With Asus jumping the gun on its own product launch, we already have the opportunity to compare the newly-revealed ROG Phone 2 against the company’s first-gen gaming phone from 2018.
The original ROG Phone arrived at a time where competition was pretty sparse, as far as gaming smartphones were concerned. It wasn’t the first but it was undoubtedly one of the most powerful and focussed devices on the market. It looks as though Asus has doubled down on this approach with its successor, the ROG Phone 2.
For a full rundown on everything the new ROG Phone 2 will be bringing to the table when it launches in September, check out our dedicated feature (by clicking the link above). Now, onto the comparison.
Asus ROG Phone 2 vs ROG Phone – Harder, better, faster, stronger
As with its ROG laptops, Asus employed some distinctly ‘gamer’ aesthetics to its first gaming phone and the successor looks markedly similar, save for the fact that it’s noticeably larger.
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There are holographic lines running along each phone’s curved glass back, subtle red accents sit against their predominantly black bodies and, to really hammer the point home, large illuminated ROG logos that employ Asus’ Aura LED lighting effects to pulse and change colour. In both cases, they can also double as super-sized notification lights.
The original ROG Phone was already a fairly large device, considering the rest of the market at the time, however, the ROG Phone 2 is a veritable behemoth in smartphone terms. It’s nearly 1cm thick (9.5mm) and weighs in at a whopping 240 grams.
The added size and bulk comes from adopting both a larger display and a larger battery compared to the original. According to Asus’ own research, gamers don’t care all that much about how svelte or lightweight their device is, so long as it can deliver decent longevity and a solid gameplay experience – for which the screen plays a fundamental role.
The ROG Phone 2’s larger display adopts a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, compared to the ROG Phone’s 18:9 screen, meaning that although it’s markedly taller, the phone’s body isn’t much wider (77.6mm compared to 76.2mm) – so it shouldn’t be that much trickier to hold, despite its extra heft.
Asus has also moved away from the offset, rear-mounted capacitive fingerprint sensor of the original phone; which proved to be a little awkward for a lot of users. Instead, the ROG Phone 2 is among the first of the company’s phones to leverage in-display fingerprint sensor technology, resulting in cleaner aesthetics and more convenient placement.
Unique features like the original’s AirTriggers (capacitive portions of the phone’s frame that act as shoulder buttons) make a return, although this time Asus has managed to reduced the haptic lag (a noted pain point on the first ROG Phone) from 63ms down to just 20ms. In addition, there’s an additional microphone set into the ROG Phone 2’s frame (bringing the total to four) to help with noise cancellation and team chat when using gaming in landscape.
Asus ROG Phone 2 vs ROG Phone – Fast visuals, even faster touch response
The viewing experience was one of the big highlights of the first ROG phone, namely because at the time it was the only device on the market to boast AMOLED technology with a 90Hz refresh rate. The company has pushed things further for 2019, retaining that AMOLED tech to ensure vibrant colours and stellar contrast ratio, but also increasing the refresh rate to an impressive 120Hz – matching that of the Razer Phone 2’s display – which is comparatively limited by its use of IGZO LCD technology.
What’s more, the panel’s 240Hz touch sampling rate promises input lag of just 49ms, meaning your taps and swipes are interpreted faster.
Related: What is HDR?
HDR viewing is still part of the equation too, however, the newer device also upscales SDR content to near-HDR levels where possible.
Asus ROG Phone 2 vs ROG Phone – The most powerful phone of the year?
On the inside, there’s plenty of new technology to talk about. Namely, the ROG Phone 2 will be the first phone to boast Qualcomm’s freshly updated Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset.
According to the chipmaker, the standard 855 already offers a 45% performance improvement and 20% graphical improvement over the previous year’s Snapdragon 845 (used by the original ROG Phone), but the 855’s recently-announced ‘+’ model offers a further 4.2% CPU and 20% GPU upgrade compared to the base chip.
As such, the gaming experience on the new ROG Phone 2 should prove markedly smoother and more consistent (with regards to frame rates and lag), as well as being able to support the highest graphical settings for any and all of the top-tier titles currently on the Play Store, as well as those coming in the immediate future.
