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Asus ROG Phone 5 review

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The Asus ROG 5 gaming phone is among the best. It’s also one the best phones to enjoy any media type due to its excellent display, battery life, charging speed and speakers. They have made some improvements to the already powerful predecessor. And they even managed to get a 3.5mm connector back in.

The phone’s shortcomings, such as its limited camera range, have not been significantly improved to make it comparable with standouts like Samsung Galaxy S21. They get less with each new ROG phone and the Asus ROG Phone 5 has some quality-of life advantages over other Android phones, so it can compete with non-gaming smartphones – provided you don’t have the best cameras.

Asus also achieved a good balance in the design of the phones. It has reduced the ‘gamer chic” angled plastic used in earlier ROG phones to more subtle lines that are better suited for everyday use.

The ROG3 predecessor (there is no ROG 4, we explain below) had a rear-facing window that allowed you to see the internals of the phone. This ROG generation has a light-up panel at the back. It either illuminates a ROG logo, or, for the ROG 5 models, displays whatever you wish.

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The ROG 5 is the first Asus phone with three models. It has the standard, the Asus ROG 5 Pro and the Asus ROG 5 Ultimate versions. These two models have slightly higher specs and smaller OLED displays on their rear covers to show off your gaming cred. These are cosmetic upgrades but they’re also the best way to get the most powerful gamer phone available. The ROG 5 Ultimate has 18GB RAM.

It’s not clear what you get from so much RAM. Asus describes it more as a flex – a “mixture of extravagance, ROG flair” as a spokesperson for the company told TechRadar – than a noticeable improvement while playing games. However, they expect that you’ll still be able to open more apps and games at once.

The Asus ROG 5 base model has some improvements that will be noticed by mainstream Android users. The phone’s 6,000mAh battery can be charged with the 65W in-box charger in just under an hour thanks to some new internals. The side USB-C port on the phone is now easier than ever to charge while playing media or gaming. The speakers sound better than ever. Who doesn’t like a 3.5mm Jack?

The peripherals are not included in this box. Did I mention that the AeroActive Cooler 5 fan, which is included in the Ultimate and Pro boxes, now has trigger buttons?

The ROG Phone 5 has been praised as the best ROG phone yet. While it may not be able to satisfy all users who require great zoom or low light photography, it is still a strong contender for an all-around phone that packs powerful specs.

Price and release date for Asus ROG Phone 5.

The Asus ROG 5 was unveiled on March 10, 2021. It will be available in three different models with staggered availability. The standard version was made available in some areas in March. In April, the Asus ROG 5 Pro became available. The Asus ROG 5 Ultimate went on sale in May. However, it will only be in limited quantities. The availability of all models will vary depending on where they are located, but the Ultimate will be available everywhere. However, it will not be in large quantities.

The Asus ROG 5 is currently on sale in the US. However, it is only available in one configuration – the 16GB RAM and 256GB storage configuration – which can be purchased on Asus’ website (opens new tab).

Quick note about naming: The Asus ROG 5 is the direct replacement to the Asus ROG 3 that was released in 2020. Due to cultural reticence towards the number 4, the company skipped ‘ROG 4.

The Asus ROG 5 standard cost is EUR799 (around 950 / PlayStation684 / AU$1,233), for 8GB RAM, 128GB storage, EUR899 for 12GB RAM, and 256GB storage, and EUR999 for 16GB RAM, and 256GB storage (around $1188 / PlayStation855 / AU$1,541).

The Asus ROG5 Pro will retail for EUR1,199, which is approximately $1,426 / PlayStation1,027 / AU$1,849. It has 16GB RAM and 512GB of storage. This price is almost the same as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. The Asus ROG 5 Ultimate will cost EUR1,299 (around 1,426 / PS1,027 / AU$1,849) for 18GB RAM, 512GB storage, and AU$2,004.

The Asus ROG 5 is available in black in most areas, but there’s a white version that may be available in certain regions. The Asus ROG 5 Pro is available in a single color, black with a programmable OLED display on the back. The Asus ROG 5 Ultimate comes in a single black color, with blue accents and a monochrome OLED display.

Design

The Asus ROG Phone 5 is a very similar design to its predecessor, the ROG 3. It’s a rectangular black (or white if you choose the Ultimate version), with all buttons and ports located in the same locations. Although there are some improvements, most of them are minor. For instance, the back cover’s RGB lit ROG icon can now be filtered through blocks to make it appear 8-bit.

