ROG Phone 3 smartphone review

Content

  1. Contents of delivery
  2. TECH SPECS
  3. Positioning
  4. Design, dimensions, controls
  5. Display
  6. Battery
  7. Memory, chipset, performance
  8. Communication capabilities
  9. Camera
  10. Software, gaming capabilities
  11. Competitors
  12. Impressions

Contents of delivery

  • Smartphone
  • USB Type-C to Type-C cable 120 cm
  • Adapter Type-C – 3.5 mm
  • Charger 30W
  • Case Aero
  • Cooler AeroActive Cooler 3
  • SIM eject tool
  • Spare cover caps for side power connector
  • Documentation (user manual, warranty card)

ROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone reviewROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone review

TECH SPECS
Dimensions and weight 171 x 78 x 9.85 mm, 240 grams
Body materials Gorilla Glass 6 on the front, Gorilla Glass 3 on the back, aluminum frame, plastic 
Display

6.59 inches, 2340×1080 pixels (FullHD +), AMOLED, 19.5: 9 ratio, 391 ppi pixel density 

Refresh rate 144 Hz (response time 1 ms), refresh rate of the touch layer – 270 Hz, delay time for touch processing – 25 ms, delay time for gesture processing – 18 ms

HDR10 / 10 + 10-bit color gamut 113.3% DCI-P3 (153,7% sRGB, 108,8% NTSC)

Brightness 650 cd / m2, peak brightness 1000 cd / m2, contrast ratio 1: 000, Delta E <000, TÜV Rheinland certified

Operating system Google Android 10 (Pie), a graphical ROG UI add-on, it is possible to switch to a “pure” version of ZenUI
Platform Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus (4 × 1.8 GHz Kryo 585 Silver + 3 × 2.42 GHz Kryo 585 Gold + 1 × 3.1 GHz Kryo 585 Gold), 7 nm process technology, Adreno 650 graphics
Memory 12/16 GB RAM (LPDDR5), 512 GB UFS 3.1 onboard memory 
Wireless Interfaces Multi-antenna Wi-Fi 6 802.11 a / b / g / n / ac / ax, dual-band, Wi-Fi direct; Bluetooth 5.1 (BR / EDR + LE, aptX Adaptive), NFC
Сеть 2G: EDGE / GSM / GPRS bands 850/900/1800/1900,
3G: диапазоны WCDMA 1/2/3/4/5/6/8/19,
4G: диапазоны FDD LTE 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/18/19/20/25/26/28/29/30/32/66/71
диапазоны TDD LTE 34/38/39/40/41/42/48
Dual Nano SIM cards 5G / 4G standby
Navigation GPS, AGPS, BeiDou, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS, NavIC
Sensors and connectors In-screen fingerprint scanner, face recognition, accelerometer, distance, light, proximity, gyroscope, Hall sensor, RGB sensor, infrared sensor, electronic compass, USB Type-C (bottom), USB Type-C 3.1 Gen.2 2.0 + special port for connecting accessories (left)
Main camera

64 MP wide-angle Sony IMX686 Quad Bayer f / 1.8 aperture 0,8 μm PDAF 26.6 mm equivalent focal length

13 MP, ultra-wide lens, f / 2.4, 125 ° angle of view, 11mm equivalent focal length

5 MP, macro lens, f / 2.0

Video Recording:

8K @ 30 fps
4K @ 30/60 fps
FHD (1080P) @ 30/60 fps
HD (720P) @ 30 fps 

Slow motion:

4K @ 120 fps
FHD (1080P) @ 240/120 fps
HD (720P) @ 480 fps

Accelerated shooting:

4K / FHD / HD @ 30 fps

Three-axis EIS stabilization (except modes with 240 and 480 fps)
Pro Video Mode

Front-camera

24 MP, f / 2.0 aperture, 0.9 μm, 27 mm equivalent focal length, EIS

Video recording FHD (1080P) @ 30/60 fps, HD (720P) @ 30 fps

Battery Li-Po, 6000 mAh, support for Quick Charge 3.0 / 4.0 and Power Delivery 3.0, reversible charging 10W
Audio GameFX audio system, stereo speakers with Dirac HD Sound support, two dedicated amplifiers, Hi-Res 24-bit / 192 kHz support via USB-C interface, 4 microphone system with noise canceling support
Additionally GameCool 3 cooling system with updated vapor chamber, dedicated accessory port, AirTriggers 3 ultrasonic keys with vibration feedback, Always-On display, four antenna system for improved signal, gamer mode, full-color logo illumination 
Color Glossy black
Price 79 990/89 990 rubles 

Positioning

ASUS continues to evolve its line of gaming smartphones with the latest technology to deliver the most seamless gaming and everyday experience possible. ROG Phone 3 resembles its predecessor in many ways, both externally and in terms of interface. However, there are a number of significant changes and innovations, they concern not only the game part, which has been worked on the most thoroughly.

