A ‘gaming’ smartphone might seem like a very exciting proposition for enthusiasts, but how can a manufacturer get the average smartphone buyer to feel the same way? Asus launched the first ROG Phone last year, and while it was an amazing product, the high price of nearly Rs. 70,000 at the time meant that you really needed to be a Die-hard gaming addict to even consider it over an iPhone, Google Pixel, or Samsung Galaxy. That’s exactly what Asus wants to change with the ROG Phone 2.
While Asus has taken its time to launch this phone in India, we have seen other companies try to break into this niche segment throughout this year. We now have the Black Shark 3 Pro which has a pressure-sensitive display, and the Nubia Red Magic 5G, which boasts of an internal cooling fan, to consider as alternatives as gaming smartphones. However, Asus hasn’t left any stone unturned for its follow-up, packing it with pretty much every feature one could think of. The icing on the cake is definitely the price. The ROG Phone 2 starts at Rs. 37,999 in India, which is great not only for gaming enthusiasts but also for anyone who’s looking for a powerful flagship on a budget.
Asus ROG Phone 2 design
The Asus ROG Phone 2 continues to sport an industrial look, just like the first version, but it’s a bit more tame this time around. The exposed air vent at the back is smaller and more discreet; the orange highlights for the stereo speakers on the front look more subtle; and the darker finish makes it look even more stealthy. There’s still no mistaking this for an ordinary smartphone though, especially when that ROG logo on the back lights up.
The size ROG Phone 2 is both bigger and heavier than its predecessor, making it one of the heaviest phones we’ve held in a while. It’s very thick at 9.48mm and weighs a whopping 240g. The weight isn’t a big issue when using it in the landscape orientation with both hands, but normal one-handed usage gets fatiguing quickly.
Asus has swapped the rear capacitive fingerprint sensor for an in-display one. Authentication works well but we found that we had to rest our finger there a little longer than usual before this works. It’s not as quick as some of the other in-display sensors we’ve used, like the one on the OnePlus 7T. Face recognition is a lot quicker and works at odd angles too. The power and volume buttons are placed low on the right side of the phone and have good feedback.
The left side has an additional USB Type-C port, along with a custom port beside it for accessories. This Type-C port supports USB 3.1 (Gen2) standard, along with video output upto 4K resolution and Quick Charge 4.0, and it can be used for charging when you’re gaming in landscape mode. The Type-C port at the bottom supports USB 3.0 speed and also supports fast charging. The 3.5mm headphone socket is placed on the extreme right at the bottom, so wired headphones won’t get in the way when you’re gaming.
The 6.59-inch AMOLED display has a full-HD+ resolution but what’s impressive is that it has a 120Hz refresh rate. It also supports 10-bit HDR and is claimed to be colour accurate with a Delta E average of less than 1. The max brightness is 600nits and there’s Corning Gorilla Glass 6 for protection. The display has thick bezels on the top and bottom, but it doesn’t make the phone look ugly. The earpiece and the bottom speaker are forward-facing, for a better stereo effect. The dual Nano-SIM tray is placed on the left side, but there’s no slot for expanding storage.
The ROG Phone 2 also features the second version of Asus’s AirTrigger system or shoulder buttons on the right side. Asus says the algorithm has been reworked, so you can now rest your fingers on them without activating them. There’s a new dual vibration system present too. The phone also uses a 3D vapor chamber system for cooling. According to Asus, a total of four Wi-Fi antennas and microphones have been placed at strategic points around the phone, which should provide optimal signal performance no matter how you hold it.
Asus ROG Phone 2 specifications and software
According to Asus, the ROG Phone 2 has been built using some of the best components available in the market, including a special speed-binned Snapdragon 855+ SoC, LPDDR4X RAM, and UFS 3.0 storage. The phone is available in two RAM and storage variants — one with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage (Rs. 37,999) and the other with 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage (Rs. 59,999). There’s a big jump going to the higher-end variant, and even with the extra accessories, that price seems way too high.
You also get dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5, NFC, FM radio, the usual variety of sensors, satellite navigation systems, and USB-OTG. The ROG Phone 2 supports high-resolution audio through the 3.5mm headphone jack, with the ability to decode 192kHz/24-bit files. However, this phone does miss some flagship-level features such as an IP rating for water resistance and wireless charging.
In terms of installed apps, there isn’t much bloatware. There’s an Asus Data Transfer app for moving data from your old phone to the ROG Phone 2, and the Armoury Crate app, which is where you configure lighting effects for the logo; monitor the temperatures of the CPU and GPU; set the force level for the AirTriggers, etc. Android 9’s Digital Wellbeing suite is also present.
There’s more customization to be had in the phone’s Settings app. AudioWizard lets you choose different sound presets. There’s an ‘Outdoor’ mode which boosts volume by sacrificing a bit of sound quality. You can manually choose between 60Hz, 90Hz, and 120Hz refresh rates for the screen, but you can’t switch between these dynamically based on the activity being performed.
