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.
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
Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe is a much better Android phone than its predecessor thanks to its full metal body design and, for the price, leading specs, including 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and a 23MP camera. It also now has the Android Oreo update.
6GB of RAM onboard
Slick antenna-less metal design
Starts at 64GB of storage
Hidden cost: Snapdragon 821 version
1080p display unfit for VR
Single, bottom-firing speaker
Zenfone 3 Deluxe represents a major upgrade to Asus‘ spelling-challenged smartphone series with a component design and specs you won’t find on many other Android phones at this price range.
Update: Although the Asus Zenfone V is the newest Asus phone you can buy, the you can still find the Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe on Amazon for cheap, and it’s been updated with Google’s new Android Oreo software. Here’s our updated Zenfone 3 Deluxe review.
The smartphone is made a name for itself at Computex 2016 with 6GB of RAM. All but one (the OnePlus 3T) of our best phones ended 2016 with 4GB of RAM, which prevents slowdown with multiple apps open.
This phone also debuted the Snapdragon 821 chipset worldwide (though the Google Pixel and Pixel XL launched with the chip first in the West) and starts with 64GB of internal storage (going up to 256GB).
Of course, there’s also a more reasonably priced Snapdragon 820 version – the one we tested – but you wouldn’t know that from Asus’s 821-touting product page. The 820 is in fine print.
The Zenfone 3 Deluxe camera puts big numbers on the specs sheet, too, with a 23MP sensor, and so does the 5.7-inch display and it dual SIM/microSD card unlocked phoned capabilities.
But do these specs compute into anything meaningful now that it runs Android Oreo? Let’s explore this ‘fone.’
the design of this all-metal, 5.7-inch phone. Asus has done some clever engineering to hide the antenna lines and the result is a clean-looking metal device. The phone’s display is bright and vibrant. As for the Deluxe‘s charging lifespan, I’m pleased to report the embedded 3,000mAh battery is more than sufficient to last you a full day’s use and then some. In our video looping tests, the phone lasted 13 hours 55 minutes.
Now for the negatives. While the diagnostic benchmark scores were pretty good — thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor — actual day-to-day performance can be laggy. My best guess is that bloatware (a lot of preloaded apps) uses up precious memory and slows everything down, especially keeping all those apps updated in the background. In addition, I find the keyboard unwieldy. It keeps the settings button where the number switch key is usually located, and also has the worst autocorrect feature I’ve come across. You’re better off downloading and installing Google’s keyboard (which I did, after struggling for 2 hours with the Asus keyboard).
The rear 23-megapixel camera does a wonderful job snapping pictures when there’s enough light, but low-light situations are a bit hit and miss. The default auto mode keeps the shutter open longer for a brighter image, but if your subjects are constantly moving (like my cat), then all you get is a bright but blurry shot. Check out the test shots gallery below for a more in-depth look at the camera.
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.
Asus and more specifically the Republic of Gamers division has always been pretty straight-forward about its smartphone goals and priorities. To put it in their own word, the ROG Phone II is meant to deliver: “The ultimate smartphone gaming experience”.
Just like its predecessor, the latest ROG Phone has been designed from the ground up as a professional gaming tool. The kind potentially aimed at the growing professional mobile e-sports crowd. An extremely niche, exuberant product offering for the very pro-grade and/or very affluent gamers out there.
This is an important point to make straight off the bat before we start drooling over the beastly ROG Phone II and its unparalleled accessory ecosystem.
Asus ROG Phone II specs
Body: Metal frame; Gorilla Glass 6 front; 170.99×77.6×9.48mm, 240g.
Memory: 12GB of LPDDR4X RAM, up to 1TB of UFS3.0 storage.
Battery: 6,000 mAh Li-Po (sealed); 30W HyperCharge (25W for phone and 5W for accessories), QC4.0+/USB Power Delivery compliant.
Connectivity: Dual SIM (Nano), 4G on both slots; LTE Cat. 18 (1Gpbs download) on Elite edition/Cat. 20 (up to 2Gbps) on Ultimate Edition, Cat. 13 (150Mbps upload); 2x Type-C USB 3.0 port (USB 2.0 on bottom, USB 3.1 gen2/DP 1.4 on side); Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac/ad, WiGig Wi-Fi ad 60GHz; GPS, GLONASS, BDS; NFC; Bluetooth 5.0; FM radio.
Misc: Under-display fingerprint reader; 3.5mm jack; proprietary 48-pin Side-mount connector for accessories (a second Type-C port is part of it); ultrasonic sensors for AirTriggers and grip press.
When it comes to gaming Asus is definitely on its home turf and the company’s analysis and projections more than justify an investment and sustained effort into mobile gaming hardware development. Mobile gaming actually comprises 37% on the entire world wide gaming industry, with a whopping 50 billion dollar revenue stream. It is also the fastest growing niche in gaming – 29% year over year, especially in Asia – 3.5 times faster than PC growth and 6.3 faster than console.
So mobile gaming is unsurprisingly getting bigger by the day. Granted, most of these numbers stem from a casual gaming crowd. Firing up the occasional puzzle or clicker game on your daily driver smartphone. But this general growth has also translated pretty well in serious and even professional mobile gaming. An average gaming session of Honor of Kings lasts about 116 minutes and the average daily playtime for PUBG Mobile is about 80 minutes. Multiply that by 100 million active users and you can quickly see why more and more specialized gaming smartphones might just have a place under the sun. That being said, even by gaming phone standards the ROG Phone II takes things to a whole different level.
The ROG Phone II is meant to be an overkill device – one that is meant to satisfy a gamer’s every whim. It takes absolutely every bit of the original ROG Phone, with no exception or omission, and somehow manages to improve every aspect of the already impressive formula.
Calling the ROG Phone an incremental update over the original would be an insult. Even with its near showcase status, the ROG Phone II can still be considered a milestone device for the industry as a whole. Boasting the title of “world’s first and fastest 120Hz 1ms AMOLED with 240Hz touch response”, it offers a glimpse into the future of smartphone and general end-user display tech as a whole. And that’s just the cherry on top of the sundae. The ROG Phone II is so vastly overengineered in so many ways that even trying to go through it all in a review manner is a daunting task. That being said, we’ll do our very best to showcase it in all of its trend-setting and affluent gaming glory.
Starting with the box, things already start getting out of hand. Just like the original ROG Phone, the second edition came to our office in a special reviewer’s kit. It’s a briefcase, which houses all the possible accessories you can get for your ROG Phone II. In case anybody counting really cares (pun intended), the briefcase is exactly the same as the original ROG Phone one.
While you won’t be able to buy this kit, you can get pretty much all of the contents separately, but they are going to cost you.
Its contents, however, are slightly different this time since Asus made some changes to its accessory ecosystem. First the familiar bits from last year – the Desktop Dock is an impressive docking station for the ROG Phone II, complete with a number of powerful expandability options, as well as seamless passthrough for a regular PC. The WiGig Display Dock II also looks the same as last year’s 60GHz wireless display solution. The second version has been refined, though. The same goes for the TwinView Dock II. Just like the original, it offers a second display for the ROG Phone II, along with physical controls and extra battery. It, however, has been re-thought from the ground up this time around to address most of the issues with the original.
Also in the briefcase is the new ROG Phone II Lighting Armour Case. It is an intriguing edge protector that incorporates light guides for RGB goodness and integrates an NFC chip for unlocking exclusive content. All pretty lavish and over the top and a perfect fit for the general tone of the phone. A nifty carrying case for the phone and all of its accessories is also included.
Last, but definitely not least – the ROG Kunai Gamepad. It comes to replace last year’s third-party GAMEVICE accessory and is probably the extra most ROG Phone II owners are going to want and buy. This time around Asus designed its own solution and quite a versatile one at that, complete with the option of using it as a separate wireless controller.
For more in-depth info on the ROG Phone II accessories, skip forward a few pages in the review.
As for the core retail package of the ROG Phone II itself – it’s pretty rich in terms of goodies and very eye-catching. It has an asymmetrical hexagon shape with a distinctly alien look to it. Pretty much the aesthetic you would expect from a Republic of Gamers product. Shape-wise, it is not too dissimilar from the original ROG Phone box, but has a totally different “slide-out” two piece design. Oddly enough, actually getting the stuff out of it turned out to be just as convoluted as its predecessor. Just in a different way.
Inside the odd container, you get the phone itself, which also features similar design language, but more on that in a bit. Alongside it – a Type-C to Type-C braided USB cable and a pretty compact wall adapter, rated for a maximum output of the hefty 30W. The adapter is actually rated for QC4.0, PD3.0, as well as a proprietary Asus direct charging standard, making it amazingly versatile to carry around.
On the surface, the brick itself and all the charging rates look airily similar to those on the original ROG Phone as well. However, Asus‘ own proprietary HYPERCHARGE Technology has been pumped up from 20W to 25W in this generation. The clever 30W HyperCharger will deliver up to 25W to the phones and another 5W directly to whatever accessory is connected to the phone at that time.
Just like the original, the ROG Phone II still supports Quick Charge 4.0 as well, using its internal IC which in turn can accept a PD current, making it pretty versatile. But, more on charging in the battery section.
Back to the retail box and the run-down of its contents, which is far from over. Bundled with every ROG Phone II you get the new AeroActive Cooler II. Just like the original, it incorporates a snap-on design and it’s powered by the proprietary side port. It also has RGB lighting on both sides, a Type-C port for charging an a 3.5mm jack. Along with it you also get an optional small rubber stand attachment, which allows the AeroActive Cooler II to act as a stand and hold the phone upright. The fan itself is improved compared to the first generation, which we will also discuss in the accessory section.
Speaking of rubber attachments, Asus also provides a couple of spare rubber plugs for the side port in the box. Apparently these are purely there for aesthetic and comfort purposes while you grip the phone. Leaving the port exposed is also perfectly fine. But it’s still nice to see some nifty spares are included.
