When the ROG Phone 3 is launched, it was ranked the most powerful smartphone. Its benchmark went off the charts once again. I’m sure a lot of people would be buying this phone simply for its powerful processing capability rather than gaming.
Me? I’m no gamer, so I’ll be reviewing more as a day-to-day user. Maybe it’s overpowered for my usage, but I like my devices to run smooth and fast and lag-free. Thanks to ASUS Singapore for sending over the unit during the pre-order period. I did not get to complete the review sooner as I was busy with other product reviews that came before this.
In the first place, why would anyone get a gaming smartphone if he is not a gamer? It’s the same reason why people buy a gaming laptop not for gaming, but for content creation. Because gaming smartphones and laptops are built to handle demanding gaming conditions, from high frame rates to responsive finger inputs.
Here’s why ROG Phone 3 could be your next smartphone for content creation:
Performance when you need it
The phone is powered by the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ with overclocked Adreno 650 GPU, a fast 512GB UFS 3.1 storage and 12GB LPDDR5 RAM. By summoning the X Mode, you can push the processor to work even harder, say, when you are exporting your next vlogging video. Don’t worry about the device heating up, as it is designed to work hard. The included AeroActive Cooler attachment will bring down the temperature by 4 degrees. It even comes with a 3.5mm audio jack, making it a rather useful accessory.
Here are the benchmark results:
- AnTuTu: 630240
- 3DMark (Sling Shot Extreme OpenGL ES 3.1): 7789
- 3DMark (Sling Shot Extreme Vulkan): 6988
- Geekbench (single core): 978
- Geekbench (multi core): 3291
Large and responsive screen
The ROG Phone 3 is 6.59-inch huge, with 144 Hz refresh rate, 270 Hz touch sampling rate, 1 ms AMOLED 10-bit HDR display, 1,000 nits peak brightness. These are top specs for interacting with the phone to achieve the best results.
The ROG Phone 3 houses a 6000 mAh battery. It’s almost double the size of any mid-range phones, 50% more than most premium phones. But if you run with all the default settings, the battery will drain within a day, which is the same experience I had with the ROG Phone 2. If you cut back on the fanciful high refresh rate settings or the logo lighting at the back and activate some battery saving mode, maybe you could extend a little more.
I like the Battery Care option where I can set slow charging during scheduled times, for instance, when charging overnight. I can even set a charging limit to extend battery lifespan, but I thought it was unnecessary, given my experience, the battery always outlasts the phone (the exception is Huawei, their batteries keep bloating).
Built for landscape use
Just like ROG Phone 2, the ROG Phone 3 has additional USB-C charging port at the landscape mode so that you can plug the charger without blocking your hands during play. There are also AirTrigger touch-sensitive motion sensor trigger which you can use to tap, slide, and even split the controls on each finger. I’m not a fan of touch-sensitive controls, neither do I enjoy on-screen joystick like Brawl Stars, preferring to physical joystick pads.
Extensive accessories for gaming
This time round, I did not not get the full luggage of gaming accessories like I did when I reviewed the ROG Phone 2. But the Phone 3 also comes with the same accessories, from Kunai Gamepad and TwinView Dock to Mobile Desktop, though they are not compatible with older ROG phones due to size difference.
Screen mirroring to external monitors
Without the Mobile Desktop Dock, you can still mirror the display to an external monitor via USB-C, but I don’t see any option to change the display mode. If you connect to a touch-enabled display, you can even turn it into a massive tablet and control the phone.
Upgraded from two lenses to triple lenses, the ROG Phone 3 is keeping up with the times which can shoot from ultra-wide angle, close-up macro to 8-times digital zoom.
For general photography, the camera is responsive and delivers fast shooting response. The colour is slightly vibrant, which works well for most consumers.
Its portrait mode also allows post-shoot editing of the bokeh level as well as focus area, and works well with close-up subjects like food.
Night mode works fine using the 64MP main lens but the ultra wide-angle lens could not exposure well, a common issue. I also find that the camera generally does not handle well under warm lighting. For front-facing camera, the white balance can be rather elusive if the light source is not “clean”, for instance, shooting around slightly-tinted glass which caused a general colour shift. I’m also not a fan of a dedicated macro lens, but this seems to be the trend among the newer phones.
The two front-facing speakers deliver audio power with seven magnets. Tuned by Dirac Audio, the speakers are clear and not tinny, while the bass response is tweaked to give an aural impression of bass tones without the actual rumbling. They could not be pushed too much, as distortion will kick in.
For headphone users, the 3.5mm adapter is included. It’s actually an external DAC converter, so if you are going to buy one yourself, get those with a DAC-chip and not just analog converter like Huawei’s, which would not work.
5G Network Supported
ROG Phone 3 supports 5G network, so you will be getting the fastest speed when you sign up with a 5G mobile subscription with your favourite telco. The coverage should be expanding in the coming months.
With all the above impressive specs, how does it feel using it every day? The first thing that you need to get used to is the size: at 240 grams and 171mm long, it is hefty for those who are not used to large phones. For me, it’s quite alright, as I have had extended hands-on with other phones like Huawei P40 Pro, Samsung S20 Ultra, OPPO Find X2 Pro and Google Pixel 4 XL.
The overall performance is excellent. The OS and UI is smooth and responsive. The dual speakers are loud and clear. The rear logo’s RGB lighting is eye-catching. It even has the traditional LED indicator at the front for incoming notifications. Under the Armory Crate gaming portal, I can manage all the games and its custom settings like AirTrigger, key mappings, refresh rate, etc.
During game, the Game Genie floating bar lets you access quick icons during game play, like do-not-disturb, lock brightness, clear RAM, etc.
I like the Pro Video mode as it allows me to adjust the ISO, shutter, white balance, as well as the mic direction mode.
There some nitpick issues during my review. the most inconvenient thing is that the in-display fingerprint sensor is not very fast, and as usual, I do not know where to press on the display panel until I wake the screen up. And due to the need to dissipate heat, the phone is not water-sealed, hence no IP-rating.
The ROG Phone 3 is a formidable smartphone to own. With a large screen, loud stereo speakers and the fastest processor, it will run any of your most demanding Android apps without a fuss. Retailing at S$1,598, it is a reasonable price to pay when compared to other flagship phones. The camera quality is generally great and captures sufficiently good images for general situations, but the phone’s forte is definitely gaming and all the accessories that are made available to expand your experience.