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The ZWO ASIAIR Plus Has Arrived

ASIAIR Plus review
|Equipment|17 Comments

The ZWO ASIAIR Plus is the third generation of the popular ASIAir wireless controller. This tiny red aluminum box aims to replace your laptop computer, imaging software, USB hubs, power supply, and even your WiFi connection. 

The goal of this device is to make collecting images of deep-sky objects (or planets) easier, and automated. You can control everything on your smartphone or tablet (iOS and Android) from inside the house.

The “Plus” improves on several aspects of the previous “Pro” model, including a 2.5X faster I/O speed and an enhanced antenna for a stronger WiFi signal. Capturing images of space while you sleep has never been easier.

Differences between ASIAIR Plus and Pro

The biggest differences between the new ASIAIR Plus and ASIAIR Pro are the extended WiFi range, faster I/O speeds (thanks to onboard eMMC storage), a new USB type-C port, and real-time power voltage monitoring within the mobile app. 

I skipped over the ASIAIR Pro, so the power ports are a nice upgrade from the original ASIair. Here is a list of all the external ports on the device:

Ports:

  • USB Type-C
  • Micro SD
  • 12V DC Power x 4
  • Ethernet x 1
  • DSLR Shutter Release
  • USB 2.0 x 2
  • USB 3.0 x 2

asiair plus wireless controller

Painless Astrophotography 

Have you thought about switching your laptop and about 4 pieces of software for an all-in-one portable device? I did, for a while, but I came crawling back to my classic “computer in a bucket” routine soon after.

The third installment of the ASIAIR legacy aims to correct the previous device’s shortcomings that were enough for guys like me to return to their old ways. This includes everything from the WiFi range, to overall system stability.

The astrophotography accessory that “changed the game” is now more refined and capable than ever. It costs $299 USD and replaces your laptop computer for astrophotography (if you’re running an ASI dedicated astronomy camera, that is). 

ZWO sent me a demo copy of the latest edition of their flagship wireless controller. I reluctantly agreed to modify my beloved setup and capture rituals to get a true feeling for the ASIAIR Plus experience. 

I think the following graphic ZWO shared on the ASIAIR Plus product page illustrates the main purpose of this device quite well:

portability

That’s me, before the ASIAIR Plus, on the top left. 

ZWO ASIAIR Plus

By now, you’ve probably heard of the ASIAIR. It’s essentially a mini raspberry pi computer with all of the tools you need for a complete imaging session with your ZWO camera (or “mainstream” DSLR).

Existing ASIAIR users seem to really enjoy them (often owning more than one of them) and I think it’s because it really solved a number of problems that beginner to intermediate astrophotographers were having.

It streamlines the start-to-finish capture process and allows you to do everything from your phone or tablet without touching the telescope or even going outside.

ZWO ASIAIR Plus

What the ASIAIR Plus Does:

  • Deep-sky imaging
  • Exposure previews
  • Plate solving
  • Focus assistant
  • Polar alignment assistant
  • Guiding
  • Autorun
  • Multi-target plan
  • Planetary imaging (video)
  • Live stacking

Instead of monitoring a laptop computer outside that is tethered to your equipment via cables, you are free to leave your equipment alone and control everything from your phone.

The device connects to your mobile phone or tablet via WiFi, just like you would for your home internet connection. Your home WiFi connection is not lost, but you may have to connect/re-connect to the ASIAIR WiFi if and when the connection is lost.

Rest assured, your imaging session does not stop if you lose the WiFi connection, and your images are safely stored as they come through. 

telescope with asiair plus

Why I Waited for the “Plus”

It’s remarkable to see how far this hobby has come in the last 10 years. No matter how the old-school crowd of astrophotographers feel about this device, it really is an incredible innovation.

I think the ASIAIR is responsible for ushering a new wave of astrophotographers by reducing the friction of the setup and image acquisition process, and that’s one heck of an accomplishment.

smart wifi controller

The unit is slightly smaller and lighter than its predecessor. 

So if the AISAIR is so great, why haven’t I used one for the last 2 years?

To be honest, the ASIAIR fixes a lot of problems I didn’t have. I love my old-school setup routine, (including my laptop), and my personal love for astrophotography is stronger than ever.

I am happy to set up my (all-weather) laptop computer in the backyard and use familiar software tools (such as Astro Photography Tool) that provide me with complete control over my imaging sessions. 

