ASUS VivoBook S14/S15

It’s been a year since the original announcement of the ASUS ROG Phone, and now we have its sequel that is aptly named the ASUS ROG Phone 2. What are the new changes that ASUS made to the critically-acclaimed gaming phone? Let’s find out in today’s review of the brand new anticipated ROG Phone 2.

But first, a video. We sat down with Tech Critter for this discussion video and focused on the ROG Phone 2 itself only, based on our experience and findings after using it for some time.

Unboxing

ASUS has stated that we Malaysians will be getting the ROG Phone 2 with a prism-shaped box, among other things that you can learn more here. Fancy box for a fancy unboxing experience.

It’s technically the same shape as last year’s box but with a completely different way of unboxing.

ASUS ROG Phone 2

The usual accessories of the phones are spread out across 3 different “bigger” faces of the prism – the phone, accessories box, and also the new AeroActive Cooler 2.

Digging out everything, you get quite a lot of things:

  • Aero case
  • AeroActive Cooler 2
  • 2x Footstand
  • 2x Replacement side port plugs
  • 30W charger
  • USB-C to USB-C cable

ASUS ROG Phone 2

That’s… quite a lot of things. Yet we’re only going to use a few of them here. Make sure you keep all of the replacement parts too – perhaps keep the beautiful box as well, since it’s beautiful – at least in the eyes of the beholder.

ASUS ROG Phone 2
Keep all of these somewhere safe.

Design

To my surprise, ASUS didn’t actually do much to change up the design. Referring to our last year’s look into the design history of the ROG Phone, ASUS is still using that tactical knife.

ASUS ROG Phone 2

The whole design seems to have been cleaned up a little more. It also removed the fingerprint scanner from the back and moved it under the display. I personally prefer a physical fingerprint scanner at the back.

Other than that, the design is pretty much identical to the first generation of ROG Phone. It certainly works – so why not just use back that same design?

ASUS ROG Phone 2

The ROG Phone 2 now also comes with a newly designed Aero case. Its name really does describe the design of the case since there are so many holes. These openings serve a purpose too – as you can now use the AeroActive Cooler 2 without removing the case. This is a massive improvement over last year.

ASUS ROG Phone 2

Connectivity & Ports

Looking at the ports itself, ASUS did not change the ports since the last generation, but improved upon them. At the left side of the phone is where you’ll find that side port.

ASUS ROG Phone 2

By itself, the side port isn’t useful. Only when the AeroActive Cooler 2 is installed, you get an audio jack. I can understand from an engineering perspective, but it’s annoying having to carry that cooler around. Let’s not forget the little rubber plug too. Honestly, I lost one of those plugs already.

ASUS ROG Phone 2

Just like last generation, you can still plug in a USB-C cable to charge or transfer data on both ports. There are no differences in using either ports.

At the bottom of the phone is where you get the main USB-C port and also an audio jack.

ASUS ROG Phone 2

One major improvement ASUS did to the ROG Phone 2 is the addition of multiple WiFi antennae, so the antennae aren’t blocked by however you want to hold the phone.

Also, there is a microphone beside the power button. That definitely helps when you’re playing games without headphones/earphones.

Also, ASUS didn’t bother to bring in AX-WiFi, or WiFi 6 as we now call it, into the ROG Phone 2. The WiGig Display Dock Plus is still using 802.11ad WiFi, which is surprising since ASUS themselves also released the ROG RAPTURE GT-AX11000 which is a WiFi 6 router.

ASUS ROG Phone 2
Nice touch with the GLHF here.

Also, the ROG Phone 2 does not come with a microSD card slot. Again, an understandable decision since the internal storage is the super speedy UFS 3.0 NAND flash.

The ROG Phone 2 also comes with a squeeze function to activate/deactivate X Mode, which is also found on the original ROG Phone. AirTriggers have now also been improved with lower latency and also have the ability for your fingers to rest on the triggers without triggering an input. These two upgrades earned the name AirTriggers 2.

ASUS ROG Phone 2

Also, thank you ASUS for maintaining front-facing stereo speakers. ✌

Display

The ASUS ROG Phone 2 is using a 6.59-inch AMOLED display with 1080p resolution, 120Hz refresh rate and 1ms GTG response time. This is currently the fastest display on a smartphone yet since many competitors are using 90Hz, whereas a majority is still on 60Hz. More on this in our gaming section side of things.