Display colors can be tweaked; there’s an always-on display mode, and you can choose what icons you want in the status bar. The latter feature is very handy as you can have icons for things like NFC, X Mode, the refresh rate, etc, in the status bar so you can see what’s enabled without having to check the toggles in the notification shade.
Asus ROG Phone 2 performance and battery life
The ROG Phone 2’s mammoth size and weight are a little hard to get used to. As we mentioned before, it’s not a problem when you’re holding the phone with two hands for gaming, but for most other use cases, it gets fatiguing very quickly. However, if you’re someone who doesn’t mind large, heavy phones then you’ll probably like it. The glass back is a little slippery but the bundled case makes it easier to hold this phone with one hand. The addition of a notification LED near the earpiece is a nice touch.
As you’d expect, the ROG Phone 2 is also a beast of a performer. The 120Hz refresh rate makes scrolling through apps and gameplay (in supported games) incredibly fun and fluid. 90Hz offers a pleasing experience too, if you want to save a bit of power, but battery life isn’t really a concern here, which we’ll talk about in a bit. Apps load quickly and multitasking is handled very well. Of course, the main draw of this phone is gaming, and this is hands-down one of the best devices — if not the best one — for that.
A mix of heavy games such as PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9 Legends were ran, along with simpler ones including Rayman Adventures and Mario Kart, all of which ran flawlessly. Even on the 8GB RAM version of this phone, we were able to switch between any of these games quite effortlessly.
Now keep in mind that the back of the phone gets quite warm when gaming, especially a few spots near the side-mounted Type-C port which get very hot. We recommend playing with the bundled case, as you don’t feel the heat as much and it offers better grip. The heat could possibly be better controlled with the AeroCooler II accessory, but that will cost extra and we didn’t have one with us to test.
We didn’t feel the need to use X Mode most of the time, other than a couple of instances in PUBG when the framerate began to get mildly choppy. X Mode prevents throttling of the CPU and also doesn’t let the speed drop below 1.3GHz. Keep in mind that this will also drain the battery faster, so we’d suggest not using it unless you absolutely need to.
Just like with the original ROG Phone, we found the AirTriggers to be immensely helpful in games such as PUBG Mobile. The vibration effect, when they are triggered, is instantaneous and you can now rest your fingers on them and simply apply pressure when you actually need to activate them. This reduces fatigue in your index fingers since you don’t have to keep them hovering in mid-air. If you’re going to be doing this, then it’s best to increase the amount of pressure required to activate the triggers, to prevent accidental activation.
Other than Performance, Display, and Speakers are the two major Highlights of this Phone. HDR videos look great — the brightness is automatically boosted when HDR content is detected, and it drops back to the level it was at before when you close the video. The speakers get really loud and sound quality is good. The stereo sound is evenly distributed across both channels, with decent bass and a good soundstage. Even it gives the direct permission to Live Stream within certain Apps like Youtube, Facebook and etc.
Battery life is equally impressive, and not just because of the massive capacity. In our battery loop test, the 6000mAh battery lasted for around 11 hours and 48 minutes with the screen set to 120Hz, and 14hours and 13 minutes at 60Hz. These numbers might not look particularly impressive compared to those of other phones which have run for over 20 hours with smaller batteries, but the ROG Phone 2 exceeded our expectations in real-world usage.
Asus ROG Phone 2 cameras
The rear sensors on the ROG Phone 2 are the same as those on the Asus 6Z ₹27,999. This phone is missing the laser autofocus sensor, but everything else seems to be identical. The ROG Phone 2 also gets a 24-megapixel front camera with an f/2.0 aperture, since it lacks the motorized rear camera of the 6Z. The main 48-megapixel camera uses the Sony IMX586 sensor, with an f/1.79 aperture and PDAF, but no optical stabilization. The second camera uses a wide-angle lens with a 13-megapixel sensor.
The camera app is quite feature-rich, offering plenty of shooting modes such as Motion Tracking, Pro, and Night, among the usual others. A toggle within the viewfinder lets you switch between the regular and wide-angle lens. The latter can be used to shoot video, but you can’t switch between cameras while recording.
Low-light landscape shots captured using the Asus ROG Phone 2 were a bit grainy, but using Night mode helped. Details were still a little weak and the resulting images were oversharpened to bit too much.
The Asus ROG Phone 2 is a solid piece of hardware and is definitely the most polished and impressive gaming phone we’ve seen so far. It lacks some features such as waterproofing and wireless charging, but at Rs. 37,999, those things aren’t big deal-breakers. The higher-end version feels too expensive at nearly Rs. 60,000 even with the massive bump in storage and the bundled accessories. A price of around Rs. 50,000 would have been more accessible.
The OnePlus 7T is one of the main competitors for the base variant of the ROG Phone 2. It’s a solid offering running Android 10, and it has a good set of cameras as well as a fast 90Hz display. If you’re not a fan of the weight of the ROG Phone 2, the OnePlus 7T would be a good alternative.
However, if you’re looking for a beast of a phone, then the Asus ROG Phone 2 is one of the best out there and is priced starting at under Rs. 40,000. Even if you aren’t a gamer, the vivid display and stereo speakers make this an excellent multimedia device, if you can put up with the bulk