Technology Mobiles and Tabs 01 Oct 2019 ASUS ROG Phone II re ...

ASUS ROG Phone II review: Buy for gaming, leave with one of 2019's best smartphones

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | AARON ALMEIDA
Published Oct 1, 2019, 6:37 pm IST
Updated Oct 4, 2019, 12:40 pm IST
ASUS has thrown in everything including the kitchen sink and shows that you don’t need to pay a lot for one of the best smartphones around.
ASUS ROG Phone II is dressed to slay.
 ASUS ROG Phone II is dressed to slay.
Rating:

ASUS ROG (Republic of Gamers) product line has always prioritized beefy specs with absolutely no compromises, and that’s just its gaming laptop lineup. Last year, saw the brand use its ROG branding on the increasingly popular gaming smartphone segment and with it, the world saw one of the best, if not the best gaming smartphone to ever exist. The handset checked all the right boxes when it came to specs, performances, battery and more. But, a year is a lifetime in the technology space and this year, ASUS is back with a bang and has laid the gauntlet down to not just rival gaming handsets, but to virtually every flagship smartphone in the world.

With the ROG Phone II, ASUS has made their purpose pretty damn clear. This handset is not just about providing an ideal gaming experience, but to provide “the ultimate smartphone gaming experience.”

 

The ROG Phone (2018) was an absolute beast and the with the 2019 edition, ASUS has taken all the best elements of the previous generation handset, taken a long, hard look at it, and built a gaming smartphone that will absolutely annihilate the competition. This smartphone isn’t just meant for the rapidly growing eSports community out there, but for every single person, who wants an all-inclusive smartphone that’s fitted with the industry’s best specifications and priced so well that it’s actually baffling how they managed to do it.

The ASUS ROG Phone II, although niche in its offerings is meant to excite not just the hardcore gamers, but also every tech enthusiast out there. And, this is a very important point before we get into the nitty-gritty of the smartphone and with you reading this, you will be as impressed as us because what ASUS is offering here is nothing but pure technological genius that’s priced at a paltry Rs 37,999.

ASUS ROG Phone II review

Design, Build

ASUS has built the ROG Phone II from the ground up, and just like they did with the original ROG Phone. They went back to basics and analysed what the market would want and how they could offer a consumer each and everything but by also adding improvements to make it relevant for the foreseeable future. The second-generation ROG Phone is meant to astonish and that’s why the clear focus of the brand is adding tech that’s above and beyond what’s available from the competition. While the innards are where the fun is at, ASUS has offered consumers a product that’s meant to raise eyebrows and you will surely get approving glances from anyone who sees you use this bad boy.

With the ASUS ROG Phone II, the brand isn’t putting out your standard gradient back. Instead, they have gone with a unique beastly design that screams gaming. And being a flagship handset at that, ASUS has fitted the ROG Phone II with the best of materials. Like other flagship smartphones, you don’t simply get the metal and glass combination; what the brand has done here is added an aesthetic that takes the best of designs being put together which when put together gives you a look and feel that’s up there with the best-designed smartphones to have ever existed. ASUS has gone for the gaming design here but also added subtle characteristics to make it look extremely professional if the need arises.

Using sharp angles, RGB lighting, and a size that’s actually larger than the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus, you get a handset that’s unapologetically geared towards the gaming community. The handset is on the tad bit heavier side, weighing in at 240g; however, the weight distribution is well managed and it feels lighter than the OnePlus 7T with its case on. The weight and size of the phone appeal to us and we feel that any gamer who gets their hands on this baby will appeal to them as well as it demonstrates the lengths ASUS have gone to add each and every feature that’s demanded from a high-end gaming handset.

When it comes to the buttons on this baby, ASUS has delivered a precision and a tactility that’s required for a gaming beast. There is absolutely no give here and accessing them feel as natural as waking up in the morning. The USB Type-C port and the 3.5mm jack at the bottom are placed well while the rear snappers feature a unique design that compliments the rest of the overall aesthetic.

