Asus ROG Phone 2 REVIEW
Asus ROG Phone 2 REVIEW
In a market where premium smartphones can somewhat blend into each other here’s a gaming-oriented beaut that surprises at every turn, writes PAT PILCHER.
As a reviewer, you can become jaded by gadgets, gizmos and other widgets, yet sometimes I’ll pick up a piece of tech and be utterly astonished at how polished, otherworldly and slick it is.
This was definitely the case with Asus’s latest powerhouse smartphone designed for gamers, the ROG Phone 2.
Asus’s ROG (Republic of Gamers) phone is their second entry in what is a rapidly growing niche that is populated by a small (but growing) number of players. These include Xiaomi whose sub-brand, Black Shark, already consists of two phones. ZTE also has a sub-brand, Red, with the Magic 3. Then there’s OnePlus with the OnePlus 7 Pro, which has a strong gaming focus thanks to its 90Hz display.
As the gaming phone market becomes an increasingly crowded place, Asus is taking no chances with the ROG Phone 2. They’ve made sure that specs-wise it leaves most other flagships for dead.
AMOLED AT 120Hz
The killer feature with the ROG Phone 2 is its sizeable 6.59-inch AMOLED display. Where most other gaming phones have a 90Hz display, Asus cranked theirs all the way up to 120Hz, which gives games (and everything else) a silky-smooth look and feel. Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset is also under the hood and has been overclocked to 2.96GHz.
Complimenting the ROG’s blisteringly fast silicon is a generous 12GB of DDR 4x RAM, which makes for effortless multitasking. On the storage front, media magpies will be pleased to note that Asus went to town, kitting the ROG Phone 2 with a whopping 512GB of storage (a 1TB version is also coming). If all that wasn’t enough, the ROG Phone 2 also sports a positively mahoosive 6000mAh battery with support for 30W Quick Charge 4.0.
It isn’t just all about spec porn, though. Asus has kitted the ROG Phone 2 out with some really nifty tools and tweaks specifically aimed at gamers. These range from Air-Triggers and squeezy sides for even more control as well as an overclocked X gaming mode which blocks distracting notifications and keeps gaming buttery smooth. With all that power under its hood, it’s little wonder that the phone gets hot when running demanding game titles. To get around this, Asus has even included a nifty clip-on cooling fan.
The phone looks like a prop out of a sci-fi flick thanks to a slick glowing, colour-changing Asus ROG logo on its back and an exoskeleton-like protective case.
It’s also ginormous. This is due to its 6.59-inch screen, which makes it 1.3cm taller than the iPhone 11 Pro Max. It’s also a bit of a chubber at 9.5mm. Still, given the whopping battery and all the hot-rodded bits crammed into its interior, a slightly generous waistline is only to be expected.
Its front is nearly all display, apart from the top and bottom, which houses stereo speakers and a selfie camera. Flipping the ROG Phone 2 around reveals a curved glass rear, light-up ROG logo and camera, complete with Tron-like reflective pinstripes, which gives it a futuristic look and feel. While its underside sports a USB-C charging port, there’s also another behind a rubber bung on its left-hand side.
This allows for landscape charging and supports a range of accessories (more on these later). The volume and power buttons are on its right-hand side. Asus also earn massive brownie points for including a 3.5mm headphone jack. Unlike other flagship phones, It lacks waterproofing, which is surprising given that specs-wise, about the only other thing missing is a kitchen sink.
So, what is it like for gaming? I liked that when it is held in a landscape position, its left and right edges act as ‘Air-Triggers’. These proved to be madly useful for FPS titles. Give the ROG Phone 2 a squeeze and you can fire up X Mode, which causes the RGB logo on the back to illuminate as well as overclocking the CPU. One feature that is bound to appeal to gamers is what Asus has called the “Armory Crate” app. It acts as Games Lobby and allows users to set up customised game profiles, and tune the display’s refresh rate, CPU speeds, audio and screen sensitivity on a per-game basis.
Along with the ROG Phone 2 loaner review device, I was also sent a Kunai gamepad case. It cleverly provides a wired game controller for the Rog Phone 2 and can act as a wireless game controller for PCs when used with the supplied USB dongle. It’s an ingenious accessory. Twin thumbstick controllers also slide on and off (like with the Nintendo Switch). For gaming, it made titles such as GTA a hell of a lot more playable. There are also a few nifty accessories in the box. As well as the exoskeleton bumper case, there was also a cooling fan, which cleverly does a double act as a kickstand. Even better still, owners of the original ROG Phone will also find that some (but not all) of its accessories (such as the HDMI dock), also work with its successor.
So, what are the standouts with the ROG Phone 2? Design-wise, it looks like something that fell out of a time warp from the future. Looks aside, it’s a pleasure to hold and use and packs a satisfying amount of heft.
The other standout is its OLED screen, which is easily the best I’ve seen on any smartphone for quite some time. With a whopping 120Hz refresh rate, it’s the only OLED phone display offering such a crazily high refresh rate. Also baked into the phone’s settings is a crazy amount of control over its screen. You can tweak saturation, refresh rates, brightness and much more. Its display has a 2340 x 1080 resolution, and it also supports 10-bit HDR and delivers an impressive a 500,000:1 contrast ratio. Unsurprisingly, it looked super crisp, punchy and vivid while offering up silky-smooth gaming.
Last (but by no means least) there’s also Asus’s Zen Android UI (ROG Edition), which lends the ROG Phone 2 a minimalistic, clean and futuristic look. Better still, it also lacks the usual clutter and cruft that gums up so many other android phones.
The enormous 6000mAh of battery saw the phone keep on going for just over 48-hours with light use. While your mileage will vary, depending on how many hours you spend gaming, its battery life is definitely nothing to sneeze at. Charging isn’t a big deal though as its 30W HyperCharger can charge it to 50 percent in just 30 minutes. That said, I would have liked to see support for wireless charging.
The ROG Phone 2’s dual-cameras are the same as what you’d find on Asus’s Zenfone 6. Photography worked like a charm, even if it lacked a telephoto camera such as found on Huawei’s P30 Pro. Shooting hi-res photos and videos isn’t a problem. Its rear shooter packs a 48MP IMX586 sensor. Then there’s a 13MP ultrawide sensor. Its front sensor is an impressive 24MP. Photo and video footage impressed under daylight conditions, with snaps able to be captured in either 12 or 48MP resolutions. Frustratingly, the Auto-HDR function isn’t available at 48-megapixels.
That said, there are plenty of different shooting modes available. These range from Auto, Portrait, Pro, Night and Motion Tracking (which can track objects as they move across the scene you’re shooting). Photos were richly detailed. Equally impressive, the cameras also did an excellent job handling challenging lighting. I did find that while artificial light did trip up Auto mode, Night mode worked brilliantly, although not quite as good as Huawei’s P30 Pro. Video can be recorded in 60fps at 4K, and I was also pleased to see image stabilisation working across all video resolutions. The front camera can produce sharp videos, but lacks autofocus.
On the audio front, there are four noise-cancelling mics for intelligible calls, and the headphone jack allows gamers to use their favourite gaming headsets without a dongle. The in-built stereo speakers also belted out some decent volume.
If you’re a gamer and after a powerhouse phone, the ROG Phone 2 has a lot to offer. Add in the cooler and game controller accessories (plus compatibility with the previous-gen ROG Phone’s accessories), and there’s plenty to like. The lack of wireless charging and waterproofing may give some pause for thought. Still, its monster specs, gaming performance and stellar battery life are second to none.