- 90Hz AMOLED Display is a Bliss
- Good Front Firing Speakers
- Powerful Performance
- QuickCharge 4.0 Supported
- QuickCharge 4.0 Adapter Included
- Clean and Optimized UI
- Problems can be fixed with an Update
- Low Light Camera Capabilities can be better
- Battery isn't Optimized to last longer than a Day
What’s a better way to make a Smartphone even more cooler and better than the rest? You make a Gaming Smartphone. And that’s what we get in 2018. We have seen various companies taking this new approach of making a gaming smartphone. But what happens when you get a gaming smartphone from a company that excels in making the best Gaming Notebooks for the masses? This is where ASUS come into play. They unveiled their true gaming smartphone – ROG Phone back in Computex and it took a lot of attention. Before the official launch, the kind folks at Asus Malaysia sent us the ROG Phone and we used it for a fair bit of time. Is this the gaming phone we have been waiting for? Find out in our Asus ROG Phone Review.
Design and Build Quality
Just like any other phone, a gaming phone is defined by it’s aesthetics and the ROG Phone sure does get that part covered. After going through a process of choosing between four different final prototype, they went with this design – they call it the Tactical Knife. On the front, it has a muted look with the bronze color accents on the top and bottom. The moment you flip it over, you’ll see a design that scream that it’s a part of A Gamer’s DNA. The geometrical lines and the camera design all over gives it a futuristic vibe and visually appealing look to it. On the side, you’ll see the angular Nickel plate that adds an aesthetic appeal to it.
As for the build quality, the ROG Phone is covered with a Corning Gorilla Glass 6 on the front and a 3D Corning Gorilla Glass on the back. On the side, you’ll notice that it has a metal rail. The whole phone gives a premium feel – thanks to the material that they went with. The phone weighs in about 200g and it has a decent weight that I like. ASUS claims that the phone has better drop test survivability. But don’t risk it really. Thankfully Malaysia, when you purchase the ROG Phone – you’ll get a really nice case to protect your phone and show it off the same time.
It doesn’t end there. ASUS gave another interesting touch to the ROG Phone to make it stand out. That’s the ROG Logo that’s located at the back of the phone. This ROG Logo can be programmed with the help of the Game Center. You get to choose between four different modes – Static, Breathing, Strobing and Color Cycle. If you are familiar with ASUS lineup, you’ve heard the term Aura Lighting. That’s precisely you are getting with the ROG Phone. It’s basically a feature to show off that you have the ROG Phone and guess what? It works. So many people spotted the phone further away and walked over to me just to talk about it.
Specification & Benchmark
When it comes to specification, the ROG Phone has some impressive specification under the hood. The device is powered with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 clocked in at 2.96GHz. The processor on this has been specially clocked and was meant for this phone. It comes with 8GB RAM and a storage configuration of 128GB or 512GB. As for the GPU, you get a Qualcomm Adreno 630 for impressive gaming experience.
We benchmarked the phone – with Antutu, Geekbench and to verify the specification, we used CPU-Z to get the complete details required. Do take note that benchmark does not add up to day-to-day usage as it varies heavily. But it should give you a rough estimation on how the phone would perform on a day-to-day basis.
The ROG Phone has a 6.0” Display in an 18:9 aspect ratio with a resolution of 2160×1080 – that’s FHD+. One other thing you’ll notice is the fact that there isn’t any notch – which makes it way better than one can think of. The display has a warmer hue or tint to it but you can calibrate it according to your preference in the settings. Thanks to the 108.6% DCI-P3 of color coverage and the fact that it’s an AMOLED Display, makes the whole experience a lot nice. Viewing shows on Netflix with the HDR Mode helps in giving deep blacks and good colors overall.
For a gaming phone, bet you expected something extra right? Well, don’t worry. The ROG Phone has a really impressive 90Hz refresh rate with 1ms response time. All you have to do is – head over to the settings and toggle between 60 Hz and 90 Hz. I have to say, the way it feels – it’s orgasmic. Basically, you are holding a G-Sync Display on your smartphone. This gives certain games the edge in giving the smoothest and fastest transition. We tried Monument Valley, Asphalt: 9, Republique, Limbo, just to see how smooth the display and I have to say, I enjoyed it. You can tell the difference just by swiping left and right or even jumping between apps that the 90 Hz does make a difference.