Before us is a new generation of the device maximally sharpened for games, which at the same time can play the role of an everyday smartphone. The visual and aesthetic compromises associated with the gaming nature of the device are minimized in the third generation ROG Phone, there are some functional points, I will try to talk about everything in the review. From the point of view of the index of the new model, no conclusions should be drawn, minor changes in numbers (ZS661KL / ZS660KL) do not reflect real changes, just as the transition from the Roman numeral in the name to the Arabic one does not mean anything.

Design, dimensions, controls

ROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone reviewROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone reviewROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone reviewROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone review

Visually, the ROG Phone 3 is both similar and unlike its predecessor. At the back, the same Republic of Gamers logo stands out brighter, and the design of the back itself with gradient stripes under Gorilla Glass 3 stands out. That is where the obvious similarity ends. The camera unit now consists of 3 lenses, it has become larger and is noticeably more protruding above the body, in the last generation the camera unit was almost flush with the back glass. The design of the evaporation chamber has become less accented and aggressive, now only a small part of it is visible, it looks out from under the transparent part of the glass. Next to it is a small slot for heat dissipation from the smartphone body.

On the front, the only difference was the lack of color highlighting of the speaker grilles, now the front panel is as black as possible. The dimensions of the ROG Phone 3 remained in the same range, except that the thickness increased by 0.5 mm, so we can assume partial compatibility with accessories from the ROG Phone II.

ROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone reviewROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone review

As regards the control elements, almost everything has remained in its place: the power button and volume control keys, which have received a red border, are on the right, the SIM card tray is on the left, but not at the bottom, but in the upper part of the side panel. If we talk about ports, the main charging connector is still to the left of the center of the bottom panel, the additional one is in the center of the left side panel next to the accessory port. But the headphone jack in the third generation of ROG Phone was abandoned, only an adapter was put in. I think that for a certain category of users at this point, a trigger will work, which the manufacturer tried to smooth out. When you install the bundled AeroActive Cooler 3 into the aforementioned accessory port, you can connect your wired headphones to the connector on the accessory case. In other cases, you will either have to use the existing adapter, or with a sigh of a desperate Luddite, accept the wireless present.

The on-screen fingerprint sensor still works just as quickly and adequately, there are several options for unlocking animation.

I was pleasantly surprised by the reduced brightness of the screen backlight compared to the ROG Phone II when using it. There is no water protection of the case, as well as wireless charging. In the first case, the specificity of the cooling system does not allow it. As for wireless charging, I have already spoken out in the review of the last generation, it will take a lot of time to replenish the battery with a capacity of 6000 mAh.

The general impressions of the device’s appearance remained the same: an outwardly calm smartphone, if you do not turn on the logo illumination, it is convenient to walk with it on a constant basis without attracting unnecessary glances. Of course, for this you need to develop a habit of large smartphones, the ROG Phone 3 is clearly not thin and slender. On the other hand, with a 6000 mAh battery, this thickness justifies itself, the device could have been much more plump. All the same, I advise you to use the complete Aero case, Gorilla Glass is great, but it does not make your smartphone less slippery. The case helps and does not increase the dimensions of the already impressive device so much.

ROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone reviewROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone reviewROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone reviewROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone review

The ROG Lightning Armor case is slightly thicker, when you activate the X-Mode game mode, the illumination on the perforated case case starts up, and the line logo is displayed. An NFC sensor is built into the case, it activates a special theme when the smartphone is installed in the case. The aforementioned cooler can be used as a stand for watching videos, and, of course, playing games via a connected wireless joystick.

ROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone reviewROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone reviewROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone reviewROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone reviewROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone reviewROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone review

Display

The AMOLED display of the smartphone is protected by Gorilla Glass 6, the flickering of the screen is minimized at the software level, and the blue glow is filtered out at the hardware level. These features are certified by the independent company TUV Rheinland, which is increasingly appearing in the technical specifications of smartphones. Cutouts and folds did not appear in the screen, this is commendable, the oleophobic coating is very decent, the marks are erased instantly.

ROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone reviewROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone review

In terms of resolution and diagonal, the screen of the new item has not changed compared to the previous generation. Although at a certain stage I allowed the resolution to be increased. But from 600 to 650 nits, the brightness increased, as well as the refresh rate of the display, it is 144 Hz. I put a smartphone with 120 Hz and 144 Hz next to it and could not believe my eyes: there is a difference! It may not be so large and noticeable for the most part when scrolling through lists or images, but it does take place. The following modes are available in the settings: automatic (system selectable) 144, 120, 90 and standard 60 Hz. The automatic mode of determining the refresh rate is more applicable to the everyday scenario when mixed applications with different support for increased hertzings are used. The system gives out the optimal, in her opinion, frequency indicator, so that the image is smooth, and the interaction is fast, and so that the battery does not run out quickly. Most applications in this mode will work at 90 Hz, even though some of them support the maximum 144 Hz for a smartphone. At the level of Armory Crate, a built-in utility from Asus, you can add applications to the list of games manually and try to set a higher hertz value there, but not all applications can do that. It is quite obvious that we still need to work on this, it’s great that work is already underway at least at the level of one of the vendors, maybe Google will think about it. If we draw a parallel with PCs and laptops, then the adaptive sweep frequency comes to mind, it can be assumed that in the context of mobile games this technology can come in handy and become one of the fundamental ones. It remains to add support at the software level, the graphics are already capable of this.

ROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone review

As it turned out, 144 Hz is not the limit. Craftsmen from foreign geek forums have already managed to dig into ROG Phone 3 and through the ADB command they opened the screen frequency setting of 160 Hz hidden in the official software. It is clear that this mode does not exist and is not yet expected in the assembly from the manufacturer, but already at this stage it is clear what the technologies are capable of. In practice, the increased frame rate gives the maximum smoothness of the interface and the image on the screen, while the polling rate plays an important role, which in the case of the ROG Phone 3 is 270 Hz. This parameter provides a quick response of the system to the commands entered, whether they are taps or gestures.

The color rendering of the display is traditionally pleasing. Already according to the characteristics, it is clear that they also worked wonderfully well here. Each display is calibrated for the most accurate color reproduction, this aspect is characterized by the ΔE parameter. It is used to determine the difference between two shades of the same color. In the case of the ROG Phone II and 3 display, it does not exceed the value of 1, while the human eye is unable to catch the difference when the indicator is less than 3. From the bonuses – the Always On panel, which displays received notifications on the always-on part of the screen. In all aspects, the screen in a smartphone is very decent, as it should be in a gaming device that respects itself and the user.

Battery

The battery capacity is the same 6000 mAh, which in fact gives excellent results in terms of autonomy. When setting the maximum frame rate, using instant messengers, email clients and several calls a day, the smartphone will be asked to charge by the end of the second day of use or the beginning of the third, we are talking about 4-5 hours of screen per day. ROG Phone 3 has even more room for experiments with autonomy, because there are several hertz modes, which also affects the rate of battery discharge. The video looping test at 144 Hz showed the result at 23 hours 40 minutes. In comparison, the ROG Phone 2 lasted 30 hours at 120Hz, overall results are comparable. A complete charge will replenish the battery capacity in 110 minutes. QuickCharge 4.0 and Power Delivery protocols are supported. The most interesting for gamers will be support for direct charging: when you connect the cable to the side connector, the device will charge exactly as much as the current use case requires. The advantage will be the significantly reduced heating of the device, so this will definitely not affect the gameplay. The cable itself will not hurt, the location of the connector does not allow it to get confused under the hands and somehow affect the grip of the device.

ROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone review
ROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone review

It is worth noting a number of interesting energy saving functions, some of which I have previously encountered only in notebooks, including those from ASUS. First of all, in the battery optimization settings, slow battery charging is available, which protects it and extends its life cycle. Also, at the same point, you can set the charging time interval so that the phone does not overheat in the remaining time and the battery does not lose its resource. Finally, you can limit the charging to 80 or 90 percent, this step will also extend the life of the battery. In case you need power saving modes, you can use one of the pre-installed ones or customize your own. When a certain percentage of the charge is reached, the system can automatically turn off all wireless communication protocols, mobile Internet, and reduce the screen refresh rate to the minimum.

