In a world of budget, mid-range and flagship smartphones, a couple of companies are trying to carve out a new category of handset: the "gaming phone." It makes some amount of sense. With games like Fortnite and PUBG hitting smartphones, mobile gaming has come along way in the last few years — but what makes a phone a gaming phone, specifically? It depends on who you ask. If ASUS' upcoming is anything to go on, its answer is twofold: more buttons, and gaudy design.
Spend some time with ASUS' ROG gaming laptops, you'll know the latter is par for the course: when it comes to "hardcore gamer" aesthetics, dark reds, sharp lines and faux-grills designed to invoke the image of a hot-rod are standard. This sense of style looks just as iconically aggressive on the company's phone as it does on its laptops — but that's not enough to making the ROG a "gaming phone," as it were. Its other gimmicks, on the other hand, might. Specifically, ASUS gaming phone is striving to give gamers the one thing they've never had from a smartphone before: better control. That is to say, buttons.
Well, sort of. The sides of the phone are equipped with what Asus call AirTriggers -- sensors that can register the touch of a finger. Each shoulder can be programmed with a function, like braking and reversing in a racing game for instance.
Long story short: Shooting will be much easier in.
The ROG Phone ($900 at Amazon) is not the first one to be marketed as one for gamers, as it follows last year's . But that device, though it had big speakers and an awesome 120Hz display, felt like a modified device from Nextbit Robin ($319 at Amazon), a phone company acquired by Razer. The ROG Phone feels built from the ground up to be a gaming phone.
This is seen even in small details. There are two charging inputs, for example: One on the bottom, as in traditional, and one on the side. The idea is that you use the latter one while you're gaming, so the cord doesn't get in the way of your hands.
Then there are the big things, like a crazy accessory called the TwinView Dock. It transforms the phone into a Nintendo DS-like dual screen device. One half of the case has an extra display, while the top half has an area into which the ROG Phone can be slotted.
Not only does the case add two extra (physical) shoulder buttons and 6,000mAh of extra battery power, but there's a selfie cam for streamers to record themselves as they play.
I was able to play a few minutes of PUBG-esque battle royale game Free Fire using the TwinView Dock and it's wild. It felt much more like a handheld gaming platform than a tweaked phone setup.
The phone's 6-inch, 18:9 display runs at 90Hz, meaning it refreshes 90 times a second. That's not quite as smooth as Razer's phone, but it's above the competition -- most phones have a 60Hz refresh rate. ROG argues that its phone's AMOLED screen will trump Razer's IPS LCD one, even if the refresh rate is lower.
A peripheral called the AeroActive Cooler ($450 at Amazon) will also be available: If the ROG Phone gets too hot, you can attach the Cooler and it'll, well, cool the phone down. Unlike desktops and laptops, there's little space in a phone to cram a powerful fan inside, so this'll be a welcome addition to you if you like long gaming sessions. Best of all, every phone will come with the AeroActive Cooler.
Finally, there's a mobile desktop dock that lets you connect the ROG Phone to a monitor or computer to give you a more desktop gaming experience.
- Speed-binned 2.9GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor
- 18:9, 6-inch AMOLED display, 2,160x1,080-pixel resolution
- AirTrigger virtual shoulder buttons
- Side USB-C port for charging while horizontal gaming
- 90Hz refresh rate
- 4,000mAh battery
- 12+8-megapixel rear dual cameras
- ARCore support
- Gaming HDR support
Asus claims the ROG Phone is the fastest on the market at the moment. It also said that the phone's battery will last for over 7 hours during Wi-Fi-connected gaming. We look forward to putting that to the test -- which is.
: All of CNET's coverage from the show in Taiwan.
: It's a 49-inch, curved display for PC gaming rigs.