- Page 1: Introduction
- Page 2: Design
- Page 3: Connectivity & Ports
- Page 4: Display
- Page 5: Cameras
- Page 6: Software - Android Oreo 8.1 with ROG UI
- Page 7: Performance & Gaming
- Page 8: Battery & Charger
- Page 9: Wrapping up the ASUS ROG Phone review
Software - Android Oreo 8.1 with ROG UI
Honestly speaking, the ASUS ROG Phone comes with a re-skinned version of ZenUI 5.0 that’s already found in the ASUS ZenFone 5 and ZenFone 5z. We know this because there is a method to make your ZenFone 5 and 5z to look like the ROG Phone by installing the ROG theme. Of course, the ROG UI has some additional features as well.
Remember that there are a total of 3 AirTriggers – two at the right side, and one more at the bottom left side of the phone. That’s because you can squeeze the phone to activate some shortcuts a la HTC U11. You can customize them, actually. By default, a long squeeze will toggle X Mode on or off.
Being a gaming phone that it is, the ROG Phone already came with two games pre-installed – Free Fire and Asphalt 9. You can uninstall them, obviously.
We’ll be focusing on the three main features that is found only in the ROG Phone – X Mode, Game Center, and also Game Genie. Both Game Center and Game Genie works hand in hand.
So what is X Mode anyway? Like we mentioned earlier, activating X Mode will change the UI from orange to red color. According to ASUS, activating the X Mode will also “raise the CPU frequency and optimizes the memory for gaming.” Through our findings, the X Mode is a rebranded version of the AI Boost from the ASUS ZenFone 5 and ZenFone 5z.
They behave the same as well, since any benchmark apps launched and a notification will pop up telling us that we can enable X Mode to get better scores. More on this in the performance benchmarks later.
Then comes Game Center. Just like the desktop version of the Gaming Center, this is where real-time information about the ROG Phone’s stats are displayed. Scrolling down, we can see Game Profiles, fan speed, and Aura lighting.
The fan speed is self-explanatory as it is setting the fan speed for the AeroActive Cooler. Whenever you attach the AeroActive Cooler, there’s a popup message saying that the fan might hinder the microphone’s audio quality. Even though you can actually hear it when it’s running at 100% fan speed, my teammates say that they actually can’t hear the fan.
As for the Aura lighting, you can enable or disable it when X Mode is on or off independently. Obviously, the RGB lights do affect battery life. More on this later in the battery test in this review.
You have a total of 4 different lighting modes to select from – static, breathing, strobing, and cycling. There are two sliders at the bottom as well – which are brightness and speed. However, these 2 sliders aren’t usable for all lighting modes. Take a look at the table below.
|Adjustable Brightness?||Adjustable rate?|
It baffles me that cycling mode can’t have its brightness adjusted.
The Game Profiles here gives you the option to manually select what sort of settings you want for each and every app. You can manually add in other apps yourself as well. Maybe you want Facebook to run at 2.96GHz with 90Hz for some reason. For me, I locked PUBG Mobile to run at 90Hz refresh rate and max CPU clock speed at 2.96GHz and Contra at 60Hz refresh rate.
There’s also an option to enable anti-aliasing as well. However, because of the high pixel density of a smartphone, it doesn’t really doesn’t make a difference if anti-aliasing is enabled or disabled. We’ll talk about the performance hit with and without anti-aliasing later.
If you manually add other apps into the Game Center profiles, then you’ll see an additional button on the bottom right side of the navigation bar – the gamepad which signifies Game Genie.
In Game Genie, there are a few buttons for you to toggle right away:
- Lock Mode which disables all on-screen navigation.
- No alerts which silences all notifications and calls.
- Real-time info which adds a floating status bar that tells you real-time CPU and GPU usage, alongside with its temperatures, battery level, and FPS.
- Lock brightness which is self-explanatory.
For me, I find the “no alerts”, “lock brightness” and “real-time info” most useful. I can monitor the status of the ROG Phone while playing at a fixed brightness to hunt for enemies in PUBG Mobile. And definitely no messages since I get many messages and calls daily.
While the real-time info is indeed useful, I do wish that it offers more information like per-core utilization and the current clock speed that each core is running.
Then right beside these toggles are a whole column of buttons. These buttons are:
- Speed up which clears your RAM.
- AirTriggers where you can enable/disable it and remap where the AirTriggers should press on the screen.
- Macro where you can record your own set of key presses and replay them with a hotkey.
- Record which records the gameplay footage.
- Live where you can show off your gameplay on YouTube or Twitch. No Facebook, though.
- Search which opens up a smaller browser for you to find videos or websites.
- Display Scaling which lets you rescale the app if the automatic scaling has any issues.
Obviously, the biggest, most useful feature here is AirTriggers. I played PUBG Mobile so much while using the AirTriggers, I felt like I’m legally cheating. I can pan the camera while moving about and shooting at the same time!
AirTriggers is easy to set up. You enable AirTriggers after tapping on “enable” for the game, then you can move the left trigger (blue color) and right trigger (red color) to wherever you want to press on the screen.
You can also adjust the sensitivity of the AirTriggers to suit your needs. I set mine to the most sensitive since I’m a trigger happy guy in PUBG Mobile.
Take a look at these footages of me playing PUBG Mobile (I’m a noob) using AirTriggers. I mapped the left trigger to shoot and the right trigger to jump. Of course, it’s recorded using the Record option in Game Genie as well.
Speaking of the record option, I can select the resolution and audio source of the gameplay. Obviously, the footage above is recorded in 1080p – which you can tune in the Game Genie settings as well.