A colleague of mine scoffed the other day when he saw the title of this review. He and many PC and console gamers don’t believe “mobile gaming” is a real thing. Well, 50 billion dollars in yearly revenue says otherwise and that’s why Asus ROG Phone II exists today. The company has gone all in, creating a device that is extremely powerful, fast, and capable of playing any and all mobile games available for days on a single charge.
This thing is the most specced phone you can buy today. It has the world’s fastest mobile processor, the fastest refreshing and responsive screen, the most memory and the biggest battery. I spent a month with the ROG Phone II as my daily driver and I was surprised at its versatility and capability.
Asus ROG Phone II Review
The ROG Phone embraces its gamer aesthetic with shameless pride and it’s beautiful. Its smooth curved body is made of metal and glass. At 6.7-inches tall, 3-inches wide, 0.3-inches thick and weighing 240 gms, the ROG Phone II is massive. Even with my big hands, I found it unwieldy so forget about single-handed use.
Blame the 6.59-inch screen with a giant asymmetrical bezel. At least you get two exceptional front-firing speakers. The glass back has angular etchings that radiate towards a copper cooling vent giving an edgy Tron aesthetic. In the middle is a glowing Asus ROG logo and up top is a striking, angled cutout for the camera.
The right-hand side of the phone has clicky power and volume buttons which are satisfying to press. The same edge has the two Ultrasonic AirTriggers; programmable touchpoints that you can use shoulder buttons. On the left, you have a special USB-C connector for accessories and another at the bottom plus an increasingly rare 3.5mm headphone jack.
World’s first 120 Hz/ 1ms screen
The ROG Phone II has a gorgeous screen measuring 6.59-inches with a resolution of 2340 by 1080. The panel is a 10-bit HDR AMOLED which Asus says this is the world’s first to have 120Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time. It also has a 49ms touch latency backed by a 240Hz touch sampling rate which makes it respond much faster to your touch.
But it’s really gamers who will appreciate the 120 Hz refresh. PC games have long been uncapped in their framerates but mobile games have been limited to 60Hz. However, there’s now a growing number of titles that support high refresh. I tested Call of Duty, Asphalt Racing 9, Rayman Legends and Shadowgun Legends and they all played excellently in 120Hz.
And even if you aren’t a hardcore gamer, the ROG Phone II is exceptional for media consumption. The 10-bit HDR panel with a 500,000:1 contrast ratio is like an LG OLED TV but in your pocket. Whether you’re Instagramming, bingeing YouTube videos on the bus or enjoying the phones dark mode, everything looks amazing on this screen.
The ROG Phone II has two speakers on the front of the phone that deliver shockingly good sound. They get very loud but maintain a full-bodied, rich and clear sound. The bass response is very good eliminating the tinny sound common to phones.
And, the speakers also vibrate. Asus calls it Surround Vibration built to give 3D force feedback. Additionally, Asus has bundled a ton of audio tech like Hi-Res Audio, DTS:X Ultra 7.1-channel surround sound and Qualcomm aptX.
The ROG Phone II is also equipped with a noise-cancelling quad-microphone array that filters out your voice from background noise for clear game chat. I was repeatedly impressed with how the ROG Phone II sounds — certainly better than many laptops I’ve tested.
The ROG Phone II has the Snapdragon 855 Plus and the Adreno 640 graphics; the fastest mobile processor combo available outside of Apple’s Bionic chips. You get 2.92 GHz of blistering fast performance for any task you could throw at the phone.
And with 12GB of RAM and a humongous 512GB of ultrafast Universal Flash Storage(UFS) 3.0, this phone chews through tasks with ease. Apps boot up fast and multitasking is a breeze thanks to all that RAM. Apps will stay open in the background without refreshing, including games. Power users will really enjoy all that the ROG Phone II offers.
Gaming is excellent, obviously
With all that power, the ROG Phone II’s gaming chops are impeccable. It’s way more powerful than any current game can strain and it’s got some genuinely helpful features that enhance gameplay. The Armory Crate launcher app manages your game profiles and settings while Game Genie toolbar lets you tweak system performance settings and configure the AirTriggers.
The side-mounted USB port lets you charge-n-play without compromising your grip. The improved AirTriggers give you greater control and they respond to tapping and sliding with an improved 20ms latency.
