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Asus ROG Phone 5 review: Mobile gaming doesn’t get better than this

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
799
inc VAT

It might be a bit of an ugly duckling, but the Asus ROG Phone 5’s mobile gaming credentials are unmatched

Pros 
144Hz display
Top-notch gaming performance
Long-lasting battery life
Cons 
Garish design
No IP rating
Accessories sold separately
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Believe it or not, mobile gaming is big business. Cheap Angry Bird knockoffs might first spring to mind, but all sorts of AAA titles are flooding onto Google Play Store these days, and eSports competitions with inflated prize pools are rising in popularity as well.

If you regularly find yourself at the top of the leaderboards, then you could earn life-changing sums of money. Take the ever-popular PUBG: Mobile, for instance, which in 2019 had an annual prize pool of $5,000,000. Wowzers.

READ NEXT: Best smartphone

Of course, anyone serious about mobile gaming needs a seriously impressive smartphone to train on. Jam-packed with gamer-friendly features, the Asus ROG Phone 5 could take your game to the next level but can it really give you a competitive edge over the usual selection of high-priced flagships?

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Asus ROG Phone 5 review: What you need to know

Take a quick look at the specs list, and the ROG Phone 5 looks like your typical run-of-the-mill flagship. You’ll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor inside, which is the fastest Android chip on the market, and this is paired with either 12GB or 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 256GB of non-expandable UFS 3.1 storage.

The phone has three cameras on the back, which consist of a 64MP main camera, a 13MP ultrawide sensor and a 5MP macro unit. It runs Android 11 out of the box and can connect to the UK’s 5G network, as well as any nearby Wi-Fi 6E routers, too.

The ROG Phone 5’s gaming credentials begin to take shape when you take a look elsewhere. A 6.78in FHD+ AMOLED screen isn’t anything out of the ordinary but the slick 144Hz refresh rate allows for higher frame rates in supported games. The enormous 6,000mAh battery should keep you gaming for longer between charges, too, and it supports 65W fast charging.

Game-specific features include a pair of haptic touch-sensitive triggers on either end of the phone’s long right edge and a secondary USB-C charging port on the long left side, which allows you to charge the phone while playing games without the cable getting in the way. You can also adjust all sorts of gaming settings – such as tweaking the clock speeds of the GPU – with Asus’ pre-installed performance monitoring software.

Asus ROG Phone 5 review: Price and competition

How much does all of this cost? The ROG Phone 5 starts at £799 for the cheapest model with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. You can also have the same phone with a rather absurd 16GB of RAM for the princely sum of £899. This certainly isn’t cheap, but if you’re an up-and-coming Fortnite champion, then it might be a small price to pay to (hopefully) hone your skills.

Gaming-specific smartphones are still a bit of a rarity these days, especially in Western markets, so the best we can muster with regards to similarly priced competition is the usual selection of flagship big-hitters. That list, of course, consists of the iPhone 12 (£799), Samsung Galaxy S21 (£769) and the fresh-faced Xiaomi Mi 11 (£660).

Asus ROG Phone 5 review: Design and key features

Take a look at the images dotted around this review, and there’s a good chance you won’t like what you see. The ROG Phone’s 5’s “gamer” aesthetic is at least doing things a bit differently and there’s no doubt that it stands out from the crowd but it’s definitely an acquired taste.

To my eyes, the rear of the handset is a bit of a mess. A jumble of geometric shapes and a few haphazardly placed blue arrows don’t really align with the premium cost but I do like the accented power button and SIM card tray, as well as the customisable RGB logo.

It’s a shame, but it’s a bit of a brute, too. Weighing 238g, the Asus ROG Phone 5 is one of the heftiest handsets I’ve reviewed recently and it’s also quite thick at 10.3mm. The good news, however, is that the ROG Phone 5’s front is much cleaner in appearance, with slim bezels on either side of its gigantic screen and slightly thicker chin and forehead bezels – which is where you’ll find the 24MP selfie camera.

The cyberpunk-inspired packaging it comes in is a nice touch, too. There’s even a selection of interactive anime panels on the inside, which you can use in conjunction with the phone’s camera as an augmented reality experience when setting up your Asus social profile.

As for ports and connections, the phone has a USB-C port at the bottom, offset to the left and a headphone jack on the other side. There’s also that second USB Type-C port on the long left-hand edge. This also works with the AeroActive Cooler, which is an optional fan attachment that supposedly delivers up to a 10°C drop in CPU temperature.

Asus ROG Phone 5 review: Display

Measuring 6.78in across the diagonal, the ROG Phone 5’s FHD+ (2,448 x 1,080) AMOLED display has a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz, which means you can play select games at higher frame rates. Alas, Google Play still doesn’t have a “high FPS” category on its storefront but you can find a list of supported titles on the Asus website.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the quality of the screen, either. Confusingly, there are four separate colour modes to choose from, although I found the “standard” mode most accurately displayed the sRGB colour space, providing 94.8% coverage with a total volume of 95.5% at an average Delta E of 1.17.

