The ROG Phone 2 was already the most successful gaming smartphone. His successor raises the bar even further. If the design of the ROG Phone 3 is wiser, the technical sheet, it forgets this false modesty thanks to the most powerful platform to date. But it’s not always about power. So what is the ROG Phone 3 worth? Answer in this test.
The Asus ROG Phone series is the sweetest dream a gamer can hope to have. We remember with pleasure the ROG Phone 2 of 2019. If you are not part of this video game generation, you might be tempted to go your way and head for a more “mainstream” proposition like the Samsung Galaxy S20 or the Huawei P40 to name only Android platforms. Design very marked by the history of the Republic of Gamers brand (acronym for ROG). Interface rich in tools related to gaming. Complete ecosystem of gaming accessories.
ROG Phone 3, presented today as promised, could almost change your mind. High-end model with a foolproof technical sheet, this smartphone is also visually wiser, more discreet and more accessible. The idea of Asus is simple: If you’re a gamer, the ROG Phone 3 will be your new gaming companion, able to follow you everywhere. But the smartphone doesn’t mean to deny the fact that video games don’t have to be 100% of your life. So it also has to be a great smartphone. Is that the case ? This is what we will find out throughout this test.
Technical Sheet :
|Model||ROG Phone 3|
Full HD definition
resolution 391 pixels per inch
144Hz refresh rate
|Chipset||Snapdragon 865+ (7nm)|
Zen UI ou ROG UI
|RAM||12/16 GB LPDDR5|
|Main sensor||512 GB UFS 3.1|
|64 MP IMX686 de Sony f/1.8, autofocus PDAF
13 MP f/2.0 grand-angle 125°
5 MP f/2.0 macro
|Selfie sensor||24 MP|
30W quick charge
|Connectivity||Bluetooth 5.1, WiFi 6, NFC|
|Biometrics||Fingerprint reader under the screen|
|Audio||Dirac optimized double front loudspeaker
No 3.5mm jack (USB Type-C to 3.5mm jack adapter included) on phone, but in separately supplied fan
Price And Release Date :
To perform this test, we received the best-equipped ROG Phone 3 (with 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage) for testing. This version is marketed at 1275 dollars and it replaces the Ultimate version of ROG Phone 2, which was sold for 100 dollars less. The rest of the datasheet is identical. It is sold for about 1160 dollars. And it replaces the Elite version of ROG Phone 2.
The price of the ROG Phone 3 is therefore lower than the flagships of more well-known brands. Whether it’s Apple with the iPhone 11 Pro, Oppo with the Find X2 Pro and the Samsung with the 5G versions of the classic Galaxy S20, Plus and Max. Even the Mi 10 Pro and the OnePlus 8 Pro are not necessarily cheaper: the Mi 10 Pro, equipped with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, and the OnePlus 8 Pro, with 12 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. , are sold at 1160 dollars. The ROG Phone 3 therefore offers more for the same price.
The ROG Phone 3 is available worldwide for pre-order from July 23, 2020. It will be on sale in early August both on the Asus site and at certain brands: Boulanger, Fnac, Darty and LDLC. Finally, you will certainly see articles on a “Strix” version of the ROG Phone 3. This one comes with a Snapdragon 865, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. It will not be marketed in France. Players who pre-order the ROG Phone 3 will be entitled to a pair of ROG Cetra Core headphones and 3 months of free Stadia subscriptions.
The ROG Phone takes almost identical dimensions of its predecessor. The reason for this choice is simple: the backward compatibility of the old accessories with the new phone… and vice versa, since the majority of ROG Phone 3 accessories are compatible with the ROG Phone 2. Go to the accessories section of this test for more information. more information on this.
The ROG Phone is gargantuan. It is bigger than the Galaxy S20 Ultra. 17.1 cm in length. 7.8 cm wide. Almost a centimeter in thickness. And a weight of 240 grams on the scale. It is, along with the ROG Phone 2, the heaviest smartphone among those that have been tested on our site. Here is a smartphone which, in conventional use, will not suit all hand sizes. Even among those with the biggest “paws” in the newsroom, reaching every corner of the screen is a challenge. Imagine when you add a protective shell to it.
