Sometimes, it pays to specialize. For many phones gaming tends to be an afterthought, considering that most people need one for social or communication reasons rather than as a handheld console. With the new ROG Phone 5, ROG is looking at the growing number of mobile gamers and making sure they can do so at the height of luxury.
Thanks to our friends at ROG we got to check out not only the ROG Phone 5, but also the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate, which releases a month after the regular ROG Phone 5. For the most part these phones are the same, except for a few key features such as the phone’s dot matrix back display as well as its superior memory.
ROG Phone 5 Series Specs
|Display||6.78″, 2448×1080 144 Hz|
|Chipset||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G|
|RAM/ROM||8/128GB 12/256GB 16/512GB (Ultimate Edition Only)|
|Camera||64MP Main sensor, 13 MP Ultra-wide, Macro. Front camera 24MP|
|Dimensions and Weight||173 x 77 x 10 mm, 237g|
The new ROG Phone 5 has a 6.78″ display, which is pretty great for both gaming and watching videos. It’s enough to fit most kinds of mobile games, and high resolution (1080p) enough that any buttons like character skills don’t become pixelated blurs for you to accidentally hit.
On top of that it supports a 144Hz refresh rate, which is great for gaming. Considering its designed by ROG that’s not too surprising that they’d pivot that way, but it’s a great addition nonetheless for your phone to know that it supports high framerates, letting you avoid annoying bottlenecks that would otherwise require a new machine entirely.
It should be noted that while it’s always great to have a high refresh rate display for your phone, most mobile games don’t run at more than 60, so this is purely future proofing on the phone’s own end.
I’ve always really liked the ROG phone aesthetic, which kind of laughs in the face of increasingly minimalist phones. the ROG Phone 5 has the ROG logo on its back, acting as an RGB aura light display making it look good next to other ROG products like their line of laptops.
The ROG Phone 5 Ultimate however has the customizable Dot Matrix Display, letting you do all kinds of cool art to show on the back of your phone. It’s customizable via the Armoury Crate app, so whether its RGB lighting or making a pixel-art display of your name you can easily flex your individuality with this phone.
On top of that the phones just overall have a nice design to them, with the Ultimate in particular looking straight out of an anime with its panel-lining. Like I mentioned it’s especially great when you consider how many phones have gone all minimalist, so having one just let you pretend you were in a mecha anime is an especially nice fantasy.
It’s also got a bunch of profiles based on your needs, such as the powerful X mode that lets you run more demanding games, or the low-consumption Durability Mode which caps certain features but keeps your phone running longer. These can all be toggled between at will, and is great since your phone is so much more than just a hand-console nowadays.
With the ROG Phone 5 series, you’d be remiss if you didn’t talk about how it plays games. It’s in the name, after all. Games look really good on the phones’ display, and the already high specs of the baseline ROG Phone 5 mean there’s not that much of a difference between it and the Ultimate, since both phones play games like small laptops.
One really neat feature is the eSports mode, letting you turn off all notifications with ease. As a working adult, you can imagine how frustrating it is when you’re really deep in your game and suddenly you get a text about something like buying groceries or an unfunny meme blocking your screen. It’s especially great for content creators, since you can set up shortcuts for recording your gameplay, too.
When it comes to actual gaming, it’s no slouch either. As with the other phones we’ve reviewed we tried out Genshin Impact, one of the best games to use to benchmark a phone thanks to its big open world, interactive objects and fast gameplay.
The ROG Phone 5 worked out pretty well, maintaining an above-50 framerate through the session. The framerate doesn’t go that much higher using the performance-enhancing X Mode, though, so unless you’re okay with carrying around the cooler don’t expect huge performance boosts there.
One feature that’s pretty much only useful for gaming is the ROG Phone’s Air Triggers. These can be set up using the Game Genie app, letting you essentially have invisible shoulder buttons off the top of your phone. It’s great since you won’t have to worry about having your fingers block out the screen, and you’ll be holding your phone more like a controller.
One game that really benefits from the Air Triggers is Call of Duty Mobile. It almost feels unfair how much more flexible you are once you’re not squeezing all your fingers on the screen at once, since now you can walk, aim and shoot all the same time. Meanwhile the ROG Phone 5 runs the game really well, never running into any frame drops or texture problems.
