Ever since the announcement of the ROG Phone, everyone has had questions whether Asus can infuse the ROG DNA inside a smartphone. The Razer Phone 2, Xiaomi’s Black Shark and the Nubia Red Magic Mars are the ROG Phone’s competitors, but on paper, the Asus smartphone trumps them with more powerful hardware including an overclocked Snapdragon 845 processor, Air Triggers and a lot of accessories to enhance the experience.
With a price tag of Rs. 69,999, the ROG Phone is no cheap phone, and there are some serious trade-offs in getting the ultimate gaming experience. Of course, there is no dearth of excellent alternatives like the Pixel 3 XL, Galaxy Note 9 and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro in that price range.
So, is the ROG Phone’s promise of an unparalleled gaming experience enough to make it worth the price tag? Or is the phone actually worth buying as a legitimate Android flagship even if gaming is not on your mind? Let’s find out.
Asus ROG Phone Specifications:
The Asus ROG Phone packs top-of-the-line hardware which warrants it a flagship status, and then ups the ante with a host of gaming-centric additions. Let’s take a look at the Asus ROG Phone’s hardware:
|Dimensions||158.83mm x 76.16mm x 8.65mm
|Display||6-inch 18:9 (2160 by 1080) 90Hz AMOLED with Corning Gorilla Glass 6|
|Processor||Overclocked Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (2.96GHz)|
|RAM||Upto 8GB LPDDR4X|
|Storage||128GB / 512GB UFS2.1|
|Rear Camera||12MP (F1.8) + 8MP (120° wide-angle)|
|Front Camera||8MP (F2.0)|
|Software||ROG Gaming X mode UI based on Android 8.1 Oreo|
|Connectivity||WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ad, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, WiFi Direct, GPS, AGPS, GLONASS, BDS, Dual SIM LTE|
|Sensors||Fingerprint sensor, Face recognition, Accelerator, E-Compass, Gyroscope, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, Ultrasonic sensor|
As you can see this is flagship-grade hardware all-around, and the retail package is also quite good.
Asus ROG Phone: Box Contents
The Asus ROG Phone comes packaged inside a trapezoidal box which looks very cool, but is a pain to actually open and close. Nevertheless, it exudes an unmistakable gaming aura. All accessories are packaged neatly inside, although closing the box again is a pain every time. Here’s what you will find inside the box:
- Asus ROG Phone
- AeroActive Cooler
- Type-C to C cable
- Ejector pin (SIM tray needle)
- USB power adapter (30W)
- Rubber covers for secondary ports
Asus ROG Phone: Design and Build Quality
The ROG Phone is unique, stylish and aggressive looking. The smartphone’s gaming genes are expressed clearly with this bold aesthetic, highlighted by the asymmetrical design elements on the rear panel, including around the camera, LED flash, fingerprint sensor and the cooling vents, all of which have polygonal cutouts.
Some might call the ROG Phone ’s design over-the-top, but I find it refreshing and faithful to the ROG gaming legacy. It stands out from the crowd and more than once, I had strangers ask about the phone, intrigued by the very distinct look.
The rear panel is protected by a layer of 3D Corning Gorilla Glass and has a space grey finish to it, but it easily attracts fingerprints and gets smudged. There are silver lines running across the main elements adds to the eye-catching design with sharp corners and angular lines.
At the center of it all sits the prominent RGB-lit ROG logo which is customizable, because hey, what’s the fun of owning a gaming smartphone without some flashy lighting effects?
The display is protected by a layer of 2.5D curved Corning Glass 6. At the top and bottom of the display are two front-firing stereo speakers with copper accents that break the monotony of the black slab. The metal sides offer haptic feedback when squeezed. At the top and bottom section of the right edge sit the Air Triggers which act as shoulder buttons during gaming and can also be configured for a host of other shortcut, but more on that later.
On the right side are the volume and power buttons, while the bottom has the primary USB Type-C port and 3.5mm headphone jack. Things get interesting on the smartphone’s left edge, which features the proprietary port used to connect all the accessories launched alongside the ROG Phone. On a closer look, you’ll find that it also has a regular USB Type-C port which you can use for charging the device for an unobtrusive gaming and media consumption experience, which is a neat touch.