ROG Phone 3 is the same size as its predecessor, but you might notice some subtle design differences. The ROG Phone 3 is less marked “gamer”, like the latest PC for gamer from the Taiwanese brand. This is in response to a request from the user community that gamers are not just gamers. And a gaming smartphone is therefore not just a gaming smartphone … but also a phone.
As a result, the design is wiser (mat will even say some). At the rear, the number of lines on the hull have been reduced to their bare minimum. The “window” part, which gives a partial view of the interior of the phone (you can see the heat sink there), has been reduced. Close to this window you can see the ventilation. The photo block, which now has three slots, is more prominent. The ROG logo, illuminated by an LED, is still present, as well as the second LED, which can light up some customizable cases, also survived. It is visible next to the flash and the first secondary microphone (there are three to accompany the primary microphone). This is more useful for video shots.
Let’s continue the owner’s tour with the slices. On the left edge, you will find the proprietary connector for accessories. The black part of this connector is a USB Type-C port which can be used as such for headphones, charging or the 3.5mm jack dongle. You will also find on this section the SIM drawer (without memory extension port). This drawer has been moved from one end of this border to the other.
On the other hand, on the right edge (above), you find the power button colored in red (the only ergonomic fancy according to Asus), the volume control, the second secondary microphone (which is used to converse when the phone is in landscape orientation) and the two “AirTrigger”. As with the ROG Phone 2, Asus has integrated two tactile keys with ultrasonic sensors and pressure measurement. Out of play, AirTrigger serves as a shortcut for system functions. In-game, you can assign certain functions to AirTrigger. These tactile keys already existed in the ROG Phone 2. They have been improved to support new movements (side slides and double virtual buttons).
At the upper and lower edge, you find separations for the antennas. And on the top edge is the third and last secondary microphone (for active noise reduction). On the bottom one, you find the classic USB type-C port and the main microphone. In the front, surrounding the touch screen, you will find two fairly wide borders. Each of them houses one of the two front speakers. The upper border also has the various usual sensors: selfie, proximity, brightness, etc.
The smartphone shell is still mineral glass (Corning Gorilla 6 on the front and Gorilla 3 on the back) on the faces and aluminum on the sides. The design of the mobile is such that it is not waterproof. Not even certified against splashes. Asus explains that this would have changed the dimensions of the phone and lessened the heat dissipation capabilities. It is therefore a smartphone that will perfectly accompany gamers, but not necessarily backpackers. For them, the ROG Phone 3 is really not a good choice.
When it comes to video games, the display is very important. It is he who brings what the designers have come to life. We have therefore observed this display from every angle. Like the one on the ROG Phone 2, the ROG Phone 3‘s screen measures 6.59 inches. The backlight is AMOLED. The definition remains Full HD + (1080 x 2340) and the resolution is 391 pixels per inch. This is still enough to play. On the other hand, it sometimes lacks that little “ultra-precise” side of a QHD + screen, like that of the Galaxy S20. The choice of Full HD + is however very wise: the images are smoother and the battery life is better.
Conversely, Asus prefers to improve the cooling of the panel. What was then seen as a power-hungry gadget became standard at the high end. Many phones offer a 90 Hz or 120 Hz screen, especially at the top of the range. A year later, Asus is trying to set a new standard with a refresh rate of 144Hz. Of course, you don’t have to go down that road. The smartphone offers different settings: 60 Hz, 90 Hz, 120 HZ and 144 Hz. Note that there is also a setting that automatically adapts the refresh rate according to the content. In addition, Asus has signed partnerships with game publishers to justify the rate at 144Hz. The excellent Dead Cells is just one of the games that takes advantage of it. Find the latter in the performance part of this test.
The screen has a refresh rate of 270Hz. This means it checks 270 times per second if you are not touching it. The result: ROG Phone 3 is very fast and very responsive. The latency announced by Asus is 25 milliseconds. We haven’t measured that number. But the impression of fluidity is omnipresent in use.
