Asus ROG Phone 3, analysis and opinion

Gaming smartphones are increasingly present in the market, taking into account a growing interest on the part of users. We tell you our opinion in this analysis of the Asus ROG Phone 3, a gaming smartphone that can be used on a day-to-day

The idea of playing wherever and however you want is very close to mobile telephony that, practically since its inception, has been flirting with the integration of gaming features on its mobiles.

Asus, as one of the main players in the gaming scene, has taken smartphones very seriously as a gaming platform. This third-generation ROG Phone polishes the concept of an everyday smartphone with gaming capabilities.

At first glance, it's a ROG Phone 2 but refined

As usual, we started our analysis of the Asus ROG Phone 3 talking about the design of this gaming smartphone.

We are striking off the enormous resemblance it holds with the previous version and is that it practically uses the same chassis and repeats with its dimensions. This is a large smartphone. Very big.

Like the Asus ROG Phone 2, the ROG Phone 3 has dimensions of 171 x 78 x 9.85 mm, placing itself as one of the largest smartphones of 2020 and, without a doubt, one of the heaviest since for the scale at 240 grams.

It draws attention to its careful construction in which Corning Gorilla Glass 6 has been used both to protect the screen and the rear, this being one of the highlights at the design level.

It highlights three distinct elements. The first is the ROG logo with the Republic Of Gamers inscription, located in a position centred on the back that, when you turn on the terminal, lights up in customizable RGB colours.

On the other hand, Asus wanted to let the new cooling system be seen leaving a transparent area next to the logo in which part of the liquid cooling dissipation system is seen, as well as a small ventilation slot.

As you can imagine, the single presence of that ventilation slot overrides any option of IP protection against dust or splashes.

The last element that catches the eye on a back elegantly dressed in grey—at least for a gaming smartphone—is the camera module, which grows from the ROG Phone 2 to incorporate a third lens, but maintains the same shape and location.

If you're worried that your smartphone may slip out of your hands or scratch, Asus has included a lightweight case next to ROG Phone 3 that, while leaving the highlights on the back visible, prevents your smartphone from coming into direct contact with the surface of the places where you leave your smartphone and it may accidentally scratch.

The silhouette of the Asus ROG Phone 3 draws soft shapes that allow, despite being a large and heavy smartphone, to be gripped with some security without being uncomfortable in the hand.

If we move towards the edges of the terminal, the Asus ROG Phone 3 saves us some curious surprises. Unsurprisingly, on the right edge, we find the volume and power buttons, located at an adequate height despite the large size of the terminal.

If you look more closely at the ends of this side we discover a couple of inscriptions that read ROG or GOR (yes, conversely) that indicate the presence of Air Triggers or haptic triggers that emulate the operation of the L1 and R1 buttons on the game controllers, offering a better gaming experience.

On the opposite side, we find the tray for two SIM cards and, in the centre, a double connector that serves as an anchor point for the accessories or as a USB type C charging point to charge the smartphone more comfortably while playing with the mobile horizontally.

The upper edge has only one of the four microphones distributed by the terminal, while at the lower end we find a second microphone and another USB-C port shifted from the centre axis.

Perfectly integrated in the front we find a pair of speakers that guard the screen against its ends, offering a front stereo sound.

The screen has also not undergone major changes from the previous generation, at least in terms of frames. There is no trace of notch or on-screen perforations – which we appreciate – and it is offset by the asymmetrical top and bottom frame that double the thickness of the side frames to accommodate elements such as speakers, front camera or notification LED.

144 Hz AMOLED display that equates to esports monitors

Asus is one of the leading manufacturers of gaming components under the ROG brand, and wanted to bring all that experience to its mobile division by raising the 120 Hz bet mounted by ROG Phone 2, up to the 144 Hz offered by the Asus ROG Phone 3 that we are analyzing.

Instead of betting everything on resolution and mounting a higher resolution panel, ROG Phone 3 offers an alternative that has worked great on gaming monitors for esports.

For its 2020 gaming mobile, Asus has opted to maintain Full HD+ resolution (2,340 x 1,080 pixels) by raising the refresh rate to 144 Hz to deliver a smoother gaming experience and a 270 Hz tactile sampling rate to more quickly transmit movements to game.

This decision is supported by a 6.59-inch AMOLED display and a 19.5:9 format that provides good quality for gaming, showing vivid and intense colours, maintaining a good balance in blacks.

