With the ROG Phone 3, Asus is already sending the third generation of its gaming smartphone into the race. In addition to strong hardware, the manufacturer has also tried to fine-tune the smartphone’s gaming features. How the ROG Phone 3 fares in the test, I’ll tell you now.
Asus ROG Phone 3 Review
The packaging makes it clear that the Asus ROG Phone 3 is a gaming smartphone. The cell phone comes in black, prism-shaped packaging. If fog were still pouring out of the box when it was opened, one could get the idea that the smartphone comes straight from the future.
A no less impressive cell phone awaits in the box. Even at first glance, the device looks high-quality: slim black housing, matt aluminum frame and glazed back on which the light is refracted with a rainbow effect. In the middle is the ROG logo, which can light up in different colors and cycles. At the top left is the camera module in a playful design.
The Asus ROG Phone 3 not only looks high-quality, it also feels like it. At 240 grams, it weighs significantly more than other devices, which is hardly noticeable when gaming. The toggle switches for volume control and the power button are also made of aluminum and make a stable impression. All ports can be closed with rubber covers to prevent dust from entering. However, the smartphone does not have an IP certification. A wide display with two larger black bars awaits us on the front. This is where the elongated stereo speakers and the selfie camera are housed.
Asus ROG Phone 3 Display: Everything a gaming heart desires
The display of the Asus ROG Phone 3 is one of the highlights of the smartphone. The wide 19.5: 9 format is perfect for playing games and watching videos. Since it is an AMOLED display, the black levels are very good. The screen has a diagonal of 6.6 inches and has a resolution of 2,340 x 1,080 pixels. This results in a pixel density of 391 ppi. That is quite decent, but there are some smartphones with significantly sharper screens such as the Sony Xperia 1 II which offers a pixel density of 643 ppi.
The refresh rate of the smartphone should be much more interesting for gamers and this is where the Asus ROG Phone 3 really comes into its own. The display supports a maximum refresh rate of 144 Hertz. This is the same refresh rate that many PC gaming screens offer. Users can either let the smartphone adjust the refresh rate automatically or choose between the fixed options 144, 120, 90 and 60 Hz. Games look particularly smooth at the refresh rate of 144 Hz, provided they support this high refresh rate. The menu animations in the operating system and scrolling are also significantly softer at 144 Hz than at 60 Hz. However, the higher frequencies drain the smartphone’s battery more quickly.
The display also offers a very fast response time of just one millisecond and a sampling rate of 270 Hertz. The maximum brightness is 1,000 nits, and the display is easy to read even in direct sunlight. HDR10 and HDR10 + are also supported, and there is also a fingerprint sensor in the display.
Asus ROG Phone 3 Technology & equipment: more is not possible
The Asus ROG Phone 3 not only looks stylish, it also has a lot to offer technically. The smartphone is available in three versions: The Strix Edition, the cheapest variant of the smartphone that we got for our test, comes with a Snapdragon 865 in combination with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of UFS 3.1 storage. The other two models feature a Snapdragon 865+, currently the fastest processor available for Android smartphones. The devices also have 12 or 16 GB RAM and 512 GB each of UFS 3.1 storage. There are no other differences between the models. The internal memory cannot be expanded with a microSD card when it is not running.
Such strong hardware in the smallest of spaces must of course be cooled well, so the smartphone has a 3D vapor chamber and an extra large heat sink. Both elements are placed in the vicinity of heat hotspots. Asus claims to have increased the effectiveness of the cooling system by 14 percent compared to its predecessor. And if the passive cooling is not enough for particularly demanding games, you can easily clip the AeroActive Cooler 3 external fan included in the scope of delivery to the smartphone. The fan is supposed to make the surface temperature of the ROG Phone 3 up to 4 degrees cooler. I didn’t check whether it was exactly 4 degrees in my test, but the smartphone actually felt a little cooler with the external fan.
I was particularly impressed by the sound of the ROG Phone 3. The narrow speakers make an inconspicuous impression, but there is power in them. Lows, highs and bass sound really good, the speakers do not begin to croak even at high volume. Watching films and gambling is twice as much fun with such an ingenious sound. And if you often communicate via voice chat while playing, you will be happy about the four microphones. No matter how the smartphone is held, at least one microphone remains uncovered.
There isn’t much to complain about when it comes to the battery. It has a capacity of 6,000 mAh and can easily last several hours even in power-hungry gaming mode (more on that later) and at a high refresh rate. With everyday use, the battery can last up to one and a half days with a reduced refresh rate, low brightness and gaming mode switched off, depending on usage. The ROG Phone 3 can be recharged very quickly with the supplied 30 watt power adapter. It took me 90 minutes to charge from 0 to 100 percent. Certainly shorter times would be possible with more watts, but that would also put more stress on the battery. I also like the various power-saving options in the “Power Master” control center. There, for example, autostart apps can be set and power saving modes activated. The smartphone does not offer wireless charging.
We come to the topics of connectivity and connections. The smartphone supports all available WiFi protocols including the fast WiFi 6. The four built-in WiFi antennas ensure that there is always a stable connection. Of course, the ROG Phone 3 also supports 5G, and Bluetooth 5.1 and NFC are still on board. There aren’t many ports, but in addition to the SIM card slot, the smartphone has two USB-C ports: one on the bottom and one on the left edge, which is also used by the external fan.
