Asus has a very limited presence in the mobile space as a whole. So when a new model comes out once or twice a year, it’s an occasion – especially when it is a Republic of Gamers phone. It’s that time of year again, and now the new ROG Phone 6 is a reality.
Despite its extremely limited lineup as a whole, Asus tends to overcomplicate the different variants of the ROG Phone. Last year the ROG Phone 5 was quickly succeeded by the ROG Phone 5s mostly due to timing around Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888+ chipset. The situation was complicated further by introducing Pro and Ultimate SKUs to the mix and some regional market differences in specs.
This time around, it appears Asus and Qualcomm managed to coordinate a bit better. The ROG Phone 6 is coming out slightly past its due date but has the latest and greatest Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 under the hood. Hopefully, this means no “s” variants in a couple of months, and as an added bonus, this makes the ROG Phone 6 more interesting for us since it is one of the first production devices with the chip to come by the office.
Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro specs at a glance:
Body: 173.0 x 77.0 x10.3 mm, 239g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass Victus), glass back (Gorilla Glass 3), aluminum frame; IPX4 water resistant, PMOLED display (on the back), Pressure sensitive zones (Gaming triggers).
What we have for review at the office is actually the ROG Phone 6 Pro. As far as we can understand, the current lineup consists of a Pro and a vanilla ROG Phone 6, which share almost all of their internal specs, except maximum RAM. The vanilla tops out at 16GB of RAM while the Pro gets 18GB. Both use the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 and are otherwise nearly identical in terms of features. Well, sans the slightly different back design with the ROG Vision secondary display, which is reserved for the Pro.
Left to right: ROG Phone 3 • ROG Phone 5 Pro • ROG Phone 6 Pro
The ROG Phone 6 and ROG Phone 6 Pro come with dual Nano-SIM slots. Asus reps also confirmed that there would be potential differences market to market, which you do have to check with your local store. These are likely to mostly be limited to memory configurations, but we can’t rule out some color options popping up here and there differently.
As far as we currently know, the ROG Phone 6 will be available in either Phantom Black or the frosted Storm White finish. Whereas the Pro will only be available in white, like the one, we have.
Asus previously had white reserved for its Ultimate skew but decided to make it widely available this year due to fan interest in the color. Last but not least, concerning models and configurations, we believe both the vanilla and Pro models are going global this year.
Circling back to the ROG Phone 6 as a whole, just like last year, it represents an iterative rather than a major upgrade over the previous generation. Asus has successfully homed in on the gaming formula, or at least its take on it, and has been tweaking it and keeping it fresh and current for some time now. No fault in that approach since there are few devices out there quite as “tricked out” as the ROG Phone in almost every aspect.
This year, the AeroActive cooler is arguably the bit that has received the most attention and a major overhaul. Now it even sports an active Peltier element for improved cooling. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Before we really dive into the ROG Phone 6 Pro, let’s start with its retail box contents. In keeping with ROG tradition, it is a real treat. The whole thing is shaped like a trapezoidal prism and features a very nifty slide-out mechanism. Once that is engaged, magnets hold an inner segment of the case closed as a sort of “flap” to cover the cradle that holds the phone itself snugly in place.
The cradle slides out to reveal the bottom compartment, charger, and cable. The HyperCharge charger is an extremely compact and surprisingly light unit with up to 65W of Power Delivery output over a Type-C port. Asus relies on entirely standard PD + PPS to do its fast charging, which is a real treat to see. It is rated for 5V/9V/12V/15V @ up to 3A, 20V @ up to 3.25A and PPS 3.3-11V@3A, 3.3-21V@3.25A for a max of 65W. This versatile charger can easily be used to even power some modern laptops. You also get a nice black braided USB Type-C to Type-C cable in the box.
There is also an Aero Case included with our unit, which according to Asus, should be part of the retail package. Check with your local store for details on that, though.
In case you are wondering, you don’t get the AeroActive cooler in the standard bundle. That needs to be purchased separately and comes with its own compatible case in the box.
The only other thing you get in the retail box is an oddly-shaped plastic card that you have to scan as part of the ROG AR initial activation experience for the phone.
The ROG Phone line is a lot of things to different people, but it has never been cheap and affordable. To be fair, pricing, especially including optional accessorizing within the now significantly smaller ecosystem, has been coming down to more reasonable levels. Still, the ROG Phone 6 and ROG Phone 6 Pro are very much luxury products.
Left to right: ROG Phone 3 • ROG Phone 6 Pro • ROG Phone 5 Pro
The ROG Phone 6 start at €999 in Europe for the base 12GB plus 256GB configuration. The ROG Phone 6 Pro will be only available in one configuration – the 18GB/512GB white model we are reviewing with an MSRP of €1299 (w/ VAT).
If you find yourself considering the ROG Phone 6 Pro, we can already assume that (1) you are after a gaming phone and that (2) money is no object. Well, holding on to the second assumption, let’s look into other gaming alternatives starting with the Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro. Some of its important highlights include a 6.67-inch, 10-bit, 144Hz, HDR10+ OLED display, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset with up to 16GB of RAM and 512GB of NVMe SSD storage, stereo speakers, a potent 108MP main camera and slide-out magnetic physical triggers for game mapping. It costs a lot less than the ROG Phone 6 Pro, but you could also save a bit more and get most of the same experience with the vanilla Black Shark 5 too.
Xiaomi Black Shark 5 Pro • ZTE nubia Red Magic 7 • Lenovo Legion Y90
Another big name in gaming is ZTE’s gaming brand Nubia. Currently, its headliner is the Red Magic 7, which despite its lower price and relative market position, honestly looks like a better deal than the Red Magic 7 Pro. Compared to its sibling, it has a faster 165Hz, 6.8-inch, 10-bit AMOLED display and better battery endurance, despite its smaller battery. Other than that, it is also rocking a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset with up to 18GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, stereo speakers, programmable gaming capacitive triggers, and an internal fan.
Lenovo has a challenger in the ring as well in the Legion Y90. The Legion line is a bit newer to the market and still lacks the kind of pedigree some of its rivals have, but that shouldn’t reflect poorly on the device itself. We haven’t reviewed the Y90, though, so we don’t have any first-hand experience to share.
Not a lot has changed going from the ROG Phone 5s to the new ROG Phone 6 and ROG Phone 6 Pro. There is the mandated chipset change to the latest and greatest Qualcomm has to offer and a few specs touch-ups here and there, plus a newfound IPX4 ingress protection rating. Fundamentally, the core formula hasn’t changed, and that’s arguably a good thing.
Even with stiffening competition in the realm, we maintain that ASUS remains king of the mobile gaming hill. Granted, the once fantastic accessory ecosystem is but a shadow of its former glory, but other than that, the sheer laser focus on gaming is ever so impressive.
The ROG Phone 6 Pro leverages some of the best possible hardware in a unique way, optimizing everything from low-level integration to high-level software for the best possible gaming experience. The flexibility and number of tuning options on offer are still unmatched, and so is the versatility of the in-depth control mapping and macro system.
Honestly, the ROG Phone 6 Pro has very few shortcomings. There is the arguably inferior thermal management compared to previous generations that sort of necessitates the additional purchase of the AeroActive Cooler 6. And then there is also the modest camera setup compared to any 2022 flagship.
And that leads us to price. Starting at €999 for a base ROG Phone 6 and €1299 for the ROG Phone 6 Pro, we are looking at a device that rubs shoulders with the best of them. Luckily, beyond its gaming prowess, the ROG Phone 6 Pro is also a very well-rounded device with one of the best displays and audio setups around and a truly amazing battery life. In that sense, maybe it can even compete with the Galaxy S22’s and iPhone 13’s of the world. Whether or not that’s a fair competition in your view is an entirely personal stance. As it currently stands, the ROG Phone 6 Pro gets two thumbs up from us, and we’ll leave it at that.
Toned-down, but still ROG-inspired gamer’s design with great build quality. White variant now widely available.
IPX4 certified body – first on a gaming phone.
AirTigger 6 ultrasonic touch sensors remain industry-leading, are very precise and versatile. Motion controls are extended and improved from last gen.
Simplified side port is now just a regular Type-C port – major durability improvement over last gen.
Industry-leading stereo speaker performance, complete with gaming-specific sound tweaks.
One of the best around 10-bit, HDR10+, AMOLED screen, 165Hz refresh rate.
Amazing battery life, even at full 165Hz. Rich battery health prolonging options. Very fast charging (65W charger bundled).
Fastest-available Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset.
Great Android implementation, an unparalleled number of game tweaks, control-mapping and performance options.
Solid daylight photos, as well as low-light images. Impressive selfie quality.
Very good video quality, impressive EIS.
Available accessory ecosystem is not as wide as for older models.
AeroActive Cooler 6 does not come bundled.
Thermal management is not as good as on the older ROG Phone 5/5s. AeroActive Cooler 6 is now required to make the most of the available hardware.
Rather basic camera setup, compared to typical 2022 flagships. 8K video recording is capped at 24fps.
Do you even need a gaming phone when handsets like the iPhone 13 Pro Max or Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra are such capable pocket powerhouses? Asus thinks so, and the ROG Phone 6 is its latest attempt at giving you a smartphone by daylight, and handheld console by neon lights of your RGB-lit den.
If you’re not a gamer, then the ROG Phone 6 isn’t for you. It’s that simple. Starting with its design, this phone looks like it could transform into a tiny robot and take over the world; you’ll probably either love it or hate it. We love it.
Both the ROG Phone 6 and 6 Pro get a color screen around the back, a feature that was previously reserved for the Pro version. Also new, the ROG Phone 6 is available in both black and white – the latter looking particularly sleek when matched with the new selection of off-white accessories.
Given that the phone also sounds good and lasts a full day without a midday charge – thanks to its huge 6000mAh battery – it’s safe to say our general impression of the ROG Phone 6 has been an excellent one. That said, it isn’t perfect.
While gaming phone cameras are usually mediocre to bad, the ROG Phone 6‘s is just good enough. This phone is pricey, so it’s natural for us to expect a little more – possibly OIS on the main lens, a bit of telephoto reach or a wide/macro camera with autofocus.
The phone also misses out on wireless charging, which is becoming more ubiquitous, and is something of a must in the ROG Phone 6’s price bracket.
Despite those quibbles, the ROG Phone 6 is still the very best gaming phone you can buy. While it costs more than the Poco F4 GT, it’s more powerful and features a richer accessory suite. The Red Magic 7 and 7 Pro are also cheaper alternatives but lack the polish Asus brings to the table.