My only complaint is that the screen isn’t as vibrant as I would have hoped while displaying HDR material. Peaking at just 573cd/m2, the ROG Phone 5’s HDR10+ panel is well below the required HDR10+ specification, and it isn’t anywhere near as impressive as the iPhone 12.

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Asus ROG Phone 5 review: Gaming, performance and battery life

Inside, you’ll find one of Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 888 chipsets, clocked at 2.84GHz, and backed by an embedded Adreno 660 GPU for graphics processing.

We’ll start with the CPU benchmarks first. In the Geekbench 5 test, the Asus ROG Phone 5 achieved a single-core score of 1,116 and a result of 3,792 in multi-core processing. With a score like this, it pretty much matches the only other Snapdragon 888-equipped phone we’ve reviewed, the Xiaomi Mi 11, and edges slightly ahead of the Galaxy S21’s Exynos 2100.

Of course, what good is a gaming-centric flagship if it can’t keep pace with your frenzied finger movements? The good news is that the ROG Phone 5 is the best gaming phone we’ve ever reviewed, achieving higher average frame rates in GFXBench’s Manhattan 3 and Car Chase tests than any of its Android rivals.

Games like Alto’s Adventure and FZ9 Timeshift ran beautifully at higher frame rates, especially when I enabled Asus’ GPU-boosting “X-Mode” in the pre-installed Game Genie performance monitoring software. Running the benchmarks again, this mode boosted gaming performance by up to 20% in some instances.

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The ROG Phone 5’s mappable AirTriggers worked a treat during gameplay, too, functioning as makeshift L2 and R2 shoulder buttons. You can also buy a Nintendo Switch-like cradle, called the Kunai GamePad, which is a separate purchase and adds a pair of Joy-Con-like controllers to either side of the handset.

There’s more good news, too, since the ROG Phone 5 also comes out on top in the stamina department. In our video rundown test, with the display set to 170cd/m2 brightness and flight mode enabled, the ROG Phone 5 lasted an impressive 23hrs 45mins on a single charge.

Asus ROG Phone 5 review: Cameras

There are three cameras on the rear of the Asus ROG Phone 5: a standard wide-angle, an ultrawide camera and a 5MP macro unit. The main camera is a 64MP Sony IMX686 sensor, and the ultrawide camera captures at 12-megapixels with a 125-degree field of view.

READ NEXT: Best phone camera

Since this is predominantly a gaming phone, there’s certainly less of a focus on taking Instagram-worthy pictures but the image quality is rather good. There’s plenty of detail in well-lit situations and, in some instances, the ROG Phone 5’s pictures looked sharper than the same images taken on the more expensive iPhone 12 Pro.

The phone’s use of HDR is a bit underwhelming, though, and the auto-exposure needed a bit of help; I had to tinker with the brightness slider on more than one occasion. The portrait mode is also a bit of an odd fish, tweaking skin texture as if it was applying a micro-contrast filter or artificially increasing the clarity and structure sliders as you might in Photoshop.

As for video, the ROG Phone 5 can record at up to 8K resolution at 30fps, with 60fps recording available if you dip the resolution down to 4K. Quality-wise, the video is also pretty good, shooting stable footage with crisp details and judder-free panning.

Asus ROG Phone 5 review: Verdict

With just a handful of niggles, the ROG Phone 5 is no doubt the most impressive gaming phone we’ve ever reviewed. With a handful of well-thought-out gaming features, as well as unbeatable performance in a variety of Play Store titles, the ROG Phone 5 is definitely worth a consideration if you’re aren’t keen on the mainstream.

Buy now from Asus

It’s a bit of a shame that the excellent Kunai GamePad and AeroActive Cooler are sold separately, though, and that there isn’t a preorder offer at launch. Pair the ROG Phone 5 with these accessories, and there’s really no better mobile gaming experience at the moment, especially if you’re dreaming of becoming the next mobile eSports superstar.

Asus ROG Phone 5 specifications
ProcessorOcta-core 2.84GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 (1x2.84GHz, 3x2.42GHz, 4x1.8GHz)
RAM12GB
Screen size6.78in
Screen resolution2,448 x 1,080
Pixel density395ppi
Screen typeAMOLED
Screen refresh rate144Hz
Front camera24MP (f/2.4)
Rear camera64MP, 13MP wide, 5MP macro
FlashLED
Dust and water resistanceNo
3.5mm headphone jackYes
Wireless chargingNo
USB connection typeUSB-C
Storage options128GB; 256GB
Memory card slot (supplied)No
Wi-Fi802.11ax
Bluetooth5.2
NFCYes
Cellular data5G
Dual SIMYes
Dimensions (WDH)173 x 77 x 10.3mm
Weight238g
Operating systemAndroid 11 (ROG UI)
Battery size6,000mAh

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