While some of its competitors are going for completely flat backs and unobstructed screens with under-display cameras, Asus decided it was time to ditch those awesome front-firing speakers and go for a more ‘normal’ combo of bottom-firing speakers and an earpiece. But in making that move, Asus has finally freed the ROG Phones from bezels for the first time. And that’s just one of many changes Asus has made to the ROG Phone this year.
The ROG Phone 8 series is taking a more “mainstream” approach in 2024, aiming to appeal to a wider set of smartphone users rather than just the niche pro-gamer crowd. Aside from slimmer bezels, Asus has upgraded the cameras to include a telephoto lens for the first time, added wireless charging, and toned down the gamer aesthetic for a more mature look. But that’s not all – the phones are also slimmer, lighter, and now IP68 water and dust-resistant, a big step up from the basic IP54 rating of the previous models.
I certainly wasn’t expecting the ROG Phone 8 Pro to weigh about the same as the iPhone 15 Pro Max when I first picked it up – it still has beefed-up specs as a gaming phone, after all. Asus managed this partly by slightly reducing the battery capacity from 6,000mAh in the ROG Phone 7 to a more reasonable 5,500mAh this time around. Asus claims this only had a minor impact on battery life while providing worthwhile benefits. As a fan of slim and lightweight phones, I wholeheartedly agree with the tradeoff.
I’ll be honest: I hadn’t gotten my mitts on any of the ROG Phones before this, or really any of the newer gaming phones out there. So the whole idea of screens faster than 120Hz on a phone is still pretty new to me. I used to think that after 120Hz, any differences in refresh rate would be impossible to notice in normal use.
But after just a couple of flicks of the app drawer on the ROG Phone 8 Pro’s 165Hz display, I’m a believer. The average user may not see a huge change at first glance, but it becomes obvious pretty quick. And it’s not only smoother animation – the touch response is significantly snappier too, almost acting like it’s predicting where you’ll swipe next. Of course, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 under the hood helps with the smoothness as well.
Flipping the phone over reveals a snazzy matrix of LEDs instead of the OLED panel on the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate. Technically it’s a downgrade, but I’d say it looks just as cool. You can customise it a ton, and it actually shows handy info like battery level and gaming mode – or you could simply let it display an illuminated brand logo as I did below.
The handset also packs air triggers, and while I didn’t get the chance to properly test them out, I tried to get a sense of how they’d feel to use. My fingers definitely felt more natural resting on top of the phone, compared to my usual claw grip where my index fingers sit on the top halves of the screen.
All in all, Asus has hit the mark with the specs on the ROG Phone 8 Pro, but my main beef with Android gaming phones is that due to fragmentation, many games can’t fully utilise the beastly hardware these things are packing. Stay tuned for the full review to see how the phone holds up in gaming tests.