The maximum advertised brightness is 650 nits. We couldn’t verify this figure, but we had no difficulty using the phone in broad daylight. The screen ratio 19.5 / 9th. This means that movies and games will be displayed with a slight black stripe (at the top and bottom in the first case and on the sides in the second) when the phone is in landscape mode. The panel, TÜV Rheinland certified against blue light, is HDR10 + compatible. According to Asus, the Delta E (the difference between the standard color and the displayed color) is less than 1. The colorimetry does indeed seem fair enough (especially since it is customizable thanks to the Splendid menu). We will update this test with the results obtained with a probe.
Under the screen hides an optical fingerprint reader. Not always very fast, it even happens to have some reading difficulties, especially in the phases of learning a new fingerprint. However, once a fingerprint is properly saved, ROG Phone 3 recognizes it quite easily. We much prefer this solution to facial recognition which, relying on a single sensor, remains a solution that can easily be cheated.
Performance plays a key role in ROG Phone 3. It’s not just a marketing argument or a sales positioning. Everything is done to ensure that the smartphone is powerful, fast and responsive. The mobile has a Snapdragon 865+ clocked up to 3.1 GHz. This chipset does not include a 5G modem, Qualcomm having chosen to deport it outside the component. Why ? Because of the heat. An overclocked chipset already heats up a lot. A 5G modem is also a great source of heat. Combine the two and you’ve got a remake of the Snapdragon 810, infamous for causing a few crashes because the builders failed to tame its fiery temper.
To contain this dual heat source, Asus has equipped the ROG Phone 3 with a complete solution. First you find a heat sink, like in the ROG Phone 2. A small part is visible from the window of the case (see above). That of the ROG Phone 3 is six times wider than that of its predecessor. This heat sink is directly connected to a ventilation next to the window. It is also connected to the aluminum outline of the smartphone which passively participates in heat management. Behind the motherboard, you also find a steam chamber which circulates hot air to a graphite film placed behind the screen. Finally, let’s not forget AeroActive Cooler 3, an accessory delivered with the mobile. This incorporates a fan which expels the hot air coming from the ventilation of the hull. It is supplied by the side proprietary port.
Heat dissipation is important for two reasons. The first is to prevent overheating, of course. The second is to maintain the performance of the phone and avoid the “throttle” effect (jerks that temporarily reduce performance until the chipset has returned to a moderate temperature). Asus has designed the ROG Phone 3 so that performance is intact throughout a game session of 30 minutes (or more). In reality, there is a slight decrease. By successively testing the mobile with AnTuTu, we note a slight inflection in the scores. But, unlike other phones, the ROG Phone 3 maintains good performance throughout the test, even when Mode X (performance mode) is activated.
Other platform highlights: The ROG Phone 3 tested here comes with 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, the fastest yet, and 512GB of UFS 3.1 storage, the fastest too. Add to that a fuel-efficient Full HD + display, but a variable refresh rate that can go up to 144Hz, and you’ve got the most powerful phone ever. The ROG Phone is the second business model to surpass the 600,000 point mark on AnTuTu, after Oppo’s Find X2 Pro. And not just a little. However, we failed to hit 650,000 points like Asus in its internal tests. We weren’t far from it either (note that whether or not certain network services are enabled may explain this discrepancy). You can find above some tests carried out with the mobile.
Autonomy And Recharging :
With so much power under the hood, ROG Phone 3 has every interest in offering a battery with plenty of capacity. And it is: the smartphone takes the 6000 mAh battery of its predecessor, offering two days of autonomy in mixed use (calls, surfing the Internet, music and … a little game anyway). Of course, the more you play, the lower the battery life will be. Be aware, however, that the ROG Phone 3 exceeds 9 hours of Call of Duty Mobile continuously. This means that this smartphone should be able to accompany you throughout your day, even in intensive use. It’s a great performance.
Of course, the operating system incorporates power consumption profiles to optimize this generous battery. For example, you can suspend background apps while gaming, or reduce platform performance when you’re not playing. The operating system detects greedy applications that are present in the background in order to close them. You can also choose times when the smartphone activates energy saving modes on its own.
