Asus knocked its fourth-gen gaming phones out of the park.
From the front, when the phone is powered off, there isn't much to notice about the new Asus ROG Phone 5. But on the back, when its logo lights up to contrast its black dot-matrix pattern finish with hot pink '80s punk rock highlights, you can't help but take notice. Seriously, you just need to play some Blondie or Talking Heads to complete the effect.
The ROG Phone 5 is a fourth-gen gaming phone. ROG stands for the Republic of Gamers. And this year, Asus knocked it out of the park. This isn't a major redesign but rather a round of significant tweaks that make this phone another step closer to an "ideal" that Asus has been chasing since 2018. Every improvement from the Gorilla Glass Victus on the screen and updated speakers to relocating cooling elements to the middle of the phone are done with the goal of making the ultimate gaming phone.
Perhaps the biggest change this year is that there are three new ROG phones instead of just one. There's the regular ROG Phone 5 with the '80s punk vibe. Then there's the ROG Phone 5 Pro that comes with a detachable fan called the AeroActive Cooler 5. And instead of a logo that lights up, the Pro has the ROG Vision display which is a mini color display strip on the back to show off graphics. It can display alerts and animations for incoming calls, when the battery is charging and more. In fact, you can even make your own custom graphics for the back display. It's an absolute blast to use and my inner 9-year-old approves.
The third model is the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate. It has a matte white back decorated with black hairlines and neon blue accents, all of which stole my heart as soon as I laid eyes on it. Like the Pro, there's a back display strip, but it's black and white. The Ultimate also comes with an AeroActive Cooler 5 but what really makes it the "ultimate phone" is the 18GB of RAM on the inside. My new work laptop only has 16. When you add in a 2.84GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, Android 11 and a beefy GPU to all that RAM, you get the most powerful Android phone we've ever tested. You can see our performance test results at the bottom of the review.
|Phone||Price||RAM||Storage||AeroActive Cooler 5||Lighting|
|Asus ROG Phone 5||799 euros||8GB||128GB||None||RGB logo|
|Asus ROG Phone 5||899 euros||12GB||256GB||None||RGB logo|
|Asus ROG Phone 5||999 euros||16GB||256GB||None||RGB logo|
|Asus ROG Phone 5 Pro||1,099 euros||16GB||512GB||Included||Vision display color|
|Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate||1,299 euros||18GB||512GB||Included||Vision display black and white|
What do you do if you have a powerful gaming phone to review? You game. I played driving games, war games, problem-solving games, zombie games, vertical games and a weird silent movie game. Sometimes I played games with the fan attached and other times I used the nifty Kunai 3 Gamepad accessory, which Asus sells separately.
During all this gaming a few things stood out. The screen is amazing. You can set its refresh rate up as 144Hz, but I found that the auto refresh rate worked best as it didn't kill the battery as quickly. Also, this review comes out just weeks ahead of the launch of the RedMagic 6 gaming phone with a 165Hz screen.
Battery life on the Asus ROG Phone 5 is incredible. It has a 6,000-mAh capacity and it is made up of two 3,000-mAh batteries. This design means you can fast charge it with a 65-watt charger. After a day of normal use, I usually had about 40% of the battery left.
Battery tests on the ROG Phone 5 for continuous video playback on Airplane mode clocked an average of 20 hours, 15 minutes and that was with the screen locked in at 120Hz. With the screen refresh rate set to auto, it averaged a time of 28 hours, 4 minutes. The longest time for any phone we tested this year and the second longest time for any phone in the past few years (just behind the LG V60).
The ROG Phone 5 brilliantly lets you control the battery and handful of different ways. You can set limits for how much of the battery charges, choose slow charging speeds and even schedule when it charges. One of the cooler features is something we also saw last year on the Sony Xperia 5 II. If you're gaming and plugged into power, the ROG Phone 5 will run on power from the cable instead of charging the battery. This prevents the phone from getting warmer which can affect gaming performance.
There are so many ways to control and interact with the games you play. AirTriggers, which are touch sensors located on the sides of the phone, are even easier to use this year because they're larger and go edge-to-edge. If you're using the Pro or Ultimate version, there's an extra sensor on the back for input. Add the AeroActive Cooler 5 to the phone, and you get the addition of two mini paddle buttons. That said, I noticed a lot of mobile games have simplistic controls. But I imagine having more options for game control mapping will appeal to people who are into esports.
But it isn't all fun and games with the Asus ROG Phone 5. There are some drawbacks. The ROG phone 5 is heavy. It weighs more than the iPhone 12 Pro Max, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and last year's ROG Phone 3. The ROG Phone 5 is the heaviest phone I've ever tested. And after a long bout of gaming, you feel that weight. Even more so when you add a case or a fan or the gamepad accessory.
I know this is a gaming phone but I do wish the cameras were better. On the back, there's a main 64-megapixel camera that uses pixel binning to improve image brightness and reduce noise. There's a 13-megapixel ultrawide camera and a 5-megapixel macro camera. The main camera takes some decent photos in bright light. But when you get into dimmer situations like indoors the image quality suffers. If it's dark, the phone automatically goes into a night mode that produces mediocre results. Below are three of the better photos I took with the ROG Phone 5.
