Asus ROG Phone 5 Review: Fast RM2,999 Gaming Device, Okay Smartphone
April 23, 2021 Andrew Cheng

I had a blast gaming on the Asus ROG Phone 5. Even when running particularly demanding mobile games like Genshin Impact at maxed out graphics settings, it doesn’t show any sign of stutter or lag – the phone just keeps chugging along without breaking a sweat. Basically, this is a very, very fast gaming smartphone, and it offers good value for money too.

However, outside of gaming, the ROG Phone 5…could be better. That’s not to say it is a bad flagship smartphone; it just falls short in a number of areas. Then again, this is, first and foremost, a gaming device. If you’re an avid mobile gamer that wants the best gaming performance out of a smartphone, the ROG Phone 5 is an excellent choice.

Especially for only RM2,999.

What It Is

Display6.78-inch FHD+ AMOLED (2448 x 1080), 144Hz
ChipsetQualcomm Snapdragon 888 2.84GHz octa-core
GPUAdreno 660
Storage128GB, non-expandable
Camera (rear)64MP f/1.8, PDAF
13MP f/2.4 (ultra-wide angle)
5MP f/2.0 (macro)
Camera (front)24MP f/2.5
Dimensions173 x 77 x 9.9 mm
OSROG UI based on Android 11
Bluetooth 5.2
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4/5/6GHz)
USB Type-C
3.5mm headphone jack

For this review, we received the 128GB variant of the ROG Phone 5 with 8GB of RAM, which retails at only RM2,999. There’s also a 256GB model with 16GB (!) of RAM that goes for RM3,799, and given that this phone does not feature a microSD card slot, you may want to go for this configuration if you absolutely need more storage space.

The Good Stuff

Since the ROG Phone 5 is a gaming smartphone, let’s talk about its performance first. Regardless of what game I throw at it, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset powering this phone can handle it with no issue at all. I’m especially impressed with how well it can run Genshin Impact.

As I’ve mentioned earlier on, the ROG Phone 5 can run the game extremely well even with maxed out graphics settings at 60fps. Genshin Impact is a game that even flagship-class Android smartphones struggle to run properly at this frame rate, so needless to say, the performance level of this gaming smartphone – and the Snapdragon 888, of course – is very impressive.

This level of performance is further complemented by the ROG Phone 5’s 6.78-inch 1080p AMOLED screen with a fast 144Hz refresh rate. Games that support this high refresh rate is very, very enjoyable to play on this powerful device. Coupled with the display’s 300Hz touch sampling rate, input delay is reduced to a minimum too.

As for the panel quality itself, it’s a pleasant screen to look at. This is an AMOLED panel, so naturally, it offers deep, true blacks, vibrant colours, and wide viewing angles. Of course, it still doesn’t quite compare to the stunning, sharper display of, say, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. But overall, you’re still getting an above average screen here.

Okay, so the ROG Phone 5 is a fast gaming smartphone with an equally fast, high quality screen; what about its battery life? As it turns out, the phone’s very generous 6,000mAh battery can return excellent battery life. Throughout the review period, I can consistently get over seven hours of screen on time with this device.

Needless to say, I can easily get through a typical work day with the ROG Phone 5, even with a few sessions of Genshin Impact thrown in throughout the day.

Last but certainly not least is the overall design of the ROG Phone 5, which I really quite like, especially this Storm White colourway. The white and blue colour scheme is a refreshing change compared to the overplayed black and red colour combo, and the ROG logo on the back with RGB lighting is a nice design element too.

The Bad Stuff

It’s obvious the ROG Phone 5 is a very good smartphone for gaming purposes, but beyond that scenario, it isn’t quite as refined in other regards. Take its software experience: while I love the fact that the user interface is very close to stock Android, push notifications from certain apps such as Gmail and Twitter are very delayed.

In fact, there were a few instances where I had to actually launch the app to finally get the notifications. While this may not be a big issue to some users, it’s definitely a very real problem for myself in this line of work. While using this phone, I actually missed a number of important work-related emails.

Aside from that, the ROG Phone 5’s fingerprint sensor isn’t great either. Not only is it difficult to register my fingerprint, it has issue accurately recognising my fingerprint as well. Thankfully, a recent software update made the sensor much more accurate, though it is still a little difficult to register my fingerprint.

Given that the ROG Phone 5 is a gaming-centric smartphone, it’s no surprise that the camera performance is not fantastic. The triple camera system doesn’t even have a zoom lens, and the low light performance of the 64MP primary sensor isn’t particularly great either with lacklustre detail preservation and dynamic range.

In fact, the 13MP ultra-wide angle shooter can actually take better-looking shots in low light conditions, though it does so by using a long exposure mode. Anyway, judge for yourself with these sample shots:

Naturally, under good lighting, the ROG Phone 5 can still take rather good-looking shots. It may not be able to deliver amazing picture quality, but it will certainly do in a pinch. After all, this is (again) first and foremost a gaming-focused smartphone.

However, that brings me to my last negative with the ROG Phone 5: it runs hot. In prolonged gaming sessions, the side frames and top portion of the phone get uncomfortably hot, though I didn’t notice any major performance throttling when this happens. Obviously, you won’t feel the heat with a casing on, but that doesn’t exactly solve the thermal issue itself.

Is It Worth It?

Even though it runs hot, I still absolutely enjoy gaming on the Asus ROG Phone 5; it is my go-to smartphone for my Genshin Impact fix now. On top of that, it also offers long battery life, a fast, vibrant 144Hz AMOLED display, as well as a refreshing white and blue colour scheme (in my opinion).

Yes, the ROG Phone 5 does have its fair share of shortcomings, but as a gaming smartphone, it serves its purpose very well. On top of that, retailing from RM2,999, there’s no denying the sheer value proposition of this high-end gaming smartphone. If that’s what you want, then look no further than the ROG Phone 5.