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Asus ROG Phone 3 Review Uncompromised Gaming Performance
All of us have that 'Gamer' within us that doesn't shy away from speeding cars on highways, firing down missiles from fighter jets and killing opponents with headshots in first or third-person shooting games. Most of the smartphones available in the market today offer satisfactory performance for that occasional gamer in us but might fail to please the hardcore gamers who prioritize gaming over camera, design, or any other feature that defines a modern smartphone.
- Excellent Gaming Performance
- 144Hz AMOLED Display Is A Delight For Gaming
- Improved Air Triggers
- Long-Lasting Battery
- Immersive Audio Performance
- Decent Camera Performance
- Improved Thermals
- Bulky As A Daily Driver
- No OIS
- No IP Rating For Water-Dust Protection
- No microSD Card Support
Luckily some smartphone manufacturers are taking utmost care of avid mobile gamers. Asus happens to be one such smartphone maker which has earned a name for itself in the gaming community, both for PC and for smartphone offerings. The Taiwanese tech giant has now introduced the first-ever Snapdragon 865 Plus-powered gaming smartphone to the Indian gaming spectrum.
Touted as the world's most powerful and exciting gaming smartphone, the ROG Phone 3 has been engineered to deliver the most immersive mobile gaming experience to users. Asus has introduced the ROG Phone 3 in two configurations- 8GB RAM / 128 GB Storage at Rs. 49,999 and 12GB RAM / 256 GB Storage at Rs. 57,999. The smartphone is now available for purchase on Flipkart.com.
We spent a fair share of our time with the ROG Phone II and its time we take a detailed look at the all-new ROG Phone 3. We got to test the 8GB + 128GB variant of the smartphone and here's how it performed as a gaming device and as a daily driver.
Big & Bulky But Perfect For Long Gaming Sessions
If you were expecting the ROG Phone 3 to address the weight and physical size issues, you will be disappointed. The ROG Phone 3 has dimensions of 171mm x 78mm x 9.85mm and shares the weight (240 grams) with the ROG Phone II. The new phone has the same chassis and the industrial built making it big and bulky for smaller hands.
A big reason for such heavyweight and thick body is a massive 6,000 mAh battery cell that can last a day with moderate to heavy usage unless you are not playing games and streaming movies for all-day long. The ROG Phone 3 comes bundled with a 30W fast-charger in the box which takes around 80 minutes to charge the battery from flat to 100%.
That said, the ROG Phone 3 demands two hands for a comfortable grip. Thankfully, the weight is evenly distributed and the screen has a standard aspect ratio with thicker bezels which makes things easier for long gaming sessions. Also, thicker bezels give more room for putting in bigger front-firing stereo speakers which comes real handy while playing games.
Premium Aesthetics But Too Subtle For A Gaming Phone
The ROG Phone 3 borrows design elements from its predecessor but looks more polished, thanks to some subtle but noticeable design modifications. The back panel still flaunts a glossy finish with a big ROG logo at the centre that illuminates bright LED lights and looks damn cool. You will also find the familiar diamond-cut bevel and etched lines but some sharp lines and edges are now replaced with gentle curves. These changes improve aesthetics but also make the overall look and feel too subtle for a gaming device. A transparent glass sits at the back panel revealing the heat sink that dissipates the heat through a discrete hole. The three slanting lines in red color add a ROG touch to the setup. The glass back panel is essentially a layer of the Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for some protection.
Two Type-C Charging Ports, No IP Rating For Protection Against Water-Dust
You still get two Type-C ports, one at the bottom and the second on the left side. The latter allows you to charge the device while playing games. The side-mounted Type-C connector is essentially a USB 3.1 Gen 2 port with support for fast-charging-QC 3.0, QC 4.0 and USB PD 3.0 chargers. This particular Type-C charging port also offers support for DisplayPort 1.4 to offer video output at up to 4K. The bottom Type-C charging port is a USB 2.0 port with fast-charging support for QC 3.0 and PD 3.0 standards.
Like its predecessor, the ROG Phone 3 also lacks IP rating for protection against water and dust. It's an important feature when you consider the price tag and the fact that you will also use the ROG Phone 3 as a daily driver and not just for indoor smartphone gaming.
How’s The Game Play?
I have thoroughly enjoyed playing games on the ROG Phone 3. The unmatched gameplay experience is the result of a combined effect of 144Hz screen with very low touch latency, powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus SoC and the improved Air Triggers. The thermals have improved to some extent but you could still feel the back panel of the device getting warm with just 15 minutes of continuous gameplay at max settings. Let's start with the display.
