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Asus ROG Phone II review: a gamer phone with high score potential

Update: Final verdict!
Asus ROG Phone II review: a gamer phone with high score potential

Mobile gaming is a constantly growing market and not only the game publishers want to generate revenues, but smartphone manufacturers too. While Samsung, OnePlus and Co. integrating special game modes into their operating systems via software, Asus is launching the ROG Phone II, a smartphone specially tailored to the needs of gamers. It could take gamers' hearts by storm and has the potential for high scores. Here's our full review of the Asus ROG Phone II.

Rating

Good

  • Thanks to tremendous battery, a long-time runner
  • Very good speakers
  • Top performance
  • Fast 120 Hertz display

Bad

  • Very tall and heavy

Asus ROG Phone 2 release date and price

I'm always a bit skeptical about Asus and availability, because there have often been past smartphone announcements that took several months before the devices were finally available on the market. I guess for the ROG Phone II it looks better. Asus started accepting pre-orders for the ROG Phone II Elite Edition shortly after it was announced at the IFA. The price for a ROG Phone II equipped with 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage is €899. In the Q4 2019, Asus will be adding the Ultimate Edition. This comes with double the internal storage, so a full 1TB of space for games, videos and documents. The price will then be a whopping €1,199.

A design for the extroverted

When it comes to design with a special gamer touch, Asus has a long experience with ROG products from its PC sector. Here it likes to clearly show that thse products are for gamers, and expresses this with light effects and extroverted design. From the PC space for gamers, there is also the possibility to configure the lighting effects and colors via software here. But all this is already known from the first ROG Phone from 2018. Even the implementation of the air triggers in landscape mode remains on the ROG Phone II.

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Not to everyone's taste: the design of the ASUS ROG Phone II / © AndroidPIT

The back of the ASUS ROG Phone 2 is very noticeable, as the manufacturer sets accents with geometric shapes. It becomes really striking if you operate the gaming phone in the X-Mode. Then the ROG logo lights up in different colors that you can choose yourself. The logo should not only symbolize your game's affinity but can also act as a notification LED if the ROG Phone if face down on the table. A second notification LED is located on the front above the display.

A display to fall in love with

For a real gamer, the refresh rate is very important. Not only because animations appear more fluid, but also because the higher refresh rate makes the action on the touch display much more precise. Asus already used a 90 Hertz AMOLED panel in the first ROG Phone. With the ROG Phone II, the manufacturer increases this by a further 30 Hertz, so that now 120 frames per second are shown on the display. Asus wanted the response time of the display to be tweaked. According to the manufacturer, this is 49 milliseconds - for comparison, Asus said the OnePlus 7 Pro has a response time of 85 milliseconds.

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ASUS ROG Phone II: this 120 Hertz AMOLED display is for falling in love with / © AndroidPIT

Such a high frame rate and short reaction time naturally sucks a lot out of the battery. However, Asus already prevents this somewhat on the resolution side and only uses a FullHD+ resolution (1,080 x 2,340 pixels) despite the massive screen diagonals of 6.59 inches. To ensure that the AMOLED display really brings games to life in true color, Asus afforded the luxury of manually calibrating each individual ROG Phone II display before it goes on sale.

Asus ROG Phone 2 special features

Among the special features of the ASUS ROG Phone 2 is certainly the side USB-C port. This has been specially developed for ASUS gaming accessories. The scope of supply itself already includes one of these accessories: the Aero Active Cooler. Even the first generation of the ASUS gaming smartphone had the side port and an active fan, for long mobile gaming sessions. ASUS has now installed a quieter fan for the new version, which is still audible, but does not really bother you when playing.

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Always keep a cool head. ASUS packs in the scope of delivery of the ROG Phone 2 an active cooling pure / © AndroidPIT

For gamers, there is also the additional USB-C port, so that the charging cable in landscape mode does not interfere with your fingers. Also, a 3.5 mm headphone is located on the fan accessories, also so that it does not affect the gaming experience.

In addition to the included fan, there are other accessories for the Asus ROG Phone 2. All are designed so that you have even more fun with the gaming smartphone. For me, the most exciting thing is the Twinview Dock II, which transforms the smartphone into a real little mobile handheld gaming console. Or the Mobile Desktop Dock, which is not just a docking station, but transforms the smartphone into a kind of game console for the living room.

Software tuning included

The ASUS ROG Phone 2 was still shipped with Android 9.0 at the time of our test. ASUS has already informed us that it is already working diligently on Android 10 for the ROG Phone and that a closed beta has started in a timely manner. Although ASUS delivers the gaming smartphone with Android 9, there is already gesture control, digital wellbeing and a system-wide dark mode. 

It goes without saying that the software has many options to tune the installed games so that they run optimally. The App Armory Crate is the central interface between hardware, games and the player themselves. Here, depending on your mood, either the system can optimize everything, or you can lend a hand. Since really ambitious gamers spend a lot of their time fine-tuning, they can really adjust the CPU clock rate, including the thermal upper limit, refresh rate of the display, or even control the speed of the Aero Cooler. Many of these adjustment options are largely the result of experience Asus has collected from the PC gaming area and now on smartphones. The ambitious mobile gamer will get maximum fun out of it. The range of settings is many times greater than, for example, the game modes of OnePlus, Samsung and Co.

All of the power

When it comes to performance, a gamer smartphone should not be lacking. The audience is demanding and wants to get constantly high performance from the hardware during an intense gaming session. Even the smallest fluctuations in the frame rate could ultimately lead to the loss of valuable accuracy. It could be the difference between winning and losing for some players.

