Asus has just introduced its third generation Republic of Gaming (RoG) smartphones — the ROG Phone 3 — in India. The timing of the launch seems pretty accurate, despite the difficult situation.
Several reports have confirmed that gaming activities, on mobile as well as with consoles, have picked up an unprecedented momentum during the Covid-19 pandemic as people have been forced to stay indoors during the lockdowns and practice mandatory social distancing protocols. A report from gaming analytics firm Newzoo shows the global video game market is forecast to be worth $159 billion in 2020, around four times box office revenues ($43 billion in 2019) and some three times the music industry revenues ($57 billion in 2019). The biggest market by revenue is Asia-Pacific with almost 50 per cent of the games market by value.
Priced ₹49,999, the ROG Phone 3 gaming smartphone sports an array of swashbuckling specs and features, starting with a 144 refresh rate, a super-powerful processor — the 3.1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus — and a massive 6000 mAh battery. Since there aren’t many gaming smartphones around in this market and given that India has seen an uptick in gaming consumption and the segment is expected to grow faster than the global average growth, the arrival of the Asus ROG Phone 3 becomes particularly interesting to watch.
In case you haven’t heard yet, according to a FICCI-EY 2020 report on ‘Media and Entertainment’, India’s online gaming segment is likely to grow faster than the global segment. In 2019, the segment rose 40 per cent to Rs 6,500 crore and the report says it will continue to grow at a robust clip of 43 per cent to hit Rs 18,700 crore 2022. So the market is alive and clicking.
The Asus ROG Phone 3 comes in a neat and compact package. The unboxing of the phone involves a nice augmented reality (AR) experience. After you’ve powered on the device, enter basic Android setup details and, then, you may scan the ROG totem on the side of the box cover. This action will trigger an AR experience and you’ll be asked to join the ROG Elite mission. This will allow you to be a part of the ROG Central social hub, which helps you avail a few brownies such as the ROG live wallpaper theme, Speed Machine. That’s indeed a nice touch to the whole unboxing experience, which is otherwise a routine exercise.
The phone is easy to hold thanks to the design and the back cover with enough grip. The Asus ROG phone comes with an 8GB RAM (LPDDR5/UFS3.1) which enables faster data transfer speeds. The in-built storage is of 128GB (which we had) and there is a 256GB variant as well. The device offers the popular NTFS support for external USB HDD. Files are transferred without much delay. The phone features an in-display fingerprint scanner which is fast and produces a nice animation when touched. A double-tap can bring it alive when the phone is locked.
The Asus ROG Phone 3 has a wide and large AMOLED display. The front panel measures 16.73 cm (6.59 inch) with a 19.5:9 ratio. It has a display resolution of 2340×1080 ( with a decent density of 391 pixels per inch). Asus has fitted the device with an impressive peer-beating 144 Hz refresh rate, which means you can play games with ease and without any lag. There is a 270Hz touch sampling rate (which means how fast the machine senses a touch on the screen) with 25ms touch latency and 18ms slide latency.
This is also one of the best faculties you can find in the market today. Very few devices, such as the new OnePlus 8, offer such fast touch sampling rates. This means you can play games fast and furious. In most mid-range phones touch latency becomes an issue right from the start and can be a real spoilsport. The Asus ROG Phone 3 offers a good response on that front.
The Asus ROG Phone 3 has a front panel supported by 2.5 D Corning Gorilla 6 Glass. Thanks to the 2.5 D factor, the glass panel has a nice contoured curvature at the edge. The capacitive touch panel with 10 points multi-touch also supports Glove touch. You can adjust the sensitivity in the settings. So if you are using the phone in the winter you may not have to compromise on the games. The HDR AMOLED display is true-to-life and does an impressive job while streaming ultra HD content. If you are a Netflix watcher this can easily be one of the best hand-held screen experiences you can get in this market today.
The display supports video playback of up to 1080 (60 FPS)K. It does play 4K or higher resolution video content but the output is capped at a maximum limit of 1080 (60 FPS). Which also means, if you are streaming video from YouTube, you won’t see resolution options beyond 1080 on the list. While playing ultra high definition content we have noticed that the display gets brighter and more saturated. Clearly, this is intended to give a better gaming experience but can be a bit of a nuisance while playing movies as some bright portions can bleed and blur. That said, the playback is simply seamless.
Processor and audio
One of the major forces behind the seamless display experience is the processor that the Asus ROG Phone 3 carries within. It has the 3.1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus SoC 5G Mobile Platform with 7nm, 64-bit octa-core processor
Backed by the graphic chip of Qualcomm Adreno 650. The 865+ 5G is built for delivering high-end mobile gaming and supports 5G, ultra-intuitive AI and faster WiFi. it improves power efficiency and overall performance boosting multitasking capabilities.
