ASUS ROG Phone II Review: Sweet Overkill

ASUS ROG Phone II Review: Sweet Overkill
When you hear the term "gaming phone", what are the first associations that come to mind? Over-the-top hardware specs? Glowing multi-colored LEDs? Support for fancy gaming accessories, perhaps? The Asus ROG Phone II comes with all of this, topping the package with a ridiculously large battery and a huge screen running at a buttery-smooth 120Hz refresh rate.

For those who aren't familiar with the brand, ROG stands for "Republic of Gamers". It is a lineup of gear made specifically for gaming – computers, monitors, peripherals, and everything in between. As its name implies, the ROG Phone II is Asus's second-generation gaming smartphone, and I spent two weeks with it to see how it has leveled up.

In the box:
  • Asus ROG Phone II
  • Custom protective case
  • 30W wall adapter with USB-C port
  • USB-C to USB-C cable
  • AeroActive Cooler with footstand and two spare rubber caps
  • SIM ejector tool
  • User manual and warranty information

Design



The Asus ROG Phone II is clearly an enthusiast phone. Just like its predecessor, it looks as if it came out of a technocratic sci-fi movie – and its a look you'll either like or not. Some of my friends genuinely loved it when I showed it to them, while others found its design a bit overdone.

What every single one of them pointed out was that the ROG Phone II is super bulky. Indeed, it is one of the largest and heaviest phones we've reviewed, and it barely fits in regular pockets.

On the bottom of the Asus ROG Phone II you'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack and a USB-C port for charging. On the side, under a protective rubber cap, is a special port used for connecting accessories such as the AeroActive Cooler – practically a snap-on fan that actively cools the phone. On the front we find a pair of wonderful speakers producing loud, clear stereo sound.

There is an optical fingerprint reader built into the display of the phone. It works, but it isn't as reliable as traditional fingerprint readers – something we've been saying too often lately.

The ROG logo at the back lights up and gently fades through different colors, as long as you have the high-performance X-Mode enabled. It can also double as a notification light or pulse to the rhythm of music that's playing – features that are cool but also distracting, in my opinion. The option to enable these features is in the pre-loaded Armoury Crate app. There's also a dedicated LED notification light at the front.

Unfortunately, the ASUS ROG Phone II doesn't have a water-resistance rating like some other high-end phones do. What it does offer is protection in the form of a free plastic frame case in the box.



Display


At 6.6 inches, the Asus ROG Phone II offers one of the largest screens on a phone today. It's an OLED panel with resolution of 1080 x 2340 pixels. Sure, the numbers don't sound impressive, but the choice to stick with "just" a 1080p screen could be to allow games to run at higher framerates. There are no notches or cutouts eating away screen space – something gamers would appreciate.

They'd also appreciate the 120Hz refresh rate of the display. The great majority of smartphones today run at a traditional 60Hz which is perfectly fine for practically any user, but an even higher refresh rate makes movement appear smoother and allows for framerates above 60fps to be displayed. This is a feature many popular high-end phones, including the newest iPhone and Samsung Galaxy models, still lack.


However, a higher screen refresh rate consumes a bit more battery life, so there are 90Hz and 60Hz options as well. You may also configure the screen refresh rate setting on a per-game basis – which makes sense since not all games can take advantage of a 120Hz refresh rate.

Asus also points out that the display on the ROG Phone II has a 240Hz sampling rate – how many times per second the screen checks for touch input, basically. This is a feature meant to improve touch response.

One drawback I have to point out is that the screen doesn't get very dim in the dark. Even at minimum brightness, the screen puts a lot of strain on my eyes when I read or watch YouTube videos before bedtime. Outdoor visibility is generally pretty good, though there's a weird glare under certain angles.



Software and interface


The Asus ROG Phone II runs Android 9.0 Pie, and you may pick between three different interfaces. Two of them, themed around the ROG branding, are bright and flashy, while the third, classic theme is clean and unobtrusive.