ROG Phone 3 comes with a good factory colour calibration, but since each user is a world, you can customize the hue and white balance of the screen from the screen settings in the Splendid option, which in our case we have chosen to set in the Natural option.

From these menus you can also adjust the refresh rate for the screen, being able to directly set that 144 Hz or opt for an automatic option that adjusts the refresh rate to the maximum allowed by the app you are currently using.

That way, you can save some battery by adjusting the refresh rate to lower values when the app doesn't support such high frequencies. This has been our preferred choice for the excellent balance between performance and battery savings it offers.

And how do we know if a game supports such a high refresh rate? Well, the smartphone itself offers a section in the Armoury Crate app a selection of titles catalogued based on the refresh rate it supports, so finding titles with which to squeeze this smartphone will be sewing and singing.

We are faced with one of the brightest screens in the high range of mobiles, showing really surprising values since it can offer an average of 907 luxes with peaks of up to 1,503 luxes when using HBM (High Brightness Mode) in very bright environments such as when used outdoors in full sun.

Snapdragon 865+, 12GB RAM and 512GB anybody gives more?

With the level of power offered by today's processors, virtually any mobile on the market is used to play. The big difference is that very few allow you to do so by making the most of the graphical features of the game.

In this sense, the Asus ROG Phone 3 comes armed to the teeth with the most powerful hardware on the market in all its aspects.

On the processor side, the Snapdragon 865+ takes care of giving joys and hours of fun with any game and with the graphics settings to the fullest. This version raises the processor frequency to an impressive 3.1 GHz.

When it comes to rendering graphics, the Adreno 650 GPU takes the lead in drawing scenarios of vertigo speeds that have allowed us to enjoy one of the best gaming experiences we have ever experienced in 2020.

Such a beast comes with 8, 12 or 16 GB of RAM depending on the version of Asus ROG Phone 3. In our case, Asus sent us the version that equips 12 GB of RAM and the experience has been totally fluid.

Needless to say, it is very difficult to saturate this smartphone. Even by opening a lot of apps, we have obtained a smooth experience and almost immediate game execution.

Benchmarks reflect theoretical performance in which ideal scenarios are emulated. However, these results reinforce our experience on a day-to-day basis, with a smartphone that can literally do anything.

This brutal performance has a high cost – which we will talk about later – as it is a rapid temperature increase gradually requiring higher performance.

Asus has improved the liquid cooling system by incorporating graphite components to improve heat extraction. Still, it is not enough to dissipate all the heat generated by the Snapdragon 865+ and shortly after starting to play you can already notice the increase in temperature.

A clear symptom of this is the inclusion of the AeroActive Cooler 3accessory, an external fan that connects to the ROG Phone 3 accessory port to help keep temperatures at bay.

We were surprised to discover that in the test bench the storage memory of the Asus ROG Phone 3 has not been so bright. Not that it's poor performance, on the contrary, it's rewarding to see how quickly apps open and files are stored.

Android 10 and software very oriented to the juiciest

An important part of this Asus ROG Phone 3 is the software. Asus maintains its strategy of not reloading the smartphone interface with a layer of customization too recharged to not undermine the user experience.

Asus gaming smartphone comes with Android 10 installed as standard on which runs a ROG UI customization layer that adds some slight brushstrokes in the form of specific options in the menus from which to configure hardware elements of this smartphone.

The user experience offered by this interface is basically that of any stock Android smartphone, with a simple and efficient interface.

One of those brushstrokes we referred to is what Asus has been naming as X Mode. This mode of operation completely changes the processor usage scheme by redirecting all smartphone resources to get the best performance. It's by activating this mode when ROG Phone 3 pulls out its claws and mercilessly executes any game or app no matter how demanding.

We also find options to customize the behaviour of Air Triggers, which not only allow you to adjust the intensity of the push but also allows you to set sliding functions or split the button to duplicate the functions.

We found it very interesting to integrate a "tightening" zone that reacts when we press the sides of the ROG Phone 3 while holding the mobile allowing us to perform a task such as activating the aforementioned X Mode or things as useful as quickly turning on the flashlight.

Cameras you didn't expect to find on a gaming smartphone

Photo performance is not a preference for someone considering using a gaming smartphone as a personal mobile. However, the Asus ROG Phone 3 we're analyzing can surprise our own and strangers by offering a photo quality we didn't expect.

Without creating false hopes, its performance cannot be equated to any of the high-end smartphones with which it is equated in price. However, it does offer enough photographic quality to be able to use in the day to day as the main smartphone.

