Asus ROG Phone 6 review: A bit more than just gaming
- Asus ROG Phone 6 was launched today in India
- The gaming smartphone is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 SOC
- It is priced at ₹71,999
AdvertisementWhen the first ROG Phone debuted in 2018, ASUS led the top spot in gaming-centric mobile devices. Back in the day, the ROG phone might have looked like an overkill for most users. With its tacky design, a glowing ROG logo on the back, and two charging ports. But the market has evolved, and so has the demand for gaming phones. It is now recognized as a bonafide profession. That means the importance of the mentioned specs has increased many folds. Gamers indeed want the best hardware to reach the pro level, and if a device looks its part, then even better. Asus' answer? The ROG Phones 6 series. I say series because this year as well, we have a regular ROG Phone 6 and a Pro variant.
I have spent a week with the ROG Phone 6, which might be my most efficient Android device. Why do I say that? You will learn in my full review.
Price & Availability
ROG Phone 6 is available only in one variant that packs 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Available for a price of ₹71,999, you can buy the device from the Vijay sales website. In addition, the device is also available for a hands-on experience exclusively at Vijay Sales offline stores.
The ROG Phone 6 stands true to its legacy when it comes to design. It improves upon the classic ROG Phone features like the glowing customizable logo, two charging ports, and a striking color scheme. We will cover all these aspects in detail. But first, let's start with the unboxing experience itself.
Unboxing the ROG Phone 6 gives a wholesome feeling, especially since brands are moving to compact boxes. Instead, we get a big chunky box that packs in the device, some paperwork, a cover, and a charger. Mind you, the cable in the box is braided, which is a nice little touch reassuring this is indeed a gaming device.
Moving on, the phone is chunky but in line with what we have experienced with previous ROG Phone. At first glance, the smartphone reminds me of another special gaming device- the Playstation Portable.
This was my first time extensively using a ROG Phone, and I got used to the weight within a day. This can also be attributed to the weight distribution on the phone. There is no heavy side here; it's all evenly distributed. So it's safe to assume that a generic smartphone user would adjust to it quickly. Yet, we must recognize that it is a big phone at 6.7 inches. So if you have petite hands, you might have difficulty using them.
Asus' design choices are usually out of the box, but it's with ROG devices that the brand is at its creative best. I said the same for the ROG Zephyrus Duo and maintained it with the ROG Phone 6.
The variant with me is in the storm white color which is complimented with blue and black trims for graphics on the phone. This is the correct color to show the design's uniqueness since it highlights each element. But if you like to keep things subtle, there is also a phantom black color.
Let's start with the stand-out features first. The glowing ROG logo is on the back. It's the 5th iteration, and over the years, we have seen the placement of the logo being changed. This time it's placed towards the right and is a tad bit smaller than the last generation. The use case is still the same, though. In addition, you can customize its patterns and colors from the new armory crate app. Admittedly the customization options are plenty, with a healthy choice of color schemes and designs.
But this is not the only customizable LED on the back; we also get a considerably small cut-out that reads "dare to play." This as well can be customized similarly to the more prominent logo.
The ROG logo was enough to put forward the meaner, gaming-centric feel. A saving grace is that you can turn off these LEDs individually or together. The effect on the battery life for this aesthetic choice is minuscule, in my experience. And it depends on how you choose to use this feature. For testing, I kept the ROG logo on a blink pattern throughout the day and noticed a difference of just about 10 minutes for the screen on time.
Still, I will only recommend keeping it on for part of the day since it's distracting.
On the top left is the camera setup, which isn't protruding out to the extent we are accustomed to on other smartphones. For that matter, the little bump completely vanishes away once you slap on the case.
While the back LEDs held their place, the notification LED up front was the most quirky.
By counting this LED on the front, we have five ways to get a notification on the ROG Phone 6. The two back LEDs, the powerful haptics, and the always-on display. So if your friend is using a ROG Phone 6 and not replying to you, chances are they don't want to talk.
Another unique execution on the phone is for air triggers. They are seamlessly placed on the right edge, with engravings marking their presence. Apart from their use case in gaming, which we will cover in the later half of this review, air triggers can also be configured for other tasks, like short and long squeezes to open applications or access Google Assistant. They are sincere add-ons but less convenient when compared to the gestures we see on Motorola smartphones.
