Asus may have originally unveiled its second generation gaming phone a little while ago, but it chose a press event at IFA 2019 in Berlin to bring it to the European market and to announce how much it would cost.
At €899 for the entry model in Europe, it's hardly the cheapest phone around, but once you read through the specs and performance of the device, it starts to make a lot of sense. What's more, you're getting a phone with 512GB of storage for that money, which is pretty impressive. Of course, there's an ultimate model too, and that has an incredible 1TB internal storage.
We went hands on with the phone for the first time to see what this powerful, big, expensive phone has to offer. Can it, and the gaming phone market succeed?
- 171 x 77.6 x 9.5 mm
- Weighs 240 g
- Gorilla Glass 6 on the front
- External ventilation
- Dedicated port for accessories/gamepad
It's clear as soon as you pick it up that the ROG Phone 2 is a big device. That's not exactly surprising, given the extra large battery inside, and all the extra cooling technology you wouldn't find in a typical smartphone. There's also the fact that it has rather a large display, perfect for being immersed in your favourite mobile titles.
The rear of the phone is made almost entirely from metal, featuring diagonal accent lines across the back, as well as the fairly basic-looking dual camera setup. Most importantly: it has a glowing logo. As we've seen from the likes of Red Magic and Black Shark, it can't be a gaming phone if it doesn't mimic the RGB-laden peripherals you'll often find adorning the desks of avid PC gamers.
Look closer at the back and you'll also see a red accented grille, and this is more than just a touch of colour for an otherwise quite grey-looking rear cover. This is an air vent, and it helps keep the internals cool while the processor is running at its peak and you're firing out more than 100 frames per second from the display on the front.
From a design standpoint, there are another few things worth noting, and they're all there for practical reasons, rather than just to adorn a phone. First, on the right edge of the phone - above and beneath the volume and power buttons - you'll find a couple of touch sensitive shoulder buttons. It's similar to what we've seen on the Red Magic 3, and enables quick firing in games where it's useful, like PUBG Mobile, for example.
Switch it over to the other side and there's an unusually long-looking port, and this is where you attach the various gaming accessories to the phone. You can plug in the additional cooling fan, for even better thermal management, or hook up the phone to its gamepad like accessories. Including one that has a secondary screen on it.
It's these accessories that arguably take it from being just a powerful smartphone, to one that's genuinely great for gaming on. We had a quick play, and with the game pad attached with that secondary screen, it definitely feels more like you're playing on a powerful portable console than just a smartphone.
One other thing worth mentioning is the stereo speaker grilles at the top and bottom of the phone's front panel. The area we got hands-on with the phone was very noisy, so it was hard to hear how good they were, but Asus claims these add another dimension to your gaming, combining with vibrations to make the gameplay even more immersive than it would be with a single, standard loudspeaker.
- 6.59-inch AMOLED panel
- 1080 x 2340 resolution
- 120Hz refresh rate
- 240Hz touch sensing
- HDR10 compliant
Being a big gaming phone, you'd assume Asus would whop a great, big colourful screen with insane refresh rates, response time and lots of contrast. And you'd be right if you did. At almost 6.6-inches, the display is most definitely big. But that only really tells a small part of the story.
Asus lauds its colour reproduction, contrast and saturation when it talks about the display. Having only used it for a short period, we've not had enough time with it to make a full judgement on just how good it is, but it certainly seemed vibrant and bright when trying it out. Colours pop, and the blacks seem really inky black, thanks to that AMOLED technology doing its thing.
For gamers, good colour and contrast is one thing, but what's more important is the response times and refresh rate. There's no good in having a colourful, contrasty screen if it doesn't keep up with the fast animations and gestures you use to wipe everyone out in your favourite, high-intensity battle royale game.
That's where the 120Hz panel comes in. It's capable of refreshing at a rate of 120 frames per second, so even the most graphically demanding games will be smooth on this phone. What's more, the 240Hz touch response also means that any presses, gestures or interactions done on the screen are met with virtually instant response within the game.
And for movie lovers: it also happens to be HDR10 compliant as well. So your favourite Netflix originals produced in HDR will look just wonderful.
Hardware, software and performance
- Snapdragon 855 processor
- 10GB or 12GB RAM
- Vapour/fan cooling
- Android 9 Pie
- 6,000mAh battery
To match the display specs, and to ensure that no long gaming session causes battery anxiety, Asus equipped the ROG Phone 2 with some of the most powerful components available. And just as vitally: ensured its temperature was well managed.
Inside, there's a boosted version of the Snapdragon 855 processor called the Snapdragon 855+, and this offers more juice for the high-intensity titles available on the Play Store. Coupled with that is either 10GB or 12GB RAM, again to ensure that there's no way on earth you'll experience slow stuttering performance, regardless of the titles you play.
With all of this power being pushed to its limits, Asus also had to design an efficient cooling system. It has what it calls a 3D vapour chamber to keep thermals efficient, but also offers a snap-on fan that clips into the aforementioned dedicated port on the side of the phone to ensure the processor never needs to throttle itself in order to keep the temperatures down. And that means high frame rates, all the time.
If that wasn't enough, Asus also saw fit to equip it with a huge 6,000mAh battery which the company claims can get you through upwards of seven hours of constant gaming before needing to be recharged. And with 30W fast charging, it'll fill up again pretty quickly too. If you're ever feeling sorry for your friends with low battery, you can - of course - reverse charge there's by plugging their phone into your Type-C port.
- 48MP primary camera
- 13MP ultra-wide
- 24MP selfie cam
- 4K video at 30/60fps
With all of this focus on gaming performance, you could almost be forgiven for taking your eye of usual smartphone features, like the camera. As you'd probably suspect, not a big deal has been made of its camera system, but it certainly sounds like a decent enough setup for your every day use.
Like many other current Android phones, Asus is making use of a 48-megapixel primary sensor that binds four pixels into one to create a 12-megapixel image in automatic mode. We don't know exactly how good it is in real life, since we didn't get much of a chance at all to test it properly, but alongside the ultra-wide camera next to it, it should mean plenty of versatility in shooting. And with 4K video capture up to a possible 60fps, it's more than good enough for your social media exploits.
Asus' ROG division was always going to be part of the gaming phone bandwagon, it's a brand name synonymous with high octane, ultra speedy gaming performance. For the second gen ROG phone, it was about giving you even more power and more efficient cooling, allowing console-like performance from a device that fits in your pocket.
With the 10GB/512GB and 12GB/1TB models now being launched, you certainly get a lot of RAM and storage to carry around with you, but with prices set at €899 and €1199 for a brand that's not a major player in the smartphone industry (at least not in the western markets), that's a bold move.
In the end, the ROG Phone 2 is definitely an exciting phone. Even if it is a few months after its initial unveiling, it'll still be THE gaming phone name on everyone's lips, even if the market hasn't proved that gaming-specific phones even need to exist at all.