Hands-on with the highly-specced Asus ROG Phone

Mobile gaming has for the most part, always been popular. More recently, the genre has exploded, aided by the introduction of such games like PUBG and Fortnite. So it comes as no surprise that companies are attempting to capitalize on this wave by reintroducing smartphones that are geared towards gamers. While many have tossed their hats into the ring, it wouldn't be a party if Asus didn't come out with its guns blazing. The company is known for its wide range of computing products, smartphones, and also its line of gaming hardware under its Republic of Gamers (ROG) moniker, so the move to craft a handset made for gamers only seems natural.

Asus has chosen to leverage the ROG name and christen its first foray into the gaming handset space as the ROG Phone. It has an aesthetic that easily sets it apart from other devices, with an aggressive look that can still come off as being sleek, with its glossy chrome finish, copper grills on the front and back, and engraved accents. The phone even has RGB lighting on the rear that can be customized to any color of your choosing.

As far as specifications go, it has a 6-inch 1080p AMOLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, 8GB RAM, and 512GB UFS 2.1 memory for internal storage. At a glance, it's all standard fare for a top-end smartphone produced in 2018, but what differentiates the ROG Phone’s SoC from others, is that it's a Snapdragon 845 that is clocked at 2.96GHz, which is just a touch faster than the stock clock speed of 2.8GHz. It's a small detail, but a nice touch for someone that wants one of the most powerful phones on the market.

Source: Asus

In order to allow users to harness all that goodness that comes from the silicon inside, the team at Asus built a cooling system from the ground up. The GameCool system features a 3D vapor-chamber, coupled with a copper heat spreader and carbon cooling pads that are affixed to the circuit board.

If that wasn't enough, Asus also includes an Aeroactive Cooler, which is an external fan attachment. It draws power from the device's additional USB Type-C ports and circulates air away from the hottest part of the phone. The attachment also has a USB Type-C port and 3.5mm headphone jack for added convenience. The accessory is a nice touch for someone that wants to have long and intense gaming sessions and needs the extra cooling.

The ROG Phone is meant for games and, as such, uses an AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time. The firm touts the that it has a 108.6% DCI-P3 color gamut and 10,000:1 contrast ratio with support for HDR visuals. From the quick hands-on, things looked good, with colors popping, and the touch response feeling smooth. But it is tough to say just how good, with only a short amount of time with the device. The smartphone also packs dual front-facing speakers which can get quite loud, but at the same time, keep things sounding clear and crisp.

Source: Asus

As mentioned before, Asus not only has a USB Type-C port towards the bottom of the handset, but it also has two more located on its side. The additional ports can be used to power accessories, but also can be used to just charge the unit when being used in landscape orientation. The ROG Phone also implements AirTrigger touch sensors, which are touch sensitive areas on the phone that act as left and right trigger buttons. The touch sensors can be customized to initiate any on-screen action and are meant to free up screen real estate by replacing traditional touchscreen inputs.

But what good is all this power if you don't have the battery life available to take advantage of it? As such, the phone comes with a 4,000mAh battery, supports Quick Charge 4.0, and Asus HyperCharge technology. The company states that you should be able to charge up the device from zero to 60 percent in 35 minutes.

Asus hasn't just focused all its efforts on the phone but has also created a line of accessories that are meant to compliment and also expand the experience. The Mobile Desktop Dock can introduce a desktop PC environment, allowing the ROG Phone to be hooked up to 4K UHD monitor, keyboard, and mouse. You also gain access to various ports, like a wired gigabit LAN, USB Type-A 3.1 ports, SD card reader, and S/PDIF output for 5.1 surround sound.

For those that want to expand gaming to the big screen but not have the cumbersome cables attached, the WiGig Dock should be an ideal solution. The ROG Phone is first paired with a Gamevice controller and also synced to the dock, allowing low-latency wireless display connectivity utilizing Qualcomm's 802.11ad technology. From experience, connecting to the WiGig Dock was quick and the experience was seamless.

Perhaps the most alluring accessory out of the bunch is the TwinView Dock. The clamshell case features front-facing quad speakers, two physical trigger buttons, an enhanced cooling system, and a 6,000mAh battery. If that wasn't enough, it also manages to pack its own 6-inch AMOLED display. This will allow players to extend games to a second screen, which will free up more space on the primary display. The second display can also be used for text and video chat, which could be ideal for those who participate in live streams.

The ROG Phone is certainly a unique beast, offering a design that won't be loved by all, but performance numbers that can be respected by most. It is still too early to tell whether this smartphone will be embraced by gamers or if it will fall by the wayside. Regardless of its fate, Asus has created something that is unique, imbuing its device with qualities that can't be found on other handsets. The ROG Phone will be made available for sale sometime this summer with pricing yet to be determined.

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