You also get a pair of earbuds in the box. Better still, like the phone itself, these are HRA certified. Finally, in certain markets, users will also find the funky ROG Aero case in the box. Well, it’s sort of a case and more of a bumper protector since it barely covers any of the rest of the phone. Of course, this was done entirely purposefully to strike the best possible balance between protection and the ability to use the AeroActive Cooler II while the case is on.
Actually, this is sort of a core design principle for the ROG Phone II and all of its accessories which we will definitely be bringing up time and time again during the review. Every little detail was clearly adjusted and perfected with one thing in mind – to deliver the best possible gaming experience. Of course, that mission takes many shapes and has numerous nuances. And it all starts with design. Join us on the next pages as we first take a look at that.
There is A LOT that does into designing a modern smartphone, both inside and out. Even more so a flagship, especially one packed full of optional features. Connectivity in particular takes up a huge amount of space and antenna positioning is a real challenge. So a lot of thought has went in that department to provide the best possible connectivity.
As for the exterior, Asus didn’t simply curve a couple of Gorilla Glass pieces, slap them on to a metal frame and call it a day either. Whether you personally like the aesthetic or not, there is no denying that the particular “gaming” look of the ROG Phone II takes a lot of meticulous crafting to do just right. So, all and all, the engineers and designers all deserve plenty of praise for this one.
Speaking of the proverbial “gaming look”, there are definitely some things worth mentioning about the direction ROG has taken is second generation smartphone. Compromising on looks in a personal “gaming” laptop for the sake of better performance and at the cost of a few weird glances in public is one thing, but having to endure the same every time you whip out your phone just takes things to the next level. Asus appears to be arriving at this realization as well, or at least taking it to heart, since the ROG Phone II is definitely more subdued in the “gamersness” of its design. In fact, we would even go as far as to call its take on the gaming aesthetic tame and “stealth”.
To be fair, the original ROG Phone also tried to moderate its gamer’s looks quite a bit. The general shape and silhouette hasn’t really changed much from the previous generation. You still get some aggressive “strong” and sharp lines, like the “alien” diagonal patterns on the back. However, all of these accents end up fitted in a surprisingly rounded and ergonomically comfy body at the same time. Asus has really managed to strike a great balance in more ways than one in our opinion.
Since we are already talking generational comparison, is is definitely worth noting that the ROG Phone has grown bigger in pretty much every single way. It stands taller at 171mm (compared to 158.8mm) and thicker at 9.5mm (up from 8.3mm). It is also 40 grams heavier, tipping the scale at a hefty 240 grams. To be honest this might just be a bit too much weight for many to carry around and use one-handed.
On the flip side, to Asus‘ credit, the growth spurt was clearly not unsupervised. Quite the contrary, the ROG Phone II has the huge 6,000 mAh to show for some of its extra volume and weight. Also the noticeably bigger 6.59-inch display. This is the part where designers took extra case not to go overboard. It is worth noting that the extra real estate comes mostly at no added width to the phone – 77.6mm (compared to 76.2mm on the original). This was a conscious and actively sought-after design feature, since Asus wanted users to still be able to comfortably reach the edges of the display with one finger.
Still, the ROG Phone II is a “big beast”, no two ways about it. Asus also worked actively to, get this, PRESERVE a lot of the bezels around the display! Wouldn’t you know it, as it turns out, having the extra room is a great way to accommodate great powered speakers, of which the ROG Phone II has two, also all the front-facing sensors you might need and a decent selfie camera. Then there are the ergonomic aspects of having space to let your fingers idle. Or rather the issues that arise from having to constantly touch the display on a phone that has it curving all over the place in a bid to look cool. Turns out that gamers really don’t benefit from or particularly enjoy the accidental touch inputs. Who would have thought? Well, we may be taking this joke too far but we’re sure there are many power users out there who are disgruntled by the sea of all-display flagship devices. And thankfully Asus and ROG as well.
Pretty sensible decision all around. And like we already mentioned, all done with one singular purpose in mind – to provide the best possible gaming experience. In fact, since we are already on the topic, Asus has another explanation still for going with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio instead of something even taller. Most android games aren’t really optimised for every exotic and boundary-pushing aspect ratio out there. And the company’s research deemed 19.5:9 the best possible option to go with to ensure maximum compatibility. This kind of sound mentality and clear work towards a singular goal simply puts a smile on our faces.
Also, after spending some time with the ROG Phone II we can safely say that it does not feel “chunky”, if that makes any sense.
The weight takes some getting used to, but the overall body shape combined with the solid in-hand feel and good weight distribution make the ROG Phone II a surprisingly easy to handle phone.
Another benefit from the extra girth of the unit, besides the beefy battery, is that Asus has managed to hide the complex internal cooling solution a lot better this time around. Where the back of the original ROG Phone protruded quite a bit, the area around the copper heat pipe on the ROG Phone II is barely raised and almost sits flush with the rest of the Gorilla Glass 6 back. Asus calls its new refined cooling GameCool II. It is still a very complicated layered vapour chamber affair, incorporating copper and graphite pads, a 3D vapour chamber and actually extending on both sides of the main phone PCB effectively sandwiching it in.
We’ll be looking in more detail at the performance of the new thermal solution and validating Asus‘ claims that it can keep the beefed-up Snapdragon 855+ perfectly thermal-throttling free for prolonged periods in the performance section. Our first impressions are that it’s not the coolest phone out there.
The ROG Phone II can get quite toasty under load. Especially certain areas of the metal central frame. To be fair though, this is expected and happens with most gaming phones.
The general idea is that when you are after top performance on what is essentially a passively cooled system, the only natural sacrifice to allow for higher than usual surface temperatures so that you take away more of the heat generated inside without throttling the processor performance. Also worth noting is that Asus offers an unprecedented level of control over the behaviour of the internals via their Armoury Crate app, including their power and relative heat output. So you could easily set it up for a perfectly comfortable in-hand temperature at the expense of some performance, if that is what you want. More on that in the software section.
What you really can’t get around though, no matter how much clever software Asus puts on the ROG Phone II is the fact that it is extremely slippery. Using a case is highly advisable. This phone skids around even on level surfaces. It might have something to do with the particular curvature of the back or the finish. Although it is worth noting that we have the Ultimate Edition ROG Phone II for review, which comes with a Matte Black finish, instead of the glossy one on the lesser Elite version. If nothing else, this definitely contributes to the “stealth” gaming look we mentioned earlier.
Of course, if you are into the gamer’s look, the ROG Phone is more than happy to oblige with its pretty big RGB Logo on the back. It seems to be pretty much unchanged compared to the original ROG Phone and still leaves little to be desired as far as RGB implementations go. It can shine really bright if that is your thing and offers a full-color spectrum to choose from. Light modes include Static, Breathing, Strobing and Color Cycle. The logo is also Aura sync compatible and offers quite a few tweaks through software.
Besides the RGB Logo, the ROG Phone II also has a full-featured RGB status LED on the front. Also, we were surprised to discover that there is still more RGB baked right into the phone. If you look at the back side of the phone, you can clearly see two LED modules next to the camera. The natural thing to assume is that they make up a dual LED flash setup. Well, turns out on of these is actually meant to shine through a ingenious light guides built inside the optional Lighting Armour Case.
This allows for various designs, likely to be provided by third-party partners, which can offer custom lit-up decals or logos. That way you can have a cool case and not sacrifice any of the RGB goodness. The attention to detail is just mind-boggling. And clearly yet another example of Asus having its priorities squarely aimed at the hardcore gamer crowd.
The set of controls you get on the ROG Phone II is pretty much identical to that on the original ROG Phone. No courageous omissions or moving forward to new horizons or anything of the sort. Everything is present and in a proper place. That being said, what has effectively become standard now for an ROG Phone is hardly a common sight, if at all found on any other device.
Let’s start with the basics – the buttons. The ROG Phone II has a total of three physical ones – a power button and volume rockers, all on the right-hand side. Positioning works great and we are happy to say that compared to the original ROG Phone, the buttons are no longer a mushy mess! On the contrary, they feel great, tactile and responsive.
Also on the same right frame of the phone are the rest of the phone’s “buttons” or rather air triggers. Carried over from the original phone, these apparently use the same ultrasonic sensor. However, they’ve also been massively improved enough for Asus to brand them a second generation – AirTrigger II. Now the touch areas recognise both taps and swipes. Also, it is now possible to press the triggers continuously without the need to remove the finger from the sensor between every press. The sensors themselves are apparently more precise and their haptic vibration feedback is three times faster – from 63ms down to just 20ms – to avoid any subjective lag or delay in the feedback.
The vibration feedback comes from a pair of powerful haptic actuators that provide 3D feedback. These can be engaged individually and offer up to six times faster and three times more powerful operation than an average phone. And the end results are really impressive. Pressing the air triggers is eerily similar to pushing actual buttons. Other than that, the premise behind the extra control layer is the same – you can map two extra on-screen buttons in any game to the air triggers for added convenience. The system is really versatile and can easily be tweaked, in terms of sensitivity.
This functionality is actually just one bit of a potent input mapping system, as implemented on a system level within the ROG Game Genie platform. We will get into more detail when we discuss the ROG Kunai Gamepad, as well as docking the phone and using it with a mouse and keyboard, where the system really comes into its own and shows its potential.
The whole setup works amazingly well. In fact, so much so that we frankly consider it cheating for the most part, as far as competitive mobile gaming is concerned. Even if you don’t spring for any of the other available ROG Phone accessories that enable broader remapping functionality, the pair of AirTriggers alone offers an enormous edge in online games where everyone esle is playing on a touchscreen.
The AirTriggers also enables the phone to be long- or short- “squeezed” in portrait mode for different quick-actions depending on the phones state.
