With modern smartphones becoming so advanced, do we really need a dedicated phone just for running mobile games? That was the question I set out to ask when I was offered the chance to test the new ROG Phone 7 Ultimate by Asus. ROG, which stands for Republic of Gamers, is the Taiwan electronic tech giant’s gaming sub-brand, and this phone is the latest in the company’s flagship gaming phone line.
So what makes this phone “Ultimate”? It goes overkill on every number and spec imaginable. The 6.78-inch OLED display has a refresh rate of up to 165Hz compared to the 120Hz in modern flagships. This means the screen can run more frames per second, for smoother, faster animations. The screen is wrapped by noticeable bezels, which are by design because they give gamers something to grip onto when holding the phone, and also house symmetrical, large front-facing stereo speakers.
The phone also packs 16GB of RAM using the latest LPDDR5X standard, compared to most phones’ 8GB or 12GB. More RAM means the phone can run more applications at once without boggling down—think of it like a wider road with more lanes to fit more cars. The battery is 6,000 mAh in size, at least 1,000 mAh larger than any modern phone’s battery capacity.
The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is also powered by the newest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, but it’s strategically placed dead center in the phone, wrapped by an advanced multi-layered cooling system that includes graphite cooling sheets and another panel with actual liquid cooling gels. This advanced system works in tandem to keep the chip cool, so that it can run, you guessed it, faster.
But that’s not all. What truly takes the phone over the top is it has a vent on its back side, into which part of the ROG’s “AeroActive Cooler 7” accessory goes. This piece of kit, which comes bundled with the Ultimate phone, includes a fan, four physical clicky buttons, some RGB lighting, and a sub-woofer. With this fan actively blowing air into the vent, it further cools the Qualcomm Snapdragon chip, so that it can perform at high levels without throttling (which is what mobile chips do when it runs hot).
Add in a strong and precise haptic vibration engine and two touch sensitive panels on the side of the phone which serves as shoulder buttons when gaming, and you have a phone that is an absolute overkill in every hardware and spec.
But do these things matter? Does it actually tangibly improve the gaming experience over, say, an iPhone? The answer is yes—but only if you push it hard enough.
If you’re playing a casual mobile game, for short periods of time, you’re not really going to see where the ROG Phone 7 performs “better” than the iPhone 14 Pro or Galaxy S23 Ultra, except for the clearly superior audio output.
But if you are playing a graphically intensive game, and a game that requires faster response time and action, like third-person shooters, such as PUBG, or massive action RPGs like Genshin Impact, then the addition of physical clicky buttons (which you can assign to replace an onscreen tap via the phone’s built-in software) along with advanced cooling system make a noticeable difference.
The buttons allow for superior controls, and the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate staying cooler means you can play 30, 40, 90 minute sessions and not see performance drops. With a normal phone, after about 20 minutes of heavy gaming, the chip will get warm enough that the phone would have to throttle performance (which is to place a cap on how much power it produces) as a way to prevent overheating.
So if you’re a serious gamer, all of the hardware ASUS packed into the phone does make a difference.
But here’s the thing, even if you’re not a serious gamer, you can benefit from the extreme hardware here, too. That 165Hz screen brings ultra-fluid animations even when scrolling through apps, and the speakers are the best speakers in any smartphone right now, so it obviously improves movie watching, too. The 6,000 mAh battery is designed for long gaming sessions, but if you’re using this as a normal phone, it becomes an endurance beast.
The only area where this phone falls short to a normal phone is in the cameras, which are at this price range, a bit below par. The main camera can produce some fine images, but the ultra-wide camera and macro camera are objectively a few generations behind what Apple, Google, Samsung or Xiaomi are doing right now.
However, the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate isn’t cheap. It goes on sale worldwide soon for about $1,300. This does include the fan accessory in a very nice packaging, so it helps matters. But this is in pure premium category. Those who want a more affordable option can opt for the ROG Phone 7 without the Ultimate, which brings the same screen, chip, haptics, internal cooling system, speakers, and software, but is missing the vent for the AeroActive Cooler. This means it is still a very capable phone for gaming, but can’t quite go as long as the Ultimate.
Whatever the case, ASUS has built something that stands out from the crowd and serves a specific crowd.