The ROG is capable of shooting up to 8K resolution at 30 frames per second, but the story was the same as photos. Take a look at the video below of video I shot with the ROG Phone 5. I wish Asus took advantage of all the power it has from the processor, RAM and GPU to help the ROG phones take better photos.
Another downside is there isn't any water- or dust-resistance. For the price, it seems like there should be. And if you're wondering about that price, that makes two of us. At this time, US pricing hasn't been announced. If we go by European pricing and convert to US dollars, a baseline ROG Phone 5 would be $950 and the ROG Phone Ultimate would cost $1,540. (See the chart below for the full breakdown of international conversions.)
Be careful with those conversions, though. They probably aren't the actual US prices -- European prices include tax -- so it's hard to put a value on these phones . If the baseline ROG Phone 5 was $700 or even $800, it would be an excellent value. And if the Ultimate was $1,200, I'd have no problem recommending it to someone looking for a gaming phone. But until those prices are announced, who knows. For that reason, I'm holding off on scoring this review until US prices are announced.
|Asus ROG Phone 5||Asus ROG Phone 5 Pro||Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate||Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra|
|Display size, resolution||6.78-inch AMOLED, 2,448x1,080, 144Hz refresh rate, HDR10 Plus, 300Hz touch rate||6.78-inch AMOLED, 2,448x1,080, 144Hz refresh rate, HDR10 Plus, 300Hz touch rate||6.78-inch AMOLED, 2,448x1,080, 144Hz refresh rate, HDR10 Plus, 300Hz touch rate||6.8-inch AMOLED 2x, 3,200x1,440 pixels|
|Pixel density||395 ppi||395 ppi||395 ppi||515 ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.09x2.72x0.36 in||6.09x2.72x0.36 in||6.09x2.72x0.36 in||2.97x6.5x0.35 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||172.8x77.2x10.29 mm||172.8x77.2x10.29 mm||172.8x77.2x10.29 mm||75.6x165.1x8.9mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||8.57 oz; 243g||8.57 oz; 243g||8.57 oz; 243g||8.07 oz; 229g|
|Mobile software||Android 11||Android 11||Android 11||Android 11|
|Camera||64-megapixel (wide), 13-megapixel (ultra-wide), 5-megapixel (macro)||64-megapixel (wide), 13-megapixel (ultra-wide), 5-megapixel (macro)||64-megapixel (wide), 13-megapixel (ultra-wide), 5-megapixel (macro)||108-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), 10-megapixel (3x telephoto), 10-megapixel (10x telephoto)|
|Processor||2.84GHz Snapdragon 888 5G||2.84GHz Snapdragon 888 5G||2.84GHz Snapdragon 888 5G||2.84GHz Snapdragon 888 5G|
|Storage||128GB, 256GB UFS3.1||512GB UFS3.1||512GB UFS3.1||128GB/256GB, 512GB|
|RAM||8GB, 12GB, 16GB||16GB||18GB||12GB, 16GB|
|Battery||6,000 mAh (2x 3,000 mAh)||6,000 mAh (2x 3,000 mAh)||6,000 mAh (2x 3,000 mAh)||5,000 mAh|
|Special features||5G-enabled, 65W quick charging, ROG logo, Wi-Fi 6E, Dual-SIM, Comes with case||5G-enabled, 65W quick charging, ROG Color Vision display, Wi-Fi 6E, Dual-SIM, Comes with case and AeroActive Cooler 5||5G-enabled, 65W quick charging, ROG Black and White Vision display, Wi-Fi 6E, Dual-SIM, Comes with case and AeroActive Cooler 5||IP68 rating, 5G-enabled, 100x Space Zoom, 10W wireless charging, 10x optical zoom|
|Price off-contract (USD)||TBA, but European prices convert to $950 (8GB RAM, 128GB storage), $1,065 (12GB RAM, 256GB storage), $1,185 (16GB RAM, 256GB storage)||TBA, but European price converts to $1,420 (16GB RAM, 512GB storage)||TBA, but European price converts to $1,540 (18GB RAM, 512GB storage)||$1,200 (128GB)|
|Price (GBP)||TBA, but European prices convert to £685 (8GB RAM, 128GB storage), £770 (12GB RAM, 256GB storage), £855 (16GB RAM, 256GB storage)||TBA, but European price converts to £1,025 (16GB RAM, 512GB storage)||TBA, but European price converts to £1,110 (18GB RAM, 512GB storage)||£1,329|
|Price (AUD)||TBA, but European prices convert to AU$1,235 (8GB RAM, 128GB storage), AU$1,390 (12GB RAM, 256GB storage), AU$1,540 (16GB RAM, 256GB storage)||TBA, but European price converts to AU$1,850 (16GB RAM, 512GB storage)||TBA, but European price converts to AU$2,000 (18GB RAM, 512GB storage)||AU$1,849|