Image: Alex Walker (Kotaku)
There's plenty of phones on the market, but not much in the way of specific gaming phones. Motorola has tried to target the gaming market with specific accessories, while Razer upped the ante with the release of the Razer Phone. Both of those now have a proper, beefier competitor: the ROG Phone, a phone so beefy that ASUS claims it's faster than a Samsung S9 or an iPhone X.
At the ASUS headquarters ahead of its official reveal at Computex this year, the company let press have some hands on time with their latest foray into the mobile market, along with some of the accessories to go with it.
The biggest feature by far: a Snapdragon 845 processor, speed-binned to ensure users only get a 2.96GHz chip. That's paired with up to 8GB RAM, 512GB storage, 802.11ad Wi-Fi support, and a 90Hz AMOLED 6" display (2160 x 1080, 18:9) with HDR support. The battery's also the same size as the Razer Phone at 4000 mAH, although that's still substantially more than the iPhone X, Samsung S9, and the Huawei P20 too.
The hardware alone leaves the ROG Phone as one of the fastest Android phones, although the extra bells and whistles are fun as well. Rather than just the standard solo charging port, there's a second charging port on the left hand side, designed so you can charge your phone in landscape mode without running the cable through one of your hands.
Each ROG Phone will also ship with a special cooler, which has a 3.5mm headphone jack of its own next to the second charging port on the side.
The left side of the phone has ultrasonic sensors as well that act like the triggers on a gamepad. It was principally designed around competitive mobile gamers, who were placing four fingers on the screen at any one time. Having the triggers gives you some of the real estate back that you tend to lose while playing mobile games, especially more console/PC-like offerings such as PUBG Mobile and Fortnite. They're remappable as well, rather than only being supported on a game-by-game basis.
Two other accessories caught my eye as well: the TwinView Dock, which essentially turns the ROG Phone into a chunkier, Nintendo DS-style experience. It doesn't come as standard, but ASUS pitched it as a boon for livestreaming and second screen gaming. Their example showed someone playing a mobile game while reading Twitch chat on the upper screen, or a map appearing on the top while regular gaming appeared on the bottom.
There's also a separate mobile dock, which lets users control their ROG Phone with a mouse and keyboard like a regular desktop:
The dock can drive a single 4K monitor and has a S/PDIF plug for hooking up an external surround sound system. How many games would support emulated mouse and keyboard controls off the bat isn't known, and I'm not sure too many mobile gamers would appreciate knowing that ASUS is making it easier for even more people to use more precise controls than two thumbs.
I tried giving the controls a go in Freefire, a PUBG-style battle royale game. The menus weren't fully responsive at some points, forcing me to resort to touch controls, but the latency was minimal. The dock's not just useful for gaming though: if you've already downloaded a bunch of offline Netflix content, for example, you can easily hook it up to a laptop or larger screen.
The only kicker with the ROG Phone is that the camera seems largely irrelevant, going by how little it was mentioned throughout ASUS's conference. No details were given to press at ASUS HQ or the ROG Conference last night about the camera specs whatsoever. Press releases online eventually revealed that the main camera has 12MP and 8MP (120° wide-angle) lenses, with a 8MP camera on the front.
But the ROG Phone's main market isn't portraiture: it's games. And as far as the hardware on that front, the ROG Phone is pretty powerful. The only kicker is that it probably won't be directly sold in Australia. ASUS couldn't confirm availability, and international pricing wasn't available at the time of writing either.
The author travelled to Computex 2018 as a guest of ASUS.