So I’ll get this out of the way straight off the bat, this review will potentially come over as a love letter to the Republic of Gamers (ROG) engineering team. I’ve seen great design ruined by specs, software or (as is often the case with what could be a good phone) terrible battery life. The ROG Phone 3 is the second ROG phone to make its way Downunder and — as you’ve no doubt already gathered — I’m really impressed.

Yes, the target buyers for the ROG Phone 3 are gamers but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s just for them. It is actually a really good phone in its own right for serious power users thanks to the impressive specs it carries.

What’s in the box?

Actually, let’s take a look at the box itself first because that’s part of the holistic experience. It’s a really attractive box that sets the tone for your initial handling of the device. It’s a squared-off triangle that stands around 25cm tall, with a central insert that slides out of the shell of the box.

The phone is presented immediately in a recess of the outer layer of the box, with the insert housing the AeroActive Cooler 3 and other accessories (a case, charger and USB-C to 3.5mm converter) under another layer of packaging.

If you choose to do so, there is a pile of optional accessories you can purchase to expand your general and gaming experiences including:

  • ROG Kunai 3 Gamepad​ – Gives physical and total control of any game.
  • TwinView Dock 3​ – Transforms your ROG Phone 3 into a dual 144Hz display gaming rig
  • Mobile Desktop Dock 2​ – Makes it possible to connect desktop peripherals via multiple ports. It works as a hub for your PC as well so you can instantly switch between them with the push of a button.
  • The Professional Dock​ – A simpler expansion dock that allows ROG Phone 3 to connect to an HDMI display and two more USB devices
  • ROG Clip​ – Attach your phone to a PS4, Xbox or Stadia controller with an adjustable arm
  • Lighting Armor Case​ – Protective case that uses the phones RGB LED to display

I wasn’t hugely impressed with the included case. It’s not going to provide much by way of protection for your — rather expensive — phone. There are others you can buy, but that’s yet more cost to bare, so something to be aware of.

The design and specs are very sharp

I know people who will think this is an ugly phone because it doesn’t fit convention. If that’s you, you’ve got two options:

  1. Don’t buy this phone
  2. Cover the back of the device, there are plenty of cases that will be available

The ROG Phone 3 isn’t a small device, measuring in at 171 x 78 x 9.85mm and weighing a hefty 240 grams. It’s a serious piece of hardware that — at 6.59-inch 19.5:9 screen ratio — borders on being a small tablet in the eyes of some users. But that screen really does wonders for the user experience and general usability of the phone.

Like it’s predecessor, the ROG Phone 2, the ROG Phone 3 has dual front-facing speakers but they’re far more subtle in the presentation. They’re far from subtle in sound delivery though — these are by far the best sounding speakers I’ve ever experienced on a mobile phone. The depth of audio is excellent and clarity is just as impressive, even at higher volumes where built-in speakers can often begin to sound tinny or shrill.

The phone is adorned with some subtle bezels, but this is a necessary evil particularly if you’re not using one of the clip-on gaming controllers. A bezel-less display would undoubtedly result in issues with inadvertent touches being registered during gaming and cause untold rage.

With the view to the device being used in landscape mode regularly for gaming, the setup of the device is well thought out. The charging port is left aligned on the base of the device, with the power button and volume rocker on the right side of the device – this becomes the top when gaming to avoid accidental inputs.

On the left of the device is the port for the AeroActive Cooler to be clipped onto the phone, or if you wish you can simply put the USB-C charger in the left side while gaming to ensure it’s out of your way.

Let’s talk about specs

On current standards, if you want it – this thing has it. It’s super quick, enormous battery life, a screen that’s not just quick to respond, but also easy on the eyes and a form factor that meets the needs of a broad range of users.

