Computex 2018: ASUS go for broke with gamer-focused ROG Phone + new Strix II notebooks

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

ASUS have debuted their first gaming-focused smartphone in the form of the new ROG Phone.

Announced at this year’s Computex, the ROG Phone is an Android-powered smartphone with uber high-end specs and several gaming-specific features that promise to make it a must-have for mobile gamers.

The move makes them the second major gaming brand to expand into the smartphone market in recent months, with Razer announcing their own smartphone last October and HTC also rumoured to be working on a VIVE-branded smartphone.

Essentially, the ROG Phone is aimed at quelling the real-world pain-points of any mobile gamers.The device features a FHD+ HDR AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time. It boasts 8GB of RAM, up to 512GB of on-board storage, a 4000mAh battery and runs on a speed-binned version of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor that runs a clock speed of 2.9Ghz.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Of course, to get the most out of these specs, you’ll want to use the ROG Phone with the AeroActive Cooling Case it comes bundled with. This accessory further enhances the experience by adding a set of physical (and programmable) shoulder buttons and dual-front-facing speakers. There’s even a second USB Type-C port and headphone jack on the side the AeroActive, allowing you to easily charge it while using it in landscape mode.

The device also features a set of ‘air trigger’ ultrasonic sensors that ASUS say allow the shoulders of the device to act as extra buttons. What’s more, these are programmable - which means you’ll be able to (theoretically) use it with any game that supports remapping the controls. ASUS also say the device features advanced haptics that ‘let you feel the action’.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Last but not least, the ROG Phone supports ASUS’ ‘Hypercharge’ via a proprietary charger as well as Qualcomm’s Quick Charge. The former promises to charge you to 60% in 33 minutes. ASUS say it’ll also do so without any heat-build up on the phone.

The ROG Phone also touts a dual-lens camera on the back. However, ASUS didn’t offer too many details on the exact specs for it. The device also doesn’t appear to have any sort of IP-rating or waterproofing.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

ASUS are also selling a range of accessories for the device: from a ‘Twinview’ 6000mAh powerbank case that adds a second display to a GameVice-branded (and Nintendo Switch-inspired) WiGig dock that give you physical controls to play and lets you stream your gaming to a connected TV.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

ASUS say they are approaching game publishers to add enhanced support for the second screen to titles. Otherwise, it basically gives you a dual-screen Android experience that - at a glance - seems pretty similar to that offered by ZTE’s Axon M.   

There’s also a mobile desktop accessory that gives you a few more ports to play with and allows you to put your mobile gaming onto your TV or monitor.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Unfortunately, when asked, ASUS representatives were cagey about whether or not the phone would come to the Australian market and, if it did, how much it might cost. Given how much it costs to actually get a device certified for the local market, we aren’t expecting this one to show up on JB Hi-Fi shelves anytime soon.

However, as with last year’s Razer smartphone, it’ll likely prove popular among importers willing to pay extra for the very specific feature set provided here.

ASUS also announced and showed off two new ROG Strix gaming notebooks: the ROG Strix Hero II and ROG Strix Scar II, respectively. As with last year’s Hero and Scar models, each is geared towards a different audience - with slight adjustments to the keyboard promising to make one a better fit for FPS gamers and the other a better option for MOBA fans.

However, beyond the keyboard, there aren’t a huge amount of differences between the two notebooks in question. Both feature 8th-Gen Coffee Lake Intel Core processors, up to Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 graphics, up to 32GB of dual-channel SDRAM, up to 512 in SSD storage and up to 1TB of FireCuda hybrid SSHD storage.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

In terms of design and aesthetics, this year’s Scar and Hero notebooks are generally quite similar to last year’s crop but they do come a little leaner and meaner in the areas where it counts. In line with current trends, they’re rocking 15.6-inch displays with super narrow bezels that are 2.33cm thinner than that found in last year’s models.

Both the new Scar and Hero feature 144hz refresh rate and 3ms response time - a combination which ASUS claim is a world-first. There’s also little more RGB in the mix - courtesy of the new lighting bar at the bottom edge of the keyboard.

ASUS are also talking a big game around improvements to thermal efficiency here. Both Strix II notebooks feature upgraded 12-volt fans, which offer 20% better fan speed and 42% increased air flow. The heatsink has also been upgrade to feature more - and thinner - fans while the insides of the device have been buffed with a bit of extra thermal cladding.

Last but not least, there’s a new feature called Overstroke - which is said to reduce the actuation point of the keys on the keyboard versus last year’s models.

The ROG Strix SCAR II and ROG Strix Hero II will be available from the beginning of July 2018 in Australia from the ASUS Shop, Harvey Norman and select channel partners starting at $2,699 AUD.

For a full wrap-up of everything that happened at Computex 2018, click here.

Disclosure - Our coverage of Computex 2018 was sponsored by ASUS, who covered the cost of our flights and accommodation.

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