I tested a variety of games and they all ran exceptionally well. I was very impressed with how good games like Asphalt 9 and Rayman Legends looked and felt to play. It was certainly a console-level experience.
After about 30min of gaming, the phone was running hot but it didn’t slow down as a result. The Vapor chamber and vents on the backside do a decent job keeping things ticking along. If you need more cooling, you can use the bundled AeroActive Cooler accessory for longer gaming sessions.
Gaming accessories galore
But as capable as the ROG Phone II is, I still hate touch screen gaming, especially in first-person shooters. The tactility of physical controls can’t be beaten. This is where the ROG Kunai gamepad shines. It’s a modular controller consisting of the ROG Kunai Bumper, ROG Kunai Controllers(think Nintendo Switch Joycons) and the ROG Kunai Holder.
Simply slot the ROG Phone II into the Kunai Bumper like you would a case and then slide the Kunai Controllers onto it and voilà — Instant Switch. I found the Kunai Bumper configuration unwieldy due to the overly wide grip required to hold the phone. It’s also cumbersome to get the phone in and out of.
Thankfully, the Kunai Holder is more compact, giving a console controller feel that is much more comfortable. It has two grips like a PS4 or Xbox controller with extra buttons and triggers. It connects via Bluetooth or USB-C cable and is perfect for couch gaming on a larger display.
I tried a variety of game genres from shooters to racers to platformers and found the Kunai Controllers to be much better for input. Aiming with a control stick in Call of Duty or Shadowgun: Legends is far more precise and fast in contrast to touch controls. Playing platformers like Rayman Legends (which looks amazing on this screen) felt like I was playing on a traditional console.
And there are a ton more accessories that will turn the ROG Phone II into a Nintendo DS-like, a console for your living room or even a desktop computer. You can check them all out here.
Battery life king
The ROG Phone II comes with a massive 6000mAh battery, which will easily see you through two or three days of regular use and a day of heavy use; even with the screen running at 120 Hz which sucks a lot of juice. Now obviously, mileage will vary depending on your particular usage but it takes a lot to kill the battery on this phone.
Playing games will drain the battery more than anything else but you’re still likely to get through at least a day before putting it on a charger. And you can play with settings and power modes to eke even more life out of your battery.
And if you do run out of charge, the ROG Phone II supports Qualcomm Quickcharge 4.0 which will give you a 50% charge in about 30min. Sadly, there’s no wireless charging here but thanks to USB-C, you have many options.
Calls & Camera
Ultimately, the ROG Phone II is, well, phone and it’s a pretty good one too. Call quality is excellent and reception is great thanks to Cat 20 LTE. I never had any problems with my Optus 4G connection.
The phone runs Android 9 Pie with a custom ROG UI which is pretty good and can easily be swapped for stock. Security is handled via an optical, in-screen fingerprint reader which is surprisingly reliable and fast. When you turn on the display, a handy fingerprint icon appears where you need to put your finger. Face Unlock is also on board it too is fast but is unreliable in poor lighting conditions.
For the camera, you get a dual-camera 48Mp main and a 13Mp Ultrawide lens. Sadly, the overall photo quality is kinda underwhelming. In good lighting conditions, you can get some decent shots but that quickly deteriorates in other conditions. There are some obvious digital artifacts that give the pictures a cheap processed look. It’s fine really but can’t touch a Pixel 4 or iPhone 11.
Should you buy?
The ROG Phone II bundle I reviewed costs AUD $1699 exclusively at JB Hi-Fi. That gets you the phone, Kunai Gamepad, AeroActive Cooler II, ZenPro earbuds and a bumper case. That’s a lot of value for the money especially compared to something like the iPhone 11 Pro Max which starts at $1899 for a measly 64GB version and nothing else.
The ROG Phone II is a fantastic package all around. Its gamer looks might not appeal to everyone and the camera won’t win any photography awards but, its performance is incomparable, the battery lasts for days and gaming (especially with the accessories) is great. The screen is drop-dead gorgeous and the speakers are unmatched by any phone.
There is just so much packed into this phone that it really isn’t right to call it a phone. It’s really a mobile PC that also does regular phone things really well. So, if mobile gaming is your thing, then absolutely yes, go for it.
The Asus ROG Phone II was loaned to PowerUp! by Asus Australia for the purpose of this review.