The heart of the ROG Phone II comes from Qualcomm and is called Snapdragon 855+, a tuned SoC where the high-performance core is clocked at 2.96 GHz instead of 2.84 GHz. In addition to the CPU, the GPU also gets a higher clock rate. By default the Adreno 640 runs in the normal Snapdragon 855 with up to 585 MHz. With the 855+ and thus in the ROG Phone II, the graphics unit clocks up to 700 MHz. According to Asus, all of this should contribute to a 40 percent increase in graphics performance.

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The button in the middle allows you to use the tuning software on the ROG Phone II / © AndroidPIT

In addition, Asus uses a generous 12GB of RAM and 512GB of internal storage. The Ultimate version will later provide 1TB of internal storage. The larger memory comes at a cost: the ROG Phone II no longer has a MicroSD card slot. With this feature, the ASUS ROG Phone 2 can beat the performance of the OnePlus 7T in almost all respects.

ASUS ROG Phone II benchmark comparison

  ASUS ROG Phone 2 Samsung Galaxy Note 10 OnePlus 7T
3D Mark Sling Shot Extreme ES 3.1 6182 4905 6020
3D Mark Sling Shot Vulkan 5427 4146 5245
3D Mark Sling Shot ES 3.0 6842 4872 6649
3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited ES 2.0 77368 53189 72408
Geekbench 5 (Single / Multi) 771/2422 704/2283 786/2825
PassMark Memory 31991 19730 32960
PassMark Disk 75716 73145 50068

Asus ROG Phone 2 audio

The display is right, the performance is really good, what is missing now is really good sound. Again, the ASUS ROG Phone 2 knows how to shine, because the two front-facing speakers are among the loudest we have ever enjoyed here in the editorial office . Although the speakers of the ASUS ROG Phone 2 clatters a bit at maximum volume, it still sounds better than comparably-priced smartphones. 

Better photos and videos for gamers

Of course, ROG Phone II users also want to take photos and videos with their smartphone. The quality of the ROG Phone's first-generation camera was ok, but the community wanted more. Now, Asus wants to fulfill these wishes with the second generation. Asus relies on the Sony IMX 586 image sensor with 48 megapixels and Quad-Bayer technology, which can combine four pixels into one, just like on the ZenFone 6. This is primarily intended to improve image quality in poor lighting conditions.

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The selfie camera is in the upper right corner deliberately for better shots while playing in landscape mode / © AndroidPIT

The wide-angle camera gets a new sensor. Instead of eight megapixels as before, the new ROG Phone II shoots photos with 13 megapixels. Asus already uses the same camera setup in the Zenfone 6, which was priced one-hundred bucks cheaper in its maximum memory version and stood out in comparison to equally expensive smartphones. At this price, the ROG Phone 2 has, when it comes to the photo and video qualities, to measure up with smartphones of the caliber of a Huawei P30 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S10+ or even a Google Pixel 4 XL. Unfortunately, in this competitive field, the Asus ROG Phone 2 drops in terms of photo and video quality.

A big battery for longer gaming

Forget smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G (4,500 mAh) or the Huawei Mate X 5G (4,200 mAh) if you're thinking about big batteries, because Asus easily outshines them both. The ROG Phone II houses a full 6,000 mAh and should therefore easily be able to last for two days of normal operation. The disadvantage of the whole big battery thing is an extremely high weight: The Asus ROG Phone II weighs a full 240 grams. So that you don't need to wait hours to charge the battery, Asus gives the gaming smartphone 30-watt fast charging technology. Thus 4,000 mAh should be doable within 60 minutes. Of course, Asus has moved the charging electronics from the smartphone to the power supply so that the temperature in the phone does not rise too much during the charging process.

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One of the numerous accessory options for the ROG Phone II: the docking station / © AndroidPIT

In our benchmark test, the ROG Phone 2 set at a 60-hertz refresh rate came to a running time of 13 hours and 42 minutes. If the display is operated at 120 hertz, the runtime drops by 30 minutes to 13 hours and 10 minutes. Although these measurements do not match those of the Huawei P30 Pro despite the huge battery, in everyday life the Asus ROG Phone 2 proves to be a long-running device and can also stay away from the charger at night with a clear conscience. In normal use, the Asus ROG Phone 2 stayed alive with me for just under two days. But if you play PUBG or Fortnite more often after work and use the fan and operate the smartphone in Hardcore mode, then it will make it through almost a full working day. 

Asus ROG Phone 2 technical specifications

Dimensions: 171 x 77.6 x 9.5 mm
Weight: 240 g
Battery size: 6000 mAh
Screen size: 6.59 in
Display technology: AMOLED
Screen: 2340 x 1080 pixels (391 ppi)
Front camera: 24 megapixels
Rear camera: 48 megapixels
Flashlight: Dual-LED
Android version: 9 - Pie
RAM: 12 GB
Internal storage: 256 GB
512 GB
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Number of cores: 8
Max. clock speed: 2.96 GHz
Connectivity: HSPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0

Early Verdict

The ROG Phone II will be a love or hate thing, I imagine. Anyone who wants to buy it and use it permanently will certainly see the smartphone primarily as a gaming and entertainment device. The possibility to make phone calls and send SMS and use WhatsApp and Facebook is just a nice feature. Thanks to the extensive accessories such as gamepads, active coolers, a docking station and a second display, the ROG Phone II can be upgraded to a potent gaming unit. If you need all of this and spend a lot of time with AAA mobile games, and maybe even want to report on these games via YouTube Livestream or Twitch, you should buy the ROG Phone II.

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