The first thing we find is a fairly complete camera app in terms of photo and video shooting modes, but with the usual carousel structure on Android systems.

Mode shooting and selection options are concentrated at the bottom, while each mode's own options are located at the top. In essence, it's a pretty simple app to use, which is already a lot.

In addition to the automatic shooting modes for photo and video, we find manual shooting options for both disciplines, as well as different artistic modes such as Portrait mode, the mode that controls the shooting of the Macro lens or functions for the creation of Time Lapse and slow motion.

Among all these modes, probably the one that surprised us the most is the Night mode since not only does it not show a noticeable loss of image quality, but it improves photos in low light by applying a grouping of pixels and a very efficient photographic processing.

The Macro lens is the third in discord and, again, you can see a good intention from Asus for applying efficient processing and the photos are very useful when viewed on the smartphone screen, but when you take them out to an external monitor it shows its weaknesses with undefined edges.

6,000mAh with very changing autonomy

Being one of the largest smartphones on the market had to have some advantage, which is nothing more than having enough space to accommodate a generous battery.

In this sense, Asus ROG Phone 3 repeats capacity figures against last year's model with 6,000 mAh capacity. At first glance, it may seem like an exaggerated capacity, but we must not forget that we are facing one of the most powerful gaming smartphones of the moment. Performance and energy savings are not used to going hand in hand.

Even so, we have achieved a very remarkable autonomy even for high-performance hardware, obtaining screen times are around an average of 8 and a half hours with an average use that includes the use of social networks and mail, consumption of videos, we have taken photos and videos and, above all, we have played.

In this real-world usage scenario, we have kept the automatic brightness enabled, as well as adjusting the screen refresh rate to automatic for mobile decide when to increase the frequency rate.

On occasions when we have tested smartphone performance with more intensive gaming days, ROG Phone 3's range has dropped to 6-and-a-half hours or seven hours.

In a completely different scenario, with a much more thrifty profile, we have had no problems reaching the 10 hours of the screen in two days of use.

However, using a dynamic display frequency, which automatically changes depending on the app you use at any given time, has led to battery usage results vary against theoretically equal scenarios.

Within the Battery section of the settings menu, we find the PowerMaster application from which it is possible to adjust the battery behaviour by protecting it during the charging process with less intense charges or charges programmed during the night to avoid premature battery degradation.

Dual USB-C connector, 5G and a very top stereo sound

The Asus ROG Phone 3 comes equipped with all the connectivity you can ask of a high-end smartphone and even a little more gift.

Starting with the physical connections, the Asus ROG Phone 3 we're analyzing comes equipped with two USB Type-C ports, one at the bottom and one on the side.

Connectivity is maintained even with the cooling accessory installed as it provides a USB C port and adds a 3.5mm headphone jack that ROG Phone 3 lacks.

The wireless connectivity of this Asus ROG Phone 3is very complete, something that is specially enhanced with the Snapdragon 865+ processor that not only provides 5G and dual SIM connectivity but also brings some improvements associated with the increase in data transmission capacity under a WiFi 6 (802.11 axe) network.

NFC connectivity is also missing from the appointment allowing mobile payments and Bluetooth 5.1 with support for the aptX Adaptive codec that allows to consume low battery and improve latency when using a wireless headset.

In the sound section, the Asus ROG Phone 3 has two stereo speakers located at both ends of the smartphone, which provide a really spectacular sound both in volume and in very marked basses that surprise on a smartphone.

Having front speakers improves the gaming experience by making it more immersive. This can also be extrapolated to the experience that this smartphone offers when watching series and videos on mobile. 

A two-sided mobile: a tireless gamer and a smartphone for the day-to-day

We reach the end of this analysis of the Asus ROG Phone 3 with the conviction of having in our hands one of the most powerful mobiles we have ever tried... and it's been a few.

It would be quite a daring on my part to consider myself a gamer user because although I play some other game, this is by no means my main activity. Still, I haven't found myself uncomfortable using a smartphone so geared towards a type of gaming user.

Therefore, we could say that we are faced with a kind of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde, with a smartphone that lives a double life: under an elegant and well-topped appearance during the day and a real gaming beast at night.

Still, the Asus ROG Phone 3 is not a smartphone for everyone. But it is not because of its weight and dimensions, not because of its design or its RGB lights that being fully configurable leave a smartphone that can give a lot of play.

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