While bizarre, ASUS’s announcement of the ROG Phone actually makes a lot of sense. It produces top-notch gaming equipment on one of the world’s leading gaming brands, and also produces an entire family of smartphones under its Zenphone smartphone brand.
Given both the explosion of mobile games and gamers, and the rise of gaming-centric mobile devices like the Razer Phone and Xiaomi Blackshark, ASUS might just be the industry leader in this new market segment.
Instead of treating its gaming-related features as an afterthought, ASUS’s ROG phone looks, feels and works as a 2018 smartphone should, and like a modern gaming device would, all at the same time.
Right from its form-factor, the ROG Phone’s gaming pedigree is apparent. With a bold, angular design, the ROG Phone has a minimal forehead and chin, in order to accommodate astoundingly loud stereo front-firing speakers. It also sports ROG’s iconic Aura Sync lighting on the ROG logo on its back.
Pressure-sensitive AirTriggers reminiscent of console shoulder trigger inputs are located on both corners of the phone, allowing gamers to hold the phone in a more comfortable position, while being able to view more of the screen.
Squeezing the pressure-sensitive midsection of the phone also enables X-Mode, which clears up RAM and prevents additional RAM activities, giving you all the juice within for your gaming activities. Notifications and calls also are temporarily blocked, ensuring you never have a fit the next time someone calls you while you were on a killing streak.
While for I/O the phone has a USB C and 3.5mm port on its bottom, it also has twin USB C ports on its side. This allows users to charge the phone ergonomically whilst gaming, preventing USB cables from affecting your grip.
Included in the box is a detachable AeroActive cooler, that plugs into the twin USB C ports. It clamps down unobtrusively down the middle of the phone in landscape orientation, and uses a fan to force cool air over the back of the phone. Apart from providing cooling, the cooler also allows you to plug in your USB cable and headphones on to the long side of the phone.
The phone is also the first to feature GameCool: a 3D vapour-chamber cooling system that provides a cooling surface 6 times larger than standard heat pipe cooling systems. A copper heat spreader and carbon cooling pads on the circuit board ensure no hint of thermal throttling ever happens.
The screen presents the brightest and most vivid visuals with its AMOLED display. With a 90Hz refresh rate and a 1ms pixel response time, gaming action is kept blur-free. The screen also has a 108% DCI-P3 wide colour gamut, and a 10,000:1 DCI-P3 contrast ratio.
At the heart of the phone is a re-architectured Snapdragon 845 processor that has been speed-binned to sustained clock speeds of 2.96GHz. For graphics, it sports the Adreno 630GPU, and also has 8 GB of RAM.
The ROG Phone clocked in at 304,184, outperforming its main competitors the Razer Phone (213,095) and Xiaomi Blackshark (271,024) in initial benchmarks on Antutu. The Samsung S9 and Apple iPhone X also lagged behind at 265,083 and 242,865 respectively.
That’s not to say it lacks any bells or whistles any self-respecting 2018 flagship smartphone should have. It sports the best dual front-facing camera array in ASUS’s Zenphone lineup. For the best network performance, it packs Cat 16 LTE and the latest Gigabit-class 60GHz 802.11ad WiFi.
ASUS clearly had it planned for a long time coming, perhaps holding out to see the flaws in designs by first movers Razer and Xiaomi. The ROG Phone features a wide array of peripherals to appeal to a wide variety of gamers. A PSP-like controller allows players to expand screen real estate. This presents limitless possibilities: stream your gameplay live, watch another video, or even play two games at once. ASUS ROG will open source APK to game developers in order to take advantage of the second screen.
A desktop dock is also available that allows gamers to view their gameplay on a larger screen while taking advantage of their keyboard and mouse for a more precise and responsive gaming experience.
Pricing and availability of the ROG Phone is yet to be announced. Stay tuned for our hands-on review of the ROG Phone at VR Zone.