On the same edge, we also see volume rockers and the power button, which are tactile and neatly placed. Finally, on the opposite edge, we have the secondary USB Type-C charging port, placed for a better handling experience while gaming. If you plan to stream with your ROG phone, it is a significant add-on. Since not only can the port be used for charging, but it can also connect heavy docs required for streaming applications.
On the same edge, we also see the Dual SIM card tray that supports two micro SIMs. Special mention for the electric blue accent on the tray breaks the black frame's monotony. Asus ROG Phone 6 is 5G enabled and supports all the 5G bands available in India. I talk about connectivity in the performance section.
We have another charging port and a headphone jack on the bottom. It is always good to see endangered features on a new device and more because it's a gaming phone that requires wired earphone support for minimal latency.
With so much going on with the design of the ROG Phone 6, I have to give Asus credit for delivering it with an IPX4 water-resistant rating. It's important, considering we have three open ports on the smartphone's surface.
Overall, the ROG Phone 6 combines aesthetics with practicality in design. Delivering perfectly well within the expectations you set with a gaming smartphone.
Asus ROG Phone 6 features a 6.7-inch AMOLED display with 1080 x 2448 pixels. In terms of execution, the ROG Phone 6 is one of the few premium phones today that support a top and bottom bezel. However, I was rooting for a punch-hole display this year; we can see it in the next iteration.
Now, this is a Samsung display tuned by Asus to perform optimally, especially regarding refresh rate. So, we will come to that but first, let's talk about the viewing experience.
A big screen is even better to look at when it's optimally bright; ROG Phone 6 hits it out of the park there. With 800 nits of typical brightness at any given time and 1200 nits of peak brightness, ROG Phone 6 instantly becomes a delight. I have used the phone outdoors extensively, and not once have I found it lagging in brightness. The texts are visible even under direct sunlight.
This brightness also translates to watching content. The infamous House of Dragon episode 6 is my go-to content for judging screen brightness. And the ROG Phone 6 passed it with flying colors. When Aemond was flying with Vhagar for the first time, I could see the clarity.
The screen doesn't provide the sharpness and details we see on other flagships like the iPhone 14 Pro or the Samsung Galaxy S22, but it holds up pretty well. I was thoroughly impressed by the color saturation and contrast on the phone. The images looked color accurate, and the HDR performance was generally favorable.
The projection prowess of the screen might sound underwhelming for watching content when put against the price point. But, it's more than enough for gaming, considering most games max out at 1080P setting.
What truly makes the ROG Phone 6 stand out is the refresh rate. Maxing out at 165Hz, the display of this smartphone is one of the smoothest that I have personally interacted with. The immersive experience I had while playing games like Genshin Impact or COD Mobile with the phone is unparalleled.
I could move around my avatar with zero jitters or lag, and the screen would support my movement. Now I play games with X mode turned on, which locks the refresh rate at 144Hz, which is uber smooth. This further cements ROG Phone's use case for gaming.
Another area where the display crushes is web browsing and reading in general. I spend a lot of time looking at quality reads on Reddit. Seeing memes is hard work, guys, so having a high refresh rate always helps. The case is similar for web browsing and even reading books or articles.
For audio, ROG Phone 6 packs in a powerful stereo speaker setup. Placed parallelly on each side of the display, they deliver an immersive audio experience. In addition, the audio output, while lacking bass, provides high levels of volume, which can easily be a substitute for a compact Bluetooth speaker. For example, during our prep for the shoots for Business Insider, we blast out some music to get grooving. Generally, it's done on my Macbook Pro; however, this past week, it was on ROG Phone 6, and no one felt the difference.
AdvertisementBefore closing this section, I want to touch upon the in-display fingerprint sensor on the ROG Phone 6. This is an optical image sensor, which is very quick to unlock the device. But as is the limitation of this technology, you will find yourself placing your finger at a particular angle for accurate readings.
