Earning the "top-dog" title in a niche as competitive as the gaming one is no small feat. Managing to actually do that consistently across four generations of smartphones seems almost impossible. Yet, despite some turmoil along the way and a few polarizing decisions in the latest ROG Phone 5, we still believe Asus is the only one out there that can claim this monumental achievement.
The ROG Phone 5 and its accessory ecosystem, shrinking as it might be, arguably still offers the most comprehensive, feature-rich and flushed-out mobile gaming experience out there.
Maintaining these credentials naturally requires keeping up with the latest and greatest hardware. For better or worse, running the best possible chips currently out there kind of comes with the territory.
Hence, the ROG Phone 5s and 5s Pro are now arriving on the scene with the "meager" Snapdragon 888 swapped-out for the Snapdragon 888+, as well as a few other changes here and there, which we will get to in a bit.
But, why would such a change possibly be "for the worse"? Well, the Snapdragon 888 already has a bad rep for running quite hot and siphoning plenty of power. The Snapdragon 888+ takes all of that and, among other things, bumps up the maximum frequency of the Prime Kryo 680 CPU core from 2.84 GHz up to 3.0 GHz. With that, it inevitably introduces more heat and more battery drain.
And more heat and more battery drain are not exactly ideal in a system that already has a fixed battery capacity and even crucially - the same unchanged closed, passively-cooled setup.
The main question we are tasked with answering now is pretty clear - how much extra performance, if any does the Snapdragon 888+ offer over its vanilla sibling in this particular beefed-up Asus design and how much worse, if at all, is the thermal throttling and heat situation and potentially battery life. Since the ROG Phone 5S also claims some touch input latency improvements, we also have to test whether any other display characteristics have been altered.
Let's break this down since things with the current ROG lineup are a bit confusing. The original ROG Phone 5 lineup has three models - the vanilla comes in 8GB/128GB, 12GB/256GB, and 16GB/256GB configurations depending on the region. And the Pro and the Ultimate editions add some design changes and even more souped-up storage versions.
Enter the new vanilla ROG Phone 5s pair. Both devices swap the Snapdragon 888 for an 888+ and offer upgraded, industry-leading 360Hz touch sampling rates on their displays.
The vanilla ROG Phone 5s is based on the vanilla ROG Phone 5, so it has an RGB logo on the back and skips on the PMOLED ROG vision display and the extra rear touch inputs that the Pro and Ultimate editions used to have.
This vanilla ROG Phone 5s also comes in the same RAM and storage configurations as its predecessor, up to 16GB/256GB. Curiously, it can only be had in a Storm White color, which was previously a ROG Phone 5 Ultimate exclusive.
Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro specs at a glance:
Body: 172.8x77.3x9.9mm, 238g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass Victus), glass back (Gorilla Glass 3), aluminum frame; Pressure sensitive zones (Gaming triggers), Touch sensor; ROG Vision monochrome PMOLED display (on the back).
Display: 6.78" AMOLED, 1B colors, 144Hz, 360Hz touch sampling rate, HDR10+, 800 nits (typ), 1200 nits (peak), 1080x2448px resolution, 20.4:9 aspect ratio, 395ppi.
Chipset: Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888+ 5G (5 nm): Octa-core (1x2.99 GHz Kryo 680 & 3x2.42 GHz Kryo 680 & 4x1.80 GHz Kryo 680); Adreno 660.
Memory: 512GB 18GB RAM; UFS 3.1.
OS/Software: Android 11, ROG UI.
Rear camera: Wide (main): 64 MP, f/1.8, 26mm, 1/1.73", 0.8µm, PDAF; Ultra wide angle: 13 MP, f/2.4, 11mm, 125-degree; Macro: 5 MP, f/2.0.
Front camera: 24 MP, f/2.5, 27mm (wide), 0.9µm.
Video capture: Rear camera: 8K@30fps, 4K@30/60/120fps, 1080p@30/60/120/240fps, 720p@480fps; gyro-EIS; Front camera: 1080p@30fps.
Battery: 6000mAh; Fast charging 65W, 70% in 30 min, 100% in 52 min (advertised), Reverse charging 10W, Power Delivery 3.0, Quick Charge 5.
Misc: Fingerprint reader (under display, optical); NFC; 3.5mm jack.
The ROG Phone 5s Pro, which we have for review, comes in the top-of-the-shelf 18GB/512GB configuration and, just like its Pro predecessor, it has both the extra full-color PMOLED panel on the back, as well as the rear touch inputs.
The 5s Pro also ships with the AeroActive Cooler 5 accessory in the box, just like its Pro predecessor. In practical terms, the ROG Phone 5s Pro sort of takes the place of the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate in terms of features and memory config in the current state of the lineup.
As far as we understand, Asus intends to keep selling the available stock of the older models, and when that is depleted, just continue offering only the 5s variants going forward.