Hands on: Asus ROG Phone 2 Review

First Impressions

If you want power and polish, not to mention an arsenal of accessories in your next gaming phone, the ROG Phone 2 looks set to be the obvious choice. While the Black Shark 2 and Red Magic 3 are excellent affordable alternatives, Asus appears to have delivered an across-the-board flagship experience complete with a host of gamer-focused highlights that can’t be matched in its latest ROG device.

The Asus ROG Phone was one of the first examples of a gaming phone done well – it had stacks of power, a decent camera, front speakers, left and right touch triggers that actually worked and software that levelled up gaming on it tenfold. It also supported some very cool accessories that turned the phone into what looked like a turbo-charged Nintendo DS. 

Now, Asus is going ten steps further with the ROG Phone 2, the first smartphone to feature a Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset – and in its latest Ultimate Edition guise, it includes 1TB storage, 2Gbps LTE download speeds and a new matte black finish.

Related: Best Gaming Phones 2019

Asus ROG Phone 2 – Design and screen

The ROG Phone 2’s Full HD+ AMOLED screen is both larger and faster than the original, with a 120Hz refresh rate

The ROG Phone 2 looks virtually identical to its predecessor on first glance, but get it in your hands and you realise it’s a beefier beast at almost 1cm thick, and it’s heavier too, weighing a whopping 240g. That heft brings with it a sensationally big battery though – 6000mAh, and there’s a headphone jack at the top as well.

The phone carries forward the front-firing stereo speaker setup that bookends the screen as found on the original, a side-mounted USB-C port for easy charging while gaming, not to mention RGB lighting. As for the aesthetic, it’s angry – like an irate mechanised raptor, and if that sounds like your bag, in its new matte black version, it looks even angrier. Having said that, the back panel is a fingerprint magnet whichever finish you go for.

The phone’s 6.59-inch Full HD+ AMOLED panel is both larger and faster than the original thanks to a 120Hz refresh rate, making it the first of its kind. Gamers rejoice – sure, the phone’s 1ms screen refresh rate is excellent eye candy – but the 240hz touch refresh rate means it registers touches imperceptibly quickly, so latency is lower than on any other smartphone currently available.

Viewing angles look great on the first impression, blacks are deep and colours are punchy. The main area we could tell the screen sports a high refresh rate is still scrolling through menus though, with only a handful of games optimised to truly take advantage of the ROG Phone 2’s epic screen capabilities.

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Asus ROG Phone 2 – Gaming

The ROG Phone 2 has been announced alongside some gorgeous looking gaming kit

Let’s start with Air Triggers – these are L and R triggers on the phone, just like those found on traditional games controllers and indeed, the original ROG Phone. This time around though, they have been refined with lower latency, faster haptic response and sliding gesture input functionality. The ROG Phone 2 is also the first phone to feature two vibration motors, one on the left and one on the right side of the phone when it’s held in landscape.

Gaming accessories have always been an area gaming phone manufacturers can flex their creative muscles, and the ROG Phone 2 has been announced alongside some gorgeous looking gaming kit. 

It supports a new Kunai gamepad which packs some serious Nintendo Switch-factor. Comprised of left and right detachable portions, just like the Switch controller, these can slide onto a centrepiece to form a joystick, or latch on to either side of the ROG Phone (with a compatible case) to give it joy-con wings. Hook that set-up to the ROG Phone 2 clamshell second-screen case, and Asus has created a cross between a Nintendo Switch, 3DS and a Decepticon.

A handful of the original ROG Phone accessories, like the HDMI dock, will work for the ROG Phone 2, though given the fact the two have different dimensions, any accessories that require the phone slot into a case or housing will be device-specific. 

With no less than three cooling mechanisms, as with the original, the phone ships with a clip-on fan, which combines with copper piping and vapour chamber cooling tech to keep framerates high even when the action gets intense.

Running Android 9 with Asus’ Zen UI ROG Edition over the top, game and app support is set to be nothing short of excellent out of the box. 

Asus ROG Phone 2 – Cameras and sound

The ROG Phone 2 boasts a 48MP primary IMX586 sensor coupled with a 13MP ultrawide lens

Featuring the same dual-cameras as found on the Asus Zenfone 6, photography on the ROG Phone 2 is anything but an afterthought. That means a 48-megapixel primary IMX586 sensor coupled with a 13-megapixel ultrawide camera. Unlike the flagship Zenfone 6 though, the ROG Phone 2 sports a separate front camera which clocks in at 24-megapixels, and is, according to Asus, positioned in an ideal spot for live streaming. 

The phone also sports four noise-cancelling microphones so you can stream with confidence in your audio. As for sound, thanks to the headphone jack, you can plug in your favourite gaming headset for a dongle-free session with the ROG Phone 2, and the stereo speakers are loud – clearly audible in a bustling room, and according to Asus, significantly louder than those of the original.

Related: Best Camera Phones 2019

Asus ROG Phone 2 – Power

Another first – the ROG Phone 2 features a Snapdragon 855 chipset for unrivalled gaming phone power. This means a 4.2% CPU and 20% GPU upgrade compared to the original 855, meaning other gaming phones like the Black Shark 2 and the Red Magic 3 look set to pale in comparison.

The phone’s 7nm chip is coupled with 12GB RAM, and up to 1TB storage if you opt for the newly announced Ultimate Edition. The ample RAM will mean games won’t force-close when running in the background, and the ample storage will be perfect for anyone who hoards games, 4K movies or content shot on the phone itself. 

Loaded up with a 6000mAh battery, not only is it one of the most capacious phones we’ve ever seen, it’s also one of the fastest charging, with Asus’ HyperCharge tech powering it up by 5000mAh in an hour.

Asus ROG Phone 2 – Price and release

With pricing and availability for both the Elite and Ultimate version announced at IFA 2019, anyone with the 512GB version with 1.2Gbps LTE speeds in their crosshairs can order one right now for €899. As for when you’ll actually be able to get your hands on it, the phone is expected to ship by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the matte black Ultimate Edition, which is loaded up with 1TB storage and up to 2Gbps LTE speeds, will be available in Q4 with no pre-order date confirmed just yet, and cost €1,199.

Asus ROG Phone 2 – Early verdict

If you want power and polish, not to mention an arsenal of accessories in your next gaming phone, the ROG Phone 2 looks set to be the obvious choice. While the Black Shark 2 and Red Magic 3 are excellent affordable alternatives, Asus appears to have delivered an across-the-board flagship experience complete with a host of gamer-focused highlights that can’t be matched in its latest ROG device. 

While the phone’s design and size definitely won’t be for everyone, therefore, we’re optimistic that the ROG Phone 2 will be at the very least, an improvement over the original, which was already one of the best gaming phones around.

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