It's that time of year again; Asus has a new gaming phone to sell, known as the ROG Phone 7 and the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate. This review will deal specifically with the Ultimate model, taking the highest end for a lengthy spin to see just how well it stacks up to last year's offering and the competition, especially when that competition is heating up.
Out of all the gaming phones on the market, Asus is typically at the top each year with a stunner full of supreme specs. This year, ROG fans can expect a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 (this goes for all ROG models), with the Ultimate model offering 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. The star of the show is the 6.78-inch high frame rate OLED display, showcasing games with excellent colors and response times. Gaming is still at the forefront of the ROG line, which is great news for consumers. Gaming phones are generally geared towards user control, providing benefits like a headphone jack and lengthy battery life you might not find on other phones.
With the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate, you ultimately get what you pay for. It's an expensive device, with pre-orders opening today at €1399 (sorry, but these suckers are launching in foreign markets first; the US release is set for sometime in Q2). Once it's released, you can rest assured you'll get a phone with an awesome screen, plenty of battery to power it, and high performance to max out the graphics in the best Android games. Like all gaming phones, there are a few caveats, but with the promise of two OS updates, four years of security updates, and better camera performance, Asus is always improving. The Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is currently the best gaming phone on the market.
Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate
The Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate easily holds to its namesake, offering one of the best gaming phones Android has ever seen. Not only do you get top-of-the-line specs with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB storage, but you also get competent software to play and record games with, not to mention haptic shoulder buttons for the times you're away from your controller. So if Android gaming is your passion, Asus has launched a stunner with the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate.
- 3.2 GHz Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
- 6.78” 20.4:9 2448x1080 (395ppi) 165 Hz, 1 ms AMOLED HDR10+ certified
- 6 000 mAh (dual 3,000mAh batteries)
- 2 USB-C, 1 3.5mm headphone jack
- Operating System
- Android 13 with ROG UI & Zen UI
- Front camera
- 32MP MP OV32 Quad Bayer Front Camera sensor
- Rear cameras
- 50MP SONY IMX766 main sensor, 13MP ultra-wide, 8MP macro
- Wi-Fi-Direct support UL 2x2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.3
- 173 x 77 x 10.3 mm
- Storm White
- 239 g
- 65W (21V 3A) PD3.0 / QC5.0 / Direct Charge adapter
- IP Rating
- Micro SD card support
- 4 yrs of security updates
- AdrenoTM 740
- Gorgeous screen unobstructed by a camera
- High refresh rate screen
- Headphone jack
- Quality first-party software for gamers and streamers alike
- Front-facing speakers sound phenomenal
- Uncentered USB-C hinders third-party peripheral support
- Heavy, bulky
- Pointless rear display and gamer aesthetic
- Metal piece in the rear plate clicks when touched
Availability and pricing
Pre-orders open today for the ROG Phone 7 and ROG Phone 7 Ultimate in Taiwan, HK, and Europe. US availability won't happen until later in Q2. Due to this delayed release schedule, we only have the Euro pricing. The base model will sell for €999 and the Ultimate for €1399, though it's still unclear exactly when these phones will actually ship.
I'm also hoping the US doesn't completely forget about the phone by the time it's sold here. Regarding network coverage, the ROG 6 worked last year on T-Mobile and AT&T — where I've had no issues taking and making calls on my local T-Mobile connection — and we assume similar for the ROG 7.
Design, display, and network
When you first take the ROG phone out of the box, it basically looks just like the ROG 5 and 6 from the front. There are two even bezels above and below the screen, with the top housing the front-facing camera. Both bezels contain front-firing speakers, making great use of the space while ensuring even sound.
The phone's right edge is where you'll find the power button, with the volume rocker directly above. On the left is the SIM slot and the second USB-C port (with pogo pins for peripherals, like the AeroAcitve Cooler), and on the bottom is the main USB-C port alongside a very welcome headphone jack.
Sadly, Asus still places the bottom USB-C off-center, which means third-party controllers that require a standard centered USB-C port won't work with the phone (you know, like the Razer Kishi, the Gamevice Flex, or the GameSir X2), conveniently pushing everyone towards Asus's own controller. Although I tried to use the case and controller from the ROG 5 with the ROG 7 Ultimate, one corner refused to fit. So unless I shell out on a new case-and-controller combo from Asus, I'm stuck using Bluetooth controllers with the ROG 7 Ultimate. Suffice it to say, I'm not pleased because I own an assortment of controllers with centered USB-C support.
This design is counterintuitive to what a gaming phone should be, especially one designed for performance (Bluetooth adds latency, after all). Even my Nintendo Switch is more open to peripherals than the ROG 7 Ultimate. Not cool.
