Gaming phones have always struggled to find a strong foothold in the mobile market. Even big names like Nokia and Sony couldn’t able to convince consumers to buy a gaming-centric phone. But Asus thinks its ROG Phone is unlike any other gaming phone ever launched in the market that is marketed explicitly at “mobile gamers”.
The high-end Republic of Gamers (ROG) branded phone offers powerful performance and a couple of accessories. With titles like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds(PUBG) and Fortnite becoming popular among gamers, Asus thinks the relevance of ROG Phone is more than ever.
Priced at Rs 69,999 this isn’t a cheap smartphone, but Asus says the idea was always to offer a “portable console” level gaming experience taking advantage of a powerful hardware and accessories. I have had a chance to briefly try out the ROG Phone ahead of the official launch, and here is what I think about the gaming smartphone.
Asus ROG Phone first impressions: Design and build
Visually, yes, Asus’ ROG Phone looks different from the likes of iPhone XR and Galaxy S9. This is understandable, given the phone caters to hardcore mobile gamers. From the front, it looks like any other regular smartphone, featuring a 6.0-inch AMOLED screen and two copper-colored grilles for the speaker and microphone.
Flip the phone, and you will notice the real difference. The rear of the phone is designed to mimic a gaming laptop, complete with copper venting and the RGB lighting (which can be customised using Asus’ Aura Sync software). You will also get to see dual cameras on the back, a 12MP snapper and an 8MP camera with a 120-degree wide angle lens.
There is little doubt that the ROG Phone is an intriguing device. To make the experience slightly better, Asus has added two customisable “Airtrigger” buttons on its top right side. These are essentially programmable capacitive controls that can be used while you play games. I actually found them useful, as they can enhance gaming experience.
The ROG Phone comes with a ton of ports. On the right-side of the phone, there is a custom USB Type-C port. Along the bottom, you’ll find another USB Type-C port. The rationale behind having a secondary USB Type-C port is that it will allow you to charge your phone when gaming.
It can also used to attach additional accessories such as the AeroActive Cooler which not only provides additional cooling, but also offers a 3.5 mm jack. On the left, you have a volume rocker, a dual-SIM slot and power button.
Asus ROG Phone first impressions: Display
Since it is a high-end smartphone, Asus packs in a 6.0-inch AMOLED screen with a resolution of 2160 x 1080 resolution and an 18:9 aspect ratio. The screen has a 90Hz refresh rate, HDR support, and an impressive 10,000:1 contrast ratio. The screen is, for sure, impressive.
But it still cannot be compared to Razer Phone 2’s 5.7-inch 2560 x 1440 Sharp IGZO IPS LCD display, which offers a faster 120Hz refresh rate.
Asus ROG Phone first impressions: Performance, battery
The ROG Phone has a flagship-class smartphone processor: the Snapdragon 845. Interestingly, the phone is powered by a tweaked version of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor clocked at 2.96GHz (instead of the standard 2.8GHz). You also get 8GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage, although a microSD slot is missing. And that’s not all.
Asus wants to create the hype around the ROG Phone. It says the device comes with something called GameCool vapor-chamber cooling system that helps keep the hardware from overheating.
So, how’s it like playing a game on the ROG Phone? Well, it’s pretty neat. I played Asphalt 9 for a few minutes straight and didn’t encounter a hint of lag. The phone also didn’t become as hot as I’d anticipated. A representative from Asus told me only a handful of games takes advantage of the ROG Phone’s 90 Hz display at the moment, but the scenario might change in the near future. Every retail unit of the ROG Phone will come pre-loaded with Asphalt 9 and Free Fire.
The phone comes equipped with stereo speaker. There’s one speaker at the top, and one sitting next on the bottom. They sound fine, but more bass would have been welcome.
The ROG Phone runs ROG UI, based on Android 8.1 Oreo. The software is a heavily customised version of Android Oreo and features a different UI. Of course, there’s plenty of customization options and features you can turn on and tweak to your liking. In terms of enhancements, the ROG Phone features Game Center, which is essentially a software feature that lets you adjust the phone’s performance.
Other features of the ROG Phone include a huge 4,000 mAh battery, which supports Asus’ proprietary HyperCharge technology, which promises 60 per cent charge in 30 minutes
Asus ROG Phone first impressions: Accessories
However, what makes the ROG Phone different from other gaming smartphones the long list of compatible accessories. Yes, Asus will be selling a few accessories in India as well. The TwinView dock, for instance, features an identical 6-inch screen to the ROG phone, along with a front-facing speaker system, two extra physical trigger buttons, a dual-haptic force-feedback engine, an enhanced cooling system, and a 6000mAh battery pack.
Then there’s the mobile desktop dock for the ROG phone that lets you connect the phone to a 4K monitor, mouse and keyboard. Asus will be selling the Gamevice controller, along with the WiGig dock, transform the ROG phone into a gaming console since it packs dual analog joysticks, left and right fire triggers and bumpers, a D-pad, along with A,B,X,Y and L3, R3 buttons.
Asus ROG Phone first impressions: Early impressions
Asus’ ROG Phone looks impressive as a dedicated-gaming smartphone. It offers some additional features that will push the envelope of a smartphone designed for games forward. Though I would like to add that the ROG Phone is still a niche device that specially caters to a dedicated group of mobile gamers.