All hail the Asus ROG Phone 3, the new spec-sheet champion. Asus announced its new gaming phone today, and this thing’s got bigger numbers than anything else on the market or really anything scheduled for the rest of the year.
The ROG Phone 3 is one of the first devices with the new Snapdragon 865 Plus, Qualcomm’s brand-new chip that offers a modest frequency bump over the standard Snapdragon 865 that is in most 2020 flagships. The “Plus” version gets 10 percent higher clocks than standard, which means a CPU up to 3.1 GHz and a GPU that runs at 660MHz. Qualcomm’s new chip will still get smoked by Apple’s A13 Bionic SoC, but this is at least the fastest Android phone on the block, now.
The 6.59-inch, 2340×1080 display runs at 144Hz, making it one of the fastest displays ever fitted to a smartphone (although the first 144Hz display was the Nubia Red Magic 5G). Baseline RAM and storage are 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage, with options for 12 and 16GB of RAM, both with 512GB of storage. There’s also a hefty 6000mAh battery. Samsung was previously Android’s “more is more” manufacturer, but Asus is out-Samsunging Samsung with the ROG Phone. This is a faster SoC, faster display, and bigger battery than the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, and it even beats the rumored specs for the upcoming Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
Asus marketing goes heavy into the display spec details and lists the display several times as “144Hz / 1ms AMOLED.” One millisecond sounds great to those who remember the LCD response time improvements, but honest 1ms is pretty normal for an OLED panel. Response times were a concern with LCDs, where the liquid crystals had to twist and untwist to control light from a single, big light source behind the panel. This process took a few milliseconds, and if it was too slow, it would cause “ghosting,” or a blurry image. OLED panels are much simpler designs in which applying a voltage to a material produces light, and since nothing has to move and every pixel is its own light source, panel response times are not really a concern anymore.
One uncommon-but-meaningful display spec is “an industry-leading 25-millisecond touch latency” touted by the press release thanks to 270Hz touch sampling. Touch latency is how quickly the display responds to and keeps up with your finger movements. (The best crash course in touch latency you can get is this three-minute video from Microsoft Research.) I don’t know if “industry-leading” is the right term when the Apple Pencil on an iPad is famously 9ms, but for an Android phone, 25ms is pretty good.
The phone has a 64MP main camera in the rear, along with a 13MP wide-angle and a 5MP macro camera. There’s also a 24MP front camera, NFC, stereo speakers, an in-screen fingerprint reader, Android 10, and a rare headphone jack. Like the previous ROG phone, there are two USB-C ports, with the extra one living on the side for various gaming accessories like a fan and a controller. There are also side-mounted touch shoulder buttons, which are great for games that support them.
One disappointment is that the phone does not support the new “Wi-Fi 6E” standard. 6E adds a 6GHz band to the existing 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands, which will greatly increase the amount of simultaneous traffic Wi-Fi can handle. For crowded areas like apartment buildings, it’s possible to fully saturate the 2.4 and 5GHz spectrum, resulting in reduced performance. If you have a 6GHz access point and 6GHz devices, you’ll have access to a whole extra chunk of spectrum.
The Snapdragon 865 Plus is the first Qualcomm chip to support Wi-Fi 6E, and the ROG Phone 3 has the 865 Plus, but apparently Asus didn’t do the work to enable Wi-Fi 6E on the ROG 3. Bummer. The phone also doesn’t support wireless charging, and it isn’t water-resistant.
What’s the point?
The phone will ship in the US in September, but for now, we’ll make do with the prices for Europe. The 8GB/256GB version is €799 ($925), the 12GB/512GB version is €999 ($1156), and the 16GB 512GB version is €1099 ($1272).
With any of these “gamer phones” we’ve got to ask, do people like gamer phones? Anyone in the normal PC gamer “ROG” demographic probably doesn’t care much for mobile games, and if you really do, an iPhone is a much better gaming phone, thanks to the bigger game library and console-like hardware standardization. To further confuse the whole “gamer phone” idea, the phone comes with a three-month trial of Google Stadia. Since that’s a cloud-based gaming platform, it doesn’t require super-high-end hardware like this and won’t run at 144Hz.
Listing image by Asus
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