Flipping the phone over to its rear is where you'll find the gamer aesthetic Asus is known for, with white glass housing and a screen that can showcase dual-colored animations (blue and pink). I find all of this somewhat tacky, but those who are into the whole unnecessary RGB gamer thing will probably dig it.
There's also a metal piece in the back, it's a metal flap that (only) opens for the attachable fan. It wiggles ever so slightly when touched, making noise against the glass it's housed in. The camera bump sits at the top of the rear glass plate, and it only protrudes so far, allowing the phone to almost lay flat on its back, which is a good thing considering how slippery this sucker is without a case.
The star of the show is the display. It's a 6.78-inch high refresh rate OLED screen that reaches up to 165Hz. You can choose your refresh rate, whether you want to stick with 60Hz to conserve battery or go blazing with 165Hz at all times. All of my testing was on 165Hz, because why not? If I'm going to use one of the best gaming phones on the market, I may as well take it to the max at all times.
And unlike some manufacturers (cough cough, Sony), these frame rates won't adjust behind your back; if you set the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate at 165Hz, it stays there. Plus, more and more games support high frame rates every day. And since this is an OLED screen, the blacks are deep and the colors are sharp, with a few choices for screen temperature in the settings. I stuck with Optimal, which seemed like the obvious choice, and the colors sure do pop.
Not only do you get a high refresh rate screen, but it also supports a 720Hz touch sampling rate, which comes out to 23ms of touch latency. And as anyone knows, when it comes to gaming — especially competitive gaming — the lower the latency, the better.
My only complaint about the screen is that it's 20.4:9, a ratio that isn't the best for gaming. I'd much rather see a 16:9 screen, as odd as that sounds, as this is the ratio the majority of games support across Android and streaming services. Yes, most Android games will fit the screen fine, but once you move to game streaming, you'll be hard-pressed to find any service that supports widescreen streams outside of Nvidia's GeForce Now.
For a device all about gaming, it sure is odd that the 7 Ultimate forgoes the most common ratio for games. While this has been a longstanding issue with gaming phones — seeing that they still need to be used as phones — I excuse it more than a dedicated handheld like the Razer Edge.
Hardware, battery, and what's in the box
A fancy screen isn't everything, so Asus has placed two 3,000mAh batteries inside to power the phone. There's one at the top and one at the bottom, thus providing extra space for the chip in the middle to cool faster. This chip is a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, which comes with an Adreno 740 GPU, and it has torn through every game I've thrown at it. The Ultimate model comes with 16GB of RAM and 512GB storage, so keeping several apps open was never an issue, nor was installing as many apps and games as I could muster. While it would be great to see Asus add a micro-SD slot for expandable storage, 512GB is enough to hold a solid library of games.
Beyond the beefy specs, two of my favorite hardware features go back to yesteryear. The first is the LED notification light in the phone's bezel. There's nothing I love more than seeing a tiny little LED blinking at me when I have notifications. The second hardware feature I love is the inclusion of a headphone jack. Just as it's important to play with a controller over USB-C for the least latency, it's also important to make sure there's no audio latency, and the easiest way to do that is to plug into a headphone jack.
Because the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is a gaming phone, Asus would like to sell some extra peripherals to go along with it. First, there's the AeroActive Cooler that attaches to the back to cool the phone while in use. I don't have the latest cooler to test, but in previous generations, my testing proved that the cooler helps to tame temps. There's also the Kunai 3 gamepad, Asus's proprietary controller option that supports the phone's off-center USB-C port.
Having tested the first gen, I found it's a fine controller, though I'd much prefer to use Razer's but can't, thanks to Asus's non-standard USB-C port placement. Still, it's nice to have the option to play with a USB-C controller, even though Asus drastically overcharges the Kunai 3 at $150.
As for battery life, 6,00mAh is more than plenty, even if you use the phone like me, setting the screen to 165Hz at all times. With this fast refresh rate, I can still get two days of regular use before needing to charge. Better yet, the included 65W fast charger makes quick work of dead cells, recharging to full in about an hour. So even if you discover you're low, you can easily top up, and, more importantly, quickly.
In the box, you get the phone, a 65w charging brick, a USB-C to USB-A cable, along with a SIM pin and a cheap plastic case. I'm not a fan of the included case, as it's missing most of one side to make room for the phone's capacitive shoulder buttons. There are definitely more eloquent ways to clear space for those touch areas, which Redmagic handles well with its included cases. Asus could do better, but it is a free case, and the third-party market will certainly have better options.