You might be wondering – in what way is it better than the Razer Phone’s 120 Hz display. Well, to put things into perspective – Razer uses a TN Panel, which gives far less color accuracy but has the potential to give a higher fps whereas Asus wants to make sure their user end gets both accurate colors and a frame rate that satisfies gamers, with that said – the approach here makes complete sense.
Considering the fact that ASUS and Qualcomm teamed up together for a specially binned Snapdragon 845 Processor, an octa-core processor with 2.96GHz – paired with 8GB RAM expect this phone to fly because it actually does. The phone has the capability to handle pretty much anything you throw at it and in fact, games on this phone runs smooth and efficiently. Instead of just trying the usual Asphalt: 9, Tekken, Monument Valley, we fired up some of our favorite collection that requires a good performance centric smartphone. With that said, we tried Republique, a game that’s also available on PC. The ROG Phone handles it like a charm.
There are times when the phone gets warm after playing 2-3 games of PUBG but generally, if it was a different phone, you could have felt the heat when you’re in the second game. Thanks to the VaporCool Chamber inside the phone that dissipates the heat in an even manner. It has three different layers – a Carbon Cooling pad, Copper Heat Spreader and a 3D Vapor Chamber. These three all together improves the heat dissipation. To add on, ASUS included an accessory for their phone – the AeroActive Cooler. This helps in making the phone even more cooler with the help of a fan that’s located at the bottom. But I cant quite tell whether the cooler has any affect on the temperature, if at all there was only a marginal decrease.
Battery Life & Charging
The ROG Phone packs a 4000 mAh battery under the hood. We tested the phone on two different occasion – one with minimal usage and second is with heavy usage that involved playing some games and sorts. Under light usage, the phone was unplugged from the charger for 11 hours 23 minutes and I had about 20 percent battery left with a SoT of 3 Hours 11 minutes. This involved a little bit of social network and watching shows on Netflix.
On to the heavy test, when we put the phone for a real test – which involved me playing a fair amount of games, watching series, listening to music and social networking, the phone managed to give 4 Hours 30 minutes + of SoT but the unplugged time from the charger became shorter by 3 hours less. Honestly, I kind of expected the phone to last longer because of it’s 4000 mAh battery. But for some reason, I see a similar battery pattern to the ASUS Zenfone 4 Selfie Pro which also had an AMOLED Display too. There is some sort of battery leak that needs to be fixed.
Now for the charging part – Asus has opted in for a new technology – they call it the HyperCharge. The adapter that comes along the box has an integrated circuit, which allows the phone to charge faster and maintain the core temperature of it. What makes it best is the fact that it supports Qualcomm QuickCharge 4.0. I have to say, I was happy to use this charger. During my time charging the phone, all it really took was 1 hour 23 minutes to get from 8 percent to 100. That’s ridiculously fast. They claim that it can hit 0-60 in 30 minutes is pretty much accurate.
The Adapter that comes in the box comes with a USB -C Port and a USB-C to C cable that’s braided. This is actually the second time we have seen a phone to have a braided cable – which is definitely a nice touch both in terms of aesthetics and durability.
The ASUS ROG Phone has a dual camera setup on the back and a Front facing camera.
On the front, the ROG Phone houses an 8MP Camera with an aperture of f/2.0 and a 84 degree field of view. Personally, I don’t take selfies in general but during my test, the camera captured some good shots. Despite the fixed focus, the detailing is somewhat accurate. Asus has also fixed the bug where it tends to over expose a person’s face with a dark complexion. Under low light, the phone managed to pull out a good picture and maintain the exposure in the background which is – without a doubt – an improvement from it’s predecessors.
On the back, the ROG Phone has a dual camera setup going on. The primary camera is a 12MP Sony IMX363 Sensor with an aperture of f/1.7. The secondary camera is an 8MP Wide-angle camera with 120 degrees of field of view. The primary sensor has a 4-axis OIS making it a really good companion for taking pictures on the move. We have made a comparison oh how different it looks.
In the first shot, you’ll notice that the colors on the primary sensor looks vibrant and punchy. As for the exposure, it looks very even and the sky doesn’t look overblown – which happens with some cameras. When you zoom in, the detailing on the objects further away looks a bit blurred out. The shot beside it was taken with the secondary camera – you can notice the wider coverage. In this the color is a lot more neutral than washed out. The exposure overall is pretty decent and once again there isn’t any blown out high areas.