I log in remotely to my PC using tools like AnyDesk, so I am accustomed to the freedom of controlling my telescope from inside the house. But let’s be honest, I spend most of the time outside with my rig anyway (even in the winter).  

But I realize the way I do things is not for everyone. People appreciate the features of the ASIAIR that allow astrophotographers to spend more time capturing images, and less time tweaking settings and installing updates on their PC.

With that out of the way, let’s see what all the fuss is about:

First Impressions

The ZWO ASIAIR Plus starts shipping in November 2021. As new information becomes available, firmware updates are applied, and all features are explored, I will append the article to include the latest information. 

ZWO supplied a demo version of the ASIAIR Plus to me, but it is on loan unless I decide to purchase it from them. These are my honest, real-world opinions, and ZWO does not have any control over what I say.

Although my astrophotography reviews are not overly technical, they are practical and hands-on. At the time of writing, I’ve used the ASIAIR Plus to run a number of deep-sky imaging sessions in the backyard.

ASIAIR

Instead of using a micro SD card to store the OS (as the ASIAIR Pro did), the ASIAIR Plus has a custom-designed board featuring eMMC storage. This provides faster read and write speeds and improved system stability.

The full-frame dedicated astronomy camera I used produces 50MB raw images in Bin 1×1 mode, and the device had zero issues processing the data. I much prefer storing my image files on a USB drive over the micro SD card I used with the original ASIair. 

The 4 x 12V DC output ports are incredibly handy to have riding along with your telescope. These ports can be used to power devices like your ASI camera, a dew heater, and even your telescope mount.

This significantly cuts down on the number of cables running all over your imaging system. 

plus vs. pro

You can now transfer image files from the device to your PC via the USB Type-C cable. 

The Mobile App

The first thing I did was download the ASIAIR mobile app on my smartphone. I use a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, so I found the app in the Google Play Store.

The latest ASIAIR app is similar to the original version, with some clever improvements. I can see everything here from the camera temperature, dither settings, and even the focus position (if I was using an autofocuser, of course).

ASIAIR mobile app

The ASIAIR mobile app.

Set-Up Process

I entered in my location details, along with the specifications of my gear including the telescope focal length. When your ASI cameras are plugged into the device, they are recognized immediately and can be selected from the drop-down menu.

The user interface is clean and easy to navigate. The entire setup process, including connecting the device to WiFi, was smooth and painless from start to finish. 

ZWO put a lot of time and energy into their beta-testing period, and it seems that all major bugs have been addressed at this point. This is great news for those looking to order one when it officially launches in November.

I really like the power output settings. You can clearly see what’s plugged into what port, and how much power it’s drawing.

My Equipment

My primary imaging camera was the ZWO ASI2400MC Pro, and for autoguiding, the ZWO ASI290MM Mini. The ASIAIR Plus powers both cameras, which are connected via the supplied (with the camera) USB 3.0 and USB Type-C cables.

The files produced by the ASI2400MC Pro are huge, so it was a great test of the devices read/write speeds.

ZWO ASI2400MC Pro

To power the ASIAIR Plus itself, I use a 12V 5A power adapter I purchased on Amazon. If you’re looking for a decent power supply for the ASIAIR Plus, this is the one I use

The camera is attached to the Radian 61 APO. The laptop is gone, and everything rides together on the telescope mount. The ASIAIR Plus comes with a handy mounting option, but I found good old velcro strips to be a great option for now.

The ASIAIR Plus is actually a little thinner and lighter than the previous versions, so it adds virtually no additional weight to your imaging setup.

astrophotography equipment

The setup shown above is a stripped-down version of what the ASIAIR Plus can really do, as it can control everything from the mount to the filter wheel.

I’ve only used the ASIAIR Plus a handful of times so far due to weather, so I’ve only utilized the wireless image capture feature, along with the built-in autoguiding system.

Astrophotography Gear Used in Testing

Focus and Framing

I enjoyed the focus and framing tool to confirm that my images were as sharp and centered as possible.

I regularly use a Bahtinov mask to confirm critical focus of my camera and telescope, but the ASIAIR Plus includes a FWHM measurement for those also using an autofocuser. 

