ASUS ROG Phone Review: Believe The Hype

by John Nieves  November 7, 2018

We finally review the beast

ASUS’ ROG brand has long been the yardstick that every other gaming brand was measured against. It’s only natural then that the Taiwanese company’s first gaming smartphone would be marketed and sold under the ROG name. With a speed-binned processor, gaming aesthetic and an ultra-smooth 90Hz display, it’s the best, and the only choice for a gaming phone in the Philippines, at least officially.

What is it?

The ROG Phone is ASUS’ first attempt at a purpose-built gaming smartphone. The phone has many features that are found on gaming notebooks and other peripherals – customizable lights, a display with an ultra-fast response time plus a speed-binned processor that make the phone considerably more powerful than comparable devices in the market today.

The design certainly looks..unique.

It does, and it’s been a point of contention for the people who we showed the phone to. The ROG phone uses a mix of glass and metal in its design, and the overall design language certainly screams “gamer”. Personally, we’re not a big fan of the design, mostly because of the fingerprint scanner that’s been offset to the right to fit the design aesthetic. While it was done for looks, it makes unlocking the phone with your right hand a little harder, even for guys that have bigger than average mitts.

There are two copper grilles on the side for ventilation, and a large ROG logo in the middle. True to gamer form, the color of the ROG logo can be customized, much like the company’s Aura Sync LED tech.

The right side of the phone holds the volume and power buttons, while the bottom holds the USB Type-C connector and 3.5mm jack. The dual SIM slot is on the left, along with a side mount connector where many of the ROG phone’s peripherals plug into. There’s a small rubber cover that keeps that port protected when not in use.

The ROG phone has one of the loudest speakers we’ve ever heard on a phone. The two speaker grilles are on the front, and doesn’t distort even in high volume.

Wait, did you just say peripherals?

Yep. The ROG Phone has a bunch of accessories that give you an edge when playing games. Included in every purchase is an AeroActive Cooler which does exactly what its name suggests: cools down the phone while you’re playing and serves as a charging point that doesn’t get in the way while gaming.

There’s also a Gamevice controller which adds a physical controller to the sides of the phone for more accurate input, important for FPS/racing games.

The ROG Phone WiGig dock meanwhile, allows you to mirror what’s on your phone’s display to a bigger screen wirelessly via a low-latency WiFi connection.

The TwinView dock, on the other hand, is capable of giving the phone a useful secondary display that shows additional information that’s not possible with a single screen, though it’ll be up to developers if they want to include such an unfair advantage in their games.

Finally, the Mobile Desktop Dock allows you to turn the ROG phone into a desktop of sorts, making plugging a 4K monitor, Gigabit Ethernet, audio peripherals plus a keyboard and mouse into the device possible.

That’s a wide array of peripherals for a single device, and we hope ASUS makes sure that they’re compatible with the next iteration of their ROG phone so early adopters can re-use the expensive peripherals on the next generation of the gaming phone.

Is that display as good as it looks?

Absolutely. Before we wax poetic about its 90Hz refresh rate, let’s take a look at the numbers first: the panel is a 6-inch, full HD+, 2160 x 1080 resolution AMOLED display with a 108.6% DCI-P3 color gamut and 10000:1 contrast ratio. The display’s refresh rate is 90Hz, with a 1ms response time.

What makes the ROG Phone different from most other high-spec flagships available nowadays is that buttery-smooth display. You really have to see it in person to see how it compares to a normal smartphone display, as it delivers buttery smooth visuals direct to your eyeballs. No blur, no screen tearing, just absolutely smooth visuals. After gaming on the ROG Phone, playing Asphalt 9 on other devices just felt bleh.

What other gaming enhancements does it have?

Aside from the customizable RGB lighting, the ROG Phone also has a few extra features made especially for gaming. First is the ultrasonic AirTrigger touch sensors, which basically act as shoulder buttons for landscape gaming. It gives you another control option when you’re playing Asphalt 9 or PUBG Mobile, something that a regular phone can’t give you without adding an accessory.

There’s also a Game Center App which gives you access to the phone’s stats, including how much memory is currently being used, the current frequency of both the GPU and CPU, how much storage is used and the overall temperature of the device.

It also acts as a gateway for the Game Genie, which allows players to tweak your phone’s settings on the fly, as well as lock out the navigation bar, blocks notifications from disturbing you while you game and allows you to make macros in games.

How does it perform with games?

Pretty freakin’ well. That speed-binned Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor along with the 8GB of RAM and 128GB of expandable storage really helps up its benchmark scores.

When playing you can turn on X Mode, which is a special mode dedicated to gaming. When X Mode is turned on, it improves hardware efficiency and removes background apps to release memory in order to optimize the gaming experience.

The powerful processor, along with the amazing display, really delivers a mobile gaming experience like no other. We did notice that the phone ran warmer running on X Mode, so you might want to plug in the Aero Active Cooler if you decide to game with this mode on.

That UI though…

Yeah, we’re really not a fan of it. The phone runs Android Oreo with a new UI dubbed ROG Gaming X mode UI. To say that the phone looks cluttered and tacky with that particular UI is a gigantic understatement, and feels like a step backward if you consider how much ASUS has improved its own ZenUI overlay.

Do those cameras deliver the goods?

Surprisingly enough, yes. The ROG phone isn’t a device that has photography in mind, but the 12-megapixel main camera with a f/1.7 aperture lens and the 8-megapixel 120-degree wide-angle camera with a f/2.0 lens is surprisingly good, delivering photos with excellent detail and accurate colors.

The phone may be built with gamers in mind but it can still hold its own when it comes to photography.

How long does it last on a single charge?

The ROG Phone has a 4000mAh battery, and with moderate use (gaming, browsing, some videos, all running on data) netted us around a day’s worth of battery life with a bit left over at the end of the day.

If you do find yourself out of juice, ASUS’ HyperCharge tech gets the phone back up and running. ASUS claims that the phone can be charged to about 60 percent in just 30 minutes using their charger and cable.

Should you buy it?

If you’re serious about mobile gaming and want to elevate your game to the next level, then it’s not hard to see the value that the ROG Phone brings to the table. That ultra-smooth display really is something else, and the gaming advantage that you get with it even without the add-ons doesn’t really seem fair.

The ROG Phone isn’t a one trick pony either, and if you can look past the polarizing design and tacky UI then you’ll realize that it’s a great phone in its own right as well.

The ROG Phone retails for Php 49,995 for the 128GB model and Php 61,995 for the 512GB model.

ASUS ROG Phone Specs

  • Speed-binned 2.93Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor
  • Adreno 630 GPU
  • 8GB RAM
  • 128GB/512GB internal storage
  • 6-inch Full HD+AMOLED display with 90hz refresh rate and 1ms response time, HDR support
  • 12-megapixel main and 8-megapixel wide-angle rear cameras
  • 8-megapixel front camera
  • 4G, LTE
  • Dual SIM
  • WiFi, Bluetooth
  • GPS, A-GPS
  • USB Type-C
  • GameCool vapor-chamber cooling system, AirTrigger force feedback haptics
  • Aura RGB lighting and AuraSync Support
  • Stereo speakers with smart amplifier and support for Hi-Res Audio, DTS:HeadphoneX, and aptX
  • 4000mAh battery with HyperCharge
  • Android 8.1 Oreo with ZenUI 5.0

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