Asus’ Power Play

Unveils new smartphone for mobile gaming enthusiasts

Taiwanese manufacturer Asus isn’t a major player in the global smartphone market, but it’s trying to make a mark with niche devices. The card it has up its sleeve is its Republic of Gamers sub-brand. Usually referred to simply as ROG, this brand makes a line of hardware popular with gamers. In 2018, Asus used this popularity to make a splash in the phone business with its ROG Phone. Here’s an update.

Last week, Asus unveiled its next-generation gaming smartphone called the ROG Phone 2. It’s certainly an impressive device, but aimed at a particular audience (see In Search of the Long Tail).

The new ROG Phone 2 pushes the boundaries of what’s expected from a gaming smartphone. It’s powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset along with an Adreno 640 graphics processing unit, 12GB of RAM — which seems to be trending among very high-end smartphones — and 512GB of storage. The Snapdragon 855 Plus is a new variant of Qualcomm’s chipset that upgrades the clock speed on the CPU and particularly on the graphics processor. The more powerful graphics performance of the chip brings a healthy upgrade to the experience.

Pre-orders for the ROG Phone 2 opened in China on 23 July. The device is available for 6,000 yuan (about $870) for a version with 12GB of RAM, and there’s also a Tencent Games Edition, with 8GB of RAM, for a retail price of 3,500 yuan (about $510). The phone will debut worldwide in the first week of September 2019. International pricing hasn’t been confirmed, but the original ROG phone cost $900.

What seems to make the new ROG Phone 2 stand out from other devices is its new, improved thermal dissipation capabilities and its claims of sustained performance. The company says the phone can maintain its peak performance significantly better than other smartphones, with much less degradation from thermal throttling.

Asus also claims that it has vastly boosted the touch latency compared with any other smartphone. For players, latency of any sort interferes with the gaming experience. The screen has received a major upgrade with its 6.59-inch, 1080-pixel OLED panel featuring an integrated fingerprint sensor, support for 10-bit high dynamic range, and a refresh rate of 120Hz designed to improve fluidity and smoothness.

The new phone comes with a 6,000 mAh battery that Asus claims can deliver up to seven hours of continuous gaming. It also supports Asus’ 30W ROG HyperCharge and Quick Charge 4.0. For users who know how quickly games like PUBG Mobile and Fortnite Mobile can kill a phone’s battery, this extra battery capacity will be a welcome addition.

The phone sports three cameras in total, with a dual camera set-up on the back including a 48-megapixel Quad-Bayer sensor along with a 13-megapixel ultrawide-angle lens. There’s also a 24-megapixel selfie camera on the front of the device.

Similar to the original ROG Phone, Asus will offer a family of accessories for its new device. The ROG Phone 2 comes with a dual USB-C port on the side of the device to which accessories can connect while charging at the same time. Putting the port on the side also means the cable is less likely to get in the way when playing.

Phones like this are optimized for games such as PUBG and Fortnite. A growing number of studios are developing mobile games supporting such 120 Hz displays, so there could be a market developing here, with Asus and Razer breaking ground, but it’s unquestionably a relatively small niche.

That said, at a time when the smartphone industry has become a homogeneous market for consumers it’s certainly nice to see something fresh come along. As mobile gaming reportedly now accounts for almost half of the total gaming market worldwide, there’s clearly some potential for growth for highly specialized devices like the ROG Phone 2.