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The Asus ROG Phone 5 is the best £799 phone you can buy for pure entertainment, but it's not for everyone. Here's our verdict.
Missing features like wireless charging and a sleek body, the ROG Phone 5 isn’t for everyone, but discounting it as a gaming phone and little else would be a mistake.
Everyone isn’t looking for a gaming phone; that’s a given, so when we took a look at the ROG Phone 5, we were anticipating reviewing a niche smartphone created for a handful of mobile gamers. What we ended up with was an all-around multimedia powerhouse.
Its screen is huge, bright and punchy, its speakers are categorically best-in-class, making for loud, penetrating sound perfect for movies and music, and naturally, its suped-up internals makes it a killer handheld gamer on the go. Whether you’re blasting through baddies or binging through an entire Netflix series in bed, no phone sucks you in quite like the ROG Phone 5.
The Asus ROG Phone 5 is a phone for gaming, and so much more.
Price: From £799
Where to buy: The ROG Phone 5 is available through Amazon and Asus’s official online store. While it isn’t available on contract through any networks, Asus does offer finance through PayPal credit, so the cost can be spread.
The ROG Phone 5 is most definitely a gaming phone. We’re not trying to suggest for a second that it isn't. After all, it's got those RGB pulsing lights around the back, angry, over the top styling, and it’s a beefy bit of kit. You can also buy a tonne of gaming accessories for it, and they go a long way to make it stand out even amongst other gaming phones.
What really surprised us about the phone after a few weeks with it was just how good it is at movies and music, with its high-quality screen and speakers. It also has a huge battery, nippy performance – a given for gaming phones, and a decent main camera. That being said, its secondary cameras (the ultra-wide and macro) definitely could be a bit better.
All its highlights come together to make the ROG Phone 5 a specialist phone for gamers and a more generalist phone for boxset binge-watchers and music lovers. It also sports a headphone jack which will please audiophiles.
Missing features like wireless charging and a sleek body, the ROG Phone 5 isn’t for everyone, but discounting it as a gaming phone and little else would be a mistake, especially if you use your smartphone as your main streaming device.
If you’re talking about brute power, then the Asus ROG Phone 5 represents great value for money. It features the same processor found in pricier phones like the OnePlus 9 Pro and OPPO Find X3, in addition to a smoother screen (thanks to that higher refresh rate). Undercutting both those phones by a substantial margin, you’ll be hard-pressed to argue with the price-to-power ratio.
Where the ROG Phone 5 drops the ball is in its camera. Unlike those other phones, it doesn’t feature optical image stabilisation, which helps handle photo blur when your hand isn’t super steady. The phone also misses out on a telephoto camera, or in other words, a true zoom. While the high-pixel-count 64MP camera takes some fantastic photos, it just isn’t as versatile as some cheaper phones, including the OnePlus 9.
So if you need a stellar camera phone, £799 can work harder for you on another smartphone, with phones like the iPhone 12 Mini through to the much cheaper Google Pixel 5 outperforming Asus’s ROG Phone 5 when it comes to photography. That said, if you are happy with a good, not great camera and prioritise Disney+ and Netflix in bed, not to mention gaming, then the ROG Phone 5 is as good as it gets.
It’s easier to talk about what Asus doesn’t cram inside the ROG Phone 5 than what it does. This is a do-it-all entertainment phone that has its sights set on blowing you away with top-tier power, loud, expansive sound and an ultra-smooth, punchy screen.
Looking around the phone and it’s a big bit of kit. That’s partly down to its large 6.78-inch display, which features a wide FullHD resolution and Samsung’s AMOLED technology, producing a bright, saturated on-screen image. Its size is also down to the fact the phone packs not one but two USB-C ports, so you can comfortably charge and game in landscape or portrait orientation. Then there’s that large 6000mAh battery. That number towers above batteries in other phones, with the top of the line iPhone 12 Pro Max battery clocking in at around 3700mAh.
Running Android 11, apps and games available for the Asus ROG Phone 5 are plentiful, and Asus has customised the interface with optional animations and flourishes for gamers. The interface glides, with the screen’s smooth 144Hz refresh rate matched with the phone’s ample power. It’s also got plenty of storage too, with 256GB, enough for hundreds of movies and tens of thousands of songs. The ROG Phone 5 also features 5G, making for lag-free streaming even when you don’t have a WiFi connection.
If you’re a gamer who’s keen to kit out your smartphone, you can pick up an optional gamepad for it, as well as a clip-on fan. Now, buying a clip-on fan for your smartphone might sound like total overkill, but smartphones are becoming handheld gaming consoles, with incredible 3D graphics and highly complex games available to download for free. We played the new Trials of Mana from Square Enix with the ROG Phone 5 connected to a TV, joypad in hand, and it felt like we were using a console. With great power comes great heat, though, and today’s phones can get really hot when gaming, with the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra both criticised for their heat management in our reviews. The ROG Phone 5 is a heat management pro, especially with the fan, so whether in-hand or hooked up to a big screen, this smartphone stays as cool as a cucumber.
