Asus ROG Phone 3 Review: Mobile Gaming RedefinedOctober 16, 2020
As the name suggests, the ROG Phone 3 is the third iteration of ASUS ROG’s highly-acclaimed gaming smartphone.
On this one, we’ll focus on the top model, the ROG Phone 3 16GB/512GB version.
Design: Stealthier than ever
As the premium mobile gaming device of ASUS, the ROG Phone 3 is well protected from front to back with a Corning Gorilla Glass 6, which not only provides top-notch protection but also gives it a classy feel. Both of the sides are filled with either buttons or Type-C ports. On the right-hand side are the Air Triggers, volume control buttons, and the power button which also acts as the lock button. While on the left-hand side are the Type-C charging port and the AeroActive Cooler port. Both of these ports are in a single cut-out for the AeroActive Cooler attachment. Charging while using the AeroActive Cooler 3 is still possible, as it has a pass-through USB-C port; it also has a passthrough 3.5mm audio port for external audio devices. Going back, the bottom side of the ROG Phone 3 has a lone USB 2.0 Type-C port that can be used for data transfers, charging and USB Type-C audio devices.
The ROG Phone 3 is fitted with a flat 6.59“ screen that doesn’t follow an edge to edge design, which is common on other premium smartphones in its price point. Since the first ROG Phone, ASUS has opted for this kind of display to be able to arm its premium gaming device with dual front-facing stereo speakers. This time around though, ASUS takes an overall subtle approach on accents, which is very noticeable on the speaker grilles of the ROG Phone 3. The top and bottom speaker grills now come in black which makes them blend with the bezels.
The subtle elements continue on to the back of the device, as the AeroDynamic System vents are now smaller compared to its predecessor’s. However, its rear camera setup is a bit longer now, as ASUS equips the ROG Phone 3 with a triple-camera setup. The RGB equipped ROG logo retains its center placement. For those who don’t know, the logo on a ROG Phone is equipped with RGB lighting that can be customized through ROG’s very own Armoury Crate software.
Overall, the subtle design elements of the ROG Phone 3 propel it from being just a premium gaming device to a top-notch flagship everyday smartphone that has gaming in its core. However, with a 240g weight in its belt and 9.9mm thickness, the ROG Phone 3 maybe one of the heaviest flagship smartphones of this generation.
Display: Gaming at 24 more Hz
The previous flagship gaming device of ASUS, the ROG Phone 2, was outfitted with a 120Hz display, which was one of the best displays in its generation. While this generation’s ROG Phone 3 adds in 24Hz more to its display spec, pushing the display refresh rate to a blazing 144Hz.
As we’ve mentioned, the screen size of the ROG Phone 3 is 6.59“ diagonally, which is similar to that of the ROG Phone 2. It is an AMOLED display that has a 1080×2340 resolution with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. There will be no hindrances to video consumption, as the ROG Phone 3 does not have a notch or a hole-punch for its front camera. Unfortunately, though its screen offers a large viewing area, some video content may not be outputted entirely on the screen due to its aspect ratio.
Furthermore, ASUS tuned the ROG Phone 3’s display to support constant 144Hz, 120Hz, 90Hz, or 60Hz refresh rates. However, out of the box, the ROG Phone 3 has its refresh rate on auto by default, but it can easily be configured to the user’s preference via the display settings. ASUS has done a great job in calibrating the display settings of the ROG Phone 3 resulting in a worthwhile experience for us, as we never experienced any stutters or jitters during our time with the ROG Phone 3, even when the display was set to 144Hz mode.
On paper, the AMOLED display of the ROG Phone 3 will be able to reproduce up to 1.07 billion colors or a near 113% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, as it is tuned to be Delta-E < 1 accurate and is also HDR10+ certified. Though with a wider color gamut and sharp color accuracy, ASUS still picked a toned-down color setting for the ROG Phone 3’s default profile. The colors weren’t intense but weren’t dull as well.
While the color profile can be changed through the display settings, we have opted to go with the default profile as this is what a retail version would look and feel out of the box. During our time with the ROG Phone 3, we never saw any color anomalies like color shifts or the infamous black crush on its AMOLED display. We’ve been following the ROG Phone 3’s black crush issue since the first time we saw it on the ASUS mobile phone community, Asus ZenTalk. A number of users have experienced a black crush issue, which renders the ROG Phone 3’s panel to output heavy pixelation on black or dark screens. Fortunately, ASUS has already rolled out a software update that has a dedicated fix for the said issue.
Moving on to display brightness, according to its spec sheet, it has a peak brightness of 1000 nits and an outdoor brightness of 650 nits, which translates to great outdoor usability. For us, that’s something exceptional and very acceptable for a flagship smartphone that has a heavy focus on gaming. ASUS has also packed the ROG Phone 3’s AMOLED display with a number of features that help lessen eye strain. In fact, the display on the ROG Phone 3 has a Low-Blue-Light and Flicker Reduced certification from TUV Rheinland. This means less eyestrain during long gaming sessions.
