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Asus ROG Phone II review: Beating premium smartphones on their own turf

A steal at Rs 37,999, the Asus ROG II is a steal for its all-round performance, games-related software and hardware enhancements, multimedia capabilities and long-lasting battery, but camera a letdown

Khalid Anzar  |  New Delhi 

Asus ROG Phone II

If you wonder what is so special about a gaming smartphone that a regular one does not have, you need to experience the ROG Phone II. Besides flagship specifications, this smartphone offers several gaming-centric value-added features, including software-based customisation and hardware integration, which make mobile gaming convenient and fun. A successor to the ROG Phone, the first gaming smartphone in India, the ROG Phone II brings a number of cosmetic and hardware updates that make it the most comprehensive smartphone in the premium midrange segment.

The ROG Phone II appears to have all the right ingredients to make it an all-round gaming performer. But how does it fare on smartphone parameters? Let’s find out:

Design

The ROG Phone II is big, heavy and bulky. Its tall stature makes carrying it in pocket rather inconvenient. Also, the phone has an uneven weight distribution – its bottom feels slightly heavier than the rest of the body when you handle the phone for extended hours. The ROG Phone II’s design builds up on the ROG Phone’s. So, it looks identical to its predecessor. It has a premium glass-metal sandwich design with a uniquely shaped back profile that looks stunning and different from other smartphones.

Asus ROG Phone 2

Given that the phone has several openings – a 3.5mm audio port, USB type-C charging and data transfer ports, microphone openings and air vents – and that it lacks an ingress protection rating for water and dust resistance, the phone’s internals are prone to easy damage.

Display

The ROG Phone II’s AMOLED screen is the most technology-rich panel that you will find in a smartphone. It boasts several industry-first features, including a 120Hz refresh rate and 10-bit HDR. These might sound technical, but they improve the experience and make the ROG Phone II’s display one of the best in smartphones.

Asus ROG Phone II

Being a gaming device, the smartphone’s display is tuned to deliver optimal experience while playing supported games. The output is equally dazzling when it renders supported digital content from over-the-top (OTT) platforms like Amazon Prime Videos, Netflix, etc. The phone also has Widevine L1 certification, allowing it to stream digital OTT content in high definition. Except its brightness, which is dim and affects sunlight legibility, the phone’s display is found to be wanting on no other parameter.

Multimedia

Besides an immersive display, the ROG Phone II also has front-facing dual stereo speakers, with Dolby Ultra support. These make the phone a multimedia powerhouse. The speakers are loud and clear, and have a balanced stereo crosstalk. The ROG Phone II appears to have one of the best speaker set-ups for gaming and multimedia.

Camera

The ROG Phone II has capable camera modules on the back and front. The dual-camera set-up on the back utilises the same sensors that the company uses in its midrange flagship smartphone 6z. When compared with its predecessor, the ROG Phone II’s camera is a huge improvement.

However, it is not the best in its segment.

Asus ROG Phone II camera sample: Low-light in auto mode

ROG Phone II camera sample: Low-light in auto mode

Asus ROG Phone II camera sample: Low-light in night mode

Phone II camera sample: Low-light in night mode

The phone’s dual-camera set-up on the back delivers consistent results in daylight conditions. The primary camera fixes focus quickly and takes detailed shots with negligible colour variation and decent dynamic range. The ultra-wide secondary sensor works well for landscape shots. It captures 125-degree wide frame and makes barrel effect smooth without unnecessarily softening the edges.

In lowlight conditions, however, the cameras seem to struggle. Even with a dedicated night mode, the cameras is not able to capture details at night. The phone also requires steady hands to shoot stable frames.

Asus ROG Phone II camera sample: Night mode

Phone II camera sample: Night mode

The front camera for taking selfies and making video calls is decent. It takes satisfactory shots, but anything exceptional should not be expected here.

Performance

Though a midrange phone, the ROG Phone II has flagship specifications, some that you do not find even in premium smartphones. It is the first smartphone in India to be powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ system-on-chip (SoC).

Like its predecessor, the Phone II has a pressure-sensitive chassis with active sensors on the lower left and right sides. The phone also has ultrasonic sensors (Air Triggers) located at the top and bottom on the right side of the chassis. The placement of Air Triggers has been improved in the ROG Phone II; using these now feels much more natural. Similarly, the pressure sensors now recognise palm force with ease and allow instant transition from normal to X-mode for game-related settings enhancements.

Asus ROG Phone II

The phone also has a new ROG UI, based on the Android Pie operating system. The UI looks close to stock Android and comes with some value-added features for general improvement. It looks neat and feels swift. The phone handles tasks without any hiccups and its everyday performance is glitch-free.

Battery

The ROG Phone-II is powered by a 6,000 mAh battery, which keeps it going for two days straight on single charge (when the phone is used for mixed utilities, such as calling, messaging, internet browsing, casual gaming, etc). Playing graphic-intensive games and streaming videos consume the battery more rapidly, but the phone still manages to sail through one day. The phone supports fast charging, which takes around three hours to juice up a completely drained battery.

Verdict

With regard to gaming, multimedia and battery, the Asus ROG Phone II sets new benchmarks for both midrange and premium phones. At Rs 37,999 for the base model (8GB RAM + 256GB storage), the phone is a steal: It can outperform even the premium smartphones. Pick this one for its all-round performance, games-related software and hardware enhancements, immersive multimedia capabilities and a long-lasting battery. Except for its mediocre camera performance, there is nothing that you might not like in the ROG Phone II.

First Published: Tue, October 08 2019. 07:48 IST
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