A Gaming Smartphone That Recalls It’s a Phone: The Review of the Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro

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    The Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro is distinct in some way. The unique aesthetic of the Asus ROG gaming phone series, which has always appealed to gamers, never ceases to astound me. However, the ROG Phone 8 series’ mainstream appearance surprises me this year. The spaceship-like white colors of the ROG Phone 6 and ROG Phone 7 have been replaced by a subdued matte black design that is appropriate for an adult gaming phone.

    The top bezel that covered the front-facing camera of the previous ROG Phone 7, which was last seen in 2019 on devices like the Samsung Galaxy S9 and the Google Pixel 4, has disappeared even though the phone still has a 6.78-inch display. Like most Android phones, the ROG Phone 8 Pro sports a punch-hole front-facing camera. A still-eye-catching mini-LED display replaces the phone’s full-color secondary display on the rear, which looks even more striking on the Pro variant.

    The end product bears similarities to the black Nothing Phone 2 and has the gaming prowess of previous ROG phones along with the specifications and $1,200 (£1,100) starting price we anticipate from this year’s Android flagships. The ROG Phone 8 Pro, which retails for $1,500, is the model I’m reviewing, and it comes equipped with an absurdly large 24GB RAM and 1TB storage. I tested it by switching between Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Dead Cells, and texting as I waited an eternity to get into GeForce Now’s free tier for cloud gaming. That maxed-out configuration made multitasking easy for me.

    In a lineup of other high-end Android phones, the ROG Phone 8 Pro may not look like much, but after using it, I could tell right away that it was still a gaming phone. The Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro has a headphone jack, which sets it apart from other mainstream phones in this price range. Additionally, it retains its two USB-C ports—one on the left side and one on the bottom—for two separate hookups or to make charging your device easier when held horizontally. Having this was really convenient for charging my Xbox controller while plugged in.

    The AeroActive Cooler X fan accessory, which used to open a door within the phone to cool its internal components, is also connected to the side USB-C connection. Rather, the ROG Phone 8 Pro features an IP68 certified sealed exterior to ward off water and dust, and the Cooler simply cools the phone’s surface. It does still feel a bit like you’re attaching a spider to keep your phone cool when you clip the accessory on. That attachment is included with the $1,500 model and costs $100 if you own the $1,200 model.

    The Phone 8 Pro’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 CPU, which supports artificial intelligence in its processing, allows it to take good pictures and videos. For flagship phones sporting the new AI-focused CPU, it’s still early days, and the Phone 8 Pro’s other AI-powered features seem more understated to me. These consist of text recognition within games, AI noise cancellation during calls, and contextual searches on the device.

    While the AI functions are pleasant and undoubtedly useful, they don’t come close to the degree of photo editing found on Google’s Pixel 8. Even while Asus probably intends to retain the Phone 8 Pro’s gaming capabilities above artificial intelligence, we still need to remember that other companies’ flagship devices in 2024 most likely will put AI front and center. It’s likely that in contrast, the AI elements on the ROG will feel more subtle.

    However, even with its more subdued AI goals, the Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro is still a beast with its initial specs of 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. It’s the only high-end phone available that has as many ports as a MacBook Air, but it comes with the newest chip and an enormous amount of space and memory.

    Gameplay, software, and design of the Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro

    The Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro has some fashionable touches, such as an active mini-LED screen on the rear, even if at first glance it appears to be just another big, black phone. Like a pair of Levi’s jeans, Asus prints its Republic of Gamers emblem, its “Dare to Win” motto, and a “Est. 2006” statement. Three cameras are housed in a somewhat large camera hump.

    However, the phone’s animated AniMe vision mini-LED display on the back is its greatest feature. Although I’m sorry to see the full color secondary display go, there are a lot of details on the new display that I hope to see on more phones. For example, the screen automatically alternates between displaying the time, the remaining battery life, and the ROG emblem. When you take a picture, the mini-LED screen can show a camera icon; when you listen to music, it can show a music visualizer; and when you set up custom animations in the settings, it can show other animations. It’s similar to the Nothing Phone 2’s back LEDs, but with this smaller screen, words and numbers can be seen more clearly than with Nothing’s abstract light patterns. If you wish to stop all of this blinking, you may also turn off this screen.

    An optical in-screen fingerprint sensor on the front 6.78-inch display unlocks the phone. You can set the screen to always run at 165Hz, however by default it runs at an adjustable refresh rate of between 1 and 120Hz. For responsiveness, the screen boasts a 720Hz touch sampling rate, which is the same as the Phone 7 from last year.

    When I played Dead Cells, these capabilities came in handy because the game offers a greater refresh rate, which made it easier to navigate dungeons. AirTriggers sensors are another feature of the Phone 8 Pro that I can program to function as shoulder buttons when holding the phone horizontally. While I still prefer to use the phone with a game controller when time and space permit, the touchscreen’s responsiveness has proven enough for the fast-paced game when I’m riding the train.

    The Phone 8 Pro becomes warm when playing games at the highest graphics and frame rates that it can support, just like other gaming phones. Although Asus claims that the phone now uses conductive cooling to transfer heat to the back, I discovered that the phone’s back gets very hot to the touch. That should be lessened by a case and the previously mentioned AeroActive X cooler attachment.

    When the fan attachment was used at its highest cooling setting and 3DMark’s 20-minute stress test was used, the phone’s dashboard recorded a temperature that began at 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and ended at 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit). In contrast, the phone began the test at 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit) and ended at a substantially hotter 53 degrees Celsius (127 degrees Fahrenheit) when I conducted the test without the adapter. Although 3DMark’s test is really hard for any phone, it can be a good comparison for a gamer who is good at pushing the boundaries.