No matter which interface you pick, you'll have access to features like a dark theme, Google's Digital Wellbeing, an always-on display, a screen recorder, and a phone-call recorder. By default, the phone presents you with classic on-screen buttons for navigation, but you can replace them with Android's navigation gestures or Asus's own gesture navigation approach. The latter uses a swipe on either edge for Back, a swipe from the bottom for Home, and a swipe-and-hold gesture from the bottom to display recent apps.


Armoury Crate is a pre-loaded app by Asus where your game collection is organized. It is also where you access advanced gaming and performance settings. For example, you can choose the refresh rate at which a game runs, set whether it should prioritize performance or battery life, enable antialising and modify input controls.


Game Genie is another handy gaming tool Asus has thrown in. Swiping in from the left edge of the screen displays the Game Genie menu, allowing you to lock the screen brightness, disable notifications, record your screen, or start a livestream via Twitch or YouTube. It also lets you configure macros and AirTriggers.

AirTriggers are force-sensitive shoulder buttons positioned on the right edge of the phone. Pressing on one of them will simulate a tap at a point on the screen that you choose. In other words, they act as shortcuts to existing on-screen buttons. I used AirTriggers in PUBG to aim and shoot more precisely and they were so good it almost felt like cheating!



Performance


The Asus ROG Phone II is practically the fastest Android phone right now. It is equipped with an overclocked Snapdragon 855+ chip along with 12GB of RAM. Unsurprisingly, any game runs perfectly fine on it – at up to 120fps if you have the 120Hz display refresh rate enabled! With all that RAM, it is not uncommon to launch a game and see that it is still loaded in memory, in the state you left it the day before. There is no microSD card slot on this phone but with either 512GB or 1TB of built-in storage, who needs one?

AnTuTu is a multi-layered, comprehensive mobile benchmark app that assesses various aspects of a device, including CPU, GPU, RAM, I/O, and UX performance. A higher score means an overall faster device.

Higher is better
Asus ROG Phone II
401844
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+
344544
OnePlus 7 Pro
373664
Apple iPhone 11 Pro
458830


The AeroActive Cooler which I mentioned earlier is an accessory meant to help with dissipating heat. This is supposed to cool down the phone and help it sustain high performance for longer, but personally, I couldn't see any difference in games or in benchmark tests. The phone does get quite hot under heavy load and might get uncomfortable to hold at times.


Camera


On the back of the Asus ROG Phone II is a dual-camera setup comprised of a 48MP main cam and a secondary, 13MP super wide-angle camera. The main camera takes 12MP images by default, shoots 4K video at up to 60fps, and has a Night Mode which improves low-light image quality as long as you don't mind keeping the phone still for a couple of seconds.


Image quality is good overall. It isn't great, but it is definitely good enough for most people. There's an automatic HDR mode that enhances highlights and shadows at the cost of a few moments of processing time. Zooming in digitally disables HDR for some reason. Colors are neutral and generally accurate, but the white balance tends to struggle in low light. Surprisingly, details look a bit smudgy if you zoom in on the picture.

The super wide-angle lens can be very useful in certain situations, but as all other lenses of this kind, it does introduce some distortion near the edges. It is also less sensitive to light which is why its low-light images look a bit more fuzzy.




Battery life and charging


6000mAh – that's the amount of charge the Asus ROG Phone II can hold. To put this figure into context, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ has a 4300mAh battery and the OnePlus 7 Pro holds 4000mAh worth of charge. The phone delivered a result of over 14 hours on our custom battery test, which makes it one of the longest-lasting phones we've tested. This result was achieved at a 60Hz display refresh rate. At 120Hz, the phone lasted 20 minutes less.

Battery life while gaming, however, could have been better. Depending on what you're playing, the phone can lose from as little as a 8% to as much as 25% of charge per hour of gaming. That's with X-Mode and LED light effects enabled. But if it is used as a normal phone, the ROG Phone II easily lasts 2 days between charges.

The 30W charger provided with the Asus ROG Phone II charges the phone at up to 25W. The other 5W are reserved for powering accessories. A full charge requires 102 minutes, which is not bad at all given the capacity of the battery cell. If you just want to give the phone a quick power boost, 30 minutes on the charger take the battery from 0 to 40%.