ASUS ROG Phone II review

Air Triggers make a comeback here and they’re located on the right, so when handling the ROG Phone II in a landscape orientation, you can use them as capacitive buttons during in-game play. These buttons are one of our favourite features of the handset and there are denotations for them on the side. After using them during games, you will find them pretty natural to use and this can in-fact enhance your overall performance in a game which gives you an edge over your non-ASUS ROG Phone II opponents. These buttons absolutely blend into the design of the handset and can be brought on just when needed. This design decision by ASUS is exemplary.

The left of the ROG Phone II comes with a USB Type-C port that can dock into the multitude of ASUS accessories and it is concealed by a rubber cap. While this cap is great for keeping out unwanted elements such as dust and grime when not in use, ASUS addition of a removable rubberized dust cap is something which we weren’t quite fond off as it can be easily misplaced when removed. While the handset comes with a ton of features, it does lack an official ingress protection certification for dust and water resistance. While it’s not a big deal and we are sure ASUS has fitted some form of protection for external elements; having this certification would definitely put our minds at ease especially with the less than ideal climate India has.

Since ASUS has used a Super AMOLED display here, they have taken advantage of it by fitting an in-display fingerprint scanner. This works well for the most part, but is a bit slower than some of the other flagship handsets such as the OnePlus 7 Pro — a direct rival to the ROG Phone II. ASUS has also added a dual-SIM tray on the handset and on the face, you get a notification LED, which is dying feature on flagship devices.

ASUS ROG Phone II review

Display

On the ROG Phone II, ASUS absolutely killed it! They have added one of the best displays on a commercially available smartphone. While most of the competition is still stuck on 60Hz (with a few exceptions like the OnePlus 7 Pro and the OnePlus 7T at 90Hz), ASUS has doubled the refresh rate here and fitted a 120Hz display. With this blazing fast refresh rate, you will undoubtedly witness a sharpness and fluidity that you haven’t ever experienced before. This will make you thoroughly enjoy your overall gaming experience and add a smoothness to the UI you haven’t ever witnessed before. One thing is certain — once you use this, you will have a tough time going back to the 60Hz display on other 2019 flagship handsets. With that being said, your battery life will take a bit of a hit when the display is set at 120Hz; but not so much that it can’t be used during extended sessions of gameplay. Also, since it uses an OLED display, power consumption is taken care off to a large extent.

ASUS ROG Phone II review

Using an OLED display, the ASUS ROG Phone II offers some of the best colour reproduction ever seen on a smartphone. The blacks are deep thanks to the panel used here and the overall colour accuracy is on par with current flagships. Additionally, there are various in-built display modes for you to customise your experience; however, we found the ‘Optimal’ setting to be the best as it offered picture-perfect colour accuracy along with a slight punch to ensure that it has a pleasing, vibrant appeal.

When most of the smartphones out there are coming with pop-up cameras, notches and punch-hole displays, the ROG Phone II proudly sports bezels on the top and bottom. While this feature may not look trendy, the use of this type of screen is meant for functional purposes that gamers will enjoy as it doesn’t come with any interruptions or distractions created by notches or punch-holes.

Lastly, it would have been great if ASUS added a QHD+ panel here instead of an FHD+ 1080 x 2340-pixel resolution as it would slot in right next to the display performance that’s witnessed on the Galaxy Note 10 Plus. The 6.59-inch 19:5:9 display has been built for gaming and having a massive screen like this certainly helps the cause. However, the 391ppi leaves you a bit wanting as it doesn’t measure up to the completion such as the OnePlus 7 Pro, Galaxy S10 Plus and others. However, we are sure most of you who purchase this handset won’t mind the lower density as it is non-noticeable.

ASUS ROG Phone II review

ASUS has used an Always-On display option which we actually recommend keeping off as it gets quite bright especially during the night. Other than this, even at its lowest brightness setting the screen is really bright which is great for gameplay but not so good when you get a notification in the dead of the night as it’s pretty blinding. While the display is bright, using it in direct sunlight is next to impossible and the viewing angles aren’t that great as well.