Asus ROG Phone 6: price and availability
Starts at £899 (US price TBC)
Available in three versions
Regional availability TBC
The Asus ROG Phone price ranges from high to eye-watering, starting at £899 for the standard version with 256GB storage and 12GB RAM. Alternatively, for £999, you can pick up the phone with 512GB storage and 16GB RAM. If you want to spend even more, the Pro version, which also has 512GB storage, but takes the RAM up to 18GB, – and adds an LED light on the back – costs £1,199. US pricing will be confirmed imminently, so we’ll update this as soon as Asus announces it.
This is the same pricing structure we’ve seen from Asus’s ROG Phone line before – charging more than much of the gaming phone competition but delivering a superior user experience. The Red Magic 7 starts at £529, in contrast, and is a great option for anyone who doesn’t mind a few rough edges. That said, Asus offers more storage at the ROG Phone 6’s starting capacity and a much more refined software experience.
We know the phone’s coming to the UK and will be available from Asus’s online store. Other regions and retailers are yet to be confirmed.
Value score: 4/5
Asus ROG Phone 6: design
Striking gaming phone look
Available in two styles
Excellent accessory support
As far as gaming phones go, the ROG Phone 6 is one of the more elegant options around with its curved, smooth, pearlesque, frosted glass back, and its rounded metal sides. If you close your eyes while holding it, despite being big, it’s still a comfortable, premium smartphone – nothing too standout. Open your eyes though, and you’ll be sucked into a world of RGB lighting, second-screen action, and Stargate-style glyphs.
Measuring 173 x 77 x 10.3mm, the ROG Phone 6 is a tall, relatively narrow thing that’s thicker than most smartphones, but doesn’t quite feel unwieldy. At 239g, it’s one of the heaviest phones on the scene, with the iPhone 13 Pro Max weighing just one gram more at 240g.
The curvy, frosty back and matte sides do make the ROG Phone 6 feel rich and alluring, but it is pretty slippery, so you’ll want to put a case on as soon as you start using it. Luckily, in the box, you get a lightweight, hard plastic shell that protects the corners and adds a little extra grip.
The ROG Phone’s screen is protected by Gorilla Glass Victus, and while the phone doesn’t sport IP68 water or dust resistance, it’s the first gaming phone with IPX4 splash-resistant certification. As for color options, the standard ROG Phone 6 is available in Phantom Black and Storm White, while the 6 Pro is available exclusively in Storm White.
Dotted around the curved metal frame of the ROG Phone 6are more ports than we’re used to seeing. In addition to the 3.5mm headphone jack – a unicorn by today’s high-end smartphone standards – there’s a second USB port on the side of the phone. This is for accessories, like the dock and fan, but also makes for a comfortable charging option when gaming in landscape orientation.
Asus doesn’t install a pre-fitted screen protector on the phone, but does offer up an official option as a separate purchase. We had no issues with the in-display fingerprint scanner, and also set the phone’s face unlock up to ensure we could get into it quickly.
The most standout design highlight of the ROG Phone 6 is definitely on the back. Sprinkled among a bunch of etchings and visual flourishes – as well as a confident, angular camera bump – is an OLED screen. This is horizontal on the Pro model, pictured above, and pitched at an angle on the standard ROG Phone 6.
More than just a flashy highlight for gamers, Asus adds some utility to the second screen. It can display your notification icons, and battery capacity while charging. Really though, who are we kidding? This thing is totally unnecessary – pure indulgence and we’re more than okay with that.
Asus ROG Phone 6 scorecard
Love it or hate it, the premium finish and gaming phone highlights make the ROG Phone 6 a standout in its category.
While the ROG Phone 6’s screen isn’t the sharpest around, it’s exactly where it needs to be for a gaming phone, and the image quality and brightness are on point.
Asus is the first to market with Qualcomm’s latest processor, which, matched with effective cooling ensures performance, whether gaming or simply using your phone is excellent.
The ROG Phone’s weakest area is its camera, despite improvements over its predecessor. Nevertheless, the main camera still impresses with good looking photos and videos.
With a bigger battery than the most smartphones and fast charging, it’s little wonder the ROG Phone 6’s battery impressed us. The only thing missing is wireless charging.
Asus has finetuned its gaming software to near-perfection over the years, and the latest iteration is stellar. We also like the dialled back theme that feels more stock.
While you can get a better camera phone for less, the ROG Phone 5 is the best gaming phone around, and that helps justify its confident, but not unreasonable price.
Buy it if…
You want a powerful gaming phone
The ROG Phone 6 is an incredibly powerful gaming phone that can handle even the more power-hungry games without getting too hot under the collar.
You love gaming accessories
Whether you want to clip the ROG Phone to your Xbox controller, use it like a Nintendo Switch with the Kunai Gamepad, or keep it cool with a fan – you can Megazord your ROG Phone 6 with a whole bunch of great-looking, RGB-lit gaming gear.
You have battery anxiety If you just use your ROG Phone 6 like a smartphone, then you can be confident it won’t die after a day. With its huge 6,000mAh battery, it easily makes it into a second day – and if you’re very careful, possibly even a third.
Don’t buy it if…
You’re on a tight budget The ROG Phone 6 is the most expensive gaming phone out now, and if you plan on picking up all its accessories, you’ll be spending a sizeable chunk of change on all of that. Past-gen ROG phones or the Poco F4 GT could be good alternatives.
You have shaky hands or love zooming
The phone’s camera is good, but it struggles in dimly-lit scenes, where hand shake can creep in and result in blurry photos. The camera also misses out on a telephoto camera, so you can zoom in up to around three times before things start to fall apart.
You love wireless charging
Gaming phones like the ROG Phone 6 don’t tend to pack wireless charging. That said, you can get plenty of very good wireless charging phones that pack stacks of power so look to phones like the iPhone 13 Pro Max or Galaxy S22 Ultra.
Gaming phones are always powerful, but they’re seldom polished. The ROG Phone 6 is both, matching best-in-class performance with effective cooling and a rich selection of accessories. While we wish Asus went a bit further with the camera and wireless charging, there are enough standout and unique highlights here to make it the best gaming phone available at launch.
Asus ROG Phone is one of the best gaming smartphones available in the market. It is packed with top-of-the-line hardware and features that make it a perfect choice for gamers. Here are the five reasons why you should buy Asus ROG Phone for gaming:
1. Top-of-the-line hardware:
Asus ROG Phone is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor and 8GB of RAM. It also features a 6-inch AMOLED display with 18:9 aspect ratio and 90Hz refresh rate. These specs make Asus ROG Phone a powerful gaming smartphone that can handle any game you throw at it.
2. GameCool cooling system:
Asus ROG Phone comes with an exclusive GameCool cooling system to keep the phone cool during long gaming sessions. The system includes a 3D vapor chamber, which dissipates heat away from the phone’s internal components.
3. AirTrigger touch sensors:
The phone comes with two pressure-sensitive touch sensors on the right side of the phone, which can be used as game triggers. These sensors offer precise control and are highly responsive, making them ideal for first-person shooters and other action games.
4. Dual front speakers with DTS:X support:
The dual front speakers on Asus ROG Phone produce rich and immersive sound quality thanks to the DTS:X support. This feature makes games more immersive and engaging, providing you with a better gaming experience overall.
5. huge battery capacity:
One of the best things about Asus ROG Phone is its huge battery capacity of 4000mAh. This means that you can play games for hours on end without having to worry about running out of juice mid-game
6. Excellent camera:
In addition to being a great gaming phone, the Asus ROG Phone also has an excellent camera. It features a 12MP rear camera with f/1.7 aperture and dual pixel phase detection autofocus. The camera is capable of taking great photos and videos, making it a great choice for those who want to do more than just game on their phone.
7. Robust build quality:
The Asus ROG Phone is built to last with its robust build quality. The phone features a metal frame and Corning Gorilla Glass 6 on the front and back for added durability.
8. Fast charging:
The Asus ROG Phone supports fast charging with its included USB-C charger. This feature allows you to quickly charge the phone so you can get back to gaming as soon as possible.
9. Affordable price:
Despite all its high-end features, the Asus ROG Phone is surprisingly affordable compared to other gaming smartphones on the market. This makes it a great option for those who want to game on a budget without compromising on performance or features
The ROG Phone 5 is currently the best gaming smartphone. Asus offers an additional Vision screen, more storage, and a larger scope of delivery with the Pro version. Our review clarifies for whom the upgrade is worthwhile.
The ROG Phone 5 Pro is different from the Standard variant visually and the build quality is on the same level. However, the big difference is on the back because the Pro has a so-called ROG Vision display instead of the dot RGB matrix. This can display smaller animations, also provides information about the current battery status when charging the smartphone and accompanies the connection of accessories with suitable animations.
Another difference is revealed in the scope of delivery, because the external AeroActive Cooler 5 is included in the box.
The equipment is unique for a smartphone. Besides the Pogo PINs for the connection to the fan, there is a USB 3.2 port (Gen. 2, up to 10 GBit/s, HDMI and dP support up to UHD, QC 5.0) right next to it and an additional USB 2.0 port (QC 3.0) on the bottom edge, which can be used for power supply while gaming. Furthermore, the additional ultrasonic keys AirTrigger 5 and an audio jack with High-Res Audio DAC are also on board.
The operating system Android 11 with the in-house ROG UI is used. Users who do not like this can switch, during the setup, to the standard UI, which is very similar to a pure Android.
All modern standards are used for the mobile data connection and the number of supported frequency bands for LTE and 5G has been increased again for the Pro version. Wi-Fi 6E is a fast WLAN standard that can connect to two networks simultaneously via dual WLAN and enables high and stable data rates in the test with the Netgear Nighthawk AX12.
The voice quality of the ROG Phone is really good and delivers a very good intelligibility when held to the ear, which only reaches its limits in very loud ambient noise. The speaker mode reverberates slightly, but has a good microphone range and quality. The Asus smartphone can accept two nano-SIM cards and supports VoLTE.
The ROG Phone 5 not only has a high refresh rate of up to 144 Hz, but the touch sampling rate of 300 Hz is also very high and promises a fast implementation of inputs on the touchscreen with a latency of 24.3 milliseconds. For biometric security, an optical fingerprint scanner is available in the display, which offers quite reliable recognition rates, but is not one of the fastest. Two-dimensional face recognition is also possible.
