The gaming industry is huge; gaming is literally one of the primary factors that drive technology forward. But there’s one other major camp within the gaming sphere, and that’s mobile.
The Asus ROG Phone 3 might quite possibly be, the ultimate android mobile gaming phone.
But let’s start with the design. The entire back is now covered in glass, and it gives the phone a much more minimalistic and clean presentation. Asus has also done away with the bright orange accents, leaving only a sliver of reds on the heatsink portion, which you can actually see now, thanks to the glass design.
Right in the middle is the ROG logo, which is fully RGB customizable, and there’s a sensor which detects if you have a Lighting Armor Case attached, which is RGB as well.
If we flip it round to the front, you’re greeted with the same 6.59″ AMOLED display, flanked by two front-firing speakers, which are now just plain black.
Now at this point, you might be thinking, it looks almost exactly the same as the previous generation. And you’ll be right.
In fact, Asus has kept the exact same dimensions of the ROG Phone 2, on the ROG Phone 3. Asus did this because they explicitly wanted all the accessories that they’ve launched for the ROG Phone 2, to work seamlessly with the ROG Phone 3, and honestly, that’s awesome.
But back to the display, because though it seems the same, it’s actually not.
While the size and resolution remain the same, Asus has bumped up the refresh rate, and you’re now actually getting 144hz.
But Asus didn’t stop there. They’ve also bumped up the touch-sampling rate to 270hz, which is not exactly twice of 144 but it’s pretty close, and they’ve also reduced the touch latency to 25ms.
Now those are all technical jargon, but you’re basically getting an extremely fast and responsive display that just feels much more natural when you’re actually using it. You can tell that the animations are extremely smooth, you barely notice any lag or ghosting, and it’s really responsive.
Other things to note would be 10bit HDR support along with more than a 100% DCI-P3 coverage, so it’s going to be great for Netflix or HDR stuff on YouTube, and it can get up to 650nits in brightness making it easily usable outdoors. It also does feature an optical fingerprint reader underneath the display glass, which is not the fastest, but good to have.
Overall, it’s a great display that is great for normal day to day use as well as gaming.
So that’s the display, but we have to talk about what makes this phone tick, and just like the previous generation, the spec sheet is a little ridiculous.
You get a Snapdragon 865 Plus from Qualcomm that’s clocked up to 3.1GHz, 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, 512GB of UFS 3.1 storage, and a 6,000mAh battery.
It goes without saying that using the phone normally for standard day to day tasks feels extremely fast. Launching apps and keeping them in the background, the ROG Phone 3 will handle it, no issues at all. Not only is the processor the best of the best, but there’s just so much RAM to handle all those apps running concurrently.
Then there’s the storage, not only is it 512GB, which is more than plenty in a phone for almost everybody out there, but it’s UFS 3.1 as well, which helps complement the power of the processor. Downloads from the Play Store are fast, and transferring of files with your PC is noticeably faster as well.
With flagship specs, you get flagship performance. As a phone, it just performs. Then we have to talk about the battery, which like last year, comes in a 6,000mAh.
It’s a huge battery, and you can really feel the weight of it, just holding the phone in your hand. But I would say that it’s a good trade-off because the ROG Phone 3 lasts. It lasts a full day and then some.
Using it for a full day, from the morning at 8 AM, till night at 10 PM, I still had about 30% of battery left, and that’s with almost 7 hours of screen on-time at 144hz, with about 2 hours of gaming. That’s really impressive.
If you’re someone who doesn’t game as much, I can see this lasting a day and a half, or maybe even two full days if you turn the refresh rate down to 60hz, no issues at all.
And even if you’re an extremely heavy power user, this supports Quick Charge 4.0 and Asus bundles a 30W quick charger right in the box. You can top up 75% from zero, in just about 45 minutes.
Talking about cameras for a moment, you get a new array of lenses and sensors this time around.
You get a 64-megapixel wide-angle lens for the main camera, a 13-megapixel ultra-wide-angle in the middle and a new 5-megapixel macro lens at the end.
As usual by default, the main camera defaults to 16 megapixels most of the time, while the full 64 megapixels can only be utilized in a specific mode.
Overall, the image quality is decent.
