Asus has knocked it out of the park with the ROG Phone 2, with everything about it coming together to make it the best gaming phone money can buy, and a great phone across the board. If you dig its aggressive looks and don’t mind the lack of wireless charging or water-resistance, then when it comes to gaming and battery life, nothing else comes close.
- Sensational screen
- Excellent battery life
- Plenty of power and storage
- It’s a big phone
- No telephoto camera
- No waterproofing
- Dual camera: 48-megapixel main, 13-megapixel ultra-wide
- 24-megapixel front camera
- 6000mAh battery with Quick Charge 4.0 support
- 512GB storage
- Integrated fingerprint reader under the screen
- Snapdragon 855 Plus CPU, 12GB RAM
What is the Asus ROG Phone 2
The gaming phone space has filled out since the Razer Phone, and ROG Phone launched. Xiaomi’s sub-brand, Black Shark, has released two phones, ZTE’s sub-brand, Red has stuck a fan in its Magic 3’s chassis, and OnePlus has straddled two worlds with its masterfully balanced OnePlus 7 Pro – an affordable flagship that puts gaming front-and-centre with its 90Hz display. Asus knows the stakes, and it’s taking no prisoners with its ROG Phone 2, obliterating everything else out there when it comes to specs.
The ROG Phone 2 is loaded up with a giant 6.59-inch AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. It’s also packing Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset, overclocked to 2.96GHz, paired with 12GB RAM. Need storage? The ROG Phone 2 has tonnes, with 512GB by default, and a 1TB version coming down the line, complete with a matte black finish. It also has the biggest battery on the block – 6000mAh – and supports fast-charging, up to Quick Charge 4.0 (30W).
Asus has overloaded its latest phone with gamer-specific highlights too, from L and R AirTriggers to squeezy sides which activate an overclocked X Mode, and there’s even a clip-on fan in the box. This isn’t just a phone – it’s a totally over-the-top joy ride, so strap in and keep reading.
Asus ROG Phone 2 Design – Glass, metal, rage and wrath unite
There’s no getting around the fact the ROG Phone 2 is enormous. It has a 6.59-inch screen, is 9.48mm tall – 1.3cm taller than the iPhone 11 Pro Max – and at 9.5mm thin, it is one of the thickest phones around.
The glass front is dominated by the display, which is bookended by a bit of bezel, stereo speakers and a selfie camera. Flip it around, and there’s an almost identical finish to that found on the original ROG Phone, with curved glass, a light-up ROG logo and a camera, not to mention some hangry looking glyphs that give the phone its aggressive design edge.
Not content with one USB-C port, the ROG Phone 2 has two, one at the bottom and one at the side, for in-game landscape charging and accessories. The volume and power buttons are on the right side, and there’s a headphone jack too.
As with the first ROG Phone, the ROG Phone 2’s frame is black metal, but it does chip silver, which is a shame, I would have loved Asus to have anodised it (coloured the metal throughout).
As for gaming highlights, when held in landscape, there are left, and right touch-sensitive areas which act as AirTriggers, and a firm squeeze of the phone will fire up X Mode, which animates some wallpapers while also activating the RGB lights around the back and overclocking the CPU.
In the box, you’ll find a bumper case as well as a cooling fan, which can act as a kickstand if you affix rubber feet to its base, which can also be found in the box.
The ROG Phone 2’s design is going to be sensational for anyone who wants an angry-looking gaming phone with attitude, heft and gamer-centric additions. It might even work for you if you’re looking for a fantastically different looking phone brimming with geek-factor. If, however, you want a subtle, demure and easy-to-pocket device, you won’t find it here.
Asus ROG Phone 2 Screen – It doesn’t get much better than this
The ROG Phone 2 screen is one of our favourites of any smartphone out now. It isn’t the sharpest – the Sony Xperia 1 wears that crown – nor is it the brightest, with a peak brightness of 600 nits (the OnePlus 7T gets up to 1,000 nits). It isn’t even the only phone around with a 120Hz refresh rate – remember the Razer Phone 2? It’s also a touch higher in contrast than the tonally sensational Mate 30 Pro’s display, or the Galaxy Note 10 Plus.
However, it is the only OLED display to feature such a high refresh rate, and within the settings there’s more granular control over screen saturation than on any other phone around. So, whether you want a cinematic, desaturated look or a punchy world of Willy Wonka-style candy colours, the ROG Phone 2 has you covered.
The screen specs are also solid, with 2340 x 1080 resolution, 10-bit HDR capabilities and a 500,000:1 contrast ratio. Day-to-day, it also has strong viewing angles, depth in its blacks and is responsive.
Asus ROG Phone 2 Performance and gaming – Hear it whir
The Asus ROG Phone 2 is a powerhouse. Inside, its Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset is clocked at 2.96GHz and matched with 12GB DDR4X RAM to put it at the top of its game, and everything from gaming, through to UI swiping reflects that.
Benchmarks results are virtually identical to those of the OnePlus 7T, which has the same chipset, but the ROG Phone 2 looks that bit smoother thanks to that 120Hz screen.
Its side-mounted USB port gives users scope for charging the phone while landscape gaming comfortably, and is where you hook up the phone’s accessories.
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.
