ASUS ROG Phone 3 Review: The King of Gaming Smartphones is back

ASUS ROG Phone 3 Review: The King of Gaming Smartphones is back

Back in 2018, ASUS launched the ROG Phone, the company’s first gaming smartphone under the ROG brand. Today, there are several competing gaming smartphones on the market from brands like Black Shark, Nubia’s Red Magic, and Vivo’s iQOO. Each of these brands offers powerful hardware and useful gaming features at a compelling price, but ASUS stands out from the pack with its no-compromise philosophy toward features. The spec sheet for last year’s ROG Phone II checked off nearly everything that a smartphone enthusiast could ever ask for, and while this year’s ROG Phone 3 is missing a few features we were hoping to see, there’s no doubt that ASUS has another winner on its hands. The ASUS ROG Phone 3 is the king of gaming smartphones, but it’s also just a very good smartphone overall, even if you’re not into gaming.

XDA VIDEO OF THE DAY

ASUS ROG Phone 3 XDA Forums

Aura Lighting on the ASUS ROG Phone 3

ROG Phone 3 Specifications. Tap/click to expand

Specification ASUS ROG Phone 3
Dimensions & Weight
  • 171 x 78 x 9.85 mm
  • 240g
Display
  • 6.59″ FHD+ AMOLED
  • 19.5:9 aspect ratio
  • 144Hz refresh rate
  • 10-bit HDR
  • 650 nits outdoor brightness; 1000 nits peak brightness
  • DCI-P3 support
  • Supports glove touch
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 6
SoC
  • ROG Phone 3 Strix Edition:
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoC
      • 1x Kryo 585 (ARM Cortex-A77-based) Prime core @ 2.84GHz
      • 3x Kryo 585 (ARM Cortex-A77-based) Performance core @ 2.4GHz
      • 4x Kryo 385 (ARM Cortex A55-based) Efficiency cores @ 1.8GHz
    • Adreno 650 GPU
  • ROG Phone 3:
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus SoC
      • 1x Kryo 585 (ARM Cortex-A77-based) Prime core @ 3.1GHz
      • 3x Kryo 585 (ARM Cortex-A77-based) Performance core @ 2.4GHz
      • 4x Kryo 385 (ARM Cortex A55-based) Efficiency cores @ 1.8GHz
    • Adreno 650 GPU (10% faster bin)
RAM & Storage
  • ROG Phone 3 Strix Edition:
    • 8GB LPDDR5 + 256GB UFS 3.1
  • ROG Phone 3:
    • Up to 16GB LPDDR5 + up to 512GB UFS 3.1
Battery & Charging
  • 6000mAh
  • 30W ROG HyperCharge direct charging
  • 30W USB PD 3.0
Fingerprint sensor In-display fingerprint sensor
Rear Camera
  • Primary: 64MP Sony IMX686, f/1.8, 1/1.7″ sensor, 0.8µm pixel
  • Secondary: 13MP wide-angle, 125° FoV, f/2.4
  • Tertiary: 5MP macro, f/2.0
Front Camera 24MP
Other Features
  • Ultrasonic sensors for AirTrigger 3 and grip press
  • Wi-Fi 6 — 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax 2×2 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 5.1 (BR/EDR+LE)
  • NFC
  • GNSS:
    • GPS (L1/L5)
    • Glonass (L1)
    • Galilio (E1/E5a)
    • BeiDou (B1/B2a)
    • QZSS (L1/L5)
    • NavIC (L5)
  • 2x USB Ports:
    • Side:
      • Custom USB Type-C
      • Supports USB 3.1 Gen 2
      • Supports DisplayPort 1.4 (4K UHD)
      • Supports 30W USB PD 3.0
      • Supports 30W ROG HyperCharge direct charging
    • Bottom:
      • USB Type-C
      • Supports USB 2.0
      • Supports 30W USB PD 3.0
      • Supports direct charging
  • Dual front-facing speakers (stereo) with dual NXP TFA9874 smart amplifiers
  • Band Support:
    • A-version:
      • 5G: N1, N2, N3, N5, N28, N41, N66, N71, N77, N78, N79
      • FDD-LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 32, 66, 71
      • TD-LTE: 34, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 48
      • WCDMA: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 19
      • GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
    • B-version and Strix Edition:
      • 5G: N41, N77, N78, N79
      • FDD-LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28
      • TD-LTE: 34, 38, 39, 40, 41
      • WCDMA: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8
      • GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
Android Version Android 10 with ROG UI

About this review: I received the ROG Phone 3 (non-Strix Edition) from ASUS on June 26, 2020.  The device has received several updates before launch and is currently running software version WW_17.0822.2005.11. ASUS did not have any inputs regarding the content of this review.


ASUS ROG Phone 3: Design

ASUS has toned down the design of the ROG Phone 3 compared to last year’s ROG Phone II. The rear is still made of glass, but the cover for the vent takes up much less space than before. There are fewer etched lines underneath the glass back, too. One part of the design that isn’t as subdued is the ROG logo, which is now a deeper white when the RGB Aura Lighting is turned off. The left and right edges on the rear still have a subtle curve to them to facilitate holding the phone in your hand.

