Asus made its first foray into mobile gaming less than two years ago with the original ROG (Republic of Gaming) Phone. It was a solid first attempt, no doubt, but a niche one. Fast-forward to 2020, and the ROG Phone 3 is an entirely different story. Sure, it’s still a gaming phone first and foremost, but it also packs best-in-class hardware, a 5G modem, a smooth AMOLED display, and truly impressive audio quality, giving it more widespread appeal. That said, the ROG Phone 3 doesn’t support wireless charging, nor does it have an IP rating to indicate a level of protection from water and dust. Most importantly, it doesn’t have a price or a concrete release date, so we’re holding off on giving it a rating until it does.
Design, Display, and Durability
The first two ROG Phones looked a little gaudy for the non-gaming crowd. While the ROG Phone 3 shares a similar design language, it’s a bit more subtle. The copper vent from its predecessor is gone, the camera stack is less pronounced, and the geometric flourishes are much more subdued. It still has a customizable RGB logo, but you can turn it off if you want.
This ROG Phone 3 is big, at 6.73 by 3.07 by 0.39 inches (HWD) and 6.25 ounces. It’s a handful, but it isn’t as heavy as some other flagships, like the OnePlus 8 Pro (7.02 ounces), and the weight is evenly distributed, making it easy to hold for extended periods.
The top of the phone is bare, while the bottom is home to a USB-C charging port. On the left you’ll find a dual SIM slot as well as an accessory port for the included fan and other accessories; there’s also an extra USB-C port if you want to charge the phone while gaming. The accessory port is covered by a plastic cap that, unfortunately, doesn’t stay attached to the phone in any way, making it easy to lose.
The right side of the phone is home to the power button and volume rocker, as well as two capacitive keys called AirTriggers (more on these in a bit). All the buttons are easy to reach and provide a satisfying click when tapped.
The front of the phone is home to a 6.59-inch AMOLED display with an built-in fingerprint sensor. The top and bottom bezels are a little chunky, due to stereo speakers that flank the screen to create a little extra space to hold the phone in landscape mode without accidentally tapping it. The in-display fingerprint sensor works as well as what you’ll find in most other smartphones—okay but not great—and there’s a less secure face unlock feature if you prefer.
Resolution comes in at 2,340 by 1,080, for a density of 391 pixels per inch. It supports a variable refresh rate up to 144Hz and is HDR10+ certified with a 25ms touch latency. The phone can automatically detect the best refresh rate, or you can set it to 60Hz, 90Hz, 120Hz, or 144Hz.
Simply put, the screen looks excellent. It’s crisp, with spot-on color accuracy. Viewing angles are excellent and the phone gets bright enough to use in direct sunlight without any problems.
Asus includes a basic case, but there are so many ports and buttons on the phone that its utility is questionable. And while it has a Gorilla Glass 6 display, there’s no IP Rating for water or dust protection. Unfortunately, the phone’s design seems to preclude it from offering these features, so you’ll want to handle it with care and keep it in the case when you’re not using it.
Network Performance and Audio
The ROG Phone 3 is unlocked and supports LTE bands 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/18/19/20/25/26/28/29/30/32/34/38/39/40/41/42/48/66/71. 5G is supported on bands N1/N2/N3/N5/N28/N41/N66/N71/N77/N78/N79. LTE should work on every US carrier, and you should get sub-6GHz coverage on AT&T and T-Mobile. The phone doesn’t support faster mmWave 5G, however.
Speeds on Verizon’s LTE network were solid. Our tests averaged 71.6Mbps down and 48.7Mbps up. We haven’t yet been able to test the phone on a 5G network, but will update this section when we do.
Dual-band Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi 6 are supported, as is Bluetooth 5.1. There’s also NFC with support for mobile payments and boarding passes.
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Call quality is excellent. All of our test calls were crystal clear, and noise cancellation worked well. Earpiece volume maxes out at 86dB, which is loud enough to carry out a conversation on a busy street without any problems.
The large, front-facing Dirac-tuned stereo speakers are excellent. Peak volume comes in at 92dB and produce some of the best sound we’ve heard from a smartphone. Bass sounds natural, treble is defined, and there’s none of the distortion we’ve become accustomed to from smartphone audio.
The phone also has several software features that allow you customize sound profiles based on what you’re listening to. And if you use a ROG headset, there’s an exclusive Game mode that enhances stereo quality.