As far as the overall display performance goes, the pros outweigh the cons and the screen on the ROG Phone II drives our appreciation for this beast.

ASUS ROG Phone II review

Performance

When ASUS announced the ROG Phone II, it wasn’t just the world’s first commercially available smartphone with a 120Hz display; it was also the first to come with a Snapdragon 855 Plus SoC. This in itself put it head and shoulders above its nearest competitors. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill flagship chipset. Qualcomm has put a lot of work into it and has speed-binned it and overclocked the SD855+ in-house and with it we get a Kryo 485 core clocked at 2.96GHz. This SoC lends its strength to the Adreno 640 GPU and paired with up to 12GB of RAM, you get an unrivalled gaming experience. Additionally, the handset also comes with up to 512GB of UFS 3.0 storage which pushes the envelope where performance is concerned.

Just like other smartphones, the ASUS ROG Phone II comes with a gaming mode called X Mode that enhances the overall performance of the handset. While playing high-end games like Shadowgun Legends, PUBG Mobile, Asphalt 9: Legends and others, the handset performed as smoothly as you’d expect. With all of its settings maxed out, you get a gaming performance that bests every other smartphone in the worlds right now. The 120Hz display adds to the overall experience and this feature needs to really be seen to be appreciated. The handsets performances extend beyond the gaming realm and every little aspect of the phone seems buttery smooth because of all the flagship features playing its part and coming together to offer you a smartphone experience like none other.

ASUS ROG Phone II review benchmarksASUS ROG Phone II review benchmarks

Elaborating on the performance, the handset paired with either 8GB or 12GB of RAM ensures that you will never experience a stutter or lag no matter what gaming titles you run. However, all this raw power needs an excellent cooling system and ASUS have fitted a 3D vapour chamber, bidirectional airflow system, copper heat sink and heat transfer vents to keep the ROG Phone II cool under stress. The brand has employed a specially designed heat pipe that results in a tiny exposed area on the rear. Apart from providing some efficient cooling, it also adds to the overall ‘gamer’ design the brand is going for. Thermal management on the ASUS is pretty good, but you do notice some heating while playing games such as Asphalt 9. The handset does get a bit hot on the metal frame especially during extended gameplay but you won’t notice a drastic drop in performance. However, accessories can be purchased such as the AeroActive Cooler II which will definitely help with heat management.

The dual front-facing stereo speakers are quite loud and using a headset isn’t necessary for playing PUBG. The enemy’s footsteps were pretty audible even when the volume wasn’t topped at max.

ASUS ROG Phone II review

Also check out: ASUS ROG Phone II gaming review

Software

The ROG Phone II comes equipped with Android 9 and the brand has said that it will get an Android 10 upgrade at a later date. However, as of writing, there is no word on when it will reach the handset. With that out of the way, ASUS offers the ROG Phone II with two skins during the setup process. There is a gaming interface and a more traditional ZenUI that’s also found on the ASUS 6Z. For us, the ROG UI was the more appealing option and we used it during our testing process.

home screendrop down

These skins are extremely lightweight and there aren’t many customisations to the Android 9 UI, a feature which we absolutely loved. However, you have the option to tweak the settings to give you the best smartphone experience, a feature which the gaming crowd will absolutely adore. The X Mode helps in elevating the CPU frequency which in turn helps with better gaming performance, there is a DTS audio equalizer that’s customizable, scrolling screenshots, an in-built screen recorder which can help during gaming that also records audio and many more features.

Game Genie is where all the fun is at and this sidebar that can be accessed during games allows you to adjust the brightness, alter notification settings, turn on X Mode, check on the current temperature, start a screen recording and even live stream your game. These features are highly beneficial for those who have gaming YouTube channels or Twitch accounts.

ASUS ROG Phone II review

Armory Crate is bloatware which we loved and in it, you can view all your installed games and even start them when paired with the multitude of accessories ASUS has launched with the ROG Phone II. In this app, you can also enable specific options for certain games and even launch X Mode if you so well need it. Also, you can customise the RGB logo on the rear with Armory Crate and the possibilities are endless.