Software and performance
Asus has a knack for packing its ROG phones in crazy boxes each year. This year, a removable magnetic flap holds the almost heart-shaped box together. Once you place this flap flat on its back, you'll see a spot to place your phone, with a few buttons underneath. Keep in mind this flap is all cardboard, but once you're instructed to place your phone on it during the onboarding process, those buttons actually work remotely.
Really, the entire process exists to walk users through some of the ROG Phone's unique software features, which I feel is an excellent way to educate and entertain. Sure, it's a little silly to have to pretend to start a rocket ship when setting up your phone, but this ensures users will be aware of Armoury Crate, Asus's gaming software.
While I'm rarely a fan of extra software from manufacturers, Armoury Crate is pretty useful. You use the app as a launcher to house all of your Android games, and it contains a bunch of tools for the best performance from your favorite titles, with the ability to troubleshoot them should things go wrong.
Of course, there's a built-in screen recorder that supports inline sound, but you can also pull up a widget to display your stats while gaming. Asus even includes a few modes that offer different performance balances, with its X Mode tuned specifically for games.
You can also find a few more handy features in Armoury Crate, such as a list of high refresh rate games. You'll also have to use this app to control the screen on the rear of the device, which felt odd to me as I expected the option to be in the phone's settings. Oh, and if you choose to pick up the latest AeroActive Cooler, you'll control it through Armoury Crate.
Beyond Asus's gaming software, expect Android 13 under the hood. What's nice is that Asus gives you the option to choose your UI theme when setting up the phone, so you can easily go with something close to stock Android.
To me, this offers the most familiar experience, as the phone looks like any other Android device, leaving you to theme how you wish. Asus sells themes as well as icon packs, but there are also plenty that are free. You can mix and match to your heart's content.
I feel Asus does a pretty good job with its software, though support has been an issue in the past. Thankfully, Asus is now promising two OS updates and four years of security updates.
Some improvements have come to the cameras this year. For example, in the rear, you still get a 50MP main sensor and a 13MP ultrawide, but the macro increased from 5MP to 8MP, allowing for sharper shots. The selfie cam has also improved from 12MP to 32MP, almost tripling the number of pixels, which is perfect for capturing your reactions while streaming or recording.
Although these are mostly slight improvements in hardware, the bump is appreciated since it results in better photos. Asus has also improved its camera software — there's now a light trail mode for creating artful shots. While I can't say I'd buy a gaming phone for its cameras, it's nice to know I can rely on the ROG 7 Ultimate to snap important pics when I don't have my mirrorless camera with me. ROG's cameras are a substantial step-up compared to gaming phone competitors like the Redmagic 7 Pro. Once again, you get what you pay for.
Of course, you don't have to take my word for it, so here is a range of examples from the rear cam and the selfie cam to show precisely what Asus has to offer with the new ROG 7 line.
When it comes to gaming phones, there are only a few names worth looking into. The first comes from Nubia, the Redmagic 8 Pro, which offers very similar specs to the ROG 7 with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, and the option for 16GB RAM and 512GB storage.
The best part is that it's only $800 for the same specs. Yes, Redmagic's software can be buggy, and the cameras aren't great, but if gaming is your goal, the Redmagic 8 Pro will offer similar performance to the ROG 7. Best of all, you can purchase the Redmagic in the US right now, unlike the ROG, which won't release in the States until Q2.
The other gaming phone worth looking into comes from Xiaomi — the Black Shark 5 Pro. While its specs are a little more dated with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, that's still a chip that can rip through games with ease. Much like the Redmagic, the Black Shark doesn't offer the best software or the best cameras, but it sure can play games with confidence. The Black Shark site appears to be sold out, but Amazon carries the phone, usually on sale below $700.
Should you buy it?
Had Asus not sent me a ROG Phone 7 Ultimate to review, I would have still bought it once it launched in the US. With the ROG 5 and 6, Asus proved that gaming phones are my preference. Not only does the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate include a huge battery that can last for a couple of days, but you also get top-of-the-line specs plus an internal design that keeps things cool thanks to vapor chambers and layers of cooling material. It's a phone with a purpose that doubles as an excellent daily driver.
Now that Asus has committed to longer support, addressed many of its camera woes, and is sticking to a specific form factor compatible with Asus-branded peripherals, there's very little to complain about. Yes, the price is high, but if you're looking for a budget option, Redmagic has your back. Then again, if you're looking for the best gaming phone money can buy, the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate should be at the top of your list.
Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate
The Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is the new flagship gaming phone from the company, bringing several improvements in 2023 with a new selfie camera and improved specifications with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 under the hood.