While most aspects of the ROG Phone II‘s display are pretty traditional and intentionally so, Asus did decide to jump on the under display fingerprint reader wagon. The module in question is a pretty conventional optical one. Nothing too fancy. When it works, the reader is pretty snappy. However, we did experience some issues with accuracy and reliability. Pretty odd, in fact. Right after a finger is set up it seems to work splendidly. But give it a day or two and recognition rate drops rapidly. Hopefully this is a mere software issue Asus can address.
For audio on the ROG Phone II you get a dual speaker setup. Both of these front-firing units uses a 5-magnet design for better clarity and louder distortion-free output and are powered by a dedicated NXP amplifier. There is also DTS:X Ultra virtual surround sound technology, if you have the video content to make use of that. Asus also did its best to position the speakers in such a way that they can’t really be easily covered up by your hands.
The company also tried to do the same for the microphones on the ROG Phone II. But since that is significantly harder to pull off, they just fitted a Quad-Mic Noise Cancelling Array instead. So no matter how you hold your device or what attachment you have on, you voice will always come out background-noise free while streaming your favourite game with a face cam.
Since we are already on the subject of audio, we are happy to see that the 3.5mm audio jack is alive and well. Not only this, but Asus also has it hooked up to an impressive 192kHz/24-bit DAC capable of playing back Hi-Res Audio. DTS Headphone:X is also part of the mix.
And if you have moved on to an entirely Bluetooth setup already, you will be happy to leans that aptX HD, adaptive, LDAC and AAC are all supported.
Finally, the most unusual part about the ROG Phone II design is the set of Type-C ports. Or rather one standard Type-C at the bottom and one proprietary 48-pin Side-mount connector. The latter is primarily intended for use with accessories like the dock or fan. However, it still has a regular Type-C port as part of its design. The other bit just seems to be a shrunken-down Type-C as well to prevent any accidental insertions. Probably for the better since Asus is likely way outside the USB specification on that side of the Side-mount connector.
This is actually a perfect segue into connectivity on the ROG Phone II in general since the two normal USB Type-C ports are actually different in terms of the controllers they are housing. The Side-mount one is actually more advanced, offering a USB 3.1 gen.2 connection, as well as Display Port 1.4 output. The bottom one, on the other hand, is limited to USB 2.0 data transfer. Charging capabilities differ as well, even if slightly. Both ports apparently support Asus’ 25W direct charge implementation and both can do Quick Charge 3.0 and Power Delivery 3.0/. Only the Side-mount USB is, however, listed as having Quick Charge 4.0 capabilities. Frankly, this doesn’t really make a ton of sense, considering both apparently do Power Delivery 3.0 identically. Still, if you ever find yourself trying to charge the ROG Phone II with a Quick Charge charger, you might just want to use the side port.
As a side note, yes, of course we tried plugging the ROG Phone II into itself. And just like the original ROG Phone, nothing happened. We also tried other ambiguous setups, so you don’t really have to, like hooking up to separate power sources to the two USB-C ports as well as two other smartphones. Also a combination of the two. We even threw in a PC conection, to see just how the whole Type-C host/client negotiation works while having to manage two ports at once. Long story short – nothing bad happened. Asus clearly anticipated such mucking about. Generally speaking, the side Type-C port tends to take precedence over the bottom one when both are in use and whatever it say, goes.
That’s enough cable plugging fun for one day. On to wireless. The ROG Phone II has a total of four Wi-Fi antennas for its regular 2.4GHz/5GHz dual-band networking. The idea behind this was the exact same one that motivated four microphones – maintaining perfect operational efficiency no matter how you hold the phone or what you have attached to it.
Then there is WLAN 802.11ad, also known as 60GHz or WiGig. It is great for short-distance ultra fast and low-latency connections, which its wireless display accessory actually leverages masterfully.
For network connectivity, the ROG Phone II has two nanoSIM cards, each going up to 4G (4×4 MIMO and CA) and with dual-SIM standby. As for speeds, there is a slight note worth making here, namely that the higher-tier Ultimate edition ROG Phone II, the one with 1TB storage comes with Cat.20 LTE, capable of speeds up to 2Gbps.
Not all chips are made equal and the layers of the LTE modem are just one of the ways two chips that bear the same marketing name, in this case Snapdragon 855+, can actually incorporate different features. The regular Elite Edition ROG Phone II “only” gets a Cat.18 theoretical speed maximum for its LTE. In other words, not the full 20 layers. This is a point Asus has brought up in its promotional material and which comes to basically illustrate that the SD855+ inside the Ultimate Edition is the very best Qualcomm currently has – overclocked, speed-binned, unlocked and with the best LTE speeds. The message here being – “we are not saving money by cutting any corners”. A no-compromise gaming experience simply demands no-compromise hardware.
Just to finish up the supported connectivity section, in no particular order we have: CDMA Less, VoLTE/VoWiFi, Bluetooth 5.0 (aptX HD, aptX adaptive, LDAC and AAC), Wi-Fi direct, GPS (L1+L5), GLO, BDS, GAL (E1+E5a), QZSS (L1+L5), NFC and, of course, the all-important FM radio receiver. In all seriousness though, it really seems like the only notable omission in terms of I/O remains the lack of a microSD card slot. But with up to 1TB of fast on-board storage, we feel like we should kind of let this one slide. Not to mention the built-in UFS 3.0 storage is much faster than a microSD card.
120Hz AMOLED screen
“The world’s first and fastest 120Hz 1ms AMOLED with 240Hz touch response” – that’s the official title Asus PR is sticking with and it does sound mighty impressive to the right display enthusiast crowd. A marriage between OLED, with its infinite contrast, perfect blacks, punchy colors and fast pixel response times and high-refresh rate technology is a coveted one and has been a long time coming.
Without getting too technical, for all their benefits OLED pixels do have a few inherent disadvantages. Most notably, due, in part to their organic nature, they tend to be quite slow when completely turning off and turning back on. In technical terms this is referred to as MPRT (Moving Picture Response Time) and is quite different from the otherwise stellar GtG (Grey-To-Grey) OLEDs have. The latter can easily go as low as the advertised 1ms on the ROG Phone II, since such a color change does not require the OLED pixel to be turned off.
In a theoretical perfect 60Hz OLED display, you can expect a minimum persistence in pixel visibility time of about 16.7ms. That is the primary cause of the so called “smearing” or “jello” effect on most smartphone OLED panels. There are certain approaches to combating this OLED blurriness, like rolling scan (commonly used in VR headsets) and Black frame insertion (BFI). The best thing you can do to reduce the effect, however, is a higher refresh rate. Generally speaking, this is what makes the 120Hz native refresh rate of the ROG Phone II so valuable for a crispy fast moving image – great for gaming and general UI operation.
Once you experience the smoothness and sharpness of moving images on the ROG Phone II at 120Hz you won’t want to go back. It pretty much blows any other smartphone display out of the water.
Of course, this is a bit of an oversimplification of the tech and hurdles of high refresh rate and OLED panels in general. If you want a more in-depth dive on the matter in a future article, be sure to drop a comment.
Unfortunately, Asus doesn’t really disclose all the inner-workings of its industry-leading 120Hz panel. The main thing we would be interested in from a consumer standpoint is whether or not some compromises like constantly running all the pixels in dark grey to reduce response times and blur have been put into place. This is somewhat of a common practice. The major downside being potentially not ideal blacks and more importantly – much higher power consumption on average. OLEDs are great for power efficiency, but not if you keep all the pixel on all the time. Unfortunately, we did record some unfortunate spikes in power consumption using the 120Hz mode on the ROG Phone II, which you can read about in the battery section.
As for the black concern, we can at least say with confidence that our color accuracy test picked up perfect blacks. Asus talks a pretty big talk regarding colors on its fancy panel as well, quoting numbers like 108.6%, or even 111.8% coverage of the DCI-P3 color space, depending on which version of the press materials you choose to believe. Also, deltaE values lower than 1.
While the display on the ROG Phone II is indeed incredibly accurate under the “Standard” display mode, we didn’t really match the quoted deltaE number. Even so, a max deltaE of 2.2 and an average of 1.3 are perfect even for professional color work. So, we won’t hold too much of a grudge.
There are quite a few other built-in display modes to choose from as well. The default “Optimal” setting strikes a nice balance and is great for showing off the “punchy” nature of OLED displays. “Natural” tents to warm the image up a bit, taking away too harsh blues and ramping up greens and reds. “Cinematic” pretty much keeps the same color profile as “Natural”, but takes color intensity down all around.
Speaking of colors, we also can’t fail to mention that the ROG Phone II‘s display is true 10-bit, rather than 8-bit with FRC. The actual perceivable difference might be minute, but this is yet another instance of top-level hardware for the best possible gaming experience. Naturally, that means HDR support as well. Just like last year, however, Asus is not openly sharing any particular certification (Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and the like). Still, both Netflix and Amazon video were perfectly happy serving us up their HDR video streams and these looked great on the ROG Phone II.
Asus has also promised a pair of visual optimization modes will be part of a future software update – Contrast Enhancement mode and an SDR-to-HDR converter. Unfortunately, we can’t test either at this time.
Samsung Galaxy Note10+ (Max Auto)
Sony Xperia 1 (Max Auto)
Xiaomi K20 Pro/Mi 9T Pro (Max Auto)
Asus ROG Phone II (Max Auto)
Xiaomi Mi 9 (Max Auto)
OnePlus 7 Pro (Max Auto)
Huawei P30 Pro (Max Auto)
Huawei P30 Pro
Asus ROG Phone (Max Auto)
Asus ROG Phone II
Asus ROG Phone
Asus Zenfone 6 ZS630KL (Max Auto)
Xiaomi K20 Pro/Mi 9T Pro
OnePlus 7 Pro
Black Shark 2
Xiaomi Mi 9
Razer Phone 2 (Max Auto)
Asus Zenfone 6 ZS630KL
Sony Xperia 1
Samsung Galaxy Note10+
Razer Phone 2
ZTE nubia Red Magic 3
The ROG Phone II is no slouch when it comes to brightness and contrast. Asus claims it can reach 600 nits outdoors, which is definitely true. In fact, we measured a max auto boost brightness of 626 nits with our standard test that shines 75% of the display. Without any extreme external light sources, you can expect the brightness slider at 100% to give you around 480 nits, which is still a great result.