Measuring in at 158.8 x 76.16 x 8.65, the ROG Phone is by no means a small device, and while using it in portrait mode, you will find it quite hard to reach the top Air Trigger if you have customized it for a shortcut, and the same goes for the content on the screen.
The ROG Phone will turn a lot of heads and oozes gaming, but you’ll have to live with its heft and sheer size. Tipping the scale at 200 grams, the ROG Phone is not light, but the heft provides an assurance of sorts when it comes to the durability. To sum it all up, the ROG Phone is one unique looking device, and despite being bulky and large, I will give it a thumbs up.
Asus ROG Phone: Display
The ROG Phone sports a 6-inch AMOLED (2160 x 1080 pixels) display which supports HDR content, a 90Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time which is claimed to be an industry-first for a smartphone. The display has a 100,000:1 contrast ratio, features a blue-light filter and is capable of reproducing 108.6% of the hues in the DCI-P3 color gamut.
The panel is vibrant and with a maximum brightness output of 550 nits, you won’t find issues with visibility under direct sunlight. But do keep in mind that the display is very reflective and you will find it hard to ignore that, be it outdoors or indoors. When it comes to color reproduction, I found it to be excellent and typical of a high-quality AMOLED panel, while viewing angles were amazing too.
You won’t be left wanting for more with the ROG Phone’s AMOLED panel if you are a display purist.
The gaming smartphone’s display is protected by a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 6, which means it can withstand a few falls from waist height. However, the display gets scratched really fast, so you better apply a screen protector to guard it.
Although it falls short of the 120Hz benchmark set by the Razer Phone and its successor, the ROG Phone’s 90Hz display is enough to create a difference. The moment you start navigating through the UI, you’ll experience more fluid animations and transitions.
The advantages of a 90Hz panel become even more apparent when you enjoy a graphics intensive game at highest settings and then play the same game on another device with a regular display. The experience is quite different, but this is where the appeal ends because only select few games have support for high refresh-rate panels.
Marvel Contest of Champions, Middle Earth: Shadow of War, Vainglory, Hill Climb Racing 2 and Alto’s Adventure are among the handful of other games that currently support the high refresh rates. Garena Free Fire is another well-known title which can take advantage of the ROG Phone’s 90Hz display, but until other developers add support, the ROG Phone’s 90Hz refresh rate will just remain a vanity feature.
Asus ROG Phone: Software and ROG UI
The Asus ROG Phone comes with a custom ROG UI based on Android 8.1 Oreo, which is a little disappointing, because Android Pie has been around for months. But Android version aside, my opinion is divided when it comes to the ROG UI, because I feel it is basically a toned-down Zen UI (with less bloatware, thankfully) which has been tweaked by adding a little gaming flare in the form of cool animations, colors and a few additional gaming-centric apps.
So, what’s unique about the ROG UI? Well, the first thing you’ll notice about the ROG Phone’s UI is the flashy red accents around the app icons and the unique home screen animation on activating the X Mode. But are they necessary? Not really, but the ROG UI comes with a ton of gaming features that you certainly won’t find on other devices, so it’s certainly living up to the name. And yes, those elements do give it a distinct identity.
Now let’s talk about ROG UI’s signature features. The most prominent gaming element of ROG UI is the ‘Game Center’ where you can see stats such as the temperature and clock speed of CPU and GPU, RAM consumption and storage. Game center also allows users to adjust the speed of the clip-on fan and tweak the Aura lighting to effects such as strobing, color cycle and breathing pattern, as well as brightness, color and flicker rate.
But most importantly Game Center is where you can create separate profiles for each game by adjusting the CPU clock speed, refresh rate of the display, activating anti-aliasing and enabling automatic memory cleaner. All these settings will be applied as soon as you launch a game.
Another remarkable feature is Game Genie, which can be accessed from the Game Center and once enabled, a Game Genie icon will appear alongside the navigation buttons during gameplay.