Cameras – triple optics in the ROG Phone 5 Pro
The ROG Phone 5 Pro relies on a camera setup that consists of three lenses. Besides the 64 MP main lens, an ultra-wide-angle and a macro lens are integrated. Even though the Sony sensor is still from last year, good pictures can be taken with it and the high reserves in terms of resolution allow smaller zoom levels without much loss of quality. Videos can also be recorded in 8k.
The front-facing camera also takes good pictures, but it cannot compensate backlight completely. Videos can be created in Full HD with up to 60 frames per second.
Display – Improved DC dimming
The display of the Asus ROG Phone 5 Pro is identical to that of the Standard variant. It measures 6.78 inches, works with a Full HD Plus resolution and up to 144 Hz. The OLED panel achieves up to 806 cd/m² in a pure white display and enabled ambient light sensor. With an even distribution of bright and dark areas (APL50), it is 1,088 cd/m² and 1,136 cd/m² with APL10. If you adjust the brightness manually, you have 488 cd/m² at your disposal.
It is positive that Asus has improved the DC dimming. Although this still only works with 60 Hz, it actually works now.
Performance, emissions and battery life
The Asus ROG Phone 5 Pro is powered by the Snapdragon 888 with a whopping 16 GB LPDDR5 RAM. The graphics calculations are handled by the integrated Adreno 660. Since the Qualcomm chipset is considered difficult to cool, Asus has focused exactly on this aspect and achieves a stable performance at all times in combination with the fan. Although the surface temperatures increase noticeably, they only get warm to the touch and remain absolutely harmless.
There is no game that Asus‘ smartphone cannot master in the highest detail settings, and it also offers broad support for titles with more than 60 FPS.
The two front-facing speakers can not only get very loud, but also provide a comparatively good sound image. There is also wide support for Bluetooth codecs as well as an excellent audio jack.
In terms of battery runtimes, the Pro model presents itself even more efficient than the standard variant; the manufacturer seems to have improved here as well.
Verdict – Little Pro, but more memory
Asus‘ ROG Phone 5 Pro has surprisingly little added value for its rather steep surcharge. The Vision display on the back is certainly a nice gimmick, but it does not offer any added value in everyday use. The doubling of the memory and the additional frequency bands could be more interesting, and the AeroActive Cooler 5 is included, which would otherwise also cost 60 Euros (~$70).
“The Asus ROG Phone 5 Pro is primarily aimed at memory-hungry users.”
Nevertheless, the ROG Phone 5 Pro remains the best gaming smartphone at the moment, with a strong configuration. Besides the 144 Hz AMOLED display, the performance-stable processor, additional ultrasonic sensor keys, two USB ports, and the broad support of games with 120 and 144 Hz are particularly important.
Cheaper alternatives are the Black Shark 4 or the RedMagic 6R, but they also have to make concessions in the areas of speed, features and optional accessories.
Price and availability
The ROG Phone 5 Pro is currently difficult to get hold of and at the time of this review has even disappeared from the Asus eShop and can primarily be purchased via Asian sites like AliExpress.
Samsung’siPhone display business is under growing threat from Chinese competitor BOE, which is gearing up to match the production of the Korean supplier …
When Apple launched the iPhone X, Samsung was the only OLED supplier able to meet the Cupertino company’s exacting requirements for both sophistication and yield. Since then, Apple has added both LG and BOE as secondary iPhone display suppliers, but Samsung has retained the bulk of the orders.
A new report in The Elec suggests that could be about to change.
Chinese display giant BOE was in the process of converting its three factories __ B7, B11 and B12 __ to manufacture smartphone flexible OLED panels for Apple, analyst firm UBI Research has claimed.
Because of this, BOE will likely overtake LG Display as the larger OLED supplier for iPhones by 2023, UBI Research CEO Choong Hoon Yi said at an online seminar on Friday.
The Chinese display giant is aiming to become the second-largest supplier of OLED panels to Apple by converting its three factories, Yi said.
BOE’s total flexible OLED panel production capacity will expand from its current 96,000 substrates per month (Gen 6 substrates) to 144,000 substrates per month by the fourth quarter of next year, the CEO said.
This is level with that of Samsung Display’s current capacity of 140,000 substrates per month.
LG is also aiming to double its own production to 60,000 substrates per month.
Both increases will likely see Samsung’s own orders fall as Apple seeks to balance out supply to reduce dependence on a single company.
There will, however, be more Apple OLED business to come. Reports point to the possibility of OLED iPads in 2024, and OLED MacBooks in 2025, en route to the longer-term switch to microLED. (The latest flagship models of both iPads and MacBooks currently use IPS LCD displays with miniLED backlighting.)
Another year, another ROG Phone. Asus has relentlessly been keeping up its efforts to deliver “The ultimate smartphone gaming experience” for four years now. With great success, we might we add.
This time around, we have the shiny new ROG Phone 5 to get acquainted with. A Republic of Gamers product through and through, but one that does things a bit differently than its predecessors in some regards, while staying true to form in many others. There’s plenty to discuss, so without further ado, we’ll just jump straight into it.
First things first. Yes, it’s the ROG Phone 5 instead of 4. Don’t worry about it; you haven’t accidentally skipped an iteration along the way. The explanation is actually simple and one that we have encountered before with Chinese and Taiwanese naming conventions. The number ‘four’ in Chinese just happens to sound similar to their word for death, so naming products after this number is considered unlucky and is avoided.
That’s ironically, probably the least intriguing bit about the ROG Phone 5, though. Let’s start with the fact that the ROG Phone 5 is more of a family of devices than a single model.
Asus ROG Phone 5 specs at a glance:
Body: 172.8×77.3×10.3mm, 238g; metal body; RGB light panel (on the back), Pressure sensitive zones (Gaming triggers).
There are anywhere between two to five distinct versions available, depending on how you count them. The vanilla ROG Phone 5 has an A, B and C variant, denoting their differences in available bands and network connectivity, as well as memory variants. Starting from variant “C”, the base configuration is an 8GB/128GB one with a 12GB/256GB tier also available. Variant “B” adds a third option to the list – 16GB/256GB. Variant “A” is not available in the base 8GB/128GB tier, but can be had in both 12GB/256GB and 16GB/256GB configs.
Granted, clearly, some of these variants are meant for different markets. Still, that’s already plenty confusing in our mind, but things extend past the vanilla ROG Phone 5 this year. And we’re not talking about a “Strix” variant, like in previous generations, which might still be a thing. Instead, this year Asus has an ROG Phone 5 Pro, as well as and ROG Phone 5 Ultimate.
The Pro variant has 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, while Ultimate ups the RAM to a whopping 18GB of capacity. The Ultimate edition is expected to be an extremely limited offering.
There are some physical differences compared to the Pro/Ultimate. Both of these have PMOLED ROG Vision displays on the back, instead of the ROG RGB logo, as well as a pair of extra touch inputs. There are some exclusive colors and finishes – Glossy Black on the Pro and Matte While, with a satin matte finish on the Ultimate. You also need to buy either the Pro or the Ultimate to get the Asus Aeroactive Cooler 5 snap-on active cooling accessory in the box. And if you go Ultimate, you will also get an exclusive gift bag of ROG “swag” beyond that.
This particular review and all of the testing and benchmarking was done on a regular ROG Phone 5 unit with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
This variant situation is undoubtedly a bit confusing. Still, there are different ways of looking at it from a more positive angle, namely that of extra choice for the end-user and Asus trying to cast a wider net this time around in hopes of appealing to as many prospective buyers as possible.
On the flip side of this argument, there are definitely some questionable decisions with the ROG Phone 5 as well, that could be passed-off as simplification or diversification measures, but are actually kind of downgrades or “side-grades” at best. Notable examples include the rather odd fact that after two consecutive years of deliberately preserving the same footprint with ROG Phones and compatibility with the growing ROG accessory ecosystem, the chain is officially broken with the ROG Phone 5. It is slightly taller than its predecessors and leaves behind support for such killer gadgets as the Desktop Dock and the TwinView Dock.
Also, the Aeroactive Cooler is not bundled with every unit for the first time ever. And in a more general sense, while still clearly on top of its game, the ROG Phone 5 is arguably a bit “lighter” in the innovation department compared to its predecessors.
We’ll definitely dig more into these “interesting choices” surrounding the ROG Phone 5 in the following pages.
A great place to start seems to be the retail box itself and its contents. Getting a new ROG Phone package has always been a bit of an experience in itself. Doubly so for us, since Asus used to send actual briefcases chuck-full of accessories our way. With last year’s ROG Phone 3, the packaging started getting a bit tamer, sort of synergistically so with the design of the phone itself, which was justifiable and rather sensible.
The ROG Phone 5 takes things to the next level in more ways than one. The box we got was just a regular rectangle. A fancy one, for sure, complete with some art, but it only took us a split second to open the magnetic flap and get to the unit. No alien tetrahedranes, pyramids sliding into each other, hidden compartments, and magic augmented reality symbols. Joking aside, we appreciate the extra sensibility in an otherwise costly package that will ultimately end up in a closet somewhere.
We are a lot less appreciative of the omission of the ROG Aeroactive Cooler 5, though. Every other ROG Phone in the past used to have its corresponding Aeroactive cooler bundled. You can definitely choose whether to see this as a convenient way to save less-demanding users some money or an otherwise manufacturer-beneficial cost-saving measure. It’s up to you. Plus, you do still get one if you go for the Pro or Ultimate variant of the ROG Phone 5. Probably the former, since the latter will be extremely limited in availability.
We didn’t get any spare plastic plugs for the ROG Side connector this time around, which is not a major deal, but is still worth mentioning. On the plus side, Asus still throws in its highly-specific Aero case in black or white, to match your unit’s color. It has a particular shape mostly mandated by the need to be compatible with the Aeroactive Cooler 5, to allow for the ROG logo to be visible, while still providing at least some protection. At least the corners are covered.
For charging you still get a very versatile HyperCharger unit from Asus. It is a 65W brick that uses Asus HyperCharge technology, based on Power Delivery 3.0 + PPS at 3.3V to 21V and 3A of current. This means that you only need a decent USB 2.0 or 3.0 Type-C to Type-C cable rated at the base 3A to take full advantage of the charger. Asus provides a nice braided one in the box.
The ROG Phone 5 actually has two separate 3,000 mAh cells, with MMT tech and double-wired split design, which works in conjunction with the HyperCharge tech to allow the 65W charging speed – a clear upgrade over the ROG Phone 3, while also generating less heat. More on that later.
