December 9, 2018
Asus ROG Phone Review

Does a smartphone designed for video games make sense? Although we were a bit ‘skeptical about it we had to retry trying ASUS ROG Phone. In an era when the gaming industry is very much felt even on mobile.  Titles like Shadowgun Legends, Fortnite, PUBG, ad-hoc solutions cannot be missing. All surrounded by a quality experience thanks to a multimedia section at the top. The OLED display is from 90 Hz to 1ms. The stereo sounds very powerful.

ASUS ROG Phone Review

Asus ROG Phone is a terminal significantly different than the classic smartphone. It is in the scope, and this has consequences in terms of technical specifications and functionality. Basically, it is addressed to an audience of “real” players. Not so much who use the mobile device for immediate gaming experiences and marked by short sessions. But by those who love to immerse themselves in the game and dedicate even very long sessions. With, among other things, touch-sensitive buttons that act as triggers. Asus ROG Phone lets itself be held as if it were a portable console, and proves ideal, even for the computing power. At its disposal for complex games such as first-person shooters like Shadowgun Legends and racing games like Asphalt 9.

The main element of differentiation is the hardware since the heart of ROG Phone is Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. An SoC studied at the base to give a lot of processing capacity to the mobile terminal without losing efficiency and reducing consumption as much as possible. In ROG Phone Snapdragon 845 is present in the configuration with even 2.96GHz clock frequency. Which should ensure higher performance than other devices with the same platform even in the case of polygonally very complex game levels. Such as Shadowgun Legends and, above all, allows you to power the 90 Hz ROG Phone display with the frame rate required. To make the experience visually firmer than traditional 60 Hz.

Yes, because in the end to make the difference is the display. The 90 Hz that enhances the graphics of the games and transmits to fluidity not found in other devices (except for the Razer Phone that goes to 120 Hz). Here, however, we have an AMOLED screen with HDR support that also enhances the colors, compared to the IPS LCDs of direct competitors. Therefore, if at the base the game will still appear as a “mobile” title for forms and animations (think titles based on Unity. Thought first to favor the performance and then the quality of the graphics), the reactivity. The fluidity of the images and the chromatic depth are simply on another level.

To these details is added the response time of only one millisecond. This allows the immediate display of the result of the player’s input, cutting that infinitesimal amount of latency time that so much trouble causes the player. A display with such a low response time offers images with less “motion blur“. Which increases the sensation of fluidity and spectacularity of the game scene.

According to data released by the manufacturer. We have DCI-P3 color space coverage of 108.6% and 145% sRGB. Together with the contrast ratio of 100,000: 1 (thanks to the ability to turn off the black pixels), these data make the color experience simply different than that allowed by other smartphones, with the possibility of playing in HDR. In our tests, we recorded a maximum brightness of 571 nits, on a par with many other solutions in the same market range with a refresh rate of 60 Hz.

Verdict

Asus ROG Phone

Pros

  • Great gaming enhancements
  • Punchy 90Hz AMOLED screen
  • Really good camera

Cons

  • Heavy at 200g
  • Awkward second USB port cover
  • Runs Android 8.1

Asus ROG Phone Specifications

Asus ROG Phone

OS (at launch) Android 8.1 Oreo with ROG Gaming UI
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 to 10-nm
4 x Kryo 385 Gold @ 2.96 GHz
4 x Kryo 385 Silver @ 1.70 GHz
RAM 8 GB LPDDR4
Display AMOLED 6.0 “(18: 9)
HDR – DCI-P3 @ 90 Hz / 1 ms
Resolution 2160 x 1080 px
Storage 128 or 512 GB Not expandable
Cameras Rear :
12 MP f / 1.8 Normal (24mm) OIS
8 MP Ultra-wide (12mm)
LED FlashVideo Ultra HD @ 60fpsFront (pop-up) :
8 MP f / 2.0 24mm
Extra 4G LTE Cat. 18 (1,200 Mbps download)
Wi-Fi 802.11ac and
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC
Fingerprint Face
recognition
Two trigger sensors on one side
Proprietary connector for accessories
Ports USB 3-1 Type-C
3.5mm audio port
Battery 4,000 mAh
Quick charge (30W)
dimensions 158.8 x 76.2 x 8.7 mm
Weight 200 g

In other words, it is a set of precautions explicitly addressed to a niche of the public, to that of the players who look at everything before the performance. The ROG brand of Asus, on the other hand, exists precisely because of this: usually referred to peripherals, monitors, video cards and other hardware for the most committed players, it also stands out for its captivating shapes and aggressive lines.

