ROG Phone 5S review – A beast with just a few minor flaws

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The Republic of Gamers (RoG) is the gaming branch of Asus, focusing on hardware without limits, cost is not an object of peak performance. In the past, we’ve seen RoG hardware handle anything and everything, so it was with great excitement that I raised my hand to spend a few weeks with the ROG Phone 5s.

When we reviewed the previous model, the only real flaw was that it was a bit “too much” of a phone for some users, a bit bulky, maybe a bit too expensive, but that’s a bit subjective. The daring “gamer” look had been recalled and the capacities retained: as a starting point, the ROG Phone 5S continues this trend with more offers.

What’s in the box?

The immediate retail packaging layout is similar to the previous generation, with some really interesting packaging that sets the tone for the gaming focus of the phone. Obviously in the package you have the phone, but you also have the charging brick for fast charging, a charging cable, a decent case (although I’m not convinced it would survive or protect your phone from damage). a decent drop) and the clip-on cooler for gaming.

The box itself plays a role in the setup process to unlock the Armory Crate, which will then play a role in your gameplay experience.

Perhaps, if you are a gamer, the AeroActive Cooler plays the most important role in the additional hardware provided. It clips to the sides of the phone and then works to keep the phone cool where the processing hardware is. It’s also designed to accommodate charging while you’re playing games to ensure your gaming session isn’t cut short.

The hardware: design and specifications

Like its predecessors, the specs of the ROG Phone 5S are right up front of the pack. The short list of specs that affect performance includes:

  • Android 11 out of the box with Android 12 update ready to roll out once installed
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888+ 5G chipset
  • Qualcomm Adreno 660 graphics card
  • 16 GB of DDR5 memory
  • 512 GB of UFS3.1 storage

As with any device, the performance specs really only tell part of the story. In this case, one feature that particularly excited me was the exceptional display. It’s a 6.78-inch Samsung AMOLED display that runs at 2448 x 1080 resolution at 144Hz refresh rate, matching the previous version of the device. Some users may not be big fans of the slightly larger bezels, but this is a conscious decision to avoid false triggers while gaming.

All that processing power needs something to drive it and the 6,000mAh battery does a great job of it. Quite consistently in testing I was able to get 2 days from a single charge.

The look of the device has, again, been toned down slightly to such an extent that at a glance you wouldn’t know it’s a gaming beast. most devices, but considering device specifications and game objective; I honestly agree with that. For comparison, the ROG Phone 5S measures 172.8 x 77.3 x 9.9mm (similar front dimensions, but thinner than the ROG Phone 5) while the Pixel 6 Pro measures 163.9 x 75.9 x 8.9mm.

True to what was already a winning formula, engineers activated the front speakers to maximize volume and audio quality while gaming. Whether it’s while gaming or playing media, for a phone at least , the audio quality was truly impressive. Lots of range, unsurprisingly though it lacks bass and enough volume to fill a reasonably sized room with distortion-free music.

He’s got the merchandise for the game

In a surprise to no one, a gaming phone can really deliver when you play. We’ve already covered the screen specs that make watching (or gaming) an absolute pleasure, especially with the high refresh rate. This also comes into play with the exceptionally good touch response on the screen that has made games – including Diablo Immortal – not just visually, but in a wonderful tactile sense.

Even without enabling Game Mode (more on that in a moment), there weren’t really any issues for the ROG Phone 5S. Considering the high-end specs, massive battery optimization, and software available for gaming, that’s no surprise. After a while, I noticed that the center of the phone got quite warm, but not so hot that it would be uncomfortable to put it in your pocket immediately.

This however is where the AeroCooler comes in. It gives you the ability to both cool your phone while playing games and charge the device while gaming as the charging port is on the side left side of the device (the longer edge) when held in portrait mode. This avoids the problem of a charging cable requiring you to switch sockets while gaming and ensures, although gaming is a battery hog, that you can then re-engage with your day with a fully charged mobile device.

X Mode gives it all it has!

X Mode runs somewhat in the background when you turn it on, starting with winding down performance hardware and killing all background apps. This frees up all available memory to improve performance. This is configurable, but I found the automatic settings provided a great experience and meant I wasn’t interrupted by calls or messages as notifications are largely disabled by X mode.

Software: operating system and performance

This is definitely a case of evolution versus revolution when it comes to the ROG OS interface. It runs the latest version of Android, for everyday use is optimized well enough to easily get a full day’s worth of battery and has plenty of customizations. Fortunately, there is still no extremely intrusive bloatware on the operating system, the Asus ROG launcher will not be to everyone’s taste, but as mentioned, it is customizable.

Again with the evolution, there seems to be a delivery on some lessons learned from the previous generation of phones. Battery optimization is clearly still going on with some apps running in the background, but apps that are used regularly and get a lot of push notifications aren’t shut down as aggressively. You’ll still get the occasional shutdown you don’t want, but that’s easily fixed by adding an exception to allow the app to run in the background and use battery power.

The camera is very capable

The last two ROG phones have improved each time when it comes to camera capabilities. This time around I’m very happy to say that the camera has improved even further to a point where I’d say it’s very capable. The usual range of photo modes are included for video, night capture, portrait and normal photos. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to follow the tastes of the world’s high-end Samsungs and iPhones. Keep in mind though, it’s $300 to $700 cheaper than those devices.

The software is generally easy to navigate and use, with very fast shutter and autofocus too. You can just point and shoot and with confidence – provided you have decent light – know you’ll get a decent shot with good color reproduction and sharp images.

Conclusion

The ROG Phone 5s is a great phone, which can easily handle anything you throw at it in everyday life. It’s got very high specs, plenty of RAM and a distinct look that might be a bit “flashy” for some, but isn’t out of place even in professional environments. Probably the biggest issue is that it’s quite large.

If I had to sum this up in one sentence, it would be that the ROG Phone 5s is an amazing device that excels at almost everything with software that doesn’t heavily intrude on the phone experience. Provided you don’t mind the camera not keeping up with the $2,000.00 flagships, this might just be one of the best buys of 2022 so far.

At the time of this review, the ROG Phone 5s is down to $1,199.00 from $1,499.00 at JB Hi-Fi. Even at full price, I would be happy to recommend it to many users.

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