One interesting side note is that the 65W charger also supports Quick Charge 5.0, making it surprisingly versatile to just have on hand for all sorts of charging needs. Plus, it’s compact, especially for a non-GaN unit.
Even if you don’t appreciate certain aspects of devices Asus brings into the smartphone realm, there is no denying that the Taiwanese giant basically spearheaded the modern gaming smartphone niche with the ROG Phone line. It was a major gamble, a bold move and the space is still marked by plenty of uncertainty and soul-searching. That’s the beauty of big bold steps, though, that they spark innovation, and, today, four years later, Asus is not alone in the gaming smartphone space.
Sure, releases are still sporadic and experimental, more than anything else, but there is competition to point out. ZTE-owned Nubia instantly comes to mind, especially with the very recent announcement of the nubia Red Magic 6 and 6 Pro. Just like the ROG Phone 5, these are based on the flagship Snapdragon 888 chipset and even feature active fan cooling. Only theirs is an actual part of the internal design of the phones, as opposed to a snap-on accessory. Another spotlight feature of the Red Magic 6 pair, in particular, is the 165Hz refresh rate and 400Hz touch sampling rate on their 6.8-inch AMOLED displays. Both industry-leading figures, though we are not exactly sure how actual input chain latency sizes-up against Asus‘ bold claims of delivering the lowest input times in the industry with the ROG Phone 5.
Xiaomi has its Black Shark line, which unfortunately hasn’t been updated since the Black Shark 3S, back in August last year. With a regular Snapdragon 865 (non-plus) under the hood, it’s no longer going to be a benchmark chart-topper. Still, a potent device styled in proper gaming attire. You might want to wait a bit for the upcoming Black Shark 4 family, though.
No gaming smartphone list would be complete without Lenovo’s relatively recent entry into the scene with the Legion line. The last refresh there is the Legion Duel – a solid hardware proposition all-around, with its 144Hz AMOLED display and Snapdragon 865+ chipset. Not unlike Xiaomi, though, a new Legion, allegedly called the Legion 2 Pro is right around the corner and if rumors are to be believed, will have some sort of dual turbo cooling system to boot.
If you are not particularly partial to the gamer aesthetic or don’t really think your gaming performance would benefit all that much from any specific game optimizations, features and tweaks on a hardware or software level, there are plenty of excellent “ordinary” flagship devices to consider and still get excellent flagship performance. Vivo, for one, has you covered with the iQOO 7, which still holds the AnTuTu score record. And just a few points behind – the vivo X60 Pro+. Both are based on the Snapdragon 888 and with fast 120Hz OLED displays. The latter shining a bit brighter in the camera department.
Coincidentally, or rather not so much, we also find the excellent and very popular Xiaomi Redmi K40 Pro also on the same AnTuTu list. To be clear, we are not advising anyone to choose a device simply based on one peak performance score number. However, it is a convenient data point to consider when looking for the best performance around. Plus, with its 120Hz AMOLED panel, the K40 Pro is more than just raw muscle and has the requirements to deliver an excellent gaming experience, as well.
Speaking of an excellent gaming experience, as part of an equally-good overall phone one, why not consider one of Samsung’s Galaxy S21 phones? Ideally, one with the Snapdragon 888, instead of the Exynos 2100, in the particular context of sustained performance and thermal-throttling, which you can read more about in our in-depth comparative exploration of the two chips. Beyond that, it is worth noting that Samsung has a surprisingly competent and in-depth Game Launcher, complete with graphics and resolution tweaks, among other things.
Nobody does smartphone gaming quite like Asus. Four iterations into the ROG Phone line, that remains a fact. The ROG Phone 5 is a true powerhouse in every sense of the word – a phone that is specifically crafted to deliver the best possible gaming experience, with any other concern or consideration taking a back seat. It just so happens that when you make an excellent gaming flagship, you usually end up with an excellent all-around device in general that has plenty of appeal outside gaming.
That has generally been our conclusion for every ROG Phone in the past, and we stand by it for the ROG Phone 5, as well. However, the ROG Phone 5 is probably the least impressive new generation we’ve seen in the ROG family.
On a hardware level, it constitutes a small upgrade over the ROG Phone 3. There are no new major spotlight features, no pushing the envelope in terms of display tech or additional controls and inputs. It’s more a case of Asus refining most aspects of the ROG Phone 3 further, but also, unfortunately, changing some odd things around. We can’t say we particularly like the new design for the side connector. It is hard to operate and fragile. Plus, it breaks compatibility with the excellent Mobile Desktop Dock. The simpler design for the AeroActive Cooler 5 also has its issues, and for the first time ever, it is not included with every unit.
Then there is the slightly taller body, likely related to the return of the 3.5mm audio jack and the newly-symmetrical exquisite speaker system, which we very-much appreciate, as well as the new split battery design, which is more of a polarizing topic, looking at the battery numbers. We don’t really mind the growth spurt, as such, but wish that it didn’t come at the expense of even more lost compatibility with the excellent ROG Phone accessory ecosystem, like the TwinView Dock.
Perhaps Asus is amidst some business “reorientation” here. Shifting focus away from end users and extravagant accessories to capture headlines and laser-focusing on delivering pro tools for the e-sports contestants and organizers exclusively. It seems to be too early to tell. Overall, we feel like the ROG Phone 5 is a truly excellent phone, still on a level of its own when it comes to mobile gaming profess, but one unfortunately experiencing some “changes” this year that managed to rub us the wrong way.
Even more toned-down, but still ROG-inspired gamer’s design with great build quality.
AirTigger 5 ultrasonic touch sensors are very precise and versatile. Motion controls are extended and greatly improved from last gen
Industry-leading stereo speaker performance, complete with gaming-specific sound tweaks
Superb AMOLED screen, 144Hz refresh rate.
Great battery life, even at full 144Hz. Rich battery health prolonging options. Very fast charging (65W charger bundled).
Fastest-available Snapdragon 888 chipset with an amazing thermal management.
Great Android implementation, an unparalleled number of game tweaks, control-mapping and performance options
Solid daylight photos, as well as low-light images. Impressive selfie quality
Very good video quality, impressive EIS
No longer backwards compatible with most ROG Phone II or 3 accessories. Available accessory ecosystem is significantly smaller than on previous models
AeroActive Cooler 5 not included with the vanilla model. The new design for both the cooler and its connector are hard to align and prone to damage
No water or dust resistance
Rather basic camera setup, compared to typical 2021 flagships
Bottom line: Samsung’s Galaxy S21 is a great overall package, delivering 5G, the latest hardware, and all the extras you could ask for in a 2021 flagship.
6.2-inch AMOLED, 2400×1080, 120Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
128 or 256GB
12MP primary, 12MP ultra-wide, 64MP telephoto
25W wired, 15W wireless
151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9mm
Compact and lightweight design
Snapdragon 888 is a performance beast
120Hz AMOLED display
Very capable cameras
All-day battery life
Doesn’t have expandable storage
No MST for Samsung Pay
In 2021, Samsung has released a smaller and more affordable smartphone in the regular Galaxy S21. For shoppers that want a fully-fledged smartphone experience without completely breaking the bank, it’s well worth your consideration.
One of the best things the Galaxy S21 has going for it is the display. It’s a Full HD+ AMOLED panel, and when paired with a smooth 120Hz refresh rate, it is nothing short of excellent. It’s not quite as sharp as the Quad HD+ resolution found on the S21 Ultra, but the picture still looks really crisp thanks to a smaller 6.2-inch display size. Combine that smaller display with plastic construction, and the S21 ends up being a really comfortable phone to use thanks to its small size and lightweight design.
Another highlight is performance; the Galaxy S21 features the Snapdragon 888 and 8GB of RAM. No matter what tasks you throw at the phone, it’ll handle them with ease. There’s also a 4,000 mAh battery for all-day endurance, an IP68 dust/water resistance rating, and your choice of 128GB or 256GB of storage. The camera experience isn’t as jaw-dropping as what you’ll find with the S21 Ultra, though it is a bit better than the S20 FE. Once again, it’s a nice middle-ground between the two.
You get three guaranteed Android updates and four years of security patches on the software front, making the Galaxy S21 one of the best phones for long-term use. That said, the Galaxy S21 shares the same cons as the S21 Ultra, meaning there’s no expandable storage or MST for Samsung Pay. Those are two features you do get with the S20 FE, but the S21 still manages to stand out thanks to its improved cameras, faster performance, nicer design, and more pocketable form factor.
Bottom line: The S21 Ultra stands out as the phone to get if you don’t want to spare any expense. Everything from the display, performance, cameras, and more are among the very best you can get — just be prepared for it to cost you a pretty penny.
What Samsung achieved with the Galaxy S20 FE is nothing short of amazing, and for the vast majority of you reading this, it’s the phone you should probably buy. But if you’re itching for a device that has even more to offer and you’re OK spending more to get that kind of experience, you’ll want to turn your attention towards the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
This is Samsung’s top-of-the-line flagship for 2021, and in virtually every regard, the premium nature of the S21 Ultra is easy to see. Starting first with the display, you’re treated to a massive 6.8-inch panel that’s capable of running a Quad HD+ resolution with a 120Hz refresh rate at the same time — something very few smartphones are capable of doing. This means you get razor-sharp text, buttery smooth animations, and the stunning colors of Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED screen technology.
Powering the S21 Ultra is the Snapdragon 888 chipset, paired with either 12 or 16GB of RAM. In real-world use, that means the Galaxy S21 Ultra is one of the fastest phones money can buy. Keeping with the theme of high-end specs, other niceties include a 5,000 mAh battery, up to 512GB of storage, an IP68 water/dust resistance rating, and a larger in-screen fingerprint sensor that’s much faster and easier to use than the one found on the S20 FE.
As if that wasn’t enough, the tour de force of the Galaxy S21 Ultra is its camera system. The primary camera is a 108MP sensor that captures extremely detailed and colorful shots. The 8MP ultra-wide lens is a strong performer. The two telephoto cameras — featuring 3x and 10x zoom distances — allow for some of the very best zoom pictures we’ve ever seen.
There’s no denying the impressiveness of the S21 Ultra, but that’s not to say it’s without its faults. Samsung got rid of expandable storage and MST for Samsung Pay, two hallmark features of Galaxy phones before it. If you’re alright with losing out on those features, the Galaxy S21 Ultra experience is well well worth the price of admission.
