Asus ROG Phone II Review: The gaming phone is done correctly
What makes a phone a gaming phone? Is it a phone first and then a handheld console? Or do we see it first as a gaming device and then as a phone? More than that, is it the hardware under the hood that makes a phone a gaming phone? If so, it could even be called the OnePlus 7T Pro. So, why is ROG Phone II a gaming phone and not just another flagship? All these questions and then some, we will answer in our review –
Asus ROG Phone II calls itself a gaming phone. For a phone to be a gaming phone, it needs the minimum to offer the most powerful hardware. And that’s what Asus does. It packs the phone with the fastest processor available for Android phones – Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+. In fact, it was the first phone to use SoC, which Qualcomm made specifically for gaming. Combined with 12GB RAM and UFS 3.0 storage up to 512GB (1TB worldwide). There is a pressure-sensitive edge called the air trigger and it does exactly what you think. Inside, the phone is cooled by a steam chamber cooling system and another fan-based Arrow Active cooler is sold separately. Then there’s a vibrant 6.59-inch 10bit AMOLED panel with a side-mounted USB-C port for charging, a headphone jack, a front-facing speaker that’s amazingly loud, and a 120Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time and 49ms touch latency, all on top. Glass 6 protection. Also, did we mention that there is a 6,000mAh battery inside? Yes, that.
If you want to evaluate ROG Phone II as a gaming phone, these facial features are the minimum to stop a strike. Then comes performance.
This is one of the smoothest and fastest Android phones we’ve ever used. Did you think the OnePlus 7T Pro was smooth? Wait until you use ROG Phone II More than the flagship Gaming SoC, it has a 120Hz display that makes the UI smoother. Swipe left or right, drag the app drawer, drag the notification tray, go to settings app, it doesn’t matter. It’s all done in an instant.
ROG Phone II has an Armory Crate app that contains all the games installed on your device. This is where you go to maximize performance. You see a dashboard-like interface with CPU, GPU, RAM, and memory usage, as well as temperature readings for each. You can tap into X mode to maximize CPU and GPU usage in the game, although you will never need it, but keep in mind that it pushes the CPU and GPU temperature up to 45 degrees, but the surface temperature never exceeds 40 degrees.
On the benchmark, the ROG Phone II is more or less competitive. While this is definitely more than a Snapdragon 855-powered phone, the ROG Phone II seems to be relying solely on firepower to get through the work. Optimizations are even better on phones like the OnePlus 7T and OnePlus 7T Pro which have beaten this awesome phone by some benchmarks. You can see how they compare in the chart below –
Benchmark results show that the ROG Phone II is just as good, if not better, than any other smartphone. But how does it manage gaming you ask? There would be a compact answer – butter with extra fire power and an unwanted advantage in the form of air triggers, without even considering the added accessories. But if I had to go deeper, ROG Phone II could handle any game without sweating in their maximum graphics settings. Gamebench numbers show that the ROG phone is going up to 58 fps on the Asphalt 9, the only Android phone to do so, with 89 percent stability. On PUBG Mobile, the game runs at 60 FPS with 99 percent stability.
With the ROG Phone II rocking line hardware tops, it is often given that the performance will be at the top, be it gaming or anything else. But what really sets ROG Phone II apart from the general crop of phones is your special ability. Air trigger II for one. The pressure-sensitive edges act as extra buttons that come very easily in games like CoD Mobile where I mapped the right trigger to open the opportunity and fired the left trigger. It basically freed up my thumbs, so I could notice and shoot while strapping around. This is what you get out of the box. Then comes the accessories.
Asus offers seven different accessories to enhance your gameplay. It includes a gamepad, a mobile desktop dock, a twinview dock, a cooler and an armored case. Among them, the mobile desktop dock is the most over-the-top accessory. It actually allows me to play PUBG Mobile with other mobile players, but with a keyboard and a mouse. It’s easy to guess who won that round! Is it an unnecessary benefit? Hell yes. Is it a hoax? Well, that’s controversial. Asus smartly mimics the keyboard and mouse as a gamepad, so you simply map the on-screen buttons to the key and mouse buttons. Now everything ROG Phone II has to offer is quite affordable, but if you buy accessories, the overall cost will be the same as owning an entry-level gaming PC. Honestly, we worked fine without them, but Asus wants you to use the phone.
The hardware of course makes the ROG Phone II tick, but once you use the phone’s display, it won’t go back. This is the first AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate. Although there is no game that goes up to 120 FPS, everything looks much smoother with a display set at 120Hz. Most apps, however, will be locked at 60 fps while some games like Vainglory, Minecraft, Dead Trigger 2 and more can go up to 90 fps. Making things better is 1ms response time and 240Hz touch latency. This helps the phone to process the touch input much faster than other smartphones. So if you are in a conflict and you and your opponent press the button at exactly the same time, you will be the winner.
The 6.59-inch panel supports a 10-bit panel and HDR video playback. That being said, games like Netflix, YouTube and PUBG Mobile support HDR on ROG Phone II. Asus further claims that the ROG Phone II panel is the most accurate color of all the flagships launched with the Delta E <1. Photos and videos look vivid on the phone's huge display. We clocked the maximum brightness of the ROG phone at 1022 lux under direct sunlight, which is much higher than all its counterparts, when the minimum brightness can drop to 4 lux, which is again quite a decent and pleasing night.
