Today I’m going to be taking an in-depth look at the ASUS ROG Phone 3, which is the ultimate gaming smartphone and also the fastest smartphone of 2020.
If you have been following the smart phone market closely, you are most likely aware of some of the changes that ROG has done from the first generation of the ROG Phone series to the second generation ROG Phone. Just to give you a quick breakdown, they have made the display faster from 90Hz to 120Hz, the CPU was updated to the fastest available at the time, the memory got a bump from 8GB to 12GB, the battery size went from 4,000mAh to 6,000mAh. The camera system got a bit of an upgrade as well from 12MP to 48MP, and pricing for the ROG Phone 2 was around $900 USD, which was actually pretty good considering what you were getting.
Now we are here in 2020 with the ROG Phone 3, and after taking a quick glance at the specs and some of the features that ASUS has improved on this phone I have to be honest… this is by far the coolest, most unique looking smartphone that I have personally come across. You definitely don’t want to miss out on this review of the new ROG Phone 3.
I’m going to kick things off with pricing for the ROG phone 3. I’m not exactly sure what the official pricing is for the United States, but I am aware that there are three variants of this phone. The most affordable will be the STRIX Edition that starts at €800 euros, and there is a regular standard model that comes with 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage at around €1,000 euros, and the sample that I have over here comes with everything that you can possibly stuff into it. Taking a look at the rest of specs, this is again an area where ASUS threw everything they possibly can to create a spec monster. You are getting the Snapdragon 865+ SOC with 5G compatibility, up to 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, 512GB of UFS 3.1 storage, dual SIM support, and a 6,000mAh power battery, which is the same size as on the ROG Phone 2 so nothing has changed there.
The first thing that stood out to me just after unboxing this phone is the design. I mean it’s obvious that it is a gaming smartphone made by ROG. If you look at their notebook lineup, their peripherals, their graphics cards, they are in an aesthetic class of their own, and this phone follows that trend. You get an RGB logo at the back that is customizable through software.
There is also an AURA RGB LED right around the camera that shines a bright light when you install the lightning bumper case. It gives you a matrix LED layout that is pretty subtle, but you can also customize the colours through the software, which is pretty cool. You see this isn’t your traditional flagship smartphone with clean glass back and edge-to-edge display. This is really designed to be practical for gamers, and I will talk about that a little bit later in the review.
Size & Display
As for size, this is a big phone. In fact, it’s bigger than my OnePlus 8 Pro, which is already way too big for my hands, so you might have to get used to this form factor even if you have larger hands. If you take a closer look at the ROG Phone 3 and compare it to the ROG Phone 2, not a lot has changed from a physical standpoint. The display still expands around 6.6-inches and it’s 1080P+ AMOLED HDR10+ certified just like the ROG Phone 2. However, they did bump up the refresh rate from 120Hz to 144Hz. It also has a 270Hz touch sampling rate and the brightness levels have improved as well.
ASUS also claims that they have improved the colour accuracy on this phone. They say that it covers 113% DCI-P3, but out of the box I did notice that it exhibits cooler tones compared to my OnePlus 8 Pro. There are different profiles that you can play around through settings, and I ended up going with the standard one because the colours looked neutral to my eyes. Now you can change the colour temperature and saturation levels to your preference, and honestly I have no complaints with it so far.
Let’s take a moment and talk about that buttery smooth 144Hz refresh rate. Switching from my OnePlus 8 Pro that features a 120Hz display I personally didn’t notice a huge difference switching to the ROG Phone 3, but this is still a very fast display. When you can find games that support a higher refresh rate, the experience is just unreal. As you all know I’m into racing games, and I have been playing Need for Speed No Limits recently, and this phone just delivers a smooth experience.
There has to be special mention of that incredibly fast 270Hz touch sampling rate because every touch-based input is noticeably faster than my OnePlus 8 Pro. A slow motion comparison between the two easily shows that even with the slightest movement of my finger there are tiny movements happening on the ROG Phone 3 that the OnePlus 8 Pro just doesn’t pick up in the same way. It’s just a beautiful combination of hardware and software. Let’s not forget that this still features a flat display, so you are not getting any curves around the edges. Thank you so much ASUS for keeping it that way. You are also getting an in-display fingerprint sensor, which is basically as fast as the one in the OnePlus 8 Pro so I have no complaints in that area.
