Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro review: a true gaming super phone

Holding the photo taken with the asus rog phone 6 pro, seen from the back.

Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro

MSRP $1,075.00

“The Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro is astonishingly powerful and smartly designed throughout, ready to appeal to gamers who want to play harder and better, for longer.”

Pros

  • Immensely powerful
  • Versatile shoulder buttons
  • Clean, fast software
  • Vibrant and big screen
  • Great sounding audio
  • Kunai 3 gamepad accessory

Cons

  • Big and heavy
  • Lacks wide appeal
  • Average camera

The Asus ROG Phone range has long been the king of gaming phones. It has regularly pulverized the competition through a combination of immense performance, well-considered gaming features, cool design, and carefully considered accessories. Add the Republic of Gamers (ROG) branding, and the rest can do nothing except cower in fear.

The ROG Phone 6 and ROG Phone 6 Pro are the latest from Asus, and we’ve been living with the Pro version for several weeks now. Is it another in the line of competition-crushing winners?

Two versions

Asus has made two versions of the ROG Phone 6, the standard ROG Phone 6 and the more powerful ROG Phone 6 Pro. The ROG Phone 6 Pro has been tested for this review, but there are only a few differences between them. As standard, it has 18GB RAM (yes, really) and 512GB of storage space, while the normal ROG Phone 6 comes in two flavors: a 12GB/256GB model and a 16GB/512GB model.

The asus rog phone 6 pro seen from the back.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The ROG Phone 6 Pro only comes in the beautiful pearl-effect Storm White color seen in our photos, plus it has a color OLED “ROG Vision” screen on the back of the phone, rather than a simple RGB dot matrix-style display on the normal ROG Phone 6 (which only comes in black). Otherwise, the specification is the same throughout, right down to compatibility with Asus’ range of accessories.

You’ll pay the most for the ROG Phone 6 Pro, and while it’s unlikely you’ll ever really need (or even notice) the difference between 12GB, 16GB, and 18GB of RAM, getting as much internal storage as you can afford is always of benefit. However, the ROG Phone 6 and 6 Pro both have space for a microSD card slot, too. It really leaves the color ROG Vision screen and special white finish as motivation to buy it over the normal version.

It’ll be down to you and your budget whether you think it’s worth it, but neither make the phone any more functional than the cheaper model.

Design

The ROG Phone 6 Pro is a gaming smartphone and doesn’t hide the fact at all. It’s taller than a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and is even thicker and heavier at 10.3mm and 239 grams. Make no mistake, if you’re going to carry the ROG Phone 6 Pro around all day, it takes effort. It will weigh you down in your pocket, and take up lots of space in your bag. Its size and weight mean you will have to make compromises over using a thinner, lighter smartphone.

The asus rog phone 6 pro's screen.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The front is all screen, while on the back — on the Pro model, at least — you get the 2-inch OLED ROG Vision screen. With X Mode active, you can set the screen to show different animations, like showing the words “Game Start!” when you, well, start playing a game. Outside of these times, it shows when you’ve got a call coming in, notification icons, when the phone is charging, and so on. It’s as gimmicky as gimmicks get, but I don’t hate it. It’s exactly the kind of madness I want on a gaming phone. On the ROG Phone 6 Pro, the “Dare to Play” logo above the screen also lights up when X Mode is active.

Bold and brash, the ROG Phone 6 is not for shrinking violets. Its size and weight are commensurate with its ability, though, and that’s where your willingness to compromise will need to come in during any deliberations on whether to buy it or not. No, it’s not going to disappear in your pocket, and if you drop it, there’s a whole lot of heft behind it ready to crack the screen. But if you’re serious about playing mobile games on an incredibly capable machine, it’s worth putting up with all this.

Screen and performance

The ROG Phone 6 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor and a 6.78-inch AMOLED screen custom-made for the phone by Samsung — complete with a dynamic 165Hz refresh rate and an impressive 720Hz touch sampling rate. We’ve been reviewing the Pro model, so have been enjoying 18GB of RAM, too. The ROG Phone 6 Pro’s screen is a beauty — fast, colorful, and very bright — and the power delivered by the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 is immense. Asus has also engineered an impressive smart internal cooling system to make sure the phone doesn’t get too hot, even when playing top games for hours. It’s every bit a true flagship smartphone.

