Updated: August 6, 2020 2:44:46 pm
The concept of dedicated gaming phones has always fascinated mobile phone companies. I clearly remember the Nokia N-Gage, the first device that doubled as a handheld game console and a cellular phone. It wasn’t a commercial success, though it did manage to impress hardcore mobile gamers. Fast-forward to 2020, and the quest to make a gaming-focused phone continues. And even though the mobile gaming market has grown exponentially over the years, the segment of dedicated gaming phones remains a niche. Despite that, Asus believes there is a market for the gaming-focused ROG Phone 3, which also happens to be the world’s most powerful Android smartphone.
I used the ROG Phone 3 for more than a week to test if this gaming-focused smartphone can appeal to mainstream users. Here is my detailed review.
Asus ROG Phone 3 price in India: Rs 49,999 onward
Asus ROG Phone 3 review: What is new?
Hold the ROG Phone 3 for a few seconds, and it’s clear that the phone is designed to appeal to the gaming crowd. The sci-fi look of the phone reminded me of the first two ROG Phones in terms of design language. In fact, the model has the same shape, dimensions and the futuristic RGB light-up rear logo as the ROG Phone 2. But there are subtle changes across the design that broaden the appeal of the ROG Phone 3. For instance, the copper heat sink on the glass back now sits under a transparent window and the geometric visuals are less aggressive.
From the front, there is a large 6.59-inch AMOLED screen with a built-in in-display fingerprint scanner. It’s fast and convenient, though the in-display fingerprint scanner is less reliable than traditional capacitive fingerprint scanners. The top and bottom bezels are a bit chunky by today’s standards thanks to the two front-firing stereo speakers. The volume rocker and power button are on the side alongside two capacitive AirTriggers, and on the bottom, there’s the USB-C port. On the left, you will find the side-mounted port consisting of a USB-C port and a proprietary connector for pairing external accessories, including the AeroActive cooler. All this, unfortunately, leaves no space for a headphone jack.
Judging a phone through its looks and design is of course subjective. But I do want to point out that the ROG Phone 3 is on the heavier side. At 240 grams, it is way heavier than the iPhone 11 Pro Max and Galaxy S20 Ultra. Despite the huge screen, the phone is still manageable, making the ROG Phone 3 easy to hold for extended gaming sessions. It’s a bit slippery, though. A plastic case is included in the box.
Asus ROG Phone 3 review: What is good?
The screen on the ROG Phone 3 is a real selling point for some. The 6.59-inch AMOLED screen (2340×1080, 19.5:9) supports variable refresh rate up to 144Hz. I have not reviewed any smartphone with an AMOLED screen that offers a 144Hz refresh rate. In addition, Asus claims 1ms response time and a 270Hz touch response. The display is also compatible with HDR10.
As I have observed in my tests, the display is bright enough to read emails or news articles outdoors. Video playback is smooth, too.
Interestingly, the phone can automatically switch to the best refresh rate or you can manually set the refresh rate to 60Hz, 90Hz, 120Hz or 144Hz. Many people ask me what is the advantage of a 144Hz smartphone display. It’s nice to have a high-refresh-rate screen, but the difference is minimal. For example, my iPhone 11 has a 60Hz refresh rate screen and I am completely fine with it. Refresh rate really matters in gaming, but to take advantage you must-have games that support a 144Hz screen. Right now, there isn’t a single popular mobile game that supports up to 144Hz refresh rate screen. And even if games start supporting 144 Hz refresh rate, I bet you won’t spot the difference between 120 Hz and 144 Hz on a mobile device.
The ROG Phone 3 is the first smartphone I’ve tested that comes with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 Plus processor and an overclocked Adreno 650 GPU. My test unit had 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. There’s another variant available in the market, the one with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage. The ROG Phone 3, of course, supports 5G; but the service is not available in the country.
My tests show that the performance of the Snapdragon 865 Plus was comparable to the Snapdragon 865 chipset. Apps open quickly and the processor delivers smooth performance during PUBG Mobile, Asphalt 9 and Alto’s Odyssey. To differentiate the ROG Phone 3 from other flagship devices, Asus has added a new cooling system to keep the heat out of the device when overclocking for higher frame rates.
The ROG 3 is powered by a 6,000mAh battery. I set the display to 60Hz, the phone lasted over a day. But when you switch the display to either 120Hz or 144Hz, the battery drains faster when playing games. The device also supports QuickCharge 4.0 and comes with a 30W charger. I was able to refill the battery from zero to 50 per cent in around 30 minutes. Interestingly, the ROG Phone 3 is among the few smartphones that come with a number of modes that optimises battery life. For example, you can limit the charging rate. Simply put, you can cut down the battery charging limit from 30W to 10W. This reduces charging time but also helps increase the lifespan of the battery.
The phone comes with Android 10 pre-installed. Like the ROG Phone 2, users get the option to use either gaming-centric ROG UI or Zen UI. The latter is almost a stock Android interface. The software also includes X Mode, which is basically a game mode. This mode helps change processor overclock settings, RGB LED logo settings and fine-tuning the phone’s Air Triggers—two pressure-sensitive touch sensors near the power and volume buttons that act like triggers on a game controller. I really liked using Air Triggers. They are designed to make gameplay immersive when playing PUBG Mobile or Call of Duty Mobile. I wish non-gaming phones too come with the AirTrigger-like features.
Perhaps the most standout feature of the ROG Phone 3 is its two front-facing speakers. With ROG Phone 3, there is really no need for external speakers. The sound quality is the best I’ve heard on a phone. The speakers are fairly loud and clear, regardless of how you hold the phone.
Asus ROG Phone 3 review: What’s not good?
The cameras on the ROG Phone 3 are nothing to rave about. The main camera is a 64MP shooter with an f/1.8 aperture and supports quad-pixel binning for super-sharp 16MP photos. There’s also a 13MP ultra-wide lens with an f/2.4 aperture and a 5MP macro lens with an f/2.0 aperture. A front-facing camera is a 24MP unit with an f/2.0 aperture.
I wouldn’t say the cameras are bad but they are not great either. The primary camera takes ok shots in daylight with accurate colours and less noise. I could have got similar levels of details with a mid-range smartphone. In low light, the performance does start to dip, thanks to the lack of optical stabilisation, though the night mode is a saviour. The front-facing camera did well in good lighting conditions. The ultrawide lens is mediocre and so is the macro lens.
Asus ROG Phone 3 review: Who should buy and who shouldn’t?
On the whole, the ROG Phone 3 is an attractive gaming-focused smartphone. The combination of sci-fi looks, powerful performance, 144Hz screen, the speakers are loud and spatial, and long battery life makes the ROG Phone 3 a powerhouse. With a starting price of Rs 49,999. you get the most powerful Android smartphone on the market. Yes, it’s expensive but the audience Asus is trying to tap in with the ROG Phone 3 can afford a dedicated-gaming phone like this. For others, the ROG Phone 3 falls in the category of niche smartphones.
There’s no getting around the fact that the ROG Phone 3 is a powerful Android smartphone but not many people would want to carry a jumbo-sized phone as their daily driver. For a casual gamer, Rs 49,999 is too much to spend on the ROG Phone 3. But if you still love the AMOLED screen with a 120Hz screen, powerful performance and excellent camera, I would suggest getting the OnePlus 8 Pro or Galaxy S20 Plus. By the way, both phones also support wireless charging and IP water resistance, something the ROG Phone 3 lacks.
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