Asus ROG Phone First Impressions Review

Smartphone manufacturers have been trying to target the niche “gaming” audience with devices like the Razer Phone, Nubia Red Magic and Xiaomi Black Shark to name a few. Today, Asus has launched the ROG Phone in India, which was first unveiled at Computex 2018, earlier this year. Priced at Rs 69,999, the smartphone will be available exclusively via Flipkart starting today (November 29).

Built for serious gamers, the ROG Phone comes with a 3D vapor-chamber cooling system, which is world’s first for a smartphone. Asus has also unveiled a bunch of accessories to help you make the most of the gaming experience. I had a chance to spend some time with the ROG Phone ahead of the launch, and here are my first impressions.

ROG Phone Design

The Asus ROG Phone looks like any other smartphone. The front is dominated by a 6-inch full-HD+ AMOLED display, but you still have the thick bezels along the top and bottom. To give the smartphone a different identity, Asus has added two front-firing speakers, one above the display, and one below it. They have gold accents to adding to the premium look. The phone’s front camera is an 8-megapixel shooter.

At the bottom you have the USB Type-C port and a 3.5mm audio socket, whereas the power / sleep button, and volume rocker is placed on the right. Along the left, you have the SIM card tray and a dual USB Type-C port to charge the phone when using in landscape mode. One may say that it seems pointless to have two ports, but when you have the gaming accessories, such as the gamepad connected, and the phone is running out of battery, this will help in distraction-free gaming.

Turn to the back, and that’s where you will admire the efforts Asus has put to give the ROG Phone a hardcore look. Made from glass and metal, the top half houses a 12-megapixel + 8-megapixel dual-camera setup with LED flash, and a rhombus shaped fingerprint scanner. The center half houses the ROG logo which comes with Aura Sync RGB backlighting effects. Towards the right, you have two vents with golden accents, which is where the 3D vapor-chamber cooling system is to keep the smartphone running cool, even after long gaming hours.

Just like HTC and Pixel 2 smartphones that come with squeeze feature, Asus has also added similar implementation. Called ultrasonic AirTrigger touch sensors, squeezing the phone from the sides clears cache memory and turns on high performance mode for offering a smooth gaming experience.

ROG Phone Specifications

Another highlight of the ROG Phone is the AMOLED display (18:9 aspect ratio) with HDR support, and 90Hz refresh rate for smooth visuals, and it has a response time to 1ms. Now, one may argue that the Razer Phone has a slightly higher refresh rate of 120Hz, but that is on an LCD display, whereas Asus has done it with an AMOLED display, which is commendable.

At the heart of the ROG Phone runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 octa-core SoC paired with up to 8GB of RAM and up to 512GB onboard storage. The base variant of the phone will come with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. To keep things ticking, Asus has also bundled a massive 4,000mAh battery with Asus HyperCharge technology that can charge from empty to 60 percent in 33 minutes. Asus claims that on full charge, the battery can offer up to 7 hours of Wi-Fi gaming. The ROG Phone runs on Android 8.1 Oreo with Asus ZEN UI on top.

ROG Phone Accessories

Now, talking about accessories, there are four of them. There is an AeroActive Cooler to keep the smartphone cool during long gaming hours, and it comes complimentary with the smartphone.

Second is a TwinView Dock, which brings dual screen in the handheld mode. Basically, the game running on the smartphone is mirrored at the bottom display (second screen), whereas all your smartphone functions remain on the top screen, which is nothing but your smartphone. It is priced at Rs 21,999.

The third is Mobile Desktop Dock, which lets you put the smartphone on the dock and connect it with a monitor or a TV for that big screen experience. The dock comes with a number of ports, such as a USB Type-C port, USB A ports, RJ 45 Ethernet port, a display port, and a 3.5mm socket for mic and earphone. You can buy this for Rs 12,999.

Lastly, you have the Asus WiGig Dock, which comes with a receiver that hooks on to a TV, priced at Rs 5,499. It uses Wi-Fi 802.11 ac to wirelessly stream games from the phone to a large TV. It is complemented with joystick controls that you connect to your ROG Phone, and it will set you back by Rs 5,999.

I tried it and the experience was good. I did not notice any stuttering or frame drops. However, the phone got extremely warm after playing continuously for a prolonged period.

Final words

I must say, the ROG Phone is one of the more impressive smartphones I’ve recently seen. Having tried the Razer Phone, the ROG Phone does have a lot going for it. Serious gamers will appreciate the efforts Asus had put in the product. But when it comes to practicality, it’s a whole different scene altogether.

Yes, the ROG Phone does bring some innovation to the table, and the 90Hz refresh rate sounds good too. But the main question is, are there any games that support refresh rate above 60fps? Even if there are, there may only be a couple of them. So even if the hardware is capable, you won’t get the actual experience that you should just yet. Sure, as more manufacturers design gaming phones, and more users buy them, it will give incentive for game developers to optimize games for such phones. But till then, it is just a technological advancement that may be too far ahead of its time.