144Hz Refresh Rate AMOLED Screen Is A Gamers’ Delight
The successor to the ROG Phone II brings some significant improvements in the display department. The new phone still flaunts a 6.59-inch AMOLED panel (2340x1080 pixels, 391ppi) but the refresh rate has been bumped to 144Hz with 1ms response time, which makes the screen a delight for action-packed gameplay. The screen is very responsive and the touch interactions are buttery smooth. However, I must mention that I couldn't notice any difference between a 120Hz refresh panel on the OnePlus 8 Pro, Asus ROG Phone II and the 144Hz panel on the ROG Phone 3 with basic phone operations. All three screens feel identical in terms of scrolling speed and UI interactions.
That said, the ROG Phone II's 6.59-inch 120Hz refresh rate AMOLED panel still holds very well with basic use. You might experience a slight difference in the gameplay though only if you have both the devices handy. The predecessor has a 240Hz touch response rate panel with 49ms touch latency as opposite to 270Hz touch sampling rate with 25ms touch latency on the new device.
Buttery Smooth Gameplay Experience
The slightly better touch sampling rate and lower touch latency in the ROG Phone 3 do make some difference in the action-packed games like PUBG and COD. I am also quite excited to test the Nubia Red Magic 5G which first introduced the buttery-smooth 144Hz display with even better touch sampling rate- 300Hz. The company is yet to unveil the smartphone in the Indian market.
For the ROG Phone 3, you can choose to run the screen at 144Hz, 120Hz, 90Hz, 60Hz or keep it an Auto-refresh rate to let the phone decide the best settings as per the content displayed. The 10-bit AMOLED panel on the ROG Phone 3 also offers support for HDR10+ and has 650 nits peak brightness. It is not the brightest panel around but serves well for both indoor and outdoor use. The Full HD AMOLED panel is protected by the Corning Gorilla Glass 6.
Importantly, I don't mind the thicker bezels surrounding the screen as they make total sense for a game-oriented device.
Dual Stereo Speakers, Good Codec Support
Also, the ROG Phone 3's dual-stereo speakers with dual amplifiers generate loud and immersive audio. There's no noticeable audio distortion even when the audio is bursting at maximum volume. You can very well enjoy gaming sessions even if you are not carrying headphones. Moreover, the smartphone also offers support for Hi-Res audio (192kHz/24-bit standard) over USB-C output.
As there's no 3.5mm audio jack on the device, Asus ships the ROG Phone 3 with a connector in the box for ease of use. For wireless audio streaming, the ROG Phone 3 supports all leading high-end codecs over Bluetooth 5.1 such as SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX TWS+, LDAC
Smarter Air Trigger 3 Buttons
Asus has made some notable changes in the functionality of the Air Trigger 3 buttons which can dramatically enhance your gameplay experience if you get used to them. The new touch-sensitive trigger buttons now support swiping and can also be split into two parts, also, to offer support for tap and slide functions. The split feature is really cool and can enhance your gameplay to a good extent. For instance, I split the right air trigger into two parts- one to fire up shots and the other to activate scope in PUBG. The left air trigger can also be customized for two functions, thus giving you four shoulder triggers for some extra controls into your hands. Add to this the better touch response and you get an additional advantage in intense gameplay that enhances the overall gaming experience.
Also, the ROG Phone 3 now comes equipped with ‘Motion Control' for an additional action where you can shake the phone once to trigger an action. It works as advertised but I just couldn't get used to it in the short review timeline of the product. Asus has also extended the use cases of the Air Trigger 3 buttons. You can now use these soft buttons even when you are not gaming by customizing them to activate certain actions with a long- or short squeeze. That's a pretty thoughtful utilization of the available resources on a gaming phone which is s much as a regular phone when you are not gaming.
Armoury Crate- Console-Level Controls At One Place
The ROG Phone 3 can be customized to run at maximum performance with just one click. You can tap on X-Mode in Armoury Crate or can simply enable the max power mode from the notification panel. The Armoury Crate is essentially a system-wide tool to manage all your game-centric settings for the ROG Phone 3.
The software suite also allows you to customize all Air Triggers actions, Fan speed, ROG logo lighting modes, manage ROG Phone 3 accessories, and importantly customize separate game scenario profiles with discrete settings for installed games on the device. You must enable ‘Memory Cleaner' and run the display at 144Hz for maximum performance. Also, the ‘Advanced Menu' settings offer controls and information for Hardcore Tuning, temperature control and to keep an eye on CPU/GPU/IO parameters.
Game Genie For Additional In-Game Controls
This thoughtful software addition serves as a quick shortcut to the Armoury Crate. It lets you access all-important game and performance-centric features of the device without leaving the gameplay. All you need to do is swipe from the left corner while playing the game to access all important controls such as Refresh rate, Notifications, information related to CPU, GPU, Battery level, etc., System temperature, FPS, RAM management, Air Triggers 3 controls, Screen recorder and more.
How Good Is The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus?
