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Asus ROG Phone 3 Review – Another great gaming phone

Earlier this year, I got to use the Asus ROG Phone 2 for a bit and I adored it! The daily usage, the gaming experience – it was something else! Ten months later, I’ve gotten my hands on its successor. I’ve been using the phone for about a week now….let’s talk about the new Asus ROG Phone 3.

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Asus ROG Phone 3 Review

The Asus ROG Phone 3 boasts of maxed-out specifications like its previous generations. The top-end processor, Snapdragon 865+ overclocked to 3.1 GHz (maxing the maxed out), Adreno 650 graphic processor unit, storage of up to 512GB, 64 MP Primary Camera, and a 144 Hz refresh rate display round up some of the top features. Targeted at gamers, Asus back their flagship series to have bleeding edge hardware, software, everything that satisfies them and enhances the gaming experience.

Specifications

  • Model: Asus ROG Phone 3 ZS661KS-6A006IN
  • Dimensions and weight : 78 mm X 171 mm X 9.85 mm – 240 g
  • Display: 16.74 cm(6.59 inch) Full HD+ (2340×1080) AMOLED HDR Display
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus Octa Core 3.1 GHz
  • GPU: Adreno 650
  • RAM and Storage: 8GB RAM and 128GB Internal Storage
  • Camera: Rear – 64MP Primary + 13MP Ultra-wide + 5MP Macro, Front – 24MP
  • Flash: Rear LED Flash
  • OS: Android Q 10, ASUS ROG UI
  • Battery: 6000 mAh
  • Other: 144 Hz Refresh rate, In-Display Fingerprint sensor, Provision for Gaming Mods, Air Triggers, UFS3.1, Dual Nano SIM Card, etc.

In the box

  • Asus ROG Phone 3 handset – 8GB, 128 GB variant
  • 30W Charger Adapter
  • USB Type-C to Type-C Cable
  • USB Type-C to 3.5 mm Adapter
  • Special Plastic Case – Aerocase
  • Warranty Info and other papers with SIM ejector pin

This review unit is based off an Indian retail unit that doesn’t have the bundled add-ons. A few add-ons such as Lighting Armor Case, Aero-active cooler, etc. can be purchased separately.

Design and Build

As usual, let’s start with the basics. The ROG Phone 3 has a glass sandwich design – Corning Gorilla Glass 6 to the front and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 to the back. To the left, we have the volume rockers, the power button, and the amazing Air Triggers. And on the right, the SIM slot, and a special port (a dual-slot, one of them is a USB Type-C port) for connecting ROG add-ons. And t round it off, we have the noise cancellation mic on the top and USB Type-C port at the bottom.

Asus removed the headphone jack this time, just like all the big guys. It has a front-facing stereo speaker setup, one on the top and one on the bottom of the screen. And the cameras at their usual places, one above the screen and the primary one on the back. The stand-out factor for the phone is the ROG logo on the back which is RGB-lit and is actually a vent for heat dissipation. On the front, Asus may have gone with a notch or something for the camera and others, but I personally like that Asus went for a more symmetrical look.

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Being part of a gaming phone series, the ROG phone 3 has few game-centric design aesthetics. Besides the glowing ROG logo which we already talked about, the power button is metallic copper-coloured. On the ROG Phone 2, even the front-facing speakers and the heat vent flaunted that colour scheme. But this year, it is a bit toned down. To the rear, it has a few designs and a sharp-cut camera bump which make the phone looks a little futuristic. It does make the phone stand out. Even the case that comes in the box, carries the gaming aesthetic designs and the line pattern, which is good attention to detail.

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With a 6.59-inch larger-than-usual display and weighing in around 250 grams, the phone is not quite easy to carry in your pyjama pockets. It can fine be in jeans and but the phone is long, so smaller pockets won’t cut it. While gaming on this phone with two hands is an absolute delight, I had difficulties with longer single-handed usage. Swiping Facebook or Instagram feeds or watching a Youtube for longer periods is a little uncomfortable.

Also, the phone is not water-resistant. Far from it. And apart from the usual suspects, the speakers and earpiece, I feel the heat dissipation vent is a highway to the phone’s internals. If you happen to spill some water on it, it can cause fatal damage. One should be very cautious about that. But anyway, guess that’s Asus prioritizing gaming performance over the water resistance. However, it’s a better design than the ROG Phone 2. During heavy gaming, I didn’t feel much as much heat near the vent in ROG 3 as opposed to the ROG 2 where the metallic vent definitely heated up. Guess it boiled down to the plastic shelled smaller vent in ROG 3 vs the copper-coloured metal vent in ROG 2.

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The plastic shelled smaller vent in ROG 3 vs the copper-colored metal vent in ROG 2

Performance, Software

Powered by the highest available chipset, the Snapdragon 865+ with the Adreno 650 GPU the ROG 3 has the best possible hardware. Coupled with Asus’ near Stock UI powered by Android Q, there’s nothing to nitpick about the performance. It lives up to expectations with that bleeding-edge hardware. I’ve played multiple COD sessions each around 4-5 hours continuously with Discord, it was all smooth and fine. Though I feel the specs of the ROG 3 are overkill just to play COD at the high configuration, we can also call it future proof, shouldn’t be hard to run heavier games that may come to mobiles.

You can choose between ROG UI and Stockish look during setup or even later, and the phone doesn’t have much bloatware. ROG UI has a different icon pack and color scheme. There’s an X-Mode which boosts the performance while gaming and lights up the ROG logo. The highest performance test that I can do with the phone, is playing COD with all high configuration and it works fine with or without the X-Mode. Regardless of the X-mode, the RAM Management is pretty nice, I left COD in the background and the app was still in memory the next day without getting reloaded.

