Previews

Asus ROG Phone changes the mobile game — an E3 2018 hardware preview

There are a lot of phones that claim the title of “Flagship”, and entirely too many that claim to be built for gamers. I can’t say that a single one actually delivers on that claim, though. Asus is looking to show the likes of Apple and Google how it’s done, however, with their ROG Phone.

Asus has long been a provider of excellent gaming hardware courtesy of their ROG (which stands for Republic of Gamers) line of motherboards, laptops, headphones, mice, graphics cards, monitors, and more. This first foray into phones looks to be their most ambitious outing yet. At E3 2018 I went hands-on with the device, as well as the accessories that’ll expand on its capabilities, and I came away pretty impressed with the prototype.

Like most current smartphones, the ROG Phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor running on the Android platform. Rather than grabbing a handful from the bin, so to speak, Asus has convinced Qualcomm to run a set “off cycle”, meaning this won’t be the 2.8GHz processor everyone else has, but instead it’ll be powered by a 2.96GHz CPU — the first of its kind and nearly 200MHz faster than any stock processor on the market. This Snapdragon 845 SoC (system on chip) will have eight Kryo CPU cores and a discreet Adreno 630 graphics chip. It’ll also sport a beefy 8GB of RAM and a whopping 512GB of storage — plenty of space for gaming on the go.

What’s under the hood is impressive, but it’s not all processors and memory. The system also has a state of the art AMOLED screen. The 6” screen runs at an impressive 90Hz with a 1ms response rate at a blistering resolution of 2160×1080. Naturally, all of this is protected with Gorilla Glass to ensure the device stays safe, and Asus has also made the whole thing water resistant, just as a cherry on top.

Rounding out the specs, the ROG Phone has a dual front-facing speakers, two USB Type-C jacks, as well as a pair of analog ports. There’s a reason to the redundancy, but we’ll get back to that in a moment. It also has full Gigabit LTE cellular, WiGig 802.11ad WiFi, and Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, and USB over the USB-C port.

To ensure that this much power stays up and running, the ROG Phone has a 4,000mAh battery with rapid charging, able to power back to 66% in just 33 minutes, and 85% in an hour, courtesy of the included 20W HyperCharger adapter.

Let’s be honest, though — it’s not specs that make a phone into a portable gaming device. Asus has created several accessories for the ROG Phone to transform the device into a gaming platform.

GameVice Controller (Link)

The GameVice is the first use of the redundant USB-C ports on the ROG Phone. Clicking into place, the GameVice then stretches across the back of the phone and clamps onto the other end, creating what can only be described as something akin to a Nintendo Switch-like result in both look and feel. Playing a racing game with the dual analog sticks instead of cluttering the screen with my thumbs felt more like playing a purpose-built handheld. Better still, this wasn’t the only trick this device had to offer.

Using the WiGig protocol, when paired with the WiGig Dock, I was able to immediately mirror the ROG Phone with the large TV. Taking my eyes off the phone and attending to my race on the big screen, I could see that, even at this prototype phase, the ROG Phone was able to provide a zero-latency experience from a distance, just as if I was playing a game console. If the ROG Phone can keep up with Asphalt 8, it can handle anything.

TwinView Dock (Link)

The next stop on the accessory tour was the TwinView Dock. More of a traditional pairing, this device lets you dock your ROG Phone with a handheld device, complete with a second screen. This second screen allows game developers to push things like maps, inventory, or other UI elements off the main screen. It’s also useful for running secondary apps like Discord without soaking up valuable play space. The dock also comes with its own 6,000mAh battery, providing more than double the stock battery life of the phone by itself.

Mobile Desktop Dock (Link)

I’m always surprised by the number of gamers who exclusively use their phone for their computing needs. This device is precisely what they need. The Mobile Desktop Dock is exactly what you might imagine, interfacing the ROG Phone with all of your peripherals. The dock has ports to connect a 4K monitor, Gigabit Ethernet, 5.1 channel speakers, and several USB peripherals. Rather than thumbing your way through your Gmail, you can tackle it with a keyboard and mouse, properly, then switch back to gaming at will.

I came away from this brief demo for the ROG Phone very impressed. There are a lot of little things that make the device stand out. The copper fins on the rear keep it cool, but an optional fan keeps it cooler. Better still, Asus had the foresight to extend the USB-C and analog ports through that fan cooler, allowing you to plug in your charger and headphones on the bottom, leaving your hands unencumbered on the sides, instead of awkwardly dodging around cables and cords. It’s clear that they are building a device beyond simple specs, and I’m eager to getting more hands-on time with it in the near future.

Look for our ongoing coverage of E3 2018 here at GamingTrend.com

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