The volume button is located above the power button on the left side. There are capacitive touch buttons at the extreme top and bottom of the right-hand side that serve as shoulder buttons. The USB-C port is located on the left. However, this time there’s a capacitive strip that can be connected to accessories. It’s also easier to remove the rubber plug, which is used to keep dust and sand out of the port.

This is a symbol of the ROG 5’s subtle but significant quality-of-life enhancements: The ROG 5’s 6.78 inch display is slightly larger that the ROG 3. Thanks to smaller top and lower bezels, responsive shoulder buttons, and the 3.5mm headset jack, the ROG 5’s 6.78 inch display is slightly larger. The back cover is made of plastic and has a slightly cheaper feel than glass. This is not a new trend in flagship phones that aims to reduce costs. (We see you, Samsung Galaxy S21).

You can just put the phone in a protective case or secure it when you are done using it. It will slip on the slightest slope. We are confident.

The design of the back cover is a bigger change. The ROG 3’s cut out window into the heatsink is gone. There’s still a ROG Logo on the ROG 5, but it’s a blocky filter that makes the logo look retro 8-bit. It lights up in programmable patterns much like the light-up components of a gaming PC. The logo can be replaced by a 1-inch OLED panel that displays a symbol or message.

OLED and RGB panels are certainly gamer-inspired, but they’re far from the original ROG phone with deep grooves that zig-zagged across the back cover. It looked almost like an incognito Decepticon. These flourishes were reduced over time, and today’s minimal lines are the result of a more mainstream design with a geometric, but rounded, camera block at its top.

The ROG 3 has not changed in any other way than the ROG 3. For instance, the ultrasonic shoulders buttons have not changed in function or placement. We are told that there is a higher density of sensors near the edge which makes them more responsive. We found the ROG 5’s shoulder button easier to map and use in gaming.

There are four microphones on the phone, located at the top, bottom and right sides. They can pick up voice from any angle, regardless of how the phone is held or the accessories attached.

The ROG 5’s speakers are the best in the business. Dual 12x16mm front facing speakers with Dirac HD sound and overlapping layers of audio are quite impressive. If you place the ROG 5 on a table and walk around it, you will hear a much more balanced mix of sound coming from both speakers than any other phone, especially phones with single or bottom-firing speakers. While there are phones that have a more specific audio tuning (e.g. the iPhone 12 Pro), which seems to favor a mix that makes it easier to hear dialogue at the expense of background noise, the ROG 5’s sound is powerful enough to fill any room and won’t block the speakers when you’re gaming.

This is the Asus ROG 5’s broad design. However, there are subtle differences between the Pro and Ultimate versions. Read on to find out:

ROG 5 vs ROG 5 Pro vs ROG 5 Ultimate

The Pro and Ultimate versions are not much different from the standard Asus ROG 5, except for a few design tweaks and better specs. The pricier versions will give you the best mobile gaming experience.

The standard ROG 5, which has 16 RAM and 256GB of storage, is spec-wise. The Asus ROG 5 Pro is available in one configuration, 16GB RAM and 512GB of storage. The Asus ROG 5 Ultimate comes with 18GB RAM and 512GB storage for the best specifications in this generation. They cannot upgrade their physical storage as there is not a microSD slot.

Both the more expensive versions have a glass back and a sleeker design. The RGB panel is also dropped for a smaller (around 1 inch) OLED display that can display a customized message or logo.

The Pro and Ultimate versions have a second feature that the standard version does not: two touch sensor strips at the back of your phone that act as extra buttons. These are much harder to hit than the ultrasonic shoulder buttons, which are long and narrow. You can reach them with your pinky or ring fingers. They are subtle and easy to touch with very little texture or width to guide your fingers.

All three phones have identical specifications: the display is the same, the Snapdragon 888 chipset, Adreno 660 GPU and Adreno 666 GPU are the same, and there’s a 65W charger inside.

We can’t compare the benchmarks of the phones with RAM differences. However, the ROG 5 standard with 16GB RAM and ROG 5 Ultimate with18GB RAM were tested. (We weren’t sent the ROG 5 pro for review). They performed almost identically. However, the standard ROG 5 performed slightly better in a multicore Geekbench 5 benchmark (3732 for the ROG 5 Standard versus 3678 the ROG 5 Ultimate). 2GB seems to be negligible at this RAM level.

This is a huge gap: How do the 8GB RAM and 12GB RAM configurations’ gaming capabilities compare to the top-tier 16GB or 18GB phones we tested. Unfortunately, we are unable to answer this right now. However, we will update this section if we find a lower-spec phone. We can only say that the Pro and Ultimate versions have more features than the Pro.

