[Review] An Exercise in Refinement: The ROG Phone 5

ROG Phone 5 (Standard edition)


It feels like it's been forever since I last reviewed the ROG Phone 3, but I guess living in the midst of a pandemic can warp your sense of time. In any case, the ROG Phone 5 is the now the newest kid on the block, and boy, it's everything a mobile gamer could need and more.

And no, you didn't slip into a coma and miss an entire generation of ROG Phones - the company, in true pantang Asian fashion, has skipped the number '4' as it sounds like 'death' in Mandarin.

This time, we've been blessed with 3 variants of the ROG Phone 5 - the standard ROG Phone 5, the Pro edition, and the crazy overkill Ultimate edition that comes with a whopping 18GB of RAM and a free ROG giftpack.

Today, I'll be taking a look at the standard ROG Phone 5 - probably the most attainable variant for most of us - so keep reading!

A simplified unboxing experience

The first thing I noticed was that the packaging has been greatly simplified from last year's clusterfuck of triangular slidey bits that occasionally get caught on each other if a component got dislodged from its slot (I'm looking at you, AeroActive Cooler).

No more counter-intuitive paper pull tabs that rip instantly cause you pulled it the wrong way - this time, you'll get a simple rectangular box with a magnetic closure. On the fold-out panels, you'll find a comic strip that animates in AR during the initial unboxing.

The phone and accessories are stored in the main compartment; while the phone is securely fitted inside, the charger is sitting loosely in its own compartment, knocking around alarmingly when you pick the box up.

Overall, the unboxing experience has improved by leaps and bounds - no more torn bits, frustrating sliding motions, and even accidental dropping to contend with. My only complaint is that the AeroActive Cooler is no longer included in the standard edition (though you'll still get one if you get the higher-end Pro or Ultimate variants).

You do get a spiffy cover, though.

Same design language, but sleeker

Now, I'm not exactly a huge fan of the edgy gamer aesthetic - even on the previous generations of the ROG Phone, I felt that they were too ostentatious for my liking. This time, they've gone for a new pixelised styling of the ROG logo on the back. It's reminiscent of the ever-popular AniMe Matrix popularised by the bestselling G14 laptop - and this time, it even supports 2-tone lighting.

Overall, the design language is still unmistakably ROG. It still has angular design elements and a bunch of words written all over, including 'GLHF' etched on the SIM card slot.

It's supposed to be red, but a certain someone decided to swap it with the white unit's SIM tray

The model I'm reviewing today comes in red and black, but this year, ROG has introduced a new white-and-blue colourway that looks especially good in the matte Ultimate variant (it's glossy on the standard variant, which I'm not such a fan of). The Pro and Ultimate variants also feature a customisable secondary display on the back, which is absolutely sick, but we won't be going into that today.

All in all, it's still extremely gamer-like, but more cohesive and interesting overall.

An important thing to note is that the ROG Phone 5 is slightly taller and narrower than its predecessors. While I find the adjusted dimensions nicer to hold, this means that accessories from the previous generation are no longer compatible.

The headphone jack has returned

In what is probably one of the most welcome u-turns in recent years, ROG has decided to give us back the headphone jack. :') It's probably a good idea, since the headphone jack used to be only accessible via the AeroActive cooler, which is no longer included with the standard ROG Phone 5.