Asus created a new segment of phones last year with the ROG phone that offered top-notch specifications, a high refresh rate display and certain gaming-specific features. This year, the deal is even better with upgraded peripherals and lower initial pricing. The Asus ROG Phone 2 is the newest edition to the gaming smartphone segment, a segment looked at as niche devices that are made only for certain audiences. The device has the specifications to rival the top flagship smartphones, with the pricing of just Rs 37,999, the device is set to bring thunder to the current market of flagships. The new pricing is a remarkable step down from the pricing of the first edition of the ROG phone that was released last year. We’ve used the device for a while now and here’s our review on the Asus ROG Phone 2.
The design of the Asus ROG Phone 2 is very bold and a good place to start talking about. While it is evident that the RGB lighting on a phone or a laptop has no impact on the actual performance of the games on the device, most gamers still want them, the Asus ROG Phone 2 delivers just that. The ROG logo on the back of the device is fully RGB capable and comes with different styles to impress the gaming-inspired buyers. The device is on the heavier side given the massive battery that is housed internally. The Asus ROG Phone 2 doesn’t look very different from the previous generation, it has the trademark look and is highlighted by the camera bump and the heat vents on the back panel of the device. The back of the device is a hybrid of glass and metal and there are lines in chrome color that run throughout adding a unique highlight.
While the smartphone world is moving away from the notches and using innovative ways of having a front camera, Asus ROG Phone 2 unapologetically houses the front camera on the top. The chin and the forehead are both pretty significant on the device to ensure an easy hold for gamers without false touch activations. The device also makes space for the dual front-firing speakers on the chin and the forehead which heavily adds to the gaming experience. The left of the device has the SIM card tray while the right houses two triggers along with the power button and the volume rocker.
The connector port for the accessories is also on the left side of the device, the top of the Asus ROG Phone 2 houses the microphone while the bottom comes with a Type-C port and a 3.5mm headset jack with an additional microphone. While the device looks very different from the 2019 smartphones, the choices have been made thoughtfully considering the user base and use case.
The Asus ROG Phone 2 comes with a 6.59-inch FullHD+ panel, this display has a refresh rate of 120Hz. This isn’t very surprising as the original Asus ROG Phone was one of the first 120Hz refresh rate panels in a smartphone, however, this year, the Asus ROG Phone 2 uses an AMOLED panel making it the highest refresh rate AMOLED panel in a smartphone. While the display doesn’t have the highest resolution like the Samsung Flagships, the refresh rate is much higher than the closest competition which actually makes a difference for the gamers. The display has a pixel density of 391ppi and has a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. The increased frame rate is very much noticeable and is a pleasure to use, although I was personally used to a 144Hz panel on my laptop and having tested even higher refresh rates on monitors, the Asus ROG Phone 2 was a pleasure to use.
Despite the insane refresh rate on the Asus ROG Phone 2, there are very few games that support more than 60FPS on mobile, we tried out PUBG and the recently released Call of Duty but they both support 60FPS. Tencent’s Game for Peace was one of the games we tested that supported 120FPS and it was eye candy and it was pretty difficult to go back to low refresh rate gaming on the device after feasting our eyes to this. The brightness on the device is pretty good and we never struggled in the daylight, however, the extreme reflective display does add a little to the difficulty sometimes.
Performance and Software
Talking about the performance, the Asus ROG Phone 2 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus SoC and comes with Adreno 640 GPU, these are top of the notch specifications for any smartphone in the market right now. The unit we received had 128GB internal storage and 8GB of RAM, however, for those who want the ultimate experience, there is a variant with 12GB and 512GB internal storage as well. Our unit had enough horsepower to handle every application and game without any issue and we were able to switch between multiple applications, Adobe Premiere Rush and even a couple of games that were still retained in the memory. The gaming experience on the Asus ROG Phone 2 is very enjoyable, the triggers on the Asus ROG Phone 2 are pretty good and work very well. They require a little more pressure to activate than the ones that we’ve seen on the Nubia Red Magic 3 thus avoiding accidental triggers and offering better haptic feedback. There is a dedicated gaming mode that optimizes the performance of the game automatically if it is turned on.
The Asus ROG Phone 2 comes with the Armoury Crate application on the smartphone, this was previously seen on the Asus ROG laptops as well and was used to display live system information including the CPU usage, GPU usage, and the memory usage. The X-mode in the smartphone helps reduce battery draining which can be customized for a list of applications. The Game Genie application works inside the games to offer several features such as Air Trigger, an option to enable or disable calls, on-screen information, and other features.
