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Asus ROG Phone 5: First impressions

We used the ROG Phone 5’s most affordable variant for over a day, playing games and exploring some other new features. Here’s our first impression.

Asus ROG Phone 5.
Asus ROG Phone 5. (HT Tech)

Asus ROG Phone lineup has always managed to grab headlines in the smartphone industry not only because of the ultra high-end specifications and features it offers but also at the price tag in which it manages to offer it. And the ROG Phone 5 here seems to be right on track with this idea. Asus revealed everything about the lineup today and it looks too good to be true, at least on paper right now.

It is interesting to see the firm grabbing a wider price bracket this time with ROG Phone 5, 5 Pro and 5 Ultimate. Frankly, we like it since it has something for everyone ranging from ‘mobile gaming enthusiasts’ to ‘die-hard fans’. What it also means is that in India, you get a wider range this time around, starting with 49,999 and going all the way up to 79,999.

What’s even more interesting here is that despite being the first in India with Snapdragon 888 SoC and first in the world with 18GB RAM, the highest variant in the entire series still falls under 80,000. So, if getting a ‘no compromise’ phone at a really good price is your aim, the ROG Phone 5 might be one of the contenders.

However, we would still wait to jump to conclusions for now as we are yet to review the handset and determine if it is actually worth or not (for gamers).

There’s no doubt ROG Phones have been huge and bulky since the first iteration and ROG Phone 5 is no exception here. We got the Phantom Black variant, which is glossy and has AnimeMatrix LED lights at the back. This is the same tech that we have seen in the company's ROG line of gaming laptops. It is made of small LED lights and animates the Asus logo in different colour patterns. Having a ‘Pro’ or an ‘Ultimate’ might be a better idea since their OLED screens at the back still serve a purpose.

Asus ROG Phone 5.
Asus ROG Phone 5. (HT Tech)

We do find AnimeMatrix fancy but nothing more than that. It’s the same feeling you get when you see the glowing logo at the back of ROG Phone 3 or ROG Phone 2. But at least it brings the look in sync with ROG laptops.

While the base variant with glossy Phantom Black colour looks just fine (and familiar), we are more excited about the new Storm White colour that comes with Blue accents. It also has a matte finish, which does a good job in hiding fingerprints.

You get a 6.7-inch Samsung AMOLED screen with 144Hz refresh rate, 1ms response rate, Gorilla Glass Victus protection and 300Hz touch sampling rate. Also supported is the ‘Always On’ feature and HDR10+. The aspect ratio has also been stretched to 20.5:5. All these are everything a gamer can wish for in a smartphone display at today’s date. In our usage for a limited time, we did find it really smooth - no complaints at all. Yes, we are yet to test it fully, so we are reserving our conclusion for now.

Also see: Asus ROG Phone 5: In Pics

With the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, Adreno 660, LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 storage, we expect nothing but a really smooth and powerful performance from this device. Playing Call of Duty, streaming videos and scrolling through social media apps, all seem buttery smooth right now. However, Asus ROG Phones have not been the best out there when it comes to rolling out OS and security updates. And that can be a concern for some users. More on this in the review.

Asus ROG Phone 5.
Asus ROG Phone 5. (HT Tech)

We’d like to give a special mention to ROG Phone 5’s 3D Vapor Chamber that helps keep the temperature down. While this was there in the last year’s model as well, we are yet to see how it performs during long gaming sessions, specially now that there is a second screen + AnimeMatrix tech at the back. 

We do expect some improvements due to the split battery design, which is new this time. Not only it will help charge faster but will do so without generating a lot of heat. You also get an AeroActive Cooler 5 accessory, which too gets an upgrade this year. int he form of a trigger that is placed on each side.

On the camera front, the ROG Phone 5 features Sony IMX 686 64-megapixel primary sensor at the back with f/1.8 aperture and 1.6um pixel size + 13-megapixel ultra wide sensor + Macro sensor. The handset also has the capability to shoot 8K video. At the front, you get a 24-megapixel camera. While this may sound promising, ROG Phones have had a history of not having the best in class cameras. We are yet to test it though, but we really hope things have improved this time.

Also read: Asus launches TUF Dash F15 gaming laptop in India: Price, specs and feature

On the battery front, it’s appreciable how Asus has kept the capacity same, while splitting it for a better charging performance and including support for 65W speeds. However, you will still get a 30W charger inside the box and 65W charger is something that is sold separately. Bummer, but it does help keep the price low. 

What will be interesting is how the software side of things work. You get features like slow charging for long lasting battery performance besides bypass charging tech, schedule charging, setting charging limit and other features from the previous version.

In the limited time we spent gaming on ROG Phone 5, what seemed impressive was the 7-magnet front stereo speakers. The bass seems to be heavy this time, giving better feel while shooting in a game and making the experience more immersive. And thankfully, we have the 3.5mm headphone jack. 

Asus says that it removed the 3.5mm jack from ROG Phone 3 due to the space constraints as Snapdragon 865+ came with a separate 5G modem. Since the Snapdragon 888 SoC integrates the modem in one chip, they got enough space to fit the jack. It is also the reason why AeroActive Coller 3 won’t be compatible with ROG Phone 5 since the processor position is now different.

Asus ROG Phone 5.
Asus ROG Phone 5. (HT Tech)

Talking about accessories, the handset supports Kunai 3 gamepad controller, ROG Clip (with support for Stadia, Xbox controllers), AeroActive Cooler 5, new AeroCase Cover (coming in-box for Indian customers), Lightning Armour case, ROG Cetra II earphones and more. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support Twin Dock 3, Mobile Desktop Dock and as we just mentioned above, AeroActive Cooler 3.

That said, Asus plans to keep selling ROG Phone 3 in India for quite some time.

So, all in all, while a lot of ROG Phone 5 looks good on paper right now, a lot still remains to be tested. Performance in long gaming hours, its impact on battery, software tweaks and modes, display performance, battery performance and the accessories, we will test all of it soon. It does look promising and a ‘no compromise’ phone. But let us hope, the notion stays the same in our review as well.

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