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Asus ROG Phone II review – Beautiful Beast

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Design
Display
Camera
Performance
Battery
Software
Value for money
Pros
Smooth 120-Hz display
Ultimate design
Performance
Cons
Software glitches
4.4

ROG – Republic Of Gamers, is a brand of Asus mainly dealing with gaming peripherals for PCs who ventured into mobiles with the ROG Phone in mid-2018. I didn’t have a chance to use it and it has had an okayish release in India with mediocre publicity. I’ve gotten our hands on the second iteration, though. So without further ado, I present to you – one of the most powerful phones on this planet at the moment.

The Asus ROG Phone II – Review

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Specifications

  • Model: Asus ROG Phone II – ZS660KL-1A017IN
  • Dimensions: 170.99 mmx77.6 mmx9.78 mm – 240 g
  • Display: 16.74 cm(6.59 inch) Full HD+ (2340Γ—1080) IPS display
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus Octa Core 2.96 GHz
  • GPU: Adreno 640
  • RAM and Storage: 8GB RAM and 256GB Internal Storage, Expandable Storage up to 2 TB
  • Camera: Rear – 48MP + 12MP Ultra-wide, Front – 24MP
  • Flash: Rear LED Flash
  • OS: Android Pie 9, ASUS ROG UI
  • Battery: 6000 mAh
  • Other: 120 Hz Refresh rate, In-Display Fingerprint sensor, Provision for Gaming Mods, Air Triggers, UFS3.0, Hybrid SIM Tray, etc.

In the Box:

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  • Asus ROG Phone II handset
  • 5V-2A, 9V-2A, 18W Charger Adapter
  • USB Type-C Cable
  • Special Plastic Case
  • Warranty Info and other papers with SIM ejector pin

The review unit I’ve received is an Indian retail unit and Asus cut a few corners to make it more economical in the Indian market such as removing accessories such as earphones, Type-C to Type-C cable which were actually part of the retail unit outside India; and we’re also given a normal 18W fast charger instead of the 30W. The Indian variant of ROG Phone II has FM radio, just in case you wanted it.

The specifications excite every geek and I am no exception. Also, the Asus ROG Phone II is our first-ever gaming, most-expensive and first-ever review unit with an in-display fingerprint sensor. There are other features, that make this phone special and my first-time experience too, let’s talk about them as we go through.

Design

Starting with the basics, it has a dual speaker setup to the front – one on the top and bottom, with a copperish lining over it. It has a headphone jack and USB Type-C charging port to the bottom. Volume rockers, power button and the air-triggers to the right and Hybrid SIM tray to the left. To the left, it has a special port (let’s discuss laterπŸ˜‰). It doesn’t have a notch display or a pop-up camera. It sports a 19.5:9 aspect ratio display with bezels to top and bottom of the screen, symmetric. It doesn’t have bezels to its sides though. It has a front-facing camera, ambient light sensor and proximity sensor under the top speaker which also doubles as an earpiece during calls. And to the rear, we have the dual-camera setup to the top left, a vent for heat dissipation and RGB lighting for the ROG Logo.

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I don’t know if that’s a mandatory design aesthetic they have to follow, one of the common things among any gaming consoles or any gaming PC setup is the RGB lighting setup. The ROG Phone had it, so does the ROG Phone II. That was the only thing I cared for these phones when I saw their photos. But when I started to see things a little closer, on hand, there’s a lot of amazing minor detailing on this phone.

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It has some circuit lines on the back, which kind-of glow in the light. Also, it has some technical naming like 48MP Quad Bayer for the dual-camera setup (Quad Bayer technology is related to Image optimization used in this phone) and ROG Aerodynamic System for the vent to dissipate heat, the little texture for Air triggers I kind of liked it.

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Dual Camera (Quad Bayer) – Vent for cooling the phone (ROG Aerodynamic System) – Air Triggers 😍

Air Triggers! I love these. These act like buttons, without physical buttons. Yes, it senses the pressure and acts accordingly. Asus ROG Phone 2 especially uses it during gaming and you can map it to other options as well. I’d love to see phones only with Air triggers instead of physical buttons.