Photos taken are pretty sharp, and colours are not too bad. If you’re just sharing your photos on social media, it’s a good enough camera for that. But, it’s definitely nowhere on the level of iPhones or the Pixels, though it’s better than most mid-range smartphones.
The ultra-wide returns, and just like the main camera, the photos taken with it are really similar in quality. But perhaps because it has fewer megapixels overall, you can tell that it isn’t as sharp as the main camera. Images taken on it are just slightly softer overall.
The macro is the new addition this year, and it offers interesting shots, and you can get up really close with your subjects, but it’s only 5 megapixels, so you aren’t really going to win any awards with it.
That’s about it for cameras, and yes, we aren’t going to delve deep into the cameras, because honestly speaking, that’s not what this phone is about.
The ROG Phone 3 is all about gaming, so let’s talk about that.
Just like before, you get a second USB-C port on the side of the phone which can be used for charging, so that cables won’t get in the way when you’re gaming in landscape mode.
In the box, you also get the familiar attachable fan cooling system, that just clips and slots into the ports on the side of the phone, which provides USB-C pass through and a headphone jack, which might be important to some, as the phone itself has lost its headphone jack.
What’s new with the AeroActive Cooler is that it now actually includes a kickstand. This small little addition actually makes it really great, as even if you’re not using the phone for gaming, you can now prop it up anywhere, and just enjoy watching YouTube. Oh and one neat little feature is a slot to keep that rubber cover for the side ports, so you don’t lose it.
Now does the AeroActive Cooler actually work? I would say, somewhat.
Running Final Fantasy 15 Pocket Edition, the temperatures were hovering around 46 degrees celsius with the fan using the Game Genie overlay, and right about the same temperature with the fan attached. Thing is though, Asus didn’t claim lower temperatures on the chip itself, but rather lower surface temperatures.
And in that regard, I would say that’s true as the phone didn’t feel as warm to the touch while gaming with the fan on, as compared to without.
Do note, however, that if you want to access the third level of performance in X Mode, you must have the AeroActive Cooler attached.
Speaking about the Game Genie overlay, this is where you can have quick access to certain functions like notification settings, changing of refresh rate, brightness control, monitor the system, so on and so forth. It’s basically a quick way to check and tweak your settings while in-game.
But this is also where you can set your preferences for the Air Triggers, which for this iteration, has also been improved.
On top of the original two functions, tap and slide, you now also get swipe, which does exactly as it sounds, continuous trigger, which is basically just holding down on the trigger, but perhaps the most interesting is dual partition, where you essentially split the triggers into left and right halves, acting like R1 and R2 on a standard controller.
Having those additional shoulder buttons makes games more enjoyable, like firing your gun in PUBG, as it feels more natural, and frees up space on your display.
But while I do like the Air Triggers, the speakers were what really blew me away.
It’s of course, front-firing and it’s the best speakers I’ve heard from a smartphone to date. It can get really loud, and that’s a plus, but the kicker was how detailed and crisp it sounds. Playing games was great as sound effects really shine, but even just listening to music or watching a trailer on YouTube, you can tell that there’s more depth to the sound and there’s even a perceivable soundstage.
The experience you’re getting, while not on the level of desktop speakers, is far better than your typical smartphone, and Asus has included support for aptX HD, LDAC and even DIRAC.
Overall, the sound solution for the ROG Phone 3 is just really full-fledged.
Of course, if you want to fiddle with more settings, you do get Armoury Crate, which is where you access all the features and functions which the ROG Phone offers, such as system monitoring, game settings and more.
With all that said and done, I have to be honest. I’m a gamer, but I don’t play that much mobile games. I only play Azur Lane, and that’s pretty much it.
But even so, the ROG Phone 3 is a really great phone even for a normal user. Now it’s not perfect, nothing ever is. It’s all about trade-offs, and in this case, I would say it’s the cameras, the size and weight of the phone, and for some, the lack of the headphone jack. I don’t have exact local pricing at the moment, but if it’s anywhere like the previous, it’s going to be at the premium range for sure, not to mention all the various accessories that you can buy for it.
But if you’re an avid mobile gamer, or if you just want the best performing Android phone at the moment, this is it.
Content by Soon Kai Hong