Cameras

Being a gaming-centric phone, you’d imagine that ASUS didn’t add a lot of focus to the optics. However, that’s far from the case and you get pretty capable snappers all around. There is a primary 48MP f/1.8 lens and a 13MP ultra-wide-angle lens with an f/2.4 aperture. On the front, ASUS has added a 24MP shooter with an f/2.2 aperture. All-in-all, this is a pretty decent configuration considering the sole focus is on the gaming performance and not on the optics like the ASUS 6Z.

ASUS ROG Phone II camera samples

ASUS ROG Phone II camera samples

ASUS ROG Phone II camera samples

ASUS ROG Phone II camera samples

ASUS ROG Phone II camera samples

ASUS ROG Phone II camera samples

ASUS ROG Phone II camera samples

ASUS ROG Phone II camera samples

ASUS ROG Phone II camera samples

ASUS ROG Phone II camera samples

ASUS ROG Phone II camera samples

ASUS ROG Phone II camera samples

ASUS ROG Phone II camera samples

ASUS ROG Phone II camera samples

ASUS ROG Phone II camera samples

When it comes to performance, the ROG Phone II’s camera is pretty solid and we recommend keeping the HDR on for the best colour reproduction. Image quality is pretty great here with a lot of detail visible; however, when the HDR mode is turned off, colours appear a bit dull. However, for a gaming smartphone, it is on top of the charts as far as camera performance goes and we see a dynamic range that’s fairly high and the in-built image processor helps with retaining all the information that’s needed to produce a great shot.

The front camera performs well with portraiture and this is because of the 24MP f/2.2 sensor used here. Coupled with the SD855+, the ROG Phone II offers a lot of dynamic range with a fair amount of detail retained. The edge-detection works pretty well and overall, the camera upfront is one of the better ones out there.

Low-light images are where the cameras tend to struggle, but just a bit as there is a fair amount of image noise and loss of clarity. We would recommend shooting at night only when the area is sufficiently lit, as this will give you the best possible images.

ASUS ROG Phone II review

Battery

The ASUS ROG Phone II is one of the first flagships to come loaded with a massive 6000mAh battery. Additionally, it comes with 30W Quick Charge 4.0 and it can also double up as a power bank and offer 10W of wired power share.

Battery life is one of the handset’s strong suits and given the amount of tech fitted in here, ASUS needed to fit a large-capacity battery. If you are a gamer and spend multiple hours of playing PUBG then you should get a day’s worth of battery life. However, if you are a casual gamer and stick to about one-hour of gaming or so per day, then there is a high possibility that you can get multiple-day battery life. However, battery life is subjective and this entirely depends on person-to-person.

One would imagine that charging this massive battery would take a fair deal of time. However, with Quick Charge on board, you can go from 0 to 100 per cent in just under two hours which is rather impressive.

Having wired power share is another useful feature that ASUS has thrown in. The ability to use your handset as a power bank for another smartphone or gadget is something that’s truly incredible and we applaud the brand for throwing this in as well.

ASUS ROG Phone II review

Verdict

Priced at Rs 37,999 for the 8GB/128GB model, the ASUS ROG Phone II is our choice for most-valuable flagship product of the year. It is truly baffling how the brand managed to throw in all these features and cutting-edge tech and yet keep the price down to a minimum. Adding a 120Hz display, Snapdragon 855 Plus, 48MP camera, a 6000mAh battery and more into a smartphone and pricing it so cheap is way beyond our understanding.

The ASUS ROG Phone II excels in every single aspect it has set out to. It dominates with the design, it offers you unrivalled performances and has a large-enough battery that can take all the load you put it through. For us, this isn’t just the best gaming smartphone out there right now, but also one of the top-performing flagships of the year.

If you are a gamer and looking for a capable handset, then purchasing the ASUS ROG Phone II is a no-brainer, However, if you are a tech-enthusiast, and looking for one of the best smartphones of the year and are partial to larger handsets, then look no further than the ROG Phone II.

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