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Asus ROG made a high-end gaming phone with actual buttons

This is a gaming phone that actually has gaming features.

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Aloysius Low/CNET

What's the hardest part about playing console-quality games on your phone? The lack of buttons, I'd say. Asus may have a thing for that.

Unveiled on Monday at Computex here in Taipei, the ROG Phone is truly one for gamers. It has some crazy accessories and impressive features, but mostly sets itself apart with virtual keys that basically give your phone shoulder buttons.

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 PUBG Mobile.

The ROG Phone is not the first one to be marketed as one for gamers, as it followers last year's Razer Phone. But that device, though it had big speakers and an awesome 120Hz display, felt like a modified device from Nextbit Robin, 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.

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In the TwinView dock, the phone sits on top, while it runs the game on another display below. 

Aloysius Low/CNET

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 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.  

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Key specs

  • 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, though the company didn't announce when exactly the phone will be released.

Computex 2018: All of CNET's coverage from the show in Taiwan.

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