ASUS ROG Phone 5s is a monster of a gaming phone.
Hey ho, GM got the chance for another ROG phone review, previously the ROG Phone 2. This time, the ROG Phone 5s, generously provided by ASUS Malaysia. Yes, those words in the beginning are the compressed impression of ROG Phone 5s. The gaming phone scene is quite defined now, with devices featuring flagship specs with gamer-centric features.
In the box, you get the phone unit, a braided and high-quality USB-C to C cable, a 65W charger and stylish Aerocase. Also some notable extras like ROG sim ejection tool, ROG stickers and spare rubber port covers. The box has some AR-enabled graphics that are scannable with the camera during first-time setup with moving comic of a cyberpunk samurai. Don’t worry, you can enjoy it again later using the pre-installed Armory Crate app.
Specifications and Build Quality
Full specifications can be obtained from ASUS website here.
- Display: 6.78″ 20.4:9 (2448p x 1080p) 144 Hz / 1 ms Samsung E4 AMOLED. Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, Delta-E < 1 10-bit HDR10+
- Chipset: Snapdragon 888+ 5G @2.99GHz / Adreno 660 GPU
- RAM: 8GB to 16GB (18GB for Pro) LPDDR5
- Storage: 128GB to 256GB (512GB for Pro) UFS 3.1 non-expandable storage
- Battery: 6000mAh Li-Po / 65W HyperCharge / QuickCharge 5.0 / USB PD
- Connectivity: Dual Nano Sim with dual 5G standby / 1x USB Type-C 2.0 + 1x USB Type-C 3.1 / WiFi: 802.11 ax / Bluetooth 5.2 / NFC
- Camera: 64MP Sony IMX686 Sensor + 13MP Ultrawide + 24MP front + 5MP macro
- Audio: Dual front-facing 7-magnet speakers + Cirrus Logic amp / 4 microphones with noise cancellation / 3.5mm headphone out with ESS DAC / AudioWizard with Dirac Audio tuning
- Misc: Under-display fingerprint reader / ultrasonic sensors for Air Triggers and Grip Press / accessory connector
The ROG Phone 5s screams quality the moment you hold it. Glass front and back with aluminium frame just exudes premium aura and rightly justify the flagship price. Compared to previous ROG Phone, the 5s is more smoothed out, less gamery, less garish but with touches of flair that still says “hey, gaming phone amirite?”
This is also a big boi phone. Measuring at 172.8 mm x 77.3 mm x 9.9 mm and weighing in at 238 grams, it feels substantial to hold and pocket. Getting aftermarket case will definitely bump the size even further and unless you got deeper pocket or a bag/purse, be ready to have problem sitting comfortably without taking it out of pocket.
The ROG Phone 5s sports an excellent E4 AMOLED panel made by Samsung. Resolution of FHD+ 2448×1080 is dense for screen 6.78 inch and with 10-bit HDR10+, contents like movies and games just pop with vivid colors.
Not only color-accurate, smooth high-refresh panel too. Refresh rate is selectable from 60, 120 and 144Hz or just put it on Auto and let the phone decide. One option lacking is a 90Hz setting. Why 60Hz to 120Hz jump is unknown to me, maybe ASUS can address this in future update, hmm?
Front glass is made with Gorilla Glass Victus which is claimed to be more shatter resistant than previous generation, and Gorilla Glass 3 at the back. Gracing the rear glass is an ROG logo made of RGB LED that can be customized to light up on different scenarios like calls and X Mode. Seeing the back logo lit up is definitely neat-o. As always, glass can and will eventually break or scratch. Invest in screen protector and a case for that matter, and worry less of drop mishaps.
Shipped with Android 11, you have 2 types of skins to choose from. ROG-themed skins with custom icons and reactive wallpapers, and near-stock ZenUI skin. Some bloatware pre-installed but easily uninstalled, very much appreciated.
Connectivity and Battery
Connectivity is no slouch either, as the ROG Phone 5s is dual-standby 5G and WiFi 6E capable, with Bluetooth 5.2 and NFC completing the wireless array. Charging and data transfer are facilitated through USB-C ports, yes, 2 of them in fact. One USB 2.0 speed at the bottom and another USB-C at the left side. There is also a 5-pin accessory connector for a separate AeroActive cooling module, not provided with this unit sadly.
Massive 6000mAh battery powers the ROG Phone 5s through heavy use whole day like a champ. You can easily get 2+ day battery with light to medium usage. Charging the monstrous 6000 mAh battery is done with a 65W HyperCharge power brick that can qualify as a proper brick, capable of juicing up the phone to full within an hour.
Concerned about charging temperature and longevity? Worry less because the battery is a dual-module design and charge in parallel 32W each instead of whole 65W shoved through a single battery. For a more granular battery care options, Steady Charging down to 18W plus Charge Limit option down to 80% maximum is available for better battery health.
The camera system of ROG Phone 5s is decent. Triple-cam array of 64MP main, 13MP ultra-wide and 5MP macro plus a 24 MP selfie shooter, perform their job adequately. I took some sample images at night time with normal mode (left) and night mode (right), and the image processing for night mode does make image pop with more depth and contrast. Splotches of dirt and moss on the walls are more visible, with sharper looking edges and the lights not overexposed.
The addition of gyro-EIS for video mode makes quick work of getting smooth footage. However, from my stint with the cameras, top image quality is not a super high-priority here. For my purpose, the camera system is great but for those seeking high-quality AI computational photography a’la Pixel and iPhones may want to seek Pixel and iPhones instead.