The port on the left is useful if you want to charge the smartphone while gaming. Because the cable does not interfere there if you hold the device horizontally. The smartphone does not have a jack connection. However, headphones with a jack plug can be connected to the device using two adapters: The operating system used is Android 10 with the adapted ROG UI interface. Since the smartphone is a current model, it will very likely also receive an update to Android 11 at a later date.
Asus ROG Phone 3 Gaming features: The AirTriggers are a dream
In addition to the strong hardware, the Asus ROG Phone 3 offers a range of software features that are specially tailored to gaming. In the Armory Crate app you can find all gaming settings at a glance. There is also a games library there, in which all installed games are displayed. You can also set special scenarios for the games, for example with which refresh rate they run. In the console area you can set general gaming settings and activate the so-called X mode.
The X mode brings out even more power from the CPU and GPU when gaming, three levels can be selected. The first level is recommended for more demanding 2D games, the second for 3D games. If you need even more power, you can activate the third stage, which can only be started in combination with the external cooler. In addition to performance, power consumption and heat development also increase with increasing level. It is questionable whether there is currently a mobile game that can use the full power of the third stage of the X mode.
I also really like the Game Genie. These are fold-out quick settings in which gaming-relevant options can be switched on and off. For example, messages and incoming calls can be blocked while gaming, or you can get real-time information about the hardware. You can set all of this beforehand in the console, but if you want to change something quickly, the Game Genie is really useful.
The AirTrigger 3 are not new, but even better than their predecessor. The ultrasonic touch sensors that simulate the shoulder buttons of a controller can be configured for practically every touch gesture in games. The sensors are particularly suitable for shooting in shooters as well as for acceleration and braking in racing games. I also think it’s cool that Asus has given the AirTriggers in the ROG Phone 3 additional functions. The virtual shoulder buttons can now also be divided into L1 / L2 and R1 / R2 and recognize swipe gestures.
Asus ROG Phone 3 Camera: surprisingly good for a gaming smartphone
The cameras should be a minor matter for buyers of the ROG Phone 3, but I would still like to briefly talk about them. There are three cameras on the back of the smartphone. The main sensor is the IMX 686 from Sony, which offers a resolution of 64 megapixels. There is also a 13-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera and a 5-megapixel macro sensor. The device does not offer a telephoto lens.
By default, the main camera snaps photos in 4: 3 format with 16 megapixels. Quad Bayer technology ensures that four pixels merge into a single pixel, so 64 megapixels become 16 megapixels. The advantages of this technology are higher image quality when taking pictures with poor lighting conditions and less image noise. However, if you want, you can also take photos with 64 megapixels. The images are then much sharper, but there should be good lighting conditions.
The quality of the pictures with the main camera is okay. The smartphone cannot compete with photo marvels like the Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra, Huawei P40 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, but the results are not bad for a gaming phone. The quality of the images from the ultra-wide-angle camera cannot compete with those of the main camera. If you want to take photos in widescreen format, you have to accept losses in sharpness and detail. The 5 megapixel macro camera is unlikely to be of much use to most users, but the close-ups of small objects are impressive. The 24-megapixel selfie cam on the front also takes decent shots once you’ve found the right distance for selfies. The front camera does not offer auto focus.
The ROG Phone 3 also supports the following video formats:
- 8K-UHD at 30 FPS with the main sensor
- 4K UHD at 30 or 60 FPS with the main sensor (30 FPS with the ultra wide angle camera)
- 1080p at 30 or 60 FPS
- 720p at 30 FPS
- Time Lapse (4K-UHD)
- Slow motion video (4K at 120 FPS, 1080p at 240 or 120 FPS, 720p at 480 FPS)
Asus ROG Phone 3 Conclusion: awesome gaming smartphone!
The Asus ROG Phone 3 made a very good impression on me. It has a chic design, has a great display, the sound is fantastic, and the hardware is so exaggerated that I couldn’t see slowdowns either while gaming or other activities. The additional gaming features are sensible and useful additions, and I don’t want to miss the AirTrigger anymore. Physical buttons are just so much better when gaming than touch gestures on the display.
If you often play mobile games and don’t feel like lugging around additional equipment such as a controller with a clip, you can’t get a better gaming smartphone than the Asus ROG Phone 3. However, I doubt that the device is really worth it. However, this is less due to the smartphone than to mobile gaming itself.
For example, there is the enormously high performance of the smartphone. In my opinion, too few mobile games have made use of it so far. Sure, a lot of power is needed for 144 Hertz gaming, but what’s the point of playing “Candy Crush” on the highest settings, to put it bluntly. The ROG Phone 3 is oversized for many current games.
And this is where I immediately see the next problem: Due to the increasingly popular cloud gaming services, there is actually no longer any incentive for mobile developers to develop graphically complex games for smartphones. If you want to play demanding games, you can opt for a cloud service and simply stream PC and console games to your mobile phone. Strong hardware in the smartphone is then not necessary, the performance comes from the data centers of the cloud gaming providers.
Another sticking point is the relatively high price. Depending on the equipment, the ROG Phone costs between 800 and 1,100 euros. For the price of the most powerful model, users could also afford the two next-gen consoles PS5 and Xbox Series X just as a comparison. The Asus ROG Phone 3 is definitely a brilliant smartphone, but too far ahead of its time. But what is not may still be.
Asus ROG Phone 3 Pros:
- + Great design
- + Good OLED display with 144 Hertz
- + Great sound – No wireless charging
- + Long-lasting battery
- + Useful gaming features
- + Strong processor
Asus ROG Phone 3 Cons:
- – No expandable memory
- – The display could be a little sharper
- – Depending on the equipment, quite expensive