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Asus ROG Phone II hands-on review: a gamer phone with highs score potential

Asus ROG Phone II hands-on review: a gamer phone with highs 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 first hands-on review of the Asus ROG Phone II.

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 is now accepting pre-orders for the ROG Phone II Elite Edition. From mid-September, the first retailers and network operators will start selling the gamer phone. 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

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.

Software tuning included

The software has many options for tuning installed games so that they run optimally. To try out all of these options during our hands-on was not simply possible, we will save that for the final review. In any case, we can already say that Asus, thanks to its experience in PC gaming, offers the ambitious mobile gamer more possibilities than the game modes that Samsung, OnePlus and Co. can currently offer.

For those who find the very conspicuous ROG UI too much in some areas and prefer an almost stock-like look, Asus offers the possibility to switch to its Zen UI interface.

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.

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 also gets a new sensor. Instead of and 8-megapixel as before, the new ROG Phone II shoots photos with 13 megapixels. Selfies will also be improved with the new 24-megapixel front-facing camera. Whether the whole camera setup will really lead to better photos and videos, we will find out for you when we do our final review.

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

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 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, you should buy the ROG Phone II.

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