The focus/framing mode is essentially a continuous loop of short-exposure images. This is a great time to tweak the final framing of your deep-sky target.

focusing the camera

Live-view focus using the ASIAIR Plus. 

Mount Control

Once you have properly connected the ASIAIR Plus to your equatorial telescope mount, you can control your imaging sessions with accurate GoTo functionality. 

This level of control not only lets you choose the deep-sky objects you wish to photograph, but also centers them in the field of view. This can save a lot of time and frustration for many people. 

For many folks, controlling your telescope mount with the ASIAIR Plus might be one of the biggest draws to the product. For better or worse, on my smaller rigs, I continue to use the built-in hand controller on the telescope mount.

How to connect mount

Related Article: How to Connect the ASIAIR to Your Sky-Watcher Mount

Once you have successfully connected your telescope mount to the ASIAIR Plus, you can use the search tool to find and slew to deep-sky objects in the night sky. 

Polar Alignment

For those that appreciate electronically assisted polar alignment (similar to the QHY Polemaster experience), the ASIAIR Plus has its own built-in polar alignment feature.

I have not personally demoed the polar alignment tool, but others swear by it. Cody (AstroBlender) has a fantastic ASIAIR polar alignment tutorial on YouTube. 

Many beginners struggle with the polar alignment process of an astrophotography mount, and I believe this is one of the main reasons the ASIAIR Plus and its predecessors are so popular.

Keep in mind that the polar alignment tool in the ASIAIR plus requires that you have a view within 30° of the celestial pole. 

smartphone control

Running an Imaging Sequence.

WiFi Range

The ASIAIR Plus corrects the biggest issue I had with the previous versions, the WiFi range. The dual-band antenna now reaches about 20 meters (65 ft), which is more than enough for me to get things running and keep tabs on my imaging sequence anywhere in the house.

It’s a dual-band WiFi network (2.4G/5G). ZWO states that the 5Ghz WiFi is faster than 2.4Ghz, but the range is better using 2.4Ghz. I personally used the 2.4Ghz range and experienced very little lag in the system.

The system is also a lot more stable in terms of the firmware and it boasts a 52MB/second write speed in order to handle today’s monster sensors and precious data coming through.

Guiding

In my experience, the autoguiding feature of the ASIAIR Plus worked flawlessly, each and every time. Keep in mind, I was shooting with a very forgiving wide-field telescope and full-frame camera.

The tool is extremely easy to navigate and run. Once your guide camera is connected and you have entered in the focal length of your guide scope, expect a quick calibration run and reliable autoguiding throughout the night. 

The guiding tool allows you to dither your images between each exposure, which (along with calibration frames) is extremely important for capturing quality data to integrate. In case you couldn’t tell from the image below, yes, the ASIAIR supports multi-star guiding. 

Guiding with the ASIAIR Plus

The Guiding Tool.

Live Stack/EAA

It is possible to live stack your images using the ASIAIR Plus. This is often referred to as electronically assisted astronomy (EAA), as it allows you to get a better look at your chosen deep-sky object by taking several short-exposure images. 

While reviewing your live stack images, you have the option to adjust the histogram to taste so that you can better view the target. If you’re looking for a great demo on the live stacking tool, check out this video

Running an Imaging Plan

I really enjoyed the shooting schedule mode of the ASIAIR Plus. It makes the process of setting up a new imaging session crystal clear.

All of the important information is displayed, from the light frame exposure length to the binning mode.

You’re able to set a sequence of images to run automatically, whether they are your light frames (picture files) or calibration frames such as dark frames and flat frames. 

Keep in mind that if you want to edit the specifics (such as exposure time, dithering) of your Autorun plan, you must reset the plan. There is no “edit” option to interrupt the imaging sequence and make changes to your settings. 

Rest assured, this will not discard the images you have already taken. This feature is one that Yannick (Cuiv the Lazy Geek) hopes will be improved upon in the future.

My Results

My first tests were to just control the temperature of the camera and shoot a sequence of dark frames in the house. The FIT files came through flawlessly and were stored on my USB 3.0 thumb drive for easy transfer the morning after.

Framing and focusing your target on the ASIAIR Plus is a pleasure, the live-loop feedback on my phone allows me to fine-tune my focus and tweak the positioning of the mount for framing.

Trevor Jones (AstroBackyard)

I decided to photograph the Lobster Claw Nebula for my first test of the ZWO ASIAIR Plus. This is a large nebulae region in Cassiopeia that includes plenty of other interesting deep-sky objects nearby.

