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Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro review: Full-fat gaming

Jon Mundy
4 Jan 2022
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,099
inc VAT

It’s not a looker, but the Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro lays on an opulent gaming phone package – for a price

Pros 
Huge battery
Top-level performance
Large, responsive 144Hz display
Cons 
Slightly tacky design
Mediocre cameras for the money
Poor value compared to the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro
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Thanks to the exponential improvement of mobile processor tech, in conjunction with the take-off of eSports and streaming culture, dedicated gaming phones are becoming even more common. This is a sub-sector of the smartphone industry that would likely baffle your average iPhone user, but can thrill anyone who appreciates a well-executed base flank.

For much of 2021, the Asus ROG Phone 5 was our go-to gaming phone of choice, but it’s since been superseded by the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro. Now, Asus has returned with ROG Phone 5s Pro, and it’s bringing out big guns in an effort to challenge the number one spot.

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Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro review: What you need to know

The Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro goes all-in with the specifications. You won’t find a faster, better-equipped Android phone among the class of 2021.

What you get for your money is an all-too-rare Snapdragon 888 Plus processor, paired with 18GB of LPDDR5 RAM, and an unimpeded 6.78in FHD+ AMOLED display with a 144Hz refresh rate. Serious stuff.

Speed is only half the battle with a good gaming phone, and the Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro goes out of its way to sustain rapid performance over extended sessions. That means a meaty, bespoke cooling system – including a bundled external fan attachment – and a huge 6,000mAh battery.

You also get a set of physical controls that can take your mobile gaming to the next level, with stereo sound and a small rear-mounted display that can output custom animations as well.

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Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro review: Price and competition

As with its specifications, Asus really hasn’t held back with the ROG Phone 5s Pro’s price. At £1,099 for the sole 512GB model, it’s right up there with expensive 2021 super-flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, and the Oppo Find X3 Pro.

The thing is, though, it’s not actually in competition with any of those phones. Rather, the Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro is going into bat against gaming-centric phones such as the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro and the Lenovo Legion Duel 2, which cost £629 and £699 respectively.

That’s a huge disparity in price, especially when you consider that both phones offer competitive specs in most areas that matter. That’s especially so with the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro, which provides equivalent performance for almost half the price.

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Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro review: Design and key features

Asus hasn’t sought to underplay the gamer aesthetic here. Just like the ROG Phone 5 before it, the ROG Phone 5s Pro’s looks are far from subtle.

At 173 x 77mm and 238g, it’s not quite as ridiculously hefty as the Lenovo Legion Duel, but that’s not much to boast about, and it’s just as thick at 9.9mm. The Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro almost seems small by comparison.

Its design is very similar to the ROG Phone 5, with a collection of aggressively angular lines, and indistinguishable camera module. At least the 5s Pro comes in a slightly less in-your-face black, with the power button and SIM tray here lending red accents.

Unlike the cheaper ROG Phone 5s, that rear panel also has a ‘ROG Vision’ rear colour matrix display. This beams a number of gaudy animations onto a diagonal strip of the phone. It serves little practical purpose, other than to show a phone animation for an incoming call, and a charging indicator when plugged in. If you’re someone who keeps their phone face-down most of the time, it might be useful, but it’s essentially a gimmick that adds to the price.

There’s no notch on the front of the phone, with the 24MP selfie camera instead stashed in the thicker top bezel. This gives an unimpeded view of games, with the added benefit of facilitating a proper pair of front-facing speakers.

The port selection is good, with USB-C ports to both the front and right edge of the phone. The latter also has a proprietary connector for the included AeroActive Cooler 5 fan, and it comes covered by a removable rubber flange, which is bound to get lost along the way.

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Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro review: Display

Specs-wise, the Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro has largely the same 6.78in FHD+ AMOLED display as the phone before it, together with the same maximum 144Hz refresh rate. I recorded a 98% DCI P3 colour gamut on the Default display setting, and colours looked pretty bang on across the board.

