MANILA - Asus has set its sights squarely on the mobile gaming market, and the ROG Phone II is proof of this.
While other smartphone brands are tripping over each other in the race to come up with the best cameras, Asus is betting big that the future of the smartphone doesn't rest on selfies or instafilters.
Instead, the Taiwanese tech giant sees the booming mobile gaming market as the next big level to conquer.
In case you're not familiar with what ROG stands for, it's short for Republic of Gamers, Asus' gaming-focused brand that puts out high-end laptops and accessories beloved by people who think 5 hours a day playing DOTA or PUBG is time well spent.
It's hard not to be impressed with the second generation ROG phone. The original ROG phone released last year was already a beast in terms of power, performance and gaming features.
Asus however still found things to tweak, and the second generation is as close to achieving mobile gaming god mode as you can get.
In terms of design, the ROG Phone II shares a similar gaming aesthetic to its predecessor, eschewing the shiny, happy gradient colors of most smartphones for a polished gunmetal look that screams badass.
Put this phone in a pile with other Androids and it will immediately stand out like a sci-fi weapon misplaced in a cosmetics kit, especially when you turn on its RGB lighting at the back.
Specs-wise, this thing is a monster. It has 12GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, a Snapdragon 855 plus chipset overclocked to 2.96GHz and a massive 6000 mAh battery to power all that muscle.
The screen on this phone is also the best I've seen so far. The large 6.59-inch 1080 x 2340 HDR OLED screen makes everything on it look fantastic.
The text, icons and in-motion visuals look so much smoother and clearer on this screen than any other phone display I've come across, especially when you set it to 120Hz.
After playing around with this phone for a day, looking at the screen of another phone feels like a downgrade.
But beyond the specs, Asus also put a lot of extra features on this phone meant to enhance the gaming experience.
There's the Air Triggers which can be used as another set of game controls. There's also a Game Genie that allows you to fine-tune the phone’s performance, overclock the CPU, change the color of the RGB lighting at the back of the phone, and browse games without getting distracted by other apps.
The game center also lets you control the fan speed of the clip-on the AeroActive Cooler II accessory, which helps keep the phone's temperature down during marathon gaming sessions.
When playing games, you can also swipe in from the right to access a menu with a host of in-game options such as recording games or live streaming to YouTube or Twitch. Professional gamers or people who make a living posting gaming videos will certainly love this feature.
Another feature that makes this an excellent gaming phone is the speakers. It is easily one of the loudest on a phone right now, challenging most flagships in terms of sound quality.
I also has a 3.5mm audio jack in case you don't want to annoy the people around you or let them know how much you suck at Call of Duty.
Unfortunately, our review package didn't come with headphones. It would have been better to have headphones as part of the package.
Gamers will appreciate being able to charge this phone while playing in landscape mode, which is the orientation of most high-end mobile games.
So what's it like to play games on the Asus' flagship gaming phone? We played Mortal Kombat, Call of Duty and Mobile Legends on the ROG Phone II.
Playing COD on this phone was bliss. The graphics were very smooth, and the sound very loud and punchy.
In terms of camera performance, this gaming-centered phone is not going to beat flagships from Huawei or Samsung. But it's no slouch either.
The ROG Phone II has dual cameras at the back--a 48MP main shooter and a 13MP wide-angle camera. In front, a 24MP shooter handles selfie duties.
Like most phones right now, the ROG Phone 2's camera system is also equipped with AI which recognizes scenes and subjects and adjusts settings to take better photos.
Shooting against the light is easy thanks to the phone's HDR feature.
However, a lot of details get sacrificed in HDR, which means the photo you took may only be good enough for social media and small screens.
The 48MP lens also captures a decent amount of details, even though the file size of the pics seems overkill for most users who just want to post on Instagram or Facebook.
Selfies are also very good on this phone, with HDR and background blurring in portrait mode.
You need to be careful though when snapping pics in inclement weather or when you're near bodies of water as the ROG Phone II doesn't have any water protection whatsoever.
All in all, this is a standout phone that holds its own in photography, even though it was meant to excel in gaming.
But do you really need this phone to play games?
Unlike PC games that have a minimum prescribed set of hardware specs to be playable, most Android games are designed to be played on even entry-level devices. This means you don't really need to buy an expensive device like the ROG Phone II to play MLBB or PUBG.
What the ROG Phone II does however is to level up your enjoyment of whatever game you're playing. The graphics, the sound, the power and extra features were all designed to make you enjoy gaming.
Even non-gamers will also love the ROG Phone II's exceptional screen, battery life, performance, and storage.