Once you tap on the Game Genie icon while playing a game, it will provide you access to tools such as system speed-up, let you assign macros, record and live-stream gameplay in resolutions up to 1080p. Yes, the ROG Phone allows you to natively stream gameplay on YouTube and Twitch, which is definitely a neat addition for gamers.
The Game Genie also lets you activate the ‘real-time info’ feature that will show you stats such as CPU and GPU usage, system temperature, battery level and more importantly, the frame rate in the game.
In addition to gaming-centric features, ROG UI also offers a host of AI-driven features such as OptiFlex for launching a select few apps at a faster speed, AI charging to automatically adjust the charging rate based on previous charging behavior and AI ringtone to intelligently adjust the ringtone alert volume based on the ambient noise levels.
While they are primarily built for gaming, Air Triggers are not merely restricted to games.
For example, you can squeeze the device to activate the X Mode when the ROG Phone is unlocked or do so to activate the one-handed mode when the smartphone is locked. Additionally, you can also tweak the Air Triggers’ force level and program them to launch specific apps among other things.
Asus ROG Phone: Performance
Now, let’s talk about the one thing that the ROG Phone was truly meant for – delivering unparalleled performance. Having tested the smartphone comprehensively, I can say that Asus succeeded in achieving that to a large extent.
As we know, the ROG Phone is powered by an overclocked Snapdragon 845 process which runs at a slightly faster 2.96GHz, paired with 8GB of RAM and up to 512GB of internal storage, but our review unit had 128GB storage. So, without further delay, let’s delve right into the ROG Phone’s performance and see if it lives up to the promise.
The ROG Phone’s hardware screams ‘flagship’, and so is the case with day-to-day usage. The user experience is snappy with no lag at all, even if you are running 10-12 apps in the background which also includes heavy games. Launching and switching between apps on the ROG Phone is a breeze with no lag or stutter whatsoever.
Activating the X-mode, which Asus claims will truly bring the might of an unlocked Snapdragon 845 processor at your disposal, won’t actually result in a noticeable change during regular usage, but we’ll discuss it in the benchmarks and gaming section.
Asus ROG Phone: Antutu Benchmarks
Benchmark scores are not necessarily the true indicators of a smartphone’s day-to-day performance, but when it comes to hardcore gaming, the numbers matter. But for a device like the ROG Phone and the whole marketing holler around an overclocked flagship SoC ticking inside it, I can’t help but check out its benchmarks performance and compare it against a few flagships out there. Following are the Geekbench, AntTuTu and 3D Mark scores of the Asus ROG Phone.
And below are the ROG Phone’s benchmark scores when the X Mode has been activated.
The ROG Phone’s benchmark scores certainly go up when X Mode is activated, especially when you look at the 3D Mark Sling Shot Extreme (OpenGL ES 3.1), but surprisingly, the multi-core benchmark score on Geekbench dipped a little. By now, you must be wondering how the ROG Phone stacks up against the competition. Here’s how the ROG Phone performs on synthetic benchmark tests against other high-end rivals:
|Device||AnTuTu||Geekbench (Single Core)||Geekbench (Multi Core)|
|ASUS ROG Phone||295589||2492||9310|
|Google Pixel 3 XL||273373||2352||8167|
|Samsung Galaxy Note 9||242525||3713||9075|
|Xiaomi Black Shark||290499||2412||8528|
Note: The ROG Phone’s benchmark scores in the table above were taken when the device is working in normal mode i.e. X-Mode is turned off.
Asus ROG Phone: Gaming Performance
Coming to the gaming performance, the Asus ROG Phone proves to be an absolute beast and easily runs the most demanding Android games, something which is not surprising at all. I played a wide range of games across multiple genres such as battle royale, PVP combat, FPS and strategy games, and all of them ran buttery smooth. But the same can be observed on other flagships too, so what’s the difference? Well, let’s start with the Air Triggers.
