Asus ROG Phone – Full Review
Besides Razer, Asus also ventures to the concept of game-smartphone. The Asus ROG Phone is an original smartphone, packed with features and gimmicks.
For the time being, Asus is not really able to get a foot on the ground with their smartphones. The Zenfone series from 2018, including the Zenfone 5 and Zenfone 5Z were decent smartphones at an attractive price. But they fell away entirely by design, though very much copied from the iPhone X. Asus is now trying to take a different approach, with a powerful smartphone for a (for Asus known) niche target group: gamers. Asus has already shown that they can make impressive devices, for example with their PC and laptop offerings. This also applies to their Asus ROG (Republic of Gamers) smartphone. Unfortunately, Asus does lapse in a few missteps that it also makes with their game laptops and PCs.
Before I return, first talk about the Asus ROG Phone itself. The smartphone has everything on board that you expect from a powerful device for gamers: a large full HD screen, the best Snapdragon processor, a lot of memory and a large battery with a capacity of 4,000 mAh.
There are enough smartphones with similar specs, such as the recently introduced OnePlus 6T. But as a gamer you need more, Asus also provides stereo speakers at the front of the device and there is just a headphone port, crucial for mobile gamers. Most notable is that Asus has placed a screen panel in the ROG Phone with a higher refresh rate. This makes the image smoother, and you notice that positive difference in games, but also in normal use, such as scrolling and animations. I’ll be honest about that: when you use a smartphone with a screen with a high refresh rate, you do not want to change anything else. It is tricky that you first have to manually set the speed to 90 hertz in the settings. By default, it is set to 60hz, which is the usual refresh rate for smartphones in general.
The Asus ROG Phone is the best gaming smartphone you can buy.
Asus ROG Phone or Razer Phone 2
Asus is not the only one who has placed a screen with higher refresh rate in his smartphone. Razer also makes smartphones for the same gaming target group: the Razer Phone and Razer Phone 2. These devices can even handle up to 120 hertz but have the disadvantage that they are LCD screens and not an AMOLED display. That is indeed the case with the Asus ROG Phone, which makes me personally prefer the screen of the Asus smartphone over that of the Razer Phone 2. The screen quality is perfectly fine and can also be adjusted in the settings of the device to your liking…
The screen of the Asus ROG Phone is 6 inches in diameter, converted about 15.2 centimetres. Thanks to an aspect ratio of 1 by 2 and thin edges on the sides, the smartphone is still substantial, but not surprisingly large. Although the speakers at the top and bottom, of course, claim their space. It has an extra advantage for watching the video and playing games because it comfortably holds on to this top and bottom edge.
The build quality of the Asus ROG Phone is fine and still waterproof. Yet we are running against one of the missteps here, which I just mentioned. Gaming hardware and horrible design go hand-in-hand, with the ROG Phone that is no different. Why is the gaming target group still being addressed with childlike ugly and pretentious design, while the price tag of 900 euros is not childish? Admittedly, the design of the smartphone is a matter of taste. But, unfortunately, the form is also above function on the back of the Asus ROG Phone: the fingerprint scanner is untraceable and too small, so you can swipe your finger over the back of your smartphone for a long time before you finally unlock your device. Not only is a pin code faster then, but You also have a device that is full of greasy fingerprints in no time. So you guessed it: the ROG Phone also has a glass back.
On this back is a ROG logo that you can give light in the colour you want. Just like the Razer Phone 2 by the way. If this appeals to you, keep in mind that a case does not really accentuate this on the one hand. On the other hand, it is advisable to look at the price of the device and the fact that the glass rear attracts fingerprints and is fragile.
You can also see the design of the smartphone in the Android skin that Asus uses. That is less disturbing because you can of course always set Android to your liking, if necessary with Nova Launcher. Fine is that Asus in the settings everywhere to tinker and that you with the (terrible pretentious-looking) app Game Center the performance and cooling tuning. Cool!
Less cool, and here we are going to the second misstep of the Asus ROG Phone, is that Asus finds it necessary to take bad habits of his Windows systems for smartphones. That you fill a 900 euro smartphone with bloatware as its own cloud storage and all apps from (the increasingly dubious Facebook) is not neat. That Asus chooses to deliver an antivirus on Windows, is good to talk because Windows needs anti-virus. That is not the case for Androids. That Asus chooses to add an unremovable Mobile Manager to get redundant antivirus and memory boosters on your device is culpable. It is not only misleading but also a waste of your device capacity.
Another point of improvement for the Asus ROG Phone is that the smartphone does not yet have the latest Android version. Although Android 9 (Pie) already came out about six months ago, the smartphone still runs on Android 8.1 (Oreo). Fortunately, with a fairly recent safety patch: November 2018 (at the time of writing it is the end of December)
Gaming on the Asus ROG Phone
The Asus ROG Phone has more than enough computing power on board, holds comfortably, has stereo speakers, a headphone jack and a strong battery activity: everything on board that you need for playing games. In fact, Asus has pulled out more to show that with the Asus ROG Phone it is better than its competitors. For example, the edges of the device are touch-sensitive, which offers extra control when gaming. Handy! HTC and Google’s Pixel smartphone also feature touch-sensitive edges, but Asus is the first manufacturer to actually make this technology useful.
There are also accessories for the Asus ROG smartphone, such as a cooling system that you click on the smartphone: there is a special connection on the left side of the smartphone. Not only does it keep your smartphone cooler, but it also ensures that you have a headset and USB-c port at a practical place during gaming. Although this accessory (just like the smartphone) is definitely not eye-catching, it is very handy. Even if your device gets hot in the sun, for example.
The hefty battery naturally ensures that you can play for a long time. But even in normal use, the device lasts a long time: a day or two during normal use. Also nice is that a fast charger is included.
Between all the benchmarking and gaming you would almost forget to test the camera. Asus has put a lot of effort into camera performance with its other Zenfones. Which led to very decent photos. With the ROG Phone, the camera obviously has a slightly lower priority. I noticed in practice that the results are quite variable, but in artificial light the results are poor. Photos are often faded and I had a lot of light stripes. Sin! However, I have the idea that Asus can still improve a lot with a software update.
The ROG Phone has a dual cam at the rear. Here you can choose between the main lens and a wide-angle lens. That last lens is very nice if you just try to get a little more on the photo.
Photos are often dull and undetermined: the camera of the Asus ROG Phone needs better adjustment.
As I had already tweaked in this review and concluded in my review of the Razer Phone 2: the Asus ROG Phone is the best game smartphone you can get. The device is more complete and has clever features (like touch on the edges) and accessories. Because of this, I prefer him, for example, the iPhone XS, which is actually more powerful, but in the aforementioned areas too bad. Unfortunately for Asus, the supply of games on Android is still not the same as that of Apple’s iOS. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is also an alternative to consider: this smartphone falls in the same price range and is also impressive powerful, but has a good camera and beautiful design.
Conclusion: Buy Asus ROG Phone?
Whether the niche target group of smartphone gamers is or is not viable, that will turn out. If you are in the market yourself, then the Asus ROG Phone is the best choice. It is a seriously powerful and complete smartphone, packaged in a childlike appearance. Hopefully, Asus will mature the gaming smartphone with a successor.