Finally! After a long wait and anticipation I was able to convince the good people over at Asus to send me over the latest version of their killer mobile gaming the ROG Phone 2. I’m not the person here at G Style that deals with many mobile reviews but this would be the exception. Considering that in my view smartphone technology has peaked and is kind of boring it would take an exceptional device to gain my attention. Gaming for me is either on a console or on my PC. I’ve never found mobile gaming a fun or compelling experience. Mobile games always lacked something and I was never a fan of touch screen controls, they had a tendency to be wonky and it killed the joy of playing the game at all. Accessories and peripherals in the beginning stages were big, expensive, inconvenient to carry around and kind of defeated the purpose of mobile gaming. That turned me off as well.
Hence, here we are in 2019 and mobile phones and mobile gaming has gotten significantly better and some of your favorite games have made their way to the mobile platform. They’re incredibly detailed and while they may not share the same quality as your console or PC these games are worthy of hours of play. This is regardless of the fact that it’s on a 6″ screen or in the case of the ROG Phone 2, 6.6″ of screen real estate. This phone is killer yet flawed but it’s okay.
DESIGN & FEATURES
The ROG Phone 2 is a very intimidating phone when you first see it. It’s a cross between a good thing and a bad thing. For the sense of gaming and consuming media its size is a great thing as are all phones of similar size and this phone comes with a 6.6″ HDR OLED screen, weighing in at 240g. The ROG Phone 2 is large and heavy mostly because of the battery. I personally like the heft of the phone but for some it’s not a convenient phone to carry around and sticking it in either your front or back pocket is not an easy endeavor. The design of the ROG Phone 2 is also not that appealing but it works. It’s pretty straight forward although Asus made this phone with the gaming aesthetic in mind. Backlit LED ROG logo on the back that you can control with the custom Armoury Crate software. Vented slots on the back for cooling, some orange accents and graphics on the back and a cool cutout case make the phone look like a phone a gamer would carry.
On the bottom you have your USB type-C charging port and on the left hand side is the USB Type-C port for the accessories as well as for charging while gaming so you don’t have to connect the phone at the bottom making gaming while charging less cumbersome. The ROG Phone was designed to make gaming an experience and Asus did a good job with that with how the ROG Phone 2 is built.
GAMING & ACCESSORIES
Getting into the meat and potatoes of the ROG Phone 2 is the gaming part of this review. The ROG Phone is built for this. Plain and simple. Asus packed the ROG Phone 2 with the 855+ Snapdragon and 12GB of RAM so on a productivity and multitasking scale this phone is a taskmaster but that’s not what we have this phone for. It’s the games. Not just any games either. With this phone I played the most complex games that are available in the Google Play Store.
Just to give you an idea of what I’ve been playing and played on this phone it’s been serious. I played PUBG, COD, Fortnite, Real Racing 3, Sky Force Reloaded, Last Cloudia, Mario Kart, War Wings and Shadowgun Legends. These are my personal favorites and the games I felt like would test the ROG Phone 2 the best because of their graphical capability and in all my playtime I can say in no uncertain terms, it was nothing to the ROG 2, light work. Oh, and the speakers? Top notch, so you don’t have to use headphones with this phone, your audio is gonna be crazy.
The ROG 2 flexes its muscle without trying when you’re ready to play a game and get the most of the ROG Phone 2, that’s where the Armoury Crate software comes in handy. It allows you full control over the hardware while you game similar to what you would do with a gaming PC. It’s that elaborate. You can just keep it at the factory default settings for the more simple games but for games like PUBG, Shadowgun and COD, you may want to mess around a bit. Armoury Crate allows you to see your FPS, holds all calls while gaming, allows for memory allocation for specific games, you can activate the air triggers at the top of the phone (with the case off) and they are surprisingly accurate and a lot of fun to use. The storage on this phone allows you to be able to store a ton of games and ensure that you’re carrying around the ultimate gaming experience on your smartphone there is. Gaming on this phone is so good and so much fun. If you weren’t much of a mobile gamer before, this phone will convert you.
Accessories for this phone is where Asus kind of falls flat. Why? Well, for the most part they’re expensive and I found them pretty unnecessary unless you absolutely need to have them to have a “complete” experience with this phone, whatever that is for you. Included with the phone I received was the cooling fan attachment. While I didn’t have any other accessories I never felt like I needed them especially after I looked online at the cost of some of these attachments. The Kunai Gamepad controller for one, is the least expensive but it’s an extra $150 to add to the cost of your phone. I could only see it’s worth if it’s going to be compatible with the ROG Phone 3. The twin view dock? Why does anyone need that? It costs more than a Nintendo Switch at $300. Really? The mobile desktop dock is cool without a doubt but again, it’s too expensive. I gotta love Asus for the thought process with the accessories but at those prices I have to wonder why would anyone spend that kind of money?