The ROG 3 Phone is the first smartphone we’ve tested with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ chipset and an overclocked Adreno 650 GPU. There’s 512GB of UFS3.1 storage, of which 491GB is available out of the box. Our test unit has 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, though there’s also a 12GB model.
The phone will have no problem chewing through just about any task you throw at it. We never encountered any lag over hours of use with dozens of apps and Chrome windows open simultaneously. And while that’s largely due to the excellent hardware, there’s something to be said about software optimization as well.
In terms of benchmarks, the ROG Phone 3 is the fastest Android handset we’ve tested. It managed a Geekbench 5 single-core score of 997 and multi-core score of 3,475, for a slight improvement over the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (911/3,240).
The phone has a massive 6,000mAh battery. During our power drain test, in which we ran streaming video over Wi-Fi with the display set to 60Hz at full brightness, the phone lasted 12 hours and 34 minutes, once again slightly better than the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (12 hours, 4 minutes). Of course, you can expect the battery to drain faster when playing games and using higher refresh rates.
When you find the phone running low on juice, it supports QuickCharge 4.0 and comes with a 30W charger. We were able to charge a depleted battery to 58 percent in just over 30 minutes. That said, the phone doesn’t support wireless charging, which is a disappointing omission.
The ROG Phone 3 is made for gaming, so we subjected it to hours of testing with Asphalt 8 and PUBG: Mobile. We created customized profiles for the games in X mode, an app that allows you to create individual game profiles, customize speed settings, and see overall performance.
We also mapped on-screen buttons and set up the aforementioned AirTriggers, which are a vast improvement over similar triggers we’ve seen on other gaming phones, including ROG models. While previous AirTrigger iterations were basically ultrasonic shoulder buttons that responded to taps, the updated sensors here are capable of much more—they can be partitioned into multiple buttons, respond to slide gestures, and even be used as a continuous trigger button if you hold your finger on them.
Like previous ROG phones, the ROG Phone 3 is bundled with an AeroActive Cooler, a fan made primarily for times when you’re charging the phone during gameplay.
The back of the phone is home to three camera sensors. The primary sensor comes in at 64MP with an f/1.8 aperture, and supports quad-pixel binning for super-sharp 16MP photos. There’s also an 13MP ultra-wide lens
with an f/2.4 aperture, and a 5MP macro lens with an f/2.0 aperture. The front-facing camera clocks in at 24MP with an f/2.0 aperture.
The primary and wide-angle lenses performed well in daylight testing. Our test photos had excellent depth of field and color accuracy. There was some loss of fine detail, but it was only apparent when examining the images at full size. The macro lens, on the other hand, produced flat photos with mushy detail.
In low light, the primary lens did a decent job. Some of the test images appeared flat, but there wasn’t significant noise and colors remained accurate. The wide-angle lens had noticeable noise and lens flare in nearly all of our photos.
The front-facing camera did well in good light. Nearly all of our selfies featured crisp foreground detail and excellent color accuracy. In portrait mode the bokeh was natural, but there were a few monochromatic photos where we noticed slight edge blurring.
In low light, the selfie camera stuttered. Test shots were flat and muddy, and aggressive noise cancellation created some unnatural blurring in the foreground.
The ROG Phone 3 runs Android 10. When you first set it up, you’re presented with the option to use ROG UI or ZenUI. Both are excellent skins that are near-stock versions of Android with additional optimizations. If you opt for the gamer-centric ROG UI, you get OptiFlex, an AI system that manages memory and recommends apps based on your usage profile.
With the exception of Facebook, Google Stadia, Instagram, and Netflix, there isn’t much bloatware on the phone. There is, however, Armoury Crate, which helps you organize your games and create profiles for each one. There’s also Game Genie, which allows you to tweak notification and performance settings, and even stream your gaming sessions over YouTube Live.
Asus hasn’t confirmed whether the ROG Phone 3 will receive an update to Android 11 when it comes out, but we think it’s a pretty safe bet.
The ROG 3 Phone looks like a top-notch phone for gamers, with powerful hardware complemented by strong audio, a buttery smooth display, genuinely useful AirTrigger buttons, and thoughtful software. Depending on how much Asus decides to charge for it when it comes out in September, it could wind up being a solid phone for non-gamers, as well. We’ll update this story with more testing and information as it comes out, so make sure to check back.
Asus ROG Phone 3 Specs
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+
|6.8 by 3.1 by 0.4 inches
|2,340 by 1,080 pixels
|Camera Resolution (Rear; Front-Facing)
|64MP, 13MP, 5MP; 24MP