Gaming

ROG Phone 2 review: Mobile gaming on steroids

Unapologetically a gaming smartphone

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I have said this countless times in previous reviews — I’m not much of a mobile gamer. But there are plenty of things about the ROG Phone 2 that made me enjoy playing.

When the first generation ROG Phone came out, I have to admit, I may have dismissed it right away. I really wasn’t into mobile games, the design was a little too “gaming” for me at the time, and the cameras were — in the words of other reviewers — craptastic.

A year later, ROG is back for a second playthrough. Armed with the experience and knowledge gained from its first turn, the company knew right away to strengthen its weaknesses.

Unequip: 4000mAh battery, Equip: 6000mAh battery 

In our review of the ROG Phone last year, we pointed out how the 4000mAh just didn’t have enough juice to support all of the bells and whistles of the phone. This is no longer the case.

The 6000mAh battery on the ROG Phone 2 performs as expected. Even with the 120hz refresh rate for the display turned on, the phone would last for nearly two days without charging. That’s moderate to heavy use on a mixed bag of tasks like answering emails, browsing on social media, playing a few rounds of Team Deathmatch on Call of Duty Mobile, and playing TWICE and LOONA songs on repeat.

It even messed up my charging routine because it just didn’t make sense to plug a phone that still has somewhere between 60 to 70 percent left at the end of the day. You’ll quit game first before the phone quits on you.

Charging is also fast AF thanks to ASUS’ HyperCharge technology. While this doesn’t boast of the wireless charging feature that many of its contemporaries at its price range has, it’s not something you’ll miss at all.

Discard: 12MP camera, Pick-up: 48MP camera

The sweeping statement that “cameras on gaming phones are bad” is no longer true. If anyone says this, they’re either misinformed or are just flat-out lying.

The ROG Phone 2 is now equipped with a 48MP lens accompanied by a 13MP wide angle lens. It’s a huge leap from the 12MP+8MP combo found on the first ROG Phone.

Photos taken with plenty of light look pretty darn good.

However, it does this weird JJ Abrams thing where there’s a lot of lens flare on some photos even during the night.

Speaking of the night, while the streets where I grew up in isn’t much to look at, I thought the ROG Phone 2 did well enough in capturing a fair amount of detail in low light situations.

P.S. the last photo in this set is clearly not from my hometown but I thought it was a good representation of the phone’s low light capabilities. Yes, I blurred parts of the image as it’s from an event of another brand. ✌🏼😆

The portrait mode even has this neat trick where you can adjust the level of blur after you’ve taken the photo. This means you can say goodbye to those photos where your subject looks like a sticker plastered onto a blurry background.

The selfie camera went from 8MP to 24MP and there’s plenty of improvement here as well. Although it does apply a noticeable amount of beautification even if you have the option completely turned off.

Unapologetically a gaming smartphone

The thing that might scare off most other buyers is also the very same thing that might attract the gamers who this phone has its crosshairs on. The phone’s design just SCREAMS gaming.

It does seem a little more toned down compared to the first generation, but the ROG Phone 2 is still without a doubt designed with the gamer aesthetic in mind.

This was the very thing that I didn’t like about the ROG Phone. And while I still prefer something that’s a little more subtle, I don’t find the ROG Phone 2’s design as appalling as the first one. Although that’s probably my taste changing more than anything else.

Other than how it looks, the ports, buttons, and camera placement are all geared towards gaming. You still get two USB-C ports. One where it’s usually placed and another for when you’re gaming in landscape mode.

The front-facing camera is also positioned in a way that it won’t be obstructed if you decide to stream your gaming session. A feature you can do thanks to the Game Genie that’s at the heart of this phone.

What kind of gamer are you? 

I was hesitant at first because I primarily do all my gaming on a console. Always have and, I thought, always will — that’s until I got to try the ROG Phone 2.

I really am not one to play mobile games. It’s not a knock on people who enjoy playing them. It’s just that for me, my phone has always been more a tool for work, communication, and media consumption.

But I had to play. I’m not exactly a fan of the more popular mobile games right now so I sought out other games — ones I think I would enjoy.

Before I move forward, I’ll be casually mentioning the accessories that come with the ROG Phone 2. Won’t go into too much detail. You can just watch our unboxing to see what the accessories are. You can check the pricing for each one on this link.

Okay. Let’s play. 

First up was FF15 PE — the mobile version of Final Fantasy XV. Role Playing Games or RPGs are really more up my alley. The game utilizes a lot of swipes and taps on the screen. Which is great if you’re not keen on getting the other accessories that come with the ROG Phone 2.