And giving the winning advantage to gamers, the 144Hz display on the ROG Phone 3 boasts a 25ms touch latency and 18ms slide latency. This means that the touch latency of the ROG Phone 3 will allow a more precise reaction in first-person shooters like PUBG mobile and Call of Duty: Mobile, to name a few. Additionally, with its lower slide latency, users will experience an overall smooth performance. As such, our gaming time with the ROG Phone 3 was the best gaming experience we currently have with a gaming smartphone.
Lastly, ASUS has also equipped the ROG Phone 3 with a fast and accurate in-display fingerprint sensor that never failed us even in outdoor scenarios.
Camera: Plus one
ROG Phone 3 was specifically built to be a top-notch gaming smartphone, no doubt about it, but it also has some nice shooters in its arsenal.
The rear shooter of the ROG Phone 3 is a triple-camera setup that utilizes Sony’s IMX 686 sensor. This triple-camera setup has a 64MP wide-angle camera which is accompanied by a 13MP ultrawide and a 5MP macro camera. The 64MP camera has an f/1.8 aperture 1.6 µm effective pixel size. Though the pixel size is not that large compare to other smartphones that focuses on mobile photography, the effective pixel size of the ROG Phone 3’s camera is enough to capture exceptional images even in low light conditions. Meanwhile, the 13MP second camera features a 125° ultrawide angle that has Realtime-distortion correction capability. The third camera is a macro camera that can focus on subjects really well even at the 4cm mark.
Along with the previous shooting options of its predecessor’s camera software, ASUS has added some new options to this generation’s camera software, with the Pro Mode, Free Zoom, Wind Filter, and Acoustic Focus taking the spotlight. All these new additional features are geared to improve the video quality of the ROG Phone 3. This strengthens the claim that this is not just your typical premium gaming smartphone, but it’s a gaming smartphone that’s a worthy vlogging smartphone as well.
Overall performance: A challenger is needed
Being the first smartphone to harness the power of the SnapDragon 865 Plus 5G mobile platform that has a 7nm, 64-bit octa-core processor, the ROG Phone 3 has the upper-hand when it comes to gaming and computing performance with its CPU able to run at 3.1GHz.
ASUS partners the ROG Phone 3’s fast CPU with a 16GB LPDDR5 memory. As we’ve mentioned, there are two other variants with different memory size and storage capacity. The 16GB/512GB variant is what we have and it is the one that stands above them all, with a whopping 649,212 score on AnTuTu Benchmark. Its 3DMark Slingshot Extreme benchmark score cements its place as the gaming smartphone to beat this generation, with a 9193 graphics score on OpenGL ES 3.1 and 9194 graphics score on Vulkan.
With a decked out internals and two front speakers that are optimized by Dirac, the ROG Phone 3 16GB/512GB variant brings a new level of gaming experience and immersion to the table. It can easily max out the settings of popular mobile games like Mobile Legends, League of Legends, Call of Duty: Mobile, PUBG Mobile, and surely other games that you would want to throw at it.
The latest mobile game, Genshin Impact, was where we saw the ROG Phone 3’s temperature shoot up to 55C, which slowly climbed up to 58C while we were traversing the world with its graphics settings set to the highest possible level and the 60fps mode turned on. The graphics-intensive world of Genshin Impact and its 60fps mode were the reasons that required us to use the Aero Active Cooler. With the Aero Active Cooler 3 on, the Armoury Crate gains a level 3 X mode, which cranks up all the performance bar of the device.
The X Mode of the ROG Phone 3 comes in 3 levels, with the first two easily accessible without an Aero Active Cooler, while the level 3 will only be enabled once the cooler is attached. To simplify, the level 3 X Mode provides an almost 5% increase in the overall performance of the ROG Phone 3.
In our all-out gaming session which is a mix of MOBA, FPS, and MMORPG games, the ROG Phone 3 with its 144Hz mode enabled and its screen brightness at 80% was able to last for 7 hours and 30 minutes. While in our typical daily usage scenario which consists of web browsing, scrolling through and updating our social media channels, and 4 to 5 hours of video call via the Facebook Messenger app, it lasted for a day with a bit of juice left in its tank for another day of light usage.
These performance scores wouldn’t be possible if ASUS did not carry over the 6000 mAh battery of the previous generation’s ROG Phone 2 to this generation’s ROG Phone 3. And with ASUS’s optimization on its battery management, the ROG Phone 3 on 144Hz mode was able to last for 110 hours on idle. This could’ve been longer if it wasn’t for the alarm that I kept forgetting to turn off.
Lastly, charging the 6000 mAh battery of the ROG Phone took an hour and thirty minutes to get it to 100% from a totally depleted state. ASUS chose to maintain the 30W HyperCharge technology that was seen in previous generations to be able to pack in a large capacity battery. This old generation charging technology also helps lessen the degradation of its battery, thus prolonged battery life. Additionally, to further prolong the battery life, ASUS has included some nifty battery features into the ROG Phone 3. These battery features allow users to enforce a charging limit to the battery or change its charging speed. The charging limit feature is like a signature battery setting of ASUS, as this can be seen on some of their laptop products.
Is the ROG Phone 3 for you?