ASUS ROG Phone 5 Review: Republic of Gamers Champion
By: Alex Chub | 26.03.2021, 14:30
ASUS ROG Phone 5 is a very impressive, but niche flagship smartphone. It is a great device for hardcore gamers: maximum possible performance with different operation profiles, chic big screen with refresh rate up to 144 Hz, additional gaming software, customizable ultrasonic triggers and accessories. Excellent sound quality, both from the stereo speakers and in headphones. And also a large battery with very fast charging. And to top it all off, a very unique design and the RGB illumination of the Republic of Gamers gaming range logo. Of course, this is all cool, but some of these features will only be of interest to gamers.
ASUS ROG Phone 5 has everything a mobile gamer needs: a big screen with 114Hz refresh rate, AirTrigger 5 control system and a handy Game Genie menu, and a lateral USB Type-C connector allows you to charge the battery in landscape orientation while gaming. We have tested the standard model with the RGB logo at the rear. The Pro and Ultimate versions have a ROG Vision Display instead. Highly recommended!
Excellent AMOLED screen with a refresh rate of 144 Hz
Superb sound quality, both in headphones and from stereo speakers
Ultrasonic triggers, an abundance of additional gaming features and accessories
Long battery life and very fast charging
Camera isn't as good as some flagship phone cameras
No dust and water protection of the case
What's in the Box?
Lately, there is not much to say about the packaging and smartphone kit. At least not a good one: no bonuses, and power supplies and earbuds are removed. ASUS ROG Phone 5 really pleased in this respect. The company has been very creative with the smartphone kit. It is packaged in a beautiful black box, which opens like a book. Inside you will find a black and white Vikra comic book. When the smartphone is first turned on, the user is prompted to direct the camera at the images. Thanks to augmented reality, the images "come to life", the user watches a small video clip, following which he is invited to choose a virtual avatar, again with the help of augmented reality: virtual masks get applied to the real face of the owner.
But let's move on to the kit. In addition to the smartphone itself, the box includes an oddly shaped protective bumper made of plastic, a very impressive 65W power supply, a fabric sleeved Type-C cable, a spare plug for the side connectors, a tray extractor clip, a set of stickers, and documentation.
An optional external cooler is supplied separately:
ASUS ROG Phone 5 Design
ASUS ROG Phone 5 looks quite unique. Well, as much as it can be in today's reality. It's big and very weighty: 8.4 oz (238 grams) is no joke. The body is made of glass and metal. At the front there is a big screen with rounded corners and no cutouts. ASUS decided not to take away useful space from mobile gamers. At the same time the gaps below and above the screen are absolutely symmetrical, so it looks very esthetic.
Above the screen: a speaker wide slot, front camera and (!) LED indicator, which we have not seen in smartphones for a long time. Under the screen there is a similar slot for the second speaker. The bezel is very thin on the sides. The entire front panel is covered with glass, the edges are slightly rounded. The manufacturers call this 2.5D.
The frame is solid, made of metal. It is black regardless of the smartphone color option. On the right side there are the usual power and adjustment buttons with blue accents on the sides (in the black version they are red), as well as engraving on both sides, which indicates the ultrasonic triggers places.
There is an additional microphone on the top edge.
On the left side there is also something interesting. The smartphone has two Type-C ports: the second one is located on the left side, so it's convenient to play and charge the smartphone at the same time. Next to it there are pins for connecting the external AeroActive Cooler 5. The connector and pins are covered with a removable rubber cap, and near it there is another microphone (there are four in total). The tray is on the same side. It is designed in an intriguing way, in the form of an angled blue insert. The tray itself only supports the installation of two SIM cards. There is no space for microSD.
On the bottom there is USB Type-C and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, which has become a rare guest in flagship smartphones. ASUS ROG Phone 5 sound quality is remarkable, which we'll discuss in more detail further.
The rear panel is glass, with an unusual geometric print, small decorative inscriptions, and the logo of the Republic of Gamers product range. Of course, it has a customizable backlight. What can you do without it in a top-of-the-line gaming smartphone? We got a white version of the smartphone with blue accents. It looks exciting and unusual. Black variant with red accents is also good, but the combination of black and red is too common in gaming gadgets.
The rear camera also has an unusual angular shape and contains three modules, one more microphone, as well as an LED flash.
ASUS ROG Phone 5 looks unusual and quite unique, as expected from a gamer's device. It is worth noting that the smartphone is large: 6.80x3.04x0.41 inches and weighs 8.4 ounces. We are accustomed that most modern flagship smartphones have dust and water protection. Unfortunately, the ROG Phone 5 is not one of them. Although it still stands a bit apart from most "mass market" flagships.