Bottom line: The OnePlus 9 Pro delivers a gorgeous new design combined with top-notch internal hardware, cameras tuned by Hasselblad, and clean software. OnePlus finally has a phone that measures up to Android’s best, and the OnePlus 9 Pro is an affordable alternative to the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is gunning straight for the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The phone features the latest hardware you’ll find today, including the Snapdragon 888 chipset, along with LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 storage modules, and a marquee addition this year is the cameras.
OnePlus always nailed the hardware, but it just couldn’t deliver cameras that held up to Samsung, Google, and Xiaomi. That has changed with the OnePlus 9 Pro. The device comes with an upgraded 48MP camera at the back that takes fantastic photos. OnePlus also partnered with German camera giant Hasselblad to deliver outstanding photos to capture every moment. The result: the OnePlus 9 Pro takes amazing shots in just about any lighting condition. There’s also a 50MP wide-angle lens that may just be the best on any phone today, and you get an 8MP module that offers 3x digital zoom.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is one of the fastest phones you can buy today, and a new 120Hz AMOLED display joins the top-notch hardware. The phone uses an LTPO display to dynamically change the refresh all the way from 1Hz to 120Hz, allowing it to conserve battery life while delivering a smooth and fluid user experience in daily use.
You’ll also find clean software without any bloatware at all in the Android 11-based OxygenOS 11. The interface has plenty of customizability, and unlike Samsung’s One UI, you will not find any errant ads anywhere. The clean UI combined with a focus on performance and customization make OxygenOS the default choice for enthusiasts.
The phone doesn’t miss out in other areas either — you get IP68 dust and water resistance, 5G connectivity over both Sub-6 and mmWave, and dual-band GPS along with NFC. But a key highlight is around battery tech — the OnePlus 9 Pro offers 65W wired charging along with 50W wireless charging, with the phone taking just 29 minutes to fully charge using the bundled charger. OnePlus also recently announced that its flagship phones would begin receiving three major Android updates — up from the two promised previously.
While it’s exciting to see the gains in this area, the one downside is that battery life itself isn’t on par with other Android flagships. For example, the OnePlus 9 Pro barely manages to last a day with heavy use, so you may want to take the charger along if you’re heading out.
That said, the OnePlus 9 Pro is a great overall package that nails the fundamentals. So if you’re not sure about the Galaxy S21 Ultra and are looking for an alternative, you will love what the OnePlus 9 Pro has to offer.
Bottom line: There are many good smartphone deals out there, but none of them are as amazing as the Pixel 4a. From its flagship-grade cameras, reliable performance, all-day battery life, and long-term software support, no other phone gives you this much for so little.
5.81-inch OLED, 2340×1080, 60Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm
Flagship camera on a budget phone
Easy to use in one hand
AMOLED display looks great
Three years of software support
The Pixel 4a is the best phone value available today, period. Google’s packed most of what makes the Pixel 4/5 series good into a smartphone that costs over 50% less. You also get a compact device that, despite its size, excels in the battery life department. Seriously, this phone lasts all day and then some.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the 4a is its camera, which is nearly on par with the Pixel 4 that preceded it. The main camera shoots exceptional photos in all lighting conditions, with Night Sight really showing its strength in poor lighting. Google even added Astrophotography mode this time around and improved the already impressive Portrait Mode. The front-facing camera is also tack-sharp and focuses more quickly than on the Pixel 3a from 2019. Both front and back, you’re getting flagship-level camera quality out of a phone that’s a fraction of the price. Google’s also improved the video quality on the 4a, thanks to an improved Snapdragon 730 chipset and 6GB of RAM standard.
So what do you lose by spending a third of the price of a more traditional flagship? Well, the Pixel 4a is made of plastic and lacks both water resistance and wireless charging, features you can take for granted at a higher price point. It also only comes in one size, a 5.8-inch variant, and one color, black. There are no storage size options, either: you get 128GB of internal memory, which should be plenty for most people, but a lack of microSD expansion may be a problem for the content collectors out there. Also, there’s no 5G support here.
All of these limitations shouldn’t impede your desire to buy the Pixel 4a, which proved to be one of the best smartphone surprises of 2020 — even if it did launch a few months late. Google’s latest budget phone is a winner, from the size to the performance to the battery life and camera quality.
Bottom line: They say that the best camera you have is the one you have with you, so make sure it’s the best it can be. Google’s Pixel 5 takes incredible photos in virtually any setting, and thanks to the company’s top-notch image processing, you don’t even have to be a pro photographer to get impressive shots.
6.0-inch OLED, 2340×1080, 90Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
12.2MP primary, 16MP ultra-wide
18W wired, 15W wireless, 5W reverse wireless
144.7 x 70.4 x 8.0mm
Among the best cameras on the market
Compact and comfortable to hold
90Hz AMOLED display
Great battery life
Three years of software updates
Might be too small for some users
The Pixel 5 is Google’s latest flagship smartphone that you can buy. Compared to past releases, it’s a huge departure. Rather than trying to have the absolute best specs possible, the Pixel 5 focuses on offering a great all-around user experience at a competitive price. And, in just about every regard, it succeeds.
First thing’s first, we have to talk about the Pixel 5’s camera performance. Simply put, if camera quality is a key priority for you, the Pixel 5 should be at the very top of your shopping list. The 12.2MP primary and 16MP ultra-wide cameras may not look all that impressive on paper, but combined with Google’s unmatched image processing, they kick out truly incredible results. The detail is sharp, colors are true-to-life, and the Pixel 5 handles low-light environments without a hitch. The best part? The Pixel 5 does all of this more reliably than any other smartphone.
Outside of killer cameras, the Pixel 5 has a bunch more to offer. We’re in love with its design, which is refreshingly compact and is made entirely out of aluminum. The paint job gives it an exceptional in-hand feel, and if you ask us. The Sorta Sage color is one of the best we’ve ever seen on a phone. Period.
Rounding out the Pixel 5 experience is a 90Hz AMOLED display, fast performance thanks to the Snapdragon 765G processor, and long-lasting battery life. For considerably less money than a lot of other flagships, the Pixel 5 is well worth your consideration.
Bottom line: Samsung’s Galaxy S20 FE is a solid, affordable 5G phone that offers most of what makes Samsung flagships so good in a cheaper, colorful package.
6.5-inch OLED, 2400×1080, 120Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
12MP primary, 8MP telephoto, 12MP ultrawide
15W wired, Qi wireless charging
161.6 x 71.1 x 9.3mm
Flat 120Hz display is terrific
All-day battery life
Promised three years of software updates
Impressive cameras with 3x optical zoom
Sturdy design with fun color options
Not every color option is available everywhere
Camera can be slow to load
Samsung clearly understands that this is a time for people to pare back their expenses because the Galaxy S20 FE is a value flagship that really doesn’t skimp. It’s based on the successful foundation of the Galaxy S20+, featuring a spacious 6.5-inch 1080p AMOLED display with a luxurious 120Hz refresh rate, a Snapdragon 865, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and an all-day 4,500mAh battery.
Of course, to hit its affordable price point, Samsung needed to make some sacrifices, so it traded the Galaxy S20 series’ back glass for colorful plastic — the FE is available in six delicious colors — and cut back on the quality of the triple-camera setup ever-so-slightly.
Still, the S20 FE has everything you’d expect in a high-end phone and performs just as well. We especially love the IP68 water resistance and wireless charging, two features rare in this price bracket. Plus, it shares the same primary camera sensor as the Galaxy S20 and S20+, ensuring beautiful results in good light and bad.
Samsung’s One UI 3.0 is also on-board, and the company’s promising three years of platform and security updates, ensuring that you’ll be getting the latest Android features well into the next decade.
Finally, Samsung includes sub-6Ghz 5G in all variants of the Galaxy S20 FE, and we found performance to be excellent on both AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s 5G networks. If you want a Verizon version that supports mmWave, it’s also available for purchase.
Bottom line: The Moto G Power 2020 has reliable hardware combined with outstanding battery life and clean software. There are a few downsides — it’s limited to 10W charging and will only get one Android update, but you are getting a great entry-level package overall.
6.4-inch LCD, 2300×1080, 60Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 665
16MP primary, 8MP wide-angle, 2MP macro
159.9 x 75.8 x 9.6mm
At least two-day battery life
Large 1080p display
Will get only one Android update
Charging limited to 10W
If you’re in the market for an entry-level phone, the Moto G Power 2020 is still a great choice in 2021. Motorola has nailed the basics here, delivering a robust phone with all the features you’re looking for in a budget option.
The standout feature on the Moto G Power 2020 is the battery: featuring a large 5000mAh battery, the phone manages to last over two days without fail. The charging situation isn’t ideal, though; the Moto G Power 2020 has 10W wired charging, so you will want to plug in the device overnight.
The phone holds up pretty well in other areas too. You get a 6.4-inch 1080p LCD that’s decent enough in its own right, and the Snapdragon 665 is a reliable performer in normal use. The phone has stereo sound, a 3.5mm jack, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and a microSD card slot. And as the phone is officially sold in the U.S., it works on all the major carriers.
In fact, it’s a better option than the Moto G Power 2021 in key areas — the 2021 model has fewer LTE bands, a lower-resolution 720p display, and a less powerful chipset. You’ll find positives on the software side as well, with Motorola offering a clean interface without any bloatware. The downside here is that the phone will get just one Android update — to Android 11 — and if you’re okay with that, the Moto G Power 2020 has plenty to offer in 2021.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for a value flagship and want a phone with a gorgeous design, the latest hardware, stellar cameras, fast charging, and clean software, the OnePlus 9 is the obvious choice.
6.5-inch AMOLED, 2400×1080, 120Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
48MP primary, 50MP wide-angle, 2MP portrait
65W wired, 15W wireless
160 x 74.2 x 8.7 mm
Sublime 120Hz AMOLED display
Clean software with no bloat
65W wired / 15W wireless charging
Three years of Android updates
Single-SIM in the U.S.
With the OnePlus 9, OnePlus sets its sights on the Galaxy S20 FE. The phone delivers on the same fundamentals as Samsung’s value flagship, offering the latest internal hardware, a 120Hz AMOLED display, reliable cameras, and many extras from the OnePlus 9 Pro.
The 120Hz AMOLED display on the OnePlus 9 is one of the best you’ll find in this particular category, and thanks to the Snapdragon 888 chipset, the phone handles anything you throw at it without breaking a sweat. You also get 5G connectivity over Sub-6, Wi-Fi 6, NFC, AptX HD audio codecs, and an excellent vibration motor.
