A gaming phone as good as the ROG 5 is hard to find. The phone has a great display, a long battery life, fast charging, and excellent speakers, which makes it a great device for any type of media enjoyment. It has a few upgrades over its predecessor – and even has a 3.5mm jack again.
Although the phone has a few shortcomings, like a limited camera suite, it hasn’t been radically improved to match phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21. However, ROG phones are becoming fewer and farther from each new ROG phone, and the ROG Phone 5 has managed to be competitive with other smartphones if you don’t need smartphones with the best cameras.
With the ROG 5, Asus strikes a nice balance between its predecessors’ angled plastic, which was known for its ‘gamer chic’ aesthetic, and the ROG 5’s subtle lines. This ROG generation’s aesthetic nod to ‘gamer expression’ is a light-up panel on the rear – either with a gaming logo, or an OLED screen displaying whatever you want in the pricier ROG 5 models.
Its design is largely similar to its predecessor, the ROG 3: a rectangular black (or white, if you choose the Ultimate version) device with identical buttons and ports. Some differences can be seen – for instance, the back cover’s RGB-lit ROG icon has now been filtered through a block that makes it look 8-bit – but they are mostly subtle.
Besides the power and volume buttons on the right side, there are capacitive touch buttons along the extreme top and bottom edges of the right side which serve as shoulder buttons. A USB-C port is found on the left side, as it has been since the ROG series debuted, but this time, there’s a capacitive strip for accessories instead of another cable port. It makes it easier to remove the rubber plug (which keeps dust and sand out) since the hole is shallower.
It displays vivid colors and sharp visuals on its 6.78-inch Full HD Plus AMOLED display (2440 x 1080) with HDR10+ certification. It features a thin black bar that houses the front-facing camera, an elegant move to avoid the use of a notch.
Despite its crisp pictures, the only complaint we can make is that deep shadows or large patches of darkness lose their clarity. As a result of the ROG 5’s Full HD Plus display, the ROG 5’s pictures look less sharp than on phones with screens having higher resolutions – like the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus’s WQHD Plus display (3200 x 1440).
In general, the ROG 5’s display is as good as, if not better than, nearly every other flagship smartphone out there (the iPhone 12 Pro just has an edge in terms of clarity and color balance). Gamer benefits from a 144Hz refresh rate, as browsing the internet and playing games that support higher frames per second are made much more seamless.
In contrast, the Samsung Galaxy S21’s screen samples at 240Hz, which is much slower than the 300Hz rate of the OnePlus 4’s screen.
It is notable that Asus’ ROG Phone 5 lacks a telephoto lens for zoom photography. While its high-megapixel main lens is capable of crop-zooming, it cannot replace the kind of magnification provided by Samsung’s Space Zoom phones.
Even so, the Asus ROG 5 has casual photography covered with its triple cameras: a 64MP primary camera, a 13MP ultra-wide camera with a 125-degree field of view, and a 5MP macro lens. An excellent 24MP camera is located on the front of the phone.
Although it takes decent photos in daylight, it’s outperformed in terms of clarity by top-tier phones, such as the iPhone 12 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus (our test phones). The Asus ROG 5 actually performed better than the iPhone 12 Pro in daylight conditions at maximum (8x) zoom because of its less blurry images and more accurate balance of light and shadows, though the Samsung phone led overall with its Space Zoom.
Though its portrait mode falls short of top-tier flagships, the Asus ROG 5 offers a decent depth of field effects, producing a nice blur in the background. Despite the camera’s low-light performance is respectable, it performs better with ambient light, and you may have difficulty switching focus.
RoG 5 is capable of 4K video recording at 60 frames per second (or 30fps with the ultra-wide camera), slow motion in 4K at 120 frames per second, and still photography while recording video.
Specs and performance
In terms of sheer power and performance, the Asus ROG 5 competes with 2021’s top smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy S21 line. Whether we switch between apps or browse the web or watch media or play games for long stretches, the phone can handle it all.
In terms of RAM and storage, there is one big difference among the ROG 5 variants: the standard version starts with 8GB of RAM but can be had with 12GB or 16GB of RAM as well, all in the latest LPDDR5/UFS 3.1. We received the 16GB RAM model from Asus, and it performed extremely well – as one might expect from such a powerful processor.
Considering that the ROG 5 with 16GB of RAM surpassed our best upcoming smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus, with 3170 points in the multi-core Geekbench 5 score, handily. It is not the most powerful smartphone, but the specs are competitive.
Despite the brightly-colored SIM tray on the right side of the phone, the ROG 5 does not include expandable storage via microSD despite starting with 128GB of storage, which is a standard for most 2021 Android phones. Both the ROG 5 Pro and ROG 5 Ultimate have 512GB of storage.
Android 11 comes preloaded on the Asus ROG 5, along with the appreciably minimal, yet attractive Zen UI overlay. Included in the box are Armoury Crate gaming software and gamer-chic wallpaper that comes to life when you activate X-Mode. It’s 5G-capable but doesn’t support mmWave, it’s only capable of sub-6 frequencies.
|Neat built-in gaming features||Large, heavy, and dense|
|Remarkable performance||Still no telephoto lens|
|Great display and speakers||‘Gamer chic’ looks might be too much for some|
With its design and software features, the Asus ROG 5 is one of the best gaming smartphones on the market. A good screen and great speakers, as well as the 65W fast charging, make this phone a superior choice to its predecessor that appeals to non-gamers as well. Despite being a pricey handset with notable camera shortcomings compared to rival flagships, the ROG 5 is a good alternative to top Android phones if you don’t mind its few flaws.