To supplement this chipset, the new ROG Phone 2 packs a whopping 12GB of RAM (up from 4GB on the original ROG) and ups its base (non-expandable) storage from 128GB to 256GB, with the maximum space on offer again taking the form of a 512GB option.
When testing the new chipset’s mettle, the phone also boasts a new ‘GameCool 2’ cooling system. It again totes a ‘3D’ vapour chamber, heat sink and external venting that’s actually a little more understated compared to the setup visible on the back of the Mark I ROG Phone.
As for connectivity, while there’s still no 5G support – but the new four WiFi antenna layout is tailored to landscape usage to ensure speedy and reliable connectivity when gaming.
The battery capacity has jumped from 4000mAh to 6000mAh, promising even longer extended play time when away from the wall plug. To counter this increase in size, Asus has also upped the speed of the included fast-charging technology, from 20W to 30W, with Qualcomm Quick Charge 4+ and USB Power Delivery support thrown in for good measure.
Related: What is Fast Charging?
Last but not least, the ROG Phone 2 once again boasts dual front-facing speakers, however, this time they’re paired with a larger acoustic chamber, which the company promises will deliver a 250% increase in volume, should you choose not to make use of its integrated 3.5mm headphone jack.
Asus ROG Phone 2 vs ROG Phone – A solid photographic foundation
While the camera is seldom expected to be anything more than usable on a device built first and foremost for gaming, there’s a notable quality bump in the ROG Phone 2. It uses the same dual 48/13-megapixel setup from the capable ZenFone 6, while the front camera has received a straight megapixel bump from 8 to 24, meaning that at the very least, selfies and live streaming should appear sharper on review.
Asus ROG Phone 2 vs ROG Phone – Gamer aesthetics optional
The hardware is the undeniable focus of the ROG Phone series – cramming as many worthwhile specs in as possible, but the software is just as important.
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The updated ROG launcher treads much of the same ground as the user experience on the original ROG Phone, but there’s visual and functional tweaks to get the most out of the new capabilities on offer. You have access to a wealth of customisation options over the handset’s more unique features – like its AirTriggers, as well as the ability to completely hide any trace of that ‘gamer’ UI by switching to Asus’ more conventional ZenUI, if you prefer.
Both run atop Android 9.0 and the new phone will likely see at least one major OS update in its lifetime, just as last year’s ROG Phone launched on Android 8.1 Oreo and is awaiting a confirmed update to Pie sometime in Q3, 2019.
Asus ROG Phone 2 vs ROG Phone – More of the same accessories, but better
When looking at the ROG Phone formula, the handset is, in fact, only half the story. The phone’s capabilities are only truly unlocked when you factor in the wealth of first-party accessories Asus is launching alongside it.
The Desktop Game Dock (which adds mouse, keyboard, monitor and ethernet support) and WiGig Wireless Projection Dock make a return from the first-generation ROG Phone. Upgraded versions of existing accessories also join the fray in the TwinView Dock 2 second-screen case (which also features an additional 5000mAh battery and fan) and the AeroActive Cooler 2 external fan.
The newer ROG Phone also gets a couple of cases all its own: the Aero Case and the Lightning Armour Case, a third dock option called the Pro Dock, allowing it to be hooked up to a TV and the new Kunai gamepad. This adaptable controller is far more flexible than the first ROG Phone’s physical control setup.
Taking a leaf out of Nintendo’s book, the two sides of the Kunai gamepad can detach like the Nintendo’s Switch’s Joy-Cons and be used independently or slot onto either side of the ROG Phone 2 itself – adding an even greater level of depth to the ways this gaming phone can be played.
Asus ROG Phone 2 vs ROG Phone – Verdict
To say that Asus doubled down on everything that defined the original ROG Phone when building its successor is unquestionably an understatement. As such, the raw power, improved screen, updated software, enhanced features and added accessory ecosystem collectively mark the ROG Phone 2 as a notable improvement, and one of the most powerful smartphones of 2019.
The question now stands as to how much this new gamer’s dream device will actually cost when it makes it to market, alongside the matter of whether every peripheral will make it to every market, too.