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ASUS ROG Phone 2 review: Somebody finally nailed the gaming phone (Update: Android 10 is coming!)
ASUS made a statement when it released its Zenfone 6, showing the world they could be a real contender in the ever-cluttered mobile market. Can the ROG Phone 2 carry on this excellence? Well, in Android Authority‘s review, you’re about to find out!
The big picture
The ASUS ROG Phone 2 is probably the fastest phone on the planet. With a super-smooth display, a great camera, unbeatable battery life, and awesome build, I don’t think you can beat the high-end value that this phone offers. Nothing else on the market manages to pack into a phone what ASUS has done here.
- 171 x 77.6 x 9.5mm
- Metal and glass build
- In-display fingerprint scanner
- USB-C, headphone port
- RGB rear LED
This device carries an unapologetically gaming aesthetic. Sharp angles, colored accents, RGB lighting, and the sheer weight of the thing all come together to make up a busy design. I, surprisingly, really dig the heft of the phone, and a lot of gamers will too. It feels like a bit of a brick, and built solidly. The right-side-mounted buttons feel tactile and crisp, with zero play, the bottom-mounted USB-C and 3.5mm ports are well placed, and the rear camera at the top is unique in its shape.
ASUS includes “Air Triggers” on the right-hand side, so when you hold your phone in landscape, you can use capacitive shoulder buttons in games. These work fantastically well, because they blend into the design, and you completely forget about them until you need to use them.
The left-hand side-mounted dual USB-C ports are used for docking the phone to several ROG accessories, including the included fan attachment. The issue with this is the rubber dust-cap can be easily lost, as I found out early on in the review period. Also, the lack of official Ingress Protection is a pain for those living in parts of the world with less than perfect weather. That said, there is attention to detail in more subtle areas. The in-display fingerprint scanner is accurate, if not the fastest ever, the dual-SIM tray has the acronym “GLHF” printed on the inside, and this is one of the few phones left with a discreet notification LED!
- 6.59-inch Full HD+ display
- 2,340 x 1,080 resolution
- 19.5:9 aspect ratio
- AMOLED panel
- 120Hz refresh rate
ASUS really nailed it with the display this time around, striking a great balance between quality, speed, and optimization. The large AMOLED panel has been developed for gaming from the get-go. Not only is the speed and fluidity spot-on, thanks to the 120Hz refresh rate, but there are deep blacks and a high contrast ratio thanks to the OLED tech.
We see notches and punch-holes in a lot of phones these days, but the ROG Phone 2 sports an uninterrupted screen with tightly rounded corners — two things that are far more important than you might first think. Sure, it doesn’t look sleek and modern, but it means you are free of distractions in games, and UI elements are less likely to be cut off by the rounded corners.
Also read: The best phones with edge displays
It’s not all perfect, though, and there are some notable issues with the AMOLED found in the ROG Phone 2. My first complaint is that it doesn’t get dim enough, making for an almost blinding experience when checking for notifications in the middle of the night. Secondly, at this screen size, there is a distinct drop in sharpness when compared with a similarly-sized QHD panel.
- Snapdragon 855 Plus
- 1 x 2.96 GHz Kryo 485, 3 x 2.42 GHz Kryo 485, 4 x 1.78 GHz Kryo 485
- Adreno 640 (700MHz)
- 12GB RAM
- No MicroSD card
With the best spec sheet around, the ROG Phone 2 has a lot to live up to in its user experience, and I’m happy to say that this phone doesn’t disappoint. The Snapdragon 855 Plus SoC pushes far more power to the GPU, making it the best phone for pure gaming performance in our testing, even if the CPU faired around the same as a standard Snapdragon 855.
In all of the games I tested, the ROG Phone 2 was happily hitting the frame rate cap. When playing 120Hz-supporting games, such as Minecraft and Riptide Renegade, the smoothness was almost surreal. This is helped by the use of a Full HD+ display, where the GPU can easily push more frames, since it doesn’t have to deliver such a high resolution.
The smoothness was almost surreal.
It’s not just gaming at which the ROG Phone 2 excels, either. Thanks to a generous serving of RAM and a super-fast display, every bit about the phone feels fast. From switching applications, to processing photo and video, this device takes everything in its stride.
- Quick Charge 4.0 (30W)
- 10W wired power share
This phone skips the 5,000mAh battery and features a behemoth 6,000mAh cell — enabling a multiple-day battery life that many of us crave when away from an outlet for more than 24 hours. Not only did the ROG Phone 2 deliver a full day of battery life, but I was often getting two days in a row, and I wouldn’t be surprised if lighter users managed three days on a single charge.
Quick Charge 4.0 is the charging tech of choice, meaning 30W of charging power. You’d expect a battery of this size to take ages to charge, but it tops up quicker than I expected — not that you’ll need to charge the ROG Phone 2 all that often. From empty, the phone hits 100% in 105 minutes. That’s very impressive.
Continue reading: The best fast charging cables
One of my favorite features that this phone offers is power share, where you can plug another device into yours and charge the connected device at 10W of power. With 6,000mAh onboard, having the ability to share it with other devices is incredibly useful.
- Android 9 Pie
- ROG UI
- Zen UI
When ASUS released the Zenfone 6, they revamped the software, ZenUI, dropping many of the heavy-handed customizations it previously favored. Thankfully, they’ve kept this same software with their gaming phone, meaning that all of the bloat has been stripped back to a near-stock foundation with some specialized ASUS tools sprinkled in. This makes the phone feel cleaner, snappier, and far less cluttered.