We measure battery life by running a custom web-script, designed to replicate the power consumption of typical real-life usage. All devices that go through the test have their displays set at 200-nit brightness.

hours Higher is better
Asus ROG Phone II
14h 11 min (Excellent)
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+
8h 21 min (Excellent)
OnePlus 7 Pro
9h 10 min (Excellent)

Conclusion


It is clear that Asus has made the ROG Phone II with passion and desire to please a growing demographic of gamers – people who see gaming as a lifestyle, not just as a fun way to spend their spare time. And the result is one ridiculous phone – in every positive sense of the word. It has both the hardware and software to give you the upper hand over your online opponents – while still being a good Android smartphone overall.

Of course, you don't have to be a hardcore gamer to be interested in an Asus ROG Phone II. It would also be a good pick if you need a phone with great battery life and a quality display – as long as you don't mind the heft, of course.

Currently, the Asus ROG Phone II is available for pre-order in the US priced at $900. Indeed, it is an expensive phone, but it costs about as much as most equally powerful Android handsets. For about the same amount of money, you should be able to grab a Galaxy S10+ which is a more balanced phone with better cameras and broader carrier compatibility.

Pros

  • Excellent battery life (unless you game a lot)
  • Loud and clear-sounding stereo speakers
  • Powerful hardware and tons of memory
  • 120Hz display refresh rate is neat

Cons

  • Very large and heavy
  • Not compatible with Sprint or Verizon
  • No water resistance
  • Camera isn't as good as those on other $900 phones

PhoneArena Rating:

8.5

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29 Comments

1. notfair

Posts: 753; Member since: Jan 30, 2017

The score seems fair. I really don't mind thick and heavy phones having huge battery inside, I am sick o thin phones with small batteries and camera bumps. edit: and fragile backs that cracks and scratch easily and costs a fortune to replace. to hello with this trend.

20. D3X10N

Posts: 2; Member since: Sep 26, 2019

Yep, this phone is the opposite. It takes all those bulls**t cosmetic stuff and shoves it: - No notches or hole punched screen - Huge battery - No camera bump - Normal bezel screen(not that edge crap) with square corners (those rounded corners are a waste of screen space) - Dual front facing speakers with high quality sound - Smooth back plate (plastic on the global version) - Headphone jack - Side USB-C Only thing missing to this perfect phone is a fingerprint reader (and a microSD slot would have been icing).

2. ph00ny

Posts: 2048; Member since: May 26, 2011

You know how we know the battery test is deeply flawed? switching between 120hz and 60hz only resulted in 20minute difference in battery life

17. Nick_T

Posts: 186; Member since: May 27, 2011

In my real-life experience, having the screen set to 60 or 120Hz makes no practical difference.

33. buccob

Posts: 2972; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

In GSMArena experience it makes quite a few hours of difference in specific scenarios, specially since the display used by Asus does not dynamically change according to context so even if you are watching a 30fps movie, it will run the display at 120hz... wasting precious battery... Please note, that you guys have great tools such as the Size comparison, and photo compare... but your battery testing is flawed

3. DBozz

Posts: 54; Member since: Sep 19, 2019

Seems fair rating to me. Pure gaming phone targets hardcore users mostly. Not a camera king or queen... but tops almost all other categories... Well done Asus!!!

15. buccob

Posts: 2972; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

I don't think the score is fair, when the iPhone 11 got 9.4 with many more "Cons". This is the device with the least compromises out there... (water resistance and size being the main 2 compromises)

4. CreeDiddy

Posts: 2240; Member since: Nov 04, 2011

I don’t get how Asus or any Android phone can brand a phone as a gaming phone, as Apple has benchmarked of having the best OLED screen quality, best battery life, fastest CPU and GPU processors, AI processor, best camera for pic and video, and most importantly all the gaming and app developers are on iOS. Yet the IPhone isn’t branded as a gaming phone. I don’t get it...lol! What’s funny is that no mention of Google Pass at least, but ASUS is branding their own App Store. Last I checked, any Android phone can run these games. So why the need of a “gaming phone”? Sometimes with Android, once you see the magic trick once it gets boring after awhile.