ASUS ROG Phone 2
Camera flash made the display to be dim.

ASUS also said that the ROG Phone 2 will have great colors out of the box as it supports 111.8% DCI-P3, 107.4% NTSC, 151.7% sRGB color gamuts. To top all of that, ASUS claims that it has Delta E < 1. To our eyes, we have to say – the display does look great indeed.

Cameras

Honestly speaking, I don’t even really bother about the cameras on the ROG Phone 2. Still, this is a review so we have to go through the cameras.

The ASUS ROG Phone 2 comes with these cameras:

  • Dual rear-facing cameras
    • Main: 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor with f/1.79; PDAF and laser AF
    • Ultrawide angle: 13MP with 125°
  • 24MP f/2.0 selfie camera

ASUS ROG Phone 2

And as for the image quality, have a look down below. You can also click here to head on to our Shutterfly album with all the EXIF data.

Software – Android 9.0 Pie with ROG UI

Essentially, the ASUS ROG UI is the same as previous generations of Zen UI or ROG UI that we’ve seen before. This time around, we have a few new additions – particularly the Armoury Crate software.

From its predecessor, the new ROG Phone 2’s Armoury Crate unifies game profile management into this app. I honestly do not like the new layout as it is clunky and yet does not have a list view of all the games. Currently, there is no way to change the layout view.

ASUS also disabled the home button when you’re in the Armoury Crate app. The only way out of the Armoury Crate is by tapping the power button at the top left corner of the screen.

By default, all games follow your system settings. The Armoury Crate lets you configure profiles per game with the options to tune the refresh rates and clock speed. Each game will have to follow those limitations imposed by the Armoury Crate software. Honestly, setting the profiles for the list of games for the first time is really annoying.

ASUS ROG Phone 2

The other parts of the ROG UI and its software suite never changed much too. The configuration and setup process of AirTriggers 2 is the same as before.

Performance & Gaming

Let’s not waste time and talk about the specs of the ROG Phone 2 first.

  • 6.59-inch AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate at 2340×1080 pixels in resolution
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+
  • 12GB RAM
  • 512GB internal storage (UFS 3.0, no microSD)
  • 6,000mAh battery

Let’s first compare the ROG Phone 2 with other phones. I found out that the benchmarking apps we used can scale up in score if we use a higher refresh rate. So, we used the ROG Phone 2 in 120Hz refresh rate with X Mode turned on. Here are the results.

ASUS ROG Phone 2 3DMark benchmark

ASUS ROG Phone 2 VRMark benchmark

ASUS ROG Phone 2 Geekbench 4 benchmark

ASUS ROG Phone 2 Antutu benchmark

A surprise to no one, the ROG Phone 2 did manage to get really high scores in benchmarks.

For the sake of our curiosity, we did the tests again at 60Hz refresh rate with X Mode turned off. We realized that raising the limit to 120fps causes the benchmark results to go even higher.

Review - ASUS ROG Phone 2 1

ASUS ROG Phone 2 60Hz X Mode off vs 120Hz X Mode on VRMark benchmark

ASUS ROG Phone 2 60Hz X Mode off vs 120Hz X Mode on Geekbench 4 benchmark

ASUS ROG Phone 2 60Hz X Mode off vs 120Hz X Mode on Antutu benchmark

ASUS ROG Phone 2 60Hz X Mode off vs 120Hz X Mode on Geekbench 5 benchmark

From here, toggling the two options seem to have an effect on performance, but not by much. Also, there is no clear winner whether having X Mode on + 120Hz is better than X Mode off + 60Hz.

Gaming

Alright, then comes gaming. ASUS actually sent us a big list of games that support beyond 120Hz refresh rate. There are 3 games that are in partnership with ASUS to celebrate the ROG Phone 2:

  • Shadowgun Legends with special content, Kunai Gamepad and TwinViewDock 2 support, runs at 120Hz
  • Rockman X Dive with special content, Kunai Gamepad support, runs at 120Hz
  • Asphalt 9 with special Porsche 911 “ROG branded car”, works with TwinView Dock 2, has “FPS increase”

I tested a handful of games with the ROG Phone 2. I wanted to test more, but we don’t have enough time. Some of the games have a hard limit and does not support anything higher than 60Hz.