Now the ROG Phone II is not the only phone to play Snapdragon 855+ or an HDR AMOLED display. It’s not the only gaming phone. But it is the only gaming flagship with a huge 6,000mAh battery. Still, here’s the thing. Due to the extra hardware and the tendency of a gamer to run everything at the maximum capacity of the device, there is no major improvement in battery life. You still get one day’s worth of juice, if you play full time with maximum of each setting. It seems that Asus had no choice but to install the maximum capacity battery without interrupting the battery life. Anything less than this will ruin the experience.
Using 30 minutes of Netflix with HDR content reduces battery life by 5 percent, and 15 minutes reduces battery life by the maximum graphics settings of a PUBG mobile. These are the metrics we find in most flagship phones. Using the phone for more than a week as a dedicated gaming and entertainment device would be approximately 7-8 hours of screen-on-time, including the large amount of time invested in gaming. However, if you use the device as a daily driver with heavy gaming, the ROG Phone II lasts more than two days. We got a full 23 hours and 45 minutes of PCMark Work 2.0 battery test.
Now another problem with having a large battery is charging it at full capacity. Believe it or not, if you use it as a daily driver and for heavy gaming, if you remove it from electricity in the morning, you will have to charge it in the evening. Fortunately, the ROG Phone II comes out of the box with a 30W charger. After all, it supports USB PD 3.0 and QC 4.0, so any other brick strategy that supports these standards will do. The phone takes about 90 minutes to fully charge.
The camera is where the ROG Phone II returns to the route of its smartphone. Like most high-end phones of 2019, the ROG Phone II features a 48MP dual camera rock. Asus uses the Sony IMX586 48MP sensor with AF / 1.8 aperture lens and a 13MP ultra-wide camera with f / 2.4 aperture lens. On the front, you’ll find a 24MP shooter for streaming and selfies. The primary camera is stabilized using a gyroscope-based EIS but no OIS. There is a dedicated night mode that works with both primary and ultra-wide lenses and a pro mode that lets you control the camera parameters before shooting. Although no RAW photo support. The camera app is similar to the Asus 6z.
Looking at some of the photos we took using the phone, the ROG Phone II, despite being a decent shooter, a phone made for gaming, enters as a good reminder that a gaming phone is still a phone that can be expected to do everything else. . As well as it manages gaming. But if you are in the middle of photography, this is not the phone for you. It gives you all the options yes, but they do not work as well as phones like the OnePlus 7T. In fact, the Nubia Red Magic 3 with a single 48MP camera captures much sharper images.
The primary camera lacks sharp colors even in binned 12MP mode. Highlights tend to wash out in some scenes while in others, their colors fade. The Ultra-Wide has surprisingly few barrel distortions, but the photos lack their own sharpness or detail. The night mode on the other hand didn’t help much in controlling the noise, as you can see in the samples below. All in all, the ROG Phone II’s camera isn’t the best. It’s just average.
Here are some photos we took with ROG Phone II –
(Shot at 48MP, 1/1000 sec. F / 1.79, ISO 25)
Hundred percent harvest
(Shot at 48MP, f / 1.8, 1/1733, ISO 26)
Hundred percent harvest
(Shot at 12MP, f / 1.8, 1 / 278s, ISO 25)
(Shot at 12MP, 1 / 170s, f / 1.8, ISO 25)
(Shot at 13MP Ultra-Wide, f / 2.4, 1 / 1307s, ISO 33)
(13MP, f / 2.4, 1/530, shot at ISO 25)
Shot using Night mode with primary lens (f1.8, 1 / 14s, ISO 2850)
Shot in night mode using ultra-wide lens (f / 2.4, 1 / 8s, ISO 1600)
Construction and design
Crashing all the hardware and a huge battery means a trade off of the design will be off. A bezel-less design would be hard to come by with a pop-up camera and everything. And to be honest, ROG doesn’t even try to fit in Phone II In fact, the ROG Phone II has a thick bezel on the top and bottom, a firing speaker on the front, a heavy hand feel, and a polished glass on the back. The front fascia is reinforced with Gorilla Glass 6, while the rear glass panel has the ROG logo in the middle and a dual camera module at the top and slick grooves to highlight its gaming cradle. However, nothing like the RGB-light ROG logo shouts on gaming phones that can be synced with other ROG products you own.
Some of the gaming-centric design features include the USB C port at the bottom, slightly offset from the center, offering a good grip. In addition to the connector for accessories, there is an additional USB-C port The phone has a front firing speaker which is the loudest I have ever seen on a smartphone. Oh and did we mention that Asus still got a place to include a 3.5mm headphone jack?
But there are some downsides to using the phone as a daily driver. For one, you will need a large pocket to carry the phone which is normal if you are a man. But not perfect for a female gamer. It is also not water and dust resistant which means more careful handling and the rear glass panel cannot avoid one drop considering the weight of the device.
The last row
The answer is a simple question. If you are passionate about gaming on your smartphone, this is the best you can get in India. Performance, features and design will appeal to a hardcore gamer. If you are a casual gamer then there is no point in buying it and it is better to stick with OnePlus 7T or Asus 6z for first smartphone, then gaming phone. The ROG Phone II can be a great weapon for mobile gaming events and game streaming. Otherwise, the ROG Phone II is too leaning towards gaming to be used as an everyday driver for the average user. Asus has intelligently priced the ROG Phone II much lower than last year’s ROG phone, and it should be profitable enough for a hardcore gamer to consider it a serious option.