[Review] The Real OG of Gaming Phones: The ROG Phone 3
The ROG Phone 3 (12GB + 512GB)
With mobile gaming here to stay, it's no surprise that gaming phones are becoming more popular - and at the head of the pack is undoubtedly the ROG Phone series. We've finally gotten our hands on the Malaysian version of the highly-anticipated ROG Phone 3, and we were excited to see what changes have been made from its predecessor.
First off, there are 3 variants of the ROG Phone 3 available. The flagship model comes with a Snapdragon 865+ 5G processor, along with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of UFS 3.1 storage for RM4,499. Next comes the mid-tier option at RM3,799 with the same processor and storage size, but with only 12GB of RAM instead. Finally, for those with tighter budgets but die die wanna buy, there's the STRIX edition with a more modest but still powerful configuration of a Snapdragon 865 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage for only RM2,999.
Without further ado, let's take a look at what the ROG Phone (12GB + 512GB version) has to offer!
Oh my god, the box
Every generation, ROG introduces a new box design to accompany the latest member of the ROG Phone series, and this time is no different. This generation's sci-fi inspired box slides open horizontally like a cryo chamber to reveal the phone underneath.
Unfortunately, the box designers still appear to be on crack this generation, as unboxing proved to be as problem-laden as ever. First of all, why is the phone on the outer part of the box? If I were as careless as Linus, I'd probably have tossed the cover off the table, plunging the poor phone to a premature demise.
Secondly, what is UP with the flap? It's completely counter-intuitive - instead of being attached to the opposite end of the box, it's attached to the underlayer, so you'll end up ripping the paper box if you aren't careful (our review unit was already ripped when it arrived, RIP).
THEN, the AeroActive Cooler slot STILL has no tab for us to easily lift the fan out of the box. It took lots of prying with an apartment access card and shaking to dislodge it every time. This was the case in the previous ROG Phone boxes as well, and I'm just hoping that the issue will finally be fixed in the 4th Gen.
If you're a box collector who intends on purchasing the ROG Phone 3, please watch a video before hastily unboxing it lest you damage the box beyond repair.
But yeah, that's about all I have to complain about the product (sorry ROG!) - everything else is great, I promise!
Aesthetic upgrades and other changes
At first glance, you'd definitely be able to tell that this is a member of the ROG Phone family - it has the same sleek glass exterior, angular accents, and of course - an RGB-lit ROG logo on the back. However, there are some subtle changes that have improved upon the already great design of the ROG Phone 2. Firstly, you now have 3 cameras on the back instead of 2, and along with it comes a noticeable camera bump.
The heatsink is now under a bit of transparent glass that reveals the copper-colored grille beneath. It's a beautiful touch that adds to the futuristic aesthetic of the phone.
On the front, you'll find the same 'forehead' and 'chin' found on its predecessors housing the selfie cam - I like this far more than any punch-hole or teardrop design. Also, the thicker bezels serve to prevent your hands from accidentally touching the sides of the screen while gaming in landscape mode.
The display is still a 6.59" AMOLED panel, but now it boasts an even speedier 144Hz refresh rate and 270Hz touch sampling rate. Speakers are still front-facing, but now they are full-black instead of copper and are Dirac-tuned for better bass.
Other updates include the exile of the 3.5mm jack - but don't worry, you can still plug your 3.5mm headset through the AeroActive Cooler.
Speaking of the cooler, it now has a kickstand, which makes watching Netflix on your pricey-ass phone even more convenient. The cooler now also has a little recess for you to tuck the little plug for the side port. They've also thoughtfully included a few extras in case you lose 'em (and you almost certainly will.)
The SIM card slot has been moved, but otherwise everything else is in the same place.
144Hz buttery smooth gaming with a huge battery tank
Honkai Impact is one of the few mobile games I actually play (probably due to the lack of aim required) and boy, does it look good. The game is already known for its beautiful visuals to start with, and seeing it play out in full 144Hz glory was really something else.
Thermals-wise, the updated GameCool 3 system must be doing its job, cause after more than an hour of 144hz gaming, the phone never surpassed 40°C. Playing at 60Hz maintained the temperature around 35°C, while the 144Hz + AeroActive Cooler combo fluctuated between 37-39°C. To be honest, I expected the cooler to do a little more work, but it seems like it cooled my fingers more than it did the phone (I was informed that 3°C is still a respectable drop in temperature, so okay lor).
In terms of battery life, it dropped a mere 9% after nearly an hour of 144Hz gaming in Honkai Impact, so you can be sure this thing will last all day unless you decide to binge on games for 10 consecutive hours. If you're a regular adult with regular responsibilities, casual use plus an hour or two of gaming a day should net you around 2 full days of use before requiring a recharge via the 30W PD fast-charger.
If you like numbers, here are some benchmarking results: on GeekBench, the ROG Phone 3 scored 997 for single-core performance and 3379 on multi-core performance, while on 3DMark's Slingshot Extreme test, it scored 7841.
One of the more significant changes in this generation is the introduction of new AirTrigger functions, including the ability to divide each trigger into two, effectively doubling the amount of trigger buttons you can use. ROG has also introduced shake recognition, but I have yet to find a good use for it as I find shaking the phone in the middle of a game rather disruptive.
To bind and calibrate your AirTriggers, you can do so from Armoury Crate - or if you're in game, you can swipe down from the corner to open Game Genie, which allows you to change a wide variety of settings, including selecting the refresh rate, muting calls and alerts, recording macros, and more.
The Armoury Crate interface is simple and intuitive, so you don't have to worry about navigating complex series of menus just to get your phone to do what you want.
New: 8k60fps recording
Although the ROG Phone 3 is designed for gaming, its camera offerings are quite decent, which is great since praying to the Instagram deity is pretty much a requisite for a large majority of Malaysians.
It's not gonna fight other flagship phones for the title of Best Cameraphone any time soon, but it offers up 8k60fps recording as a new feature to sweeten the deal.
Here are some photos for you to judge its performance for yourself:
As expected, the ROG Phone 3 is beefy as heck, with a massive battery to power its super-powered internals. Gaming performance is as good as it's gonna get, and it still manages to keep cool even while running at a silky-smooth 144Hz.
Another huge advantage of the ROG Phone series is its huge collection of accessories to enhance your gaming experience. Best of all, each accessory is perfectly designed to complement the phone - I appreciate that all the ports remained accessible even with the casing and cooler on.
There's really not much to gripe about the ROG Phone 3, except perhaps its hefty price tag. However, if you're able to afford it, you can rest assured that you'll be receiving nothing but top-tier gaming hardware.
The closest competitor to the ROG Phone 3 would be the Black Shark 3 series. The pricing is slightly lower with the Black Shark 3 starting at RM2,799 and the Black Shark 3 Pro going for RM4,199. However, the Black Shark series only goes up to a maximum of 90Hz along with a Snapdragon 865 and 256GB of storage.
While I'd opine that ROG has better-built accessories overall, the Black Shark FunCooler is certainly much more impressive at cooling as it's more of a fridge than a fan, really.
Overall, the ROG Phone 3 continues its legacy of offering the best possible hardware and features for the mobile gaming enthusiast. Now the only question is, how many nasi kicap will you have to eat before you've saved enough to shell out enough for the 16GB + 512GB version?