The phone has the same 4500mAh battery as the OnePlus 9 Pro, and you get 65W wired charging. What’s new this generation is the addition of 15W Qi wireless charging. It may not be quite the same as the insane 50W wireless charging on the 9 Pro, but the upside is that the OnePlus 9 works with any Qi-enabled wireless charger available today. This particular feature is missing on the Indian and Chinese models, but you’ll find it on the OnePlus 9 variants sold in North America and Europe.
Coming to the software, OxygenOS 11 continues to set the standard in terms of customizability. The bloatware-free UI is a delight to use, and recently OnePlus announced that it would begin supporting its flagship phones with three years of Android platform updates.
Overall, the OnePlus 9 is a solid contender to the Galaxy S20 FE. It has the latest hardware, great cameras, clean software, and fast charging, and for what it costs, you are getting a great overall value.
Bottom line: The ASUS ZenFone 8 is a bit of a departure from its predecessors, but it is the best smallest Android flagship you can buy right now. It has an excellent build, clean software, great cameras, 5G, and the powerful Snapdragon 888 SOC.
5.9-inch OLED, 2400×1080, 120Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
64MP primary, 12MP ultra-wide
148 x 68.5 x 8.9 mm
Easy to use one-handed
Gorgeous screen with 120Hz refresh rate
3.5mm headphone jack
No wireless charging
No telephoto camera
If you’re one of those people who still pines for a smaller, flagship-level phone, then we have some good news for you. The ASUS ZenFone 8 delivers one of the best Android experiences that you can get in mid-2021 for much less than the competition. Plus, it’s one of the smallest Android flagships around.
Unlike the ZenFone 6 and 7 series and the ZenFone 8 Flip, the ZenFone 8 has done away with the flipping camera module in favor of a more traditional design. While this new (older) form factor makes the device more pocketable, ASUS was able to retain an excellent camera setup nonetheless. It also means that it is now IP68 water-resistant. The ZenFone 8 features a gorgeous AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, and it even retains an old-school fan favorite with its 3.5mm headphone jack.
The ZenFone 8 has top-notch internal specs, too, including the powerful Snapdragon 888 processor, fast 20W wired charging, and one of the cleanest builds of Android we’ve seen this year. However, you miss out on wireless charging, and ASUS’s track record for updates has left us wanting in the past.
This is the perfect phone for someone who admires the size and capabilities of something like the Google Pixel 4a but who also wants a more premium and performant Android phone.
Bottom line: Folding phones are here, and the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is the best one we’ve seen yet. It’s basically a smartphone and tablet in one device, and while it is costly, it’s also the best attempt yet we’ve seen for this form factor.
6.23-inch AMOLED, 2260×816, 60Hz refresh rate
7.6-inch AMOLED, 2280×1768, 120Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+
12MP primary, 12MP telephoto, 12MP ultra-wide
25W wired and 11W wireless
159.2 x 128.2 x 6.9mm (unfolded) and 159.2 x 68 x 16.8mm (folded)
Puts a mini-tablet in your pocket
Great cameras and battery
App compatibility issues
Just like any piece of technology, smartphones evolve and change as time goes on. We’ve seen screens get bigger, cameras get a lot more capable, and processors rival those found in computers. The next big thing for phones is the folding form factor, and so far, the best yet in this niche is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2.
The best way to think about the device is as a phone and tablet in one. When the Z Fold 2 is closed, you’re treated to a 6.23-inch AMOLED display that you can use for anything you’d like — checking email, scrolling through Twitter, watching YouTube videos, you name it. Should you find yourself wanting a larger canvas, however, all you need to do is open up the Z Fold 2 up. There, you’re treated to a larger 7.6-inch AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. It’s a lot like having an iPad Mini that you can fold up and take with you wherever you want, and if you ask us, that’s pretty amazing.
As you might expect for a new technology like a folding phone, the Z Fold 2 does come with some unique dilemmas. For example, the Ultra-Thin Glass for the tablet display is prone to scratches more than traditional glass. The folding design raises questions about long-term durability, and not all apps are properly optimized for that larger display size. There’s also the matter of price, with the Galaxy Z Fold 2 costing more than two OnePlus 8 Pros.
This isn’t a phone that we recommend everyone go out and buy right now, but as far as folding phones go, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is the best we’ve seen to date. If you’re willing to spend the money and put up with those quirks, the Z Fold 2 has a lot to offer.
Bottom line: The Galaxy A52 5G gives you amazing hardware in the form of a 120Hz AMOLED screen and a Snapdragon 750G chipset with 5G connectivity. Although the design looks similar to the S21 series, you also get great cameras and all-day battery life, which is much more affordable.
If you want to switch to a 5G phone but don’t want to pay too much money, then the Galaxy A52 5G may just be the ideal option for you. Samsung has always delivered value packages with the Galaxy A series, and it is taking things to a whole new level in 2021.
The Galaxy A52 5G offers considerable upgrades over its predecessor; the 6.5-inch AMOLED panel now has a 120Hz refresh rate, giving you a level of immediacy during daily interactions that was missing in last year’s Galaxy A51. The internal hardware has also received a boost, and the Snapdragon 750G chipset is faster in almost every day-to-day scenario.
The camera has received some attention as well, with the A52 5G now offering a 64MP lens at the back. There’s even a MicroSD slot and a 3.5mm jack, two features you won’t find on the Galaxy S21 series. And thanks to a generous 4500mAh battery and 25W fast charging, you don’t have to worry about battery life.
Samsung added IP67 dust and water resistance to the Galaxy A52 5G, making it just that little more enticing. Oh, and there’s, of course, 5G connectivity here, so if you’re thinking of switching to a 5G plan this year and need a mid-range phone, the Galaxy A52 5G ticks all the right boxes.
Bottom line: The ASUS ROG Phone 5 is designed for gamers. It has an incredible build, a stunning 144Hz AMOLED display, and is paired with a massive 6,000mAh battery and 65W wired fast charging. There are also great accessories and extras to help you get the most out of your mobile gaming experience.
6.78-inch AMOLED, 2448×1080, 144Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
64MP primary, 13MP ultra-wide, 5MP macro
172.8 x 77.2 x 10.2mm
Huge battery (6,000mAh)
144Hz refresh rate
3.5mm headphone jack
Gaming inspired design
Fast and fluid performance
This phone is BIG
No wireless charging
No water resistance
Gaming phones are definitely a niche category, but the folks who are interested in these devices really care how they perform. ASUS knows this subset extremely well and has been cranking out heavy-duty gaming phones for several years now. Its ROG line of phones complements its gaming PCs quite well, and there is undoubtedly a lot of crossover between owners of these computers and phones.
The latest in the vaunted ROG series is the ROG Phone 5. It boasts one of the largest capacity batteries we’ve seen (6,000mAh) for extended play sessions, as well as a brilliant AMOLED display with an high 144Hz refresh rate to make your content fly. You also get a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you don’t have to worry about audio latency, and it’s all powered by the latest and greatest Snapdragon 888 chipset.
There are several great accessories that you can purchase separately to help you get even more out of the experience, such as gamepads, coolers, and cases, but the phone looks great au naturale. The biggest drawbacks of the phone are that it doesn’t have wireless charging or an official IP rating, and it is quite a big and heavy device.
Bottom line: The Redmi Note 10 Pro takes things to a whole new level in the budget segment. The phone has a 120Hz AMOLED display, robust internal hardware, a 64MP camera that takes great photos in any lighting, and a gigantic 5020mAh battery with 33W fast charging. You can’t ask for much more in a budget phone.
Xiaomi knows how to deliver a value-focused package, and with the Redmi Note 10 Pro, it is setting a new standard for budget phones. The phone has features previously only seen on flagships, including a 120Hz AMOLED display that makes an immediate difference in day-to-day use.
The Snapdragon 732G delivers decent performance for most tasks, including intensive gaming. The phone also has generous memory and storage options, and you get a 3.5mm jack, microSD slot, NFC, and even an IR blaster that lets you control your TV or other AV gear. The phone also has IP53 dust and water resistance to withstand the occasional splash of water or be submerged in a pool without any issues.
The 5,020mAh battery on the Redmi Note 10 Pro easily delivers over a day’s worth of use as for battery. When you need to charge the phone, the bundled 33W charger ensures the battery is full in just over an hour. You won’t find wireless charging here, but honestly, the battery life is good that you don’t need to plug it in during the course of a day.
The 64MP camera is also new, and it takes great photos in just about any lighting condition. This may just be one of the best cameras you’ll find for under $300, making the Redmi Note 10 Pro that much more enticing. Xiaomi has made a lot of changes on the software front as well. MIUI 12 comes with Android 11 out of the box, and the UI is cleaner than earlier iterations. You get more customization options than you’ll end up using, and there are genuinely useful features here.
Ultimately, the main drawback is that the phone isn’t available officially in the U.S. You can pick up the global version of the Redmi Note 10 Pro from Amazon, but you miss out on the warranty.
How to pick the best Android phone
Android phones have never been better than they are right now. So regardless of how much or little money you can spend, you can go out and buy a phone that you’ll be thoroughly happy with. Out of every single phone on the market in 2021, however, we have to give our top recommendation for the best Android phone to the Samsung Galaxy S21.
Samsung makes amazing phones every year, but you need to pay out the nose for the privilege of owning one more often than not. With the Galaxy S21, you get a top-tier Samsung experience for less than previous years, and that makes it a better overall value.
Compared to a more expensive Galaxy handset like the S21 Ultra, the standard S21 does an admirable job of holding its own. It has a 120Hz AMOLED screen, excellent performance, great battery life, and the same One UI software experience. Even wireless charging and an IP68 rating are here, and the only area it misses out on is the Quad HD+ display and a glass back.
There are plenty of other options on this list if something about the Galaxy S21 just isn’t clicking for you, but we think it’s easy to see why it has our highest recommendation at the end of the day.
1. What size screen should I get?
You should consider many different things when buying a new Android phone, and it all starts with the display. This is the component you interact with more than anything else, so you must get one that you’ll enjoy using. Things like the resolution and refresh rate of a screen are worth talking about, but more so is the size.
Smartphones come in different shapes and sizes, and the biggest determining factor for that is the display. A 6.8-inch screen results in a much larger phone than one with a 5.8-inch one, and because of that, you need to know how big or small you’re willing to go.
Take the Galaxy S21 Ultra, for example. It has the largest display on this list (outside of the Z Fold 2, but that’s different), and because the screen is so huge, it’s a phenomenal canvas for watching movies, playing games, and browsing the web. Basically, any kind of content consumption you do looks better on a larger display because the more room you have, the bigger and easier to see your media is. The downside to this, however, is that phones like the S21 Ultra can be rather unwieldy. Especially if you’re someone with smaller hands, managing a phone like that can be a pain in the butt.