Memory, chipset, performance

As they say, the legend is still fresh, the ROG Phone 2 review came out a little more than six months ago, but the feeling of deja vu still overtook when meeting with the filling of the smartphone. In our market, there will be two modifications for sale: with 12 and 16 GB of LPDDR5 RAM in conjunction with the currently top Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus processor. Even for a modern laptop, 16GB of RAM is pretty good, let alone a smartphone. All this is supplemented with 512 GB of fast UFS 3.1 permanent memory, 495 GB is available to the user. Tests and benchmarks consistently put the smartphone in the lead, which is understandable: the speed of the processor, as well as RAM and permanent memory, has increased, and the system has been optimized everywhere. However, individual models step on the heels, we will talk about them at the end of the material.

Needless to say, mobile games for the most part are not yet ready for such powers and just fly at maximum frame rates with top settings, be it PUBG, Fortnite, Dead Trigger 2, Real Racing 3 and other popular games. By the way, the last two games support 144 Hz, honor and praise to the developers, the visual experience is as positive as possible. The same Fortnite on mobile devices so far supports increased hertz on devices of the OnePlus 8 family and iPad Pro with a 120 Hz screen. The maximum heating of the processor was 56 degrees, this parameter may differ in commercial samples.

Communication capabilities

Modern technologies have made their way here as well. Like the ROG Phone II, the smartphone has 4 antennas to ensure a stable connection when gaming and 4 noise-canceling microphones for clear voice transmission. This is due to the fact that with the horizontal grip of the smartphone, the player with the palm of his hand can block the antenna or microphone, so such an engineering step was taken. ROG Phone 3 supports the latest wireless protocols and communication standards: Wi-Fi 6, 5G, Bluetooth 5.1. I did not notice any problems with the clarity and quality of speech transmission, the interlocutors are in solidarity.

ROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone review
ROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone review

Although smartphones are not so often on the reviews, I don’t remember such powerful and loud speakers in a smartphone for all the time I was communicating with them. The usual test with a composition with “pumping” bass unexpectedly surprised me by the presence of deep low frequencies, the vibration from which, albeit slightly, but literally physically felt on the body. In terms of loudness, there is a fairly confident margin, here the position of “everything and more” also affected, in this aspect it is justified. My compliments to the engineers, the sound was very pleased, a truly flagship level, I would not refuse such a sound in a regular, non-gaming smartphone. Yes, in games, sound is extremely important, but in normal use, the multimedia part is just at its best.

Camera

ROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone reviewROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone review

During the global online presentation of the smartphone, they talked about the cameras for a little less than a minute, which is understandable, few people expect top-of-the-line shots from a gaming smartphone. Yes, the camera system in ROG Phone 3 does not amaze the imagination against the background of modern photo flags. The resolution of the main camera has increased to 64 megapixels, the Sony IMX686 module and the same Quad Bayer system are used. The additional camera has not changed, an ultra-wide module with a resolution of 13 megapixels is installed, a 5-megapixel macro camera has been added to this company, which is better than just a depth sensor, but in general it does not make much weather.

Under good lighting conditions, the ROG Phone 3 cameras produce quite adequate image quality, I liked the frames with the automatic HDR turned on better, as the image becomes slightly less noisy. Portrait mode works correctly and smoothly on both the main and selfie cameras. If we talk about night shots, then the automatic detection algorithm does its job, but I would still resort to the dedicated “Night” mode. The transition between the main lens and the ultra-wide lens has practically no effect on color rendition, it is mostly soft and natural. The front camera also works with Quad Bayer, it shoots better than the last generation, as usual, there are settings for improving the face.

ROG Phone 3 offers a variety of video shooting modes, both in terms of various resolution options, and the Pro Video mode, in which, by analogy with Pro Photo, you can manually set the necessary shooting parameters, set the focus for the microphones and turn on the wind protection, looks very curious. Hypersteady super stabilization can be added to the automatic shooting mode with EIS, it works in FHD and HD, and it works well.

Software, gaming capabilities

The system “out of the box” works on the basis of Android 10, the same ROG UI interface is used, which, if desired, can be switched to Zen UI, a variant close to the stock interface. Everything looks pretty nice and pretty, except that I don’t like the icons in ROG UI under any circumstances, so I would love to switch them to those used in Zen UI. In the absence of such an opportunity, I used the Durgon set, once wrote about it in reviews of interesting applications.