On the aesthetic level, therefore, ROG Phone certainly does not refer to the idea of ordinariness; rather it guarantees shapes that enhance the smartphone itself. With the Maya finish typical of the other ROG and squared and slender shapes, we can say that ROG Phone wants to postpone before anything else the idea of “tomorrow”. And there is a grid that prevents hot air from stagnating inside the body, thus helping to dissipate the heat of the integrated components. Which certainly is not sober.

Of course, an SoC operating at a non-specific operating frequency, if you “feed” a game with complex graphics, begins to cause the whole chassis to overheat, to the point of making the phone impossible to hold in your hand. Precisely for this reason, inside the equipment, you will find a fan, which is mounted (using a proprietary connector that is on one of the two sides of the terminal, protected by a sort of “cap” in rubber) only in those cases where you want to do “pushed” gaming, which is essential to cool the terminal in the right way. Even with an installed fan. It takes 10 minutes of play to Shadowgun Legends to overheat the terminal, but the warmth will only be seen externally,

All this has consequences on the entire design of the device, made to be challenged as a portable console and inclusive of an internal steam chamber dissipator. The internal technical design is not indifferent, because the steam chamber is topped by a complex system consisting of a copper heat diffuser and a carbon cooling pad. The fan, however, is mounted on a shell in the back and is powered directly from the smartphone.

The proprietary connector consists of a standard USB 3.0 Type-C port and a custom port by Asus ROG engineers. The first port supports direct charging, manages output to a device with an HDMI port, Gigabit LAN and headphones. When installing the fan, the shell that is equipped with the latter covers the two ports but has a pass-through that allows you to still use the USB-C port and insert headphones with 3.5 mm jack. The side connector also allows you to connect some of its expensive accessories like the Mobile Desktop Dock. The TwinView Dock to the ROG Phone.

This is an important engineering work aimed at a single purpose: to make the side grip comfortable, to which players are accustomed to the console gamepad or portable consoles. Gaming, thanks to the two triggers, with ROG Phone, runs away in a very comfortable and natural way, marking an important detachment towards a more traditional smartphone at the base optimized for a not necessarily landscape use.

With the aim of restoring the typical gaming feeling of the ROG Phone consoles. It has three touch sensors, two of which are positioned on the opposite side compared to the 48-pin connector in order to perform. The functionality in a traditional gamepad is associated with the triggers. The third, however, is positioned at a point compatible with the portrait mode, or in front of that position at the bottom of the display. These touch-sensitive sensors are fully customizable, meaning they can activate any type of function. For example, insight, fire, inventory selection, acceleration, and braking in a driving game. Of course, the presence of these sensors gives another kind of depth to gaming compared to the traditional touchscreen of the smartphone. Also because the activation is almost immediately requiring the Activation force of just 20g.

In addition, the haptic feedback technology manages the vibration in a precise and rewarding way for the player engaged during the most frenetic game actions, adding a further layer of involvement. The haptic feedback returns the sensation of the interaction with the smartphone also in conjunction with the touch of the sensors/triggers, making this form of interaction satisfying. The feature can also be exploited in the use of the terminal with the haptic feedback of ASUS ROG Phone that knows how to be docile and precise to reproduce the tactile sensation of the keystrokes of the virtual keyboard, but at the same time extremely powerful during the reproduction of the vibration notifications.

When we say that ROG Phone is meant for the traditional player we mean that all its features are calibrated to meet its typical needs. Including gaming via a wired Ethernet connection. At the USB-C port, in fact, you can connect the professional dock, one of the many accessories designed by Asus ROG for his latest smartphone. Among other things, this provides a Gigabit Ethernet port that allows you to connect your smartphone to the cable network, eliminating impurities, bandwidth bottlenecks and any latency that may compromise the gaming experience in the case of a Wi-Fi network. Fi Beyond this, however, ROG Phone supports the most advanced wireless standards such as Cat 18 LTE and 802.11ad WiGig.

The dock also offers USB ports, excellent if necessary to connect the mouse and keyboard to the smartphone and improve the game input. And there is no lack of the HDMI port, capable of handling up to 30 Hz 4K signal. All with a 60 cm long connection cable. Combined to avoid annoying clutter and encumbrance.

The two front speakers of the ROG Phone are then driven by two amplifiers that maximize the volume. While minimizing distortion through a 24-bit /192 kHz sound engine that supports Hi-Res audio files. The audio rendering engine DTS: X Ultra 1.0 returns a faithful sound experience, with excellent performance both in terms of gaming with headphones and without, as well as with virtual or augmented reality applications. The system can also manage 7.1 surround sounds with enhanced bass, ideal for competitive multiplayer experiences. Where you need to know the position of the enemy based on the sound situation: think of Fortnite or PUBG Mobile.

