The Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro is a $1,300 gaming phone behemoth. Released last summer, the phone justifies its high price with more premium specifications that offer more power and style than the average phone. This includes the phone's 6.78-inch OLED display with a 165Hz refresh rate, a 6,000mAh battery and a colorful second LED display on the back that adds a dynamic look to the rear of the phone.
I've been using the Phone 6 Pro for the last few months -- testing it both as a gaming device and as an everyday phone. While I largely enjoy using the Phone 6 Pro, some of the choices Asus made for gamers do not necessarily benefit a mainstream phone user. There are some design quirks, and the camera isn't as impressive as it should be for such an expensive device. It's also missing wireless charging, which may not be a necessity but is considered common on most phones.
But if you can cast aside these shortcomings, the Phone 6 Pro has a number of features that could end up on a future iPhone or Galaxy device. Asus also succeeds at catering to those who want to get the most out of their phone as a gaming device.
A futuristic design highlighted by a rear LED display
The Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro's design makes a statement. My review unit is a satellite-like white color that's adorned with blue accents and a black line that diagonally traces around its LED display.
That rear display reminds me of the notification LED that I used to see on BlackBerry phones, but evolved into something more like the cover screen on a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4. The display shows icons for notifications, a Game Start animation (for when you start a game of course), a battery indicator and other animations that you customize within the phone's settings.
A static LED that outlines the words "Ready to Play" is also on the back of the device to really emphasize that this is a gaming phone. The color of that text can be customized from within the menus.
I would love to see other phones experiment with more artistic colors and designs like Asus. The midrange Nothing Phone 1 is already doing something similar with its Glyph LED design. For now, the closest most mainstream phones get to customization is when you throw on a skin or case.
Yet another design choice to place the phone's front-facing camera in a bezel above the phone's display makes sense in order to provide an uninterrupted screen, but that choice is a rather dated idea for a phone this expensive. This makes the phone a little bit taller than the display, which harks back to older designs like 2018's Samsung Galaxy S9. Gaming phone rival RedMagic now uses an under-display front-facing camera, starting with its 7S Pro, but image quality is still a work in progress on phones giving that a try.
Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro's screen animates and reacts fast
As one would expect with an expensive phone, the Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro's 6.78-inch OLED looked great no matter what type of content I was viewing. By default, it uses an automatic refresh rate that changes depending on what you're using. After turning on the setting that keeps it at 165Hz at all times, I was able to enjoy extremely smooth scrolling, gaming animations and reading. While Marvel Snap maxes at 60 frames per second, the card game seemed to animate especially well with all of its graphics settings turned on. The same goes for quickly jumping in and out of Gameloft's Modern Combat 5 and Warner Bros.' Mortal Kombat -- the latter of which natively supports the 165Hz refresh rate.
The screen also has a 720Hz touch sampling rate, or how quickly the screen reacts to taps and scrolls for games. In my experience, that's particularly useful for first-person shooters and fighting games.
This isn't the first time I've seen a 165Hz refresh rate or a 720Hz touch sampling rate; last year's $629 RedMagic 7 phone also includes those features. But features like these are starting to make their way into more mainstream devices at lower prices. Motorola's $500 Edge phone from last summer, for instance, has a display with a 144Hz refresh rate. I'm expecting these higher frame rates to continue reaching mainstream phones and perhaps pushing even higher on gaming phones, a trend that we're also seeing on some televisions and computer monitors.
The 720Hz rate is still largely found on gaming phones, but the Samsung Galaxy S23 does have a 240Hz touch sampling rate that is more than adequate outside the competitive gaming space.
Two front-facing speakers are located around the display, which is especially useful as it's less likely that your hands will cover them while playing games. Plus, the phone has a wired headphone jack, making it one of the very few phones to still include the port. Having the option makes a lot of sense, since it allows for hardwiring into the phone for audio while using the USB-C port for charging. A second USB-C port on the phone is also available for accessories.
Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro has one of the biggest batteries I've seen
The Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro packs one of the largest batteries I've seen on a phone, with a 6,000mAh capacity. The closest we've otherwise seen in readily available phones like the Galaxy S23 Ultra is 5,000mAh. Even when I cranked up the refresh rate to 165Hz and turned on the phone's always-on display, I made it through an entire day or two with a single charge fairly easily. I did not run all of CNET's battery benchmarks on the Phone 6 Pro, but between the large capacity and support for 65W fast charging, getting the phone through a day isn't an issue.
