ASUS’ latest flagship phone, the ASUS ROG Phone 8 has now been in my hands for a few weeks since its release, and while it’s unequivocally one of the best gaming phones on the market right now, ASUS’ attempts to appeal to mainstream audiences squander a gaming great, and I’m not sure if that’s the best plan of action.
Revealed during the CES 2024 period, the ASUS ROG Phone 8 features hefty specs, deserving of its premium price. However, one of its major selling points was the fact that ASUS is targeting general smartphone fanatics as opposed to simply gamers. I fit both audiences, also being a mobile gamer too, so it definitely intrigued me seeing ASUS’ presentation for the flagship line up.
While I’ve briefly played around with previous ASUS ROG Phones, this was the first time I’ve had the chance to actually test it out for hours on end. I’ve had a history of using the latest smartphones from the major players, all of which sit around the same price as the ROG Phone 8, and I’m surprised by some incredible things, and disappointed by other aspects.
The ASUS ROG Phone 8 Pro only comes in one colour - Phantom Black. It’s sleek, stylish, and looks fitting with the AniMe mini-LED setup on the back of the phone. That’s right, if you pick up the ASUS ROG Phone 8 Pro as opposed to the standard version, you swap out the gamer-centric RGB ASUS logo for a stylish display on the back. It’s also completely customisable, allowing you to have more control over your phone’s pizazz.
I love the fact that it gives you a bunch of information when it’s display-down, rotating through a set of options that you can toggle on or off. Apparently, you can also find other ASUS ROG Phone 8 Pro users and touch phones to enable some exclusive AniMe animations, but you’d likely have to set up a meeting to find more.
Aside from the mini-LED display, the ROG Phone 8 has a pretty standardised smartphone design, featuring a camera bump on the back. The only exceptions are that the USB-C port at the bottom of the phone sits at the left hand side (more on that later), and there’s another USB-C port in the centre of the left side of the phone too.
Similar to previous ASUS ROG Phones, the ROG Phone 8 keeps the 3.5mm headphone jack, giving you options while other premium smartphones have moved away from audio jacks completely. In the box, you get a 65W charger and a braided USB-C cable, and for Pro users who purchase via the ASUS website, you’ll also get the AeroActive Cooler X, which can be bought separately and comes with two shoulder buttons and is powered by the USB-C port on the left side.
The main difference between the Phone 8 and its counterparts is an increase in RAM and storage as you get to the more expensive models. However, the initial model features 12GB of RAM as a baseline, reaching 16GB and 24GB as you spend more money. I think, for most people and gamers alike, 12GB is more than enough in an Android smartphone and you should really only pay extra if you want additional storage or you like the look of the AniMe display.
Similar to other premium Android smartphones, the ASUS ROG Phone 8 is sporting a 6.78” AMOLED screen, which is vibrant and pops with colours, especially in games like Genshin Impact or Honkai: Star Rail, both of which have visuals that pop. And, as a gaming phone, the display offers a 165Hz refresh rate, which is probably overkill in most cases but at least it’s there.
The display sports a high 2400x1080 resolution, and is made of Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2, the same glass that Samsung equipped the S23 line up of phones with, but one that has been succeeded by the Corning Gorilla Armor, first found in the Galaxy S24 line up. However, Victus 2 is still a strong glass, and one that should keep your device as scratch-free as possible.
I was impressed with the general sensitivity of the display, not noting much difference between the ROG Phone 8 and the S23 Ultra or the iPhone 15 Pro Max. ASUS’ fingerprint scanner, hidden beneath the display, is alsofairly responsive, giving you a quick unlock of your phone instead of inputting a long passcode, but can occasionally play up. However, I had similar issues with the S23 Ultra, and not much can hold a candle to Apple’s FaceID.
Of course, ASUS’ biggest market with the ROG Phones is for gaming, and I had absolutely zero complaints here. Between Balanced Mode and X Mode, the latter of which will boost your gaming performance at the cost of battery life and thermals (which means you’ll probably need the AeroActive Cooler or something similar), I had very little hiccups in the Phone 8’s performance.
Read More: ASUS ROG Phone 8 specs
Much like the rest of the phone, the X Mode is probably overkill for most mobile gamers, aside from those who are into emulation, especially that of the Nintendo Switch. Games like COD Mobile, Genshin Impact, Marvel Snap, Star Rail, and Dead Cells all ran extremely smoothly on the ROG Phone 8, even in Balanced Mode, which I expected.
The ASUS ROG Phone 8 is using the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset, similar to Samsung’s latest flagship and the benchmarks are as you expect. It’s a fairly powerful device, and it has performed better than the S23 Ultra in most cases. The phone is running the latest Android OS, Android 14, with an ROG reskin to match the gaming aesthetics.
The ROG Phone 8 also arrives with Armory, a pre-installed application that lets you change settings, monitor performance, and launch games, all from one app. While the performance of the handset is certainly excellent, the longevity might be a bit more questionable. ASUS is promising at least two years of major Android updates and four years of security updates, with rivals like Samsung and Google offering seven years of major Android updates and security upgrades. Considering the prices are almost equivalent, this seems like a disappointing trade-off to make for a gaming-centric phone, unless you’re a serial smartphone upgrader like myself.
Another major problem is the lack of controller support for the ASUS ROG Phone 8. I don’t mean using controllers via Bluetooth like your standard Xbox or PS5 controllers, but rather, using a peripheral like the Backbone One or the Gamesir G8, both of which have a centred USB-C port. Since the ROG Phone 8 has its charging port sitting on the left, standard wired controllers like the aforementioned Backbone One won’t attach, which is seriously disappointing for a gaming phone. Don't expect to be using some of the best phone controllers with this handset.
There’s also the camera, which I found worse than most other phones at the same price point. It takes nice pictures, but it has a lengthy delay between pressing the button and having the shutter go off, which could potentially ruin some perfectly-planned moments. The camera itself isn’t overly disappointing, capturing nice photos overall, but it isn’t as good as some rivals, and considering that the ASUS ROG Phone 8 is competing for a share in the general market, you may find it lacklustre.
The ASUS ROG Phone 8 offers a 5,500 mAh battery, which I found to be excellent in almost every case. Intense gaming sessions will drain a full charge in around five hours, while web-browsing or watching videos will give you roughly 17 hours and 12 hours respectively.
It’s not as long-lasting as the very-optimised iPhone 15 Pro Max from Apple, or the premium Samsung S23 Ultra, but it does deliver a fairly powerful chipset that seems to be performing well across the board. Considering ASUS wants it to be used as both a premium handset and a gaming phone, this is certainly good enough.
Additionally, the 65W charging capabilities make it fast to get from 0% to 100% if you find yourself demolishing the battery during some lengthy matches of COD Mobile. Wireless charging is also available in the ASUS ROG Phone 8 at a slow, but standard 15W rate.
Overall, the ASUS ROG Phone 8 performs extremely well across the board when it comes to the excellent Snapdragon chipset within, and offers some exciting gaming-focused features that make it an excellent handset for any mobile gamers. However, a lacking camera, only two years of major Android updates, and fairly overkill specs make it hard to recommend to anyone who wants a premium smartphone that does what they need. But it’s a good first step for ASUS’ attempt at the general mobile market.