When I combine a full-frame camera (ASI2400MC Pro) with my wide-field telescope, I can collect massive regions of space in a single shot. It was a thrill to see each exposure come through on the screen of my phone as I sat inside the house.

The user interface is pretty close to perfect in my eyes, I can’t think of a better way to display the information. I love being able to monitor the progress of my imaging session and auto-stretch the raw images as they come in. 

Here is the final result of about 4 hours of overall integration using the ASIAIR Plus to control my imaging session.

Lobster Claw Nebula

The Lobster Claw Nebula, Bubble Nebula, and Cave Nebula. 

Final Thoughts

If you already have an original ASIAIR or ASIAIR Pro, and you’re happy with it (and any workarounds you’ve made to extend the WiFi), I doubt you’ll feel an immediate need to upgrade right away.

But if you’re a “laptop guy” like me who’s been patiently waiting and watching the development of this product improve, now might be the time to finally dive in. The WiFi range on the original was annoying, but it was the stability/bugginess that scared me away.

Flaming Star Nebula

The Flaming Star Nebula and the Tadpoles.

The ASIAIR Plus is a fantastic product, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to streamline their astrophotography experience using a ZWO ASI astronomy camera. 

I’ll continue to use the ASIAIR Plus here in the backyard, and may finally have to retire one of my faithful astro-laptop computers for good.

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This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. Jonathan Jones says:

    I love my ASIAIR Pro for controlling my portable rig. Like you said, no pressing need to upgrade to the Plus for me (yet).. but cracking product !

  2. David Herbert says:

    While I’ve been dabbling with ‘shooting space’ with my DSLR for nearly a decade, I moved into genuine astrophotography earlier this year and the ability to automate the process was the biggest factor in that decision. Laptops, cables, extension cords, multiple programs and the potential for error each element introduced made setup and success enough of a challenge to make nightly imaging impractical.
    The ASIAir was an obvious choice when I put together my rig last February and has given me nothing but success since I started using it in March. 5 minute initializations are considered long and I generally take longer to uncover and power up than I do to PA. I use ethernet and connection has been flawless with blazing download speed.
    I do my planning from bed using an iPad mini and am at a point where I don’t even review my first images. Set my plan and press run… That’s it. No more wasted nights because I just don’t want to hassle with setup, no ruined sessions because of cable snags, software failure or poor planning.
    Meridian flips work perfectly, but I tend to shift to another target rather than lose imaging time. I’m currently collecting data on 3 targets each night and will process this weekend.
    Astrophotography is nothing to lose sleep over

  3. Mike Coates says:

    I’ve tried both Stellarmate and Astroberry, and had the same issue with both — extremely slow transfer of images from my EOS RP to the RPi, which introduces a 10-20 second delay in between exposures. So far, the reviewers are using dedicated astro cameras, which is great, since that’s clearly ZWO’s primary focus. But since they include support for DSLR’s, I’m very curious if the AIR+ suffers from the same problem. Have you tried it with your Ra yet, Trevor?

    • Trevor says:

      Interesting, Mike. Yeah, 10-20 seconds between exposures on your DLSR/Mirrorless is a problem. I have not tried the ASIAIR Plus with my Canon EOS Ra yet. I will add it to the list. Thank you for pointing this out!

  4. Chris Tardif says:

    Curious to know what version of Raspberry it is and if there is a header inside that an external antenna can be attached to. I have the ASI Air Pro OG and there doesn’t seem to be a WIFI header. Anyone feel like cracking the lid on the new version and posting a pic ?

  5. Sean Killian says:

    Hey Trevor,

    Great in depth writeup. I have used the ASIAir Pro for over a year now, I actually have two of them for each rig, and I love it. Does everything I need it to do and more. For me I dont see the range “issues” many people have experienced with the ASIAir Pro. I run a mesh network and my setup is 30 feet from my home running in station mode and I am two floors above, warm and cozy in my bed. For me, the ASI Air Plus is not worth an upgrade but if I did experience range issues, I would give it a go. Ill hold out for ASIAir Mega or Ultra whatever is next…
    I think I recall a video posting from you a couple years ago where you were trying out the original ASIAir and I’m sure the Plus is a much welcomed improvement.

