ROG Phone II First Impressions: It’s never been easy to sell a gaming phone to potential users. Nokia tried and failed to justify the reason behind its N-gage devices. Even a company like Sony had trouble in reaching out to mobile gamers with its Xperia Play, better known as the PlayStation Phone in the tech fraternity. But Asus thinks it has cracked the formula to make the perfect gaming phone with the second-generation ROG Phone II, which was launched today.
Aimed at serious mobile gamers and hardcore PC gamers, the ROG Phone II features a 120Hz high-refresh-rate display, the Snapdragon 855 Plus processor, a beefy 6,000mAh battery, internal cooling mechanism, RGB lighting, better dual front-facing stereo speakers, and custom software tricks. All these features make the ROG Phone II, the world’s most powerful gaming smartphone.
We spent some hands-on time with the Asus ROG Phone II to bring you our first impressions. This game-oriented phone looks refreshing, but will you buy one?
Asus ROG Phone II first impressions: Design and build
The ROG Phone II doesn’t look like smartphones from Apple or Samsung. The phone has an aggressive design language and the gaming-theme is visible in the design. Needless to say, I was expecting to see a phone with the shades of ROG trademark all around. And it is just like that.
A large ROG logo sits in the center of the Gorilla Glass protected glass back panel and glows with customizable RGB lighting. One can also see a copper vent on the rear as well as a dual-camera setup. But where is the fingerprint scanner? Well, the traditional fingerprint scanner has been replaced by an in-display fingerprint scanner.
This is a premium smartphone with a large display and rounded corners. Think of the ROG Phone II as a PRO version of the original ROG Phone with minor design tweaks and better specifications.
Let’s get it real for a second. This ROG Phone II is huge. Where the original ROG Phone comfortably fits in your jeans pocket, the ROG Phone II is less comfortable. Not only does it have a mammoth 6.59-inch display, but also heavier than many other flagships; it weighs 240 grams. One-handed use is impossible, just like the OnePlus 7 Pro and iPhone XS Max. For me, someone with smaller hands, this was a major drawback.
Asus ROG Phone II first impressions: Display and audio
Coming to its massive, 6.59-inch FHD+ (2430x1080p) screen, it feels perfect for watching movies, browsing the web and of course playing games. It’s an AMOLED panel with 10-bit HDR support, and the screen is capable of refreshing 120 times a second. In comparison, OnePlus 7 Pro’s OLED panel has a 90Hz refresh rate. Having a display with a 120Hz refresh rate is a great advantage, especially when playing games. Asus also gives you the option to run the display at 60Hz or 90Hz rate. Even better is the improved front speakers located in the bezels that deliver stereo sound. They get pretty loud when listening to music or playing games.
Asus ROG Phone II cheat sheet
*The ROG Phone II offers another USB-C connector on the left side, which is pretty useful when playing games in landscape mode.
*You won’t be disappointed with the ROG Phone II, as it still comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack.
*The phone has a pair of pressure-sensitive AirTriggers on the top (in landscape mode) towards the left and right edges. These virtual buttons essentially turns the ROG Phone II into a gamepad.
Asus ROG Phone II first impressions: Performance and battery
It’s time to talk about the performance, shall we? Even though I used the phone for hardly 15 minutes, I was impressed by what I saw. This is the first smartphone in the world to be powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 Plus processor, paired with up to 12GB RAM and 128GB or 512GB UFS 3.0 fast storage on-board.
The Snapdragon 855 Plus doesn’t offer a huge leap over the Snapdragon 855, (the same processor that powers the OnePlus 7 Pro), with roughly 15 per cent improvement. I didn’t get much time playing with the phone, but I saw it running Asphalt 9 and it didn’t run into a single hiccup. Even running multiple apps was a breezy affair on the ROG Phone II. I am sure ROG Phone II has the raw power to run any graphically intensive games, including the nation’s favorite PUBG Mobile.
One thing Asus wasn’t so comfortable talking about the list of games supporting 90 or 120Hz refresh rates, though the company did mention that it was talking to game developers to support higher refresh rates. Most smartphone displays have a refresh rate of 60Hz.
I couldn’t put the battery life to test, Asus promised a long-lasting battery with the ROG Phone II sporting a 6,000mAh cell. The battery life is critical to any smartphone and even more important when you have a phone that’s designed for gaming. Fast-Charging support is also available, which is rated at 30W.
As you might expect from a gaming phone, Asus has added gamer-centric software which lets you monitor clock speeds, temperature, and adjust the Aura lighting on the back panel. Plus, there’s another software that helps you configure the AirTriggers, map keys, disable alerts, etc. The ROG Phone II runs ROG UI, but for a change, Asus is giving you an option to use ZenUI 6 that are currently found on Asus 6Z.
Asus is also making a big deal about the cameras on the ROG Phone II, with the dual rear-facing camera setup. The setup consists of a Sony-made 48MP primary lens and a 13MP ultra-wide lens. The camera specifications are similar to what you get on the Asus 6Z. On the front, there’s a 24MP front camera positioned on the right (instead of left) so that it is easier to show your face while broadcasting games to Twitch and YouTube.
Asus ROG Phone II first impressions: Early Conclusion
The ROG Phone II might be a great smartphone, but I can’t ignore the fact that there are a handful of games that are designed to fully take advantage of the hardware. For me, at least, that’s an important criterion for choosing a gaming phone over a non-gaming smartphone with matching specifications. Otherwise, from the specs point of view, the ROG Phone II is a superior device without any doubt. Look, the hardware has never been the problem with gaming phones from the beginning, or the way we control games on a mobile device. The question that I want Asus or Nubia to answer is this: what makes a gaming phone, a gaming phone at the end of the day. A free-to-play title like PUBG Mobile can be played on a Rs 10,000 smartphone. So why should I spend Rs 40,000 on an expensive gaming smartphone? That is something smartphone brands need to answer so that consumers can easily decide whether they need a gaming phone or not.