Welcome to the world of maximum Android overkill with the Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate! It has two screens, two USB ports and two… batteries? It is the new highest specification Android phone on the market, available in Europe for €1,299, or about $1,545. This is the sequel to last year’s Asus ROG Phone 3: there’s no ROG Phone 4 coming because Asus is a bunch of tetraphobics.
Let’s talk about these crazy specs. The ROG Phone 5 Ultimate has a 144Hz, 6.78-inch, 2448×1080 OLED display; a Snapdragon 888 SoC; 18GB RAM; 512 GB UFS 3.1 storage; and a 6000 mAh battery. Eighteen gigabytes of RAM is a new high for Android phones and (I’m not sure if this is good or bad for Android) is more RAM than you’d get in some laptops. The phone comes with Android 11, supports Wi-Fi 6E and supports 65W wired fast charging with an in-box charger. There’s also an on-screen fingerprint reader, a headphone jack, two USB-C ports, and front stereo speakers. The cameras are certainly an afterthought, with a 64MP Sony IMX686 as the main camera, a secondary 12MP ultrawide, a 5MP macro camera and a 24MP front camera.
The headline addition is the second screen on the back, which seems to be just for fun. A small, monochrome, low-resolution OLED display is built into the back of the phone. There are no official specs for it, but it appears to be around a 1.7-inch, 256×64 display. Last year, the ROG phone had an RGB LED logo on the back, and similarly, this seems to be mostly for decoration. There are some pre-made animations for it, such as a motorcycle racing past a city, and it’s programmable with a custom message. One animation is for an incoming call while the other is for charging, but for actual data that seems to be it. The small screen doesn’t seem to be able to show notification information or the time like other secondary screens we see on foldable phones. Samsung did a lot more with a 1.1-inch display on the Galaxy Z Flip.
In the PC world, ‘gamer’ branding is automatically applied to almost all high-end components and products, giving you better performance. But for phones, “gamer” stuff is a hard sell because everyone uses the same parts. Asus’ biggest gamer pitch revolves around additional control schemes that you can map into games. In landscape, ultrasonic sensors on the left and right corners of the phone give you virtual shoulder buttons, while touch sensors on the back of the phone give you virtual “L2/R2 triggers”. There are also motion control schemes for tilting phones. It seems that all of these can be mapped to emulate touchscreen input, allowing you to activate buttons on the screen without actually blocking the screen.
Asus’ other gaming consideration is its dual USB-C port design, with one on the bottom in the usual area and the other centered on the side, making it easy to charge while gaming in landscape mode. Next to the side USB port is an accessory connector for an optional fan mount. The internal design of the phone is very unusual. Normally you get one big battery in the middle of the phone, pushing the SoC and other main components towards the top (Samsung) or side (Apple) of the phone. Asus has two separate 3000 mAh batteries on the top and bottom of the phone, and the main motherboard is the Centre of the device, allowing easy connection of the USB port on the side. This also means that the attachable centered fan can really do something. Of course, the fan is focused on solid glass, and below that is the OLED display on the back, and then you hit the SoC. But at least it’s in the right margin. The fan has two more gaming touch points, by the way, so between the top triggers, the rear trigger, and the two fan buttons, you can have six virtual buttons on the back.
Most of last year’s ROG Phone 3 accessories are supported. There’s the Nintendo Joycon-style ROG Kunai 3 Gamepad, which are two controller halves that can be mounted on the sides of the phone or slipped into a controller grip. There is also a “ROG Clip” phone holder for a Playstation or Xbox controller. The TV dock is different this year and the ROG Phone 5 is not compatible with last year’s version.
A few lower-end versions of the ROG Phone 5 are available without the rear display and slimmed-down specs, but we’re just here for the insane gamer surplus. The spec sheet-breaking “Ultimate” model will go on sale in Europe in May.
List image by Asus