By Ron Amadeo
Asus’ “gaming” phone has 18GB of RAM, a fan attachment, and shoulder buttons.
- The Asus ROG Phone 5. It looks like it’s going to transform into a robot any second now. Asus
- There’s a tiny OLED screen on the back for decoration. Asus
- The screen can run several animations or custom text, but it doesn’t seem to show notification info. Asus
- The side USB port. If lightning bolts appear while charging, you probably have some kind of grounding issue. Asus
- You get virtual shoulder buttons on the left and right of the phone. Asus
- New for the Ultimate edition, there are L2/R2 triggers on the back of the phone, triggered via a touch-sensitive area on the back. It’s hard to really tell, but the touch areas seem to be somewhere around the two red circles here (which I added). Asus
- The fan attachment has two more buttons on the left and right sides. Asus
- That blue thing is the SIM tray.
Welcome to the world of maximum Android overkill with the Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate! It has two displays, two USB ports, and two… batteries? It’s the new highest-spec Android phone on the market, available in Europe for €1,299, or about $1,545. This is the follow-up to last year’s Asus ROG Phone 3—a ROG Phone 4 is not happening because Asus is a bunch of tetraphobics.
Let’s talk about these crazy specs. The ROG Phone 5 Ultimate is sporting a 144 Hz, 6.78-inch, 2448×1080 OLED display; a Snapdragon 888 SoC; 18GB of RAM; 512GB of UFS 3.1 storage; and a 6000 mAh battery. Eighteen gigabytes of RAM is a new high-mark for Android phones and (I’m not sure if this is good or bad for Android) is more RAM than you’d get in some laptops. The phone comes with Android 11, supports Wi-Fi 6E, and supports 65 W wired quick charging with a charger in the box. There’s also an in-screen fingerprint reader, a headphone jack, two USB-C ports, and front stereo speakers. The cameras are definitely an afterthought, with a 64 MP Sony IMX686 as the main camera, a secondary 12 MP ultrawide, a 5 MP macro camera, and a 24 MP front camera.
The Asus ROG 3 is the ultimate Android gaming phone that nobody asked forThe headline addition is the second screen on the rear, which appears to be just for fun. Embedded diagonally in the back of the phone is a tiny, low-resolution, monochrome OLED display. There are no official specs for it, but it looks to be around a 1.7-inch, 256×64 display. Last year, the ROG phone had an RGB LED logo on the back, and similarly, this seems to be mostly for decoration. There are a number of premade animations for it, like a motorcycle speeding past a city, and it’s programmable with a custom message. One animation is for an incoming call, while another is for charging, but for actual data, that appears to be it. The little screen doesn’t seem like it can show notification information or the time, like other secondary displays we see on foldable phones. Samsung did a lot more with a 1.1-inch display on the Galaxy Z Flip.
In the PC world, “gamer” branding is automatically put on almost all the high-end parts and products, so you’re getting better performance. But for phones, “gamer” stuff is a tough sell since everyone uses all the same parts. Asus’s biggest gamer pitch revolves around extra control schemes that you can map in games. In landscape, ultrasonic sensors in the left and right corners of the phone give you virtual shoulder buttons, while touch sensors on the back of the phone give you virtual “L2/R2 triggers.” There are also phone tilt motion control schemes. It looks like all of these can be mapped to emulate touchscreen input, so you can trigger on-screen buttons without actually blocking the display.
Asus’ other gaming consideration is the dual USB-C port design, with one on the bottom in the usual area and the other centered on the side, allowing for easy charging while gaming in landscape mode. Next to the side USB port is an accessory connector for an optional fan attachment. The internal design of the phone is very unusual. Normally, you get one big battery in the center of the phone, with the SoC and other main components pushed to the top (Samsung) or side (Apple) of the phone. Asus has two separate 3000 mAh batteries on the top and bottom of the phone, and the main motherboard is the center of the device, allowing for easy connection of the side USB port. This also means the attachable centered fan can actually do something. Of course, the fan is pointed at solid glass, and under that is the rear OLED display, and then you hit the SoC. But at least it’s in the right ballpark. The fan, by the way, has two more gaming touch points on it, so between the top triggers, the back trigger, and the two fan buttons, you can have six virtual buttons on the back.
Most of the ROG Phone 3 accessories from last year are supported. There’s the Nintendo Joycon-style ROG Kunai 3 Gamepad, which is two controller halves that can mount to the sides of the phone or slide into a controller grip. There’s also a “ROG Clip” phone mount for a Playstation or Xbox controller. The TV dock is different this year, and the ROG Phone 5 is incompatible with last year’s version.
A few lower-tier versions of the ROG Phone 5 are available without the rear display and slimmed-down specs, but we’re just here for the insane gamer excess. The spec sheet-busting “Ultimate” model will go on sale in May in Europe.