Gaming phones are a rare breed, and the nascent category has already proved to be too much of a challenge for Razer. Some companies still see it as an opportunity to tap into the ever-growing esports market, however. Devices land with gimmicks like detachable controllers on Xiaomi's Black Shark 2, or a built-in cooling fan on the Nubia Red Magic 3. Neither could top last year's ASUS ROG Phone though when it comes to accessories: It offered a clip-on fan, a WiGig screen-casting dock, a clamp-on controller pad, a mobile desktop dock and a bizarre dual-screen dock.
ASUS never shared sales figures for the ROG Phone, but it must have done well enough to warrant a sequel packed with many upgrades. The ROG Phone II is the world's first smartphone with a 120Hz AMOLED display, and it's also the first to feature the more powerful Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset. Another first here is the integration of two vibration motors, just, it hopes. to make gaming a tad more immersive.
The most interesting part here is the accessories. The ROG Phone II still comes bundled with a clip-on fan (this still uses the phone's side port), but this new and improved AeroActive Cooler II is apparently four times quieter, and it can reduce the surface temperature by up to 5 degrees Celsius lower. Another included accessory is the skeletal Aero Case, which leaves the phone's glowing logo exposed, and it also lets you mount the clip-on fan over it.
What's brand new here is the ROG Kunai Gamepad, and ASUS clearly took a page out of Nintendo's book here. Say you have the phone propped up on a desk or you're casting to a TV, you can clip the two controllers together via a holder, in which you can toggle between Bluetooth, USB and 2.4GHz RF connection (there's a USB dongle receiver for this) to control the phone. If you're on the go, you can attach the controllers to the phone via a bumper (though the Black Shark 2 was the first to mimic the Switch this way); and you can even take the ultimate form by mounting this setup onto the new TwinView Dock II -- just be mindful of the whopping 639g total weight.
ASUS' new dual-screen TwinView Dock now mounts on the bottom side instead of the top, partly for better weight distribution and also partly for accommodating the device's extra length. The built-in touchscreen uses the same 120Hz AMOLED panel as the phone, though the built-in battery has been downgraded from 6,000mAh to 5,000mAh -- which is fine since you're still getting a larger 11,000mAh total capacity when docked.
The dock also packs a cooling fan, RGB lights, volume keys, a USB-C port and a headphone jack, but in order to drastically reduce weight, ASUS has removed the old SD card slot, extra speakers, trigger buttons and haptic vibrators here -- most of these are taken care of by the phone itself.
The other accessories are optional and, well, less interesting. Some markets will again offer the full kit in a limited edition carry-on suitcase. There's the same Mobile Desktop Dock that's compatible with both ROG Phone models, and this lets you share your PC monitor, keyboard, mouse and LAN connection with the phone -- just hit the dock's button and you can instantly switch over to some serious mobile gaming. You can also get the same old Pro Dock (basically a USB dongle with several essential PC sockets), plus a WiGig Display Dock Plus for casting your mobile screen to a TV over high quality, low latency wireless connections.
Of course, all these fancy features are meaningless if no games support them. ASUS announced three major titles -- Asphalt 9, Shadowgun War Games and Rockman X Dive -- that will come with optimizations as well as exclusive content tailored for the ROG Phone II. These optimizations are mostly to do with boosted frame rate, fine-tuned haptic vibration, Kunai Gamepad support and TwinView Dock II support (except for Rockman). ASUS will need to gather more support from games if it wants all its companion peripherals to make sense.
But back to the phone itself, which has also been given some substantial upgrades. The ROG Phone II features a 6.59-inch FHD+ (2,340 x 1,080) AMOLED panel, with its maximum refresh rate bumped from the earlier 90Hz up to an even smoother 120Hz. And yes, you have the option to scale back down to 90Hz or 60Hz to save battery. While it's true that the Razer Phones already had a 120Hz display, they were using LCD instead of AMOLED -- the ROG Phone II has a much nicer, more vivid screen.
As for battery, ASUS has thrown in a generous 6,000mAh cell this time, which is a big jump from the earlier 4,000mAh. Hence the new 9.48mm thickness and 240g weight. Neither figure bothered me during my hands-on, but it may be a different story after prolonged usage. T
The bundled ROG HyperCharge adapter pumps in 30W of power using just a regular USB-C-to-USB-C cable, and while it takes about two hours to fully charge the phone, it can already reach 4,000mAh in just 58 minutes, which should already last you a day.
ASUS claims that, compared to the OnePlus 7 Pro's Warp Charge technology, its own implementation apparently offers longer battery life -- the cells don't swell as quickly, and likewise with their capacity degradation. That's something we'll have to check out for ourselves. Still, some may complain about the lack of wireless charging here.