Speaking of the brightness slider, the ROG Phone II has a really odd one. Pretty much every mobile slider is non-linear by nature. However, most tend to space things out a bit more. On our review unit, the 200 nit brightness level we use for our battery test ended up at 85% on the brightness slider. That leaves 250 or so nits crammed up in just 15% of the slider. Not a major deal, but still worth mentioning.
Touch latency is another area where Asus has clearly spent a lot of time and effort. It is only logical, seeing how important it is as part of the input lag chain for gaming performance.
A high refresh rate display also demands faster input polling. On the ROG Phone II it is set at an impressive 240Hz. But, the engineering team didn’t just slap on a fast digitizer and leave it at that. They also optimized the rest of the touch data pipeline from hardware to software, tweaking the Android Framework. As per their own in-house metrics this resulted in a whopping touch latency of just 49ms. Industry leading, in fact, if we are to believe the rest of the numbers Asus quoted for a few of its competitors: iPhone XS Max – 75ms, Xiaomi Black Shark 2 – 82ms, OnePlus 7 Pro – 85ms, Samsung Galaxy S10+ – 87ms.
Rounding the display section off, we feel like we need to reiterate certain concious design choices and how they came about. Asus remains firm in its assessment and commitment to mobile gamer needs. The average “prosumer” or ROG gamer allegedly wants the biggest display feasible, which is how the 6.6-inch diagonal came about. The panel needs to be easy to handle as well, which is part of the reason for the thicker bezels and the lack of curves. The 19.5:9 aspect ratio apparently hits a pretty nice “sweet spot” as far as mobile game engine tech and optimization goes.
The same rational can also be used to explain the FullHD resolution. Of course, there are many other technological limitations at play as well. Plus, the simple fact that driving demanding games at 4K or QHD in high refresh rate is not really within reach for current generation mobile GPUs. Still, if we had to point out a single downside of the magnificent ROG Phone II display it would have to be the resolution.
One pretty major aspect of the ROG Phone II that seems to take a little bit of a back seat, overshadowed by its other features is the enormous 6,000 mAh battery. Seeing how portable power is vital for an on-the-go gaming experience, Asus paid plenty of attention to in. In more ways that one, in fact. Beyond its sheer capacity, which is advertised as lasting 35% longer than other gaming phones under the same gaming load, there are also a few other bits and pieces worth mentioning.
Before that, though, lets get the numbers of out of the way. We ran the ROG Phone II through our standard battery test routine quite a few times, just to cover all scenarios and validate the results. Turns out that running X Mode does not intrinsically increase battery consumption in any meaningful way in the absence of a load. That is kind of logical, since all X Mode does is adjust maximum thresholds for various things, but we still had to check. What does make a noticeable difference in on-screen tests is display refresh rate.
Set at the lowest 60Hz, the ROG Phone II manages pretty solid on-screen scores. It is worth keeping in mind that 6.59″ AMOLED panel is still pretty huge.
Even at its maximum 120Hz refresh rate, the ROG Phone II still holds its own in on-screen tests. Looking at the difference in numbers, our web browser test clearly seems less affected by the change in refresh rate. Asus has no intelligent system in place to detect things like a 30fps video being played back and have the refresh rate automatically lowered to save battery. That might be a good idea for a future update, since it does make a difference.
As for 3G talk time and standby – both were understandably excellent on the 6,000 mAh ROG Phone II. Overall, it is one of the top battery champions we have ever tested at the office. And it kind of has to be when you consider its intended typical use case – extended periods of high performance load and increased heat with what will likely be frequent top-offs and prolonged periods of stressful usage while tethered to the wall for power. Generally speaking, this is the worst kind of abuse you can inflict on any Li-Ion pack. Frequent charge cycles, a lot of heat, spending a lot of time at full charge.
However, to Asus’s credit, all of this does appear to have been taken into consideration while designing the ROG Phone II. For one, simply having a larger battery pack means less recharge cycles. Plus, ROG claims its ROG Kernel Optimization feature can save up to 180mA per hour of gaming, allegedly resulting in over seven hours of gameplay in PUBG and Arena of Valor on a single charge.
Then there is the question of charging – an area where Asus has also clearly made quite a few proactive decisions. Most notably, it’s the choice to skip on the modern trend of pushing extremely fast charging speeds. On one hand, that saves room within the battery itself due to the smaller separator between the anode and the cathode. Also, slower charging is generally better for the battery itself.
Asus’ own HYPERCHARGE technology is also pretty sparing when it comes to heat generation. It actually has all the necessary conversion circuitry within the power brick itself, instead of the phone. That means even less heat while charging. The bundled charger itself is rated at 30W, but it should be noted that the phone can only take a 25W current. The other 5W are a convenient overhead for powering any attached accessories. HYPERCHARGE also works with any good quality 3A Type-C to Type-C cable and does not require a more expensive 5A one.
As a fallback, the ROG Phone II also supports Quick Charge 4.0. As for the power brick, it can also output a PD current making it really versatile for charging other devices.
Asus is also taking steps to ensure the health and longevity of its battery pack. In addition to all the hardware steps discussed so far there is also the built-in PowerMaster feature. It works kind of similar to Qnovo, albeit a bit simpler and prevents against a constant prolonged trickle-charge overnight while the phone is already at 100%. It is basically a charging scheduler which makes sure the phone will not fully charge until the user is ready to unplug it.
Speaker test (NEW)
Already familiar with the ROG Phone II‘s truly impressive speaker setup, you shouldn’t be surprised that it aced our new test as well. Its Outdoor mode loudness is miles ahead of anything else we’ve seen on the revamped test bench, but it’s also comfortably louder in regular, non-outdoor mode as well. As such, it’s the only phone with an ‘Excellent’ rating for the time being.
Speaker test (OLD)
Audio is definitely an essential part of the gaming experience. Hence, it gets plenty of attention from the Asus design and engineering team. Those two fairly wide areas on top and bottom of the ROG Phone’s display house what might very well be the most impressive pair of smartphone speakers we have heard. Failing that, they are definitely somewhere in the Top 5.
Pink noise/ Music, dB
Ringing phone, dB
Black Shark 2
Sony Xperia 1
Xiaomi Mi 9
ZTE nubia Red Magic 3
Samsung Galaxy Note10+
Samsung Galaxy S10+
Asus Zenfone 6
Huawei P30 Pro
Asus ROG Phone
Razer Phone 2 (Dolby dynamic)
Razer Phone 2
OnePlus 7 Pro
Xiaomi Mi 9 SE
Asus ROG Phone II
Asus ROG Phone II (Outdoor mode)
Each of these uses a 5 magnet design and gets its own dedicated Smart NXP amplifier. This results in some impressive loudness numbers. So much so that you might rarely find yourself actually cranking the volume to the max. Which would frankly be a shame, since the ROG Phone II is not only loud enough to punch through a hall of talking people, but also do so with impressive depth and clarity.
Seriously, we don’t know if we need to praise the DTS:X Ultra tech alone for this accomplishment, but the ROG Phone II has an amazing sound stage. You actually feel the bass while holding the phone and best we can tell it’s not the vibration motors contributing to the effect, like certain Xperia phones try to do. The speakers simply resonate, as it should be. Mids also come out very rich and full and highs remain crisp.
You also get quite a few equalizer options in the settings menu, including an Outdoors mode. The latter seems to boost the average volume even more, but also pushes down lows and mids and brings up higs to almost unpleasantly squeaking levels. We don’t particularly like what it does to the otherwise splendid sound stage, but to Asus’ credit it does result in an even more piercing and permeating sound – assuming it’s really needed.
The Asus ROG Phone II put in a stellar performance in our test, demonstrating super loud output both with an external amplifier and with headphones. The clarity was impressive too – perfect in the first case and almost as good in the second one.
Even the expected drop in stereo separation is much smaller compared to most other phones out there and certainly makes the ROG Phone II one of the best performers in the market ever.
IMD + Noise
Asus ROG Phone II
Asus ROG Phone II (headphones)
Asus ROG Phone
Asus ROG Phone (headphones)
nubia Red Magic 3
nubia Red Magic 3 (headphones)
Xiaomi Black Shark 2
Xiaomi Black Shark 2 (headphones)
OnePlus 7 Pro
OnePlus 7 Pro (headphones)
ZenUI meets ROG UI
As far as gaming-styled launches go, the ROG UI is very, very out there. Straight out of the box, the UI screams “gamer”. Seriously, it’s like browsing your alien friend’s phone who just happens to be very much into fighter jets and the all the known shades of red. Sharp lines flying all over the place. One swipe down for the quick toggles and you might just feel like you are operating a nuclear reactor. The amount of options you are expected to want to “quick access” is a bit staggering.
The there is the X Mode toggle, which is definitely the first one you absolutely need to press. Doing so triggers an animation on the wallpaper, symbols start shifting, glowing borders start shining around icons. If set up accordingly, the RGB logo on the back fires up, as well as any compatible Aura Sync logo on attached ROG accessories. Yes, it’s full on battle mode engaged!
All of this is ROG UI hard at work. Interestingly enough, however, it sits on top of the new ZenUI 6, which is borrowed from the Zenfone 6 and couldn’t be more on the polar opposite in terms of its styling. Popping into the Theme menu in Settings illustrates this perfectly, since Asus decided to still leave the default ZenUI 6 there as an option on the ROG Phone II.
