This is my initial impressions of ASIAIR Plus, ZWO’s third generation integrated astro imaging controller. I received an early distribution as part of ZWOs Experience Officer program. I previously have bought the first and second generation when they first came out.
I have only had a few hours of clear skies but got to test some features. First, as you would expect, each version of ASIAIR has brought important improvements to the imaging experience that is the hallmark of the device, ease of use combined with integrated imaging functions.
Initial setup of the plus was seamlesse, connect to mount, William Optics EQ-35 in my case, imaging camera, ZWO 178MC, guide camera, ZWO 120MM, dew heater, power up, I use a 5 amp 12vdc power supply, connect to ASIAIR Plus WiFi, and fire up ASIAIR APP on IPhone and connect. After a brief firmware update the APP started up. Initial connection on an iPhone is recommended since the app has to complete an initial activation the the internet to ZWO. There are other ways to activate, but using iPhone worked well for me. After activation I switched to my 11 inch iPad pro (connect to ASIAIR Plus WiFI) which makes for a better user experience.
Important new features of the ASIAIR Plus include external WiFI antenna and eMMC memory that includes a much more secure operating system base than the micro SD card based operating system of version 1 and 2 which more easily corrupt, although I have not experienced any failures. The eMMC also has a built in reset function that is designed to streamline restoration if needed.
In my testing the Plus WiFi performance was improved. My Pro would occasionally experience dropout with my setup right outside on my deck through a sliding glass door. Specially, after the mount rotated such that the Pro was behind my scope, dropouts would occur. The Plus did not experience dropouts in my limited similar testing.
Imaging was pleasurable as the previous versions. I continue to be amazed how fast and easy targets are acquired. After polar alignment, simply select target from internal database and select goto and mount heads to target, acquires image, plate solves in 1 second and corrects alignment. After a couple of iterations target is centered. No annoying three start alignments that detract from experience. The plate solving is amazingly quick.
I haven’t used the App polar alignment function or focus function. I use the William Optics scope cover Bahtinov mask. I will eventually use these functions.
Guidance performance was excellent having much improved since the multi-star alignment guiding was introduced to the App recently.
The Plus also provides 12vdv power ports for support functions. My dew heater is connected. The output is controllable through the App.
For imaging with the Plus, I used the App LIVE function where the App live stacks each image and subtracts your calibration frames so the image live builds in the App. The individual images are also stored for later processing (I use AstroPixelProcessor) The image capture transfer to App was also quick over the 5 GHz WiFi I used. The 2.4 GHz supposedly provide greater range at reduce throughput. I did not check.
Images can be saved on the eMMC memory or on USB drive or micro SD card whatever your preference. I prefer the USB drive to plug into my IMac for transfer for processing.
Overall I am very happy with the Plus. ZWO actively seeks input on its products and incorporates user feedback, including mine. There are regular App updates that correct issues and adds useful features. The Plus is another example of continuing hardware improvements. What is important to me is ease of use and reliabilty that gets me imaging quickly to make use of my limited time available to image. From my initial experience the Plus looks like ease of use and reliability have improved.