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There’s the Armory Crate app which is ROG-exclusive, using which you can make most out of the phone’s gaming functionalities. Ranging from Air triggers’ sensitivity to clock speed, it also shows metrics such as GPU utilization, temperature, etc. And of course, the Air Triggers which pique the interest of any mobile gamer. Not only do they make gaming easier but also provide a great user experience with sensitivity adjustment and double-tap features. The vibration motor in the ROG 3 is also really good. The vibration is as good as a PlayStation controller sometimes. I felt like the Air Triggers could be a bit closer to the corners, but I’m just nitpicking.

And yes, the headphone jack was removed but I used the in-box adapter and used it on the side-mounted port while gaming, it was fine for me. The side-mounted ports can be used for charging while gaming apart from the add-ons.

Then there’s Asus Game Genie, I’ve been seeing it in Asus phones over the past few years and it’s only getting better. It has all gaming related functionalities in one place and we can control during gaming. Features like streaming, Air Triggers setup, etc. anything can be accessed by swiping from the left of your screen which activates the Game Genie toolbar.

The signal reception and call quality are good. The phone is 5G capable, although I couldn’t test it at the moment. The Stereo speakers to its front are loud and produce really good output. Though most people use headphones for games and other multimedia, the stereo speakers’ audio separation can clearly be felt and gives a good experience. The fingerprint sensor was better than the previous generation and the light that emits during unlock is very bright. Apart from these, the ROG phone 3 is equipped with multiple antennas for better signal strength. So ping while gaming is likely to be good unless you have really bad internet.

Display

The ROG 3 comes with a 6.59-inch AMOLED with an HDR+ compliant panel. The refresh rate up to 144Hz. The display is very bright in sunlight but the minimum brightness should’ve been darker. The transition from 60Hz to 90Hz is noticeable, the transition from 90Hz to 120Hz, barely, and the transition from 120 Hz to 144 Hz, non-existent. Deep down, I feel it’s just a numbers game. But anyway, you get a high refresh rate. Not all apps support the high refresh rate, ROG 3 switches between the refresh rates according to the apps needs.

Watching HDR videos on YouTube is great thanks to the HDR panel. The AMOLED display is notably better than the earlier ROG 2. I noticed the true blacks to be better in ROG 3. And for some reason, the always-on mode had issues – software-related. The screen-saver time thing didn’t work as it is supposed to.

I did have issues with ROG Phone 2’s display about the screen being reddish when it’s meant to be black. And just colours not being true in general. The ROG Phone 3 still seems to have the issue at lower brightness levels. I’ve noticed this issue only while using YouTube in dark mode though – the Jet black UI looks mildly reddish and it is noticeable. However, I haven’t noticed the issue while watching videos or while gaming, the colours seemed to be Vivid and fine.

Camera

The ROG 3 comes with a Triple Primary Camera setup (64MP Primary + 13MP Ultra-wide + 5MP Macro) and a 24 MP Primary Camera. The main camera is powered by the 64MP Sony flagship Sony IMX686 which takes decent photos. The ultra-wide camera clicks some good photos without the fish-eye effect. The 5MP macro lens didn’t impress me. The macro shots on the primary camera were better. It has Slo-mo, Night mode, Macro mode, and the Pro Mode which is very versatile and something, I reckon, will be many a photography enthusiast’s playground.

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Asus ROG Phone 3 Camera samples – Ultra-wide Camera vs. Primary Camera. Shot at same place.

The camera isn’t the USP of this device but I still feel Asus can make the camera output better considering the phone’s hardware. The camera struggles in low light conditions and I feel the image post-processing and colour reproduction can be better. I also wish it had a 2x or 4x zoom toggle like the Asus 6Z. Though the phone offers lossless zoom, the absence of a zoom toggle bothered me.

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Asus ROG Phone 3 Camera Samples – Macro mode vs. Primary Camera – Auto Mode. Shot at same place. Macro mode uses the macro lens, resolution output of the image is smaller.

Shooting videos is good in daylight. The EIS helps in taking stable video output and I’m very impressed with it. Also, the ROG Phone 3 is capable of shooting 8K videos. Also, it has Hypersteady Mode which takes stable videos using the help of the ultra-wide lens but only supports up to 1080p. It also has audio effects that control the audio input while shooting the videos, one for wind suppression and another for mic zoom.

Battery

Even with a 144-Hz refresh rate, the ROG Phone 3 managed a consistent 8-hour screen-on-time for me during my review period, thanks to its mammoth 6,000 mAh. The idle battery drain was a little high at times though which can be ignored. It comes a with 30W charger and takes around 1 hour 40 minutes to completely charge.

Finally,

ROG Phone 3 is an amazing gaming phone, the best in the gaming phone niche. The phone is an exact description of the best gaming phone, but apart from that niche, it’s hard to suggest the ROG Phone 3. Not an ideal form factor thanks to its weight and dimensions, okay-ish cameras. It offers great performance but so do other phones in the price range, and performance shouldn’t be the sole reason to go for the ROG 3.

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Apart from that, especially in India the earlier ROG Phone 2 was launched at Rs. 37,999/- and the next one i.e ROG Phone 3 is for sale at Rs. 46,999/- thanks to new custom duties and taxes. At the end of the day, the ROG Phone 2 was very competitive for the price, whereas the ROG Phone 3 is not.

Anyway, I feel if Asus can come up with a game-centric mid-range or even a year older flagship processor, with a lower price calling it, say ROG lite, that will be pretty cool. But then again, I think most of these phones are overkill. I’d take a cheaper all-around phone with some cool game-centric functions like Air Triggers and stuff over a proper maxed-out gaming phone. That’s just my opinion though, the same I expressed when the ROG 2 came out.