It has a quad noise-cancellation microphone (will talk later), two to the top, two the bottom and one to right, beside the power button. Also, it has five antenna bands for better signal reception.

I’m not done talking about the design yet. Asus packs a special hard plastic case that does protect the phone and still, preserves the amazing design. Loved it.

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The phone is bigger and heavier than any normal phone. A larger display is always a requirement for gamers, so is the battery. However, it doesn’t feel too heavy and never had any issues with the form factor.

The copper-colored vent though looks great and helps cool down the phone during intense usage, but the trade-off is any accidental contact with water may cause major damage to the phone.

Camera

Starting with primary-rear, it packs a dual-camera setup with a Sony flagship IMX586 48MP Camera and 13MP Ultrawide Camera. Asus uses the same cameras of the Asus 6Z and as I said in the review, its good but not exceptional. The ROG Phone II performs okayish during daylight photography. Unless you hold it steady, photos may get a little blur in them. It also overexposes occasionally and the colors look desaturated. Macro shots and Indoor photography under good lighting conditions are great. Color reproduction is not accurate but works fine in most cases.

The ultra-wide camera just does its job, captures more area but sacrifices detailing and gets grainy when zoomed. Also, the color reproduction in the ultra-wide camera is mediocre. The ROG Phone, though, does have a real-time distortion correction which actually corrects the usual fish-eye kind of effect we usually see in other ultra-wide shots.

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The letters GHMC can be seen on the green board on the mesh, shot from Primary Camera but not visible from Ultra-wide camera.

And don’t let that 48MP fool you anyway. It doesn’t add more details to photos when clicked with that specific resolution. Here’s a snippet of how it works without any technical detail.

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Same spot shot with the usual resolution and 48MP resolution. Zoomed at the same level, cropped and focussed on the candy wrapper.
If you can clearly observe, no detailing has been added except that it’s more of an enhancement.

The 16MP front camera is great, it clicks good selfies and great videos too. It can shoot up to 1080p-60fps with the front camera and 4k 60fps with the rear. It has that beautifying mode, which I’m not a fan of. It also has Electronic stabilization for videos (both front and rear), so there are no major issues while shooting videos. Slow-mo videos don’t focus on subjects as they are supposed to. I hope they can fix it in an update.

Display

Talking about the physical overview of the display, I found the yellowish look of the glass a little weird. Usually, we see the phone’s screen color in par with the bezels but this one looks a different has this yellowish look on it. It isn’t an issue but it kind of bothered me. Maybe because it’s first of its kind, 120-Hz refresh rate + In-Display Fingerprint sensor+ AMOLED. I used phones with Corning Gorilla Glass 6 earlier too and I don’t think it has anything to do with it. I believe there is room for improvement on this one.

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It also has reddish tint during low to medium brightness while using the phone. It can be easily identified with grey backgrounds like in the Settings menu with the Asus ROG Theme, in darker indoors. I don’t have a photo for it but, it is an issue identified by many users. Here’s a link to that. The best of AMOLED’s is its true colors and I didn’t find them, especially the reds. They looked more saturated and hopes Asus looks into it.

Performance

Packed with the highest processor by the time of writing to this post, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus coupled with Adreno 640 GPU, there’s nothing to nitpick about the phone’s performance. The new buzz word, the 120fps does give you smoother experience while browsing through the phone i.e app drawer and app switching. However, not all apps support 120 fps at this moment. As the phone boasts a superior gaming performance, I tried playing my routine multiplayer PUBG and COD, except for the air triggers I didn’t feel the gaming performance exceptionally great. I’ve been using a Snapdragon 855 phone before this and hence the ROG Phone II did not surprise me with its performance. Even on paper, the Snapdragon 855 Plus just offers better graphic processing with a little performance boost.

