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Asus ROG Phone 2 hands-on review: Ultimate Snapdragon 855 Plus gaming phone launches globally at IFA 2019

Tom Bruce
5 Sep 2019
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The revamped ROG Phone packs a Snapdragon 855 Plus CPU and up to 1TB storage. Could it be the best gaming phone ever made?

Alongside a slew of new ProArt StudioBook laptops, Asus has finally announced the worldwide launch of its anticipated ROG Phone 2 gaming handset. It’s been out in China since July 2019 but, elsewhere, avid mobile gamers have been chomping at the bit to get a hold of this souped-up sequel to the first Asus ROG Phone.

We’re here in Berlin for IFA 2019 and got some hands-on time with the ROG Phone 2 following the Asus keynote, and it’s only made us more excited for its upcoming release. To find out when that release will be keep reading below, where you’ll also find a full specs list and our initial impressions.

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Asus ROG Phone 2 review: Key specifications, price and release date

  • 6.59in, 2,340 x 1,080 AMOLED display
  • 120Hz refresh rate
  • 19.5:9 aspect ratio
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 6
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus (2.9GHz) CPU with Adreno 640 GPU
  • 12GB RAM
  • Up to 1TB of storage
  • 48MP, f/1.8 (wide) and 13MP, f/2.4 (ultrawide) rear camera
  • 24MP f/2.2 front camera
  • 170.99 x 77.6 x 9.48mm (HWD)
  • 240g
  • 6,000mAh battery
  • Android 9 Pie
  • Price: €899 - €1199 (UK pricing TBC)
  • Release: September 2019

Asus ROG Phone 2 review: Design, key features and first impressions

Though expensive, the first ROG Phone was an impressive gamer-oriented handset with stacks of power and a whole host of clever gaming-specific features. The ROG Phone 2 looks to scratch the same itch, with improved internal specifications, a better display and even more accessories that promise to take your mobile gaming skills to dizzying new heights.

The ROG Phone 2 is an improvement on its predecessor in every way, from the display down to the internals. It has a 6.59in, 2,340 x 1,080 AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate, a significant step up from the 6in, 2,160 x 1,080 90Hz panel on the first ROG Phone. This refresh rate puts the ROG Phone right up there with the Razer Phone 2, and for gamers, this is a key improvement. In use, the display latency is silky smooth and the phone itself is super responsive thanks to its 240Hz touch-sensing tech.

Powering the ROG Phone 2 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset, which has a max clock speed of 2.9GHz and comes with Adreno 640 integrated graphics. This is the first time we’ve got hands-on with a phone carrying the Snapdragon 855 Plus and we absolutely cannot wait to get a review model in to carry out a full suite of testing on that bad boy. We’ve reviewed other smartphones carrying the standard Snapdragon 855, including the recent Xiaomi Mi 9, and the Snapdragon 855 Plus will supposedly deliver “15% faster” performance, according to Asus.

Backing that CPU is a whopping 12GB RAM and, with the ROG Phone 2 Ultimate Edition, users can enjoy up to 1TB built-in storage. Less expensive configurations come with 256GB or 512GB storage, which is still plenty enough space for a healthy stable of Android games.

Despite the hefty specs and massive 6,000mAh battery, the ROG Phone 2 doesn’t feel too chunky. It weighs 240g, so it’s no featherweight, but it’s definitely not unwieldy either. As for looks, the ROG Phone 2 is just as distinctive as the original, its matte black chassis punctuated by striking symmetrical lines and a glowing, colour-changing ROG logo. The rear camera and flash modules are also arranged to resemble that omniscient “ROG eye” icon.

Onto the camera specifications, which, again, have been significantly overhauled since the previous ROG Phone. The dual rear camera module is comprised of a 48MP, f/1.8 unit and a 13MP, f/2.4 ultrawide angle snapper and it will shoot 2,160 EIS footage at 60fps. The selfie camera is a 24MP, f/2.2 unit and is limited to 1080p video at 30fps, non-stabilised. Asus doesn’t seem to think its ROG Phone 2 customers care about the camera specs, and all of its focus has been directed towards the new gaming features.

The AirTrigger II technology will offer enhanced sensitivity over its previous iteration, while front-facing stereo speakers and “Dual Surrounding Vibration” modules will add to the immersion. As with the first ROG Phone, the handset uses a 3D vapour cooling chamber, and the attachable Aero Active Cooler II (as seen in our photos) provides added airflow to keep the phone’s thermals in check. A charging cable and headphone jack can be plugged right into this attachment, keeping the phone’s sides clear of cables - handy for long gaming sessions.

Other accessories include a modular ROG Kunai Gamepad with physical buttons and a Twin View Dock II that adds the possibility of dual-screen gaming on the ROG Phone 2. We hope to get the chance to play around with the full range of accessories when the ROG Phone 2 lands at the Expert Reviews offices, but consumers will no doubt have to pay a premium for each add-on.

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Asus ROG Phone 2 review: Early verdict

This phone is obviously not targeted at your typical consumer. For the majority of smartphone users, the ROG Phone 2 may well look like a garish and overpriced monstrosity. For serious mobile gamers, however, it looks like the phone to own in 2019. The phenomenal amount of processing power, 120Hz display and host of gaming-centric design tweaks make it, perhaps, the perfect phone for dominating the competition in the Android e-sports world.

It won’t come cheap, though. At €899 for the standard configuration and €1,199 for the Ultimate Edition, the Asus ROG Phone 2 is a luxury that not everyone can afford. There are no UK price announcements yet, but they should be coming very soon because the ROG Phone 2 is due to ship Europe-wide by the end of September. It’s also supposed to be available for pre-order right now but at the time of writing this option isn’t yet available. Meanwhile, we eagerly await a ROG Phone 2 review model and, with it, the possibility of improving our K/D ratios in PUBG Mobile.

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