I’m not really a fan of the glossy glass back cover since it smudges very easily and feels slippery in hand, but I will praise the rear design for being aesthetically pleasing. Fortunately, the aluminum frame is easy to grip, which has the added bonus of making the AirTrigger gestures easier to perform. The horizontal camera bump is also well-designed, with the bump around the tertiary macro camera aligning with the diagonally-etched line underneath the glass. This etched line runs between the two LED flashes and sits below the microphone hole that I presume is used for the new audio-related enhancements in the camera app. Overall, the ROG Phone 3 looks unique compared to the dozens of similarly-designed BBK smartphones that have flooded the market in recent months.

Let there be no mistake: The ASUS ROG Phone 3 is a massive phone. It’s taller than both the OPPO Find X2 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra while having a smaller 6.59″ screen size. The smaller screen diagonal is justified, though, because the ROG Phone 3 has a flat display that doesn’t extend to the edges, which is beneficial for reducing accidental touches in games. At the bottom bezel, you’ll find one large speaker grille. At the top bezel, you’ll also find a large speaker that’s symmetrical to the bottom one, thus making up the dual front-facing stereo speakers. The top bezel also has a single 24MP camera, proximity sensor, and other components.

The ROG Phone 3 is also considerably thicker and heavier than the OPPO Find X2 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. It’s thick and heavy out of necessity, though, as it has a massive 6000mAh battery to provide 1 day of very heavy usage or 2 days of moderate usage. The device isn’t too wide, though, yielding a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. I’m able to stretch my thumb from the left to the right end while holding the phone in portrait orientation. Given the phone’s slippery glass back, weight, and height, though, it’s actually more comfortable to hold the phone in landscape orientation with my fingers wrapping around the aluminum frame on the top and bottom. ASUS designed the device to be usable in landscape orientation, though, as the power and volume buttons are near the center on the right side (meaning they’re on top in the way most people hold their phones horizontally).

On the bottom, you’ll find the USB 2.0 Type-C charging and data port. The bottom USB-C port is off-center, though, so you’ll have to retrain your muscle memory for plugging in a charger. (It’s recommended you charge from the side USB-C port, though, because it supports ASUS’ 30W HyperCharge.) I wish the port wasn’t off-center, though, since it means USB telescopic/extending gaming controllers like the Razer Kishi can’t be connected to the device. This design aspect has been carried over from the ROG Phone and ROG Phone II, though, and it’s to accommodate the massive speakers that ASUS didn’t want to compromise on. The speakers are awesome, by the way, so I can’t totally knock them for that decision.

As I mentioned, you’ll want to charge from the USB Type-C port on the left side of the ROG Phone 3. This port is a USB 3.1 Type-C charging, data, and video output port. It supports ASUS’ 30W HyperCharge and DisplayPort 1.4 (@4K UHD) for video output (though you’ll want to install a third-party app for a better desktop mode-like experience). There are two inserts on the left side, and you’ll want to be careful you’re plugging your cable into the correct one. You should not be plugging in a cable into the insert with the orange tab sticking out—that’s intended for the AeroActive Cooler and TwinView Dock attachments. To protect this port, ASUS includes a piece of rubber that you can insert to block off the port when it’s unused. To keep you from losing this rubber insert, the AeroActive Cooler attachment has a small insert where you can put the rubber.

One stickler with the design that I know will annoy some fans is the missing 3.5mm headphone jack. ASUS says they chose to eliminate the port with this generation in order to accommodate the extra PCB space needed for the external Snapdragon X55 5G modem, to maintain the same 6000mAh battery capacity, and to keep the overall dimensions the same as the ROG Phone II. The last point is especially important because ASUS wanted to ensure that the second-generation accessories designed for the ROG Phone II still work for the ROG Phone 3. Fortunately, the AeroActive Cooler 3 attachment that comes standard with the ROG Phone 3 has a passthrough 3.5mm headphone jack, so you’ll at least be able to use your 3.5mm audio accessory while gaming with the AeroActive Cooler attached.

Besides the phone, ASUS also sent me the Lightning Armor and Neon Aero cases. Both are hard plastic shells, though the Neon Aero case is a bit more flexible. I’ve been primarily using the Lightning Armor case because it has this cool RGB effect and covers up more of the glossy rear glass.

The Lightning Armor case has a solid black color and brings back the unapologetic gamer aesthetics that ASUS subdued when designing the ROG Phone 3. There are holes throughout the back, some of which have RGB LEDs underneath. The colors of these LEDs sync with the Aura Lighting feature on the ROG Phone 3 that normally only lights up the ROG logo on the back. The area that’s lit up on the Lightning Armor case is much larger than the ROG logo on the rear of the phone, and it’s pretty neat to look at when you flip the phone over. The Lightning Armor case fully covers up the top and bottom but only partially covers the left side to leave the side USB-C port easily accessible for the TwinView Dock and AeroActive Cooler attachments to clip onto. The right side isn’t covered at all to leave the AirTrigger shoulder buttons, power button, and volume buttons exposed. Lastly, the Lightning Armor case has an NFC tag that is placed so it is scanned automatically when you place the phone in the case; scanning this tag applies a live wallpaper designed to go along with the Lightning Armor case.

The Neon Aero case doesn’t have any of the fancy features that the Lightning Armor case offers. Instead, it’s a simple bumper case in a neat orange color. The case provides minimal protection from bumps to the corners and leaves the side USB-C port, AirTrigger shoulder buttons, power button, and volume up/down buttons exposed. There’s a cutout for the ROG logo and ROG’s “Rise Up. Join The Republic” tagline is etched into the rear in multiple languages.