The ROG Phone 5s Pro Is an Overpowered Monster Phone

The ROG Phone 5s Pro Is an Overpowered Monster Phone
Image: ROG

The ROG Phone 5s Pro is a phone with a very clear promise: gaming with no compromises. Well, some compromises.

While it doesn’t sacrifice its performance with any gaming-related specs, the camera is noticeably lacking, the phone is quite heavy and it’s not a cheap handset.

Also, somehow, I’ve gone three pars without talking about the RGB panel on the back, which is there because gamers love RGB, apparently.

So what do I think of the ROG Phone 5s Pro, a super-expensive device that serves a very niche market? Well, it’s complicated.

The ROG Phone 5s Pro

WHAT IS IT?

A high-end gaming phone from ASUS (who own the ROG name)

PRICE

$1,899.

LIKE

Fast processing power, beautiful screen, one of the few phones on the market with a 144hz screen.

NO LIKE

The phone has an incredibly extra aesthetic, weighs a lot and has some pretty average cameras.

Power to the players

Before we get cracking with this review, I just want to point out that I reviewed the “Pro” version of this phone last year. While a lot of my thoughts are similar to that review, having a few weeks with this phone allowed me to get a refresher on the “gaming phone” concept.

I want you to know how extra this phone is. The iPhone 13 Pro Max, the top-of-the-line iPhone at the moment, comes with 6GB of RAM, to support the processor and help out with immediate memory-heavy tasks.

The ROG Phone 5s Pro includes 18GB RAM (the 5s features 16GB). I’m going to go ahead and say it, nobody right now needs a phone with three times the RAM of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, but it’s all about being extra, which you’ll hear frequently in this review.

The included processor is one of the fastest, most powerful phone CPUs ever built – the Snapdragon 888+ (the 5 and 5 Pro from 2021 used the 888).

In tandem with the RAM, this is one of the components that make this Gamer Phone tick, letting it process more information concurrently than a standard phone might be able to, leading to more consistent frame rates and performance in games along with faster performance across the board. I didn’t notice anything indicating that it was faster than, say, an iPhone 13 Mini, but it has some powerful guts.

The GPU, the Adreno 660, is responsible for the impressive graphics performance this phone provides.

I’ll also note that the phone comes with a fast charger that managed to power the device from 50 per cent to 100 per cent in under half an hour, and from 0 per cent to 50 per cent in 15 minutes. Very useful for the gamer who keeps going.

The 6,000 mAh battery holds together quite well, actually: flicking Avengers: Endgame on, streaming on Disney+ with the highest resolution and settings enabled on the phone, it only lost 25 per cent charge across its entire runtime. It went from 100 per cent to 94 per cent within the first hour, then down to 83 per cent in hour two and then 75 per cent in hour three. Playing League of Legends: Wild Rift at the highest framerate and graphics settings, the phone lost 8 per cent after installing an update and playing a full game.

Does it play well? Yes, to nobody’s surprise. Having reviewed the Pro model and the ROG Phone 3 the year before, I’m fairly confident in saying that my favourite phone gaming experiences have come from playing on devices from the ROG Phone line. Adding to the specs, the phone also has “Air Triggers” built into the chassis on the top when holding the phone in landscape mode, acting as the top buttons on a controller (LB and RB on an Xbox controller or L1 and R1 on a PlayStation controller). These came in handy when playing Call of Duty: Mobile and were fairly easy to configure.

On top of all of this, the phone sports a 144Hz screen and is one of the few phones on the market to do this. Though that’s powerful, it’s very unnecessary, considering that there are only a handful of games on the Google Play Store that actually run at over 90Hz, let alone 120Hz.

Gamers love style

This phone is so extra, unnecessarily so, in a way that seems to warp the idea of a gamer into one homologous group – which we’re not, and ASUS knows this. Not to get up on a podium and chant “This one is for the gamers”, but this phone is for a very specific kind of gamer: One who likes the aggressive, sharp iconography that accompanies the ROG brand. It’s only available in white with a light blue off colour and in black with a red off colour. These colours bleed through into the operating system, which includes sharp borders around app icons.