The ASUS ROG Phone 5 features a so-called E4 AMOLED display, which is produced by Samsung exclusively for this smartphone. It has a diagonal of 6.78 inches and not quite the usual resolution of 2448x1080, with an aspect ratio of 20.4:9. They promise a maximum brightness of 800 cd/m2 in auto mode and a peak of 1200 cd/m2. There is support for HDR10+. In terms of speed parameters, this is one of the fastest (if not the fastest) smartphone screens on the market. The refresh rate is 144Hz, response speed is 1ms, input latency is 24.3ms, and the touch sampling rate is 300Hz.
The settings have a bunch of things: Always on Display, scale, font size and type, several color display modes, night mode, DC Dimming 2.0 (flicker reduction at low brightness, works only at 60 Hz) and refresh rate. There are three modes: 60, 120 and 144 Hz. Notably, 120 Hz is available in gaming X Mode, but not 144 Hz.
In terms of brightness and picture quality, there are no complaints to ASUS ROG Phone 5 at all. As well as to the smoothness of the work: all the animations look just great. Viewing angles are maximum, but at a certain angle white color slightly emits a greenish shade. Which, in general, is the usual phenomenon for AMOLED with Diamond PenTile sub-pixel arrangement. Most likely, this is the scheme used in the display. In "Natural" mode with manual adjustment the maximum brightness was 482.347 cd/m2. The color gamut is much wider than sRGB, there is a noticeable overabundance of blue and a slight lack of red. The screen goes into cold shades. Although, if you want, you can use the manual color temperature setting and adjust.
In "Cinema" mode, the maximum brightness is slightly lower: 463.594 cd/m2. At the same time, the color gamut is also wider than sRGB, but the color rendering is much closer to the reference values:
In "Default" mode the maximum brightness is almost similar: 463.157 cd/m2, but the color gamut is close to sRGB:
What are the ways to unlock?
A set of biometric means of owner recognition is standard for modern flagship (and not only flagship) smartphones. Face recognition with the front camera and fingerprint scanner on the display. They use an optical one, it lights up a finger while scanning. It works in the ASUS ROG Phone 5 very fast and error-free. In any case, during the time of use there were no mistakes. And the speed is comparable to the conventional capacitive sensors.
Face recognition works similarly to the other models: in a good light pretty fast, but the scanner is still faster.
ASUS ROG Phone 5 Performance
ASUS ROG Phone 5 has the new top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor inside. Although you wouldn't expect anything else from a flagship gaming smartphone. This is an eight-core 5-nanometer processor, which includes one core Kryo 680 at 2.84 GHz, 3xKryo 680 at 2.42 GHz and 4xKryo 680 at 1.8 GHz. The Adreno 660 GPU is responsible for the graphics. The manufacturer's website claims that the Snapdragon 888 got a 25% increase in CPU performance and a 35% increase in GPU performance compared to its predecessor. The amount of RAM in our sample was 16 GB, fast LPDDR5 is used, the storage is 256 GB UFS 3.1. So there is no doubt in the performance of the smartphone. In fact, the synthetic tests confirm that the smartphone is one of the most efficient of the existing at the moment.
The ASUS ROG Phone 5's SoC is placed in the middle of the smartphone's body, and the batteries are on the sides of it. Vapor chamber and graphite inserts are responsible for cooling. In practice, this GameCool 5 cooling system (as ASUS calls it) copes with its task perfectly. The CPU Throttling Test showed that even with prolonged peak load the processor does not overheat and performance can occasionally drop just a few percent, which for such a powerful smartphone is an excellent indicator. But the case warms up. Not so much that the smartphone was uncomfortable to use, but noticeable. External cooler AeroActive Cooler 5 is installed specially to provide proper cooling in long gaming sessions. It is claimed that it reduces the temperature of the case by 10-15°.
The set of wireless interfaces made us very happy, too. The smartphone supports Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6e 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 6 GHz. This is one of the first smartphones to support the 6e standard. The smartphone has multiple antennas and uses HyperFusion technology to connect to different networks simultaneously. With "fresh" routers, the smartphone does show very high and stable connection speeds. There is Bluetooth 5.2 LE with support for aptX HD, aptX Adaptive and LDAC codecs, as well as a module and NFC for contactless payment. For wired connectivity, there's one fast USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 1 and a second simpler one: USB Type-C 2.0. Global positioning systems GPS, GLONASS, Beidou, Galileo, QZSS, GNSS are supported.
The smartphone is powered by a pair of batteries of 3000 mAh each. Recently, it is quite a common practice. Which, among other things, allows not so quickly "kill" the batteries by fast charging. By the way, there is support for fast charging standards Power Delivery 3.0, Quick Charge 5 with a capacity of 65 watts. The corresponding power supply is included.
According to personal measurements, a full charge takes about 50 minutes. 70% in half an hour. Battery life is very much dependent on time in games. And considering that this is a gaming smartphone, future owners will obviously spend a lot of time playing games. In "normal" mode with a lot of email, chatting in messengers, about 20 minutes of talking, about an hour of gaming, etc., the smartphone lasted a day and a half. For active gamers, I believe this figure will be reduced to a day. Which is very good, taking into account the performance and features of the smartphone. Wireless charging is not supported.