ROG Phone supports fast charging. The maximum power of this load is 30 watts. It will take you 45 minutes to charge it to two-thirds. And a little less than an hour and a half to fully charge it. The battery manager also includes tools to adopt better charging habits, in order to reduce wear. Carry out slow loads (therefore longer) to avoid placing too much strain on the energy cells. Schedule recharges according to your habits. Or, set a charging limit of 80% or 90% (of course at the expense of battery life).
Interface And Customization :
Interface side, Asus is not here either in simplicity. At the launch of ROG Phone 3 (but also after if that does not suit you), you will have the choice between ZenUI and ROG UI. The first overlay is the one you find on all ZenFones and whose ergonomics are close to Android Stock. The second is the exclusive ROG Phone overlay, with live wallpapers and bold design. There is no functional difference between the two “overlays”: you find the same applications and the same settings. ZenUI is considered by the system as a simple theme. Note that some accessories (such as customizable cases) come with an exclusive theme.
If you opt for an ROG theme with stylized icons (two preinstalled themes), you will be entitled, by default, to an animated wallpaper that changes depending on the state of X Mode. And if enabled, the screen background is red. Also if it is disabled, it is blue. Note that the interface has two basic live wallpapers and several static backgrounds. You cannot opt for an animated background (with change of state depending on Mode X) with ZenUI. In addition, the theme store accessible from the Settings menu will not offer you the same aesthetic options if you are under ROG UI or ZenUI …
In use, the ROG UI interface is similar to ZenUI and Android. Two default home screens, one screen for the news feed. A clock widget, Google Search, Google Play and the Google Mobile Services suite on the first screen. Asus and third-party applications on the second. An application drawer with an integrated search engine. A notification area and quick settings. Google Assistant accessible with a long press on the usual “Home” button. You can choose to navigate with the classic virtual keys or with the advanced gestures built into Android 11. Nothing unusual, other than the futuristic look.
Asus enriches its interface with some important applications and parameters. First stop: the quick setting area. Besides the usual buttons, you will find Mode X, AirTriggers, System Lighting. The first is to activate the eponymous mode. The second activates the ultrasonic areas of the wafer. The last one illuminates the logo on the back of the phone. Also note the presence of Battery Modes, which replaces Energy Saving, and Multi-Window to activate the eponymous mode here too. You can add others that are just as exclusive to ROG Phone: Fan, Refresh Rate, Assistant Audio.
Second stop: the Settings menu. Many settings have been added compared to those available in other, even high-end Android devices. In “Applications” you will find a more detailed manager which alerts you when one of them is consuming energy unnecessarily. At the “Sound and Vibrations”, you will find Audio Assistant to customize the audio rendering of the mobile (find more details in the audio part of the test). On “Battery”, you will find PowerMaster, the advanced battery manager seen previously in the autonomy part of the test. And in “Display”, you will find Splendid, which is used to adapt the colorimetry of the screen.
In “Advanced”, you can enable navigation gestures and AirTriggers keys. You will find the Mobile Manager (classic optimization suite), OptiFlex which optimizes the loading of applications, or Twin Apps, for users who have two different accounts on the same service. You will also find the setting of “Game Genie”, a menu that appears in some compatible games applications. This menu is used in particular to activate the live broadcast of a game on YouTube. For the rest, no big significant change.
Third stop: Asus applications. You will find, among other things, Galerie, an image manager that is sometimes more practical than Google Photos; File manager, to browse your files, create shortcuts to them and connect your mobile to your PC via the WiFi network (very, very practical); Calculator, with an excellent unit and currency converter. The Photo application is also customized. We will detail it in the photo part of our test.
Audio Experience :
On the audio side, the ROG Phone is interesting according to four points. First point, the ROG Phone has two front speakers. These two speakers deliver clear and powerful sound, whether watching a movie, playing a game, or calling someone. Sound is never obstructed by a finger or the palm of a hand, whether in landscape or portrait.
Second point, we previously noted the lack of a 3.5mm jack port. This port is however still used with the ROG Phone 3. First, the mobile comes with a USB Type-C to 3.5mm jack dongle. This dongle can be placed in any of the two USB Type-C ports, even the one on the side. And that’s a rich idea: in landscape orientation, the headphones no longer interfere with the right hand during gaming sessions. Then, a jack port is also present in the AeroActive Cooler 3.