Mounted on the top and bottom of the right edge are two pressure sensitive ultrasonic Air Triggers which act as programmable shoulder buttons during gaming. The Air Triggers can be mapped to execute any action whose controls are available as on-screen buttons. After enabling Air Triggers in any game, just map the left and right controls on an on-screen button and you are good to go.
For example, you can program the left and right Air Triggers to pull out the scope and fire in PUBG or use them to press the brakes and use nitro in a racing game. And believe me, when I say this, Air Triggers will provide you an unprecedented level of advantage, especially when it comes to games with a lot of on-screen controls. I particularly enjoyed using Air Triggers while playing PUBG Mobile, Fortnite and Asphalt 9: Legends among other games.
The Air Triggers make a huge difference and it almost feels like I am cheating
Pulling out the 8X scope and nailing a perfect headshot in PUBG Mobile? Check. Executing a sick drift and performing a perfect nitro in Asphalt 9: Legends? Check. Hammering down opponents and then destroying them with a super move in Injustice 2? Check.
The ROG Phone’s Air Triggers certainly tip the gaming scale in your favor because they give your fingers two additional physical controls to perform critical maneuvers while reducing the chance of accidentally pressing a wrong on-screen button.
And while the Air Triggers might not provide you the same clicky feel you get on a console remote, the sweet feedback delivered by the ROG Phone’s advanced haptic engine makes up for it. But there is one problem.
The ROG Phone heats up really fast despite employing a vapor chamber cooling system, and this happens especially while playing heavy games with X Mode enabled. To manage the thermals, Asus offers an accessory called the AeroActive Cooler– a clip-on cooler that reduces the temperature and comes bundled inside the retail box.
But aside from cooling the device, the AeroActive cooler bring a huge relief when it comes to ergonomics. You see, the AeroActive Cooler connects with the proprietary port on the ROG Phone’s left edge, but it comes equipped with a USB Type-C port as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack, which makes it really easy to plug in a charging cable and a wired earphone while playing games in landscape mode.
But what I noticed is that the AeroActive Cooler did not bring down the device’s temperature significantly, it simply slowed down the heating in the long run. Without the cooler, an hour-long PUBG Mobile session would raise the rear panel’s temperature by 10-12 degrees and drain the battery by around 30% on average, but using the AeroActive Cooler reduced the rise in temperature to around 7-9 degrees and also lowered the rate of battery consumption by a small margin.
But if you prolong the gaming session, the temperature would keep rising, albeit at a much slower pace. Talking about gaming performance, here are some of the metrics such as frame rate and CPU usage I recorded while playing different games:
|Game||Frame Rate||CPU Usage|
|Modern Combat 5||45FPS||26%|
|Asphalt 9: Legends||45FPS||31%|
|Mortal Kombat X||60FPS||37%|
|Garena Free Fire||89FPS||30%|
Aside from the AeroActive Cooler, Asus also offers a host of accessories for the ROG Phone which are sold separately such as the GameVice Controller, TwinView Dock, Professional Dock, and the Desktop Dock among others. However, if you plan to buy all the accessories, get ready to fork out a pretty sum as they will collectively set you back by a whopping Rs. 1,18,994.
The accessories haven’t gone on sale yet, but we’ll keep you informed as and when they become available. See them in action in our video below:
Asus ROG Phone: Cameras
In the imaging department, the ROG Phone comes equipped with a dual rear camera set-up which consists of a 16MP (F1.7, 1.12µm pixel size) primary sensor with 4-axis OIS and an 8MP wide-angle secondary sensor with a 120-degree field of view. The rear camera setup comes with a ton of features such as AI scene detection, 48MP Super Resolution photos, and GIF animation among others. On the front is an 8MP selfie sensor with F2.0 aperture with features such as Night HDR, Selfie Panorama and ZeniMoji among others.
Asus ROG Phone Camera Samples: Daylight
Let’s start with daylight shots. The ROG Phone’s camera clicks some really detailed photos when it comes to capturing images under natural light. The dynamic range and the depth are good, but color accuracy is something that is not its forte. There is some oversaturation in photos clicked in auto mode, but overall, the picture quality is good enough to post on social media platforms.
