Asus ROG Phone 5 with AeroActive Cooler 5 accessory. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)
Asus launched the ROG Phone 5 series in India on Wednesday. There are three new phones to boot. Asus has launched one ROG phone each year since 2018, so you can say that it is breaking from convention this year. There is the ‘regular’ ROG Phone 5 (the subject of this hands-on), ROG Phone 5 Pro, and ROG Phone 5 Ultimate—this is a limited-edition. The fact that there are more options to choose from is one reason why Asus chose to skip ROG Phone 4, the brand told Financial Express Online on the sidelines of the launch.
The other reason—and you can take Asus’s word for it—is that it changed a lot of things, especially on the inside, to make the fourth-generation of the ROG Phone stand out from everything else it had done before. “This is a ‘majorly’ new chapter which is why this was one of the key thought processes internally in the company to move from 3 to 5 directly to communicate this huge leap,” Asus India business head Dinesh Sharma said.
That leap has more to do with tangible real-world use cases rather than on something like say, the design. That is not to say the ROG Phone 5 does not have a new design, it does, and it comes in a new white colourway too—another first for the ROG Phone—in addition to signature black. You can also get it with a matte finish if you choose to go all out for the ‘Ultimate’ edition.
But regardless of all the changes—from a design perspective—the ROG Phone 5 is still a very familiar phone. You’d have to be no less than eagle-eyed to point out the subtle upgrades but, they are there nonetheless and mostly they are there for good. Asus has really worked hard on making it seem less of a giant and more ergonomic even though it is by no means, a small phone. If anything, it is even bigger—6.78-inch—than the ROG Phone 3.
“When it came to ROG Phone 5, we did not only make improvements in components, but we also changed the structural aspect of the phone significantly,” Sharma explained.
The phone has a new MMT design wherein the battery is split into two and the PCB is in the middle. By splitting the battery, Asus has tried to ensure that the battery temperature rise is lower and with the PCB in the middle, your hands won’t go there very often so you shouldn’t ‘feel the heat’. The fan is also now sitting right on top of the PCB.
While primarily intended for keeping the core hardware cool—Asus calls it GameCool 5 system—the re-engineered internals also entail a more even distribution of weight compared to the ROG Phone 3. It is ‘surprising’ that the ROG Phone 5 has exactly the same dimensions and the same 6,000mAh battery (that is split into two 3,000mAh units) and yet it feels sleeker to hold. At the same time, Asus has managed to also increase screen real estate and trimmed down the top and bottom bezels (by up to 25 percent)—without compromising on audio. Not only does the ROG Phone 5 pack the best sounding stereo speakers on any phone in the market today, Asus has also brought back the 3.5mm audio jack after it curiously went missing in the ROG Phone 3.
Coming to the design bit again, the thing that really stands out—this year—is the phone’s back panel which borrows a page from the ROG Zephyrus G14 laptop. Though it is not as advanced from a technological point of view, the design tries to mimic Asus’s dot matrix with its own twist through a clever work-around. Underneath the 3D glass—this is Corning Gorilla Glass 3—Asus has incorporated streaks and in the middle of it all, it has thrown in the ROG logo that, in this generation, can display two colours leading to a gradient effect. You can also customize this with up to 8 different lighting schemes.
The Pro and Ultimate models of the phone swap this ROG logo with a PMOLED display (this is colour in Pro and monochrome in Ultimate) called ROG Vision for more granular customization for different scenarios like incoming calls and charging. These models also get you two additional AirTrigger touch sensors on the back of the phone.
Speaking of which, these AirTriggers—called AirTrigger 5 now—are also getting an upgrade in the ROG Phone 5. They pack more sensors (from 7 to 9), lie closer to the edge of the phone and in the case of the Ultimate model, can map up to 18 specific touch points on the screen simultaneously (with some help from the AeroActive Cooler 5 accessory that now bundles two additional buttons). The regular ROG Phone 5 can map up to 14 specific touch points on the screen.
That screen is as high-end as high-end can get today even though Asus is still sticking with 1080p+. The ROG Phone 5 has a 6.78-inch Samsung-made AMOLED display with HDR10+ support, 144Hz refresh rate (with 300Hz touch sampling rate and 24.3ms touch latency) and Corning Gorilla Glass Victus protection.
Under the hood, the ROG Phone 5 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor paired with up to 18GB LPDDR5 RAM and up to 512GB UFS3.1 storage (non-expandable). Software is Android 11-based ROG UI with ROG hallmark features like Armoury Crate for ‘PC-like control of the SoC.’ The phone has quad microphones with OZO Noise Reduction Technology, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2. Fueling the phone is a 6,000mAh battery with 65W fast charging. For photography, the ROG Phone 5 has three cameras on the back—a 64MP main (Sony IMX686), a 13MP ultra-wide angle, and another 5MP macro camera. On the front, it has a 24MP front camera.
Like its predecessors, the ROG Phone 5 is also jam-packed to the core with high-end hardware and features—all working in unison to amplify gaming experience. That experience will, also, depend on games. Asus believes the market has matured—with the ROG Phone pioneering this segment—to an extent that you could actually justify all this technology rather than sidelining it as a product meant for a niche audience.
The proverbial gaming phone jumpstarted the rise of high-end mobile games—and E-sports. Today, several developers make mobile ports of their high-end AAA game titles. The whole ecosystem is growing. But at the same time, Asus does not see the ROG Phone 5 as a phone that’s meant only for gamers. It is meant for anybody and everybody looking to buy a high-end phone like a Samsung Galaxy or an Apple iPhone, that they can also game on. Its stock, ad-free and bloat-free Android software is something that Asus is banking heavily on to market its ROG Phones.
At the same time, Asus is looking at India as a very important market where the ROG Phone seems to be working very well.
“India is already among the top three countries globally when it comes to ROG Phone series in terms of sales. Last year we have had 2x growth rate here,” Sharma said.
The ROG Phone 5 starts at Rs 49,999 for the base variant with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage going up to Rs 57,999 for the top-end variant with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage. The ROG Phone 5 Pro with 16GB RAM and 512GB storage will cost Rs 69,999. The ROG Phone 5 Ultimate with 18GB RAM and 512GB storage will set you back by Rs 79,999. Sale starts April 15 from Flipkart. Watch this space for our full review of the Asus ROG Phone 5 in the days to come.