Asus’ new gaming phones are more compact and lighter than before – and they should be faster, too
CES hasn’t traditionally been a place where smartphone manufacturers showcase their wares, but there always seems to be one or two phones that seem to surface at the show and the big one this year is the Asus ROG Phone 8.
Building on the ROG Phone 7, which launched at a similar time last year, the ROG Phone 8 comes in two flavours, with the focus this year being on design, in particular the size and weight of the two phones.
Asus ROG Phone 8 and 8 Pro hands-on: Specifications, launch date and price
- 6.78in, 165Hz AMOLED Full HD+ display, with peak brightness of 2,500 nits
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 SoC
- 12GB RAM, 256GB; 16GB, 512GB; 24GB, 1TB
- 5,500mAh battery with 65W wired charging, 15W Qi wireless charging
- Rear cameras: 50MP, f/2.2 main; 13MP, f/2.2 ultrawide; 32MP, f/2.4 3x telephoto (actual output 8MP)
- Front camera: 32MP
- Prices: ROG Phone 8 (12GB, 256GB), £950; ROG Phone 8 Pro (16GB, 512GB), £1,100; ROG Phone Pro Edition (24GB, 1TB), £1,300
- Availability: Pre-orders from January 9th at Asus and Amazon
Asus ROG Phone 8 and 8 Pro hands-on: Key new features and first impressions
Gaming phones don’t usually push the boat out when it comes to slenderness. They’re typically chunkier than most regular flagship smartphones and much more garish, too. For the latter, not much has changed with the Asus ROG Phone 8 and the Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro, although the OLED Anime Vision “display” on the rear of the Pro is a little sleeker than before and integrated into the surface of the back panel and isn’t separated into its own area as it was last year.
However, both phones have shaved off weight and the ROG Phone 8 is considerably smaller and more pocket-friendly than its predecessor, too. Indeed, with a 94% screen-to-body ratio, the ROG Phone 8 is nearly a centimetre shorter than the ROG Phone 7, while the Pro model is 21g lighter at 225g.
That means the ROG Phone 8, in particular, is now a far more practical option for those who might have previously been on the fence about buying a gaming phone. It feels much more like a regular flagship as a result. Both phones feel pretty comfy in the hand and I like that they look a little different from your average glass-encased, flagship handset. The rough-textured rear panel on the Pro in particular feels and looks great.
Elsewhere, there’s a battalion of upgrades to get your teeth into. Despite the smaller size, the screen size, refresh rate and resolution remain the same: it still measures 6.78in across the diagonal, has an adaptive refresh rate of up to 165Hz and is just as sharp at 2,448 x 1,080. Peak brightness is now a quoted 2,500 nits, up from 1,500, and the glass covering has been upgraded to Gorilla Glass Victus 2.
As for cameras, there’s a big upgrade here, too. Instead of a main camera, ultrawide and macro, you get the more useful combination of a main, ultrawide and 3x telephoto.
There’s nothing here like the superzoom you get on regular flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra or even the 5x optical telephoto adorning the iPhone 14 Pro Max. However, the presence of that 3x optical zoom gives customers less reason to dismiss the ROG Phones out of hand and it does come with “5x lossless” and 30x AI zoom, which should be enough telephoto range for most people.
The other cameras look pretty handy, too. The main shooter is a 50MP unit with six-axis optical stabilisation, while the ultrawide camera captures 13MP images.
And of course, the phones, being performance-focused, also come with the very latest Qualcomm hardware inside. In this case, that’s the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, which was launched in November 2023 at Qualcomm’s Maui-based Snapdragon Summit. This will be backed up by 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage in the ROG Phone 8 and 16GB/512GB in the Pro (there’s also a Pro Edition that has a silly 24GB RAM and 1TB storage) and the phone will run on Asus’ specially modified version of Android 14.
Asus ROG Phone 8 and 8 Pro hands-on: Early Verdict
It’s always difficult to assess a product based on a short hands-on time with it, but I like the look and feel of both these new ROG phones, especially the smaller, more compact ROG 8.
It spans the boundary between gaming phones and regular flagship more adroitly than any handset I’ve yet come across thanks to its smaller, slimmer dimensions and 3x optical telephoto camera.
I’d be surprised if it was as good an all-rounder as the top-of-the-range Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra (or whatever Samsung chooses to call it this year) but, for keen gamers who may not want to follow the crowd, it may provide a tempting alternative.