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and 5MP Macro, F2.0

Processing power Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ 5G at 3.1GHz
Adreno 650GPU
Memory 12GB LPDDR5 RAM, 512GB UFS 3.1
Display 6.59in 2340 x 1080P AMOLED
1440Hz refresh rate
25ms touch latency
650nits HBM brightness & 1000 nits peak brightness
Gorilla Glass 6
Connectivity WiFi a/b/g/n/ac/ax dual band
2 x 2 MIMO
Bluetooth 5.1
NFC
Charging – Side USB-C Headphone jack when the AeroActive Cooler is connected
Support USB 3.1 gen 2 / DP 1.4 4k, Quick Charge 4.0/PD 3.0/Direct Charge
30W ROG Hypercharge direct charging
Charging – Bottom USB-C support USB 2.0, PD3.0 30W
Supplied charger:
Output: 10V 3A, supports up to 30W QC4.0 / PD3.0 / Direct Charge adapter
Camera Front – 24MP f2.0
Rear Rear – 64MP Sony IMX686 sensor f1.8, 13MP (125deg ultrawide) f2.4
Battery 6,000mAh
Other Dual front-facing speakers with GameFX & Dirac HD Sound
Dual SIM
In-display fingerprint sensor, face recognition
Accelerator, e-compass, gyroscope,
Proximity sensor, Hall sensor, ambient light sensor, ultrasonic sensors for AirTrigger

So all those numbers add up to a lot of grunt, but does it delivery in daily life? The short answer is a resounding hell yes! Keep in mind I’m primarily referring to using this phone as a phone right now… There’s processing power to burn here and the near-stock Android version is well optimised for the device to consistently perform very well.

Aside from being a smart decision for the 5G capability, the addition of the SD865+ 5G means that you’ve got as much processing power as can currently be supplied in a mobile device. 12GB of DDR5 memory means not only can you have multiple resource-intensive apps running, but switching between them is snappy and lag-free.

With big specs usually comes big battery drain but that’s not really the case here. Even on a big day, the 6000mAh battery goes the distance because, well… that’s a freaking huge battery too. Since the COVID-19 isolation began, I’ve been a bit more conscious of my mobile phone usage but I’d still say I’m a heavy user with lots of calls, emails, messaging, video and social media use daily. So to have a big day for me, then get to the end of the day, have a solid gaming session and have 27% battery left was quite a feat.

In the end, despite my best efforts to destroy the battery, I managed a touch over 30 hours before the phone went from 100% to critical battery warning. On a normal day, I was getting to the end of the day with between roughly 45% and 55% battery remaining. That’s a testament to the size of the battery and the optimisation that Asus has done to ensure that the software isn’t needlessly draining power.

If you do a bit of gaming, you’ll see the battery drain at an accelerated rate. But that’s to be expected and not a major issue because of the side charging port that was mentioned earlier.

That screen is stunning!

One of the real selling points of top end phones currently is a high refresh rate the ROG phone 3 has a big and beautiful screen that has a 144Hz refresh rate. This coupled with the high resolution and 1.07 billion colours the screen is capable of delivering, makes using this screen nothing but a pleasure. Whether it was general daily use, gaming or streaming media – the image quality was truly outstanding, with very clean colour reproduction (no oversaturation which can occur on some software models) and smooth transitions.

Is it a perfect device for everyone?

The short answer is no, it isn’t. The issue really only comes down to preference though, not a specific technical or design issue that we can identify. The main issue with the ROG Phone 3 is the physical size of the device. For users with smaller hands, or users who prefer a smaller device – this is not the phone for you. It’s big, frankly, it’s really big and for me, that’s not a problem as I like bigger phones which is likely one of the reasons I’m so enamoured of this device.

Asus learned from previous outings that the camera is important

Versus the previous generation of ROG phone, we’re now looking at a triple camera rear setup. Now, this isn’t something that’s going to compete with the Huawei P40 Pro — that camera is something to behold. Nor will it compete with the likes of the Pixel phones, particularly when it comes to night shots. But Asus has absolutely delivered a far better camera experience than last year — which would not be hard.

The software is easy to use

You can have a great camera that produces outstanding images, but with software that’s terrible to use the experience isn’t great. The software Asus provide for the camera is really easy to use:

  1. Open the app
  2. Choose your mode
  3. Point and shoot – if you’re using pro mode, you’ll need to set some settings

In terms of the available modes, there’s plenty to choose from – Pro Video, Time Lapse, Slo-mo, Motion Tracking, Video, Photo, Portrait, Pano, Night, Pro and Maco. A pretty comprehensive set of modes that will cover the needs of most buyers.

