Smartphone gaming aficionados swear by the name ROG and over the years ASUS has been able to deliver at each step whatever an avid gamer has demanded from its hardware. The recently launched Asus ROG 5 is an esoteric piece of hardware that brings to the smartphone segment some of the best specifications know to man.
The Asus ROG 5 is yet another contender in the smartphone gaming segment that’s vying for the top spot in 2021. But is the new ROG Phone 5 all about heavy hardware like before or does it pack the necessary wherewithal for your gaming needs? Is it worth investing in a phone that’s priced at almost half a lakh and how does the phone perform as a day-to-day driver? There are some of the questions we needed answers to.
We had the opportunity to try out the ROG Phone 5 for a short period (10 days to be precise) and here’s our quick review of the latest Asus flagship gaming phone.
It’s obvious that Asus hasn’t tinkered around with the design a lot considering that the ASUS ROG Phone 3 met all the aesthetics needs that gamers were looking for. Like before, it carries almost the same amount of bulk at 238 grams which is a lot if you compare it to the flagships today. Just for context, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is almost 20 grams lighter than the ROG Phone 5.
It’s slightly heavier than last year’s ROG Phone 3 and after a long gaming session, you really start to feel that extra weight on your wrists. No to mention, the added accessories add to the overall bulk.
Despite the sameness, Asus has been able to add certain subtle cosmetic elements that give the new ROG Phone a distinctive look of its own.
It still comes with a glass back although the front is now protected with Gorilla Glass Victus that adds more strength. The distinct slanted lines, the ROG logo at the back, the horizontal camera with sharp angular bezels scream ROG and It now sports the number 5 at the back signifying this is the 5th iteration of the gaming phone.
The most visible change that you’ll be able to spot is the new dot matrix RGB light at the back for the ROG logo. You can still customise the lighting as per the colour you want and also get to assign different lighting schemes for calls, music and more. Needless to say, it adds to the overall look of the device.
The metal frame running around the device houses the air triggers on the right with the embossed ROG badge and also the volume rocker and the power button. The bottom gets the USB-Type C port and the 3.5mm headphone jack. Yes, jack is back on this one. It’s great that the company has reinstated the audio jack much to the delight of a dedicated audio DAC that the phone receives now. We’ll talk more about that later.
The left side of the phone sports the secondary USB Type-C charging port and the multi-pin connecter for ASUS ROG accessories. Since most of the accessories from the previous generation are no more compatible with the new ROG Phone 5, ASUS has been hush-hush on the whole accessories’ conundrum.
Overall, the ROG Phone 5 adds a few subtle cosmetic additions to the existing design which I feel is a good move. It’s a design that doesn’t need a lot of changes.
The ROG Phone 5 comes with a bigger 6.78-inch full HD+ AMOLED display that pumps out more pixels than the previous iteration. It’s much brighter than before with up to 1,200 nits of peak brightness and offers a 144Hz refresh rate screen. Gaming on this phone is a treat for the eyes with the perfect contrasts and I even used the phone for most of my content consumption needs.
It’s not an edge-to-end display and I understand the infatuation for such an aesthetic considering most phones today follow that design philosophy. But, I wouldn’t want a punch hole on the display and miss out on a full view gaming experience. A pop-up front camera on the future ROG Phone could possibly be a solution to this little problem. Still, no complaints with the display and it still is one fit for even a pro.
Gaming and performance
Like I said before, the Asus ROG Phone 5 comes with the latest and the best hardware that money can buy. You get the flagship Snapdragon 888 processor bundled with 16GB of RAM (not that I need more) and 512GB of the fastest UFS 3.1 storage drive available on a smartphone. Clearly, this is in the big league. There is also an 18GB RAM version of the ROG Phone 5, but I feel that’s overkill and what Asus gets with the extra RAM is the bragging right to go chest-thumping in the market of being the most powerful phone out there. For graphics, you get an Adreno 660 GPU that aces in its class.
This device offers one of the smoothest gaming experiences you’d get on a smartphone and the added accessories give to extra edge on the battlefield. Clocking a single core at 2.84GHz, you can go on for hours playing high-definition and I doubt you’ll encounter any lags or stutters.
To really put the phone to the test, I was running multiple high-definition games like COD: Mobile, Formula 1, Free Fire and even a basic online multiplayer like Among Us simultaneously. I was able to switch between each game with utmost ease even while letting each game run in the background. The transition was seamless.
All that processing power does take a toll on the phone and it did heat up a lot. After a 90-minute gaming session on COD: Mobile the ROG Phone 5 recorded a maximum temperature of a 106-degree Fahrenheit which at a normal state remains at 97.5-degrees. The ROG Phone 5 adds a reshaped vapour chamber and extensive graphite sheets for better heat dissipation. The additional AeroActive Air Cooler improves the cooling efficiency which I feel did its job well.
I did witness a few hiccups along the way. While I was running an online audio streaming app Discord along with COD: Mobile, the game crashed numerous times. It’s a good thing that restarting games doesn’t take a lot of time thanks to the extra processing power but running multiple online streaming applications does heat up the device a lot.
The dual stereo front-firing speakers on the ROG Phone 5 are the best that I have experienced on a phone to date. Not only does it add that extra thump, but it’s also loud enough for you not wanting to wear your headphones.