As for the pre-installed software, the situation has not changed, the same game utilities Armory Crate, Game Genie, the ASUS Transfer data transfer application and, interestingly, the Netflix client.

So my beloved ultrasonic keys have received a quality update. First of all, now they can be either one button or split into two each, emulating the L1 / L2 and R1 / R2 buttons on joysticks. At the same time, in Game Genie, you can customize the size of each of the buttons, depending on its importance and frequency of use in the game. In addition, AirTriggers 3 now recognize not only touches, but also gestures: swiping (a quick gesture is read as a touch) and a swipe, which can serve as a quick zoom or move the camera in a given situation in the game, if the latter supports such capabilities, of course. Also, the keys now “understand” and a long press, interpreting it as a series of several keystrokes. Among the innovations is the option to overlay the sight on the screen for those games where it is not provided, or in the training mode. Someone may call this a dishonest move and in some ways they will be right.

Armory Crate still allows you to flexibly configure the system and its behavior in games, lighting, fan speed-accessory. An option that is significant for me personally has been added – displaying information about the system in real time: in a small window, the current processor temperature, frame rate, processor and RAM load, as well as the approximate time that the smartphone can work with the current settings are displayed. You no longer need to connect third-party benchmarks, and this is good news.

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Competitors

The start of sales of ROG Phone 3 will take place this month, the cost will be 79 and 990 rubles for versions with 89 and 990 GB of RAM, respectively. Whatever you look at, it’s a lot. On the other hand, the rise in the exchange rate definitely affected, well, the top-end filling is always expensive, especially when there are practically no compromises as such. At the time of the release of the text on the Russian market, the only obvious competitors that can be distinguished is the Nubia Red Magic 12G. For 16-5 thousand rubles, the user will receive a configuration of 54/55 GB on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 processor without the “plus” mark, a screen with the same 128 Hz and a slightly weaker camera system (865 + 144 + 64 MP) purely on paper. There is a previous generation of ROG Phone, which, however, is extremely rare on sale and, albeit a little, but lags behind in technical characteristics.

ROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone review

Left to right: ROG Phone II, ROG Phone 3, Lenovo Legion Duel, Oppo Find X2, Samsung Galaxy S20 +, Nubia Red Magic 5G. Source: versus.com

Of the non-gaming smartphones, the Oppo Find X2 came closest: here is the same SD865, 12 GB of RAM with 256 GB of storage, the display has a QHD + resolution and holds 120 Hz on it. It costs 72 rubles. Here you can also add the Samsung Galaxy S990 +, it has better cameras, but less RAM, and an increased hertz of the display is available only for FHD resolution.

Looking at the market as a whole, it is expected that the sales of the Lenovo Legion Duel will start selling, which practically repeats the ROG Phone 3 in terms of characteristics. Nubia is also preparing the Red Magic 5S, which is very similar in terms of performance characteristics, and Xiaomi has just presented the gaming Black Shark 3S. There is no official information about the start of sales of these smartphones in Russia at the time of publication.


Impressions

ROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone review

Despite all the advantages of the new product, gaming smartphones still remain niche. The gaming market is growing, but mainly in the direction of console and PC gaming, in the mobile segment the growth is not so tangible. According to possible subjective complaints, everything is the same: a large diagonal, weight, a kind of exterior, cost, lack of wireless charging and IP certification. All of the above in the context of ROG Phone 3 does not negate the optimal price / quality ratio for those who are used to relying on a smartphone as a long-term investment, especially since the characteristics can ensure confident operation and the absence of a feeling of lagging hardware for several years ahead.

ROG Phone 3 (ZS661KL) smartphone review

Yes, about the characteristics. The idea is not new, but after communicating with a ROG Phone of any generation, the term “overkill” comes to mind – a kind of going beyond the permissible and familiar, a demonstration of the ultimate possibilities. At the same time, the successful gaming experience inherent in the last generation is supplemented with new functions and “chips” against the background of an overall improvement in performance. What is important, the performance does not drop regardless of the duration of the gaming session, there is no throttling. ROG Phone 3 has improved cameras, cool stereo speakers and an excellent display in all respects. At the same time, the design of the smartphone still allows it to be used as the main device; at first glance, it is not so easy to define a gaming device in it.

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