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ASUS ROG Phone 3 review
An Android gaming powerhouse with non-gaming appeal.
Absolutely. While primarily targeted at smartphone gamers, the ASUS ROG Phone 3 has plenty of other reasons for non-gamers to consider buying it. There’s a huge battery with speedy charging. A gorgeous 1080p+ screen with a high refresh rate. Plus, a custom take on Android 10 and connectivity future-proofing in WiFi 6 and 5G.
The ASUS ROG Phone 3 is a gaming phone, but that shouldn’t turn you off if you’re not big on smartphone gaming. While ASUS has made a name for itself with PC components – graphics cards (including the recent RTX 3080), gaming keyboards, and gaming mice – the real takeaway from the ROG Phone 3 is that it's intended as a high-speed Android smartphone with plenty of perks.
What makes the ASUS ROG Phone 3 worth considering?
Think about what you want out of a gaming smartphone and a lot of it crosses over with perks for everyday users, too. Snappy performance. Gorgeous screen (ideally with a high refresh rate). Outstanding battery life. This is exactly what you get when you crack open the part Tron, part Blade Runner box of the ASUS ROG Phone 3.
That sci-fi motif carries over to the phone itself. The 6.59-inch screen makes it great for big hands, even if at times it feels too big for lazy single-handed operation. Keep the ROG Phone 3 face down and there’s a neat lightbar on the back to let you know when you’ve got screen notifications. This is also where you’ll see the improved rear camera (compared to its predecessor). You should consider snapping on the included protective case, if only to stop the raised rear camera from making the phone slide when it’s lying flat on slicker surfaces.
The real appeal is the combination of speedy innards – Snapdragon 865 chipset, 12GB RAM, and plenty of storage (up to 512GB) – and a monstrous 6,000mAh battery for multi-day use. That’ll come in handy for 5G users, too, which is something the ROG Phone 3 also includes alongside WiFi 6. Support for the latest wireless standard was put to good use during our recent Netgear Nighthawk Mesh WiFi 6 System tests.
This thing is fast. Like, real fast. Whether you’re turning it on for the first time, multitasking between stacks of everyday apps, or playing games, the ROG Phone 3 has the goods to keep up with you. That speed trend carries over to the Quick Charge 4.0 support. During one of our tests, we went from 15% to 30% in 10 minutes, up to 50% in just over 20 minutes, then back to full juice in just over an hour and a half.
Impressive battery life
Because the ROG Phone 3 charges so quickly, you don’t have to be paranoid with leaving the house on a full charge all the time to ensure your phone doesn’t die. During our everyday-use tests – a mix of calls, texts, videos, internet browsing, and other typical tasks – the battery comfortably survived two days and even stretched into a third with less-intensive use. While we were unable to test 5G battery life, this longevity was tested with the 144Hz refresh rate on. Once you’re used to that silky-smooth look, there’s really no going back to anything lower.
The aforementioned speediness helps with everyday smartphone entertainment. Whether you’re playing music or YouTube videos, get used to the ROG Phone 3 keeping up with every tap. The dual front-facing speakers offer great sound with decent volume for those who want to go loud, while the screen is big enough (and pretty enough) to be a viable midpoint between compact and viewing space. Speaking of volume, we absolutely appreciate the tweaks to the user interface, including a non-intrusive volume indicator pop-up tucked off to the side that doesn’t intrude on what you’re watching.
The bigger screen is an important consideration for smartphone gamers, with the ROG Phone 3 easily able to keep pace with any game thrown at it. Even games like Company of Heroes – a real-time strategy game with smaller units that rewards precise movements – play great on the ROG Phone 3. It automatically slips into gaming mode when you start gaming, and the configurable AirTrigger 3 controls (either side of the physical buttons on the right bezel) offer more offscreen control potential in supported games.
Heat and prints
The back of the phone in particular is a magnet for fingerprints. It was easier to live with the knowledge they were constantly there rather than constantly use a microfibre cloth to keep the handset shiny. More concerning is the warmth the ROG Phone 3 can put out. This was most noticeable during charging, but also during longer gaming sessions. This is why ASUS has included a GameCool 3 cooling system, which is effectively an external heatsink that attaches to the handset to cool things down, but it’s an extra attachment to carry around with you if you’re serious about out-and-about smartphone gaming.
Given how cutting-edge the rest of the phone is, it’s odd that ASUS opted for a 1080p+ screen. For comparison, my ageing Galaxy S9+ has a max screen resolution of 2960x1440, whereas the ROG Phone 3 maxes out at 2340x1080. While the ROG Phone 3 could default to a 1080p+ resolution by (much like the Galaxy S9+), it feels like a missed opportunity to not at least have support for an optional higher resolution to make things truly pop.
You really want to consider manually disabling gaming-specific features like the AirTriggers when you’re not gaming (or if you have no intention to), then manually re-enabling them as you need them. Why? It’s easy to accidentally touch the AirTriggers with enough pressure during everyday use, like watching videos, and activate them. Also, there’s no waterproof rating for the ROG Phone 3, so keep it dry.
ASUS ROG Phone 3 camera improvements
One of the bigger complaints about older-model ROG Phones was the disappointing rear camera, but that’s been improved for the ROG Phone 3. What was a dual-camera configuration in the ROG Phone 2 (48MP + 13MP) is now a tri-camera setup in the ROG Phone 3 (64MP + 13MP + 8MP). The ROG Phone 3 is incredibly responsive when snapping pics, which makes it easier to take stacks of photos faster, but bear in mind you can’t use zoom if you push the resolution all the way up to 64MP.
Is the ASUS ROG Phone 3 worth the price?
With flagship Android phones now capable of costing closer to $2,000, there’s a new expectation for value at the speedier end of town. The ASUS ROG Phone 3 isn’t exactly cheap, but even at full RRP, this is an incredibly powerful Android handset that’s built to keep up with you today and well into tomorrow.