    Other gaming-specific features that Asus carried over from previous years were the ability to customize settings for specific games, an in-game dashboard to quickly access settings, a background mode that allows apps to continue running even when the screen is off, and a new AI-grabber that can scan text within games. According to Asus, the function can be helpful for swiftly copying and pasting terms from a game and then looking up relevant instructions online.

    The Phone 8 Pro’s AI features also include noise cancellation for both audio and video calls, which is compatible with any provider that offers these services. This covers platforms like WhatsApp and within game chat services like Discord.
    Although the ROG Phone 8 Pro’s gaming modes are its primary selling point, the recent makeover has several positive effects on the phone’s appearance and feel. At 225g compared to 246g for the Phone 7 Ultimate, it weighs significantly less than the phone from the previous year.

    Additionally, the Phone 8 Pro is now 163.8mm (6.4 inches) tall, which is shorter than the Phone 7 Ultimate’s 173mm (6.7 inches) due to the removal of the phone’s top bezel. Although Asus managed to maintain the same display size between the two phones, it’s important to note that the front-facing camera now takes up a punch-hole space in the display, similar to other Android phones. This may not be ideal for gamers who want to see everything on their screen at once.

    For example, RedMagic, a competitor in gaming phones, uses an under-display front-facing camera to give users an unhindered vision; nonetheless, the quality of images obtained by under-display cameras is still inferior to that of photos taken from a hole carved out of the display. In order to prevent the cutout from interfering, Asus offers the choice to either let games cover the screen or slightly reduce the display area. Although it is doubtful that most games will be impacted by the loss of capacity, the option is available just in case.
    Comparing the ROG Phone 8 Pro’s 5,500mAh battery to the ROG Phone 7’s 6,000mAh battery, the former is larger but still quite modest. The 6,000mAh battery life of the ROG Phone 7 readily lasted me two days of use, but the ROG Phone 8 Pro produced more inconsistent results.

    I depleted the battery to 20% by the end of the day on days when I used it extensively, like the one when I used GeForce Now in the background for several hours while I completed other activities and played locally saved games. I managed to get the battery to last for two days with moderate use, which still included an hour of gaming and various things like making calls, sending texts, and listening to music. Although the exact battery life may depend on your usage habits, Asus provides a 65-watt wired charger along with the phone, and the new model of the phone supports 15-watt wireless charging. I was able to charge the battery from 0% to 69% in my 30-minute wired test, but only from 1% to 26% in my 30-minute wireless test.

    Operating on Android 14, the ROG Phone 8 Pro is expected to receive significant software updates from Asus for two years and security patches for four years. Although this is the same schedule as last year, the Phone 8 Pro’s lifespan is rather short for the price range because Google’s Pixel 8 series now includes seven years of software and security update support. Even some gamers may still upgrade their phones more frequently to get the newest chips, some consumers may prefer to hold onto this pricey gadget for as long as possible.
    camera on the Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro

    To be clear, for a gaming phone, the Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro shoots decent pictures. It includes three cameras: a 32-megapixel telephoto, a 13-megapixel ultrawide, and a 50-megapixel primary camera. The cameras captured a great deal of color and depth throughout my testing, and I’m guessing the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is pulling in a lot of the hard lifting.

    My workplace test shots of a grass wall mirrored many of the shades of green on show, and my food photos of a shrimp and avocado salad nailed the shimmer of the vinaigrette sprinkled on top. The phone’s 32-megapixel front-facing camera performed well during my video conversations, distinguishing between my cardigan and black face mask.

    I used the RedMagic 9 Pro, which has a 50-megapixel primary camera and is powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 as well, to take comparison photos. The RedMagic 9 Pro takes pictures with greater color and detail than its Asus cousin.

    This included pictures shot with the default magnification as well as the 3x zoom of the Arcade1Up cabinets in the office.

    When all of our blackout curtains are drawn, CNET’s TV lab is a dimly lit space, so both phones performed admirably in illuminating it. Our couch and the floor were discernible to both phones.

    The Asus was able to reduce image noise and make out some information even pointing the cameras in a completely dark location, which is an especially difficult task. But picture noise overpowered the RedMagic. Although we haven’t examined the RedMagic 9 Pro yet, it’s crucial to remember that its starting price of $649 is significantly less than that of the ROG Phone 8 Pro, which costs $1,200.

    In addition to 4K and 60 frames per second, the Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro can record video in 8K and 24 frames per second. The phone did chug a little bit during the 8K setting test, but the video quality was still respectable for a gaming phone. According to the manufacturer, Asus’s camera has a stabilizer that can be utilized for both still images and motion pictures.

    It’s wonderful to discover that the Phone 8 Pro can take quality pictures, as this will greatly increase the phone’s utility not only as a gaming device but also as a communication tool. However, Asus currently enjoys a first-mover advantage, and phones with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 that place even more emphasis on the camera are probably on the horizon.

    The Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro’s conclusion

    With only the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and iPhone 15 Pro Max coming close to that price, the Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro is an expensive phone at $1,200. However, if you’re looking for a high-spec gaming monster that still feels like a sleek phone, its price is comparable to what we would expect from other high-end phones with 512GB of storage. Much more so if you’re searching for a powerful device with a media focus because of its high refresh rate display, networking options, quick charging, and headphone jack.

    Most consumers, however, who aren’t in the market for a phone with a gaming concentration should hold off and see what OnePlus with the OnePlus 12 and Samsung with its rumored Galaxy S24 range have in store. Despite not having a dedicated gaming division, both companies produce phones that can play the majority of mobile games, offer more support for photography, and have longer software update cycles.

    Having said that, there are plenty of options for personalizing the Phone 8 Pro’s gaming experience for both die-hard ROG enthusiasts and those who are just intrigued to gaming phones. It will also be much more usable because to its lightweight redesign, which makes it function more like a typical phone.