ROG Phone 5s is powered by previous-gen top-of-the-line Snapdragon 888+ SoC from Qualcomm. That is the only upgrade the ROG Phone 5s lineup has compared to the 5, and thus minor performance bump. Healthy combinations of 8GB to 16GB of RAM plus 128 GB up to 256 GB of ROM ensures a less-than-worrying performance and storage. The storage however cannot be expanded so you’re stuck with whatever SKU you buy.
I’ll be honest here, talking performance of a gaming phone is boring. Everyone know Snapdragon 888+ is a capable SoC, just throw anything and it’ll run like butter. Yes, this is last gen and slightly inferior against the current flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 but it still holds the fort.
I tested high-spec games like Genshin Impact, Apex Legends Mobile, Call of Duty Mobile etc and I can confidently throw mid to high settings and get respectable framerates. Of course, these AAA quality games still tax the SoC at max settings and requires a few settings turned down to get 30-60 fps but not a lot of compromise needed. Also, being a top-spec SoC means ROG Phone 5s is capable of high-spec gaming for more years down the line
In short, the ROG Phone 5s is a flagship in gaming capability. So do any phones with an 888+ chip. What makes the ROG Phone 5s a “gaming phone” are the special sauces ASUS baked in for great gaming experience.
~The Special Sauce~
The feature that takes the cake for me is the GameFX audio system. The stereo front speakers are, how do I say this, PERFECT. Yes, perfect. Probably one THE best speakers on a phone, I daresay even better than most laptop speakers bar the Apple Macbooks. I don’t know how the engineers did it but boy those tiny phone speakers can sing. Solid bass, good mids and highs, and great soundstage, positioning and layering.
Blasting music from ROG Phone 5s is a treat, I rarely used my IEMs and headphones with this because the speakers are THAT good. Jazz beats from my favorite band EGO WRAPPIN’, 80s city pops with some slew of Japanese pop and hiphop are a joy to listen to. Movies are also quite immersive with these excellent speakers. Kudos all around for these amazing speakers.
There is also a 3.5mm headphone jack! Yes, a flagship 888+ phone with a 3.5mm port, I’m not joking. To reach all these audio greatness, ASUS generously equipped the phone with Sabre ESS and Cirrus Logic DACs and quality amps for hi-fi grade audio and also partnered with Dirac for AudioWizard audio-tuning. You can pick between Music, Game or Cinema preset and get different sound stage and frequency tuning. There is also an equalizer for more granular adjustment. As for me, I prefer to let stock settings on my audio.
In short, ASUS pulls no punches when it comes to audio grunt of the ROG Phone 5s at which I appreciate greatly as an audio enthusiast. Games, movies, music, all a treat through the audio system.
Game Genie and Extra Inputs
ASUS preinstalled game manager Game Genie is a great companion tool for gaming experience. Some of the tools available include X-Mode activation, system monitoring, screen recording shortcut, notification suppress mode and even crosshair overlay.
My favorite feature is Bypass Charging. As the name describes, it will bypass battery charging and directly power the device when activated. The high temperature and constant charge-discharge cycle of plugging in during gaming is detrimental to battery health and this bypass feature is the best remedy I’ve seen. But it’s only available when Game Genie is active but good news is you can add any non-game apps to Game Genie and you can enjoy this feature whenever the app is launched.
Game Genie also enables additional input through the ultrasonic Air Trigger and motion controls. These inputs are mappable to any action available on screen such as aim & fire in FPSs, and accelerate and boost in arcade racing games. I tried them all and genuinely impressed at the usability and improves my gaming experience. The Air Triggers are also usable outside of games as Grip Press or squeeze gestures for launching camera etc, customizable in settings.
ASUS redesigned the cooling for ROG Phone 5 and 5s series. Due to the dual-battery layout, the CPU is located center chassis now under vapour chamber heatsink. Taking advantage of this re-location, paired with the AeroActive Cooler module, helps dissipate CPU heat better plus the centered CPU also helps in gaming comfort as your hands will less likely to touch the hot middle surface.
Even without the AeroActive cooler, the chipset stays cool as can be seen from the game screenshots. Sub-50 degree Celcius average easily achievable with the excellent vapour chamber cooling. Note that because the cooler is very effective, the CPU area can get uncomfortably hot but that is the mark of a good cooling system.
Gripes and Complains
This is by no means a perfect phone. Plenty of annoyances I found. No expandable storage so stuck with internal or go cloud storage. The rubber flap cover for side USB-C and metal contact is flimsy and not attached to the chassis. They do provide spares but not exactly ideal solution that one can easily lose the cover in the first place.
Optical fingerprint sensor is slightly annoying as it is slow and registers around 70% of the time. Also the thin bezels and curved glass edge makes touch interaction wonky at times because I unknowing was touching the screen edge too.
VoLTE/VoWiFi is supported but my carrier still hasn’t supported the ROG Phone 5s, so not this device’s fault, and that may change in near future. Check with your carrier for VoLTE/VoWiFi support if you require that feature.
Personal Enjoyment and Verdict
Personally, I had a great time with ROG Phone 5s. Gaming is a breeze with the Snapdragon 888+ and peak performance can be assured for some years. The audio system blew me away with how good it is, saying that I almost shed tears is not a hyperbole. Of course the extra pizzaz from Game Genie and the auxiliary inputs makes gaming that much more streamlined.
ASUS nails it again with their latest formula worthy of “gaming phone” moniker. With RRP starting from RM2999, the combination of flagship specs and the special sauces for maximum gaming enjoyment makes ASUS ROG Phone 5s worth the price.
ASUS ROG Phone 5s review unit generously provided by ASUS.