Asus ROG Phone 2 full review

The gaming phone market barely existed a year or two ago, and it’s now exploded into not only one of the fastest growing parts of the market, but also one that’s driving some of the biggest technical advances. So it is with the Asus ROG Phone 2 - both the first phone in the world to feature the souped up Snapdragon 855+ processor and a battery behemoth with a whopping 6,000mAh of capacity to play with.

The ROG Phone 2 won our Best in Show award at IFA 2019. Find out what else won awards.

Price & Availability

The ROG Phone 2 is out now in China and some markets, and pre-orders are open in the UK for a mid-October launch.

As for price, it costs €899 - the exact same price as the original ROG Phone. It's gone on sale in the US at the same price as the original of $899 at Mobile Advance and B&H.

The UK price, however, has gone up a little from £799 to £829. That's still excellent for what you're getting though.

If you want to spend a little more, €1,199 will get you the even more powerful Ultimate Edition, which upgrades storage to 1TB, throws in a Cat 20 LTE modem for 2Gbps speeds, and boasts a matt black finish. That won't release until 'Q4' though - so October-December.

If you're happy to ship from China GearBest has an excellent deal on the ROG Phone 2.

Check our chart of the best gaming phones to see what rivals there are.

The fastest phone in the world?

On paper, the ROG Phone 2 has a credible claim to being the fastest and most powerful smartphones in existence .

That’s basically because in addition to a monstrous 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, it’s the first phone to launch packing Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855+ processor - an improved version of the company’s flagship chip that boosts CPU performance by a slender 4% and GPU speeds by a much meatier 15%.

To the average phone user that won’t mean much - or even really be noticeable in day-to-day usage. But if you’re throwing some serious games at it day-in, day-out, then that extra performance will start to add up in frames per second. It helps that with solid cooling (and an optional fan accessory) there should be no need for throttling performance even at high loads.

You can see our benchmark results below compared with its predecessor and key rivals like the Razer Phone 2 and Red Magic 3. As you can see, it's tight at the top, but the ROG Phone 2 smashed it out the park by winning in every single test.

It's perhaps interesting to note that you can get similar scores, particularly in Geekbench, with phones like the iPhone XR but it doesn't have all the gaming prowess of the ROG Phone 2.

You’ll need every frame you can get too, if you want to make the most of the 6.59in AMOLED display. It now packs a 120Hz refresh rate - up from 90Hz in the original ROG Phone - which means silky smooth navigation and scrolling, and even smoother performance in games like MOBAs where the high refresh rate tends to pay dividends.

Note that the screen is set to 60Hz by default so you'll want to head into the settings to change it - 90Hz is also an option if you want a half way house.

At 19.5:9 the panel is taller and thinner than its predecessor - in line with most other flagship phones these days - and there’s HDR10 support too, which means great contrast and bright, punchy colours. Oh, and it’s all coated in Gorilla Glass 6, so it shouldn't break easily either.

Asus claims the display can reach a whopping 600 nits outside and in our test we found maximum brightness to be an impressive 587. You will have little trouble seeing what's on the screen even in tricky conditions with that level - it's more than double most phones.

All of that power means serious power drain of course - which is where the almost absurd 6,000mAh battery comes in. This is one of the biggest batteries ever seen in anything close to a mainstream phone, and together with 30W fast charging (Quick Charge 4.0) this is undoubtedly one of the best phones on the market - gaming or otherwise - from a power perspective.

With no gaming, this phone has the potential to last three or maybe even four days depending on usage. For gaming, it's going to last even a long session lasting a few hours. In our tests it lasted a ridiculous 12 hours and 56 minutes (the longest we've seen to date) in the Geekbench 4 battery test and charged a whopping 44% in 30 minutes from dead despite the size of the battery.

The ROG Phone 2 can also reverse charge if you have another device that needs topping up. The only thing missing here really is wireless charging.

Finally, cameras. They don’t usually wow on gaming phones, but Asus has squeezed in the same rear shooters seen on the ZenFone 6: a 48Mp primary lens (f/1.8 lens at 26mm), backed up by a 13Mp ultra-wide angle shooter (f/2.4 and 125-degrees) all powered by Sony’s IMX586 sensor.

There's only digital stabilisation here but it's decent and photos from both cameras have a lot going for them. The main sensor is capable of some excellent shots with lots of detail and next to no noise while the wide-angle fits a lot into the frame without too much distortion. There's a 2x button in the camera app but it's just a cropped image, not an actual telephoto lens.

Both HDR+ Auto and HDR+ Enhanced modes yeild good results and you can choose which you prefer. There's no need to turn HDR off though really. You also get things like a Pro and Portrait modes - the latter is ok, but you get blur where you don't want it sometimes due to using the wide-angle lens for depth sensing.

Low light images are about average with a Night mode helping out but it's not as good as some of the non-gaming flagships out there.

Asus ROG Phone 2 camera test

There's no fancy flip round camera like the ZenFone 6 but the selfie shooter is no slouch either - it’s 24Mp (f/2.2) and takes reasonable photos and will suffice for 1080p streaming if you need.

Overall then, it can't beat some of the top flagships in the overall phone market but in the gaming phone sector it's easily the best we've tested to date.