Next up, I tried Injustice 2. This is also another title that has a counterpart on consoles and PCs. The game is versus fighting and was adapted nicely to mobile phones. Like FF15 PE, it utilizes plenty of swipes and taps. It does have on-screen buttons that you can map on the Kunai Gamepad. I tried the screen and gamepad combo here but that didn’t feel like a natural way to play.

Instead of playing PUBG, I opted to try Call of Duty Mobile. This is perhaps the game I enjoyed the most. The Team Deathmatch mode feels like a throwback to my time playing Counter-Strike waaaaay back in the day. This game plays really well whether you’re just using the phone or if you have the Kunai Gamepad equipped. Quick note though, the right analog stick’s sensitivity is pretty bad for aiming, so I stuck with aiming on the screen instead of using the gamepad.

Next, I played Honkai Impact 3. It’s an Action-RPG and is probably one of the best use-cases for the Kunai Gamepad. The graphics is near-console if not already console-level, and all the buttons you need to press can all be mapped on the Gamepad. It was an absolute joy to play.

I also tried NBA Live Mobile. I’m too cheap to spend on NBA 2K20 and I’d rather play that on my PS4 so for mobile I went with EA’s free-to-play game. It plays alright and you can also get the most out of the Kunai Gamepad here, but I don’t see myself playing this for any other reason than for testing devices.

Lastly, I played Asphalt 9 which had direct integration with the Kunai Gamepad. This was hands down the best experience. The game detected the Gamepad right away and took me straight to a tutorial knowing the gamepads were equipped.

Takeaway? The whole experience is a mixed bag. That’s not to say it’s bad, but wouldn’t be better if the accessories just worked seamlessly with the games?

The one thing holding the ROG Phone 2 back is a wider support from a larger catalogue of games. It’s a tough ask. However, if ROG can get more game developers involved, that could take mobile gaming to another level.

You might have noticed I barely mentioned the other accessories. I think after the Kunai Gamepad, the next most useful one is probably the Mobile Desktop Dock. But that requires you to get a few more other peripherals if you don’t already own them.

The ASUS Wigig Dock can be helpful but if you’re a gamer and you own a TV, I’m willing to bet you also probably own a console. Personally, I don’t see the appeal of playing mobile games on a bigger screen. But that may just be me. If you enjoy it, that’s perfectly fine.

And then there’s the Twin View Dock II. It’s an interesting piece of tech and almost aligns with the foldables that came out in 2019. But like those other foldables, it still feels premature. As of writing, it only really supports two games. You may discover other use-cases for this but I find the price too steep for an experiment.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

To give the ROG Phone 2 a low rating simply because it’s not a smartphone that’s catered for the general public is criminally missing the point.

ROG knows who its market is. I’d like to think this phone was made specifically with them in mind. And if you think that market is small then you must have been living under a rock.

The gaming industry is worth billions of dollars. It’s attracting so many eyeballs that Netflix considers Twitch more of a competitor over other entertainment streaming platforms. That’s how big gaming has become.

So if you played any game, on any platform, for an extended amount of time at any point in your life, I would consider taking a look at the ROG Phone 2. That’s with or without the accessories.

At PhP 49,995, it’s priced right around other flagships that are built for a general audience — fancy cameras, multitasking, a little bit of gaming, and all that jazz. However, none of them are made for a specific set of people that’s steadily increasing in numbers. That’s where the ROG Phone 2 sets itself apart. For the people that this phone is made for, it’s absolutely perfect.

Gaming

The ASUS ROG Mothership: A mega review

Do you really need an overkill gaming machine?

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A 10-kilogram package arrived at my office one day, and at first I couldn’t believe it. I was expecting something big to come in, but a 10-kilo box that looks like a PUBG supply crate was out of the picture. Little did I know, I received ASUS ROG’s next big thing — and it’s quite literally big.

Announced back in CES 2019 (as of writing, how timely), the ASUS ROG Mothership GZ700 is the company’s next innovation in gaming laptops. I distinctly remember one famous YouTuber by the name of Linus Sebastian dubbing this the “Surface for gamers.” It comes in a form factor that I didn’t think was possible for a gaming laptop, with arguably the most powerful lineup of hardware included.

But should you be spending your hard-earned money on a monster like this? Let’s take one full tour of the ROG Mothership.

Let’s talk about the package first

Unboxing the entire package was relatively easy, except for the fact that it’s insanely heavy. Inside the one big box are two more boxes and the large ROG Backpack that almost looks (and feels) like a shield. Apart from the ROG Mothership box, you also get the ASUS ROG Cerberus V1 headset for free! I think ASUS ROG really wanted to deliver the full gaming experience, and adding a gaming headset was a nice touch.

