Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Asus ROG Phone 6 review: An underrated gaming phone that deserves more love

Everyone has their own set of “dream” features they look for in a new smartphone. What you like might not resonate with others, and features that seem silly to you could represent something important to someone else. When I was reviewing the Asus ROG Phone 6, this thought was top of my mind because this is not a phone that will appeal to everyone but will find takers among those who want high-end specs and unique aesthetics only a die-hard mobile gamer will appreciate. Here are my thoughts on the ROG Phone 6 after using it for a week.

Asus ROG Phone 6 price in India: Rs 71,999

Edgy looks but a bit heavier than average phones
The ROG Phone 6, like the ROG Phone 4 and ROG Phone 5, remains almost identical in design barring a few subtle changes here and there. Asus is following in the footsteps of Apple and its peers in the phone world to stick to one design for at least three years which is not a bad thing, but this approach doesn’t work all the time. The ROG Phone 6 definitely feels heavy when you play games or watch videos. A ton of big phones sport the same metal-and-glass sandwich design, but not all of them feel as thick and heavy as the ROG Phone 6. Still, the ROG Phone 6 is way better looking when you hold it. The front is mostly a giant screen with a top and bottom chin to allow for the top selfie camera hole. I also like the hidden speakers under the top and bottom of the glass.

The rear is designed to woo hardcore gaming nerds, which is far from the clean rear panel I have been used to with my iPhone. Over the years, I have seen Asus gaming laptops develop a unique gamer aesthetic, and the company has tried to replicate the same with the ROG Phone 6 but in a little more friendly manner. The rear has a glowing element, a small “Dare to Play” RGB logo, and a tri-camera/LED flash array.

You will find additional ultrasonic sensors on the side near where your ring fingers might rest while holding them in landscape mode. And like before, the ROG Phone 6 has two USB Type-C ports — one on the bottom and one on the side (which becomes the bottom when gaming in landscape).

The phone continues with a 3.5mm headphone jack, a rarity on most flagship phones now. But in a gaming phone, I can see the point of keeping a headphone jack. The phone is IPX4 rated, which means it’s resistant to water splashes. What’s exciting is that the phone is still pocketable, meaning I don’t have to carry the device in a space case like a Steam Deck or Nintendo Switch Lite. That way, the ROG Phone 6 is a step in the right direction of miniaturising a handheld console into a phone form factor.

165Hz capable screen for smooth gaming
The ROG Phone 6 is rocking a 165Hz AMOLED display (6.78 inches at 2448×1080) FHD+ resolution. Asus says the ROG Phone 6’s screen can reach up to 800 nits of peak brightness outdoors and up to 1,200 nits of brightness when viewing HDR10 and Dolby Vision videos. The display also supports a 720Hz touch sampling rate for improved responsiveness. The 165Hz panel (which automatically adjusts as per app), made by Samsung, is a nice spec to brag about. But I don’t think even hardcore mobile gamers, who will get the ROG Phone 6 will be able to take advantage of the ridiculous refresh rate. The problem is that there are hardly any known games that got my attention that supports 165Hz refresh rate. Most popular games I played are limited to 120Hz, so the 165Hz refresh rate is more of a gimmick, but it’s there nonetheless.

Blazing fast performance
Before I started using the ROG Phone 6, I knew the purpose of a phone as big and powerful as this. I had intended to use it mainly as a part work and part entertainment device. Asus loaned me the unit with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of non-expandable storage. As someone who works in the news business, your primary go-to device is critical. It shouldn’t hang when loading critical apps and the battery should last long. The ROG Phone 6 is decent enough for writing and editing articles on the go.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor is a powerful chip and my own tests confirm the ROG Phone 6 indeed maintains claims by Asus. Performance is incredibly fast and apps open in no time. Editing photos and videos on the go was a smooth experience. This is a capable device for listening to podcasts, audiobooks and consuming videos. I was also quite amazed by its 6,000mAh battery, which lasted one and a half days on a single charge. A 65W HyperCharge plug in the box is capable of charging up the phone from 0 per cent to 100 per cent in about 40 – 45 minutes. It, however, lacks wireless charging.

The gaming ninja
I bet a lot of you are reading this review, simply because you want to know how the ROG Phone 6 fared in gaming. Playing Alto’s Adventure and Apex Legends Mobile on the ROG Phone 6 delivered the solid performance I expected from a dedicated gaming phone. Yes, even my iPhone 14 is capable of running the same games I just mentioned. But on the ROG Phone 6, I could see the difference in graphics and improved responsiveness, all thanks to the display supporting high refresh rate and the dual front-facing speakers which by the way are extremely loud and have sufficient bass.

A big part of gaming on the ROG Phone 6 AirTriggers is the ultrasonic sensors embedded within the phone that can be mapped to emulate physical buttons. AirTriggers come in handy when you play games like Genshin Impact. I also want to touch upon the Armoury Crate game launcher, which in a way tries to mimic console UI. Essentially, it lets you customise things like what refresh rate you want the screen to run at, and how much you want to push the power of the processor, graphics chip, RAM, etc. There’s so much to the ROG Phone 6 that I barely scratched during a week’s time.

The ROG Phone 6 ships with Android 12 with ROG UI & Zen UI. I opted for ROG UI, which is a flashier version with a gamer-centric UI. The thing with ROG UI is that it lacks responsiveness and at times you feel like the Armoury Crate app, the Game Genie overlay, and the X-mode for gaming performance doesn’t work in a harmonious way. Asus will offer two OS updates and two years of security updates, which isn’t a great sign when players like Samsung are already committing four generations of OS upgrades.

On the camera front, the ROG Phone 6 pairs three cameras on the back consisting of a 50-megapixel wide, a 13-megapixel ultrawide and a 5-megapixel macro lens. The camera quality is average. Images aren’t shabby but they are nowhere close to what my iPhone 14 can capture. They didn’t produce the crispest photos and true-to-life images with accurate colours, but overall, the consistency of the image quality wasn’t a question. If you are only planning to share ROG Phone 6 photos on Instagram or Facebook and sharpness isn’t as high of a priority, you will not be disappointed.

Should you buy the Asus ROG Phone 6?
Asus’ latest ROG Phone 6 is like a super deluxe version of a smartphone. From the hardware point of view, I think Asus has nailed the concept of bringing a powerful gaming phone into your pocket. There are a lot of good ideas that have gone into making the ROG Phone 6, like creating a “mobile gaming” ecosystem through first-party accessories. But that’s where the peak comes, making it difficult for Asus to transcend the formula of creating the most powerful gaming phone that might have worked for certain consumers in the past. After working on six generations of gaming smartphones, the ROG Phone 6 should have looked like a Steam Deck, a device that has successfully brought PC gaming into the handheld form factor.

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