What you get is basically an AOSP experience. With just a few click, no less. It’s frankly a bit eerie. Almost feels like what a kid would alt and tab to if you catch them playing instead of studying on the computer. It’s almost too clean, is what we’re getting at. Still, it’s a great alternative to have for when you get a bit tired from the overly aggressive gamer’s looks.
And since we already touched upon themes, it is worth mentioning that ZenUI 6 has a fairly versatile theming engine in place and a rather rich online library with plenty of free and paid options.
The battery menu, for instance, has a few interesting gems hidden away. First off is the PowerMaster which offers a centralized place for managing app consumption, scanning for issues, as well as toggling battery savings options and managing autostart. Since the ROG Phone II is tuned for gaming above all else, it kind of makes sense that most apps are barred from autostarting by default. This is the menu you should hit up if you have issues with something like a messenger service not running fine in the background.
Battery Care is particularly nifty. It offers you the option to set off hours and have the phone charge in the most efficient and battery-friendly way possible during said period. It’s not as sophisticated as Qnovo, but still good enough to keep your battery healthy for a longer time without altering your overnight charging habits.
The display settings menu has a few interesting entries of its own. Most notable among which is the screen refresh rate selector. It has three options – 60Hz, 90Hz and 120Hz. 90 offers a pretty decent middle–ground between fluidity and extra power consumption. It might just be a good idea to run the UI at 90Hz then set up any 120fps capable game to toggle 120Hz through the X Mode game launcher we will talk about in a bit. In case you were wondering, there is an always-on mode for the AMOLED on the ROG Phone II, as well as an option to only pop-up notifications, if that is your thing.
And if you are not into the under-display fingerprint reader, or are having some issues with it, like us. Face unlock is present and works great.
The Advanced settings menu houses pretty much all the other system-wide additional goodies ROG and Asus added on top of the Android Pie core. Mobile Manager is actually a sister tab to PowerMaster. It handles all the rest of the phone maintenance aside from the battery. Things like memory and storage cleanup, permission and security as well as data caps and usage.
Thin Apps is fairly self-explanatory. It does require support from the app itself to work though. For convenience, there is a nifty list of apps you can download in alphabetical order. Neat! Safeguard offers SOS emergency contact options. And OptiFlex is a proprietary app launch optimizer that works in the usual way – caching certain resources, often times in RAM, so that they can remain easily accessible.
None of these are really new since we’ve seen them on the original ROG Phone, as well as some other Asus handsets. Still, compared to the original ROG Phone, every bit of software seems a bit more refined this time around. Even if it’s little touches like having the apps comply to the system-wide dark color scheme option. Which, by the way, you should definitely use with the ROG Phone’s OLED panel.
Then we get to the good stuff, the things meant to improve gaming experience. Game Genie is the name Asus chose for its in-game optimizer/tools interface, which slides out from the left side of the display while in game.
There are plenty of options on it, most of which absolutely self-explanatory. In order to work properly, or at all, certain bits of Game Genie do need some extra setup. Most notably, the live streaming functions. Once set up you can use a single key to go live on YouTube and Twitch. Pretty great.
Another great bit about Game Genie is that it offers real-time readouts for things like CPU and GPU, temperature, battery level and and fps count within the Game toolbar. There is even an experimental feature that tries its best to estimate how much game time you have based on your current load with the battery charge remaining in the phone.
Game Genie is also where you can map your two AirTriggers to certain on-screen controls. If it is a button, you can map it. There is even a macro interface, which is really powerful and can be used to map whole sequences of inputs.
If that sounds a bit like cheating to you, wait until you hear about Key Mapping. In our books, it is probably the single greatest gaming-geared software tool Asus has brought to the table with the ROG Phone family. It’s an incredibly in-depth interface for mapping on-screen controls to physical ones. Directional pads, buttons, sliders all work and do so really well.
So the real fun begins when you connect the ROG Phone II to a compatible accessory, like the new ROG Kunai Gamepad. Every button on that controller can then be mapped to an on-screen control, effectively giving you console-grade physical controls inside a game meant to be played on touch screens.
In fact, it gets even better once you connect the ROG Phone II to a mouse and keyboard via the Mobile Desktop Dock or the Asus professional dock. Then you can map all the controls to an actual mouse and keyboard. Imagine using a mouse to aim and look around in PUBG!
Well, that bit you can actually keep imagining since PUBG is one of the few titles that has become aware of the ROG Phone’s “secret sauce” and can detect the use of control mapping. At least currently, that is. And even so, the majority of games we tested, even competitive online ones are perfectly fine with you totally owning the scene due to the huge advantage in controls precision.
We are aware that other similar mapping solutions do exist on Android (most notable Octopus), but they seem to operate with a lot more restrictions and naturally all sorts of warnings for drawing over other apps and the like. What Asus have crafted for the ROG is clearly done right and on a much lower software level, making it a really added-value offer for any hardcore mobile gaming enthusiasts. Or are they even mobile once a keyboard and mouse come into play?
Anyway, if you’re not really the streaming type but still want to capture your game sessions or other content in some manner, the ROG Phone II does offer a quite in-depth screen recorder. Beyond things like resolution and audio capture, you can also set delays on capture, block notifications from showing up and show touch inputs. As for screenshots, you could opt for JPG or PNG, depending on your needs.
ASUS Armoury Crate – Gaming portal
But even if you couldn’t care less about streaming or game capture of any kind, if you bought the ROG Phone II, it’s fair to assume that you will be using it for some serious gaming sessions. For those you definitely want to pop into the ASUS Armoury Crate – Gaming portal. It basically augments your entire smartphone experience, bringing it as close to a portable gaming console as possible.
Once here, your phone is locked in landscape mode and your recent apps button or gesture is disabled. The only way to quit out of the launcher is a rather small dedicated “X” button near the top left corner. This is very much intentional design to prevent any manner of accidental minimizing of the active game.
From the main ASUS Armoury Crate interface you get a few options. The most obvious one being your game card interface (or benchmark and any app you would like to run with a custom performance profile). Each entry gets its own “crate”, as the Asus terminology goes. And each crate has its own Game Profile. Profiles are a set of settings for different aspects of the ROG Phone II that get automatically applied when the game/app is launched via ASUS Armoury Crate.
Quickly going through the various tabs available, you get a lot of control on Performance Here you can choose to have X Mode enabled for the app alone, as opposed the default where it follows the system-wide toggle, as seen in the quick toggle bar above the notification shade.
Manually enabling X Mode from this menu actually allows you choose between thee levels of X Mode. Each consecutive step pushes the hardware a bit further, including clocks and tolerance to heat. If you are really feeling adventurous and know what you are doing Hardcore Tuning actually gives you access to sliders for internal Android System value pertaining to performance. That’s the level of tuning Asus is commited to giving its users. Pretty much unparalleled in our experience.
If you are not really feeling quite so adventurous, there is also a simpler CPU frequency slider in the main profile menu. That and a Temperature control slider. The latter allows you to choose between optimal heat dissipation through the body of the ROG Phone II and hand comfort. If you value performance and are ready to sacrifice pretty much anything else you can let the ROG Phone II raise its external temperature quite a bit. And that’s while even in its default setting, the ROG Phone II is not exactly a cool phone under load.
Moving past raw internal performance, game profiles also let users choose a custom Refresh rate on a per-app basis. There is also the option to turn on addition anti-aliasing if you think the edges of any particular game are just a bit too “jaggy” for your taste.
Then there is Touch tweaking. You can use this menu to fine-tune the sensitivity of the display, as well as Air Trigger touch and swipe. Again, on a per-app basis. The built-in false touch rejection algorithm can also be fine tuned.
And rounding things off in the profiles we also have a few network and audio options. Honestly, we kind of feel like we’ve seen too many options already. Yet, we still have to check out the second Console tab from the main ASUS Armoury Crate interface.
Unlike profiles, the options here apply on a system-wide or at least ASUS Armoury Crate-wide level. Aside from the cool meters on the left-hands side, this is where you find general settings like a list of games that automatically trigger the ASUS Armoury Crate no matter where they are launched from as well as another list that says which apps can have access to data at all while a game is running in the foreground.
Unlike profiles, the options here apply on a system-wide or at least ASUS Armoury Crate-wide level. Aside from the cool meters on the left-hands side, this is where you find general settings like a list of games that automatically trigger the ASUS Armoury Crate no matter where they are launched from as well as another list that says which apps can have access to data at all while a game is running in the foreground.
Fan controls for the attachable AeroActive Cooler II are also available. You can either leave it on auto and have the system decide when and how much to ramp it up. Or, alternatively, set it to full blast and have maximum cooling for both the phone and your hands. Now, this does come at the cost of noticeably more noise and increased battery consumption. Dealer’s choice, really.
And we finally come to System Lighting and RGB controls. Asus has a pretty clean system set up to control the RGB effects on the phone’s built-in logo, as well as those on optional accessories. All of it is done through this interface. Of course, there are synchronization groups for other Aura Sync compatible devices. Different color patterns, intensity, speed. The works.
You can also choose what gets to trigger the RGB lights and which effect should be triggered, with a fair bit of conditions available to choose from.
Last but not least there is the Game Genie in-game overlay interface we mentioned earlier. Aside from housing various button mapping options and settings screen when a compatible accessory is connected tot the ROG Phone II it also has quick toggles for streaming and other nifty things. Everything is pretty self-explanatory, but does require quite a bit of fiddling to set-up just right and gain real in-game advantages from. The macros feature, for instance, is particularly powerful for easy combos.
Search is also pretty nifty. It basically lets you access online search results like videos and articles in a single click even going as far as to fill in the current game title in the query box.
