While the usual benefits of an expensive phone may be missing, Asus’ relentless focus on gaming means that nothing comes close to the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate if all you want to do is play games.
For us mobile game fans here at Pocket Tactics, Asus has always been a go-to manufacturer for hardware. Now, the company is back at it again with two new versions of its flagship mobile device: The Asus ROG Phone 7 and 7 Ultimate.
I’ve spent almost a month with the Asus Phone ROG 7 Ultimate, and, if you don’t want to read the whole of this review, let’s just say, Asus has done it again. The Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is the best gaming phone there is, if you’re looking for a dedicated mobile gaming device rather than an iPhone or standard Android device.
Asus ROG Phone 7 vs ROG Phone 7 Ultimate
|Asus ROG Phone 7
|Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate
|3.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform
|Qualcomm AdrenoTM 740
|6.78” 2448×1080 (395ppi) 165 Hz, 1 ms AMOLED (720 Hz touch sampling rate, 23 ms touch latency)
|Up to 16GB LPDDR5X
|Up to 512GB UFS4.0
|£999 / £1,199
Looking at the specs then, the Asus ROG Phone 7 and ROG Phone 7 Ultimate don’t look too different. I haven’t had any time with the base model, so I can’t directly compare from real-world experience. While the ROG Phone 7 is cheaper and comes in a choice of two colors, the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate also has a rear screen and slightly enhanced cooling. It’s also several hundred dollars more expensive.
Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate design
Anyway, with that out of the way, let’s focus on the 7 Ultimate. On the outside, it’s slightly chunky, barely thicker than an iPhone 13 but far taller, with a chin and forehead around the screen for cameras and speakers.
The white back is still a little too “hardcore gamercore” for my taste, but it’s more reserved than others. There’s a little customizable screen that can show alerts on it, the faded “ROG” at the base, logo, and name, all with some angular lines. There are also two other sections of black: the cameras and the aeroactive portal.
Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate cameras
Objectively, the cameras on the Asus Rog 7 Ultimate are pretty poor for a phone this expensive. Check out the comparison below between the 7 Ultimate on the left and my iPhone 13 on the right – a phone that’s almost half the price – and the cheaper phone wins.
Arguably this doesn’t really matter so much to gamers. Who buys a phone that says “Republic of Gamers” on it and worries about photography? But, still, the quality isn’t class-leading, so keep that in mind if you’re a keen photographer as well as gamer.
Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate handling
Once you boot the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate up, the UI is clear and easy to use – you can choose whether you want a ROG theme or a standard theme – and swiping around the place is nice and zippy thanks to that high refresh rate screen.
There’s a fingerprint sensor in the display which is a little slow and sometimes takes a few tries. It apparently uses machine learning to improve over time, so maybe over a longer period, there would be fewer misreads.
All around the outer rim are various buttons and sensors, as well as two charging ports and a headphone jack. The charging port choice means you can charge and play in the landscape without the cable getting in the way, which is lovely.
Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate performance
Anyway, that’s all the boring stuff out of the way. Now it’s time to play some games. Stuff like Pokémon Go, Mario Kart Tour, and anything less strenuous, more casual, like Candy Crush breezes through everything.
The more fun stuff is the likes of Apex Legends, Fortnite, Call of Duty, and Ace Racer. All of the first three on max settings run at a solid 60fps and don’t push the internal temp over 30°C according to the on-device readings.
A single game of Apex, for example, running at original settings with everything maxed out, runs without a hitch. Over the 25 minutes or so of playtime, the phone only dropped from 100% to 90%, a reassuring sign (to combat any battery worries, there’s fast charging up to 65W, with Asus saying the ROG Phone 7 charges from 0-100% in 42 minutes). You can check out the in-game metrics in the gallery below.
Playing shooters like these on the 7 Ultimate is so easy thanks to Asus’ air triggers. We’ve raved about them before, sure, but it’s worth reiterating. Just having the ability to aim down sights and shoot without touching the screen feels far more natural. Poco tried pop-up triggers in a recent model that just didn’t work right, but Asus has it down.
Playing something like Ace Racer, however, there are fewer obvious benefits to the triggers. Still, in terms of performance, the phone is just fine with the graphical intensity of everything. I wouldn’t recommend playing Ace Racer, however, it’s a pretty bad game. At least it looks nice, eh?
Anyway, if all of this isn’t enough for you Asus has dozens of different things built for mobile game lovers. In-game, a simple wipe down from a top corner brings up a dashboard – like the deck of a spaceship – with various toggles and buttons to play with.
Here, you can change the game mode to get more power or conserve battery, set where the air triggers activate on the screen, change your notification settings, and about a billion other minute switches to craft the experience exactly how you want it. This is where I, personally, switch off – too many things to choose from so I ignore them all – but if you’re not like me then you’ll probably have a good time.
Asus also built a new cooler to strap onto the phone, this time with a speaker integrated. There are also a bunch of buttons on the back that you can ascribe to different points on the touch screen. Trying to use it, however, with a few fingers behind the phone, some on the top rim, and others on the screen, is an ergonomic nightmare. Maybe it’s useful to someone to have four buttons, but I can’t imagine using more than one, maybe two.
All that isn’t the main purpose of the device, however. It’s for cooling. Remember that third black cutout on the back of the phone? That’s the aeroactive portal, a feature only on the 7 Ultimate. It’s a little door that opens up to let cool air in when the fan is attached, which allows “nearly one liter of cold air per second” to dissipate heat. According to Asus, this increases the cooling effect up to nine times.
In my own time with it, I couldn’t see any discernable benefit in-game. Still, I didn’t manage to play four hours of Genshin Impact without stopping, either. Here’s where the benefit could come in, possibly, but even in my extended sessions without it, there wasn’t any noticeable slowdown. The cooling on the phone itself is more than good enough for any of my needs.
All this performance is compounded by everything else on the phone. The screen is big and bright and lovely – maybe a little too contrasty for my liking in everyday use, but that’s me nitpicking: it’s absolutely ace for gaming.
The speakers are some of the best I’ve ever used on a phone, too. As they’re front-facing, they create a really nice soundstage, helping you hear gunshots from different angles or enjoy the chirping birds in Genshin when you don’t have headphones to hand.
All these bigger features are then assisted by Asus’ endless attention to detail. Alongside the overwhelmingly long list of customization options and double charging ports, Asus has specifically positioned three different Wi-Fi antennas so your hand doesn’t get in the way. There’s just so much stuff.
This attention to detail isn’t exactly brand new, however. If you’ve got a ROG Phone 6 and are considering an upgrade, it’s unlikely to be worth it. The best way to know is to see for yourself: hop into the most taxing game you play, play it as long as you would usually, and see how it performs. Only you can know if it isn’t good enough.
With Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon chip, phones like the Xiaomi 13 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra have taken great leaps in performance, but the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate combines that with so many other improvements specifically catered for gamers. Sure, they’re all powerful phones, but they all cater to different use cases.
Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate conclusion
I couldn’t personally imagine using the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate as my day-to-day phone. It’s a little too big, and I don’t love how the bezels look in everyday use. But this size and extra bezel space allow for such a great screen and exceptional speakers.
In focusing on mobile game players, Asus may have made certain decisions that go against common flagship phone designs. These choices, however, mean that there’s nothing that can compete with the 7 Ultimate in terms of pure gaming performance and ergonomics. It’s the best gaming phone right now in 2023, hands down.