Asus ROG Phone Camera Samples: Indoor
The ROG Phone’s camera produces a mixed bag of results when it comes to images clicked under artificial light. The depth sensing won’t disappoint you and so the phone captures good detail. But the overprocessing done to bring out the colors takes a toll on the overall quality when you zoom in, making the highlights look somewhat overblown, especially in the case of human subjects.
Asus ROG Phone Camera Samples: Portrait Shots
As I said earlier, the ROG Phone’s rear camera is quite good when it comes to capturing depth, and this becomes particularly evident when you click bokeh photos. You can adjust the depth-of-field effect while capturing the images, which is certainly a good thing. The focus lock is fast and the color reproduction is vibrant, especially if there is abundant light. But the biggest flaw here is the faulty edge detection.
The ROG Phone’s camera brings out the object in focus without a hitch, but the edge detection is not very prominent with a lot of smoothening. More often than not, the edges of the focal object were irregularly blurred, even if the portrait was clicked from a small distance. Also, the camera often blurred a part of the object in focus, which certainly vexed me.
Asus ROG Phone Camera Samples: Selfies
The selfies captured by the device are good and capture ample amount of details. But if you are a fan of natural skin tone, then the ROG Phone will disappoint you. There is a lot of smoothening going on here which makes the images look over-processed at first sight, which they definitely are. In natural light, the true skin color is preserved to an extent, but selfies clicked in well-lit indoor conditions exhibit a lot of smoothening and lack of fine details.
When it comes to clicking portrait selfies, the ROG Phone’s front camera not only misses out on details and falters with the skin tone, it also tends to blur the edges inaccurately.
The ROG Phone’s overall performance when it comes to capturing still images is good, but it falls just short of being regarded as great due to faulty image processing. And unless you are very particular about the minute details in your photos, the Asus ROG Phone’s camera will serve you just fine.
Asus ROG Phone Camera Samples: Video Samples
When it comes to video recording, the ROG Phone can shoot 4K videos at 30FPS or 60FPS and employs 4-axis OIS and 3-axis EIS, while slow-motion video recording at 240FPS is also on the table. Here’s a sample 4K video recorded at 60FPS by the ROG Phone.
The video was shot while I was sitting in a cab, and despite that, the 4K video shot at 60FPS turned out to be super smooth without any light flickering, visual distortion and shaky effect at all. This is one area where the ROG Phone’s camera truly shines and delivers results that are in the same class with high-end smartphones. As for 1080p videos, below is a Full HD Video sample shot at 60FPS:
Just like the 4K video, the 1080p video at 60FPS shot by the Asus ROG Phone turns out to be smooth with minimal distortion and nice colors with an ample amount of light. To sum up, what the Asus ROG Phone lacks in still photography prowess, it makes up for it when it comes to recording videos at high frame rates and resolutions.
Asus ROG Phone: Speakers and Telephony
The ROG Phone comes equipped with dual front-firing stereo speakers and NXP 9874 amplifiers with support for a 24-bit/192KHz hi-res audio and DTS:X Ultra 7.1 channel surround sound. The speakers are really loud and the best part is that you will notice minimal to no distortions even after cranking the volume to maximum. The audio profile was balanced, and I couldn’t help but notice that the surround sound effect is not merely a gimmick.
The ROG Phone’s stereo speakers deliver a rich audio experience that is certainly among the best a smartphone can generate.
I played a few songs of multiple genres like EDM, R&B as well as some classical music in a closed room, and found the ROG Phone’s audio output to be quite impressive. Just don’t expect the rumbling bass, thumping beats, and crystal clear vocals you’ll get from a dedicated surround sound system. But when it comes to watching casual YouTube videos and movies or listening to music, you won’t find yourself complaining.
If I may suggest, try playing a racing game like Asphalt 9: Legends. The sound of the engine revving when your car accelerates and the swooshing sound of the nitro boost will be music to your ears. The ROG Phone comes bundled with the ZenEar Pro wired earphones which are just decent, but if you want to enjoy games and music on a Bluetooth headset, the Qualcomm aptX support will ensure that you get the best experience.
