pullen.

Real-time power monitoring is a new software feature. It’s neat to see the exact power draw from each of the attached gadgets, and knowing your power consumption will assist when using batteries. Also new to the ASIAIR Plus is eMMC memory, faster and more stable than the ASIAIR PRO’s approach of having the Operating System loaded onto a microSD card.

For deep sky imaging, you have two main options. With Live Stacking,  sees the ASIAIR Plus automatically integrate images as they’re taken. This option improves the quality of your image almost in real -time, and is mesmerizing to watch on your phone screen. However, my preferred method is Plan mode, which offers more control and allows a user to plot out an entire imaging session in advance. After setting up a Plan mode to image the Andromeda Galaxy I went to bed, leaving the ASIAIR Plus to control everything all night: tracking, guiding, autofocussing every hour, imaging, meridian flip. If you’re new to the world of remote automation, let me use italics to emphasize just how good this is. Think of all the photons that can be collected while you’re happily asleep. Sweet dreams indeed!

The Autofocus routine. Credit: Lee Pullen

 

Real-time power monitoring is a new feature. Credit: Lee Pullen

 

A single sub-frame of the Andromeda Galaxy taken from the author’s city-center location. Credit: Lee Pullen

Evolution, not revolution

This wi-fi controller is fun to use if you’re new to their functionalities, but admittedly, if you already own an ASIAIR PRO it’s hard to justify the upgrade. Odds are that ASAIR PRO users have already developed a workaround to the ASIAIR PRO’s wi-fi issues, in which case the ASIAIR Plus’ new antenna is nice-to-have rather than a game-changer.

The result of five clear nights with the ASIAIR Plus, after image processing using software including PixInsight. Credit: Lee Pullen.

Plus:
Simplifies astrophotography
Suitable for both beginner and advanced imagers
Reasonably priced solution for remotely controlling your equipment 

Minus:
ZWO cameras and accessories needed for maximum compatibility
An incremental upgrade to the previous ASIAIR PRO model

Website: https://astronomy-imaging-camera.com

MSRP: $299

For more read Urban Astrophotography’s comprehensive ASIAIR Plus review.

 

About Lee Pullen

Lee Pullen is a science writer and communicator from the city of Bristol, UK. He has a degree in Astronomy and a master's in Science Communication. He began his career writing for organisations including the Hubble European Space Agency Information Centre and the European Southern Observatory, as well as becoming Staff Writer for the International Year of Astronomy 2009, the world's largest ever science outreach initiative. Lee runs the website UrbanAstrophotography.com

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