As for the charging of the terminal, not only is Quick Rapid Quick Charge 4.0 supported, but the power supply inside the package allows exploiting ASUS HyperCharge, a proprietary technology with which the manufacturer has managed to insert the circuitry at the base of the process of feeding inside the power supply rather than inside the smartphone. Thanks to this system, not only unnecessary overheating during recharging are avoided. But you can earn about 20W in charging power. Speeding up the charge from 0 to 60% of about half an hour.

Who knows the peripherals of the ROG family will imagine that not even the smartphone cannot support the Aura technology of RGB lighting: this is applied to the big ROG logo that is located at the back of the smartphone that can accommodate different lighting schemes: from the stroboscopic effects to the color cycle, from the breath effect to the calmer static lighting.

Accessories

We do not have them yet in the editorial office but in part. We tried them at the various events that anticipated the public launch of the Asus ROG Phone. Accessories are at the heart of the experience and, even if very expensive, offer some very interesting aspects that deserve an ‘analysis. The Twinview Dock, for example, is designed to give the gaming experience a second screen, reminding Nintendo 3DS.

Asus ROG Phone

The Twinview Dock also carries an auxiliary screen of the AMOLED type. Which operates at a resolution of 2160 x 1080 pixels, together with a system of four front-facing speakers. Two physical triggers and a double haptic feedback motor. There is also a cooling system more efficient than the standard one and a 6000mAh battery pack. Who played on some Nintendo consoles has an idea of the convenience of the second screen. Which can be used to consult inventory or map while the main experience goes on the first screen.

The Mobile Desktop Dock, however, allows the connection with a screen for an experience even more similar to the classic desktop. Which replicates what shown on your smartphone. The HDMI and DisplayPort ports that the docking station is equipped with handle a video signal at most 4K 60Hz. It offers the possibility to connect mouse and keyboard, as well as external speakers via the S / PDIF port. As in the case of the professional docking station, even in this case. There is the possibility to connect Asus ROG Phone to the network via Ethernet cable. We also have four USB 3.1 Type-A and one Type-C port. On the side of the docking station, again the Display port 1.2, the USB Micro B 3.0 and the slot for SD cards.

But the most interesting accessory for the player is Gamevice with ASUS WiGig Dock. Which turns the smartphone into a real Nintendo Switch-style hybrid console. Thanks to Qualcomm 11ad connection technology for 60 Hz WiFi. This dock station can be connected to a display with extremely limited latencies. ASUS WiGig Dock allows you to play in the gamepad version and transmit the video signal on the TV or, using only the Gamevice, as a traditional portable console. In addition, the device offers all the interfacing features that players know well. Such as two analog joysticks, triggers, and physical backbones, directional cross, and buttons A, B, X, Y and L3, R3.

Pictures were taken with Asus ROG Phone

On the back surface, there are two cameras. The main one uses the Sony IMX363 sensor and is 12 MP. We have a focal aperture of F1.8 and a sensor size of 1 / 2.55 “. Alongside this solution is a second camera with the goal of providing a 120-degree wide-angle lens. The specifications of the front camera, however, are more parched or 8MP and F2.0 focal aperture.

Usage experience and final considerations

Asus ROG Phone presents itself from the first start as a unique smartphone, characterized by a distinctive style. The basic graphics interface the ROG UI can be broadly modified with a wide selection of themes to choose from. Even completely transformed with a more “docile” and not a gaming theme. In this way, ROG Phone becomes a stylistically traditional smartphone. While continuing to enjoy all the functions that improve and optimize the gaming experience. We tried the device for more than a week and we can confirm that in addition to being a great playmate. ROG Phone is also a very reliable smartphone on several fronts.

It has a great OLED display with a gem of 90 Hz. A good photographic industry (although not as excellent as the solutions of Huawei, Samsung or Apple) with a spectacular ultra-wide-angle camera. Good reception and a reliable module for the speakerphone assisted by the large front-facing speakers.

The only flaw in operating autonomy, especially considering the large unit of 4,000 mAh integrated. ROG Phone is an extreme smartphone in terms of performance. The Snapdragon 845 that is taken out of specification to offer superior performance. Especially with video games and the 90 Hz display that is felt during everyday use. It can offer long periods of standby, but if stressed naturally suffers the choices made in the design phase. With normal use, you arrive in the evening without much difficulty, but if you are going to use it massively. The advice is to bring along a (big) power-bank.

However, it remains a complete and versatile smartphone. Unique in its kind thanks to its “Tamara” aesthetic and its playful nature. It is aimed at a specific and niche audience, offering a top of the ranged platform extremely refined in an unusual shell. All at a list price of $ 899, with the purchase that can be completed on the site official Asus.

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