Front, centre and well, back too, the Asus ROG phone employs every gaming related schtick and somehow manages to make it look good. This device is one of those rare examples of focussed engineering that delivers on all its promises. Asus claims to have worked with professional eSports teams to design the phone and it shows. Here’s what we think about the Asus ROG Phone.
The most distinctive aspect of the phone is, of course, the rear panel where it uses a combination of etched Gorilla Glass 5 and a very visible copper heat sink to give it a cutting edge look. Even more interesting is that ROG logo in the middle. Yes, it has fully controllable RGB lighting. Got a blingy gaming desktop? The ROG phone will fit right in. Robust controls through the game centre app means that you can sync these lights with others within the Asus Aura Sync system.
The front too has an aggressive design with red highlights around the speaker grilles. The ROG phone is not for anyone who values subtlety. There are stereo speakers on board. Asus really talked up the dual NXP 9874 smart amps during our briefing and it shows. The speakers are loud, crystal clear and even have just a bit of bass. We’d rate these as some of the best speakers you can get on a smartphone right now.
With a 90Hz AMOLED panel, the display is also one of the best on the market. The higher refresh rate means that you’ll get much lesser blur around fast moving objects. PC gamers can attest to the improved experience a higher refresh rate offers. The display does look great and within the controlled settings, we could see that the viewing angles, contrast levels and black levels were absolutely fantastic as you would expect from an AMOLED panel. The caveat here, however, is that very few games support this enhanced refresh rate. Asphalt 9 on the ROG phone does support 90Hz mode and so does Firefight, however, PUBG does not, at least at launch.
Another feature that really stood out for us were the Air Triggers. Going in for the briefing, I was convinced that these were a gimmick but the implementation has definitely made me change my mind. Asus has nailed the haptic feedback on these ultrasonic buttons and it almost simulates physical feedback. Once you’ve got these set up (yes, the Game Center app lets you create fully custom game profiles), you’ll definitely have an upper hand in shooters and even racing games.
In terms of performance, the ROG Phone uses a speed binned Snapdragon 845 chipset. What’s that you ask? This is the highest class of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 chipsets that can deliver the topmost levels of performance possible. Paired with 8GB of RAM, you are guaranteed screaming fast performance. To compensate for the increased heat levels, the phone has a 3D vapour chamber, a copper heat spreader and more. A plug-in fan ships with the phone that further brings down the surface temperature.
A big draw for the ROG Phone is the robust accessory ecosystem that Asus has developed around the phone. From the TwinView Dock that gives you a secondary screen to the Pro Dock that lets you play your games on a television and use a keyboard, mouse, there’s a lot to like here. We spent some time using these and came away impressed. The TwinView dock, in particular, lets you extend the UI in supported games while also allowing you to run two apps, games simultaneously. You could have Twitch or YouTube running on the upper display while gaming on the lower screen.
My only gripe with the Pro Dock was that the ROG phone simply mirrors the display. A Dex like mode would’ve made it much more useful. To support these accessories, the ROG phone has dual USB Type C ports with one at the bottom and another on the side. The port on the side, in fact, uses a very unique dual USB-C connector because of which you cannot use these accessories with any other phone.
While gaming is the clear focus, the ROG Phone delivers on other aspects too. There’s a 4000 mAh battery that should last you a full day of gaming. The ergonomics too are pretty good though there’s no denying that the ROG is a pretty big phone. The phone runs on Android 8.1 with a custom ROG UI onboard. We understand the need for onboard applications to make use of the all the fan controls and lighting related features but if you prefer a more toned down look, this is not the phone for you. And honestly, that feeling extends to the hardware as well.
By creating a gaming phone that looks and feels the part, Asus has created a device that will truly be appreciated only by a small niche. The design is a bit out there for a whole lot of people and the benefits of 90Hz gaming and the speed binned processor isn’t necessarily enough for the average guy out there. Honestly, our first impressions were quite positive but priced at Rs. 69,990 with no accessories included, the Asus ROG Phone is going to be a tough sell to anyone but a hardcore gamer.