Now given the gaming branding attached to the smartphone, there are some features that they have improved from the ROG Phone 2. When you are holding the phone in landscape mode where the volume and power buttons are located, there are two invisible ultrasonic buttons. ASUS is calling this the AirTrigger 3 technology. Basically, you can remap your display touch inputs within a game to those individual buttons through Game Genie, which is an overlay that pops up when you enter a game. That way you don’t have to use your thumbs to interact with the game, your two index fingers would do the job and those individual buttons come with haptic feedback as well, which is really nice.
Now with this generation of the ROG Phone series, ASUS has added support for sliding, swiping, and creating two partitions per button, resulting in a four shoulder trigger configuration. I’m not a hardcore gamer like a lot of you out there, but having played some racing titles and some other games I’m actually really enjoying using these air triggers, because I don’t have to worry about using my thumbs and I can focus a little bit more on my gameplay. These sorts of features make a lot more sense for a gaming smartphone because they are very useful, and I’m sure hardcore mobile gamers will find these useful.
The side mounted ports are one of the signature features of the ROG Phone series, because you can simply plug in the charging cable while gaming in landscape mode so that it doesn’t get in the way, unlike your standard smartphone charging orientation. This port also acts as a hub for a variety of gaming accessories that ASUS will be offering, like a gamepad, a twin view dock, and a mobile docking station that gives you access to a bunch of USB ports, LAN jack, DisplayPorts, and an SD card slot. ASUS is pushing the limits of what a smartphone can achieve and actually a level beyond that, so that’s pretty awesome.
Active Cooling & Speakers
I should also mention that in the box you get this AeroActive Cooler 3, which again uses these side mounted ports to attach to the phone. It has an active fan that is designed to lower the surface temperatures on the device by 4°C, while boosting clock speeds on the CPU as well. It also has a USB Type-C passthrough port and a 3.5mm audio jack, which I think is important because as you can probably hear this fan does get loud. Another thing I want to mention is that this does come with a kick stand, so it’s a nice little handy feature for watching movies.
Speaking of which, this phone has two front facing speakers and they sound absolutely amazing. These are by far the best sounding speakers that I have listened to on a smartphone, and when you pair that with the kickstand you have a really nice portal boombox or home theater. I think I’m definitely going to take advantage of this setup, because it really is pretty awesome. Unfortunately, they did remove the headphone jack on this smartphone, and I’m sure a lot of gamers might be a little disappointed with that elimination since this is a gaming smartphone after all and a lot of you most likely end up using headsets to use his phone without any accessories installed. It just doesn’t make any sense because the ROG Phone 2 had a 3.5mm jack, so why would they eliminate it from this model. I mean ASUS has designed this to be a gaming smartphone, but they decided to eliminate one of the most crucial elements that gamers value.
Keep in mind that phone still doesn’t have support for wireless charging, and it also doesn’t have an official IP ratings. However, that all sort of makes sense because when you take a look at the internal components of the smartphone. ASUS has packed it with layers of enhanced cooling to make sure that the SOC clock speeds stay stable during longer gaming sessions. This phone has like an actual air vent at the top, and you have these two side ports as well so I guess these are all some of the factors to consider when looking at the lack of wireless charging and water resistance.
Performance & Battery Life
After running some synthetic benchmarks and comparing it to my OnePlus 8 Pro, the ROG Phone was faster. This makes sense because they have packed so much inside the smartphone that you are ultimately expecting the best performance in terms of frame rates and things like that. If you value ultimately performance then this is the phone to get. They have really nailed it in that department.
This phone does support 30W fast charging, but given how massive the battery is ASUS has implemented a few battery care options to extend its lifespan. In the above menu you can enable slow charging, limited to 10W, and you can also set the charging limit for less battery wear over time. You can also schedule charging, which is a nifty little feature. Now I only spent a couple of days with the ROG Phone 3, so I can’t give you a full verdict on my experience with battery life on this device. However, I have spoken to some of my friends in the tech community who have been using this device for a lot longer than I have, and they have been getting between 6.5 to 9.5 hours of screen-on time depending on their use case scenarios. That is a pretty awesome result for the specs of this thing packs.
The software experience for the most part is very close to what you get with a Pixel and OnePlus device. ASUS hasn’t loaded this thing with any bloatware applications, except for Armoury Crate, which is the performance tuning app for the phone. In fact, when you are setting up the device they will give users the option to choose between a gamery style theme or a classic stock look, which is what I prefer. They have a dedicated theme store if you want to expand your options, but you can also customize a few things within the UI, like changing the system navigation style to either gesture based or the classic so-called round and square buttons.