Third point, the ROG Phone has four microphones, also mentioned above. Each of its microphones has a different role from the others. One is a classic microphone for conversations in portrait orientation. Another takes over this function in landscape mode. A third, placed next to the photo sensor, is used to capture the sounds when you take a video. And the last is dedicated to active noise reduction. ROG Phone 3 is therefore rarely caught off guard during an audio conversation. Besides, the sound is clear during calls for both parties.
The last point is the replacement of the partnership with DTS (since the first ROG Phone) by that with Dirac, developer of audio technology similar to DTS and Dolby. Asus justifies this choice by explaining that Dirac has left Asus more freedom to create richer spatial sound, whether with the two front speakers or with headphones (a little over ten models of Asus are compatible). We have seen richer sound with both speakers in multimedia applications (the Xperia 1 II, for example, offers a similar experience for movies). We were not able to test the differences obtained with any of the Dirac compatible headsets. If we have the opportunity, we will update this test.
Finally, note that the Audio Assistant is obviously back and is taking advantage of the partnership with Dirac. It allows music lovers to adjust the different audio frequencies according to their tastes. Profiles with presets will suit more amateur audiophiles.
Photo Quality :
Let’s move on to the photo. A high-end, modern smartphone should be good at photography. Without excelling like Huawei’s P line or Samsung’s S line, the ROG Phone 3 builds on the good results of ZenFone 6 and ROG Phone 2, while improving on some weaknesses. Not all of them, as we will be able to see. But the most important were. This is the first good news. Second good news, the photo interface is very complete. It includes the classic modes (photo, video, portrait, night, slow motion and fast motion, etc.), plus two manual or pro modes: one for photo (second to last on the right) and one for video (first on the left) . These two modes offer the same thing: access to the settings of the main sensor (exposure, white balance, aperture, etc.). Players who are also amateur photographers/videographers will find their accounts there.
The configuration of the ROG Phone 3 is this: a main sensor Sony Exmor IMX686 of 64 megapixels (definition of the photos by default of 16 megapixels in Quad-Bayer mode, but possibility of going to 64 megapixels) opening at f/1.8 with autofocus phase detection, a secondary 13 megapixel sensor opening at f/2.0 for panoramas (viewing angle of 125 °) and a final 2 megapixel sensor opening at f/2.0 for close-up macro photos. There is no optical zoom in the ROG Phone 3. Even an unfortunate 2x ratio is not offered. This is ROG Phone 3’s biggest flaw in photography.
The automatic mode takes beautiful shots when the light conditions are generous. The colors are well reproduced and the brightness controlled. There is contrast, but not too much. There are many details. This is a better than expected result. Be careful, when the light goes down, but night mode isn’t useful, ROG Phone 3 results are a bit dull. It is then necessary to play on the integrated tool to artificially increase the light (which risks degrading the color rendering). The zoom offered with the ROG Phone 3 is digital. In automatic mode, you have the choice between shooting in 1x ratio or 0.6x (panorama). If you spread your fingers, you access the digital zoom which goes up to 8x. You can see the digital zoom results here, which are far from bad, although the 8x ratio replaces details with noise.
The 13 megapixel sensor also offers beautiful panoramas, but is (unsurprisingly) less bright. You will also notice that the algorithm that corrects the distortion on the sides tends to degrade the detail where it worked. Which is a shame. The macro sensor is interesting, but could have been replaced with a more useful sensor, like a 2x optical zoom. It is accompanied by a dedicated shooting mode, the usefulness of which is not entirely clear here. Self-portraits are handled by a single 24-megapixel sensor opening at f/2.0. The latter offers self-portraits of good behavior, with many details and respected colors.
The portrait mode gives a very good rendering: the subject is perfectly isolated and the background fade is controlled. You can manually sharpen the aperture to enhance the bokeh. Portrait mode also includes tools to enhance portraits: skin softener or lightener, larger eyes, slimmer cheeks. These are filters that Asians use a lot. Note that portrait mode (including filters) is also accessible with the selfie sensor.