Asus ROG Phone 6 runs on Android 12 out of the box with the ROG UI, a gaming-centric version of the Zen UI. Usually, with gaming UIs we see a creative overload with the themes. The colors are oversaturated, the animations are loud, and the UI is complex. On the ROG Phone 6, this isn't the case. Yes, the animations are loud, but not to the point where it gets annoying. Yes, we see an overuse of the reds here and there, but they sit well with the scheme of the phone.
And the UI in itself is straightforward to understand, mainly thanks to the big tiles that Android 12 brings on board. We see this healthy hybrid of Google OS skin and Zen UI throughout the usage. My favorite is, of course, the drop-down menu. You can edit the options here, but Asus has taken care of most of them. From turning on the X mode to accessing settings, it takes care of complex and easy tasks.
You can tweak every element on the Asus ROG Phone 6's skin. What makes it more fun is that the themes are gamer-centric, so throwing in some pastel colors if you wish to will give them an exciting look.
AdvertisementBut keeping the Android 12 features apart, the UI generally has a lot to offer. Primarily the armory crate. This is Asus's version of gaming mode on a smartphone. As expected, this is well-versed and can be a bit complicated to understand.
The hub shows essential details like the phone temperature, gamer profiles, and access to new high-refresh-rate titles. But that's not all; you can also access the ROG community from here, which to my surprise, is pretty active. A hit and miss is that you cant link discord servers directly to the armory crate. However, this little addition could make the armory crate the only stop for a user.
Now, the Armory crate has three unique profile settings. Dynamic, ultra-durable, and the X-mode. Each one brings its flavor to the usage, from graphic settings to power consumption and the UI's aesthetics. Each mode explains itself with its name. Ultra-durable mode is meant for longer battery life with significantly less graphics and refresh rate power. The dynamic mode reduces battery optimization and increases power for other elements like refresh rate and system performance. Finally, the X-mode takes the refresh rate to its full potential, with system performance and network enhancement getting a significant boost.
These presets are well-optimized according to the phone. However, you can edit them according to your preferences. I will touch more on the performance of the modes in the next section.
Asus promises to deliver two years of Android updates on the ROG Phone 6, with the Android 13 update rolling out as early as February 2023. We are also expected to get regular security updates; this is a safe investment for software.
AdvertisementThe ROG Phone 6 completely crushes in terms of performance both for gaming and generic usage.
I want to start with gaming first. I have been playing 2-hour marathons of call of duty mobile with the ROG Phone 6 set to X-mode. The game runs on maxed-out settings without any hiccups. I am talking about max frame rates and ultra graphics quality. There was no lag, the movement of the characters was fluid, and with a 144Hz refresh rate moving around in the game was no problem. I regularly play COD mobile, and my device is generally the OnePlus 10T, a device with a similar processor. Yet I could see significant performance differences on the ROG Phone 6. Mostly in terms of ray tracing and rendering times.
Another one of my favorite titles is Genshin Impact, an open-world game. Genshin Impact is extremely difficult in terms of renders, making it a graphically tough match. However, ROG Phone 6 handled the game, delivering 60fps on high graphic settings.
I also played rigorous sessions of New State on the ROG Phone 6, and the results were no different. Running on high graphic settings, I was getting up to 90fps in the game. Making it the most fluid experience I have had for the game so far.
We know that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 was better in terms of performance when compared to the 8 Gen 1. But the optimization on ROG Phone 6 truly pushes this chipset's capacity. Particularly in heat management. Complex product design has allowed Asus to significantly reduce the heat dispersed by the phone, even with countless hours of labor. And this is visible. I would generally play my games for upto one and a half hours with the phone slightly warming up from the back. And this is with the Asus logo turned on set to a single color.
Asus also sells a separate cooling accessory for the phone, which I need help finding a use case for during my testing.
For reference, in terms of performance, I also ran a Geekbench. Again, the phone delivered an impressive report card with a single-core score of 1095 and a multi-core score of 2806. These are remarkable numbers and the highest that I have personally tested.
In 3D marks wildlife extreme score for judging the graphics performance, the ROG Phone 6 scored 2757, with an average frame rate of 16.50.
How we channel the power makes the performance quotient more attractive on the ROG Phone 6. While X-mode is built for gaming, its preset sets the refresh rate to 144Hz by default. Fortunately, we can fix it to 165Hz or auto.