Clearly, the processor is the king here. Aided by the GPU, it helps the phone deliver extremely fast computing experience. Games run with impressive smoothness and you can keep opening tabs and yet the system does not lag in performance. We tested most popular games, such as Asphalt 9: Legends, PUBG Mobile, Raid: Shadow Legends, Sonic Dash 2, and so on. Everything ran nice and cosy.
The device has the power and volume controls on the right. The power button features a nice copper-red border that makes it stand apart. The device has a set of extra lightning ports on the mid-left side which can be used when the device is on the horizontal mode. Asus has supplied a stylish back case with the quintessential ROG design, which protects the device from falls and scratches. The device is water-resistant but the phone doesn’t have an IP rating for water and dust protection, which is not a lot to demand given the price.
This is inarguably one of the best phones in this price range when it comes to audio. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the audio experience from the built-in speakers — the dual front-facing speakers with GameFX and Dirac HD Sound. The seven-magnet stereo speaker comes with dual NXP TFA9874 smart audio amplifier for less distorted sound. The phone has a high-resolution audio output of 192kHz/24-bit standard (using USB-C) that is four times better than CD quality. It features the ROG GameFX audio system for improved in-game audio experience while gaming. The New AudioWizard with multiple listening profiles has been tuned by audio technology company Dirac.
The phone has four microphones with Asus’s own noise reduction technology, which makes calls and audio recording more accurate. The quad-microphone set up gives recording of interviews and concerts a near-studio quality. Short filmmakers and podcast producers will surely be impressed.
Premium camera experience
The Asus ROG carries a camera set up supported by a 64MP Sony IMX686 sensor with 0.8 µm pixel size and Quad Bayer filter (which was made popular by the likes of the Huawei P20 Pro) and F1.8 aperture for good landscape and profile shots. The rear camera unit also has a 13MP, 125˚ ultra-wide lens with F2.4 aperture. It has real-time distortion correction. The setup also has a 5MP macro lens with F2.0 aperture for portraits.
The camera output is quite impeccable. The camera clicks nice shots in daylight as well as under low-light. But it struggles a bit with autofocus, especially under low-light conditions. The photos have commendable honesty as they do not distort colours with unnecessary AI interventions. The camera features has the ability for motion-tracking, which can make it a good add-on for filmmakers and video journalists and vloggers. The camera auto-zooms while tracking the object. The motion-tracking capability is not very impressive in dimly lit environments but in daylight, it is a charm.
Another reason why short filmmakers will find the Asus ROG Phone 3 a useful companion is its ability to shoot videos in 8K and 4K HDR. The phone doesn’t let you shoot in low HD or below. The available options are in 8K (30 fps, 7680 x 4320), 4K HDR (3840 X 2160, 60 fps) and FULL HD (60 fps). The videos are of professional quality thanks to the impressive stabilisation faculties of the phone. You can shoot in HEVC mode for low file size and high-quality video. The shooter has good image stabilisation for motion video (4K at 120 fps; 1080p at 240/120 fps and 720p at 480 fps).
The front shooter set up has a 24MP lens with Quad Bayer technology, having an aperture of F2.0. It can shoot videos in FULL HD 1080p (30/60 fps) and 720p (30 fps). You can also take stills while recording video. The selfies are not doctored but we felt a little extra default saturation could have been better. With selfies, people generally expect a little exaggeration and true-to-life images are not really in vogue. That said, the image quality is of studio quality and can be used for making high-quality prints.
Battery, a disappointment
A major blemish with the Asus ROG Phone 3 is the battery performance. Despite sporting a massive 6000 mAh battery, the phone drains out easily after 5-8 hours of normal use (surfing, video playback and moderate gaming). Ideally, such a massive battery should equip the device to last longer — more than a day in ideal conditions, but the Asus ROG Phone 3 fares poorly on this front.
You’re advised to keep a powerbank aside if you are travelling and want to play games on the go. That this poor experience comes after having one of the most power-efficient processors in town is a tad disappointing. One reason could be the multiple gaming modes and options given which interfere with the performance of the phone unless the user takes time to sift through the options and disable them, which is a cumbersome process. The ASUS PowerMaster offers several options for battery optimisation, still, the battery performance is not up to the mark.
It is a fact that gaming phones are not bought just for playing games, especially in value-for-money-conscious markets such as India. Users expect such phones to excel at multitasking, offering impressive graphics performance and great battery life. On that count, the poor power efficiency of the phone is a bit worrisome.
That said the Asus ROG Phone 3 sticks to its famed legacy. It is a great phone that delivers a great seamless performance on all other fronts, from video to gaming to audio. No doubt, it can be a great companion not only for active gamers but also for vloggers, filmmakers and journalists.
Pros: Smooth, bright display; great processor, seamless performance, strong body, great camera, 8K video
Cons: Poor battery, too many confusing controls that can be a worry for non-gamers