Then there are smaller-sized phones, such as the Pixel 4a. It’s substantially easier to manage and can actually be used with one hand, but you have less room for your movies and games on the flip side. It also means you can fit less content on the screen at one time, and if you’re someone who likes to increase your font size, things are easier to read, which could result in you having to do a lot of scrolling.
And, of course, there are plenty of phones that fall somewhere in the middle between these two extremes. If you’re really concerned about whether or not a phone will be too big or small, your best bet is to honestly go hands-on with it yourself at your local carrier store or Best Buy before making your purchase.
2. Are software updates important?
It’s easy to compare displays, processors, and cameras, but something that’s just as important to talk about is software updates. Android is constantly evolving and getting better, and unfortunately, only certain phones are backed by a few years of software support.
As it currently stands, Google, Samsung, and OnePlus are the best in the business when supporting their phones with long-term updates. All of the Pixels, Galaxy devices, and OnePlus phones mentioned on this list are backed by three years of major OS updates from their initial release, which is by far the best support any Android phone maker has to offer. Google even goes a step further with three years of guaranteed monthly security patches, and while Samsung does the same for its flagships, it is now starting to follow suit for its mid-range devices.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, you have a company like Motorola. Take the Motorola G Power, which is only promised to get a single update to Android 11. Security patches are even worse, with Motorola having a track record of falling multiple months behind on updates.
So, how important is it that your phone gets software updates? That ultimately depends on how much you care about new Android features. Google releases a new version of Android every year, and while these updates don’t tend to be that drastic from year to year, they give your phone important features and security settings that help keep it running in tip-top shape for a long time. It also ensures that your phone stays compatible with all the apps and games on the Play Store because as Android versions become too outdated, app developers eventually drop support.
A phone like the Motorola G Power won’t be unusable two years down the road just because it’s running Android 11 and not Android 13, but it’s also a bit disheartening to buy a product and know it’s backed by such a small window of post-purchase support. This divide in updates is something Android has been faced with for years, and while companies are gradually getting better in these regards, we still have plenty of room to grow.
3. How many cameras and megapixels do I really need?
Over the last couple of years, there’s been a trend going on with certain phone companies where they throw as many cameras onto their devices as possible. As it’s become more common for phones to ship with two, three, or even four cameras, there’s something of an expectation that phones have to have multiple camera sensors to be any good.
Spoiler alert — this isn’t true.
Let’s look at the OnePlus Nord 9, for example. It has a 48MP primary camera, 50MP ultra-wide, and a 2MP monochrome portrait camera. Compared to the single 12.2MP camera on the Pixel 4a, one would assume that the OnePlus 9 takes better photos, but that’s not always the case.
Having those extra camera sensors can be a lot of fun, but only if they’re high-quality. Far too often, we see companies throw in a bunch of extra cameras on their phones only to have these secondary lenses not be very good. The primary camera sensor is always the most important, so that’s the one you want to be concerned about the most.
On a similar note, more megapixels (referred to as MP) don’t always mean you’re getting a better camera. As mentioned above, the 48MP camera on the OnePlus 9 sometimes takes photos that aren’t as good as those taken from the 12.2MP camera found on the Pixel 4a. There are so many other factors that come into play with phone cameras, so don’t let the megapixel count be your only factor for judging them when you’re out shopping. Read reviews, look at camera samples, and you’ll have a much better understanding of what kind of camera you’re dealing with.
4. What size battery should I get?
Battery life isn’t the most fun thing to talk about with smartphones, but ultimately, it’s one of the most important components. Your phone can have the best display and processor around, but if it’s constantly dying throughout the day, what’s the point?
There are many different battery capacities for all of the phones on this list, and if you don’t regularly keep up with them, it can be difficult to know what a good size is and what isn’t. So, here’s a general rule of thumb. If you’re buying an Android phone in 2021, the ideal capacity is 4000mAh or larger. As phones move toward larger displays with faster refresh rates, more battery is needed to keep them powered throughout the day.
Of course, this can vary a bit depending on the type of phone you’re buying. The Pixel 4a, for example, only has a 3140mAh battery but can still get through a full day of use without a hitch. What gives? It has a small display by 2021 standards and only has a 60Hz refresh rate, resulting in substantially less power use.
These are factors you’ll need to consider when shopping for your phone, but generally, more mAh means more battery life.
5. What smaller features should I look out for?
Last but certainly not least, there are a few smaller features and specs that can be easy to overlook when doing your shopping — a prime example being NFC. NFC stands for Near Field Communication, and it’s the chip in most phones that allows you to pay with your smartphone with Google Pay at grocery stores, restaurants, etc. Most of the phones on this list support NFC, but many cheaper Motorola phones often lack the feature. You may not care about Google Pay, but if you do, it’s worth double-checking that the phone you want to buy does, in fact, have NFC.
Another spec to check for is an IP68 rating. This is a seal of protection many phones have, and it ensures they’re protected from a certain amount of dust and water. If you happen to get caught outside in the rain or take your phone to the beach, an IP68 rating is nice peace of mind that your phone should survive just fine.
Some phones lack this IP rating yet boast water resistance or have a water-repellent coating. Those devices are also probably fine to get splashed with water here and there, but you don’t have that same guaranteed protection. The best-case scenario is to avoid getting your phone wet whenever possible, but if you happen to be around the water a lot, it’s probably worth getting something with that IP68 protection.
We should also address a trend that’s been going through the smartphone space for a few years now — the death of the headphone jack. The vast majority of new phones coming out these days no longer have the port, but few holdouts continue to offer it. It’s certainly nice to have if you’re someone that primarily uses wired headphones or earbuds, but if you’ve moved on to the wireless bandwagon, it’s not something you need to be all that concerned with.
According to New Scientist (via Gizmodo), the Mars Perseverance rover uses the RISC CPUs that Apple went all in on before switching to Intel. The iMac G3 was colorful (you could see through it), and it ultimately saved Apple from bankruptcy.
The PowerPC 750 was a single-core 233MHz processor with 6 million transistors, which is now considered slow, but it was the first to incorporate dynamic branch prediction and is still used in modern processors.
Given that the Perseverance launch was in July 2020, you could be wondering why it’s using such an old processor. What it comes down to is reliability.
There’s also a pretty big difference between the iMac G3 CPU and the one inside the rover. This PowerPC 750 chip can withstand 200,000 to 1,000,000 Rads and temperatures between -55 and 125 degrees Celsius.
Given that Mars doesn’t have the same type of atmosphere as Earth, one flash of sunlight could damage the rover before its adventure can even begin.
“A charged particle that’s racing through the galaxy can pass through a device and wreak havoc,” James LaRosa at BAE Systems told NewScientist. “It can literally knock electrons loose; it can cause electronic noise and signal spikes within the circuit.”
Apple used PowerPC chips on Mac until 2005, then switched to Intel. Nowadays, Apple is making a new transition to its own Apple Silicon processors, starting with the M1 chip on MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini.
For the third year in a row, Asus has been unwavering in its quest to deliver “The ultimate smartphone gaming experience”. A task that it takes so extremely seriously that the ROG Phone line has become the ultimate embodiment of a halo product for the professional mobile gaming niche as a whole. By any measure, each consecutive ROG Phone model simply pushes the envelope so hard that it goes beyond just being a great gaming phone – it sets the bar for the entire industry.
Not unlike its predecessors, the ROG 3 is meant to go above and beyond the practical and sensible for an average consumer. It is the latest installment in a line of professional tools, meant to delight and even surprise the pickiest and astute among a growing, yet still small niche of gaming-oriented prosumers.
Asus ROG Phone 3
Body: 171mm x 78mm x9.85mm, 240g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass 6), glass back (Gorilla Glass 3), metal frame; Colors: Black.
Video capture:Rear camera: 8K@30, 4K@30/60/120fps, 1080p@30/60/240fps, 720p@480fps; gyro-EIS; Front camera: 1080p@30fps.
Battery: 6000mAh; Fast charging 30W, Direct Charge (Asus HYPERCHARGE), Power Delivery 3.0 + PPS, Quick Charge 4.0.
Connectivity: 5G (Sub-6), optional Dual SIM support (5G + 4G or 4G + 4G dual standby), Dual-Band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac/ax 2×2 MIMO, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, GPS (GNSS, Glonass, Galileo, BeiDou, QZSS, NavIC), NFC; Side-port: 48 pin, based on Type-C
Misc: Fingerprint (under display, optical), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, e-compass, Hall sensor, ambient light sensor, Ultrasonic sensors for AirTrigger 3 and grip press; RGB logo on back; RGB illuminator LED next to flash; Dual 7-magnet front-facing speakers, dual NXP TFA9874 amplifiers; Hi-Res audio output.
Exuberant and distinctly different from your average Android flagship, the ROG Phone 3 is a genuinely different beast. It’s a product where every aspect has been engineered with the sole purpose of catering to a select crowd without caring for the latest fads in the smartphone industry. Accompanied by an unparalleled, sprawling accessory ecosystem meant to cover every possible use case, and the extremely particular needs and whims of the modern mobile gamer, the ROG 3 challenges the design and feature directions taken by other phone manufacturers.
The ROG Phone 3 is probably the closest thing the smartphone industry currently has to a super car – and we don’t mean that in the gaming sense. Just like a real super car, it comes with high upfront and associated costs and requires a certain level of involvement and technological proficiency and implies a multitude of limitations when used as a regular, every-day driver. We will be taking all of that into account, as best we can in this review and so should you, if you are planning on picking up a ROG Phone 3.
Continuing the super car analogy a bit further, it is equally important to note that just because you don’t personally need one for your work commute or for the trip to the mall, that doesn’t mean it has no place in the world. Same goes for the ROG Phone 3. In fact, Asus‘ continued ROG Phone efforts are not only admirable labor of love, but also a justified investment from a uniquely positioned company, leveraging years of pre-existing PC gaming expertise and pedigree.
Mobile gaming is unsurprisingly getting bigger by the day. Granted, most of its populafrity can be attributes to the casual gaming crowd. But this general growth has also translated pretty well into developing a group of devoted, and even professional mobile gamers.