Additional battery life is very likely to make its way into more mainstream phones eventually, but currently faster charging already is available in phones like the OnePlus 11 5G. That phone offers 100W charging in the UK and 80W charging in the US.
Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro's 18GB of RAM is overkill
The phone also includes 512GB of space alongside a ludicrous 18GB of LPDDR5 RAM. Multitasking is a breeze, as it's able to handle several apps at the same time without lagging at all if I swapped quickly between them.
Games themselves load quickly too, thanks in part to the now previous-gen Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor. Hopping into a game, texting, and then launching a website before returning to the game is simple and fast. Whenever I use a gaming phone like the Phone 6 Pro, having this much RAM alongside a fast processor allows me to go into a game's settings menu and crank up every graphics setting possible, with little worry that it's going to hurt the performance of the title.
It's worth noting that 2023 mainstream phones like the Galaxy S23 and gaming phones like the RedMagic 8 Pro are including the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, both of which arrived after the ROG Phone 6 Pro.
The large amount of RAM is also one of the areas where the phone's high price is quite obvious. It is common for phones like the iPhone 14 Pro or the Galaxy S23 Plus to include a 512GB storage tier at the $1,300 price range, but incorporating 18GB of RAM is very unusual. By comparison, this is more RAM than most computers at a similar price range include.
That said, the sheer amount of RAM included in the phone does show that while the Phone 6 Pro spares no expense on specs that help it run fast. It instead cuts corners on photography, which runs quite counter to what we typically see on the mainstream side of the phone industry.
Gaming focus comes at the expense of the cameras
When it comes to the phone's cameras, photos are generally a weak point despite the inclusion of a 50-megapixel main camera, a 13-megapixel ultrawide camera and a 5-megapixel macro camera.
I took photos in several indoor settings, including during a tour of Samsung's recently reopened 837 store in New York and during a nighttime ice skating session.
The photos are nice, but they aren't $1,300 phone nice.
Samsung 837 Gets Reinvented Into a Flagship New York Store, ShowroomSee all photos
I know this is a "gaming phone" and not a "camera phone," but I still expected more from such a pricey device. Most phones in this price range support more colors and detail, using a combination of a high-quality camera and software to bring out the most of a photo in a variety of situations. Yet the lack of focus in this area is understandable when considering how a rear camera rarely ever becomes a part of most mobile phone games. If camera quality is your concern, consider a Galaxy S23 Ultra, Pixel 7 Pro or iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Asus customizations don't overwhelm Android
The Phone 6 Pro, which received the update to Android 13 during my time with it, has the right amount of software customization options. The tweaks made by Asus were noticeable, but didn't get in my way when using the device.
The phone defaults to dark mode, which better compliments some of the Asus settings found in the company's Armoury Crate app. This app lets you make adjustments to the LED display and game performance.
I appreciate the separation, as sometimes a phone's settings menu can become overwhelming with options from both Android 13 and the device maker's specific offerings. I would, however, appreciate some shortcuts from the device settings menu that bring you to the Asus app. There were some occasions when I wasn't sure how to make certain changes. It wasn't clear, for instance, how to adjust the rear LED.
As far as actual gaming goes, Asus includes a Game Genie hub that you can access while playing a game by tracing diagonally from the corners of the screen. This brings up a space-themed dashboard with settings for adjusting the device's refresh rate, allowing or blocking phone calls, screen recording or adjusting the AirTriggers. These are the shoulder button-like sensors on the phone that can be customized for different commands. Gaming mode options like these are great for gaming phones or other high-end phones, but I don't expect wider adoption: When I reviewed the $228 OnePlus N300, seeing a similar gaming mode on that cheaper phone seemed to give away that it didn't have as much power to run games at higher graphics settings.
Asus offers a lot, but for a specific gamer audience
The Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro brings a lot of personality to an otherwise niche and expensive device. I appreciate its flourishes -- especially the rear LED -- and how the phone prioritizes gaming and media consumption over all else. Features like the high-quality display, the rear LED, fast charging, the front-facing speakers and a headphone jack would likely be appreciated by a lot of regular phone users, too.
But Asus makes compromises in other areas, particularly when it comes to the cameras and the lack of wireless charging. While the high touch sampling rate is useful for gamers, it's not significant enough to make me want it in a standard, non-gaming phone. This is ultimately still a very expensive phone -- even for a niche audience. It's also worth remembering that many of the specs can be found in cheaper options like the RedMagic, even if it's at the expense of the user experience. But if you really want to have 18GB of RAM and a fancy second screen in your smartphone, be prepared to pay the $1,300.