Beyond the extensive ASUS Armoury Crate interface there really aren’t all that many proprietary Asus apps pre-loaded on the ROG Phone II. Just a couple of basics like a Clock, calculator, Gallery and File manager. Not really getting in the way while also offering theming support for a really consistent look. Nice job, Asus.
Just to finish the software overview off, we will mention a few words about AudioWizаrd. Seeing how the ROG Phone II doesn’t skimp out on audio hardware, it only makes sense to include a powerful equalizer suite to match. Asus calls it AudioWizard and it comes packed with plenty of features to enhance both the stereo speaker output, as well as the headphones experience. Yet another really in-depth tool. That really is the underlying theme with every single aspect of this phone.
Announcing a special edition 30th anniversary product lineup, groundbreaking Prime Utopia concept motherboard, ZenBook Pro Duo and ZenScreen Touch
ASUS Chairman Jonney Shih today hosted a special press event at Computex 2019 in celebration of the company’s 30th anniversary, where he unveiled a series of limited-edition devices created to commemorate the milestone and introduced the groundbreaking Prime Utopia concept motherboard, ZenBook Pro Duo and ZenBook Duo laptops, and ZenScreen Touch portable monitor.
The ASUS 30th anniversary special-edition lineup features new versions of the ZenFone 6 Edition 30 smartphone, ZenBook Edition 30 laptop and Prime X299 Edition 30 motherboard, all featuring a special stylized “A” monogram signifying ASUS values and history created by ASUS Design Center to celebrate the anniversary as well as unique designs that embody the ASUS focus on refined aesthetics, outstanding performance and delivering exceptional user experiences. The foundation of the “A” monogram is a representation of the Chinese symbol for people and shows the humanitarian side of ASUS. The top part creates an arrow shape signifying the ASUS ability to overcome obstacles and ascend industry norms, and the overall shape when flipped resembles a heart, which speaks to the heartfelt affection and endearment for life.
“ASUS is honored to have been serving the hardcore tech community, enthusiast, gamers, creators, and tasteful consumers for the last 30 years,” said ASUS Chairman, Jonney Shih. “I am tremendously excited and proud that we have stayed true to our relentless engineering origin on this incredible journey — one that has made us wiser and stronger together. We aspire to continue to create the most ubiquitous, intelligent, heartfelt, and joyful smart life for everyone for decades to come.”
Joining Chairman Shih on stage to talk about the two companies’ long partnership was Chris Walker, Vice President of Client Computing at Intel: “Intel and ASUS share a strong passion for innovation. We congratulate ASUS on their 30-year anniversary. In that time, our collaborations have brought to market devices that enrich the experiences of people around the world. Today, ASUS is leveraging the desktop-caliber performance of 9th Gen Intel® Core™ mobile processors. The new, exciting ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo with the companion display, embodies the true meaning of pushing boundaries for PC function and design and is a great example of the innovation our collaboration enables.“
ASUS ZenBook Edition 30 features a luxurious design with a genuine leather lid cover and an 18-karat rose gold plated logo and exclusively equipped with a complete set of premium accessories. It is also the world’s smallest 13-inch laptop featuring a 95% screen-to-body ratio, 8th Gen Intel® Core™ i7 processor and NVIDIA®GeForce® MX250 discrete graphics. ZenFone 6 Edition 30 features the iconic Zen-inspired concentric-circle patterning in understated Matte Black with embossed Edition 30 logo. ZenFone 6 is the first notchless ZenFone with innovative Flip Camera. ZenFone 6 Edition 30 comes with 12GB RAM and 512GB of internal storage for a fast and smooth experience, offering owners the finest integration of art and technology. The Prime X299 Edition 30 motherboard features support for the latest high-core-count processors with an enhanced power solution and premium VRM heatsink design.
At its inception in 1989, ASUS revolutionized the motherboard industry with the creation of the company’s first motherboard, establishing a path to becoming the world’s best-selling and most award-winning motherboard maker. The next-gen Prime Utopia concept motherboard continues this legacy of innovation and is a complete re-thinking of motherboard design to meet the cooling and performance demands of future high-end processors, graphics cards and storage devices to offer system builders the most flexibility.
ASUS is also improving the experience for mobile creatives and professionals with the new ZenBook Pro Duo and ZenBook Duo ultraportable laptops featuring ScreenPad™ Plus, the next generation of the world’s first intelligent touchpad. ScreenPad Plus offers a larger and full-width display, a more intuitive design, seamless viewing experience and improved multi-screen workflow to empower the ultimate creativity. ZenBook Pro Duo features a 15.6-inch 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) OLED HDR display with a 14-inch 4K(3840 x 1100) ScreenPad Plus and is powered by a high-performance, eight core 9th Gen Intel Core i9 processor and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 ray-tracing graphics. It also features the fastest port available on a PC with up to 40 Gbps Thunderbolt™ 3, plus NumberPad 2.0, Amazon Alexa voice control and a dedicated turbo-cooling button. ZenBook Duo features a 14-inch FHD display with a 12.6-inch FHD ScreenPad Plus, the performance of a 9th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, and NVIDIA GeForce MX250 discrete graphics. Both models feature Intel® Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) with Gig+ to deliver networking speeds of up to 2.4 Gbps for rapid internet connectivity.
In addition to ScreenPad Plus, ASUS also announced that it is bringing ScreenPad 2.0 — an update to the revolutionary input device — to ZenBook 13/14/15, ZenBook Edition 30, ZenBook Flip 15 and VivoBook S14 and S15 to offer the creativity it empowers to more consumers.
ASUS also revealed ZenScreen Touch, a slim and light portable monitor designed for mobile productivity, creativity and entertainment. It weighs just 0.9 kg and is only 9 mm slim and features a 10‑point touch screen that supports swipe, scroll, drag and pinch gestures, a built-in 7800mAh battery and rich connectivity with hybrid-signal USB-C and micro-HDMI ports.
ASUS booth at Computex 2019
A comprehensive lineup of ASUS products will be on display at the ASUS booth at the Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center on May 28 – June 1, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Visitors to Computex 2019 are invited to visit the showroom to experience the revolutionary functionality of these latest ASUS innovations for themselves.
Full listing of products shown onstage at the ASUS press event
ZenFone 6 Edition 30
ASUS ZenFone 6 Edition 30 is a luxurious limited-edition 30th Anniversary version of the extraordinary ZenFone 6, featuring an exclusive design and upgraded specifications. Echoing the ASUS spirit, the back of the phone features the iconic Zen-inspired concentric-circle patterning in understated Matte Black, covered with ergonomic 3D-curved glass. A distinctive embossed Edition 30 logo adorns the rear of the phone to identify this exclusive edition. As well as unique and exquisite styling, the hardware specifications of ZenFone 6 Edition 30 have been specially upgraded to 12GB RAM and 512GB of internal storage for a faster and smoother experience, offering owners the finest integration of art and technology.
The 6.4-inch ZenFone 6 Edition 30 features a notchless NanoEdge all-screen display covered with Corning®Gorilla® Glass 6, along with the groundbreaking Flip Camera with a 48MP Sony® IMX586 main camera and a 13MP 125° ultrawide secondary camera. The Flip Camera is identical to the one found in ZenFone 6, which achieved a total score of 98 in the DxOMark Selfie benchmark — the highest ever recorded. ZenFone 6 Edition 30 is powered by the flagship Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 855 Mobile Platform and incorporates a monster 5000mAh battery that provides up to two days of nonstop use.
ZenBook Edition 30 (UX334FL)
The limited-edition ASUS ZenBook Edition 30 is a unique celebration of 30 years of ASUS innovation. It draws on the ASUS heritage but is designed with an eye on the future and features the finest leather craftsmanship as a mark of our confidence. ZenBook Edition 30 brings a futuristic twist to that classic look, with a lid encased in luxurious Pearl White genuine Italian leather for a pure, bold style statement. It is exclusively equipped with a complete set of premium accessories, including a Pearl White mouse, a leather-look box and mouse pad and a genuine-leather sleeve. It’s a very special collection for a very special laptop.
The combination of performance and mobility is a defining feature of the ZenBook series, and ZenBook Edition 30 features a full complement of high-performance components including up to 8th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 quad-core CPUs, NVIDIA® GeForce® MX250 graphics, 16GB RAM, ultrafast PCIe® SSDs and gigabit-class Wi-Fi.
A four-sided frameless NanoEdge display, with a 95% screen-to-body ratio gives it the world’s most compact footprint in its class. ZenBook Edition 30 also comes with the new ScreenPad 2.0, upgrading the traditional laptop experience with an interactive secondary screen that enhances productivity and multitasking.
ZenBook Pro Duo (UX581)
ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo (UX581) is a groundbreaking ultraportable laptop featuring the new ASUS ScreenPad™ Plus, a revolutionary full-width secondary touchscreen that expands and enhances the interactive capabilities offered by the original ScreenPad. ScreenPad Plus offers endless creative possibilities for content creators, allowing productivity-enhancing workflows and easy multitasking. It integrates seamlessly with the primary display, and the integrated ScreenXpert software includes a wide selection of useful apps, tools and utilities that allow users to easily enjoy the efficiency benefits of ScreenPad Plus.
ZenBook Pro Duo delivers extreme performance for effortless creativity with up to 9th Generation Intel® Core™ processors, up to 32GB RAM, an NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 2060, ultrafast storage with an up to 1TB PCIe® 3.0 x4 SSD, and seamless connectivity with Wi‑Fi 6 with Gig+ (802.11ax) and Thunderbolt 3.
ZenBook Pro Duo features a stunning 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) OLED HDR touchscreen for breathtaking visuals, a 4K (3840 x 1100) ScreenPad Plus and an ASUS NumberPad dual-function touchpad. The display is a frameless four-sided ASUS NanoEdge design, with ultraslim bezels for immersive visuals and an ultracompact form factor.