These users have a different set of needs and requirements for their preferred mobile device. Asus has been dead focused on delivering on those in the best possible way and this has put the ROG Phone in the unique market position it occupies now. It’s an admirable achievement and one that requires huge involvement and constant hard work. A task that is clearly getting harder and harder with each ROG Phone generation, since the ROG 3 is clearly more of an incremental and meticulous generational improvement, instead of the major leap forward the ROG Phone II represented.
A faster 144Hz and overall better OLED display, Qualcomm’s new speed-binned Snapdragon 865+ chipset, improved audio, cooling, cameras and a myriad of other tweaks are thoughtfully stuffed inside the ever so slightly re-designed body of the ROG 3, allowing backward compatibility with the ROG II accessories. Asus has clearly been in the process of fine tuning on the ROG formula and has done so by tackling head-on much harder challenges this time around.
Luckily, this particular kind of struggle fits perfectly into the company’s core business philosophy of building hardware and software specifically for gamers and not simply as an afterthought, with a great level of dedication and attention to detail.
Unboxing ROG Phone 3
Mobile gaming presents a surprising number of specific challenges to work out on the road to a perfect experience. These range from very particular hardware ones to ergonomic concerns and everything in-between. Before we get to all of those, though, there is yet another aspect of modern gaming culture that Asus has also fully embodied – aesthetics.
There is no single criteria as to what a “gaming aesthetic” is or should be, but it is definitely part of the culture. People want to flaunt their favorite past time and entertainment. Style points are surprisingly important. And the ROG 3 starts scoring these instantly even before it is unpacked.
Just like its predecessors, the ROG 3 ships in a bold and avant-garde geometrical cylinder box. Aggressive gaming lines and accents all over the place. The particular geometric pattern on the side of the box actually pulls double-duty as a magic AR symbol for unlocking the Armoury Crate app.
There is also the distinct way of opening the box – this time a huge chunk of it slides out of the other. Getting to the rest of the contents inside beyond that is still as challenging as it was with the previous ROG Phone generations. The phone is wedged in a deep pocket where it’s well protected for sure, but almost impossible to get out.
A rich accessory package is housed in the other part of the box. The AeroActive Cooler 3 is clearly visible and sits inside a neat groove. The rest of the goodies are housed a level deeper.
Also in the box – a compact, 30W Asus-branded, Type-C wall charger. It is a PD unit, equipped with the more-advanced PPS tech for finer power adjustments. To go with it – a nice, braided Type-C to Type-C cable that’s not overly thick. Then again, it probably doesn’t need to be since Asus still has its Direct Charging tech, now branded ASUS HYPERCHARGE. We can’t be certain exactly how it works, but it has some of the charging circuitry in the charger instead of the phone, which leads to less heat buildup inside the handset and also, apparently, can work at full power with just a good-quality 3A Type-C cable instead of requiring a 5A one. This might partially explain the slightly thinner profile of the bundled cable. QC4.0 is also a supported standard by the ROG Phone 3, if you find yourself without the bundled charger.
You get another cable with the ROG Phone 3, which is nice and also unfortunate at the same time. It is a Type-C to 3.5mm jack. The unfortunate bit is that the ROG Phone 3 has dropped the 3.5 mm audio jack. As per Asus, the maintain the same external size with the increased internal space requirements from things like 5G simply left no space for the jack. Make of that what you will. At least you get a dongle and, as a nifty bonus, the AeroActive Cooler 3 has a 3.5mm jack on its bottom side, as well.
Asus also includes a case inside its retail box. It is not a “case” in the conventional sense since the Aero case leaves a big chunk of the phone’s body exposed. It is more of a bumper to protect the corners. Its gamer-y design is not purely for looks. It is also meant to allow for better cooling or rather not get in its way. The case itself is fully compatible with the bundled AeroActive Cooler 3 and also leaves the RGB ROG logo visible.
Last, but not least, Asus tops the extensive ROG Phone 3 retail package by throwing in a couple of spare rubber dust covers for the Side-port, in case you lose the one already on the phone. Even a variant with two separate smaller dust covers is included. And, hidden away in a smaller box, you also get a bunch of Asus and ROG stickers to decorate some of your other things. As we said, gaming can be a fashion statement, and Asus know how to play this game well.
For what is now the third time in a roll, Asus set out and created a benchmark device for mobile gaming. The ROG Phone 3 continues the device family’s tradition of not conforming with popular industry norms and trends, basing product decisions on the needs and wants of its target audience above anything else.
Compared to the ROG Phone II, and especially the original ROG Phone, the ROG Phone 3 constitutes more of an incremental upgrade than a major splash in the industry. It is no longer the sole player inside the niche either. Even so, the ROG Phone line is, arguably, one of the main architects of the increasingly-expanding gaming-specific mobile hardware market in its current form. Plus, no competitor still comes even close to the level of engineering and even over-engineering that Asus has put inside its devices.
The incremental upgrade mentality seems to stem from a good position of confidence from the design team that they have zoned-in well into a formula that works, listened to customer feedback, and are now polishing what is currently the ultimate gaming experience on Android. This new approach of fewer leaps and more well-measured smaller items has also enabled major inter-generational compatibility with its existing accessories this time around.
Asus has successfully managed to stick to its guts and believes and the ROG Phone line is now successfully transcending from an incredibly niche and odd halo product into a shining leader in its own expanding little segment of the mobile realm.
Like we said, back when Asus was still taking big gambles with the original ROG Phone, there was no proper gamer-specific Android hardware segment in the market to speak of. Since then, the scene has been expanding gradually, as has the popularity of professional mobile gaming scene.
While we continue to maintain that no competitor has managed to even come close to the sophistication of the numerous ROG Phone features and design solutions, without even discussing its unparalleled accessory ecosystem, nubia’s efforts with the Red Magic line seem to come the closest.
At the time of writing this review, the Red Magic 5G is still the latest available model, wit the Red Magic 5S right around the corner. From what we’ve heard about the latter, it will feature an upgrade to the Snapdragon 865+ and some cooling improvements as its headlining features. If we assume the rest of the Red Magic feature set remains identical, prospective pro gamers will have to give up the excellent Asus AirTrigger 3 ultrasonic, mappable inputs and the vast ROG accessory ecosystem. And these are just the most prominent omissions from the Red Magic 5G, from the top of our head.
On the plus side of the Red Magic equation, nubia has been working hard of its Game Space platform. Last we saw it, its options weren’t nearly in-depth as those offered by Asus Armoury Crate. Especially in regards to the unparalleled access to actual hardware performance settings and modifiers that Asus is providing. Still, it is getting there. And, of course, going for the Red Magic 5G or the upcoming 5S, you get a built-in active cooling fan. A truly unique feature that is objectively more convenient that the ROG external fan solution. Though, not necessarily directly comparable in terms of results.
ZTE nubia Red Magic 5G • Lenovo Legion Duel • Asus ROG Phone II ZS660KL
Speaking of upcoming gaming phones, we know that Lenovo is on the cusp of launching its new Legion Duel smartphone, as the first of what will likely be its dedicated gaming phone line. Lenovo held its announcement event just a few hours before ROG 3‘s in an attempt to overshadow Asus. Specs of the Lenovo Duel are a close match to the ROG 3, and Lenovo has embraced a horizontal-first approach to developing the phone to such an extent that even its motorized selfie camera is positioned on the side of the phone. Lenovo has yet to prove itself in the gaming smartphone space but it certainly has the expertise to rival Asus if it plays its cards right. We’ll definitely keep an eye on their efforts in the space.
We also can’t fail to mention the Xiaomi Black Shark 3 Pro, as the latest and greatest from the company’s gaming-specific series. We can’t exactly recommend it over the ROG Phone 3, nor the nubia Red Magic 5G, for that matter, since it is even slimmer of additional features, has a lower 90Hz refresh rate and seem to be both more expensive and harder to find than the nubia. For these reasons, we won’t be butting it on the list.
We really wish Razer hadn’t given up on its gaming phone efforts. With actual variable refresh rate IGZO panels, despite more than a few technical issues, their hardware propositions were still very intriguing. Perhaps, they just didn’t get the timing right and unfortunately came in a bit too early.
Honestly, looking through the relatively small selection of gaming-specific smartphones, the ROG Phone II still stands out as a great, if not the best alternative to its successor. It basically offers all of the same core features, only missing a few of the incremental feature upgrades. And with Asus‘ newfound inter-generational accessory compatibility a thing, you can expect to likely get ongoing support for most additional gadgets you pick up for the slightly older phone, as well. Honestly, the jump from 120Hz to 144Hz, as well as from a Snapdragon 855+ to the 865+ is not that major.
Oppo Find X2 Pro • OnePlus 8 Pro • Samsung Galaxy S20+
Finally, topping-off the list of viable alternatives for the ROG Phone 3, we did manage to pick out a few contenders from the general, non-gaming smartphone population. Since we are still picking-out hardware with the best possible gaming experience in mind, certain criteria remain, like having a flagship chipset and a high-refresh-rate OLED panel, preferably one certified for high-fidelity HDR content. The Oppo Find X2 Pro, OnePlus 8 Pro, and Samsung S20 family all fit the bill. Going for one of these, you can get certain bonuses, like ingress protection and truly flagship camera setup, as well. To varying degrees, of course.
The final verdict for ROG Phone devices has always been the same in our view. Much like a super car is hardly the most comfortable, convenient or value-centric vehicle you can get, the ROG Phone 3 is hardly the best all-round smartphone, nor the best value proposition out there. What it is, though, is the absolute best at its target niche – gaming.
If you are after the best possible Android gaming experience in 2020, there is nowhere else to turn right now. It really is as simple as that. The ROG Phone 3 is the shortest and most accurate answer to “What is the best gaming Android phone in the world right now?”. Once you start putting some nuance in that question, though, its answer instantly changes. If you want the best 2020 flagship, one with the best possible camera, display, chipset, battery, and user-experience combo, then the ROG Phone 3 is not it. And that’s kind of the point. There are plenty of big-name players constantly pouring all they can into that particular ongoing battle for “the best phone ever”. The ROG Phone 3 takes no part in it since it already has a proud podium of itw own in the gaming nice.
Slightly toned-down, but still ROG-inspired gamer’s design with great build quality.
Backwards compatibility with many of the ROG Phone II accessories.
AirTigger 3 ultrasonic touch sensors are very precise and versatile.
Rich retail package, including 30W charger and AeroActive 3 cooler.
Superb AMOLED screen with HDR10+ (true 10-bit), 144Hz refresh rate.
Great battery life, even at full 144Hz. Rich battery health prolonging options.
Industry-leading speaker performance, complete with gaming-specific sound tweaks.