For the last few years, Asus has been trying to capture the attention of gamers like me with its ROG lineup of gaming phones. Dedicated gaming phones have always been looked at as niche devices, and although that thought is slowly going away, the ROG Phone 5 represents the ideal way forward for a premium gaming phone. I was able to get my hands on a ROG Phone 5 for review — and I finally understand the appeal of this gaming smartphone.
Asus ROG Phone 5 price in India (as reviewed): Rs 57,999
Asus ROG Phone 5 review: What’s new?
On the surface, the ROG Phone 5 looks a lot like its predecessor, the ROG Phone 3. There are subtle differences between the two devices when it comes to the design language. The back has a dot-matrix style light-up ROG logo, which is highly customisable. The front houses a large 6.8-inch AMOLED display along with the best speakers ever on a phone. Bezels have been reduced significantly, and for a change, the headphone jack is making a return. While the front of the ROG Phone 5 is glass and the sides are metal, I would have liked the phone to have a lighter feel. The phone is solidly built, though I must say the ROG Phone 5 is a heavy phone.
On the left side of the phone, you will find a special connector for gaming accessories, such as the AeroActive Cooler 5. One of the things that make the ROG Phone 5 a gaming phone is its AirTriggers, two touch-sensitive buttons that act as shoulder buttons on a real game controller. They are not perfect, but I found AirTriggers helpful in select titles. The bottom of the device features a USB-C port and a trusty headphone jack. Mind you, Asus is killing off the microSD card slot. That means no expandable storage — so choose the internal storage capacity wisely.
Asus ROG Phone 5 review: What’s good?
The phone has a 6.78 inches AMOLED screen with a resolution of 2448x1080p. The display is sharp and colours literally pop up. It was a delight watching Wonder Women 1984 on the ROG Phone 5. The screen’s 144Hz refresh rate is an overkill I’d say. Thankfully you can set the refresh rate to be 144Hz, 120Hz, or 60Hz. The device also features a fingerprint scanner in the display. It seemed improved over the in-screen fingerprint scanner found in the ROG Phone 3.
What’s impressive about the ROG Phone 5 is its drastically improved speakers. The front-facing speakers are surprisingly loud and offer boomy bass. They don’t merely sound like good smartphone speakers – they in fact sound as good as a small portable Bluetooth speaker.
Like most new flagship smartphones, Asus’ ROG Phone 5 is powered by the Snapdragon 888 processor paired with up to 12GB RAM and 256GB of storage. Asus loaned me the review unit with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage, but the base model carries 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. The phone feels instant – and fast. Whether opening apps or playing popular games, I have had no issues using the ROG Phone 5. If you multitask a lot, this phone is for you.
But the ROG Phone 5 is a gaming phone first. Not only does it have the best hardware on a flagship smartphone, but the graphene sheets and the improved cooling system also help the device remain cool after a long gaming session. On top of it, the 144Hz screen and a 300Hz touch sampling rate allow for an improved gaming experience. Asus has also added nifty gaming software features built into the device like the Game Genie and X Mode, something you won’t find on any other smartphone. The X mode, for instance, gives full control over the phone’s CPU, RAM, performance and GPU speeds. The ROG Phone 5 comes with Android 11 and ZenUI on top. The user interface offers a lot of customisability, though the problem with Asus’ phones remains the lack of commitment with Android updates.
The ROG Phone 5 features two 3000mAh cells, delivering a total 6000mAh capacity. The phone lasted 13 hours on a single charge. The battery is impressive, though I would like to add here that battery life takes a hit when gaming. I played games, watched YouTube videos, streamed music via Apple Music, took photos, and browsed the web, and yet I got a day’s juice.
Asus ROG Phone 5 review: What’s not good?
The camera experience on the ROG Phone 5 isn’t great but it’s not bad either. There are three cameras on the back: a 64MP Sony IMX686 sensor that can shoot up to 8K video, a 13MP ultra-wide and a 5MP macro. Image quality isn’t particularly sharp, whether you are shooting from a 64MP primary lens or a 13MP ultra-wide lens. Colours looked washed out, however, in good lighting conditions I did get respectable shots. Notably, the phone takes extra time processing photos. To be clear, the ROG Phone 5’s camera doesn’t come close to the iPhone 12 or Galaxy S21 in the camera department. To my surprise, the camera fared well in low light. The 24MP selfie camera, however, is impressive.
Asus ROG Phone 5 review: Should you buy it?
Designing and selling a gaming phone is far from easy, and Asus knows it well. The ROG Phone 5 tries hard to make an impression with features like a 144Hz screen, virtual controls, louder speakers, a DAC-powered headphone jack, better cooling and so on. In a way, the ROG Phone 5 comes close to defining a dedicated gaming smartphone. That said, Asus’ flagship phone too comes with flaws. There is no water resistance rating and the phone lacks a microSD slot and wireless charging. It’s also large and heavy, plus the camera is average. If you want a premium gaming smartphone that is slightly different both in looks and appeals and can stomach Rs 57,999, this deserves a look.