We go hands-on with the ROG Phone 2!
ASUS first dedicated gaming smartphone, the ROG Phone, was good. So good, in fact, that the Taiwanese manufacturer is making a second one. While the company’s high-end ZenFone lineup has been floundering in many countries (including our own), their ROG Phone has been a consistent best-seller, even now.
It’s not really surprising that the company made a follow-up device, what is surprising is the number of improvements and eco-system updates that ASUS has done to the phone to make it even better. We spent a few hours with the ROG Phone 2 during a pre-release session held in Taipei, Taiwan a few days ago, and here’s what we thought of the new gaming phone.
ROG Phone 2 Specs
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus processor
- Adreno 640 GPU
- 6.59-inch 120Hz/1ms AMOLED panel with 240Hz touch sampling rate, full HD+ resolution, 108% DCI-P3, Corning Gorilla Glass 6, 10-bit HDR (2340 x 1080)
- 12GB of LPDDR4x RAM
- Up to 512GB of UFS3.0 storage
- 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 sensor with an f/1.79 aperture lens, 13-megapixel wide
- angle secondary camera
- 24-megapixel front camera
- Dual SIM
- 3G, LTE
- WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, under-display fingerprint sensor
- 6000mAh battery
- Two USB Type C ports
- Fast charging up to 30W using supplied charger and regular USB Type-C cable
- Android 9 Pie
Same design DNA but in an extra tall package
ASUS’ ROG brand has always had its own distinct design DNA which is clearly reflected in the second generation phone. The ROG Phone 2 has many of the same design elements of the first device like the glowing ROG logo, copper exhaust vents and angular lines at the back.
Conspicuously missing is the physical fingerprint scanner, which has been eliminated in favor of an under-display one.
The biggest physical change is the overall height of the phone. The ROG Phone 2 is a lot taller than the original, coming in at 170.99mm tall (around 6.7 inches). That’s a good 12.19mm taller than the original, which was only 158.8mm tall.
That extra length allowed ASUS to put in an even bigger 6.59-inch, 19.5:9 aspect ratio display, with a resolution of 2340 x 1080.
Incredibly fast, and accurate, display
Speaking of the display, one of the main upgrades to the ROG Phone 2 over last year’s model is the panel. The phone now has a 120Hz, AMOLED panel with 1/ms response time and a 240Hz touch sampling rate, which makes it the fastest and most responsive touch display on a mobile phone today. ASUS approached the display of the next generation ROG phone like they do their gaming notebooks, and really tried to squeeze in every gaming-centric tech into the display as possible to make it the ultimate gaming phone.
The display isn’t just fast either – the phone’s display has a 108% DCI-P3 color gamut, Delta E<1, 10-bit HDR and SDR2HDR support (that will come via OTA). It’s one of the most color-accurate displays on a smartphone today, making it the perfect phone if you like watching movies.
The phone still uses traditional bezels, so there are no notches here, which is important for a gaming phone since you want a small buffer between your palm and the screen to prevent accidental touches. The bezels also house the extremely loud stereo speakers.
That extra-tall display though makes the phone a little hard to handle if you have smaller hands, and while you can use the phone one-handed, you’ll have to reposition your grip when you’re trying to reach stuff on the top of the phone or when you’re trying to bring down the notification bar. The phone’s glass construction also makes the device a smudge magnet when you’re playing, so you’ll want to stick it in a case if you’re the type of person that gets annoyed with that.
The phone still has the same USB Type-C connector on the bottom to attach accessories to, like the Aero Active Cooler II.
The original ROG phone came with a ton of enhancements that made the ROG phone stand out from other gaming phones, which ASUS has improved for the second generation. The AirTrigger – the virtual shoulder pads on the side of the phone – are more responsive this time around, and can now detect an actual, deliberate press over your finger just resting on them. Haptic feedback for the AirTriggers has been improved, and vibration latency has been reduced for better feedback as well.
ASUS also put in two vibration motors on the ROG Phone 2 that allows vibrations to the X, Y and Z axes, giving you more physical feedback when you’re playing a game.