ASUS ROG Phone 5 has the Armoury Crate utility for gaming, which collects all installed games and allows you to make a separate settings scenario for each one. Plus there are different general modes of operation: focusing on performance, runtime, and so on. Each may be adjusted. Another thing worth mentioning is a tab where you can filter the games available on Google Play by gamepad support, high refresh rate of the screen and so on.
And the in-game Game Genie add-on has a bunch of additional settings, from blocking calls, notifications, speeding up the smartphone (clearing memory and uploading other applications), to the configuration of those ultrasonic triggers, as well as additional buttons on the external cooler.
Games are mostly played at maximum settings with the maximum supported FPS level. Call of Duty Mobile keeps stable 60 FPS, as well as Asphalt, Shadowgun - 120 FPS. PUBG - 40 FPS (apparently - lock on available settings). The exception is Genshin Impact: 35-40 FPS.
As for the ultrasonic triggers, you can assign them to literally any action you want. It is convenient to use them in general, but it takes some time to get used to them: at first you just forget about their existence. As well as about the additional buttons on the cooler. The cooler itself is made quite comfortably: it does not interfere with the usual grip. At the same time on the bottom there is both Type-C for charging and a 3.5mm headphone jack so that the cable does not get in the way while gaming. At the back there is a hinged foot, so you can simply put the smartphone in an angle position and watch a movie.
The GameFX Audio System
Usually in today's smartphones there is not much to say about the sound. ASUS ROG Phone 5 managed to surprise in this respect. This is true both for the speakers and the sound in the headphones. The smartphone plays stereo sound using two symmetrical speakers 12x16 mm each. Each uses a Cirrus Logic CS35L45 mono amplifier with Dirac technology. These are probably among the loudest and highest quality smartphone speakers I've ever heard. Even some bass is present, which is very rare.
ASUS ROG Phone 5 has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack unavailable in the previous ROG Phone. Moreover, ASUS ensured the sound quality. It features ESS SABRE ES9280AC Pro DAC with Class G ESS Sabre amplifier and HyperStream II QUAD DAC technology. Of course, the smartphone is Hi-Res Audio certified. The output power is enough to boost even tight headphones with high impedance. The sound quality is also very satisfying. For tuning, there is a Dirac Audio Wizard utility with presets and equalizer.
ASUS ROG Phone 5 User Interface
ASUS ROG Phone 5 runs on Android 11 with the ROG UI shell. Although, in fact, the functional differences from the "pure" Android are very few. The main part of the changes touched the visual design in a bright "gamer" style. Including wallpaper, icons and so on. There are three design themes: two "gamer" and one classic for those who like a more neutral Android design. There is an option to unload all applications to desktops, or include a separate applications menu. The screen grid is customizable, the curtain has a standard look.
You can choose between a gesture and a push-button option for navigating the system. Plus, there are plenty of additional gestures to make it easier to use your smartphone. Including launching the application by drawing gestures on the screen.
Application Manager and two-window mode are implemented in a standard way, no surprises. The stock applications are also minimal, only the essentials. File manager, application for transferring data between smartphones, memory cleaning utility, calculator and voice recorder.
Cameras are not a priority in gaming smartphones, and the ASUS ROG Phone 5 is no exception to the rule. In fact, the smartphone has a set of cameras from ASUS ROG Phone 3. And it is somewhat inferior to what we are used to seeing in today's flagship smartphones. On the back there is a triple camera. The main module - 64-megapixel Sony IMX686 with a sensor size of 1/1.73", aperture f/1.8, pixel size 0.8µm and phase autofocus. Of course, the familiar Quad Bayer scheme of combining four subpixels into one is used, resulting in images of 16 MP each.
There is no optical stabilization. The main camera helps a super-wide angle of 13 megapixels with a viewing angle of 125 ° and an aperture of f/2.4. The third module is a 5-megapixel macro aperture of f/2.0. There is no telephoto camera, the zoom is only by cropping from the main camera. The front camera is 24 megapixels. The camera application has the usual carousel view of the modes, with the basic settings, including flash, aspect ratio, HDR mode, and so on, placed on the main screen. Additional modes include macro, professional (with manual settings) and night mode. Although the latter one is automatically enabled in photo mode if necessary.
The picture quality of the main camera is very good. Detailing and color rendering in sufficient light are at a good level. At night, the accuracy falls, yet the software algorithms are very good help.
The ultra-wide-angle camera struggles in low light compared to the main camera. But it is quite possible to take decent pictures, too.
You can play around with the macro camera, but it's hard to call it very useful. Of course, there is no autofocus, so you have to focus manually. But 5 MP is already better than 2 MP, like most smartphones with macro cameras:
3 things to know about the ASUS ROG Phone 5:
The ASUS ROG Phone 5 is one of the best-performing smartphones on the market.
It features a gorgeous AMOLED screen with a 144Hz refresh rate.
The smartphone has additional customizable ultrasonic triggers and a bunch of extra gaming settings.
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