Gamers are a difficult breed to please. These are folks who will pay a big sum of money — sometimes almost as much as an entry-level laptop — for a mere 10% increase in performance. In short, they are always dissatisfied with their current setup. But this coterie was generally limited to playing games on the PC or a console.
But now, with the influx of Battle Royale games on the phone - spearheaded by PUBG Mobile - gamers are demanding more power from their phones. Unfortunately, there is no discreet GPU for phones yet. But, that hasn’t deterred phone brands from trying outlandish things.
The ASUS ROG Phone is the best example of this. From using a speed-binned Snapdragon 845 SoC to creating custom air triggers, the ASUS ROG Phone is quite honestly a mean machine in a pocketable package.
Also read: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review: the best Android phone I've used all year
I recently spent very limited time with the ROG phone at a closed briefing and came away thinking this phone is an unfair advantage for gamers. I've decided to skip the regular first impressions route and do something different instead. Let me break down the top 5 reasons why you should and shouldn’t buy the ROG Phone. Allow me to talk to talk about the good points first.
Top 5 reasons why you should buy the ASUS ROG Phone
1. Air Triggers. I shit you not, air triggers are going to be considered an unfair advantage in games like PUBG. I played the game with Air Triggers configured to scope and shoot and I was immediately landing headshots like a pro. It is easy to set it up too. Just move the air triggers to the on-screen controls and the phone will assign the haptic feedback for that specific area on the phone. I loved the whole experience. It is innovation at its best.
2. If you are a gamer, you know that good ergonomics matter. The ROG Phone is a massive hulk of a device but the weight is distributed so beautifully, that you won’t feel the weight at all. The ROG Phone sits very nicely in your two hands as you maneuver through the controls. It shows ASUS’ years of experience as a manufacturer of gaming peripherals.
3. The one thing that ASUS has nailed this year has to be the performance of the stereo speakers on flagships. From whatever little time I spent with the ROG Phone, I could make out that the dual NXP 9874 smart amps coupled with Dolby Sound offered a very rich sound. It is almost as good as the puck-sized Logitech X50 Bluetooth speaker. And, that’s saying a lot.
4. The thing with a speed-binned 2.96GHz SD845 SoC is that it runs the risk of becoming hot when playing heavy games. But, the ROG phone has a special GameCool chamber inside the phone, which is essentially a combination of a carbon cooling pad, Copper Heat Spreader, and a 3D vapor-chamber. At the closed-door briefing, I played two full 30-minute sessions of PUBG and a couple of races of Asphalt 9 and not once did the phone heat up. That’s just awesome.
5. While overlooked, the most important requirement for a good gaming experience is the display. Most smartphone screens are limited to a 60Hz refresh rate. For all intents and purposes, it is enough. But for gaming, a higher refresh rate means when the action gets fast-paced the blur around moving objects can be reduced. With the ROG Phone’s 90Hz refresh rate AMOLED panel, I am sure that you will enjoy the experience. I could clearly see that there was no ghosting effect when I was whizzing past other cars in Asphalt 9.
Those were my top five reasons to buy the ASUS ROG Phone, especially if you are a gamer. Let’s find out why I think you should look at other alternatives instead.
Also read: Nubia Red Magic all set to become first gaming phone to be launched in India
Top 5 reasons why you shouldn’t buy the ASUS ROG Phone
1. The coolest thing about the ASUS ROG Phone is the ecosystem of accessories and most of these accessories are thoughtfully designed. But honestly, I don’t know if they are all useful. For example, the case is modular and can be dismantled. I tried it out and when it was two separate parts it felt a little too weird and didn’t feel reassuring as a case. Also, the mobile desktop dock is useful only for gaming scenarios. It is not like Samsung’s Dex mode where you get a dedicated desktop mode. It can be used for gaming on a big screen but that’s about that.
2. Let’s not forget that the ASUS ROG is a hulking behemoth. It is 6.3-inches tall, 8.3mm thick and weighs 200g. I could feel the weight in my pocket.
3. The ROG Phone comes with ROG UI based on Android 8.1. It is a theme that is suited for the eccentric and gaudy design choices of gamers. Honestly, I find it very unappealing. I know a lot of folks who won’t like this either.
4. Currently, the 90Hz refresh rate is only supported in a few games like Asphalt 9 and Free Fire. If you are wondering, PUBG runs at 60Hz on the phone. I really hope that ASUS gets game devs to support 90Hz refresh rate soon. Until then, while the tech exists, it is practically useless for the larger mobile gaming community in India.
5. Well, the main reason why you shouldn’t buy the ROG Phone is if you don’t care much about gaming. This phone is definitely not going to appeal to the mainstream audience. In fact, probing this thought slightly more - we get into the existential territory. Do gaming phones need to exist in the first place? Well, let me answer that in a separate piece. But for now, if you aren’t a gamer, you can easily look past this and buy a phone that is much lighter on the wallet like the OnePlus 6T or the Poco F1. Heck, these phones will also let you play games with ease.
To sum it up - it is an established fact that the ASUS ROG Phone is the most powerful Android phone out there meant exclusively for gamers. But, the performance delta between a regular flagship and a gaming phone is not much. The ecosystem of accessories should work as a system seller for ASUS. However, I honestly think that the market is still very young and needs a little more time to mature. Whether it matures or not is something we have to wait and watch.
What do you think of the ASUS ROG Phone? Do let us know in the comments section below.
All the pictures in this story were shot by an iPhone XS Max.