Now in our second shot, this was taken indoor. The lighting is a lot dimmer and you can see that the primary sensor has the capability to capture images with details and when you zoom into the menu on the table, you can tell what’s written too. Since it has a normal focal length, it only covers the table. Moving to the Wide angle sensor, it definitely captures more than the table. You can see the subject itself. There is some sort of softening going around but once again, the detailing is not completely compromised.
I have to say, for a gaming centric smartphone – Asus sure has included good camera optics both on the front and back. The colors the camera produces – it’s on point, I have to say. Though there is a loss of details in a distance with both the rear sensor. I had very little hope with the camera being able to shoot under low light, but once again it sure did an alright. There is softening at areas with low lighting and has a bit of hazy feel to it. I am sure you can fix it with an update.
You can check out the full resolution images on our Flickr Album.
Speaker & Security
One of the other highlights of this phone is definitely the speakers. The ROG Phone packs dual Smart Amplified Speakers from NXP. The speaker has the capability to produce loud and impressive sound quality. Since it’s located up on the front, your hands can no way block the speakers and playing games or watching videos with these speaker is a bliss. There is very little bass response to it but despite that the vocals and instruments are clear and sharp. It does have a bit of dynamic to it too. Toggling the Outdoor Mode will increase the vocals and compresses on the instrument, which isn’t really ideal on a day-to-day basis unless you are outside.
As for security, ASUS included a fingerprint sensor that’s located more towards the left side of the phone. It does remind me of the Note8 Fingerprint sensor position. As a left handed person, I find it easier to reach and unlock with no hassle. The phone features a Face Recognition mode – where it uses the camera to capture your face and unlock it. It works in both well lighted and dim lit places.
Other Feature – AirTriggers
ROG Phone has a feature that they call it the AirTrigger. These Ultrasonic AirTriggers allow you to control your character in your games by tapping the sides of it – you’ll have to program it with the help of Game Genie. In the normal position – you can squeeze to turn on the X Mode – which enables the performance mode. In fact, you can program a short squeeze to launch something else. I set mine to Google Assistant.
We tried the AirTriggers on the phone when we tried playing on Asphalt:9. These sensors has less than 10ms of latency. The moment it registers the tap, it recognizes and executes the action I programmed it to do so. There is a bit of delay but it’s pretty normal. Asus recommends to try the AirTriggers on an FPS Based game which works better when we played PUBG.
UI & OS
Since it’s a gaming phone, it’s only nice to have a gamer centric layout. So, Asus has skinned the Zen UI which we are familiar with and calls it the ROG UI. The ROG UI comes with a very dark theme based interface – in the settings and notification toggle. Other than that, it also comes with this special icon pack. The rest of the UI is the same as the Zen UI. The ROG UI is clean and doesn’t have any sorts of bloatware taking up space.
It does come with some extra feature to make the ROG Phone work better. The ROG Gaming Centre monitors the CPU and GPU Temperature and the usage for the Memory and Storage. It gives a clean overlook on how your phone is performing. Following that, it has a mode called the X Mode. Turning this on will give the phone an upper hand with performance as it boosts the processor to work at a higher clock speed. Next up it has the Game Profiles – where you can set custom settings for every games you play with. Then we have the Fan Speed – this will only work if you use the AeroActive Cooler. You can either set it to auto where the cooler will work according to the load on the phone or control it manually. Finally, you’ll see the Aura Lighting settings where you can change the ROG Logo lighting to your liking and even sync with some Aura Lighting powered Asus product.
2018 has been a huge year for smartphones in general and a bigger year for Gaming Smartphones. Among the pool of gaming smartphones that’s currently available, even with the newly announced Razer Phone 2, I can strongly say that the ROG Phone has far more better potential than that. The ROG Phone trumps as the true gaming smartphone for gamers. I am no gamer, but something about this phone made me play and have some fun.
Trust me, the moment you take it out of your pocket – people can notice that you are using the ROG Phone without a doubt. I had the same reaction from everyone – my friends and even strangers in the LRT. The phone looks good and feels great.
We, at The Adventures of Vesper give the ROG Phone the Vesper Choice Award for the Gaming Smartphone Category.