ZenBook Duo (UX481)
For creative professionals requiring a smaller second-screen form factor, the 14-inch ZenBook Duo is the perfect choice. It supports the same great ScreenPad Plus features as ZenBook Pro Duo, but in a lighter and smaller chassis. Powered by up to an Intel Core i7 processor and GeForce MX250 graphics, it has an FHD NanoEdge display and an FHD ScreenPad Plus.
Prime X299 Edition 30
The origin of ASUS Prime series motherboards date back to 1989 with the launch of ISA-386C, the first ASUS motherboard and a defining step along the path to becoming the world’s leading motherboard brand. The Prime X299 Edition 30 motherboard honors this legacy of innovation and performance with a wealth of features and accessible tuning options designed to make building a cutting-edge system within everyone’s reach.
Prime X299 Edition 30 supports the latest Intel® Core™ X-series high-end desktop processors, which feature high core counts to deliver tremendous performance for prosumers and content creators. The motherboard features a new flagship 16-stage power solution and enhanced cooling that enable the latest processors to achieve their full performance potential. Two M.2 slots with passive heat sinks enable ultrafast, unthrottled data transfers, and dual Thunderbolt 3 ports and accompanying DisplayPort inputs give content creators an easy way to connect chains of external storage and displays. Built-in 5G Aquantia Ethernet, Intel Gigabit LAN and Wi-Fi 6 ensure high-performance, lag-free wired and wireless networking.
Prime X299 Edition 30 also features a 2-inch LiveDash OLED that displays vital system stats, such as clock speeds, temperatures and voltages for easy performance monitoring. It can also display custom text and images for users who want to personalize their build. A second LiveDash display is included in the new Smart Control Console, an external module that connects via USB and comes with a stand that sits neatly on top of typical monitors. In addition to displaying system information, Smart Control Console offers convenient voice and hand-gesture control.
The Prime Utopia is an early prototype of the ASUS vision and aspirations for future high-end desktop motherboards. It’s engineered with a range of cooling enhancements to unleash the full potential of next-gen high-core-count processors and high-performance system components and has a host of innovations that take customization and control to the next level.
One of the most salient features is the convention-breaking placement of PCIe slots at the back of the board for improved thermal management. The layout frees up prime estate on the front of the board for more expansion cards and M.2 drives, and enables heat from next-gen CPU, graphics cards, and M.2 drives to be optimally managed for throttle-free performance.
In addition to optimizing thermal zones for high-performance components, Prime Utopia also features integrated water cooling that helps dispel the heat generated when fueling high core count processors. Keeping the CPU cool with custom water-cooling loops is made easier by the introduction of the proprietary, patent-pending Hydra Cortex fan header. The Hydra Cortex header can be connected and control up to four fans individually, simplifying cable routing to water cooling radiators. ASUS is currently working with partners to develop fans that are compatible with this new technology.
Recognizing that many high-end-desktop users have different needs, Prime Utopia features an innovative modular rear I/O and offers a selection of modules for users to choose their preferred compliment of ports and connectivity. It also comes with a 7-inch full-color OLED panel with touch-control. The panel can be connected via cable or Wi-Fi, enabling flexible placement directly on the desktop for users to modify BIOS settings, control fan speeds, turn the system on or off, or monitor real-time system stats.
ZenScreen Touch (MB16AMT)
ASUS ZenScreen™ Touch is a Full HD portable monitor that weighs just 900 grams, is 9mm thin and features a large 7800 mAh battery that lasts up to four hours, taking mobile productivity to new heights. Its responsive 10-point touch screen supports swipe, scroll, drag and pinch gestures for effortless and intuitive interactivity to help users get tasks done more efficiently. The IPS display also supports the innovative ZenScreen Touch app, which enables the display and control of apps from Android phones for a large-screen productivity boost. In addition to providing a more comfortable view of any content, this large scale is perfect for tackling complex tasks, such as editing documents, photos, and videos, making it faster and easier to get them done while away from home or the office. It also comes with an optional overlay of Android menu buttons (Back, Home, Recent and Rotation) as virtual keys for a better mobile user experience.
ZenScreen Touch also features hybrid-signal USB Type-C and Type-A connectivity, which enables both the video signal and power to be supplied over a single cable, simplifying connectivity and providing a more streamlined and clutter-free usage experience. Along with micro-HDMI support, ZenScreen Touch can display content from a wide range of portable devices, such as laptops, smartphones, cameras, and video game consoles, providing an expansive view for the best work and entertainment experiences on the go.
ASUS CEO Jerry Shen today announced ASUS NovaGo (TP370) at the second annual Snapdragon Technology Summit in Maui, Hawaii. NovaGo is the world’s first Gigabit LTE-capable laptop designed for truly connected mobility, providing users with an always-on, always-connected experience. This ultrathin and light convertible laptop is powered by a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835 Mobile PC platform, and features a Gigabit Snapdragon X16 LTE modem for download speeds exceeding that of typical home Wi-Fi. It has up to a 22-hour battery life with over 30 days of modern standby, and a built-in eSIM that ensures seamless connectivity across borders.
Mr. Shen joined Executive Vice President of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and President, Qualcomm CDMA Technologies Cristiano Amon onstage during the keynote speech of the three-day event. “Today marks the beginning of a new era of personal computing and ASUS is very proud to be paving the way with Qualcomm Technologies and other partners to develop this new landscape for ‘Always Connected’ Windows on Snapdragon PCs. ASUS NovaGo reinvents the concept of laptop connectivity and productivity — it’s the world’s first laptop that is connected anywhere, at any time, with the new Gigabit LTE network; and lasts up to 22 hours on a single charge for beyond all-day battery life,” said Mr. Shen.
NovaGo is a new breed of laptop designed for the tech-savvy user who is aware of the new and exciting always on, always connected possibilities offered by the Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC platform. The latest premium-tier Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC platform is designed to provide superior user experiences with blazing-fast connectivity and exceptional on-the-go power efficiency.
“Qualcomm Technologies has worked closely with ASUS to usher in a new era of personal computing with the Always Connected Windows on Snapdragon PCs,” said Cristiano Amon, Executive Vice President, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and President, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “The result of this work is ASUS NovaGo, unveiled today, a convertible laptop with leading Gigabit LTE connectivity and battery life that revolutionizes what the personal PC can be for consumers.”
Also joining the stage and supporting the launch was Terry Myerson, Executive Vice President, Microsoft, Windows and Devices Group. “ASUS NovaGo is a full Windows 10 PC, instantly on, always connected, with a week of battery life,” said Mr. Myerson. “With a thin, elegant design and Gigabit LTE, NovaGo is reimagining what a PC can be and we can’t wait to see what customers will create with them.”
Always connected with Gigabit LTE
NovaGo has a Snapdragon X16 LTE modem for lightning-fast download speeds of up to 1Gbps — 3X to 7X-faster than average broadband speeds. It allows users to download a two-hour-long movie in around 10 seconds.
It offers truly global connectivity with 4CA (4 LTE band aggregation) support covering various bands. Four antennas ensure ultrafast connectivity through LTE Advanced Cat 16 cellular networking, while dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and MU-MIMO technology provide download speeds of up to 867Mbps.
Embedded SIM (eSIM) and Nano SIM support ensure seamless connectivity across borders. eSIM is an integrated chip that provides an always connected experience, enabling users to switch carriers easily without having to physically swap out SIM cards. Users can simply activate a local data plan from Windows Store the moment they step off the plane. In addition, data sent via the 4G and 5G bands are encrypted, making it safer than public Wi-Fi.
Always on with 22 hours battery life
NovaGo features up to 22 hours of video playback on a single charge and over 30 days of modern standby. It offers a computing experience like no other, with immediate smartphone-like response. Even in sleep mode, its instant on and resume capability means a quick press of the power button brings users back to their movie or spreadsheet immediately.
Connected standby mode ensures all data is constantly synced to the cloud. Even in sleep mode, NovaGo wakes up periodically to check for new emails, receive notifications, and perform other tasks so it is constantly up to date.
Uncompromising performance and the familiar Windows experience
NovaGo is powered by the high-performance and energy-efficient Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC platform, and is equipped with up to 8GB memory, 256GB of Universal Flash Storage 2.0 (UFS 2.0), two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports, and HDMI. UFS 2.0 is a new breakthrough in flash storage with speeds of up to 1400Mbps, surpassing that of SSD and eMMC storage.
NovaGo features Microsoft® Windows® 10 S to provide users with a secure and familiar computing experience. Windows 10 provides the Start taskbar, Action Center, and File Center; plus new features like Windows Ink, Windows Hello, and Cortana.
Windows provides extensive compatibility with apps found on the Windows Store for a smooth and seamless experience, including support for the most popular apps available — stay productive with Outlook and PowerPoint, get creative with Photoshop or InDesign, and be entertained by Spotify or Netflix.
In addition, every application for ARM-based Windows laptops is Microsoft-verified for compatibility, security, and protection to ensure the most secure Windows version ever built.
Designed for creativity and entertainment
A fanless design and the small 10nm Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC platform allowed ASUS engineers to keep the weight and dimensions of the 13.3-inch NovaGo down to a minimum — it weighs just 1.39kg with an incredibly thin 14.9mm profile. NovaGo has a premium feel, with a sandblasted Sky Grey finish and brilliant diamond-cut edges.
NovaGo has a precision-engineered, durable 360° multi-gear hinge with a silky-smooth action to give users the freedom to use it any way they like. Its 10-point multitouch display features ASUS Pen support; ASUS Pen has a 1024-level pressure-sensitive tip that detects every nuance of movement, enabling users to write and draw just like they would on paper, notebook, or canvas.
The 13.3-inch NanoEdge display on NovaGo has an ultrathin 8.9mm bezel that enables it to fit into a much smaller frame than a standard 13.3-inch model. This NanoEdge design provides an incredible 78% screen-to-body ratio and a larger display area for more immersive viewing.
