Snake, Angry Birds, Candy Crush -- mobile gaming has always been a thing. However, with more and more people flocking to eSports titles like PUBG and Fortnite, it wasn't going to take long before gaming OEMs took notice. Asus is hoping to get in on the mobile eSports craze with its new ROG phone, a 6-inch mobile gaming behemoth that offers unprecedented performance and a host of compelling accessories. While the company is being tight-lipped about pricing and availability, it's sharing all the other pertinent details. And from the looks of things, Asus has a certified beast on its hands.
If the ROG Zephyrus had a teenie, tiny baby, you'd get the ROG phone. The rear panel screams gamer with its shiny, angular design complete with copper venting and the massive backlit ROG emblem. And just like any gaming laptop worth its salt, you can customize the colors and effects via Asus' Aura Sync software. You get a pair of dual cameras, a 12-megapixel shooter and an 8MP cam with a 120-degree wide angle lens that lends itself to group shots.
The front of the phone features a 6.0-inch AMOLED screen with an 18:9 aspect ratio, 2160 x 1080 resolution, a 90Hz refresh rate, HDR support, and an impressive 10,000:1 contrast ratio. It's impressive but still falls short of the Razer Phone's 5.7-inch 2560 x 1440 Sharp IGZO IPS LCD display, which boasts a higher pixel density and a faster 120Hz refresh rate. But the screen of the ROG phone is certainly no slouch, and is protected by curved Corning Gorilla glass.
Similar to a gaming laptop, the ROG phone has a ton of ports, especially for a modern smartphone. Along the left, you have your port cover concealing a dual-SIM slot, a volume rocker and power button. On the right, you have a custom USB Type-C port which supports Asus' proprietary HyperCharge technology, which promises 60 percent charge in 30 minutes with the included AC adapter. Along the bottom, you'll find another USB Type-C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
At 7 ounces, 6.3 x 3 x 0.3-inches, the ROG phone is a tad bit heavier than the Razer Phone, (6.9 ounces, 6.2 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches), its direct competition. But there's a good reason for that extra heft.
The ROG is the definition of a flagship smartphone. Asus is coming out swinging, cramming a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC clocked at 2.96GHz (instead of the standard 2.8GHz) into the ROG phone's relatively slim frame. For a detailed look at the Snapdragon 845 SoC, check our sister site, AnandTech. You get 8GB of RAM and a massive 512GB of onboard storage, which negates the need for a microSD slot, although we still want one. We just can't get the thought of expanding the storage to a full terabyte, out of our minds.
Although an overclocked Snapdragon chip is cool, Asus really makes a statement with GameCool vapor-chamber cooling system. A first-of-its-kind, 3D Vapor chamber allows for the increased speed of the SoC in the ROG phone and provides 16 times larger surface area for heat dissipation. But in case that's not enough cooling, Asus is also providing a detachable AeroActive cooler for an extra cooling boost. The cooler attaches along the sides of the phone connecting to that side-mounted USB Type-C port.
Asus equipped its ROG phone with stereo speakers, a 3.5mm headphone jack and three programmable ultrasonic touch sensors dubbed AirTriggers. Two of those sensors are optimized as left/right triggers at the top of the display for landscape-mode gaming, while the third is designed for use in portrait mode.
All three sensors are fully programmable to activate any available on-screen action. Since the AirTriggers use ultrasonic technology, they only need a feather-light touch. Asus says they need just 20g to actuate, compared to other touch-sensitive sensors that need up to four times more force. Finally, an advanced haptic actuator provides a strong force-feedback system for a more immersive gameplay.
Some interesting accessories will be available for the ROG phone, including a TwinView dock for dual-screen handheld mode; a mobile desktop dock for desktop-style gaming; and a Gamevice controller with a WiGig dock for big-screen gaming. The TwinView dock features an identical screen to the ROG phone, along with a front-facing quad-speaker system, two extra physical trigger buttons, a dual-haptic force-feedback engine, an enhanced cooling system, and a high-capacity 6000mAh battery pack.
Similar to Samsung's DeX dock, the mobile desktop dock for the ROG phone lets you connect the phone to a 4K monitor, mouse and keyboard. The phone can also be used as an auxiliary display, hooked up to wired gigabit LAN and used to drive a 5.1-channel surround-sound system via the SP/DIF output.
Finally, 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.
Other features of the ROG phone include Asus' Aura RGB lighting and Aura Sync support, plus Asus HyperCharge direct-charge technology for faster and cooler battery charging.
According to Asus, there is a special X mode, which with a single tap frees up all background RAM and dedicates it to games, while at the same time optimizing game-data processing performance, and maximizing the efficiency of the AeroActive cooler. The X Mode also prevents RAM-eating and battery-sapping app activity, based on a customizable list of apps.
As with Razer's gaming phone, while the hardware looks impressive, our chief concern is the Android ecosystem. Other gaming-focused hardware on Google's platform has failed to gain serious traction thanks in large part to a limited number of compelling, AAA titles. But with Steam Link becoming increasingly popular (though it's still in Beta), PC gamers familiar with Asus' ROG brand may find a new reason to opt for a gaming-focused smartphone to play their PC titles when away from their laptop or desktop.
|Processor||2.96Ghz octa-core Qualcomm® Snapdragon 845|
|GPU||Qualcomm® Adreno 630|
|UI||ROG Gaming UI|
|Display||6.0“ 18:9 (2160x1080) AMOLED 90Hz refresh rate with 1ms pixel response time108.6% DCI-P3 color gamut10000:1 contrast ratioCapacitive touchscreen with 10-point multi-touch (supports Glove Touch)Discrete image processing chip support HDR display – gaming, video & images|
|Dimensions||158.8 x 76.2 x 8.6mm|
|Memory||LPDDR4 8GB RAM|
|Storage||UFS 2.1, 128GB / 512GB|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, e-compass, proximity sensor, Hall sensor, ambient-light sensor, fingerprint sensor, gyroscope, 2 x ultrasonic AirTrigger sensors|
|Wireless connectivity||802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ad 2x2 MIMO; Wi-Fi Direct and Wi-Fi Certified WiGig® 802.11ad wireless display supportBluetooth® 5.0|
|GPS||Supports GPS, aGPS, Glonass, BeiDou|
|I/O ports||Side: Custom USB-CSupports USB 3.1 Gen 1 / DP 1.4 (4K) / fast charging (QC 3.0 +QC 4.0/PD 3.0) (15W) ASUS HyperCharge direct chargingBottom: USB-CSupports USB 2.0 / fast charging (QC3.0/PD3.0) (20W) / Direct Charge3.5mm headphone jack|
|Main Camera||12MP + 8MP (120° wide-angle)|
|Speakers||Dual front-facing stereo speakers with smart amplifier24-bit/192KHz Hi-Res AudioDTS Headphone:X™ 7.1 virtual surround-soundQualcomm® aptX™ High-definition Bluetooth® wireless audio|