The ROG Phone 3 is the first smartphone to be powered by the beefed-up version of the Qualcomm's flagship Snapdragon 865 chipset. The SD865 Plus is essentially a speed-binned SD865 which operates at 3.1 GHz and is accompanied by an overclocked Adreno 650 GPU to deliver up to 10% better performance. Additionally, you get the faster UFS 3.1 storage and up to 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM. You must also know that the new gaming device from Asus is a 5G-enabled handset as it comes equipped with the Qualcomm's discrete X55 5G modem. These are just insane specs and worth putting to extreme tests.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoC Benchmarks Scores
In our benchmarks test, the Asus ROG Phone 3 scored 439,154 in the Antutu AI Benchmark and 621,142 in standard Antutu test with X-mode activated. The phone achieved a score of 981 in Geekbench's Single-Core test and 3,366 in the Multi-core test. In PC Mark's Work 2.0 Performance score, the gaming device touched 13,820. The 3D Mark couldn't run on our review unit for some reason. It always got stuck right before giving the final result. Some reviewers have recorded scores higher than 9,800 in the graphics test which is the best we have seen on a smartphone. The scores achieved by the ROG Phone 3 surpasses those of Qualcomm SD865-powered devices such as the OnePlus 8 Pro, Mi 10 5G and the iQOO 3 5G.
We also did not face any performance issues on the device even while playing the most demanding game titles and shuffling from one game to another in quick succession. All popular game-titles run without a glitch or frame drops. PUBG, Injustice 2, Call Of Duty, Asphalt 9 and several other games, including the newly introduced Brawlhalla, ran with no performance issues.
New Gaming Accessories
The ROG Phone 3 brings along a versatile Gaming Accessories ecosystem to deliver a console-level gaming experience but you have to spend extra for accessories. The list includes- ROG Kunai 3 Gamepad (Rs. 9,999), TwinView Dock 3 that transforms your ROG Phone 3 into a dual 144Hz display gaming rig at Rs. 19,999, ROG Phone 3 Lighting Armor case (Rs. 2,999), ROG Phone 3 Glass Screen Protector (Rs. 699), ROG Phone 3 Neon Aero Case (Rs. 1,999) and ROG Cetra Headset (Rs. 7,699). The list also includes Mobile Desktop Dock 2 which allows you to connect desktop peripherals via multiple ports. It is priced at Rs. 12,999.
64MP Triple-Lens Camera Delivers Crisp Pictures
Cameras are generally not the focus while designing a gaming device but Asus has managed to offer capable camera hardware on the ROG Phone 3. The phone features the latest 64MP IMX686 Sony camera sensor that captures crisp images in 64MP full-resolution and also in 16MP pixel-binned mode. The primary sensor is paired with a 13MP wide-angle sensor with impressive 125˚ field-of-view and a 5MP macro camera. The camera can capture lossless 2x shots and the results are pretty impressive. The camera is also smart enough to shift to digital zoom based on the 16MP mode to let in more light for bright shots in challenging light situations.
The daylight shots show vibrant colors, spot-on contrast and impressive dynamic range. The flagship Sony sensor combined with good software optimization results in good color science. Details only take hit if you are shooting wide-angle shots or zoom in when light conditions are not favourable. I noticed some autofocus issues with the camera while taking close-up shots. The main sensor seems to struggle a bit with nearby subjects.
24MP Selfie Camera Captures Good Selfies
The ROG Phone 3 is a gaming device with an impressive selfie camera. The 24MP front-facing shooter captures crisp selfies with pleasing skin tones and good overall color output. There's no excessive skin smoothening happening here resulting in a very natural-looking image output.
8K Recording Support But No OIS
As far as video recording is concerned, the ROG Phone 3 can shoo videos in 4K HDR for better overall video output in complex lighting, 480fps HD slow-motion videos and 4k slow-motion videos in 120fps. The results look pretty captivating. The camera setup also records 8K videos in 30fps. One major letdown is the lack of OIS. Asus mentioned in the briefing that the OIS isn't something a hardcore gamer would miss on a gaming phone. What if the hardcore gamer is also a photography enthusiast and a content creator who likes to shoot videos on a mobile device?
Should You Buy The Asus ROG Phone 3?
The ROG Phone 3 is a worthy successor by all means. It improves on almost all aspects that made us like the ROG Phone II a lot. The price is certainly on the higher side if you compare it with the launch price of the predecessor which might disappoint some interested buyers out there. However, it was quite expected considering the recent hike in GST prices and also for the fact that the new device is powered by a 5G-enabled chipset with significant improvements in display, processing power, Air Triggers, audio and even camera which is not generally the focus while designing a gaming smartphone.
Also, the ROG Phone 3 is not just an excellent gaming device, it also qualifies as a very good daily driver if you are ready to compromise on features such as IP rating, wireless charging, OIS and ease-of-use.
If you were eyeing a gaming device for quite some time, the Asus ROG Phone 3 is the answer. If not, you can check out the OnePlus 8-series devices, Xiaomi Mi 10 5G or even the affordable SD865 SoC-powered iQOO 3 5G which is selling at Rs. 30,499 at the time of writing this review.