During normal use, you’ll likely never want any more power than it provides, or even come close to pushing it hard. It effortlessly shrugs off regular phone tasks, holds 4G/5G/Wi-Fi signals without a problem, and the screen reacts instantly to your touch. The fingerprint sensor under the screen is superb, and there’s a similarly speedy face unlock system. Plus, the new 130Hz haptic motor is delicate and precise. It may be a gaming phone, but it’s also a ridiculously capable everyday phone.

The screen is beautiful. The adaptive refresh rate shifts between the lowest 60Hz setting through to its 165Hz maximum to make the most of the battery while ensuring what’s on the screen is displayed at its smoothest rate. Playing games or watching videos, it’s full of vibrance and color, with excellent contrast and a high level of brightness. I have had no problem using it outside in the sunlight. It’s a lovely screen, but when I put it alongside the ROG Phone 5’s 144Hz screen, I struggled to see any difference between them.

It’s rare that speakers and sound on a phone are anything more than average, but the ROG Phone 6 is a step beyond. The audio is really great. The phone uses two 12 x 16mm drivers with tuning by Dirac (a company Asus also paired with on the ROG Phone 5). Sound is vibrant and lively, and the soundstage (yes, there really is one) is carefully managed to provide outstanding stereo separation when you view the phone head-on. There’s even an EQ, a 3.5mm headphone jack, Snapdragon Sound, AptX Adaptive, and AptX Lossless for an all-around stellar audio experience.

Gaming

The ROG Phone 6 Pro is made for demanding, dedicated, and seriously committed mobile gamers to play their favorite games. If you don’t play games, the phone isn’t really for you. I’ve spent three weeks playing games on the ROG Phone 6 Pro and still don’t feel like I’ve scratched the surface of what it can really do.

The asus rog phone 6's game genie mode.
Game Genie mode Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

In one two-hour session, I played an hour of Diablo Immortal, and 30 minutes each of Asphalt 9: Legends and Dariusburst. Diablo Immortal plays at 60 fps, as does Asphalt 9: Legends. With all the graphics options turned up to the maximum, the phone only became slightly warm to the touch. The updated, three-tier cooling system inside the ROG Phone 6 Pro — larger graphite sheets, a new thermal compound to fill spaces where air would normally get trapped, and a bigger vapor chamber — kept it from getting too hot at all times.

In Diablo Immortal, I used the shoulder-mounted AirTriggers. These act as mappable touch-sensitive buttons primarily for use in games, but can be used for general phone functions like calling Google Assistant. In games, they really can boost your performance. For example, in Diablo Immortal, using them can make you more deadly, as you can use more than one weapon at once. The haptic feedback is so effective that using them feels like pressing an actual, physical button. The software makes it easy to set the shoulder buttons up, but the amount of customization — there are nine different gesture control options, including tap, slide, dual-partition, and tap-and-swipe systems — borders on feature overload.

Holding the photo taken with the asus rog phone 6 pro with the aerocooler active 6.
AeroActive Cooler 6 Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Playing Daruisburst all the way through caused the phone no problem at all, and Asphalt 9: Legends was super smooth and very fast. Playing any game on a high-spec phone always seems to make them more exciting, because you’re never removed from the action by graphical glitches or frame rate drops. The ROG Phone 6’s glorious screen, shoulder controls, heat management, and tactile haptics enhances enjoyment even further.

I switched between the phone’s performance-boosting X Mode and Dynamic mode, which balances performance and battery life, but couldn’t see any obvious differences between the two. A two-hour gaming session takes around 20% of the battery, a figure that has remained steady over the past three weeks of using the ROG Phone 6 Pro.

The asus rog phone 6 pro with the kunai 3 controller attached.
Kunai 3 Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

It doesn’t matter what games you play, they all look and perform at their best on the ROG Phone 6 Pro. However, if your idea of gaming on your phone is a few laps in Asphalt, a bit of Wordle, and Pokémon Go at the weekend if you have time, the ROG Phone 6 Pro is absolute overkill. Unless you play the biggest, most power-hungry games — Genshin Impact, Diablo Immortal, or Fortnite, for example — regularly and for extended periods of time, you won’t notice much difference between it and any other high-specification phone made over the past couple of years.