All of that doesn’t mean a lot without some images to take a look at:

Night mode has improved a lot from last year’s efforts, for users who’ve not used night mode on previous phones, it’s staggering but it’s fair to say that it’s a far cry from the Pixel phones and Huawei capabilities.

Day time photography is a very simple point and shoot setup with really good results. The lighting balances well, occasionally too well with shadows being eliminated and some facial features being flattened a little.

ROG UI – It’s a “gamers” ZenUI

I’m an unashamed fan of a UI that is, or is close to stock Android – The Pixel experience if you will. So seeing the ROG UI look, feel and behave in a very stock way was very exciting. There are a few tweaks in there focussed around moments such as gaming. But as a phone, they don’t take away from that vanilla flavour of the OS.

I’m very happy — frankly would have been incensed if they hadn’t — to report, that you’re looking at Android 10 when you turn on the phone. Given there were a couple of sizeable updates to the OS when I turned the device on, make sure you’re on Wi-Fi if you’re a little lacking in mobile data.

There’s not a huge amount else to say about the UI, it’s simple, it’s quick, intuitive (based on stock Android you’d hope so) and it just works.

The Gaming experience

The ROG Phone 3 is a gaming focussed device and as such, there will be a dedicated piece in the coming days with a focus on that alone. For now… suffice to say that with the time and development energy spent on this device – it’s not a disappointment in any way.

The big question: Would I buy one?

The quick answer is two words and one of them is “yeah”, but there are far higher expectations of my response than that. Absolutely, I’d buy one and even with the indicative cost we got of $1,699.00 as a starting point.

We’ve seen some really good phones in 2020 already with great individual facets: The Galaxy S20 Ultra as a standout, the OnePlus 8 Pro and emerging technologies with the folding phones to name a few. While the camera on the ROG Phone 3 isn’t an outstanding feature, it’s not the spud cam it was last year. For me, the screen actually makes this not just a great phone but an outstanding one and possibly the best all-round phone I’ve used in at least 12 months.

Having near to stock Android OS has done the ROG Phone 3 a big favour, not being hidden behind overzealous optimisations and annoying interruptions to your user experience. As was stated earlier in this article, this is a great phone without consideration around gaming and I’d quite seriously consider it a competitor to many bigger names in the premium phone market.

If you decide to fork out the cash for the ROG Phone 3, as we understand it the gaming accessories are optional (extra cost) extras. So that’s the reason for the starting price, there will almost certainly be packs you can buy with various extras included.

ASUS ROG Phone 3 will be available in Australia for purchase by the end of August via selected retail (JB Hi-Fi is a pretty safe assumption) and reseller partners. We have received some communication giving indicative pricing starting at $1,699.00 and once confirmed, we’ll post an update.

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Bigtruck2097
Bigtruck2097
2 days ago

whats the chances of telstra or optus having mobile plans?

Denzel Chew
Denzel Chew
3 days ago

Best gaming phone. phone the built for gaming only. Nice! Two thumbs up!
Anyway, I need your recommendations. I have an arcade center that needs to be upgraded to point of sale system software. And someone recommended me this point of sale system software. I need more recommendations.

Oldmike
Oldmike
13 days ago

I like a lot about this Rog phone , i am usually a galaxy boy , but so far , not this year or last . I also do not hold vanilla android with the same high regard as you Phil 🙂 , but to each his own mate . For me however , i do see some things that really do look good to this old bloke on the Rog3 as just a normal phone , and i do not game . For a start a big flat screen is a big win (unless my old eyes deceive me… Read more »

Tom Sekulic
Tom Sekulic
13 days ago

I’m sure that panel isn’t…
1440Hz refresh rate

But I would love to have it

Philip Clark
Philip Clark
15 days ago

Very well written review, but would be great to have a summary panel at the top or bottom with cost, plusses, minuses, date available etc.