The Asus ROG 5 features a 6.78 inch Full HD Plus (2440 x 10080) AMOLED display. It’s certified HDR10+ and can display sharp visuals as well as vibrant colors. To avoid a notch, the front-facing camera is hidden in a thin black bar.

The image is sharp and clear. We could only find one nitpick: images can lose clarity in dark shadows or areas that are very dark. The ROG 5’s Full HD Plus screen doesn’t produce sharper pictures than phones with higher resolution displays, such as the WQHD Plus (3200×1440) screen on Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus. The ROG 5’s display is just as good, if not better, than almost every flagship smartphone (the iPhone 12 Pro has a little more clarity and color balance).

Gaming is going to be able to take advantage of the 144Hz refresh rate. This makes browsing the internet much more enjoyable than 60Hz, and allows for smoother gameplay in games with higher frame-per-second rates.

The screen responds to finger pressures at 300Hz. This screen is faster than most phones.

Camera

The Asus ROG Phone 5 has a small number of cameras, but it is missing a telephoto lens to zoom. Although the main lens is high-megapixel, it can’t crop-zoom and takes sharp images.

The Asus ROG 5 still has all the basics covered for casual photography with its triple rear cameras: a 64MP main camera, a 13MP 125 degree field of view ultrawide camera and a 5MP macro lens. A 24MP front-facing camera works perfectly.

Although the ROG 5 can take decent photos in daylight thanks to its Space Zoom, it is easily outclassed by high-end phones such as the iPhone 12 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus in this category (which we tested against). The Samsung phone was the clear winner in distance photography, thanks to Space Zoom. However, the Asus ROG 5 performed better in daylight photography, with images that were blurrier and have a more natural balance of light and shadow.

Although the Asus ROG 5 can produce decent depth of field effects and background blur, its portrait mode is not quite as good as top-tier flagships. Although the low-light performance is good, it’s better with ambient lighting. You may need to struggle with the camera to change focus, such as if you want to achieve depth-of-field.

The ROG 5 can capture up to 8K video at 30fps and 4K video at 60fps (or 30-fps if you have the ultra-wide camera), slow motion video in 4K at 120fps and still photos while filming video.

Gaming hardware and software

ROG phones have made the rest of their kit more attractive to average consumers, but they have always been focused on gaming and the ROG 5 gaming phone is the best yet. Although it may not be as much praise as in previous years, the ROG 5 still offers the best hardware and software available for gaming on phones.

The Asus ROG 3 is essentially the same phone with the same hardware and software. The top and bottom ultrasonic buttons at the right sides of the phone can be turned sideways to become shoulder buttons. These buttons are responsive and much easier than previous ROG phones to map for any game. However, you will need to pull out the overlay menu (swipe to the left) to manually turn the phone on and place the activation zone that the buttons trigger.

Armoury Crate software remains largely unchanged. It’s still a place to store all your games. However, there are many more options for customizing how your phone runs for each game. The performance-enhancing X-Mode returns as well, though we didn’t notice a significant increase in Geekbench 5 benchmark scores when it was activated with default settings- instead, it seems to benefit more by tinkering to maximize performance.

The phone’s mid-gaming software has been updated with new functionality. Game Genie now offers a better mapping interface and a new esports mode. This disables distracting notifications as well as any macro software.

The AeroActive Cooler 5 now features two physical buttons. They function in the same way as the underside paddles of professional console controllers. Although they are a novel and delicious click, they are not easy to reach so they will only work for occasional actions such as crouching and jumping.

The ROG 5 has a new version of the Kunai 3 gaming pad. It is a more refined version than the one for the ROG 3. However, it does not interoperate with the older model. It works exactly the same way it has always worked: simply slide the ROG 5 into its special case (and its USB C plug) and each half of your Kunai pad will slide on to the other side, Nintendo Switch style.

Kunai 3 will only work with supported games. To map every button to the area that you require, it is a tedious but not painful process. This is done automatically for games such as Dead Cells. I was able to pick it up just like if I had loaded it up on my Nintendo Switch. For titles like Call of Duty: Mobile however, mapping each button individually was tedious but not impossible. It was difficult to get the controller to turn the Y-Axis to the right ‘look joystick,’ as this reviewer preferred. This was a major problem for the Kunai, but thankfully most gamers don’t have this peculiar gaming quirk.

It’s not surprising that the Asus ROG 5’s powerful specs, impressive display, game-assisting hardware and software, as well as the respectable battery life, make for a superior gaming experience than any other smartphone on the market.