Accessories

You can augment the ROG Phone 6 Pro’s gaming ability with two accessories, the Kunai Controller 3 and the AeroActive Cooler 6, and both are purchased separately from the phone.

The AeroActive Cooler 6 is massive compared to previous versions, due to it now having four physical buttons and a new design with more lights and fins than a custom 50s Chevy. It’s powered by the ROG Phone 6 itself or through its own USB Type-C connection, but this won’t be necessary unless it’s working at maximum capacity. Its fan is powerful enough to even cool your fingers when they’re wrapped around the phone.

This increased size comes at an ergonomic disadvantage, as it adds further bulk and weight to an already big and heavy phone, in turn upsetting the balance. It does cool the ROG Phone 6 effectively, and the built-in stand is quite handy, but I’m not sure how long I’d want to play with the thing stuck to the back of the phone. Plus, only the most hardcore players of the most complex mobile games will ever feel the need to map even more buttons.

The revelation is Asus’s Kunai 3 controller. It looks a little like a Nintendo Switch controller and can be used separately or attached to a skeleton case for the phone itself. Playing Diablo Immortal with the Kunai 3 controllers in the case and flanking the screen, the game absolutely comes alive. Assigning the keys to on-screen controls is a bit fiddly, but once you’re done, the Kunai controller transforms the way Diablo Immortal plays. There’s no lag, the joystick is precise, and despite the combined weight of the phone, controllers, and case, it doesn’t become fatiguing.

If you’re going to get one gaming accessory for the ROG Phone 6, make it the Kunai 3 controller.

Software

The ROG Phone 6 Pro runs Android 12. It comes with the choice of using a standard-looking, Pixel-like themed interface, or Asus’s flashy, sci-fi-inspired “gaming” themed interface. Use the normal option, and it’s clean and simple, while the gaming mode is full of noise and animation. If you like that kind of thing it’s fine, but I’m very thankful there’s the option to not use it.

Asus has reworked its Armory Crate game performance optimizer, the Game Genie has new customization options, and the X Mode is back to ensure games get to use all the phone’s performance. There are a lot of modes and settings for gamers to dig into, including the ability to set the ROG Phone 6 up differently for each game, change what the rear screen shows when playing, and map all the different controls. It takes time to do all this, but if you play one game a great deal, and like things a certain way when you do, it’ll pay off in the long run.

I’ve used the ROG Phone 6 Pro with Asus’ normal ZenUI interface, as the gaming-focused look is far too overtly stylized and visually over-the-top for my taste. ZenUI is appropriately named, as it’s fuss-free and reliable, and annoyances are rare. The software isn’t overloaded with duplicate or needless apps, there are very few pre-installed promo apps, and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, no game app tie-ins trying to get you to play something you have no interest in.

The ROG Phone 6’s main competition comes from Xiaomi and ZTE, under the Black Shark, Poco, and RedMagic brand names, and the heavily modified software installed on each is usually one of the biggest downsides. The ROG Phone 6’s software is more polished, slicker, vastly more mature, and so much more usable. It’s one of the best aspects of the phone.

Battery

A massive 6,000mAh dual-cell battery has been squeezed inside the ROG Phone 6 and ROG Phone 6 Pro, and it really delivers the goods. When you don’t play games, it has enough power for three days of use with around two-to-three hours of screen time per day, provided you turn it off overnight. It’s unbeatable in this regard. When you play games, expect the battery to drop by around 20% per hour if you’re playing a demanding game.

There’s no wireless charging, but two wired charging options. There’s a USB Type-C port on the bottom of the phone, and another on the side of the phone. This port has been placed so that it doesn’t upset the balance of the device if you’re playing and charging in landscape orientation. There’s the option to only power the phone through this port, rather than also charge the battery, to ensure temperatures don’t get too high. The same port also works as an HDMI-out.

Wired charging is rated at 65W, and using the included charger, it takes about 40 to 45 minutes to charge the battery from a few percent to full, which is excellent considering the size of the cell it’s filling with energy.