The Armoury Crate software is like a game portal where you can choose what performance modes you would like to enable within certain games. As you can see there is a game library where I can launch a game or I can go into scenario profiles and fine tune different factors that affect the gameplay experience, like touch sensitivity, refresh rate, performance, network, AirTrigger customizations, key mapping, macros, there is just so much that you can explore. If I switch over to the console tab, this is where I can enable X-Mode, which overclocks the CPU and lets it stay consistently at higher clock speeds. Keep in mind that enabling X-Mode can affect battery life. You can also adjust the fan speed of the AeroActive cooler, system lighting, and that’s pretty much it. Now I’m not really sure what software support is going to be like with this smartphone in the next 2 to 3 years, because when you look at the ROG Phone 2 that phone just recently got the update to Android 10. Based on that it’s definitely not going to be first in line to receive the best that Google has to offer, so that’s something to keep in mind.
Last but not least, let’s talk about the cameras. ASUS has updated their main camera with Sony’s new IMX686 sensor. Don’t confuse that with the IMX689 sensor found in the OnePlus 8 Pro, these sensors do fall into the same category, but they feature different characteristics. You also get a 13MP ultra-wide angle camera and a 5MP macro camera.
Let’s start with the ultra-wide camera, it does a pretty good job with dynamic range exposure. Interestingly enough, when I compared it to my OnePlus 8 Pro, I noticed that the ROG Phone captured true-to-life colors and it just gets white balance right. There is good detail as well, and it doesn’t really crush the shadows that much so that’s awesome.
Switching to the main camera, you will notice that the ROG Phone struggles to maintain dynamic range, even with HDR processing enabled. The skies do get a bit overexposed compared to the OnePlus 8 Pro. I also noticed that this phone tends to produce contrasty images by crushing the shadows a bit, but to be honest I kind of like that look versus the OnePlus 8 Pro. Again, these are all subjective, so you may end up liking one or the other more.
Low light performance is actually pretty good as well on this phone, and I’m surprised at how well it was able to keep up with the OnePlus 8 Pro. The detail is present and colours don’t get washed out, but if I’m nitpicking I would say that it does fiddle around with white balance here and there. Overall, it’s actually a really good system.
The 24MP selfie camera is great. It surprisingly captures my skin tones accurately, along with yielding excellent dynamic range. It does soften my skin a little bit, but overall I’m really happy with the results. I’m also quite pleased with the video recording quality of the front facing camera on the ROG Phone 3.
This phone can shoot up to 8K at 30 FPS, but you do lose HDR and image stabilization. You can also shoot at 4K up to 120FPS, which is awesome and is actually something that I have never seen from a smartphone camera. This phone is really loaded with video features andthe sample footage looks really, really good. I love the dynamic range coming out of the sensor, also it has great microphone quality as well. I think I’m really happy with the white balance or I guess the color science coming out of the sensor in general. I think ASUS has really done a great job here.
So there you have it, everything that you need to know about ROG Phone 3. This phone gives me a completely different vibe, and that is because this isn’t your average flagship smartphone that you would walk into a carrier store and just buy right away. It is in a class of its own, and that is essentially delivering the fastest, most powerful Android smartphone for $1,000 USD. However, let’s not forget that this is a gaming smartphone first, and that’s very important for you to remember because it isn’t something meant to compete with OnePlus or Google or Huawei.
You might be wondering why should you spend that kind of money on something like this? While PC and console users may not see the point of mobile gaming, it is a massive and growing market. According to some studies, it will go way beyond $100 billion this year. The mobile gaming market is largely driven by countries like China, India, and other overseas markets. However, it’s slowly making its way into North America as well. Let’s also acknowledge that a lot of this revenue is driven by in-game purchases, because while a game is free to download you are going to have to sort of pay your way through to unlock achievements or certain packs to win the game. There hasn’t been much focus on the need for higher frame rates in mobile games, but as titles become more demanding higher-end hardware is necessary to push developers to do more. Even game streaming services like GeForce Now offer a broader selection of titles if standard Android games aren’t your thing.
Can this phone be used as a mini console by plugging in a Bluetooth controller and outputting to a display via Type-C to an HDMI adapter? Well this could be an interesting option, especially for someone who might not be able to have a PC or console, but who still wants to play on a bigger display. That is my final thought on this device, let me know what you think about the ROG Phone 3. Are you in the market for an Android flagship smartphone and if so would you consider getting a gaming smartphone or would you just completely eliminate it off your list? I’m curious to know.
Buy items in this review from Amazon at the links below:
ROG Phone 3 – Coming Soon!
ROG Phone 3 STRIX Edition – Coming Soon!
ROG Phone 3 Cases – Coming Soon!
XPG Xenia Notebook – https://geni.us/XPGXENIA