It wasn’t that long ago that gaming phones basically didn’t exist. Phones played games, but they weren’t designed for it primarily. The Asus ROG Phone was one of the first devices to really challenge that assumption, and the ROG Phone 2 looks to build on its predecessor in just about every way.
The upcoming device boasts a similar design, but with a monster battery, brand-new processor, and world-first 120Hz AMOLED display it’s a step-up in just about every other respect. Here’s how the two phones compare from what we’ve seen so far.
Price and availability
The original ROG Phone launched at £799/$899 in December 2018. Unfortunately right now it’s out of stock just about everywhere in the UK, making it tricky to buy new, though if you’re in the US you can still grab it from Amazon or Microsoft.
The ROG Phone 2 was announced in July 2019, but the western release date and pricing are still under wraps – though we expect to hear more at IFA 2019.
It’s out in China from 31 July, and the standard version of the phone, with 12GB RAM and 128GB ROM, costs 5,999 yuan (~$873) – that’s the same price as the original ROG Phone, so hopefully pricing will remain consistent in the US and UK too.
Similar on the surface
First up, let’s tackle the core aesthetics. Both phones look broadly similar, with black glass finishes and jagged, asymmetrical designs dominated by circuit board lines – though in the ROG Phone 2 these are designed to pick up different colours as they reflect the light.
The big difference comes in size. The ROG Phone wasn’t exactly slim, but the ROG Phone 2 has it beat: it weighs 240g to the original’s 200g, and is both taller and thicker – at 9.5mm thick this is a real chunky boi. That’s to pack in both a bigger display and battery – more on those later – but it does mean that the new phone won’t be a good choice for anyone with small hands (or pockets).
Both phones pack bezels on the front display, but these are slimmer in the newer model. For a gaming phone they’re arguably a worthwhile tradeoff either way, giving you a bit of dead space where you can safely rest your hands without accidentally interacting with anything in-game.
There is one big difference in the ROG Phone 2 though: the fingerprint scanner is now housed under the display, rather than on the back. That’s welcome as we found the almost diamond-shaped scanner on the original ROG to be especially awkward to use, though it’s worth noting that in-display scanners still tend to be slower and less reliable than their old-school counterparts.
The same RGB ROG logo is also present on both models. You can set it to glow, flash, pulse, cycle colours, or more – or just switch it off if you find it all a bit much. AirTriggers are included in both phones too – though apparently improved slightly in the ROG 2 – giving you pressure-sensitive areas, especially useful as shoulder buttons when gaming in landscape.
There’s also a return of the twin side-mounted USB-C ports, in addition to the regular charging port on the bottom of the phone (and headphone jack).
One of these side USB-C ports can be used for charging or data connection while gaming in landscape, but are actually primarily for the range of official ROG Phone accessories, which is growing with the second phone.
Both phones ship with a clip-on fan cooler, but other accessories include a second display (with built-in battery) or a dock that connects to a monitor for both phones. Then there are Switch-style controllers that sit on the sides of the display, another dock packed with ports, and special cases that pack RGB lighting in that have launched with the newer model. Basically, if you want to buy into a whole gaming accessory ecosystem, the ROG Phone 2 has got your back.
Whichever ROG Phone you’re tempted for, you’re going to get serious specs inside. The original ROG Phone came with an overclocked Snapdragon 845, but for this phone Asus has gone one step further, and is the first phone announced to feature the Snapdragon 855 Plus.
The 855 Plus is a suped up version of the flagship 855 chip, with the processor running at up to 2.96GHz, and the Adreno 640 GPU clocked 15% faster than the current Snapdragon 855 according to Asus.
In day-to-day use you won’t see a big difference, but if you’re playing a lot of PUBG, Fortnite, or other games that push your phone to its limits, then that extra 15% performance might be very welcome indeed.
It’ll help that the ROG Phone 2 comes with an upgrade to 12GB of RAM from the 8GB in the original phone – though in all honesty even 8GB is probably overkill for most people, and 12GB definitely is. It obviously won’t hurt, but don’t expect that bigger RAM allowance to convert to notably increased performance on its own. Base storage is the same at 128GB, though both phones also offer a pricier 512GB variant.
Battery has gotten a bump too, and arguably an even better one. The original ROG Phone clocked in at a fairly typical 4,000mAh, but the ROG Phone 2 has jumped up to 6,000mAh – one of the biggest batteries we’ve ever seen in a consumer device. Throw in the 30W ‘HyperCharge’ and battery life is one of the biggest upgrades in the new phone: this thing will run for days.
The screen is the other headline spec. The first ROG Phone has a great display: a 6in, 1080p, 90Hz AMOLED with 1ms response time. The ROG Phone 2 somehow found space to upgrade that: it’s bigger at 6.59in; jumps to a 120Hz refresh rate; and has a world-first 49ms touch latency.
That means the screen should be bigger, more fluid, and more responsive, without any compromise on colour range or pixel count. Both phones are 1080p, HDR, and use Gorilla Glass 6 though, so they’re not totally dissimilar, but the slightly higher response rate should really help with fast-paced gaming for those who care.
A new vapour chamber and improved external fan accessory will help keep the ROG Phone 2 even cooler while it’s cranked up to max, but again, this is likely overkill for most of us: both phones go well beyond the mainstream in terms of cooling anyway.
Then there’s cameras. Admittedly not usually the focus for gaming phones, which shows in the first ROG – that packs a 12Mp/8Mp dual rear camera and 8Mp selfie lens. Luckily there’s a big jump up for the newer ROG: a 48Mp/13Mp rear setup should rival the Zenfone 6, and the 24Mp selfie lens is also a big jump up.
Finally, there’s one welcome software tweak for the ROG Phone 2: it lets you choose between the ROG launcher or the more pared back ZenUI 6, the software that debuted in the Zenfone 6. This is a subtler software experience for those who want something closer to stock Android, and an option that isn’t available on the first phone.
The ROG Phone 2 is a classic second phone: an iterative improvement that doesn’t rock the boat too much. The core ethos is exactly the same, but improvements across the board do their bit to justify the new model.
If you already own the first ROG Phone then this probably isn’t worth the upgrade unless you’re committed to packing the latest specs. But if you’re yet to jump on a gaming phone and have the cash to splash, the ROG Phone 2 might be the best game in town when it launches later this year.
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