[Review]Asus ROG Phone 2: The 2019 Gaming Gold Standard

Pros

  • Speed-binned, overclocked Snapdragon 855+ chipset
  • Incredible design, excellent build quality
  • Versatile accessories that create multiple ecosystems to choose from
  • Armoury Crate software is excellent and very customizable
  • High Refresh rate without too high a drain. 

Price

512GB/12GB : RM 3,499

1TB/12GB : RM 4,499

Cons

  • Slow fingerprint recognition
  • No IP Rating at all
  • Camera software might need improvement

Colors

ROG Color Scheme

Box Contents

  • ROG Phone 2
  • Braided USB-C to USB-C cable
  • 30W 3-pin fast charger
  • SIM ejector tool
  • Quick start guide
  • Aeroactive v2 Cooling system
  • ROG Phone 2 exoskeleton case

The Asus ROG Phone 2 is, for the most part, the ROG Phone with every aspect improved from aesthetics to spec sheet. It’s literally the recipe of what a good gaming smartphone should be, as long as you’re willing to sacrifice very negligible issues.

Design and Display

  • Mixed metal, glass body
  • 3.5mm audio jack, side USB-C port for cooler and extra charging
  • Display fingerprint scanner
  • RGB Logo at the back
  • Solid 240 gram weight
  • 9.48mm tall , 9.5mm thickness

This ROG Phone 2 is as towering in height as it is beefy in weight. Not to a fault though, as this it’s made with a variety of metals and glass. It stands at 9.48mm in height, outgrowing even my iPhone 11 Pro Max, with an absolutely thicc 9.5mm in thickness. It’s heavy too, weighing 240 grams. 

At the front is a 6.59-inch display with a bit of bezel, where the stereo speakers are located top and bottom, along with the selfie camera on top. It’s a lot of screen real estate and that’s nothing short of good. 

Flip the phone to the back is where it’s at. The ROG Phone’s core design of metal and glass. The ROG Phone 2 in terms of design takes a lot after its predecessor. At immediate glance there’s the signature light-up ROG logo that’s surrounded by futuristic lines that shine a color spectrum when tilting the device in a lit environment. 

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With a combination of heavy and solid, the ROG phone 2 is able to justify its asking price for in just this aspect alone. The included Aero Case is exotic in design. It looks exactly like some sort of exoskeleton, covering the corners of the device and the back, and only exposing the glowing logo and the red speaker grille. It’s a yes for anyone who doesn’t mind the intimidating outlook that screams: “Yeah, I do mobile eSports sometimes, what of it?” 

Display

  • Full HD+ (2340 x 1080) AMOLED Panel
  • 391 PPI
  • Gorilla Glass 6

Covered in Corning Gorilla Glass front to end, the ROG Phone 2 features a 6.59” FHD+ AMOLED Panel capable of a refresh rate of 120Hz. You can tweak the settings to suit your needs, from 60, 90 and 120Hz to choose from. I consider it a smart thing to do as I can choose my refresh rate to either save some power or go full-on “gamer” mode. I personally keep it at 90Hz since it’s a balance of the more energy efficient 60Hz and the absolute water-slide of 120Hz. Not all games support that high a refresh rate anyway. Asphalt 9 comes pre-installed on the ROG Phone 2 and it runs up to 90Hz, which is a draw-dropping experience, and that’s coming from an elitist PC gamer who runs things on 165Hz by default! I played some Call of Duty Mobile for hours on end, with the device keeping it constant at 60FPS with all graphical settings maxed out. 

The main security feature here is the under-display optical fingerprint scanner that takes a rather long time to unlock, especially when my fingers are wet or oily or whatever I’m doing, so I actually just use the pattern unlock so I’m not really complaining.

As for color reproduction is honestly just above good. Despite choosing the AMOLED Panel that would imply that the colors would actually be great, it’s not a surprise to see the dip due to the priority focus looking to refresh rate. Color coverage is exceptional though, with 111.8% DCI-P3, 107.4% NTSC, 151.7% sRGB color gamuts. I finally had the time to watch Stranger Things Season 3 on Netflix, and the combination of that color coverage and dual-firing stereo speakers made it “portable cinematic” for me. To me, if ROG could work on the blacks a little more, the display could compete with Samsung’s. 