Night mode is available both in “automatic” mode (the default photo mode), when artificial intelligence detects that it is night, and in manual mode (in dedicated night mode). In the first case, you can turn off the night mode shooting or take advantage of an extended exposure time of 4 seconds. In the second case, the night mode is forced. The exposure time is 3 seconds by default, but can be increased to 5 seconds. Find below a comparison between 3s night mode, 5s night mode and without night mode.
Like its predecessor, ROG Phone 3 comes with a vast ecosystem of accessories. New versions of some of the accessories are available, most of which are compatible with ROG Phone 2. The Twinview Dock 3, whose integrated screen is 144 Hz compatible to be perfectly in line with the ROG Phone 3. The Kunai GamePad 2, which retains the same concept as the previous one, but refines the ergonomics. And ROG Clip (the accessory that lets you play with the ROG Phone 3 with a Stadia, PS4 and Xbox One controller). Having the full panoply is excessively expensive. If you only need to buy one, we recommend the Kunai Gamepad 2.
Note that the majority of them are backward compatible. This means that if you have invested in a ROG Kunai controller or in a Twinview Dock 2, you will be able to use them with the new model, thanks to the fact that the ROG Phone 3 takes the dimensions and the lateral connections of its predecessor. Note that the screen of the Twinview Dock 3 is 144 Hz compatible. But its refresh rate will be limited if you use the ROG Phone 2 with it. Likewise, the ROG Phone 3 will be limited to 120Hz if you plug it into the TwinView Dock 2.
Some accessories are provided in the phone box (see photos opposite). The first is the AeroActive Cooler 3, an active cooling system. This is the only accessory on ROG Phone 3 that is not compatible with ROG Phone 2 (note that the reverse is also true: the AeroActive Cooler 2 is not compatible with ROG Phone 3). This accessory has a triple function. It significantly improves the temperature drop of ROG Phone 3 (up to 4 degrees cooler). It removes one of the USB type-C ports while doubling as a 3.5 mm jack port. And it includes a removable stand to put the ROG Phone 3 on a table. Very, very, very practical for playing with a controller (like with a Switch) or for watching a movie.
ROG Phone 3 also comes with a USB Type-C to 3.5mm jack dongle, to compensate for the lack of a 3.5mm jack, a cover to protect the smartphone, the 30-watt fast-charging compatible wall socket and a USB type-C cable. Small note on this cable: it is reinforced with nylon, like mouse cables for gaming PCs. This is a cable that will never let you go!
Despite adopting a wiser design, the ROG Phone 3 remains, like its predecessor, a separate smartphone. He is the most powerful today, a stone’s throw from the (former) best. It might even stay that way until next year, pending the release of the first devices under Snapdragon 875 (or whatever Qualcomm’s next high-end chipset). Of course, the Snapdragon 865+ has something to do with it. But so are LPDDR5 and UFS 3.1. But not only: the possibility of dedicating all the resources to an application is another. Even more than its predecessor, the ROG Phone 3 crushes the competition in this area.
And the dominance of ROG Phone 3 isn’t just in performance. It is equipped with a battery and optimization tools to cope with this energy-intensive use. Thats offers an audio experience as interesting as that offered by DTS X and Dolby Atmos certified mobiles. It has a rich accessory ecosystem. Very rich. And its price is often below direct competition with a similar configuration.
Admittedly, its screen is not flexible. It’s not even curved. It is also not QHD + compatible. But it’s clearly the most fluid today. And the Full HD + definition, less greedy than QHD +, is more than enough. Admittedly, its camera is not the best, compared to Huawei, Samsung or Apple. And yet, Asus has nothing to be ashamed of and offers here one of the best photographic experiences in its catalog, with great qualities, day and night.
Its big flaws are inherent in its nature. He’s heavy. He is huge. It is difficult to use with one hand. And its design remains marked with the spirit of “gaming” which will not suit everyone. However, if you are a gamer, rest assured: if you have to choose a smartphone today to accompany you at the top of the global rankings of PUBG or Call of Duty Mobile, it is the ROG Phone 3 that it is. you need!