Though unnoticed, the phone has some worthy gamer-centric features such as multiple antennae for low latency, dual speakers to the front which will work great even while you’re gaming, without getting blocked by your fingers. It has an X-Mode, which enhances the phone’s performance while gaming which lits the ROG logo behind by default. Apart from PUBG and COD, though they run great with their highest settings, Asphalt 9 impressed me. The game seems to support a higher refresh rate unlike others, and it was a great experience. With Air triggers and that big display, the gameplay will accentuate to the next level. However, my pinky fingers seem to settle near the thermal vent while gaming and it goes terribly hot at times.

It also packs UFS 3, a faster file system. It took around 7 minutes or less to copy a 15GB file from my HDD backed PC from a USB 3.0 port. Wow. The Dual front-firing speakers are one of the loudest speakers I’ve come across, in-par with the Pixel 3.

There seems to be a little issue with the in-display fingerprint sensor. Yes, they are not in their prime yet, a little slow, but, during my testing period, there are instances where I tried to click photos or videos but couldn’t. The button to click resides exactly over the in-display fingerprint sensor and somehow, the touch area above the sensor failed to work at times.

Battery

It packs with a 6000 mAH battery and in the box, we got this 18W normal fast charger which is not-so satisfactory but it charges up the phone completely in 2 and a half hours. I wish Asus offered a faster charger in the box because.. why not? You can buy that ROG fast charger with braided cable at an additional Rs. 2k anyway.

Always used this phone at 120-Hz and I’ve got an average of 7+ hours Screen-On-Time with normal usage and 6+ hours with medium gaming. You can get a two-day battery with this phone if you decrease that refresh rate to60-Hz and restrict your usage slightly, but it’s hard to leave the 120-Hz once you’re used to it.

Software

Runs on Android Pie 9, ASUS ROG UI or Stock UI as per your taste. The software is good, just like all other Asus’ phones these days. Bloatware-free, near pure and beautiful. The “Armoury Crate”, especially for the gamer-centric features, has a lot customization for the LED behind the phone, all the games in the phone at a place, Air Trigger settings, live streaming settings, etc. you’ll mainly use it for LED part anyway.

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The X_Mode which boosts the Performance

It doesn’t run on Android 10 yet but has a few features of it. Maybe I should call this Android 9.5? I missed a few handy features of Android 10 on this one. Though the software part is fine, issues like the screen freeze near the in-display fingerprint sensor or the heating which I pointed out, I felt the software can be better as it is on the Zenfone 6.

Value for Money

The ROG Phone II is decently priced and offers great value for money. Though there are phones in this budget with similar specs, as a gaming phone, this one’s got no competition nearby. It’s not the cheapest phone with Snapdragon 855+ as there’s realme X2 Pro which is priced almost 10k lesser, but the bigger display, mammoth battery, the 120-Hz, etc. is not something all phones can offer.

Finally,

ROG Phone II is great. Amazing, even. The smooth 120-Hz display and lovely air triggers are something not all phones offer. I’m not a gamer and used it as my daily driver for 2 weeks. Though it weighs a little extra, it’s no hassle carrying this phone. The performance and the design make it for me. Years of using phones, this one’s design is something I’ve never experienced before.

At a price Rs. 37,999 and all the top specifications, there few phones to consider like the OnePlus 7 series but what more do they offer than this? I’d recommend the ROG Phone II over them even if you are not a gamer. This one has a smoother display, better performance, better design, better battery and if the cameras and form factor works for you, the ROG Phone II is a better one. (Not sure about the 7T but I didn’t find OnePlus 7/7 Pro cameras great either).

This review is kind-of an incomplete if we don’t talk about the extra accessories that are available. Check this video out to know.

I don’t know how many people who purchased the phone will be using that port, with the accessories. Not only are the accessories are pricey, but I also feel maybe Asus can ditch that port, make the mobile light-weighted (assuming there’s a related circuit taking space inside the phone), a little cheaper — A regular driver version, essentially. And perhaps make another sub-model with the port at a higher price? That’s just my opinion; but everything said and done, I’m no gamer as is Asus ROG’s target audience who might say otherwise.

That said, using one of the world’s most powerful phones on the planet is an absolute privilege, so shout-out to Asus for making that happen! Thank you, Asus! Looking forward to more of these.