We’ve been reviewing the ROG Phone since its first version came out around 2 years ago. And reading back to that article (which you can read here) mobile gaming has come a long, long way ever since. It’s been interesting how ASUS is able to make the next-gen ROG Phone better than the last one. For its fourth iteration, yes, they skipped the number 4. Here’s our review of the ASUS ROG Phone 5.
What’s in the box
ASUS ROG has been kind enough to let us test drive the ROG Phone 5. We got the standard version that comes with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. It also comes with an AeroActive Cooler 5.
Here’s what’s included in the box in the standard version. You get a box with a cool AR comic printed on it. The unit itself, an Aero Case, a sticker pack, the 65W HyperCharger, a braided USB-C charging cable, and the AeroActive Cooler 5.
It looks like ASUS has been reviewing user reviews and actually listens to what people are saying. And who would’ve thought that they’d give users something they want — a choice. The ROG Phone 5 comes in 4 different designs that users can choose from. The unit that was sent to us is the standard ROG Phone 5 in Phantom Black. You can also get this variant in Storm White if you prefer the lighter side of things.
First things first, vital statistics. The phone measures 172.8mm x77.3mm x 10.3mm, which makes this phone huge. It’s almost the same size as the previous-gen and roughly around the same weight at 238g.
The front looks a lot like the previous generation until the screen greets you and you notice the thinner bezels and a smaller front-facing camera. The screen is a bit bigger coming in at 6.78” with an 82% screen-to-body ratio vs the ROG Phone 3’s 6.59” screen with a 79.9% screen-to-body ratio.
You’ll also notice a very, very subtle notch on the top and bottom where the speakers are. I remember the first ROG Phone with huge speaker notches and this one is definitely an improvement. And I can confidently that the speakers on this ROG Phone 5‘ better than the previous generation. It has more oomph in it that you’d think it has a subwoofer somewhere.
Plus you can customize how your phone sounds with AudioWizard. I tried them with my Grado headphones and the DAC, which is an ESS Sabre ES9280AC Pro, gives off a very clean sound.
The phone is protected all around with Corning Gorilla Glass for a sturdier build. The front screen has a Gorilla Glass Victus which is drop-resistant up to 2 meters, definitely nice to have, but don’t drop your phone as much as possible. The back is protected with a Gorilla Glass 3, which also makes it very slippery. But good thing the ROG Phone 5 comes with a free Aero Case for better grip and is also compatible with the AeroActive Cooler 5.
If you’re familiar with the ROG Phone, you’ll find the same layout on the left and right sides of the phone. On the right, you have your power button, volume rockers, and the AirTrigger 5.
On the left side, you don’t have to worry anymore about which USB-C port you have to plug your power adapter. ASUS altered the port to make it less confusing. Now you have your main USB-C charging port. ASUS says that if you deplete the battery to 0, you might have to connect your charger to this port for it to start charging. And there’s a custom contact that’s designed specifically for the AeroActive Cooler 5.
The AeroActive Cooler 5 also gets an update with a slimmer profile and 2 physical buttons. I find the physical buttons too mushy though and might take a bit getting used to. ASUS, if you’re reading this, please make a clicky button. Oh, it also doubles as a stand for the phone.
On the bottom, you can see a USB Type-C port for charging and HOL UP — what is this? The 3.5mm jack has made a comeback and is paired with an ESS SABRE DAC for the ultimate listening experience.
On the backside is where the party’s at. If you get the standard ROG Phone 5, you’ll get the illuminated ROG logo that looks like the dot matrix design from the Zephyrus G14 gaming laptop. It’s also now able to display a variety of gradient colors and has 8 different lighting scenarios that you can set in the Armoury Crate.
I said that the ROG Phone 5 comes in 4 designs and so far, we’ve covered the first 2, which are the standard ROG Phone that comes in either Storm White or Phantom Black. There’s also an ROG Phone 5 Pro that comes only in Phantom Black and instead of an illuminated logo at the back, you get a matrix PMOLED called ROG Vision. It’s an OLED screen at the back of the phone where you can display different graphics for different scenarios like when you’re gaming or charging or if someone is calling. And aside from the ROG Phone 5 Pro, you have the flagship, top-of-the-line model which is the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate. The ultimate comes in Storm White but with a more matte finish and has a monochrome PMOLED display. It’s also a limited edition run, so if you fancy this model, better get one quick. Another thing to note is that the Pro and Ultimate versions of the phone comes with additional AirTrigger sensors at the back, which gives you an advantage much like the Xbox Elite controller.
This phone is built for performance. It’s powered by no less than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 running at 2.84 GHz and has 16GB of memory. This thing has the specs of a laptop in the size of a touchpad. But the processor alone does not make a phone a gaming one. More than pure power, you need to have a stable connection to your network. The ROG Phone 5 is the first smartphone with WiFi 6E support, of course, you need to have your home network support WiFi 6E too to take advantage of this feature.
We used to run AnTuTu benchmarks before for smartphones to gauge how it performs against other phones in the market, but lately, it’s been harder and harder for Android phones to install AnTuTu on their phones because of Play Protect blocking it. For easier comparisons, we’re going to use benchmark tools readily available on the Google Play Store so you can also see how your phone fares against the ROG Phone 5.
