ROG PHone 2

Asus ROG Phone 2 Review: Powerful but at What Cost?

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With the rise of graphically intense mobile gaming, the industry has finally started to have a grasp of where it’s heading in terms of gaming smartphones. It started with phones packing higher refresh rate displays and bigger speakers like the Razer phone but that came at the cost of literally everything else. Furthermore, those first generation gaming phones weren’t even faster than the usual flagship phones which made them even harder to recommend. However, after games like PUBG mobile and Fortnite became more mainstream, companies started pushing out accessories and features specifically designed to enhance the gaming experience on mobile phones. For example, the original ROG Phone had a bunch of features including innovative cooling techniques and secondary display attachment to differentiate it from the rest of the pack.

The growth we have seen during the past couple of years in the mobile gaming market has been unprecedented. Literally everyone is playing PUBG on mobile these days with Call of Duty Mobile also making moves into the market to be the next big thing. This has obviously alerted most mobile phone companies like Xiaomi, Asus and Huawei to capitalize on the growth and make some gaming-centric devices. The all new Asus ROG Phone 2 is just another product of that industry-wide change. It improves upon what made the original ROG Phone so great and really tries to leave no stones unturned. The ROG Phone 2 is a megalomaniac’s dream with raw power and aggression oozing out of the soul of this gaming beast.

Design

The Asus ROG Phone 2 straight up looks like something out of the transformers. It is the ultimate expression of what has been established as the ‘gaming aesthetic’ over the years. The sharply designed steel chassis is sandwiched by Gorilla Glass to give the phone just that extra bit of premium feel. The back of the phone is dominated by color-changing circuit lines, the logo and the upgraded Air Trigger II which is just a fancy name for a couple of touch-sensitive shoulder buttons.

ROG Phone 2
Image: Future

It’s almost impossible to find anything that is even remotely round at the back. Even the cameras and the flash have some pretty straight edges around them. The consistency in aesthetic by Asus is, honestly, commendable even though it might not be something that everyone would necessarily enjoy. However, the ROG Phone 2 does feel quite heavy in the hand as a result of cramming so much into it and thus, can sometimes hinder the overall experience. Whether that is a trade-off that you’re willing to make or not is entirely up to you.

Display

The front of the ROG Phone 2 is all glory, thanks to the 6.59 inch Full HD+ (2340 x 1080) AMOLED Display. However, what sets this display apart from the rest of the pack is the refresh rate and the response time. Cranked up from the previous generation, the ROG Phone 2 screen is capable of displaying content at 120Hz with an impressively low response time of only a single millisecond. Furthermore, the touch response time has also been given a buff up to a whopping 240Hz (the first of its kind) meaning that the ROG Phone 2 is probably the most fluid and responsive smartphone ever made.

ROG PHone 2 screen
Image: The Verge

In addition to that, the display is also capable of reproducing up to 108% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut and has the added benefit of 10-bit HDR certification making it one of the most colour accurate and pleasant displays to look at in the market.

Asus has left some edges and bezels in there, going against the current 2019 trend to “prevent accidental touches” and that does, indeed, free up some space to rest your hands and finger while gaming. However, Asus has not just left that space unused as the top and bottom bezels are utilized for some seriously loud dual-speakers. The display also has a fingerprint sensor under it which has been pretty consistent at recognizing and registering fingerprints. Overall, it seems like Asus has gone all out for the display and has made some pretty good use of leftover space as well.

Performance

We’ve been bombarded by ROG Phone 2 rumours and leaks over the past few weeks and those did eventually turn out to be true. Packing the newly-announced Snapdragon 855 Plus and 12 GB of RAM, the ROG Phone 2 is probably the fastest Android phone out right now. While the Snapdragon 855 Plus is essentially just an overclocked 855, it does still provide a significant boost over its predecessor and the difference is actually noticeable in real life. In addition to that, much like the OnePlus 7 Pro, the ROG Phone 2 also packs 128/512GB of UFS 3.0 storage making the transfer of data internally an absolute breeze.