Built like a beast

Of course, all that tech makes the ROG Phone 2 a bit of a big boi. It’s not unreasonably massive, though at 240g it’s certainly heavy (even a hefty handset is under 200g), and the 6.59in screen is complemented by bezels at the top and bottom that make it even bigger than those specs might suggest.

The design is broadly similar to the first ROG Phone - think lots of jagged lines and angular cut-outs - but feels subtly refined, and the taller, slimmer design suits the aggressive aesthetic well. It will appeal to gamers, including the exposed copper which is part of the cooling system.

One of the main differences you'll notice is the lack of a fingerprint scanner - which was the most bizarre shape we've seen - becuase now it's embedded into the display like many phones this year. Sadly, we've found it to be a little unreliable but the face unlock works pretty well. 

There’s still space for the double USB-C port on the side that Asus uses to power its accessories (more on them below) along with a 3.5mm headphone jack for audio - though front-facing speakers with DTS:X Ultra support means the phone sounds good whether you’re plugged in or not. The audio quality and sound stage is astonishing.

That side port is once again plugged by a small rubber piece that you'll no doubt lose fairly quickly. Asus includes two spares in the box, though.

It wouldn’t be a gaming device without RGB lighting, and once again the ROG logo on the back of the device can glow, pulse, flash (or just turn off entirely) according to your desires, with the option to set different effects based on whether the screen is one or off, whether overclocked X-Mode is on or not, or for incoming calls or notifications.

Included in the box is an 'Aero Case' which offers a skeletal design to combine protection without restricting cooling. It mostly protects the corners and should help in the event of a drop, plus can be used with the AeroActive Cooler 2 or TwinView Dock 2 so no need to be taking it off all the time.

Geared to game

Asus hasn’t focused all of its attention on the phone itself though. The original ROG Phone shipped with a few optional accessories, and this time around Asus has upped the ante even further.

The clip-on fan - the AeroActive Cooler II - makes a return, but this time it’s quieter, and doubles as a handy kickstand if you need it to - but that’s only the beginning.

The Kunai gamepad takes a few cues from the Switch, with a pair of slim controller halves that can either combine to form a single gamepad or attach to either side of the phone itself to create a full portable console experience.

If you don’t fancy paying extra for physical buttons, the usual gaming touch controls are supplemented by the return of the Air Triggers - pressure sensitive buttons built into the frame of the phone that serve as handy shoulder buttons when used landscape. They have adjustable sensitivity, and can double as shortcuts when you’re out of a game just like Active Edge on the Pixel 3. In various games, particularly first person shooters, you'll gain a nice advtange due to the extra control.

Then there’s the TwinView Dock 2 which gives you a full second screen for multi-tasking (much like in the LG V50) - though in classic Asus overkill, this is also 120Hz and packs its own 5,000mAh battery. Throw in a variety of docks for connecting other devices or hooking the phone up to a monitor, and you have more add-ons than you could shake a stick at - or afford.

Asus ROG Phone 2 software

Oh, and if you get fed up of the gamer life, there’s now the option to swap the UI from Asus’s ROG-specific skin (in dark or light) to a classic Android look in case you want something a little more pared back. The gaming interface will likely appeal though, and once again animates when you switch X Mode on - this gives you maximum performance.

This is part of Android 9 Pie which the phone ships with. Gaming skin aside, things are pretty stock and there aren't too many pre-installed apps either. Mainly Netflix and then a handful of Asus own-brand additions. 

The Armoury Crate is where there's some pretty cool stuff including a console where you can see the CPU and GPU clock speeds and temperature. You can also fiddle with various features like the Air Triggers, system lighting, fan speed and Game Genie.

Verdict

Between the ZenFone 6 and the ROG Phone 2, Asus is on a bit of a roll with its phones this year. Combining the ZenFone’s strong camera with over-the-top specs and a wealth of gaming add-ons means this is one of the few gaming phones that doesn’t ask you to compromise on other elements.

Although you can opt for a classic Android user interface, this phone is really all about the angles and lights in a typical gaming device way. If you're looking for a gaming phone then it's likely to appeal but others have a more subtle design if it's too much.

When it comes to performance and features though, the ROG Phone 2 is simply the best with its Snapdragon 855+ processor, 120Hz display, 6000mAh battery, Air Triggers, AeroActive Cooler II, Game Genie and so much more including a huge range of optional accessories. Even the cameras are pretty great, which is not something we're used to saying for gaming phones. 

All of this at a price lower than many top flagship phones. It's still a chunky monkey, but that's sort of what you get if you want all this stuff in a phone, including that huge battery.

The ROG Phone 2 isn't a phone for the masses but it does exactly what it sets out to achieve - be the best gaming phone you can buy. There are cheaper ones available if it's too pricey, though.

Specs

Asus ROG Phone 2: Specs

  • Android 9.0
  • 6.59in (2340x1080, 391ppi) 120Hz AMOLED display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus processor
  • 12GB RAM
  • 128/512GB/1TB storage
  • In-screen fingerprint scanner
  • Dual rear-facing cameras: 48Mp + 13Mp ultrawide, phase detection autofocus, LED flash
  • 24Mp front-facing camera
  • 802.11ac/ad Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 5.0 with atpX HD
  • GPS
  • NFC
  • USB-C 3.1
  • Front facing stereo speakers, smart amplifier
  • Headphone jack
  • Non-removable 6,000mAh battery
  • 171x77.6x9.5mm
  • 240g

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