Removing the backpack and the headset, the big ROG Mothership box has the device and another box inside of it. It’s no joke when I tell you that the ROG Mothership is close to five kilograms in weight, which is half the weight of the entire package. Of course, the other box contains the rest of what you need for the device: the two big charging bricks, documentation and stickers, and the ASUS ROG Gladius II.

If ASUS really wanted to give you one full gamer package, to me this sort of did it. It’s basically the equivalent of getting a full-fledged gaming PC complete with all the peripherals in one box. Although, ten kilograms is just a lot of heavy-lifting that it mirrors carrying weights in the gym. Nonetheless, once you open up the box, you’re definitely in for the gaming experience of your life.

One stacked spec sheet

Before we go any further, here’s a rundown of what the ROG Mothership offers.

The ROG Mothership comes with a 9th-generation Intel Core i9-9980HK processor coupled with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card. To maximize the potential of a powerhouse combo, ASUS slaps in 64GB of RAM and three 512GB NVMe SSDs (in RAID 0) inside. What you get is the most powerful, quickest, and deepest gaming desktop setup, but for a laptop.

The laptop’s display comes in two options: a 4K one and a 1080p one. The unit for review was a 4K UHD 17.3-inch panel with thick bezels and a huge chin underneath. ASUS claims that the display emits rich and crisp color with a 100 percent Adobe sRGB color gamut. Also, the display supports NVIDIA’s G-Sync technology for a smoother gaming experience.

On paper, I can tell you that this machine is straight up overkill. On my first time using it, everything just seemed too quick, it’s unfair. Opening up applications, playing RAM-consuming games, hardcore video rendering — this device can handle all of those, and it hasn’t maximized all of its RAM yet.

Is it really a gaming laptop?

When I first saw images and videos of the ROG Mothership back in 2019, I couldn’t believe that ASUS was marketing it as a laptop. The build quality of the device matches that of any 2-in-1 desktop, while throwing in the hefty graphics card. The entire body is encased in CNC-machined aluminum, which is basically thick layers of metal preventing heat from spreading to other components.

Yet again, ASUS claims that it is a laptop for its portability and design. The RGB-chiclet keyboard detaches from the base of the display, and connects wirelessly upon detachment. If you like wires, the keyboard also connects via a USB Type-C cable and charges it in the process. The device itself has a kickstand at the back, almost similar to that of any Microsoft Surface.

To be quite honest, this kind of setup doesn’t feel like a laptop — and it’s not just because it’s five kilos. The metal kickstand feels a little uncomfortable, that after 30 to 40 minutes you will be looking for any flat surface. I also found it a little difficult to manage because the keyboard is in an awkward position when it’s on your lap.

Gaming that’s just extreme overkill for a “laptop”

The ROG Mothership is one massive gaming machine, and I’m not exaggerating. ASUS made the bold yet proper choice to slap in the NVIDIA RTX 2080 inside if they wanted the full gaming experience. Gaming on the device felt buttery smooth and every intense moment felt too easy to handle. But that wasn’t after I had to tweak things a bit.

For starters, gaming on a 4K panel is great and all. But the flipside is that this display only clocks a 60Hz refresh rate, which to pro-gamer standards is slow. I understand that you grab high quality images and colors while playing some video games. For the most part, you have to deal with a 60FPS cap which isn’t bad, but an RTX 2080 wasn’t built for that.

Dialing the in-game resolution down was the best workaround I could find, and it worked wonders. Shadow of the Tomb Raider sneaked in above 60FPS at its highest possible settings, while battle royale games like Fortnite and Apex Legends poured in 140 FPS. In-game details remained accurate all throughout 30 to 40 minutes of gameplay, which is what you expect from a 4K panel.

If you do plan to get this monster, I highly recommend switching to the 1080p display option. The added benefit is the fact that the 1080p option comes with a 144Hz refresh rate, rendering images significantly faster. While you sacrifice a little bit of image quality, I think it’s a worthy trade off.

An overkill gaming PC needs an equally overkill cooling system

Cooling the ROG Mothership is one hefty task, and the way ASUS did it was ideal. Apart from separating each component through CNC-machined aluminum sheets, eight heat pipes push hot air to the top and sides of the device. Through careful calibration on the ROG Armoury Crate, the fans inside will pump out as much hot air as possible to keep major components cool.

