Asus has unleashed the ROG Phone 5. The gaming flagship has been redesigned to improve performance and ergonomics and now comes in multiple flavors with the Ultimate edition sitting on top becoming the first smartphone with 18GB of RAM.
Let’s break down the different versions. The vanilla Asus ROG Phone 5 has three main configurations or versions A, B and C as Asus calls them. The difference between them is the memory configuration.
A has 12GB or 16GB of RAM and 256GB storage, B adds a basic 8/128GB model and C comes in 8/128GB and 12/256GB configurations. Note that most models use UFS 3.1 storage, except the version C phones and the 128GB version B model. Was this too much technical talk? No, of course, not – gaming phones (like gaming PCs) are all about the specs.
Next up is the Asus ROG Phone 5 Pro, which has a single memory option – 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 512GB of UFS storage. Finally, the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate increases the RAM to the record-setting 18GB (storage remains at 512GB, there’s no 1 TB option and no microSD slot).
All three are powered by the Snapdragon 888 chipset, no surprises here. Asus designed the phone to have a performance advantage thanks to other components and, surprisingly, the biggest win came from the battery.
It has a 6,000 mAh total capacity, split between two cells. This split allowed Asus to position the motherboard closer to the center of the phone, which has two advantages. First, it allows the AeroActive Cooler 5 to get as close to the chipset as possible. Second, the heat that is produced is kept away from the user’s fingers.
The split design also allowed the company to double the charging speed to 65W. As before, you can use the USB-C port on the bottom of the phone for charging or the USB-C port on the side (which enables you to play and charge comfortably). The side port can also be used to hoop up an external monitor over HDMI, to connect headphones or to power the AeroActive Cooler 5. We’ll get back to the cooler in a second, let’s look at the display.
The ROG Phone 5 goes big with a 6.78” Samsung-made AMOLED display, up from 6.59” on its predecessor. It is HDR10+ certified and has 111% coverage of the DCI-P3 color space, 151% of sRGB. And it is brighter than the old display, achieving 800 nits at APL100 (that is a full white display).
The resolution and refresh rate remain at 1080p+ and 144Hz (1 ms response time), while the touch sampling rate has gone up to 300 Hz (up from 270 Hz). According to Asus, the touch latency is 24.3 ms. A note about the resolution: there’s no adaptive refresh rate, the display can run at 60, 120 and 144 Hz (with an Auto mode that can switch between them based on content).
The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass Victus and has a special coating that keeps your fingers gliding effortlessly even if they get sweaty.
Despite increasing the screen diagonal, Asus managed to shave 25% off the bezels so the ROG Phone 5 is only a couple of millimeters taller and actually a millimeter narrower than its predecessor. Weight is essentially the same at 238g.
The Pro and Ultimate versions will come bundled with the AeroActive Cooler 5. When Asus tested it, it found that the fan reduces surface temperature by 15ºC and chipset temperature by 10ºC. The cooler also packs two physical of shoulder buttons, a 3.5 mm headphone jack and a kickstand. Without the cooler you still get shoulder buttons – the AirTrigger 5 ultrasonic buttons. These can be used as shortcuts outside of games too, e.g. by squeezing the phone in portrait mode.
If you want more accessories, the ROG Kunai 3 Gamepad is compatible with the ROG Phone 5 (and there’s a redesigned version available). The ROG Clip will allow you to use a PS4, Xbox or Stadia controller if you have one handy. There is also the Professional Dock with an HDMI port and two USB ports. The TwinView Dock 3 is not supported.
There’s not much to say about the camera aside from “it’s the same”. The main module has the same 64 MP Quad Bayer sensor (Sony IMX686) with 2×1 OCL autofocus, the lens aperture remains at f/1.8. Next up is a 13 MP ultra wide camera (125º, 11 mm), still without autofocus. Finally, there’s the 5 MP macro cam.
The selfie camera is essentially the same it has a 24 MP sensor (with Quad Bayer) and a dimmer fixed-focus f/2.45 lens. The main rear camera can record 8K/30 fps video or 4K at 60 fps (and 120 fps for low motion), video stabilization is electronic.
The camera is clearly not the focus of the Asus ROG Phone 5, but an excellent audiovisual experience is. To that end, there’s a 3.5 mm headphone jack on board with an ESS Sabre ES9280AC Pro Quad DAC. The Class G amp automatically detects the impedance of your headphones and switches to the appropriate mode (it supports headphones between 8 Ohm and 1,000 Ohm).
Also on board are front-firing stereo speakers powered by two Cirrus Logic CS35L45 amps, each of which can deliver 21% more power to its speaker than on the previous generation. If you want to use a Bluetooth speaker or headset instead, aptX Adaptive, LDAC and AAC codecs are supported.
We need to go back to the differences between the three models again. The vanilla phone has an RGB backlit Republic of Gamers logo, same as the 2020 phone. The other two have small touch-enabled displays on the back dubbed ROG Vision.
The ROG Phone 5 Pro has a color PM-OLED display, while the supposedly fancier Ultimate model has a monochrome PM-OLED display. The displays show customizable graphics for incoming calls, during charging or while a game is loading.
The three models are launching with Android 11 out of the box and give you a choice between using the gaming-inspired ROG UI or the stock-like Zen UI.