ROG Phone 2
Image: Lowyat

One could say that all of these specs are overkill and they would be right as literally no game out right now can fully use all this power. However, future proofing is a thing and with video game technology progressing at the speed of light, it wouldn’t be long until something really demanding comes out. However, if you’re just playing PUBG Mobile, the ROG Phone 2 will never break a sweat running the game at max settings with its eyes closed. Thanks to the extra attention to detail by Asus for the thermal management with a vapor cooling chamber and heat sink, you can expect the ROG Phone 2 to stay cool even during the most intense gaming sessions.

Battery Life

Asus has gone over the board with the battery as the ROG Phone 2 packs a massive 6,000 mAh battery. This is almost double the size of the battery on an iPhone XS Max which has the biggest iPhone battery ever. Packing such a gigantic battery into a relatively normal-sized package is honestly a seriously impressive feat and Asus deserves all the credit and applause in the world for it. Furthermore, the battery is capable of charging at 30 Watts meaning that it can get over 4,000 mAh of juice in only an hour.

ROG Phone 2
Image: Future

If you’re unable to grasp the reality of how massive this battery is, let me give you some perspective. We played PUBG at full settings on the ROG Phone 2 for over 7 hours straight and at the end it still had a little bit of juice left in it. If that isn’t impressive to you then I don’t know what is. Furthermore, we also have an additional Type-C port which also supports fast charging and can be used as a display port making the ROG Phone 2 an absolute delight to charge and use while gaming.

Camera

One of the areas where most gaming phones have suffered in the past has been the camera quality. Yes, the focus is on gaming and camera quality shouldn’t matter in a gaming device but at the end of the day, it is still a smartphone and most people use their smartphones to take photos. Gladly, Asus has gone against the trend of making subpar cameras on gaming smartphones and has come up with a pretty balanced solution. The ROG Phone 2 comes with a standard dual-camera setup at the back consisting of a 48 MP primary and a 13 MP ultra-wide sensor. The camera setup is the same as the Asus Zenfone 6Z so you could expect some pretty solid camera performance under most lighting conditions.

ROG Phone 2 camera
Image: Future

The selfie camera, on the other hand, is a 24 MP sensor and does a good job of taking some sharp and bright selfies. However, while it is indeed much better than most other gaming phones, the Asus ROG Phone 2 is nowhere near a modern flagship in terms of camera performance. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. In 2019, you don’t need a flagship grade camera to take some good photos and the Asus ROG Phone 2 will serve you well in most scenarios.

The Accessories

The ROG Phone 2 can make use of a couple of extra accessories that will certainly enhance the gaming experience. These are also what really set the ROG Phone 2 apart from the rest. Thanks to the additional USB Type-C port and a massive battery, the ROG Phone 2 has infinite potential for even more accessories from third party manufacturers.

ROG PHone 2 game
Image: Future

Most of these accessories work great in real life, like the AeroActive Cooler ll which decreases the temperature of the phone by over 5 degrees. The fan-favourite TwinView Dock secondary display also makes a return along with a 5,000 mAh battery and a cooling turbo fan. Other than that, the ROG Kunai GamePad is a great addition for people who aren’t really accustomed to gaming on a touch screen and need a full controller-like experience. You can also use the Pro Dock if you want to take your gaming to a bigger screen.

Verdict

Overall, the ROG Phone 2 improves upon every aspect of its predecessor. Asus has cut no corners and the phone doesn’t make sacrifices in any department apart from the camera. However, even the presumably ‘worse’ camera is pretty good and performs well in most conditions. In terms of speed and fluidity, nothing comes close to the ROG Phone 2 and paired with the massive battery, it means that the fun would never stop. However, all of this does come at a cost.

Is the ROG Phone 2 worth the $1000 price tag when other gaming phones like the Xiaomi Black Shark 2 cost way less? Furthermore, we also have flagship phones like the OnePlus 7 Pro and the Galaxy S10 that are fast and also have amazing cameras. With no game actually being able to make use of all that raw power of the ROG Phone 2, justifying the price tag is pretty hard. However, there is nothing else like it in the market and that’s what makes it special. At the end of the day, the Asus ROG Phone 2 is a great gaming device but it just needs that little bit of extra support from developers to really make it supreme.

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