ASUS ROG Phone 5 Review — A Cut Above the Rest
The review embargo has been lifted, and the ASUS ROG Phone 5 has now taken the world by storm. If you’re into mobile gaming — and have a soft spot for cutting-edge tech — then you definitely have a reason to read on. For the longest time, ASUS’ ROG phones always packed a ton of power, but they also lacked in certain key areas. Their latest model, however, is nearly perfect. It’s not just a beastly gaming phone, but a beastly phone as well. One could argue that the latter is always a prerequisite for the former, but that hasn’t always been the case throughout recent history.
Most manufacturers who tried to create “specialized” phones for gaming focused too heavily on the gaming aspect, which resulted in a subpar overall experience. The same holds true for ASUS as well, but they’ve learned their lesson — hence the ROG Phone 5.
Quite a Punch Packed In
It is equipped with a 6.78” 1080p AMOLED display, a 144Hz refresh rate (with a whopping 300Hz touch sampling rate), HDR10+ support, and 800 nits of peak brightness. The resolution isn’t anything to write home about (especially not at this screen size), but it’s perfect for gaming and, frankly, most folks can’t even notice the difference unless they’re “pixel peeping.” The peak brightness could’ve been a bit higher, however. It’s not exactly insufficient, but if you plan on gaming for longer periods of time while outdoors, then you’ll definitely crave a higher nit count.
It also comes with a 6,000mAh battery that’s actually split into two batteries, with the main PCB being sandwiched in between. This has resulted in noticeably lower temperatures (both SoC temperature and surface temps), and lower impedance while charging. Speaking of juicing up, there’s a 65W charger included in the box (equipped with Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 5.0) and it’ll top up your phone from 0 to a 100 in less than an hour.
When it comes to the cameras, the ROG Phone 5 isn’t going to blow anyone’s mind away, but it’s still serviceable. There are three separate cameras on the back (the standard, run-of-the-mill regular, ultrawide, and macro camera set-up), with a 24-megapixel selfie camera on the front.
The headphone jack has made a triumphant return, and ASUS have added a pogo pin connector right next to the USB-C port on the side in case you want to connect the ROG active cooler. We’ve already seen this little add-on with their previous ROG phones, but this time it’ll no longer occupy that oh-so-important USB-C port.
The ASUS ROG Phone 5 still comes with touch-sensitive air triggers (or “shoulder buttons” rather) and they’ve supposedly been upgraded in terms of responsiveness, but they’re still nowhere near as good as the real thing. Regardless, they’ll surely come in handy if you’re serious about mobile gaming. ASUS even went a step further and added two more touch-sensitive areas on the back of the phone, although using them feels about as gimmicky as you’d expect. But hey — more “buttons” means more control which, as far as gaming goes, is always a plus. These secondary touch-sensitive zones on the back of the phone are only present on the Pro and Ultimate models of the ROG Phone 5.
Three Variants (For Everyone’s Wallet)
There are three separate variants of the ASUS ROG Phone 5, and all three sport a different price tag. There’s the standard model, the ROG Phone 5 Pro, and the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate. Talk about a gaming-esque nomenclature! All three devices are packing the cutting-edge Snapdragon 888 which is a beastly SoC in every sense of the word. The base model comes with 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM, the Pro one has 16GB, and the Ultimate goes even further with 18GB. Do you need that much RAM on a mobile phone? Of course not, but it is the “Ultimate” model, so going all-out makes sense.
Storage options also start at 128GB and top out at 512GB for the Ultimate model. Keep in mind that there’s no expandable storage on any of these models, so you’ll have to make due with whatever you get initially.
The base model comes with the standard ASUS ROG logo on the back (clad in RGB), but the Pro and Ultimate ones go one step further by incorporating a small PMOLED screen (1.5”) that can display various custom messages, GIFs, and even inform you with some standard stuff like battery percentage, incoming calls, etc. The screen is colored on the Pro model but monochrome on the Ultimate variant.
If you have the money to spare and want the absolute best gaming phone money can buy, then the ASUS ROG Phone 5 is pretty much your best option. Still, it’ll cost a pretty penny. The base model will retail for $950/€799, with the Pro and Ultimate ones going for $1450/€1199 and $1550/€1299, respectively. These prices are subject to change depending on your region.
To be fair — and this is just a bit of “real talk” that you probably won’t find elsewhere — you really don’t need a phone this powerful to game comfortably. That’s just a fact, but it’s not a particularly popular one as it doesn’t drive any sales. Today’s most demanding mobile games can sure take advantage of beastly hardware, but a two-year-old flagship can still provide you with more than enough entertainment.
We’ve come to the point of diminishing returns, and now it’s all about iterative, incremental improvements. For most folks, these things really don’t make a difference. So yeah: the ASUS ROG Phone 5 can sustain maximum performance even in the harshest of conditions (i.e. stress tests), but there isn’t a mobile game out there that can actually benefit from such stellar engineering. That’s mostly just used for marketing nowadays — and it sure is an alluring headline. Throw in a couple of weasel words in there as well and some attention-grabbing adjectives (like “mind-blowing” or “record-breaking”) and you got yourself a marketing strategy!
But all of that aside, kudos to ASUS for pushing the envelope and actually sticking to their guns. This isn’t some shoddy cash grab, nor is it an attempt to lure in potential buyers with over-the-top RGB and a beastly spec sheet. There’s a bit of that here as well, but nowhere near as much as with some of their competitors. It’s like they’re actively trying to create the absolute best gaming phone they can, and that’s commendable, to say the least.
In a world where everyone’s lunging for your wallet, it seems ASUS truly wants to give you your money’s worth.