Let us just run through quickly here:

  • PUBG Mobile: runs at 60fps maximum at HDR graphics
  • Asphalt 9: runs at 60fps maximum; only allows “default” visual quality at max
  • Free Fire: 60fps maximum at ultra graphics (curiously, it allowed 90fps last year)
  • Honkai Impact 3: 60fps maximum at highest graphical settings
  • Shadow Fight 2: 120fps
  • Temple Run 2: 120fps
  • Subway Surfer: 120fps
  • Real Racing 3: 120fps
  • CSR Racing 2: 60fps
  • Mario Kart Tour: 60fps
  • Call of Duty Mobile: 60fps
  • Shadowgun Legends: 120fps

And we have to say – the ROG Phone 2 is pretty toasty. When we played Shadowgun Legends, the phone can reach 50°C! That made the entire frame of the phone really hot, and the screen is uncomfortable to touch as it roasts my fingertips.

I then tried the game again with the AeroActive Cooler 2 cranked up to 100% fan speed. It managed to cool the phone down to 46°C. Better than before, but still – not enough.

ASUS ROG Phone 2
It helps… but not much.

Yet the ROG Phone 2, despite having the latest and greatest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+, can’t maintain 120Hz consistently in Shadowgun Legends. It dropped to about 100fps in combat.

Also, please disable the RGB lights. It’s annoying as heck and the AeroActive Cooler 2’s strip of RGB lights for the words “REPUBLIC OF GAMER” is just annoying.

ASUS ROG Phone 2

Battery & Charger

Here’s something interesting – having a 6,000mAh battery means that the ROG Phone 2 can last for a very long time, right? That’s absolutely true! Take a look at the chart down below.

ASUS ROG Phone 2 battery life benchmark

But then again, if you are using the phone at 120Hz with X Mode turned on, the battery life is essentially halved. Take a look at this comparison.

ASUS ROG Phone 2 60Hz X Mode off vs 120Hz X Mode on battery life benchmark

That’s why the Armoury Crate is essential. Manage your game profiles properly.

Do not simply turn on 120Hz refresh rate if you don’t need it. It’ll only drain your battery.

Charger

ASUS ROG Phone 2

Just like last year, you get a 30W charger that uses a USB-C to USB-C cable. We also tested the Innergie 60C here to test if the ROG Phone 2 supports USB PD for the 30W fast charging. Take a look at the chart here.

ASUS ROG Phone 2 fast charging benchmark

From here, we found out that the ASUS ROG Phone 2 still uses a proprietary fast-charging standard as our Innergie 60C that is compatible with USB PD, does not match the speed of the ROG Phone 2’s 30W charger. Instead, the Innergie 60C seems to be charging the ROG Phone 2 in the 18W Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 speed instead.

Battery level Time taken (minutes)
ASUS ROG Phone 2 stock charger (30W) Innergie 60C Standard 5V 2A charger (10W)
50% 28 40 57
75% 50 70 101

Wrapping up the ASUS ROG Phone 2 review

Honestly speaking, the ROG Phone 2 is an iterative upgrade from its predecessor. It has a lot of minor quality of life improvements that further defines what a true gaming smartphone should be.

My main conclusion about the ROG Phone 2 is simple – if you like Android games and Android games alone – then this is definitely the smartphone for you. There aren’t many games that support all of the features and accessories of the ROG Phone 2 anyway. Essentially, you’re tied down to the Android smartphone game developers.

ASUS ROG Phone 2

I also can’t help but compare the ROG Phone 2 with the Nintendo Switch. They’re both “handheld gaming devices” but offer completely different game titles. At this point, Nintendo Switch has too many great games – and there are Android smartphone games heading to the Switch as well.

The ROG Phone 2 comes with two different variants too:

  • ASUS ROG Phone 2 Elite version (512GB internal storage) @ RM3,499
  • ASUS ROG Phone 2 Ultimate version (1TB internal storage) @ RM3,999

That price really made my eyebrows raise. No doubt that price is high considering many other competitors are lower in price, but that’s the price to pay if you want to reach the highest echelon of smartphone gaming.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Materials
9
Software
6
Connectivity and ports
9
Screen
9
Performance and gaming
10
Camera
7
Battery and charger
9
Value
6
The enthusiastic nanoelectronic engineer who found his way into simplifying the world of tech for everyone. Introverted, but noisy. Nice to meet you!

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