6. OneLove123

Posts: 1161; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

You do know that sd 855+ has a better GPU than Apple, right? That's why the A13 in the iPhone can't beat Android in Antutu score.

9. OneLove123

Posts: 1161; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

Plus, idk why the antutu score on the the rog 2 is so low here. I've seen it as high as 470k. The record is still redmagic 3s with over 500k. Of course, you can always take phonearena test with a very strong grain of salt.

18. Nick_T

Posts: 186; Member since: May 27, 2011

We've used AnTuTu v7.2.3 for the testing. You'll get higher scores on AnTuTu 8.x, but that app is only available in China, as far as I know.

8. Vancetastic

Posts: 1510; Member since: May 17, 2017

Again with this? Write to Apple or something. Maybe they'll change their marketing. Meanwhile, this article is about a different phone.

14. DBozz

Posts: 54; Member since: Sep 19, 2019

Apple lacks in GPU consistency over the time. Due to its thermal issues and lack of cooling systems iPhone has to reduce its clock speed which leads to drop in frame rate. Also the screen goes to dim to reduce its internal temperature

19. D3X10N

Posts: 2; Member since: Sep 26, 2019

Agreed on the fastest CPU and GPU, unfortunately the Apple phones aren't designed to run these games on high settings for a long period of time. They get very hot and the system begins to throttle, the battery also doesn't lend well in these situations and because of the additional heat, the energy drain is higher. The other thing you're disregarding is the screen, which is 120hz . That difference right there is very noticeable, if you've checked out any Youtube Tech reviews, they will say this is important. The previous king of display was the Oneplus 7T at 90hz. If the purpose is high framerates and gaming experience, the responsiveness of the screen in this case is likely very important. Thirdly, this phone has a ton of accessories specifically made for this device; the cooler (that comes with the phone), the dual display, the switch-style game controllers, the TV dock and the computer dock. Check them out, they are actually quite practical for even other uses (like media center, multitasking) And lastly, this review didn't go into depth with the software, which is likely it's best strength. There's some performance settings and even hardware decisions that allow you to take full advantage of the device; capacitive touch triggers, turbo overclocking with X-mode and processor speed management, side USB-C port and headphones, recordable programmable macros, and onscreen monitor (FPS, temp, speed etc). Sure, Apple works well and is very fast, but i think Asus carved a nice niche device here that is really good at being a "gaming phone" which will appeal to some power users out there as well.

28. CreeDiddy

Posts: 2240; Member since: Nov 04, 2011

I agree with you, but branding a gaming phone with touch triggers with overclocking software is just a fancy way to spin sell this phone. Apple with iOS 13 and higher can paired with any Bluetooth controller, such as PS4, Xbox, or Nimbus. Which games run better on ROG 2 over the iPhone? Every gaming app that is on iOS and better yet, even an iPhone SE can run them without any frame loss. Anyone buying this phone has the opportunity of 120Hz refresh rate. That's all you simply get with this phone over an S10 or Note10. Talk about CPU and GPU thermal limitations, every gaming app can be ran smoothly from an iPhone SE and up. Last I checked there are no advantages of higher frame rate rendering or shaders that make this a must have.

31. Sweetcheese

Posts: 42; Member since: Aug 23, 2018

You can map any touch based game to the hardware buttons on the controller. No other phone can do that

5. pooma

Posts: 96; Member since: Oct 01, 2015

I want to see this con in Iphone 11 pro max review: Very large and heavy

10. kabhijeet.16

Posts: 892; Member since: Dec 05, 2012

So "not compatible with sprint/ horizon" is a con??? Hello there Phone arena writers!!! For your information, There is a world outside of USA. & There are billions of people living there.. & if you want to write about articles keeping in view the US readers, then block your webpage for other countries.