The ROG Phone 2 for what it does is an absolute beast of a phone in terms of it’s internal hardware. As always, I stand firm in the belief that specs will almost never completely speak to the experience that you’ll have with any device but what a good spec device does do is it speaks to the effort of the company in that they’re trying to give you the best experience possible. In the case of ROG Phone 2, Asus clearly pulled out all the stops. Take a look. These specs are representative of the ROG Phone 2 that I had. There’s another variation of this phone that has 1TB of storage.
Screen: 6.59 inches (1080 x 2340) OLED, with 120Hz refresh rate option
Dimensions: 170.99 x 77.6 x 9.48mm
Weight: 240 grams
OS: Android 9 Pie
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus
RAM: 12GB LPDDR4X
Storage: 512GB UFS 3.0 storage (configurations available with 1TB)
Battery capacity: 6,000mAh
Front camera: 24MP, f/2.0
Rear cameras: 48MP standard sensor (f/1.79, PDAF), 13MP ultra-wide angle (f/2.4)
Battery life on the ROG Phone 2 is amazing. It’s actually unlike anything I’ve used before. The ROG Phone 2 is packing a seriously large 6,000 mAh battery which most people don’t and won’t have in their phone. So what does this mean if you have the ROG Phone 2? It means all day battery and practically never having to charge your phone even with intense use. If you game on this phone and use some of the accessories that will change that screen on time a bit but not so much that you’ll have to worry about charging your phone often.
It’s really hard to put into words how reliable the battery on this phone actually is. I don’t do boring battery tests with charts and numbers, I used the phone. It was my daily driver for ten days and I maybe charged the phone 5 or 6 times within that time as opposed to once or twice a day. I left it overnight on standby on 89% and I woke up and it was at 87%. Crazy. I had this phone at 120hz, full brightness, with the backlight logo on and it had an affect but not a significant one.
The biggest flaw of the ROG Phone 2 is by far the camera. Under normal circumstances I would be extremely critical of a camera like this on any other flagship but because of the nature of the ROG Phone 2. I won’t be too critical but I will be honest. This camera is not very good (Asus, forgive me). The pictures weren’t awful but for a camera that boasts a 48MP pixel sensor, this camera underwhelms.
I’m no camera buff and I don’t always care for the camera on my smartphone to be of DSLR quality but I do expect it be a little better for a phone that nearly reaches a $1000 price point. There are always trade-offs in technology sometimes and I can accept that. This was the trade-off for the ROG Phone 2, the camera.
Shots in the daytime were pretty good and you could see where that sensor can shine if you can get past the slow shutter speed and having to maybe take a picture or two over. Pictures at night were not good at all. Even in pro mode and tweaking the picture settings it didn’t help much. The pictures were just bad. All of the camera modes did the job it was supposed to at a basic level but I would have liked to see this camera be better. The saving grace of the camera not being so good is that it’s highly unlikely that anyone who buys this phone has the camera in mind but if this will be their daily phone then the camera leaves much to be desired. Good news. A lot of the problems with the camera can be addressed with software updates so Asus should probably get on that right away.
THE ROG PHONE 2 IS NOT FOR EVERYONE BUT IT’S A SOLID PHONE
No BS, the ROG Phone 2 is not for everyone and it’s not supposed to be. It’s hard not to fall into the mindf–k that is tech media sometimes and listen to the repeated criticisms of this phone and almost believe it. Let me tell you, don’t. This phone is for a certain user. The gamer. That’s who Asus is trying to appeal to. Period. The things about the ROG Phone 2 that they needed to get right, they got right. The variable refresh rate big 6.6″ HDR OLED screen, fast CPU, big battery, tons of storage and RAM, the ability to play the most complex mobile games with ease. Nailed it. They made some missteps too. There should be more accessories that come with the phone to justify its cost, after all, it is a gaming phone. I shouldn’t have to buy more accessories for a close to $1000 phone. The size of the phone can be intimidating, the camera is trash (although I’m not that critical of that fact), it’s heavy, fingerprint reader is wishy washy and those are the things that bothered me, others may find different issues but that’s smartphones, somethings you’ll like and somethings you won’t. That’s it, that’s all.
What the ROG Phone 2 is, is a gaming phone in it’s second generation that will likely get better when Asus goes back to the lab for the ROG Phone 3. Remember gaming laptops when they first started out? Ugly, right? But now? So much better. I look at the ROG Phone 2 this way. Sometimes we have to appreciate unconventional technology as much as we love what we’re used to every year. At least with the unconventional stuff, there’s risk and innovation coming to play. I find the ROG Phone 2 to be a beast of a phone and perfect for what it does and who it caters to. You disagree, that’s cool. Fight me. I’m kidding.