Performance

  • Snapdragon 855 Plus (1×2.96 GHz Kryo 485 & 3×2.42 GHz Kryo 485 & 4×1.78 GHz Kryo 485)
  • Adreno 640 GPU
  • 512GB/1TB + 12GB RAM
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With such a menacing spec sheet, everyone’s expectations is set that the ROG Phone 2 is the gold standard for mobile gaming currently. It’s true to some degree, but not without some temperature concerns. Let’s put one fact on the table. We’re dealing with a high-refresh rate, and that alone brings the heat. 

There’s X mode, which is pretty much the ROG Phone 2’s Performance mode. You can activate this via the dropdown notifications panel or simply squeezing the bottom half of the device and you’ll see the system wallpaper transform into a reddish X shape and the ROG Logo behind lighting up as an indication that your opponents in-game are about to get the beat down. You’ll be able to see all your games on Armory Crate, where you can tune everything, from CPU clock rates, individual refresh rates and clearing your memory to make room. 

It’s an extensive thing to have, which does take some time to get used to and get everything tuned, and I believe it’s rather likable, so I’d actually want to say that I wished some competitors could implement something like this in their future releases but as far as the ROG Phone 2 is concerned, they nailed the software and the hardware, and it is without a doubt a very capable device for gaming and handling tasks (should you even have any since you have a gaming phone.) 

Battery

There’s 6000 mAh for you to play your heart out, I mean, you have a 120Hz panel and a processor that can go up to nearly 3GHz, so obviously you’re going to need a large capacity battery pack to enjoy all the bells and whistles. I’ll make it real simple here. You’ll be able to go nearly 2 days on a single charge if you’ve got X mode and RGB lightning turned off, followed by using 60Hz. Going full X mode, RGB and 120Hz constantly, will get you from morning to evening, and that is the best case scenario. Using the provided 30W charger is essential. It uses a USB-C to USB-C cable, capable of providing a full charge from 7% in about 70 minutes. That’s really fast, and I recommend not using it during that time as the device would obviously get hot.

Camera and Video

Rear Camera

  • 48 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide)
  • 13 MP, f/2.4, 11mm (ultrawide)

Front Camera

  • 24MP, f/2.2, 0.9µm

Unfollowing the trend of triple if not quad camera setups we see in the flagships of today, the ROG Phone 2 packs a modest dual-camera setup; a 48MP main shooter from Sony and a 13MP Wide-Angle. 

It’s paper qualifications doesn’t seem to translate to real-world performance though, and it is the most mediocre feature of the device that NOBODY should complain about. This ain’t the reason why you’d choose a device like this. It’s able to dish out some solid shots in broad daylight, but a rather limited dynamic range hinders it from anything above that. 48 Megapixels is a lot, and captures a lot of detail. The lack of a telephoto zoom kills a lot of detail when you decide to pinch-zoom, but not up to an unacceptable degree. Indoor lighting it’s still acceptable as you can see from my choice of using warm lightning over cold. 

1x complex environment
1x complex environment

Wide-Angle complex environment
Wide-Angle complex environment

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Zoomed Indoor
Zoomed Indoor

1x Indoor
1x Indoor

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Lowlight is the challenge here, with plenty of noise appearing almost everywhere but hey, it’s lowlight, almost everyone struggles here. Night Mode only serves to luminate but not add detail. An acceptably slower shutter speed makes sure you have to really stay still to capture whatever you’re trying to get in the dark. 

Selfies are a strange gambit though, being 24 megapixels strong with beautify on by default. It’s hard to like it at first, as I feel the selfie capabilities here are still half-baked but nothing an update can’t fix. There’s no autofocus so shots have to be as general as it can be. Make sure you have good lighting though, as all shots from this device is definitely lighting dependent. 



Verdict

If there was a food chain where all gaming smartphones are placed at, the ROG Phone 2 is definitely the alpha in that circle. It’s fitted with everything a gamer needs that’s not just processor, RAM and storage. There’s a barrage of accessories like the Kunai gamepad, Twinview dock and AeroActive Cooler 2 to up the badassery. The performance is expectation smashing, and so is the price tag. 

Bravo to ROG for keeping the base model under $1000 (RM 3499 Retail), with a plentiful 512GB storage with 12GB RAM. You can go for the over overkill too, which is the Ultimate Edition with 1TB of storage and 12GB RAM for RM 4,499. Stop resisting and get yourself one. 

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