The ROG Phone 2 is being released in an awkward stage of transition from Android 9 Pie to Android 10. It ships with 9 Pie out of the box, but will soon be updated to Android 10. ASUS told us that it plans to release the Android 10 update first to the Zenfone 6, and then to the ROG Phone 2.
Continue reading: Top Android 10 features!
Armory Crate is an included game launcher that gives you quick access to all of the installed titles on the phone, along with game-time figures and cool animations. It honestly feels a lot like what I’d imagine a mobile Steam to be. It’s the only “bloat” application, and I feel that it’s easily justified.
Update 01/20/20: The ROG Phone 2’s Android 10 update is just around the corner. WiFi Alliance certification was spotted, showing the device to be tested for “Android, version:10”. Whilst this has come far later than expected, it’s great to see a flagship gaming phone getting updated, despite its feature-heavy OS.
Update 03/01/20: The ROG Phone 2 is still yet to get the Android 10 update. Beta 8 has just been made available to those of you that are inclined to test it before a stable release.
No gaming phone in the past has had a genuinely good camera, and the ROG Phone 2 changes that. Both the wide and ultra-wide cameras on the rear create a truly capable camera setup that, whilst not top of the charts, still takes great images in all but the toughest conditions. It’s able to capture lots of dynamic range and still retain information thanks to its competent image processing.
Portrait selfies are surprisingly good, thanks to the large-resolution front camera along with the powerful Snapdragon 855 Plus for its great processing. Regular selfies look great too, offering heaps of detail and dynamic range. As you can see, even in direct sunlight, the shaded side of my face is still viewable despite the harsh sun on the lit side of my face.
The ROG Phone 2 does a decent job at processing the portrait-mode shots. Even here, with lots of dense foliage behind me, there were minimal edge-detection errors. It’s certainly not Pixel-level, as the focus drop-off could do with a bit of work to look more realistic, but not bad!
Low light is a tough area for this device. It really seems to struggle with noise and loss in clarity when the light gets sparse. As you can see in this image of my local train station, the detail in the pavement to the left of the image gets very grainy and makes for poor viewing, which creates a feeling of cheapness.
Dynamic range is impressive with the main camera, but not so much with the ultra-wide shooter. This photo of under a shelter gives a good amount of detail in the wood and metal material., but does lose some information in the cloudy sky where it seems to just go white.
Colors from both cameras seem natural and life-like, creating fun-looking images without pushing the post-processing too much. This image of a lone unique leaf in a sea of samey-looking ones proves this. The phone could have easily carried the color over across the image, but it didn’t.
The ROG Phone 2 certainly isn’t a stranger to solid camera features. With the ability to shoot at 4K up to 60fps, and 720p at up to 480fps, there are plenty of video modes too. You can check out our full-size camera samples on Google Drive.
- 3.5mm audio jack
- Bluetooth 5
Audio is a mismatched area for the ROG Phone 2, for a couple of reasons. The inclusion of the headphone port is great, but it’s not the best jack we’ve ever seen in terms of quality. Our testing showed a lesser frequency response than the competition, so keep that in mind if you require tip-top audio. If you connect the included cooling fan accessory, you get a headphone port at the bottom of the landscape-oriented phone too, making for a more ergonomic layout when playing games for long periods of time.
Also read: The top 10 music-streaming apps for Android!
Otherwise, the front-facing stereo speakers are well placed, get nice and loud, and sound great considering they’re on a phone. I recently went away for the weekend and we had no data, so we listened to some music from local storage and the sound easily filled the caravan.
ASUS ROG Phone 2 specs
|ASUS ROG Phone 2|
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
19.5:9 aspect ratio
120Hz refresh rate
240Hz touch-sensing rate
1x2.96 GHz Kryo 485
3x2.42 GHz Kryo 485
4x1.78 GHz Kryo 485
Adreno 640 (700MHz)
30W fast charging
10W reverse charging
Video: UHD4K at 60fps, FullHD at 240fps, HD at 480fps
1080p at 30fps
Dual nano-SIM slots
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/b/ac/ad 2.4/5GHz
Positioning system: GPS, aGPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BDS, QZSS
Supports Bluetooth 5 connections
Supports aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC
In-display fingerprint scanner
Android 9 Pie
Matte Black, Glossy Black
171 x 77.6 x 9.5mm
Value for money
At $899, the ROG Phone 2 delivers a phenomenal value. You get the fastest phone on the market, along with a whole host of other great features. Compared to recent flagships like Galaxy Note 10 and iPhone 11 Pro, or other gaming devices like the Razer Phone 2, it presents incredible value for money, and has them beat on many bases.
Considering we’ve seen phones with less power and features than this start at significantly higher prices, it seems like ASUS is making a statement: You don’t need to spend over a grand to get the fastest phone in the world.
ASUS is making a statement with the ROG Phone 2.
ROG Phone 2 review: The verdict
The ROG Phone 2 is an incredible mix of value-for-money, performance, and all-round power. I had a blast reviewing this device, and props to ASUS for building the best phone that the gaming niche has ever seen, all for under what the competition is charging for lesser-specced phones.
In December of 2019, the “Ultimate Edition” was launched in North America, giving buyers in that region the 1TB storage option!
Update 03/01/2020: Supply shortage
A concerning issue is the limited supply of the ROG Phone 2 due to Coronavirus. The company recently put out a tweet on their ASUSIndia account. explaining that there would be a temporary shortage and that they are working on getting the phones back in stock soon.