Gaming phones often have some sort of compromise, but the Asus ROG Phone 6 probably has fewer downsides than most.
Over the top is a concept not alien to gamers, and yet we’ve not reached a point where people are willing to chuck iPhone dollars at their screens for fully decked-out gaming phones. Thankfully the ROG Phone 6 comes pretty close to an excellent all-around package. But is it ‘balanced’ enough to be an everyday phone?
The ROG Phone 6 costs $1,399–not a cheap device by any means, but when you consider the heat that it’s packing, you could do much worse for the money. What makes the ROG Phone 6 stand out is simple: there isn’t anything that’s particularly weak here.
Even the camera, which is often the sticking point for most if not all gaming phones, is less of a liability this time around. With enough daylight, the image quality is right up there but just don’t expect amazing performance in low-light situations (you can always tweak the RAW files yourself if you know what you’re doing). Telephoto options are limited (2x), the macro mode works only really close up and there’s an uncomfortable range in between where the camera is unable to focus. To be fair, it’s not too different from most mid-to-high-end phones with a more modest camera system–the main camera is what you look at, and you take whatever blessings you have with the rest and try to make them work.
But everything else is pretty much chef’s kiss. The Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 is as good as it gets, and the phone doesn’t get uncomfortably hot except in short bursts of intense loading. You can run pretty much any game at maximum settings or close to it–consider getting the cooler if you intend to push the phone hard for long stretches.
The OLED display is also pretty vibrant and sufficiently bright enough to provide a decent experience for Netflix and the like. This is also helped by the speakers, which offer volume and clarity in equal bundles. But if you do fancy a pair of wired headphones or headset, there’s a good old-fashioned headphone jack. Although the amplifier onboard is able to drive the likes of a Sennheiser HD650, you probably want to use headphones with less power draw for a better sound. The ROG Phone 6 also supports LDAC and aptX and I had a more pleasant time listening wirelessly over a relatively stable 990kbps connection with minimal dropouts. As an entertainment device, the ROG Phone 6 certainly has almost everything.
But the primary reason for buying one of these things is gaming, so the question is: do things like 165Hz refresh rate and 720Hz polling rate matter? Not many games support a 165 Hz refresh rate and it’s hard to argue the benefits of 165 Hz versus, say, 144 Hz because the difference is minimal.
Arguably, you can make a bigger case for touch sampling rate because you can feel the responsiveness every time you input an action. The general rule is that it’s twice the refresh rate and turning on the 720 Hz touch sampling rate might seem like overkill. To be honest, it doesn’t feel that much more responsive, or at least I can’t see it. I think that the sum of all parts matters more; I’ve tried 480 Hz on a non-gaming-centric phone, but even then it feels slightly sluggish next to the ROG Phone 6. But for sure, responsiveness isn’t just a marketing feature. I’d rather not play a twitchy game like Brawl Stars on an iPhone if there’s a gaming phone lying around.
And as much as the Air Triggers feel like a novelty, they do work quite well. Physical buttons always feel better but this isn’t bad and they’re quite responsive with nice haptic feedback as an option. Asus gives you a lot of flexibility in programming the sensors so you can use a combination of gestures, so if you’re the sort who has pretty good hand-eye-coordination, tap dance away, please.
The closest thing to a ‘go faster stripes’ novelty would be the RGB matrix on the back of the phone, which is pure aesthetics and a card-carrying feature for #gamingphonegang.
Battery life on its own is pretty good, and as a daily phone, it can go without charging for at least 1.5 days. When gaming, however, that’s a different story. On average, you should get at least three hours, depending on the intensity of the graphics, so keep a power source nearby. The phone has a second port in the middle, which thoughtfully keeps the cable out of the way. There’s no wireless charging, but Asus included a 65W fast charger, which I think is far more useful. The phone finally gets an IP rating–IPX4–so it can take some splashes, but nothing more.
It’s hard to think of a gaming phone having good value but if you consider the individual components save for the camera, the ROG Phone 6 isn’t too bad. However, Asus only offers two years of software updates–three should have been the absolute minimum because this provides very little leeway for resale should you wish to upgrade your phone–which is something gamers tend to do more often than average people, so it might be a deal breaker.
So is this good enough to be an everyday phone? Well, the massive size and aggressive look are not going to convince most people to switch over, but gamers will love the fact that they have a phone that hasn’t been ‘nerfed’ hard in any one area aside from software updates (ouch). If anything, very few phones have this many top-shelf components in a single package.
Value Proposition ✅✅✅✅✅✅✅☐☐☐
Design & Build Quality ✅✅✅✅✅✅✅✅☐☐
Thankfully, not for nothing is it hyped. A suitable candidate for those who want a zippy phone and an alternative to the Pixel 6a.