Based on my experience, it did a fairly good job with that. The device didn’t seem to experience any drastically high temperatures during prolonged activity. Although, if you plan to maximize or even overclock your CPU and GPU, you will experience that. It happens to a point of near uncomfortability, in that you wouldn’t be able to store the device for 30 more minutes.

The fans also tend to get unbearably loud during gameplay that I’m glad they included the headset with the package. Even while idle, the fans tend to kick in and force a ton of air out which shouldn’t really happen. But again, if it’s meant to cool all the heavy components inside then it’s alright.

Expected short battery life

The ROG Mothership, as powerful as it is, doesn’t last very long. As with most gaming laptops, battery life isn’t necessarily their strongest feature and this device confirms it. On most productivity uses, I got an average of three hours before completely depleting the battery. To me, that doesn’t seem too appealing by any laptop standards.

When you’re gaming full time, it actually gets much lower than that. On average, I got around two hours before having to plug one of the two charging bricks. These show that this was clearly better off as a full-fledged desktop instead. If there’s any great takeaway, it’s that one full charge is relatively fast. Using just one brick fully charged the device in three hours, while using both bricks saves about 45 minutes. 

Finally, is this your GadgetMatch?

Here’s the thing: the ROG Mothership is a beast. It’s got every piece of gaming hardware anyone could ever ask for, in a form factor you wouldn’t expect it to be in. The package itself is just complete for anyone aspiring to take gaming seriously. For the most part, everything about it checks out.

But for US$ 6499.99/PhP 399,995, I feel like you would need to shell out a kidney to get this device — and it’s not worth it. Honestly, you could get every piece of hardware, or even just go for SATA SSDs and slap them into a gaming rig for way less. Heck, you could even get the same peripherals and I feel you would still be spending less than the Mothership.

All in all, the ASUS ROG Mothership is one heavy, beefy monster of a gaming laptop. The power it possesses truly fits those who want to dream of the best. But if you’re anyone who doesn’t earn one million a year, it’s best to invest in a gaming PC instead.

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Razer’s Deathadder and Basilisk get an upgrade

Faster and more control than ever before

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Razer continuously markets innovation when it comes to its gaming peripherals. With that in mind, the company launched the Razer Deathadder in late 2006 while the Razer Basilisk in 2017. Since then, these two iconic gaming mice has seen various options and innovations for the modern gamer. Now, Razer is bringing these two mice back, better and faster than ever.

The Razer Deathadder V2 features an ergonomic design and upgraded sensors for all gamers. It features Razer’s Focus+ Optical Sensor, elevating any gamer’s speed and precision during intense moments. The mouse perfectly suits those who prefer a palm grip while providing sweat-resistant coating and rubberized side grips.

It also comes with eight programmable and fully customizable buttons for all your macros and secondary functions. The mouse’s on-board memory supports up to five different profiles, expanding your range for any game. Also, it has Razer Chroma RGB support so you can personalize the mouse and even sync it with other Chroma-supported devices.

Meanwhile, the Razer Basilisk V2 receives an upgrade from its predecessor similar to the Deathadder V2. This mouse now houses 11 programmable buttons, allowing full flexibility during gaming. It also offers a customizable scroll wheel resistance so gamers can adjust it to suit their playing style. All of these comes with the upgraded Razer Focus+ Optical sensor.

The Razer Basilisk V2 retails at US$ 79.99 (~ PhP 4,000) while the Razer Deathadder V2 retails at US$ 69.99 (~ PhP 3,500). The company will roll out the two gaming mice starting January 15 (January 14 in the United States).

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Final Fantasy VII Remake release date moved

Minor setback

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Fans who have been waiting so long for Final Fantasy VII Remake will have to wait a little longer. Square Enix just announced that the game’s release date will be moved to April 10, 2020.

In June 2019, It was announced that the game would be released on March 3, 2020. But Square believes it’s in everybody’s best interest to delay release of the game.

In a statement, the game’s producer Yoshinori Kitase said the move was necessary to “deliver a game that is in-line with our vision, and the quality that our fans who have been waiting for deserve.”

“We are making this tough decision in order to give ourselves a few extra weeks to apply
final polish to the game and to deliver you with the best possible experience,” he added.

Kitase closed the statement with an apology: “I, on behalf of the whole team, want to apologize to everyone, as I know this means waiting for the game just a little bit longer. Thank you for your patience and continued support.”

SEE MORE:

Final Fantasy VII Remake: Features and mechanics
FFVII Remake new screenshots: Chocobo, Classic mode, and more
FFVII Remake screenshots: Sephiroth, an improved Midgar, and learning Aerith

 

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