Without a doubt, the Asus ROG Phone is the grandfather of gaming phones. It was there before any pretenders and still manages to pulverize the competition with its combination of immense performance, well-thought-out gaming features, cool design, and of course, Republic of Gamers (ROG) branding.
The ROG Phone 6 is the latest in this line, and while we were still working on the full review, we played games on it. Actually, a lot of games. After all, gaming prowess is why you want the ROG Phone 6, so how was it?
Before we get to the games, let’s talk about the phone itself. There are two versions: the ROG Phone 6 and the ROG Phone 6 Pro. We used the Pro variant for our tests. There are few differences between them, most notably an increase to 18GB of RAM (yes, really) and 512GB of storage on the ROG Phone 6 Pro. You also get a full color OLED ROG Vision screen on the back of the phone, rather than a plain color display on the regular ROG Phone 6.
The primary specification is the same. The ROG Phone 6 and 6 Pro both feature a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor and a 6.78-inch AMOLED screen (custom-made by Samsung) with a 165Hz refresh rate and an impressive 720Hz touch sampling rate Inside is a 6,000 mAh two-cell battery, a new cooling system, a new motor with haptic feedback, two speakers with tuning by Dirac and support for Snapdragon Sound. The camera system uses a 50-megapixel Sony IMX766, along with a wide-angle and a macro lens inherited from the ROG Phone 5.
Asus has developed an IPX4 splash-proof rating, a first in the ROG Phone series, and added 65W fast charging for the battery, taking the massive cell from 0% to 100% in 42 minutes. The AirTrigger shoulder buttons return, this time with nine different gesture control options available. ROG Phone 6 also features a side-mounted USB-C port for battery charging, HDMI output, and a range of accessories including a new rear-mounted AeroActive Cooler fan with extra buttons for your games. Finally, the phone is running Android 12 and Asus has revamped its Armory Crate gaming performance optimizer.
The Game Genie has new customization options and X mode is back to ensure games can harness the full power of the phone. Asus promises two major Android updates in the future and security updates for at least two years.
The ROG Phone 6 Pro is a formidable device. It is at least 10mm thick and weighs 239 grams, making it heavier and thicker than the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. That means it feels solid and beefy in your hands, and the curved body and frosted glass on the back make it comfortable, while the cleanly rounded corners never dig into your palms. It’s expertly designed by people who understand how the phone is held most of the time, and the side-mounted charging port and front-facing speakers are further proof of that.
In a two-hour session, I played Diablo Immortal for one hour and Asphalt 9: Legends and Dariusburst for 30 minutes each. Diablo Immortal plays at 60 fps, as does Asphalt 9: Legends. With all graphics options set to maximum, the ROG Phone 6 felt noticeably warm. Asus has a three-stage cooling system inside the phone with larger graphite plates than before, a new thermal compound to fill spaces where air would normally be trapped, and a larger vapor chamber. Everything seems to be working fine, but don’t expect the phone to stay freezing.
The huge screen is hugely responsive. Coming from playing Diablo Immortal on the Samsung Galaxy A53, the ROG Phone 6 Pro felt like a rocket in every way afterwards. The screen is instantaneous and there is virtually no slowdown. The graphics are beautiful and it is undoubtedly an excellent phone to play the game on. I used the AirTriggers in the same way as the ROG Phone 5. They make you particularly deadly in Diablo Immortal because you can use more than one weapon at a time, and because the AirTriggers have such effective haptic feedback, using them feels like pressing an actual, physical button.
But the real revelation is the Asuss Kunai 3 controller accessory. It looks and works a bit like a Nintendo Switch controller in that it can be used wirelessly or attached to a skeleton case for the phone itself. I had issues trying to connect to the phone via Bluetooth, but with the controllers in the case and next to the screen, they worked fine and games came absolutely alive.
Mapping the buttons to onscreen controls is a bit fiddly, but once you’re done, the Kunai 3 controller changes the way Diablo Immortal plays. There’s no lag, the joystick is precise, and despite the combined weight of the phone, controllers, and case, it doesn’t get tiring. I highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about games with complex touchscreen controls like Diablo Immortal.