The application also allows you to stream as a live-cast to popular platforms such as Twitch and YouTube. The X Mode is the performance enhancement mode in the Asus ROG Phone 2 that optimizes the CPU core performance, in the games, there is also a toolbar on the side that allows you to activate options like AirTrigger customizations and speeding up the Asus ROG Phone 2. There is also an option to record the gameplay without using any external hardware or applications, this feature is very helpful as it optimally records the gameplay without wasting too much of the computing resources like most external applications.
You can also view the phone system info in real-time and block calls and messages on the device for a smoother gaming experience. We threw multiple games at the device and never saw the FPS counter drop below 56-58, the games included Asphalt 9, PUBG Mobile, Call of Duty and Game for Peace. The device also manages heating pretty well without the external fan attachment accessory and we could only sense a little heat in the vent region after playing games for extended periods. There was no thermal throttling on the device despite extended hours of gaming which was commendable given the power put out by the Asus ROG Phone 2. The device also comes with stereo front-firing speakers that are one of the loudest seen on a smartphone, the massive speakers output clear audio at loud volumes and help grab quite a stare. The stereo separation is good enough to distinguish the footsteps from the right or left allowing you to play the games even without an earphone.
The Asus ROG Phone 2 comes with Android 9 Pie out of the box and you can choose between the ZenUI or the ROG UI options. The ROG UI does need more attention and work from the developers and looked like a prototype gaming device with work in progress. The notification bar had mixed up colors and often ended up with dark text on dark backgrounds making it illegible. The notification tiles were not optimized as well and offered a subpar experience.
The camera on the Asus ROG Phone 2 is pretty good. Most people don’t expect a gaming smartphone to sport a good camera but the Asus ROG Phone 2 hits the checkbox even on this one. The camera on the Asus ROG Phone 2 is pretty similar to the Asus 6Z, the primary sensor has a resolution of 48MP with an f/1.8 aperture while the secondary 13MP sensor has an f/2.4 aperture. The dual camera setup on the rear works well together to reproduce clear images with crisp details. The color accuracy is pretty good and images are not over saturated. The device also comes with a decent portrait mode and clicks good pictures even in the dark. The video ability of the device ranges from 4K UHD at 60 FPS to FullHD at 240FPS and HD at 480FPS. The front sensor is a 24MP sensor with an f/2.2 lens, the selfies taken on the device are pretty good and produces accurate skin tones. The front camera records in FullHD at 30FPS, the images look very natural without over softening and beautification being applied. The front camera of the device also takes decent shots in low lighting, while there are other smartphones with a better camera in the price segment, the device holds up pretty good given the primary target being gaming.
The Asus ROG Phone 2 comes with a massive 6000mAh battery making it one of the largest batteries seen on a flagship device. This battery is enough for multiple days in the 60Hz mode without much gaming, however, even at 90Hz or 120Hz the Asus ROG Phone 2 manages a very good battery backup from the device. Even with heavy usage the device lasts about 2 days on 90Hz and about a day and a half on 120Hz. The charging on the device is equally fast with support for Quick Charge 4.0 that can charge at up to 30W, the full charge of the device using a certified charger takes as less as two hours which is very surprising given the size of the battery.
The Asus ROG Phone 2 is a pretty good phone for gamers, there is little competition for the Asus ROG Phone 2 in terms of the performance or display. The build quality of the device is pretty good as well, the powerful speakers offer a unique experience and the huge battery allows for indefinite gaming. The device also has decent optics for non-gamers, the software on the device could take huge improvement and we hope Asus is already working on it.
The device is perhaps the best option for a gamer, however, for a non-gamer, the value offered is significantly lesser as most of the features cannot be completely enjoyed. The device gives tough competition to the OnePlus 7 Pro and the recently launched OnePlus 7T at the price range.
Inputs by Chetan Bhawani
The title here being “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner” is apt here for the fact that gamers will easily relate to it and this phone is clearly for gamers. It is a winner in this category and it clearly should be, as the company surprised us with the pricing to begin with. The ROG Phone was premium-priced and that too at a point when smartphone gaming in India was not so very picked up. Now, it is all about games like PUBG Mobile, Call of Duty Mobile, and there are many more role playing games as well being made with the best of the graphics in them. If given a choice for a gaming smartphone, I’d look nowhere else right now since the ROG Phone II is priced so well, and there is no major compromise in the cameras as well, so if you are considering a gaming phone that still holds enough value in the other segments, you could easily look at this one.