It gets plenty bright at a maximum 800cd/m2 in outdoor conditions and with auto-brightness engaged. That climbs to a claimed 1,200 cd/m2 when viewing HDR material. With auto-brightness turned off, I recorded a maximum measured luminance of 459 cd/m2 with the slider placed all the way to the right.

One thing that has measurably improved over the ROG Phone 5’s display is the touch sampling rate, which is up from 300Hz to 360Hz. This makes touch input, and thus gaming responsiveness, even better. It’s worth noting that this is still half the Nubia Redmagic 5s Pro’s 720Hz, however.

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Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro review: Gaming, performance and battery life

The Snapdragon 888 Plus 5G chip that powers the Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro isn’t markedly faster than the Snapdragon 888 found inside the vast majority of 2021 flagship phones. It’s the same chipset, in other words, but with the main cortex-X1 performance core clocked to 3GHz rather than 2.84GHz.

Paired with a frankly ridiculous 18GB of LPDDR5 RAM, however, this is as capable a gaming phone as there is. Of the phones we’ve used, it’s matched only by the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro, which uses the same processor.

In the Geekbench 5 tests, the ROG Phone 5s scored 1,160 in single-core and 3,624 in multi-core processing. That’s about equal to the Asus ROG Phone 5 before it, which illustrates just how little the 888+ adds in terms of raw processing power. It was a similar story with the GFXBench GPU-based tests, too.

This puts it ahead of most regular Android flagship phones, but curiously drops it short of the aforementioned Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro. I did seem to get slightly uneven results when activating the X-Mode performance enhancer, so this shortfall could well be a software issue.

In practical terms, CoD Mobile and PUBG New State ran impeccably on the highest graphical settings. And that’s really what this is all about, after all.

Talking of gaming performance, the process is enhanced by the bundled AeroActive Cooler 5 fan. Not only does it clip on to the handset and keep it cool, but it also includes a pair of physical buttons to add to those AirTrigger 5 shoulder buttons. They’re a much better option than the swipe-based rear panel buttons, which simply don’t work well in the heat of virtual battle.

Keeping cool is key to maintaining the phone’s stamina over prolonged gaming sessions. That and a simply huge 6000mAh battery – or rather, a pair of 3,000mAh batteries – which helps with thermal efficiency.

This yields excellent battery life. In our looping video test, the Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro lasted almost exactly 23 hours. That’s highly impressive, and ahead of our top pick, the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro, at 21hrs 37mins. Interestingly, though, it falls just short of the Asus ROG Phone 5’s 23hrs 45mins.

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Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro review: Cameras

The Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro uses exactly the same triple-camera system as the Asus ROG Phone 5 before it: a 64MP Sony IMX686 wide-angle sensor, a 12MP ultrawide, and a 5MP macro unit.

What we found to be “rather good” for a gaming phone in that cheaper predecessor, however, is decidedly less impressive in a phone that costs £1,100. This is the sort of price you normally pay to ensure top-tier camera performance in a non-gaming phone, after all.

Still, gaming is the priority here, and the shots you’ll capture with the ROG Phone 5s Pro aren’t anywhere close to being bad. You’ll get decent detail in strong lighting, that’s for sure.

Colour accuracy is pretty decent, too. You don’t get the excessively punched-up look that many lesser camera systems go for, but that said, the ultra-wide’s palette is noticeably more washed out than the superior main sensor.

Night mode shots are reasonably crisp and clear, though it can create some weirdly unnatural effects. In one shot of a building at night, for instance, the cloud in the background took on a sickly yellow glow. It was quite eerie.

There’s no telephoto sensor here, which isn’t unusual for a gaming phone. Again, though, it feels borderline unforgivable in a handset that costs four-figures, regardless of its gaming focus.

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Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro review: Verdict

Like its predecessor, the Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro is a highly capable gaming phone with top specifications, an impressively rapid display, and useful additional hardware controls for dedicated gamers.

Little details like a bundled cooling fan with extra hardware buttons help set it apart from its rivals, while an absolutely gigantic battery provides impressive stamina. However, the price feels a little excessive when the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro provides a very similar package for not much more than half the money.

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