Playing Daruisburst to the end didn’t cause the phone any problems at all, and Asphalt 9: Legends was super smooth and very fast. Playing a game on a high-spec phone always seems to make it more exciting, as graphical glitches or framerate drops never take you out of the action.
I’ve toggled between the ROG Phone 6’s performance-enhancing X mode and the ROG Phone 6’s dynamic mode, which balances performance and battery life, but couldn’t find any obvious differences between the two. The two-hour session used around 20% of the battery, but having been using the phone for less than a week, that’s not necessarily representative of its true capabilities.
As the ROG Phone 6 Pro reached its maximum temperature (which wasn’t uncomfortable, but I could definitely feel it on my hands), I tried out the new AeroActive Cooler 3 accessory. It’s much larger than the AeroCooler 2, as it has four physical buttons and a new design with more lights and fins than a ’50s custom Chevy. It’s strong enough that you can feel cool air blowing across your fingers. It’s also massive, and I found it robbed the phone of its ergonomics, making it bulky, heavier, and less balanced. It’s cooling, but its effectiveness comes at a price.
This is a big, heavy smartphone with one purpose: to be the best smartphone for gaming. Does that mean it’s junk with everything else, or a pain to carry around every day? There is no doubt that the size takes some getting used to. ROG Phone 6 stretches even the largest bag, and every action requires holding the phone with both hands. I got used to it, but it’s definitely an aspect you have to put up with to get all the gaming goodies.
The screen is a beauty, fast, colorful and very bright, and the power delivered by the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 is immense. The Android 12 software offers a choice of a standard-looking, Pixel-like UI or Asuss’ flashy, sci-fi-inspired UI. Use the normal option and it’s clean and simple, while the game mode is packed with sounds and animations. If that’s something you like, that’s fine, but I’m very grateful that there’s an option to ignore it.
Speakers and the sound they produce on a phone are rarely above average, but the ROG Phone 6 Pro takes it a step further. The sound is really great. The phone uses two 12 x 16mm drivers tuned by Dirac, which Asus is also paired with on the ROG Phone 5. It’s lively and lively, and the soundstage (yes, there really is one) is carefully managed to offer excellent stereo separation when you’re looking at the phone head-on. There’s even an EQ, 3.5mm headphone jack, Snapdragon Sound, aptX Adaptive and Aptx Lossless for a new generation of headphones like the NuraTrue Pro.
I haven’t used the camera much yet, but from what I’ve seen it takes decent photos and is shaping up to perform better than you might expect. It does take some tweaking to get the colors right, but the consistency between the main and wide-angle cameras is actually quite good. You’re not buying the ROG Phone 6 for the camera, but it’s good to know it’s not a total disappointment.
Now for that rear OLED screen, which Asus is calling ROG Vision. It’s an over-the-top notification light that shows incoming calls, notification icons, charging status, etc. It’s as gimmicky as gimmicks, but I don’t really hate it. It’s exactly the kind of madness I want on a gaming phone.
No doubt Asus will keep its crown for making the best, most powerful gaming phone you can buy with the ROG Phone 6 or ROG Phone 6 Pro. It’s not all that different from the ROG Phone 5, though. The design has changed only slightly, it now has a base IPX4 splash-proof rating and you get the very latest Qualcomm processor. But the rest of the changes are incremental or invisible, like the cooling improvements and the new haptic feedback motor.
If you own the ROG Phone 5, especially the Ultimate version, there’s nothing here to prompt you into a quick upgrade. If you’ve looked at the ROG Phone 5 and decided not to buy it, it’s unlikely that the ROG Phone 6 will do anything to change your mind. It’s still a niche smartphone that’s very, very good at one thing in particular and playing games. Provided you also want to play games, down to serious or even competitive gaming, consider the ROG Phone 6 or ROG Phone 6 Pro.
Asus has not yet announced the price or the exact launch date for the ROG Phone 6 series. Based on the ROG Phone 5, it can start at around $1,000 for the base model and go up from there (in addition to an extra charge for the Kunai 3 gamepad accessory). But even with an expected high price, the ROG Phone 6 should stand out as the gaming phone to beat in 2022.
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