Though there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I quite like it when a piece of tech commits to a very deliberate aesthetic.

It’s just, in a meta sense, a bit weird that ASUS is trying to peddle a very expensive phone and cater to one specific kind of buyer – the kind of buyer, mind you, that likely avoids mobile gaming for the sheer lack of games and vastly different experience. It’d be nice if this gamer-focused phone was a bit cooled down on its aesthetics, a bit like the Razer Phone, while providing a bit more than a boring black or even more boring white. This can be solved with a case, of course, but considering this phone has a unique chassis, cases are few and far between.

Let’s give that tangent a rest. The phone has two USB-C ports, one reserved for the charger and one reserved for the back-mounted fan that keeps the phone cool at the cost of a nice hand feel (this isn’t a joke). I didn’t test the fan this time around because it didn’t come with one, but from my testing of the ROG Phone 3, it never made an impactful difference.

We’ve made it this far. It’s time to talk about the back panel.

RGB heaven

This phone sports one of the most advanced nothing features I’ve ever seen, seemingly the same as the model from last year. This panel on the back (exclusive to the Pro model, whereas 5s devices feature programmable dots) changes its graphics depending on what you’re doing with it. Incoming calls have a dedicated animation, as does “X-Mode” (the turbo mode for the phone’s performance). Charging and casual use also have dedicated animations. There’s a library of animations to choose from too, so you’re spoilt for choice on this small panel.

This panel is customisable, with the ability to add an image or a word of your choice (with a preselected choice of fonts and animations).

Despite the fact that you’ll never be looking at it during use, and that half the time your hand will likely be covering it, hiding the panel from the view of anyone that might otherwise see it, it’s well made. It’s silly, but it’s well made.

You shouldn’t buy this phone for its cameras

As you can expect, the cameras on this phone are pretty average. I took a few snaps and compared them to the camera of the iPhone 13 Mini.

Camera specs are as follows:

  • 64MP wide, 13MP ultrawide and 5MP macro on the back
  • 24MP selfie camera on the front
rog phone 5s pro review
Left: iPhone 13 Mini. Right: ROG Phone 5s Pro. Images: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

During all of my snaps, I found that the much cheaper iPhone 13 Mini produces higher quality photos than the ROG Phone 5s Pro. The detail was greater across the board and the colours were more vibrant.

rog phone 5s pro review
Macro testing. Left: iPhone 13 Mini. Right: ROG Phone 5s Pro. Images: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

But you don’t buy this phone for the cameras, you buy this phone for everything else. ASUS’ phone division isn’t exactly known for its high-quality cameras, but they’re passable for casual use. The ASUS Zenfone 8, which was my favourite phone of 2021, is a cheap but powerful smartphone that also lacks high-quality cameras.

rog phone 5s pro review
Longshot test. Left: iPhone 13 Mini. Right: ROG Phone 5s Pro. Images: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

If you’re going to take anything away from this section of the review, let it be that its cameras are just fine. And there’s nothing wrong with that, provided you’re not expecting the best smartphone camera (for that, you might be interested in the Pixel 6 Pro).

Left: iPhone 13 Mini. Right: ROG Phone 5s Pro. Images: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Do you need a gamer phone?

Listen, nobody needs a gamer phone, but if you’re a gamer who plays mobile games, then you might like to buy the ROG Phone 5s Pro.

That being said, I’m cautious about the price. The back panel adds an unnecessary cost and the air triggers aren’t for everybody. Moreover, the 144Hz screen is only supported by so many games and the phone might seem a bit cringey aesthetically.

If you’re super serious about phone gaming, and not just gaming generally, think about getting this phone. If that’s not you, I doubt this phone will be a good purchase.

Where to buy the ROG Phone 5s Pro

The ROG Phone 5s Pro ($1,899) is available exclusively from JB Hi-Fi in Australia, as is the ROG Phone 5s ($1,699).