Asus ROG Phone and Accessories Hands-On: More Hardware, More Gaming
Asus also took care in making sure that battery life wouldn’t be a concern either. This is evident not just with the inclusion of a large 4,000 mAh battery, but also the placement of a secondary USB-C port in the middle of the device so that charging cables won’t get in the way of your grip during gaming. This USB-C port is part of a larger, proprietary dual-port where accesorries like the AeroActive Cooler can be attached.
In hand, it’s a tall and rather heavy phone, that feels like it’s meant for us to just turn sideways and game away – especially with those dual speakers firing at you.
The ROG Phone may be a gaming-centric device, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to get some basics right too, and in this case that means a dual-camera setup. Pairing a 12 MP regular camera with an 8 MP wide-angle, the ROG Phone should snap some decent pics in different situations, especially with the flagship Sony IMX363 sensor and Asus’ recent history of competent photo capture. In front you’ll also find an 8 MP camera for selfies.
Performance and Interface
The ROG Phone ships with the well-known Snapdragon 845 processor paired with 8 gigs of RAM and either 128 or 512 GB storage – pretty satisfactory specs to start with. Of course, every-day tasks seem to breeze through the ROG phone, but let’s talk software and gaming.
There’s always a ton to see on Asus’ ZenUI-based phones, but the ROG introduces another flavor of Android 8.1 with ROG UI. This is a dark-themed, black, gray, and red interface which looks pretty cool. Let’s take a deeper look at what else this new UI entails.
First, we’ll start with the hardware, more specifically Air Triggers. These are pressure sensitive areas on the edges of the phone which act as trigger buttons when gaming in landscape mode. The coolest part is that these triggers can be mapped to any button in a game by utilizing drag-and-droppable software keys that overlay the on-screen buttons you’d like to map. These also save your configurations for each game, so you don’t have to map them every time
When not in a game, these Air Triggers serve as part of the ROG Phone’s squeezable sides. Much like the HTC U12+ and Google Pixel’s, you can squeeze this phone to trigger specific functions. The default function for this puts the phone into “X Mode” which raises CPU frequency and optimizes memory for gaming but it can be mapped to launch any installed app. That’s pretty cool – so is the accompanying wallpaper animation and RBG logo in back which light up to reflect the initiation of X Mode – but we did have a little trouble with the squeezable sensitivity at first. This can be tweaked, though, and we anticipate that any kinks here will be ironed out by launch, that is if Asus has learned anything from the HTC U12+.
The Game Center App is another ROG Phone exclusive, which shows you phone stats like temperature, CPU frequency, and memory used. This also allows you change the fan speed of the AeroActive fan attachment as well as the colors and patterns of the light-up ROG logo in back.
The in-game experience is also aided by Game Genie, which lets you configure Air Triggers, CPU speeds, record and stream your gaming session, and much more.
All in all, the ROG Phone seems to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to enhancing the gaming experience via unique innovations and useful software additions.
Asus seems pretty proud of the ROG Phone, but the company didn’t rest on its laurels there. Instead, Asus also launched a number of accessories for the new gaming device, and they look pretty cool.
Mobile Desktop Dock
For those who would like desktop extensibility but prefer a smaller, less port-filled option, there’s the Professional Dock. Adding HDMI, two USB-A ports, and USB-C for charging the ROG phone, this dock is a more portable, less-expensive desktop option priced at $119.99.
WiGig Display Dock
Speaking of tough value propositions, the Twinview Dock is another hard sell. Packing an additional 6000 mAh battery, this $400 clamshell device has another screen and a set of dual-speakers built in allowing you to snap your ROG Phone into it and have a two-screen experience. This can include watching videos, browsing the web, or any use of other apps. Unfortunately, second-screen controls are very limited – currently supported on only one game – as Asus needs to work directly with the developers for this sort of funtionality. It’s hard to imagine many people buying this second screen when they likely have other, more useful second screens to watch videos or use apps already. Like we said, it’s a tough sell.
Expectations/Pricing and Availability
If we had to sum up the ROG phone in a few words, we’d say “it’s pretty cool”. It does seem to have some promising features and additional hardware and software, but day-to-day, real-world use will be the real test for this gaming monster.
The ROG Phone sells for $899 for the 128 GB and $1099 for the 512 GB variant and begins shipping today, so if you’re intrigued the wait is over! Otherwise, stay tuned for our full review and we’ll let you know if your patience was well placed.