Same cameras as the ZenFone 6
ASUS isn’t skimping out on imaging on the ROG Phone 2 despite the device being a gaming smartphone. On the back of the device are the same snappers used on the ZenFone 6, namely a 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 sensor with an f/1.79 aperture lens, and a 13-megapixel wide-angle shooter. There’s no optical zoom snapper here, but considering that people use wide-angle cameras more than zoom cameras it’s not that big of a deal.
The front camera is a 24-megapixel shooter that’s positioned so that your palms don’t block it when you’re playing, which should delight both professional and casual streamers alike.
An upgraded Snapdragon flagship processor
Beating inside of the ROG Phone 2 is the newly announced Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus. We already detailed the new processor here, but the long and short of it is that the processor is an overclocked version of Qualcomm’s current flagship offering. ASUS has paired that processor with a bunch of thermal management tricks to make sure that your frames are consistent and the chipset doesn’t get throttled thermally which usually happens when you game for a long time.
The ROG Phone 2 uses a 3D vapor chamber to keep temps low, and moves air through the device passively through the vents on the inside and outside of the phone. Finally, the AeroActive Cooler II physically keeps the phone cool (while keeping the noise down) by as much as 5 degrees Celcius, which should keep your frames consistent even when you’re playing demanding games.
ASUS stuffed in the best components in the ROG Phone 2 which isn’t surprising: you’re looking at 12GB of LPDDR4X RAM, and storage options of up to 512GB of UFS 3.0 storage.
Insanely large battery
Gaming on the go uses up a lot of juice, which is why ASUS put in a massive 6000mAh battery inside the ROG Phone 2’s body. Despite that, the phone doesn’t weigh a ton, and in fact only tips the scales at 240 grams, only 40 grams more than the original. That 6000mAh battery should give you more than enough juice for all-day gaming. ASUS also threw in what they call ROG HyperCharge tech, which allows you to charge the phone via 30W direct charging using universal 3A cables with the ROG Phone 2’s charger. Other brands usually require you to use their own charger and cable to enjoy fast charging. ASUS says that with their charging tech, you can charge the phone from 0 to 4000mAh in about 58 minutes.
Just like the first phone, ASUS has produced quite a number of accessories for the ROG Phone 2, but because of the increased size of the phone, many of them won’t be backward compatible with the first device. The most intriguing is the ROG Kunai gamepad that looks a hell of a lot like the Nintendo Switch’s Joycon.
The gamepads attach to the side of the phone via a plastic bumper (that in turn connects to the USB Type-C port) and transmit inputs via ultrafast RF 2.4GHz. You can use the Kunai via Gamepad mode too if you don’t like the added weight of the phone on your palms as well via Bluetooth.
ASUS has also improved the dual-screen TwinView Dock II by making it lighter, putting a 5000mAh battery in it and a better performing fan for better thermals. You can even combine the TwinView Dock II with the Kunai to create a Franken gaming rig of sorts if you really wanted to.
We found ourselves really getting in the groove in Asphalt 9 and PUBG Mobile thanks to the accessories provided. The Kunai, as similar to the switch as it is, really does give you an added edge in games where more precise inputs are required.
Even the phone’s Aero Case has been improved so that you can use the Aero Case and the AeroActive Cooler II at the same time, something that wasn’t possible with the first generation ROG Phone.
More game partnerships
ASUS is working with even more gaming publishers to give better support for their next-generation ROG Phone. Asphalt 9 for example, has increased FPS over other phones and has support for their new vibration SDK and the TwinView Dock II. Shadowgun Legends has support for the 120Hz screen, has vibration SDK as well as performance enhancements as well.
ASUS has really worked hard to give their next-generation ROG Phone an edge over competing devices. That 120Hz screen looks oh so good (and so fluid), the performance is really unmatched in games, and the accessories give users an unfair advantage, especially in games like PUBG Mobile.
The biggest question right now is price – the original ROG Phone was quite pricey when it first came out, and that’s without the accessories. There’s no doubt that the next generation ROG Phone will be even more expensive, and you’ll have to shell out big bucks to get all of the accessories for it if you really want to maximize your investment. But for the mobile gamer than wants an unfair advantage, that may be a small price to pay.