Geekbench 5 ( Single Core / Multi Core Score )
- Non-X mode 1119 / 3668
- X mode 1126 / 3708
3DMark (Wild Life X-Mode) 5732
These numbers far exceed the number of flagship phones from other manufacturers and this means not having to worry about stuttering in any game you can think of in the Android gaming space. At the time of testing, the ROG Phone 5 ranked #19 for the 3D Mark Wildlife benchmark.
The ROG Phone 5 display is top-notch. It’s a Samsung E4 AMOLED panel, which is one of the best-looking screens for media consumption in the market. The panel goes up to 800 nits so you have better visibility when you’re out and about. It’s HDR 10+ certified, giving a wider color gamut to your multimedia. The 144Hz is so good even when you’re not gaming.
The powerful specs combined with the high refresh rate screen just give the user an overall smooth experience anywhere on the phone. You can also set the phone’s refresh rate from 144 to 120 and 60 or set it to auto if you don’t want to bother. Setting the screen to a lower refresh rate lengthens the battery life.
Speaking of battery life, this is one of the best batteries I’ve used in a smartphone. It can easily last a busy day with mixed workloads from a couple of hours of gaming to browsing to watching videos and listening to music, with juice to spare at the end of the day. It’s powered by 2 3000mAh in a double-wired split battery design. This helps the battery to charge faster as the current flows from the middle of the 2 batteries. This design also helps control temperature rise during charging, while also giving it a longer lifespan. The included HyperCharge 65W charger can quickly charge your device from zero to hero in no time. If you have an important gaming session underway, say a tournament, you can use a passthrough where the phone does not charge the battery but instead, uses the power directly from the outlet.
As always, the features of the ROG Phone 5 are targeted mainly to gamers and indeed it delivers on all fronts. The AirTriggers are an absolute joy to use and the triggers in this phone are closer to the edge for better positioning and accuracy. I find it actuates at just about the same point. There’s also a bunch of new inputs where you have 14 touch points with the standard ROG Phone 5 and an additional 2 buttons for the Pro and Ultimate edition plus 2 additional physical buttons with the AeroActive Cooler 5.
The Armoury Crate is also a welcome addition to the ROG Phone 5. It’s a gaming portal where it collates your games from Google Play Store and presents it in a console-like manner. You can sort your games based on the installation date, alphabetically, playtime or customize it to your heart’s content. If you have a game outside of the Google Play Store, you can add it manually.
That’s just scratching the surface. It also features Scenario Profiles 4.0 where it gives users the ability to customize how the phone behaves if you’re playing a certain game. This is very useful for instances where you need to maximize your battery for a gacha game or max out your performance for a competitive game like Wild Rift or COD:M. You can even go to tuning up to the low-level GPU/CPU parameters with Hardcore Tuning. The Console tab gives you general hardware information and a couple of system modes to better manage your battery in different scenarios.
It still has Game Genie which is feature-packed in making your gaming experience better like turning off alerts, locking brightness, optimization features and even showing real-time info of how many FPS the game is running, CPU/GPU usage, device temperature, and battery life. You can also set which games start with Game Genie. New to this Game Genie is the screen recorder which supports a variety of FPS settings. It also has some questionable features like adding a crosshair in games without one, inverts colors to easily spot enemies, and a touchy subject, macros.
But if you want all the bells and whistles that Game Genie can offer without the shady stuff, you can enable esports mode, which is easily accessible withholding the power button when Game Genie is active, to make sure you’re playing in a level field.
Most of the features of Game Genie are actually useful and make you focus more on the game you’re playing. Some might call it bloatware, but I find the functionalities to be what someone would need in a gaming phone.
Okay, this will be the first time I’m including the camera in a ROG Phone review. This is not a phone I’d buy for the camera alone, but it’s got a great snapper in it that makes it an okay everyday buddy. The main camera has a 64MP Sony IMX686 sensor, which is the same one found in the previous-gen. I find it subpar in low lighting conditions, but it takes decent photos when you’re out in the sun. Good enough to share scenic views for your Instagram feed. The second camera is a 13MP ultrawide angle with real-time distortion correction. And the third one is a 5MP macro lens. I just tested each focal length to give you an idea of how the images will look like. This review is written while Metro Manila was under community quarantine, hence no outside shots.
Well, you have here one of the best gaming smartphones of 2021. The ROG Phone just keeps on improving generation after generation and I’d say this is the best one yet. From the hardware down to the software, it’s got everything a gamer needs to help them start or let them continue dominating the mobile gaming space.
Games look good on the huge 144Hz panel and the speakers give you the immersion like you’re playing with big speakers in front of you. Although it may be big and heavy for a daily driver, that weight and heft come in handy when you’re playing with it in landscape mode. It’s a very impressive phone and one that might be tough to beat when it comes to software and accessories support. The ROG Phone 5 truly delivers a spectacular display of power and a gaming experience. The long-lasting battery with the fast charger makes sure you spend more time playing games than tethered to a socket, especially once this pandemic is over and we’re all able to travel again.
If you’re coming from a ROG Phone 3, you might want to wait for the next generation as the upgrade as not as much if you get the ROG Phone 5. The previous generation is still a capable smartphone. For ₱39,995, you get a good price/performance ratio compared to flagship smartphones beyond its price segment. You can check this link for a list of authorized resellers.
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