    Clear Skies,
    Sean

  6. Ron Cisco says:

    Hi Trevor

    I would like to see this able to connect to my home wifi with the ability to transfer the images wirelessly. I do a lot of imaging when I am not at home and I connect remotely to the computer at the telescope. The other thing I would like to see is dome control. If ZWO would provide those 2 things I would probably purchase one.

    Clear skies
    Ron

  7. Paul alaback says:

    I have been using my ASIAIR exclusively for the past year and a half. It has been a total game changer for me. Once you learn how to get everything connected, work out a power source, and get the portable router working in the case of the models before the plus, it really does everything I need. It is so much easier than using a windows based system or a laptop. Power draw is so low you can easily run everything off of relatively small and light weight lithium batteries. I am getting amazing guiding now on my CEM40. Often 0.2-.4 RMS error, so no problem getting 10 minute subs. Autofocus is super easy and reliable. It took a little bit of fiddling to get automatic meridian flips to work correctly. Now its very reliable. Big thing with this system is it is easy to totally automate, so now its easy to get long integration times, and be able to sleep at night. It just makes astrophotography way more fun for me. I totally recommend this system.

  8. Steve Leonard says:

    Would be nice to see a comparison to a laptop-based setup with NINA, especially with the flexibility of NINA’s advanced sequencing module and the availability of plugins.

  9. Paul Colley says:

    Thanks Trevor. As ever, a very well-articulated and informative review that gets me close to upgrading my ‘laptop in a bucket’ set up, but not yet! I’m using NINA on a SCT with ZWO cameras with TeamViewer remote control software to run everything from indoors. As the results come through, I sometimes do need to edit my imaging plan on the fly as conditions change or my plan proves sub-optimal, so I love the ability to tweak things quickly in NINA without losing the underlying plan. NINA (and formerly for me APT) are such good tools that I’m reluctant to let go of this kind of functionality. I’ll watch with great interest to see how ASIAIR Plus develops, but for now it falls just a smidgeon short of what I need to control a difficult imaging session. I hugely appreciate what you’re doing for the community!

    • Trevor says:

      Thanks for the kind words Paul! I totally understand where you’re coming from. To be honest, I will ALWAYS have a laptop running one of the rigs – but not in certain situations anymore. For example, when traveling I usually stick to my Canon EOS Ra – but now I can bring a more robust rig without all the extra gear. I really need to explore NINA more, it looks like it has a number of extra features APT doesn’t.

  10. Alistair Scobie says:

    The Asiair Plus has the same amount of RAM (4GB) as the previous model, but take three times longer to boot up. How does that fit with the EMC internal storage having a faster data rate?

  11. Hey Trevor. I see you’re using the ASI2400MC Pro. How do you like it? I’ve been thinking of picking one up for myself. I heard the gigantic file size, with 24Megapix, causes some problems with processing. Any problems? You haven’t yet reviewed it I see.

    Thanks
    MC

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Michael. I really like the 2400MC Pro so far. The raw files are about 50 MB each. I haven’t had any issues transferring, stacking, processing the data so far. My image processing PC is quite powerful, though. (Acer Predator Gaming – Intel 8 CORE i7-9700K, 4TB+512GB SSD, 32GB DDR4, RTX 2080). I keep coming back to my Canon EOS Ra because once you get used to a full-frame astro-sensor, it’s hard to go back. Now, I have that in the 2400MC Pro – with cooling and all of the other benefits of a dedicated astronomy camera!

  12. Gerard Bastiaanse says:

    Hello Trevor,
    Have you ever considered the Eagle 4 from Primalucelab?
    The biggest advantage being to use your own software (APT, NINA, PHD etc).
    You can also control this device from your laptop (and phone, Ipad etc)
    Worthwhile to have a look.
    Greetings from Holland!
    Gerard.

  13. Michael Cerrato says:

    Thanks Trevor. I have a MacBook pro with a bit less processing power (2.6 GHz 6-Core Intel Core i7,16 GB 2400 MHz DDR4), but I think it can handle it.

  14. Naptown Larry says:

    The ASIAir Plus only had 100 available for preorder (which are already filled) on the ZWO website. And it doesn’t look like they, or anyone else, is going to have any more of them for the foreseeable future…

    Guess I’ll just have to stick with my Alienware Laptop for now… 🙁

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