Also, remember we spoke about the headphone jack earlier? You now get a built-in DAC with the ROG Phone 5 and the amount of customisation the phone offers via its native AudioWizard app is off the roof. You now get to customise each audio frequency as per your preference which is what every audiophile would love.
The fingerprint reader isn’t the most responsive compared to other flagships, but it is yet another caveat that I am willing to brush under the carpet for the other features it offers. What’s another miss is that it doesn’t come with wireless charging and the phone comes with a small silicone cover for the side port which is something you can lose easily. Also, no water or dust resistance certification is a big downer for the price you are paying. So, it’s not the perfect smartphone by any means.
|Features||Asus ROG Phone 5|
|Display||6.78-inch FHD+ AMOLED|
|Rear Camera||64MP + 13MP + 5MP|
The ROG Phone 5 comes with multiple gaming profiles. So, when you are gaming, you switch to the X Mode that boosts the overall performance with battery life being the obvious compromise. But, when you’re using it as a regular phone you can switch back to the Ultra Durable mode that gives you longer battery life and decent performance to run your basic applications.
You’ll even get to know which power mode you are on as the colour and theme of the device change in correspondence to that particular mode. A great addition is the charging bypass feature where it feeds the power from the charger directly into the device and not the battery. This way the battery doesn’t heat up while you are gaming. A great feature to preserve the life of the battery.
In X Mode, you also get to customise your phone’s performance based on each game so if one game is more demanding than the other, you can customise the phone’s performance based on the requirement of each game.
The ‘Game Genie’ can be activated by sliding on the phone’s screen from left to right in the landscape mode and provides you controls for haptic audio feedback, real-time information about the performance of the device and more. Not only that, but the ROG Phone 5 also comes with something called Scout Mode where the display inverses the colour of the game so that you can spot enemies easily.
The combination of ZenUI plus the native ROGUI on the device offers a close to stock Android experience and I was pleased with the customisations and small UI tweaks that Asus have made.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about the camera of a gaming phone because most of the people who’ll be buying this phone won’t be buying it for its camera. Be that as it may, the camera isn’t the most impressive feature of the ROG Phone 5.
It comes with a 64-megapixel primary sensor backed by a 13-megapixel ultra-wide and a 5-megapixel macro camera. I was able to get decent shots in daylight and lowlight performance is average. Selfies are also at par with what you get on today’s mid-range smartphones.
What is impressive though is that it can record 8K videos at 30fps and that’s where the camera really manages to punch above its own weight.
Here’s are some sample I shot with the ROG Phone 5.
The ROG Phone 5 comes with a new dual battery system that combines two 3,000mAh batteries together to offer an overall battery capacity of 6,000mAh. This helps the device parallelly charge the two batteries that as per the company helps manage the battery life better and keeps the temperature of the device low.
Asus has won accolades for its battery prowess on the ROG series and it didn’t stop there and made it even better. You get a 65W charging brick inside the box which I am happy about because there are flagships today that don’t even give you that (you know who all I am talking about). Charging time for the ROG Phone 5 from 0-100 percent stood at 67 minutes which is impressive for such a big battery.
It’s great that the ROG Phone offers us an option on how the battery should charge. You can choose slow charging speeds for the phone in the battery settings. What interesting is that you can even schedule the charging time on the phone to automatically cut off the power at a particular point. You can also limit the maximum charge for the phone anywhere between 80-90 percent. One of the many ways battery life can be extended on this device.
Usage with the screen on 140Hz got me more than 24 hours and with average use on auto-refresh rate mode, I was able to get 2 days easily. The battery drain depends on how you use it.
I received the Active Air Cooler, the Kunai 3 Gamepad and the Cetra 2 Core gaming headphones as the added accessory kit. Of the three, I ended up using the attachable cooling fan the most. I used the triggers on the fan but could only use one trigger at a time.
Reaching the triggers with the ring finger may be tough for people with smaller hands which is where I feel Asus can experiment with the placement of the rear trigger for better reach and comfort.
It will take a player days to get used to using all the gaming triggers comfortably during a gaming session. The capacitive triggers on the ROG Phone 5 give you the upper edge over your opponent but the extra fan triggers are sure to help you improve your overall performance in the game.
I didn’t have a lot of use for the Kunai Gamepad only due to the reason that there are not a lot of multiplayer games that are currently compatible with the Bluetooth enabled gamepad. I suppose there is scope for developers to offer compatibility in that department, but I don’t think you need to spend extra to buy the controller.
The Certa 2 gaming headphones is a good addition to the ROG accessory family, and it complements the overall package. Whether you’d want to spend extra on these gaming headphones is a choice I leave for you to decide.
The ROG Phone 5 comes across as an incremental upgrade rather than a completely new smartphone. The flagship processor and the minor tweaks in design are refreshing but it’s not something that a ROG Phone 3 doesn’t offer already. To be honest, there aren’t many high-definition and performance-intensive games that really challenge the hardware the ROG Phone 5 brings to the game.
No doubt that the ROG Phone 5 aces in performance and offers a smartphone gaming experience that a few can match in this segment, but I feel that the phone ahead of its time.
The objective of the company remains the same; to make the ultimate gaming smartphone. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough games out there to put the ROG Phone 5 to the ultimate test. At Rs 49,999, I feel that only those people should invest in the ROG Phone 5 who want to take up mobile gaming professionally. Else, there are plenty of other phones in the market that can run high-definition games without taking a toll on your pockets.