The ROG Phone series continues to target gamers who want performance at any cost, but is this still a large enough niche?
Asus is now the only company still selling bulky, powerful, dedicated gaming phones in India. The ROG Phone 7 series arrives right on time, with the latest flagship Qualcomm SoC, showing that the Taiwanese giant is still committed to making improvements even as its competitors have fallen back. However, is a gaming phone still relevant in 2023, and would you be happier with a more mainstream phone that’s a little less powerful but a lot more affordable and easier to carry?
If you’re familiar with any of the previous Asus ROG Phone models, you’ll see that the company has kept to its formula in terms of design and features. There’s nothing completely new or disruptive here. Two versions have been launched – the standard ROG Phone 7, and the ROG 7 Ultimate which has more RAM and storage, a small PMOLED display on the back and a vent that can physically open for better cooling (more on this later). The Ultimate unit comes in a more elaborate box, and the AeroActive Cooler 7 is included. It’s also available only in a silvery-white matte glass finish, while the standard ROG Phone 7 comes in Storm White and Phantom Black.
While the base Asus ROG Phone 7 model is priced at Rs. 74,999 in India, the Ultimate version costs a whopping Rs. 99,999. The AeroActive Cooler 7 on its own will cost Rs. 6,999. Buyers can register their interest starting today, though units will only go on sale on an unspecified date in May 2023.
Both versions have the same core specifications and dimensions. At 239g, the ROG Phone 7 is bulky, but surprisingly a hair lighter than the iPhone 14 Pro Max and just 5g heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, so it’s in the same ballpark as other flagship phones. The 10.4mm thickness is also within reason. However, you might not find either of these variants as comfortable in day-to-day-use. Having spent time with multiple previous ROG Phone models, I can tell you that they aren’t very convenient to carry around in a pocket and even just reading or typing for an extended period can get fatiguing.
The borders around the screen are quite thick by today’s mainstream standards but this means that there’s no notch or hole for the front camera, and you get dual front-firing speakers for balanced stereo sound. Just like last year’s versions, the ROG Phone 7 series all have 6.78-inch screens with a 1080×2448-pixel resolution, 165Hz maximum refresh rate and 720Hz maximum touch sampling rate. What’s new is a 1500nit peak brightness and auto HDR conversion.
As expected, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 with its integrated Adreno 740 GPU is the SoC that powers the ROG Phone 7 series, and if you’re paying this much for a gaming phone you’d expect the latest and greatest. The standard ROG Phone 7 has 12GB of LPDDR5X RAM and 256GB of UFS 4.0 storage, while the Ultimate version has 16GB and 512GB respectively. There are two 3000mAh battery units, which Asus says makes for quicker charging and improved heat dissipation. 65W USB-PD fast charging is supported, though for some reason you only get a 30W charger in the box. There’s no wireless charging. For connectivity, Wi-Fi 7 is supported.
There’s Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and Gorilla Glass 3 on the back. Both ROG Phone 7 models have the same IP54 rating but that doesn’t apply for the Ultimate when the cooling vent on the back is open.
That vent is meant to allow the AeroActive Cooler 7, a rather large clip-on fan attachment, to interface physically with the phone’s cooling system to conduct heat out of its body. Using it is said to drop the rear panel temperature by up to 25 percent, that too quite rapidly. The attachment also has a bunch of RGB LEDs, a small subwoofer, and four physical trigger buttons.
So what sets the ROG Phone 7 apart from other devices with the same high-end hardware? For one, it’s the gamer-centric design, which prioritises things like front-firing speakers and highly effective cooling over reducing weight. You also get dedicated “AirTrigger” sensors on the frame which line up with your forefingers, to act as physical controls in games. Like with its predecessors, there’s a second USB Type-C port on one side so you can charge your phone while gaming.
Moreover, there are plenty of software tweaks, letting you do things like program the AirTriggers and create macros, apply game-specific UI themes, choose a performance preset, and fine-tune graphics and other hardware parameters. An overlay can show you performance stats as well as estimated battery life. The ROG Phone 7 series introduces vibration mapping and automatic clip recording when certain input sequences are detected.
On the downside, Asus can’t promise that the ROG Phone 7’s cameras will match those of today’s more common premium Android phones at this price. The main camera is based on a 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 sensor, and you get only basic 13-megapixel ultra-wide and 8-megapixel macro cameras. There’s a 32-megapixel front camera.
The ROG Phone 7 models really aren’t for everyone. They only make sense for those who value gaming performance above all else. If you’re extremely competitive, like being able to play games comfortably for long hours, and if you will use the triggers and software tweaks, you are Asus’ target audience. At these prices, you could buy a very capable and slick modern flagship Android device or even an iPhone. However, if you’re the type to spend a few lakhs on a good gaming laptop and upgrade your desktop PC every few years, the ROG Phone 7’s price won’t feel like such a stretch.