ASUS Debuts a New Gamer Phone for Australia, but When We Have the iPhone 15 Pro, Who Cares?

ASUS Debuts a New Gamer Phone for Australia, but When We Have the iPhone 15 Pro, Who Cares?

ASUS’ ROG Phone 8, the latest phone in the brand’s ‘Republic of Gamers’ sub-brand that’s focused on flashy lights and high-performance gamer gear is coming to Australia. But in 2024, when the iPhone 15 Pro exists at a similar price point, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to take the Android gaming subcategory seriously.

I happen to be a ROG Phone lover, I’ve enjoyed every model I’ve reviewed (even if the cameras are consistently bad), and I thought the subcategory’s transition to a Windows gaming handheld in 2023 was a natural fit, even if it disappointed me on release.

And that’s honestly why writing this article hurts.

When will Android gaming catch up?

In 2023, when Apple debuted the iPhone 15 Pro, the company stunned with its gaming performance. The phone was shown to be capable of playing console titles like Resident Evil 2 Remake, Resident Evil Village, Assassin’s Creed Mirage, and Death Stranding. These games are each extremely demanding, and for good performance, you’d typically either need a modern console or a pretty decently specced gaming computer, but Apple made it work on the iPhone. The company chalked the performance up to the new A17 Pro chip and to hardware-accelerated Ray Tracing, but obviously, most of the act lies with developers and their ability to optimise their games for the mobile platform. It’s less powerful tech, so naturally, games don’t have the same polish as they do on PC, but it’s still so impressive for a mobile device.

In January, Samsung debuted the Galaxy S24 range, but it cannot compare to some of the most gorgeous games ever made running on the iPhone 15 Pro. “There are certainly a lot of partnerships in the works with gaming developers, hence the reason we’re able to produce the kind of graphics you see on ray tracing. But in terms of specific titles being ported across from consoles, I don’t have that information,” head of mobile division at Samsung Australia Eric Chou said to Gizmodo Australia.

I was hoping to at least see something from Samsung, but nope, nothing yet. My next hope was with ASUS, it’s the only major phone maker still taking the ‘gaming phone’ niche seriously at the moment, apart from outliers like the RedMagic 9 (unavailable in Australia).

It’s not hard to imagine why it’s not a particularly popular niche. If you’re a gamer, you likely have much more powerful and cheaper tech focused on gaming, like consoles or portable gaming devices like the Nintendo Switch. It’s also a very expensive thing to devote time to, and having console games that cost nearly $100 only makes it more expensive. By extension, it’s worth noting that subscriptions are typically more popular on mobile platforms than upfront purchases.

But never mind any of that. Two months after the official reveal of the ROG Phone 8 at CES 2024, and despite hardware improvements, there’s still no good argument to get a ‘gaming phone’ over an iPhone 15 Pro. It’s a good reminder that tech companies can have the most powerful hardware in the world, but if they don’t have software that will attract users, then it’s pointless. The best example of this lately has been the Apple Vision Pro.

Will the ROG Phone 8 change things?

When it comes to phone internals, the ROG Phone 8 has most phone makers beat, but with ASUS trying to focus this phone on going ‘beyond gaming’, it’s tough to consider it against content creator-ideal devices like the Pixel 8 Pro, iPhone 15 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra.

It’s packing a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, the best Android-focused chip you can get right now, an Adreno 750 GPU, and up to 24GB RAM/1TB storage on the Pro Edition model (12GB RAM/256GB storage on the standard, and 16GB/512GB storage on the Pro model). We didn’t make a mistake in those brackets, by the way. This phone is actually being sold with the mid-range model named ‘Pro’ and the top-end model ‘Pro Edition’. Why? I don’t know. ‘Ultra’ and ‘Max’ must have already been taken.

The display is a 6.78-inch AMOLED display, with a 165hz refresh rate (far beyond most phone refresh rates), and a maximum brightness of 2,500hz. Each phone also sports a 50MP main lens, a 12.5MP telephoto lens, and a 13MP ultrawide lens, along with a 32MP selfie camera.

There’s also an ‘Anime’ dot display on the back of the Pro models that shows off different graphics depending on prompts, such as a ringing phone or a low battery alert (see the video above). The standard model just gets a glowing ROG logo light on the back.

Stylistically, the phone has come a long way since the 7 and the 6, it looks like something somebody might want to own now, rather than an over-the-top gaming PC for your pocket.

Oh, and as usual, there’s all the gaming bells and whistles. There’s capacitive buttons on the sides of the phone that simulate the bumpers of a gaming controller with a tap, and there’s the side-mounted USB-C and accessories port for the attachable cooling fan. Separate from these, there’s a charging port at the bottom and a 5,500mA battery.

What can you even do with those specs?

The optimistic way of looking at this is that all those cool console-level games will come eventually. You can currently buy Alien Isolation on the Google Play Store, along with several other older console games. What makes the earlier listed games available on the iPhone 15 Pro so special is that they were all games released relatively recently (to the exclusion of Death Stranding, if it even needs to be excluded). Apple appears to be much more proactive about getting big games onto its platform than its competitors, which is disappointing, but I hope it changes soon.

There are also other modern, less demanding games you can currently get on Android, such as Fortnite and Genshin Impact, but these have been built with mobile in mind.

We obviously can’t go past talking about the requirements of these big games, too, and the entry costs. $1,799 will get you the 128GB entry-level ROG Phone 8, but you’ll need to fork out $1,849 for the base-model 128GB iPhone 15 Pro. That might be easy to justify when you consider the much nicer aesthetic, the much better cameras, and the fact that it’s an Apple device, but if you’re buying an iPhone for console games, know that you’ll be doing a lot of uninstalling and reinstalling. Death Stranding requires as much as 50GB of your iPhone storage, while Resident Evil 4 requires about 70GB.

You might be more inclined to get the 256GB iPhone 15 Pro model, which takes the price up to $2,399. The equivalent device from the ROG Phone 8 range would be the Pro, which starts at $1,999. You won’t get those cool console games, but that’s where the comparison ends.

The ROG Phone 8 series is available now. The base model costs $1,799, the Pro costs $1,999, and the Pro Edition $2,499.

Image: Gizmodo