I, however, found myself using the dynamic mode the most. It gave me X-mode performance while saving up on some battery like the ultra-durable mode. Also, in Dynamic mode, the gaming performance does not take a significant hit, with the fps dropping very slightly. But the fluidity was rock solid throughout.
Speed is another major USP for me with this device. The 12GB UFS3.1 RAM on the device boots up every application in a snap. I am talking about heavy apps like Genshin Impact here. This also means the phone retains applications for more extended periods. For example, I play Wordle with about a dozen other open tabs on the Google Chrome application. With ROG Phone 6, I could easily hop back on the browser window, returning to the exact sentence where I left it.
Talking about internal memory, the phone packs in 256GB of storage. Considering games won't be everything a customer stores on a mobile device, more is needed with those heavy games installed. And the fact that this is the only storage option available in India might trouble the very crowd that this device is meant for.
Before closing in, it's paramount we talk about the battery life of the ROG Phone 6. After using it daily for about a week, I have been averaging out at 6 hours and 5 minutes of screen time, irrespective of the mode in which I am using it.
On the days when I had a more intensive session of over 2 hours of games, the SoT dropped to about 5 hours. Which is no small number when put against the performance we are getting here.
The 6000 mAh battery is split into two 3000 mAh cells that charge in about an hour with the bundled charger.
ROG Phone 6's victory lap in every round of testing came to an ugly halt with the camera department. With the final score nose diving thanks to the cameras.
On paper, the camera comes with a triple-sensor setup. There is a 50MP primary camera, a 13MP ultra-wide sensor, and a 5MP macro sensor. These are the specs of a top-tier smartphone camera, yet it could translate to something other than decent performance.
The primary sensor is a Sony IMX766 unit similar to the one on the OnePlus 10T. And it struggles with the same issues here. The camera generally delivers over-saturated colors, which look burned out more often than not, especially when we click pictures in bright outdoors.
The whites completely wipe out, making a lot of noise in the picture. The phone takes a good second to process the image before taking it to the gallery, but the results are close to what's on the viewfinder.
The low light performance dips even further, with the camera losing out on details even with the auto night mode in place.
The ultra-wide sensor here does its job well, providing more room to click pictures, and I did not observe any color shift. What annoyed me the most was how the option to go ultra-wide doesn't appear in regular camera mode. The phone requires you to go to pro mode to switch to an ultra-wide sensor. The option also shows up in video mode. This isn't very pleasant, and I hope it is fixed with an OTA update.
I also clicked portrait shots with the ROG Phone 6, and the results were underwhelming. With terrible edge detection. You can tweak the blurred post the snap, but the software misses the effect near the head.
The macro sensor provides a silver lining, with the images retaining details and color accuracy. I clicked multiple subjects with it and got consistent results.
The video situation could be more impressive too. The camera can record up to 8K videos at 24fps, but the color saturation problem remains consistent. For example, the reds look over-saturated, while lighter or paler shades like gray turn out to be undersaturated. In addition, although video stabilization is impressive, shots taken while moving in or out of a frame were static with minimal blur or lag.
The selfie camera here is a 12MP sensor, which can click some decent pictures, especially in outdoor conditions. But indoors, the color tones shift significantly. The video recording capacity is 1080P at 30 fps, and the performance here is decent, with the selfie camera sharing the stability aspects of the primary sensors.
AdvertisementOverall, for the price, the camera setup on the ROG Phone 6 is underwhelming, especially for a first-time buyer. I say that because previous ROG phones were small on camera too. So the TG for the device is well aware of what they are getting into.
If I keep the camera performance at bay, Asus ROG Phone 6 has to be the most fun Android device I have used in 2022. Ultimately breaking away from the syntax of an Android smartphone, it pushes the benchmark by showing what can be done with the platform.
So, who should buy it? If you are a pro gamer, or someone who wants to build a career in gaming then this is the device for you. It packs in the correct hardware optimized with the gaming-centric software you need.
But what about a generic customer with this budget? This can also be a valuable purchase for you. Yes, you will have to compromise with the camera, but the performance here will show you just how good an Android can be. It will satisfy you with the battery to display and an efficient chipset.
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