13. Bowingchu

Posts: 8; Member since: Feb 19, 2012

Wait a minute. Wait a minute. So let me get this straight phonearena.com . This is a really biased review and I'll tell you why. 1. You spent 2 weeks with this phone and you can't even put up your view of the phone call quality? Yet the iPhone 11 gets a 9.4 and this gets an 8.5? 2. You can't tell me this battery on the ROG phone 2 is better than the iPhone11 and the Oneplus 7 pro. 3. It's has the world's fastest processor of any android phone and yet it gets an 8.5? Talk about hypocrisy. On top of all that, yeah, it's limited within carriers and providers and at the same time, it's a gaming phone, we get it. So what? BTW, your reasons for the cons are absolutely ridiculous. I am a MAN. I want a phone with some weight. I'm 6 foot 1 and 225 pounds. I need a phone with substance. I'm not 4 foot 11 and 100 pounds. This is why there are phones out there for everyone. You can't say this is a review until you at least put in the call quality.

21. WW_Dagger

Posts: 1; Member since: Sep 26, 2019

Writing this on my ROG Phone 2! Just got it today. Wife has the Note 10+. I gotta say, my phone is way cooler. It is barely heavier, but definitely not a deal breaker. Size is almost exactly the same. Thickness difference isn't even noticable. What's noticable is the buttery smooth screen scrolling at 120hz and touch response. The touch triggers are way cool for games but also helpful outside of games. Screen quality looks identical. Camera quality? I seriously can't see the difference. Note 10 has a TOF lense that is pretty neat. For gaming, ROG Phone 2 DEFINITELY wins, for everything else they feel identical. This Phone should definitely be scored higher. I don't think the reviewer's are actually being non-bias in their assessment. Oh, and it does have a finger print scanner that works exactly as well. I made the right choice and I saved $300 as well. Just gotta say, the cons mentioned in this review are more opinion and feel like they were struggling to find something negative to say for some reason, like they were afraid to say something that would upset Samsung. Whatever, Asus wins in every way here.

29. Bowingchu

Posts: 8; Member since: Feb 19, 2012

I'm thinking about getting this phone because it was either the iPhone 11 pro max, the Note 10+, the Oneplus 7 pro or the ROG Phone 2. I have it on pre-order right now. My question is, how is the security on this phone as well as the speakers and the battery life on this phone in your opinion? Is there anything you don't like about it? I think your review will help me with my decision.

30. Bowingchu

Posts: 8; Member since: Feb 19, 2012

By the way, what version did you get? The 12GB ram and 512 GB memory versionor the 8GB ram 128GB memory version?

24. Sweetcheese

Posts: 42; Member since: Aug 23, 2018

How can you review a gaming device and not talk about the dedicated game controller and the fact that any on-screen buttons or button sequence can be mapped to the hardware keys (including a keyboard and mouse if you have those connected) ?. This device absolutely destroys the galaxy s10 in almost every way.

25. maestrotelefono

Posts: 5; Member since: Sep 30, 2019

There is something is not mentioned in the article. The terrifying security (and software) update support from Asus. The last update (for the Chinese Tencent version) was done early September, with Google security packege of July !!!!! The first gen ROG phone still runs on Oreo 8,1, no News about date of upgrading ROG2 to Android 10.... The Chinese Tencent Version receives security updates every 3 month, which is a shame in 2019. From this points of view th 8,5 overall score is too much for ROG2....

27. Bowingchu

Posts: 8; Member since: Feb 19, 2012

But we aren't talking about the Tencent version. We are talking about the one that is released in North America that has 12 GB ram with 512 GB memory. That stupid Chinese version is the cheaper version. Same one they sent to India.

26. ramdroid

Posts: 138; Member since: May 21, 2016

basically its the phone to rule them all once a proper Gcam port is out

32. monoke

Posts: 1172; Member since: Mar 14, 2015

8.5 although a good score, is still BS by phonearena. First ROG got a 8.8. This improves on it. So only IPhones can get the high scores since 'big and bulky' doesn't apply to the 11 pro max but it does for the ROG 2?

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

ROG Phone II
  • Display 6.6" 1080 x 2340 pixels
  • Camera 48 MP / 24 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus, Octa-core, 2960 MHz
  • Storage 512 GB
  • Battery 6000 mAh

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