Performance and specifications

The Asus ROG 5 has top-tier specs, and top-tier performance. It is comparable to 2021’s top smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S21 range. The phone can do everything we ask it to, including switching between apps and browsing the internet to watch media or playing long games.

RAM and storage are the only differences between the various Asus ROG 5 models. The standard version comes with 8GB RAM, but you can also get it in 12GB or 16GB configurations. All versions come in the most recent LPDDR5/UFS 3.1. It is important to note that Asus sent the 16GB RAM version and it ran smoothly – as expected given its powerful processor.

The ROG 5 configuration with the highest RAM selection is almost the same as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus. This is a good choice because it delivers results. The ROG 5 with 16GB RAM scored 3732 on multi-core Geekbench 5, beating the S21 Plus’ 3170 score.

The ROG 5 comes with 128GB storage. This is enough storage for most 2021 Android phones. However, it can be increased to 256GB. Despite the brightly-colored SIM tray at the bottom of right side of the phone there is no microSD expansion. The ROG5 Pro comes with 512GB storage.

The Asus ROG 5 runs Android 11, with the familiar, but still minimal Zen UI overlay. It’s simple and attractive. The box also contains the Armoury Crate gaming program and ROG’s gamer-chic wallpapers. Although the phone can be used on 5G, it only supports sub-6 frequencies. There is no mmWave connection.

Battery life

The Asus ROG 5’s 6,000mAh battery has been retained from its predecessor. However, it’s been redesigned internally for better charging performance. The ROG 5 is now equipped with two 3,000mAh batteries instead of the solid 6,000mAh unit. This allows the phone’s battery to be recharged faster by charging both the units simultaneously.

According to Asus, splitting up the CPU reduces heat by up to 46% less temperature generation and full battery charging. Even after playing casually, such as twenty minutes of Call of Duty Mobile matches, the phone remained cool. Only the metal frame warmed up slightly after the session.

Asus introduced a new feature to the Asus ROG 3: slow charging. You can slow charge your phone to fill it up, instead of charging at the fastest speed. The 65W charger is not just for show if you want your phone to be fully charged quickly. We started with 6% battery life, and increased it to 75% in about 45 minutes. It then reached 90% in 90 minutes.

Scheduled charging is available for those who plan to charge their phone overnight. It allows you to set a wake-up and the phone will begin charging at the time that you choose. This is a very sensible feature that allows people who care about their battery life to reduce unnecessary charging cycles. If you don’t want your phone charging at its maximum, you can set a limit of 80% or 90%.

You can also use bypass charger, which allows your phone to be plugged in to power your gaming sessions. Why? This is a good option because it avoids heat buildup and your ROG 5 may already be warm from long gaming sessions.

A new ultra-durable battery option is also available. This mode preserves as much power as possible, while still allowing the phone to function. It does this by reducing the phone’s performance. The mode’s CPU and GPU are run at a slower speed, the refresh rate of the display is reduced to 60Hz, and background processes are limited. This is just what you need to get more battery life.

It’s a good deal if:

The best gaming phone is what you want

This is a simple one: We believe the Asus ROG 5 to be one of the most powerful gaming phones due to its software and accessories. There are few better options for mobile gaming than the Asus ROG 5.

You enjoy watching media on your smartphone

The Asus ROG 5 is a great gaming phone. It also has great speakers and a large battery that can be quickly charged with the 65W in-box charger. A 3.5mm headphone socket is also a plus.

It is a pain to run out of battery life

The Asus ROG 5 is among the few phones that can charge a 6,000mAh phone. This phone recharges as fast as any other smartphone due to its split-battery design (two 3,000mAh cells and a 65W charger).

It’s not worth the risk if…

You need a phone with a better camera

The Asus ROG 5 is not as good as other flagship phones when it comes to camera quality. If you value photography, consider a Samsung Galaxy S21 or iPhone 12 model.

You are looking for a mobile gaming experience that is more affordable

The Asus ROG 5 can be as expensive as most top-tier flagships, particularly the Pro and Ultimate models. You can find other flagships with higher specs but more affordable options, such as the OnePlus 8T. These could offer a more enjoyable and affordable gaming experience.

Want a more elegant phone

Gaming-chic is not for everyone. At the Asus ROG 5’s price, you may want a more expensive handset. If you like the iPhone 12 series, you will love its squared-off edges. The Samsung S21 Ultra/Note 20 Ultra is a better choice if you want absolute class.

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