While the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate has much higher RAM compared to the reguler ROG Phone 5 (18GB vs the regular’s 16) you don’t really notice it in the gameplay since many mobile games are optimized to be able to run on much lower-end phones. But the one bonus with the Ultimate’s insane memory is that you’ll definitely not have to worry about other apps causing your game to freeze up, since the phone’s RAM makes it a godsend for chronic multitaskers.
One thing to note is that the ROG Phone 5 series uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G Chipset, which does give it huge boosts to gaming performance, especially with features like DLSS to let you render objects more efficiently, boosting the performance of the device. Overall the phone tends to not heat up too badly when you’re not using X mode, so it’s pretty great for just casually playing when you’re on the train.
The display is also really responsive, which leads to a great feeling especially when you’re trying to dodge out from enemy gunfire or annoying Abyss Mages. I don’t have exact numbers but it’s great that you don’t see the game’s virtual joystick lagging behind you when you press it to move.
Just Phone Things
As a phone though, the ROG Phone 5 is pretty serviceable too. It’s got a great battery life, showing that the age of gaming phones burning themselves out like a college grad are well and truly over.
On top of that it’s got speakers on the top and bottom of the ROG phone, which is clear when you’re alone and just wanna watch funny videos without having to grab your headphones. I’m also really glad that ther ROG phone 5 comes with a 3.5mm jack, since that allows you to basically just grab your regular PC headphones and use those instead of having to go through the song and dance of pairing bluetooth headphones in. It’s a welcome feature, since it also reduces the random chance of audio quality deteriorating from interference.
The ROG Phone 5 also has a pretty impressive battery, clocking in at 6000 mAh. It’s also built to be able to run your games longer, getting in 5 hours of Genshin Impact before you start needing to look for a charging cable. Considering that’s running a whole dedicated game, the battery should see you through regular day to day use without having to worry about keeping it topped up.
The camera is also nothing to laugh at, since it’s a pretty decent 64MP image sensor. You can take a variety of really cool photos thanks to both its Ultra-Wide setting for big outdoor vistas, as well as its Macro lens for small objects like figurines.
I’m an especially big fan of the Night Mode, which does a really good job of making sure you can see all manner of details even at night. It’s really neat for anyone vlogging especially, since you won’t have to worry about not being able to see anything just because you’re walking out at night.
There’s also some really neat things you can do with the phones’ chipsets, such as an AR mode that lets you have futuristic UI track along with your head. It’s a neat parlor trick, and I’m waiting for more applications to come up with creative uses for it.
All in all, the ROG Phone 5 and ROG Phone 5 Ultimate feel like the height of luxury in your phone. From the programmable aura lighting, the dot matrix display and the RAM that puts some laptops to shame, this is a phone you get to make a statement.
It’s definitely to the pricier end, but I think if borderline excessively powerful specs are your jam that price tag is totally worth it. One benefit not really talked about much is just how future-proof it is. Mobile games aren’t likely to have too huge a technology leap in the coming years, so chances are this will be one of the best gaming phones on the market for a while. And that’s saying something.
I gotta hand it to ROG though, they’ve made it real easy to answer questions from parents like “what’s the best phone for gaming” with this one.
Additionally, if you’re interested, ROG recommends the following accessories to really kick up your experience a notch.
- ROG External Fan : This lets you run your phone in X Mode for longer by keeping it cool, even boosting performance thanks to the improved airflow.
- ROG Cetra Core 2 Headset: Naturally, you’ll want to enjoy yourself on trains and the like with a pair of earphones.
- ROG Kunai Gamepad 3: For those of us who want a tactile sensation, the Kunai makes sure that you get the satisfaction of pressing actual buttons. Also great for having more screen real estate to appreciate visuals.
The phones are slowly being made available for pre-order, with the ROG Phone 5 being available this week as of time of writing and the Ultimate Edition heading to stores in May of this year.
Review units provided by ROG Malaysia. The ROG Phone 5 provided was the 16GB /256GB model (RM3799) while the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate Edition retails for RM4999.