GAMING IS A BIG DEAL for hardware maker Asus, but the last thing we expected it to do was to reveal a gaming smartphone at this year's Computex.
But that's exactly what the firm did, showing off a phone under its Republic of Gamers (RoG) sub-brand more commonly associated with powerful laptops, graphics cards, displays and motherboards.
Dubbed the RoG Phone, Asus has given its gaming-orientated handset a 6in 2160x1080 AMOLED display that supports high dynamic range and a 90Hz refresh rate for smooth and vibrant mobile gaming.
The octa-core chipset clocks up to 2.96GHz, which looks to be a tad nippier than the SoC's stock max clockspeed.
That performance boost is likely achieved through Asus' vapour-chamber cooling system called GameCool, which is augmented by a detachable AeroActive cooler, the idea being the chipset is kept cool and steady when pushed hard during 90Hz gaming. Oh, and 8GB of RAM is on offer with storage weighing in at 128GB to 512GB.
That should be enough to distinguish the RoC Phone from more standard flagship handsets. But Asus has gone further adding ultrasound triggered "AirTriggers" that respond to force-feedback to provide programmable shoulder buttons on the side of the phone.
There are also side mounted ports that allow accessories to be plugged into the phone's edges to further bolster its built-in controls. The most notable accessory is a the Gamevice controller, which adds a form of split gamepad to the handset. This has the effect of making the RoG Phone look a bit like an Android gadget take on the Nintendo Switch.
Interestingly, the Gamevice controller uses 60GHz 802.11ad WiFi to pipe content from the phone to a WiGig dock that plugs into a TV or monitor to allow for big screen gaming, again reminiscent of the Switch.
While the phone's chassis has the RoG evil-eye logo and angular slashes that scream "noughties gaming nerd" and make us want to take the piss out of it, there appears to be quite a bit of clever engineering and practical use behind the phone.
Take the clamshell TwinView Dock accessory that the RoG Phone plugs into, adding a secondary 6in 1080p touchscreen and 6,000mAh battery to turn the phone into a proper portable console-like device, offering force-feedback controls and a quad-speaker system for gaming on the go.
Then there's the Mobile Desktop Dock, which as the name would suggest acts as a port-heavy dock that the RoG Phone connects to turn it into a form of desktop experience that works with a keyboard, mouse and external monitor; think Samsung's DeX but more gaming focussed.
Docks aside, the RoG Phone also comes with squeezable sides, which when gripped switch the handset form its normal smartphone mode into a gaming mode whereby performance is optimised. Background apps and processes are shut down and RAM allocation dedicated for shifting around game data, as well as changing the blue user interface to red, the colour synonymous with the RoC brand and gaming devices in general.
Clearly, Asus' RoG Phone is yet another attempt to make gaming on Android phones a more serious affair rather than part of the overall smartphone experience. Razer attempted this with the Razer Phone, which offered a similar rapid-refresh display, but it didn't come with the peripherals and accessories the RoG Phone promises.
As such, Asus could be poised to set up a gaming sub-ecosystem to sit below the Android ecosystem. But with no price or release data revealed we'll have to wait and see if Asus can position the RoG Phone as something that'll properly appeal to mobile gamers, particularly in the face of the massively successful Nintendo Switch. µ
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