The ROG Phone 5 has one of the largest batteries of any smartphone we’ve tested. Its battery is 6000mAh in size, making it over double that of the 2815mAh iPhone 12. Given it’s so big on paper, we expected a couple of days out of it but were surprised when it lasted one full day, but little more. That’s still good by today’s standards, delivering similar results to the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Dial down the screen from 144Hz smoothness to 60Hz (easily done in the display settings), and switch off the phone’s ‘X-mode’(X-mode ramps up the processing power for gaming and can be turned in the notifications tray), and instantly, the battery life gets a boost.
If you want even more battery saving from the ROG Phone 5, a setting called Ultra Durable Mode has your back. It automatically regulates the 5G optimisations the phone packs, slowing down power directed to boost internet speeds, turning off Dual-band WiFi, a feature that simultaneously connects you to WiFi networks to boost your connection, and drops the screen sleep time refresh rate, and all-round performance. If you’re a light smartphone user, with Ultra Durable mode fired you, you could even eke out three days from the ROG Phone 5.
The phone also charges quickly with 65W charging, powering up by roughly 70% in 30 minutes and 100% in an hour. That might not be as fast as phones like the OnePlus 9 Pro, but given the size of the ROG Phone 5’s battery (6000mAh versus 4500 on the OnePlus 9 Pro), it’s still a great speed and significantly outperforms the iPhone 12 Pro Max when it comes to charging time.
Just like the Google Pixel 5, the ROG Phone 5 has two cameras, the main camera and an ultra-wide-angle alternative, which gets more in frame albeit with lower quality. There’s also a macro camera. However, it’s a poor performer, and frankly speaking, the less that’s said about that, the better.
The main camera enjoys a sky-high resolution of 64MP, though it uses a photography technique called pixel binning to take 16MP photos by default. Matched with Asus’s smart camera software, the results from the main camera look great both during the day and in middling lighting. Details are defined, colours pop nicely, and dark and light areas of a photo feature tonal nuance. At night, while the ROG Phone 5 can’t beat phones like the iPhone 12 Pro or Pixel 5 with night mode fired up, it’s still a solid performer.
The phone’s ultra-wide-angle camera is also decent, but nothing special. Lacking autofocus (a feature OnePlus adds to its 9 Pro), your options when using it are photos of subjects over a meter away. That means it's great for group shots and landscape photos but not for ultra-wide selfies. The ultra-wide camera is also a middling performer in low-light, so it isn’t quite as versatile as secondary cameras on other pricier phones like the OPPO Find X3.
If you’re a fan of selfies, the ROG Phone 5’s front camera is specced out with 24MP resolution, but its photos aren’t always super flattering. It’s fine for group shots in bright environments, but when the lights dim, rather than warm things up and give you a wishful glow, it tends to lean towards the cool side of warm skin tones, resulting in a pallid portrait which is seldom a good look.
Asus puts the ROG Phone 5’s best features forward – that screen and those speakers. They take pride of place on the front of the phone, shining and booming brilliantly. On the bottom side are a headphone jack and a USB-C port; on the left side is the other USB-C port, so you can charge it one of two ways, while all the ROG Phone’s buttons are on the right side. Around the back of the phone are curved glass and an asymmetrical camera bump.
Fire up the phone, and you’ll also see the Asus ROG insignia on the back light up – unsurprising given RGB lighting is the mark of a true gaming gadget.
Available in black or white, the black version we’ve got may have some aggressive styling, but it also shows some restraint with a simple, dark palette. Put a case on it, and you wouldn’t know it’s a gaming phone, and even if you don’t, the red accents and futuristic hieroglyphs dotted around the back actually look relatively tasteful compared to other gaming devices.
What’s also great is that Asus customises the user interface to feature either a gaming look and feel or a traditional Android vibe, so its UI can cater to both gamers and non-gamers alike. Running Android 11, app and game support for the phone is excellent, and if you’re upgrading to it from an Android phone, the process should be relatively straightforward, thanks to Google’s standardised set-up process.
The only downside of the phone’s design is the fact it doesn’t have IP68 dust and water resistance, which some other non-gaming phone alternatives at this price do. So if you know you’re a serial smartphone dunker, the ROG Phone 5 might not be the best choice.
The Asus ROG Phone 5 is the best £799 phone you can buy for pure entertainment. Whether it’s gaming, watching or listening, between its incredibly smooth 144Hz screen, those booming front-firing speakers and all its gaming optimisations, you can lose hours to it.
Is it a smartphone for everyone? Absolutely not. It’s big, doesn’t pack wireless charging or an excellent camera system, and misses out on dust and water resistance.
All its pros and cons accounted for, though, the ROG Phone 5 is still easy to recommend to gamers and anyone who wants quality entertainment from their smartphone. It’s also a good shout for audiophiles, given the quality of its speakers and the fact there’s a handy headphone jack at the base.
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