We got on well with the AirTriggers in our fortnight with the ROG Phone 2 – these are L and R triggers on the topside when holding the phone in landscape, 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 and faster haptic response. The ROG Phone 2 is also the first phone to feature two vibration motors, though their independent firing wasn’t particularly noticeable to us.
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 frame rates 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. In terms of actually hitting that coveted 120Hz mid-game, there are a handful of titles that support it. It isn’t just about the games though, the impact the phone’s smooth frame rates have when you aren’t gaming ensures day-to-day swiping has never looked so good.
Asus ROG Phone 2 Battery life – More mAh than some laptops
With a huge 6000mAh of battery power inside, the Asus ROG Phone 2 is a bonafide 48-hour phone with light to regular use. It easily made it through a day and a half without much effort, and with a 30W HyperCharger included with the phone, you can charge it up to almost 50% in just 30 minutes – impressive.
Screen-on time was also sensational, with the phone only losing 4% after 30 minutes of streaming at medium brightness at 120Hz, though dropping the screen refresh can extend the phone’s life, as too can a quick dip into the settings.
Plenty of battery saving features can be accessed here, from startup app control, adaptive battery mode, which limits infrequently used apps from going rogue in the background, and more. Asus also includes an option to fire up Battery Care, extending the charge time so that the ROG Phone 2’s massive cell holds charge better throughout its long-term lifespan.
Asus ROG Phone 2 Software – Go stock or go grrr, either way, it’s silky smooth
The ROG Phone 2 runs Android 9 with Asus’s ROG UI over the top, and this time around, Asus has added a massive amount of versatility to the mix.
While you can’t change the theme of the ROG Phone 2’s physical design, it’s always going to be a ridiculously angry-looking piece of kit, the UI is very customisable. Asus has added a virtually stock UI theme option as well as two more gamer-centric choices.
Navigation across both is as smooth as butter thanks to the 120Hz screen and CPU. It comprises of an apps tray, multiple home screens and a pull-down notifications and quick toggle menu.
There’s also a suite of gaming enhancements that are at the heart of the ROG Phone 2’s experience within the Armory Crate app. Fire it up to access a carousel of your games – this is your Games Lobby. Here you can customise specific game profiles, tuning the display refresh rate, CPU speeds, audio levels and even screen touch sensitivity.
An additional Console menu opens up control over the included fan’s speed and RGB lighting.
Asus ROG Phone 2 Camera – Wide, ultra-wide, but no zoom
Featuring the same dual-cameras as found on the Asus Zenfone 6, photography on the ROG Phone 2 is anything but an afterthought, though a notable omission is the telephoto camera as found on phones like the Huawei P30 Pro and Oppo Reno 10 X Zoom.
The main camera is a 48-megapixel IMX586 sensor coupled with a 13-megapixel ultrawide camera. Though unlike the flagship Zenfone 6, 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 livestreaming.
Image quality is solid in good light, with the ROG Phone 2 supporting either 12 or 48-megapixel resolutions. Auto-HDR only fires up when shooting at the lower resolution, but if the light’s right, ramp it up to 48-megapixels and you can grab more detail, compensating to a degree for the lack of zoom.
Shooting modes are plentiful, with Auto, Portrait (which works well), Pro, Night and a neat Motion Tracking mode, which tracks objects across your scene.
As for pure picture quality, the ROG Phone 2 is very competent, grabbing a lot of image information and handling challenging scenes well. Dynamic range is respectable, and in good light, it’s hard to fault, producing natural-looking shots. As soon as the lights drop though, artificial lighting or outdoor night conditions prove challenging in automatic mode. That said, fire up Night mode and things get a lot better. The portrait effects also work well too, and aren’t just reserved for faces, working well with inanimate objects and pets too.
Video is captured at up to 60fps at 4K and stabilisation works across resolutions, and there’s also no crop-factor when switching up resolutions either. The selfie camera is nice and sharp, though unlike Samsung flagships, it doesn’t feature autofocus so you’ll want to make sure you’re at arm’s length.
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. Its stereo speakers are loud, too – clearly audible in a bustling room, and according to Asus, significantly louder than those of the original.
Should I buy the Asus ROG Phone 2?
If you want the most specced out phone right now, you can buy the ROG Phone 2 with confidence. It isn’t cheap, but when you think about just how many things about it outclass the competition, its price is easier to stomach.
This phone has the smoothest screen around, the biggest battery and so much RAM, it keeps games and apps open in the background for hours. With all its gamer-centric enhancements and accessories, it’s the best gaming phone around, sure, but it’s also a joy to use for giant geeks who want a phone that looks like it fell off a Klingon warship.
You might miss having a telephoto camera, especially if you’re coming from a phone like the Mate 20 or P30 Pro, but its wide and ultra-wide cameras are both solid performers, making it a decent phone whichever way you look at it.
If you want something that has similar power but a lower price and a more mainstream look, the OnePlus 7T or 7 Pro could be great alternatives. Alternatively, the Black Shark 2 and Red Magic 2 are also compelling gaming alternatives with much lower price tags.
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Asus has knocked it out of the park with the ROG Phone 2, with everything about it coming together to make it the best gaming phone money can buy, and a great phone across the board.
If you dig its aggressive looks and don’t mind the lack of wireless charging or water-resistance, then when it comes to gaming and battery life, nothing else comes close.
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