This Full HD display features 178° wide-view technology, a 100% sRGB color gamut, exclusive ASUS Splendid with ASUS Eye Care technology, and ASUS Tru2Life Video technology to ensure clear and vivid visuals.
 Up to 22 hours of video playback on a single charge. Battery life may vary by device configuration, settings and other factors.
 eSIM availability may vary by region; Nano SIM compatibility comes as standard in all ASUS NovaGo models
Asus has unveiled some impressive hardware this year, including their flagship Zenfone 4 Pro and Zenfone AR, the latter having both Tango and Daydream compatibility baked in. Although better known in the US for their portfolio of laptops, Asus continues to march forward with new Android smartphones, bringing us a Verizon exclusive seemingly out of nowhere – the Zenfone V. Let’s see how it stacks up to the competition.
The Zenfone V looks a lot like the Zenfone 4 and 4 Pro, but has a square camera hump on its glass back. There is a wide, rounded fingerprint sensor/home button on the front and the design seems to have been somewhat inspired by Samsung’s Galaxy S6. Top and bottom bezels are approaching iPhone large, but reasonable side bezels flank a 5.2 inch full HD AMOLED panel. The frame is unfortunately plastic, giving it a less than premium feel in the hand, but it doesn’t feel cheap, either. Contoured front and back 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass help redeem it.
A wide chamfer surrounds the screen, but stops on the right side above the volume rocker and below the power button, with a much smaller chamfer running between them and the screen. It’s a subtle but cool detail.
On the bottom is a single speaker and USB-C port with fast charging (included in the box, Apple), and Asus thankfully didn’t have the courage to ax the headphone jack, which is on the bottom left. A nano SIM/MicroSD tray sits flush on the left side with only a small microphone port on the top.
The fingerprint scanner/home button sits between off-screen capacitive keys and up top, the front facing camera is to the right of the earpiece. Overall, it’s an inoffensive design, if not a bit dated, and comes in only one color, sapphire black (which is more of a dark blue on the back).
Last year, the Zenfone V would’ve had near flagship specs, but a year has passed and we’re now in solid mid-range territory. But phones aren’t automatically obsolete after a year and its aging Snapdragon 820 CPU coupled with 4GB of RAM is still running on all eight cylinders. Apps open quickly and daily tasks (web browsing, email, watching videos, etc.) are fluid and lag free. Demanding games like Asphalt 8 run without hiccup and multitasking is a breeze. Keep in mind that the still formidable Galaxy S7 also has a Snapdragon 820 and 4GB of RAM… It’ll take a lot to slow this Asus down.
The 5.2 inch Full HD AMOLED display is good. Great even. Colors pop and viewing angles are excellent, but it doesn’t get as bright as many competitors this year or even last. Outdoor viewing isn’t terrible, but direct sunlight will have you looking for shade. It does have a “Glove Mode”, however, which is nice during winter months. Samsung’s and Motorola’s recent panels have it beat, but it’s still a very admirable offering given the Zenfone’s price.
The single bottom-firing speaker gets plenty loud and there’s an “Outdoor Mode” that cranks it up even more, but base is lacking and it sounds tinny next to a Galaxy S8’s bottom speaker. According to Asus, there’s a NXP Smart Amp inside for lower distortion and deeper base, but in my experience, that sounds a little better on paper than in actual use. Audiophiles will likely be disappointed. It works great for speakerphone calls, however, and I never had trouble hearing callers on the other end. Overall volume seems to have been the priority here.
Battery life has been a pleasant surprise. Packing a 3,000 mAh lithium polymer battery, I easily made it through a full day with moderate to heavy use, plugging in at night with around 20% left. If you ever find yourself needing to top up during the day, the phone supports “BoostMaster” quick charging. Clever name or not, it delivers. Asus claims a 60% charge in a half hour and that about matches my experience.
Well, it’s Asus… You’re not getting stock Android. On offer here is Android 7.0 Nougat buried under ZenUI 4, which isn’t all that bad, actually. An app drawer comes standard (unlike many Asian rivals) and if you dive a little into settings, the look and feel can become very familiar.
A long press on the home screen brings up some much appreciated options, such as changing the scroll effect, home screen grid size, icon appearance (with or without frames), animations, folder themes and more. After just a few minutes, my home screens were clean and unencumbered. Tinker a little and it’s an easy skin to live with.
There’s a “ZenMotion” section in settings that allows a variety of gestures to be set, starting with tap to wake and tap to sleep. You can also assign up to six apps with a “letter gesture”, allowing you to draw a letter on the screen (when off) to go directly to that app. For example, drawing a “C” with your finger will open the camera, “e” can open email and so on. It’s a nice addition.
Asus takes battery life seriously and there are several power management options to choose from – High Performance, Normal, Power Saving, Super Saving and Custom. You can maximize performance or all but cripple the phone to squeeze out every last drop of power. It’s great to have options, but I suspect most users will stick with the “Normal” setting. The Zenfone’s specs, coupled with Android 7.0 Nougat, will keep the lights on for a full day and night for most.
Software updates are up in the air, unfortunately. As of late September, it’s still on Android 7.0 (not 7.1.1) and stuck on the August 1 security patch. A future upgrade to 8.0 Oreo is questionable. I’m sure Asus will continue support for at least a year, but don’t expect timely updates. It’s a carrier exclusive, rocking a custom skin and sitting at the lower end of the Asus totem pole. Buy it for what it is today, not what it could be tomorrow.
The 23 MP rear camera uses a Sony IMX 318 sensor with optical image stabilization (OIS) and it’s proven to be a competent shooter, indoors and out. I was impressed with how well it handled exposure in mixed lighting conditions, not blowing out the sky or burying details in shadows. Colors were vibrant without being oversaturated. We’re not in Galaxy S8 territory, but this one rises above the majority of lower priced phone cameras.
Indoor shots were equally impressive… When there was adequate light. Noise levels were low and the sensor again handled exposure well in mixed lighting conditions.
Digital noise does creep in when indoor lights go down, but not to unacceptable levels. I rarely had exposure problems, although focus tended to be soft, but users who most often email their shots or post to social media will be more than satisfied.
Night shots are acceptable. You won’t be printing out large masterpieces, but for social media and onscreen viewing, they’re perfectly fine. A little noise, but decent overall exposure. There’s also a “Night Mode” setting that lowers the shutter speed to capture more light. You’re warned to keep as still as possible to avoid blurring.
The camera app itself has a surprising number of options, rivaling some of the best smartphones out there. There are full manual controls, including ISO, shutter speed, white balance and focusing, and HDR is onboard. There’s a beauty mode for selfies, low light and night mode (which either drops the resolution or shutter speed), panorama mode and something called “Time Rewind”, which lets you go up to three seconds back (or one second forward) from the moment the shot was taken, just in case someone blinked.
For those who like filters, there’s a smorgasbord that can be applied either before or after the shot is taken.
Video can be shot in 4K and slowed down to 60 frames per second at 1080p. There are again a lot of options in settings, including manual controls, and electronic image stabilization (EIS) does a respectable job at keeping things steady.
The front facing shooter has an 8 MP sensor and can record video at 1080p. If you’re seeing a trend here, it also has a ton of options, including manual controls for exposure, white balance, ISO, etc. Filters and beautification controls are also onboard.
To be clear, this is not a flagship level camera, but like a Chihuahua that barks at Rottweilers, it aspires to be bigger than it is. The level of customization available is impressive for the price and the overall results don’t disappoint. There’s OIS, 4K video, slow motion and full manual controls, all wrapped in a phone that’s half the price of many flagships. If the Zenfone V is the only camera in your pocket, odds are you’ll walk away happy.
I’ve got a soft spot for mid-rangers that dress in flagship suits. And that’s mostly what we get with the Zenfone V (although it’s wearing sneakers). The Verizon exclusive retails for only $384 or just $16/mo, a far cry from the $756 ($31.50/mo) price of the Galaxy S8 or $549.99 ($22.91/mo) for the aging Pixel. I’m still not sure if the “V” stands for the number five or just Verizon, but whatever the case, it’s the solid, scrappy little brother to the flagship Zenfone 4 Pro.
Is anything missing? Very little, actually. Waterproofing is absent, so don’t take this into the pool and be careful in the rain. There’s no wireless charging, either. The plastic frame and dated design might also turn off design aficionados. NFC, MicroSD and a headphone jack are all present, however, which isn’t always the case for “budget” smartphones.
Would I recommend the Zenfone V for the budget conscious consumer? Absolutely, but… It doesn’t live in a vacuum. For a few dollars more, Verizon’s Moto Z2 Play has a better AMOLED screen, more premium aluminum build and support for a growing number of Moto Mods. Best Buy is currently offering last year’s Galaxy S7 edge for only $14.99/mo, which is a much more premium device for less than the Zenfone V. Unlocked Motorola phones like the Moto G5 Plus are more than $100 less outright (with lesser specs to match).
If you’re a Verizon customer looking for a solid smartphone that won’t break the bank, the Zenfone V is an excellent choice. Just remember to look at all of your options before committing.
An ASUS phone on an American carrier only comes once in a blue moon and there always has to be a catch to it. Remember the PadFone X on AT&T? What fun we had. And then Verizon took on the ZenFone AR — Google Tango phone number two… only to be made to feel obsolete with ARCore technology.
Normal is a unicorn for ASUS phones in the United States. But the “Verizon exclusive” ZenFone V may be the on-ramp that the Taiwanese manufacturer needs to gain some support.
While it does utilize last year’s Snapdragon 820 from Qualcomm, it does have a competitive AMOLED display, USB 3.0 with Type-C and NXP Smart AMP technology on its five-magnet stereo speakers.
All that’s missing is a price tag — Verizon has yet to issue a press release or a product page.