The device offers a ton of audio settings, thanks to the proprietary AudioWizard tool, which allows you to create a custom audio profile with a dedicated equalizer section for each of your earphones and tweak it to your liking. You will also find options to change the channel mode, bit rate, and the frequency of the Bluetooth audio codec in the developer options.
But at the end of the day, you’ll also use the ROG Phone to make calls too. After using the device for over a week with a Vodafone SIM, I noticed that the call voice quality was crisp, clear and sufficiently loud with no issues whatsoever. Overall, the audio quality and telephony experience are as good as you would expect from a flagship device which costs as much.
Asus ROG Phone: Battery
Keeping up with its demanding hardware is no easy task, but the ROG Phone’s 4,000mAh battery is capable of handling the pressure to a large extent.
The ROG Phone comes with support for Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0 which can juice up the device at a rapid rate. The charging speed is further amplified by the bundled ROG Phone power adapter (30W) which brings the ASUS HyperCharge technology to the table that can charge the device from 0-60% capacity in just around 0.5 hours.
The fast charging is a great feature, but what I was more concerned about was how fast it depletes. During day to day usage, I recorded an average screen-on time (SOT) of 4 hours and 25 minutes during the testing span which lasted 6 days in a row. As for my usage pattern, I played two to three rounds of PUBG, Fortnite or Modern Combat 5 on a daily basis, alongside 30-45 minutes of YouTube videos and 20-30 minutes of web browsing while the device was connected to the internet all day long.
With that usage pattern, I never felt the need to charge the device and had at least 20% battery left when I reached home, with the device managing to easily last through a day. But if you are into long mobile gaming sessions, the battery life decreases drastically. Keep the bundled charger close by if you are gaming. One hour of continuous gaming in PUBG Mobile, Fortnite or Asphalt 9: Legends saw the battery deplete by around 25-28% on an average.
Also, keep in mind that if X Mode is enabled and you are running a lot of connected apps in the background, the battery will deplete at an even faster rate. So, here’s the bottom line. The Asus ROG Phone will easily last through a day of moderate usage with around two hours of gaming thrown in between, but if your gaming sessions last longer, don’t be surprised to see it die early.
Asus ROG Phone: Pros and Cons
The Asus ROG is a well-executed attempt from Asus at creating a pure gaming smartphone. It gets the gaming part right, but slips at being a smartphone. If you compare the ROG Phone with the likes of the Razer Phone 2, Xiaomi Black Shark and the Nubia Red Magic Mars, the ROG Phone might emerge as the best of the lot, and this is certainly something Asus would be proud of.
But is that enough to recommend the Asus ROG Phone as your daily driver? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons before we arrive at a conclusion:
- Gorgeous 90Hz display
- Blazing fast performance
- Large battery with fast charge support
- Great stereo speakers
- Innovative Air Triggers and excellent haptic feedback
- Plenty of useful gaming features
- Unique design
- Additional ports and clip-on cooler
- Huge and bulky with a polarizing design
- No wireless charging
- Good camera brought down by inconsistent performance
- Heats up really fast
- Quick battery depletion when X Mode enabled
- Lack of expandable storage
- Not all games can utilize Air Triggers and support 90FPS gameplay
Asus ROG Phone: Delivers Where It Matters
The ROG Phone was designed with gamers in mind, and strived to provide a mobile gaming experience unlike any other smartphone out there. But if you pit it against the Pixel 3 XL, Galaxy Note 9 or the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, the ROG Phone will fall short on many parameters, especially the cameras and software experience.
There is no doubt that the price of Rs. 69,999 is on the higher end of the spectrum where you can buy a sleek looking flagship that will deliver an all-around experience, but then, the ROG Phone is not made for people who desire such versatility.
Despite its shortcomings, the ROG Phone justifies its tag of a gaming smartphone to a large extent and does so with some aggression and seriously impressive performance. If I were to recommend you a gaming smartphone without budget constraints, the ROG Phone will be my pick without a doubt.