Camera

Inside the angular, slightly raised camera module on the back of the ROG Phone 6 Pro is a 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 camera, a 13MP wide-angle camera, and a 5MP macro camera. Only the Sony sensor is new. Otherwise, the cameras are the same as those fitted to the ROG Phone 5. Remember, this isn’t out to take on the Galaxy S22 Ultra or the iPhone 13 Pro, so there’s no periscope zoom or fancy video modes, but it’s still reasonable to expect it to take solid photos. Thankfully, that’s exactly what you get with the ROG Phone 6 Pro.

It’s easy to pick the ROG Phone 6 Pro’s photos apart. There’s visible noise, colors are often too saturated, skies can appear muddy when the exposure gets it wrong, and it’s no good when you try to take photos close-up to introduce some interesting background blur. However, the photos are perfectly acceptable if you’re just taking them for fun, the Night mode has a good level of detail and maintains colors nicely, plus the selfie camera is sharp and natural.

Price and availability

The Asus ROG Phone 6 will come to the U.S. but at some point later in 2022, with no fixed release date available yet. In the U.K. and Europe, the phone is available to pre-order now. There are three models:

12GB RAM/256GB ROG Phone 6: 899 British pounds or around $1,076.

16GB RAM/512GB ROG Phone 6: 999 British pounds or around $1,195.

18GB RAM/512GB ROG Phone 6 Pro: 1,099 British pounds or around $1,315.

Expect the final U.S. prices to be lower than the conversions above, with a possible starting price of $999, based on the original cost of the ROG Phone 5.

Our take

There is no better gaming phone available today. The ROG Phone 6 Pro is astonishingly capable, and Asus’s knowledge of what makes a great gaming device shines through in every aspect, from the stunning screen and expertly tuned shoulder buttons, to the side-mounted USB port, the uprated cooling system, and the brilliant Kunai 3 gamepad accessory.

But at the same time, Asus hasn’t lost sight of the ROG Phone 6 Pro still needing to work as a normal phone. The software is usable for everyday tasks, the camera is acceptable, and the fundamental smartphone features like long battery life, plus good call and connectivity performance, are all there too.

What the ROG Phone 6 Pro isn’t is a big step forward over the ROG Phone 5 or ROG Phone 5S, and nor is it a jack-of-all-trades like other expensive flagship phones. Yes, it works as a normal phone, but you’ll have to put up with its size, weight, and flashy design. It comes with the territory for gamers but is less palatable if you only play games casually. This isn’t a criticism or a downside, though. The ROG Phone 6 knows what it is and will appeal mostly to its target audience, who will be delighted to own and use this ultra-powerful gaming super phone.

Is there a better alternative?

There are various dedicated gaming phones available, but none have the backing of a renowned gaming brand like Asus’s Republic of Gamers. The Black Shark 5 Pro is available in the U.S. but does not share the same high specification or software. The Black Shark brand is a spin-off from Xiaomi and is similar to the Poco F4 GT, another gaming phone spin-off from Xiaomi. The RedMagic 7 Pro or recent 7S Pro is another possibility, and its flashy styling may appeal to some, but again, the software can’t quite match the ROG Phone 6.

If gaming is high on your list of things to do with your phone, but you also need a great camera and for it to be a little more subtle in its design, then don’t dismiss the best mainstream flagship hardware. They may not have shoulder buttons, second screens, or advanced cooling systems, but they still play games very well indeed. Take a look at the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max, or the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, which are two of the finest all-rounders you can buy.

If you own the ROG Phone 5, in particular the Ultimate version, there’s nothing here that should make you rush to upgrade. If you looked at the ROG Phone 5 and decided not to buy it, it’s unlikely the ROG Phone 6 will do anything to change your mind.

How long will it last?

The ROG Phone 6 is the first ROG Phone to have a degree of water resistance. It has an IPX4 rating, which means it’s protected from splashing water. It’s not comparable to the IP68 rating you get on a Galaxy S22 Ultra or Apple iPhone 13 Pro. You’ll be fine in the rain, but you won’t want to drop it in the bath. The phone is heavy and made from glass, so a case is recommended if you’re prone to dropping your phones.

Asus promises two major Android version updates will arrive on the phone, and it will also receive three years of software updates. This is average but less than you’d get from a Samsung phone, which provides four years of major updates and five years of security updates.

Should you buy it?

Yes. The Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro is the most powerful smartphone available at the moment, and the ultimate expression of your love of mobile gaming.

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