With the new Asus ROG Phone 7 and 7 Ultimate, it looks like Asus is going to keep making gaming smartphones. The new range doesn’t change much from the last generation. Instead, it focuses on making the specs better to give gamers who are looking for a phone more power.

But the best smartphone isn’t always the one that tries to be the fastest and has the most play features. Given how much the ROG Phone 7 is like the unlucky ROG Phone 6 Pro, it has its work cut out for it, and in the end, it won’t be able to avoid the same fate as its predecessor.

Asus ROG Phone 7 – Design and Features

I thought there was a mistake when I took the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate out of the box. I thought it was the ROG Phone 6 Pro that I reviewed last year because it looked so much like it.

The back cover looks a little bit different than last year’s phone, but it’s much more like last year’s phone than not. If anything, the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate got a little bit more subtle, with details like the letters “ROG” along the bottom edge that are almost invisible unless the light hits them just right.

With its geometric camera bump and lines that look like seams between panels, the back of the phone tries to look like a robot. On the ROG Phone 6 Pro, there were lines that looked like these, but they were less obvious.

On the back of the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate, there is still a POLED display, which is a small, grainy screen that shows call alerts and other information about the device, like whether the battery is charging or if a game is running. All of these features are set against a beautiful pearly two-tone finish of Gorilla Glass 3 on the back.

The phone has the same Gorilla Glass Victus on the front as the ROG Phone 6. But the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is a little more sturdy than the ROG Phone 6 because it has an IP54 rating instead of an IPX4 rating. This makes it less likely that dust will get into the phone. Still, it’s a long way from the IP68 grade that many smartphones have.

Even though the IP54 rating is low, it’s pretty good considering that the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate has a special slot on the back called the AeroActive Portal, which was introduced with the ROG Phone 6D and lets the heatsink fins on the chipset show. This makes the phone cooler.

This function works when the AeroActive Cooler 7, which is a separate accessory, is attached to the phone and blowing cool air through that fin stack. It’s a better answer than the Nubia Redmagic 6’s venting, but that phone didn’t need a separate accessory to let air cool it. Even though the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate still works with the older AeroActive Cooler 6 model, the Portal only works with the newer type.

The odd shape isn’t just about the back. On the left side of the phone, there is a USB-C port and two pogo pin pads. The set is designed to work with the AeroActive Cooler, but the USB port also lets you charge the phone and connect accessories without making it hard to hold the phone easily while gaming. The bottom of the phone has a USB-C port and a headphone jack.

Most phones put their charging ports in the middle, but the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate puts its charging port on the side. I don’t see how this helps the user, and it may not work with third-party controller additions like the original Razer Kishi. The two USB-C ports aren’t quite the same. The port on the side is faster and can send DisplayPort 1.4.

A manager from the outside might not be necessary, though. On the right side of the phone, there are two touch-sensitive trigger zones that can be used to control things on the screen.

I’ve used this feature on other phones, but it’s much better when the buttons are real, like on Black Shark phones. The AeroActive Cooler 7 device also has four buttons, but I didn’t like how I had to hold my hand to use them (with or without the phone’s shoulder buttons).

The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate has a 6.78-inch screen, but the top and bottom edges are pretty big, making it bigger than my Pixel 7 Pro in a case. Asus smartly uses the extra space at the top of the phone to separate the selfie camera from the rest of the screen.

This means that there is no hole-punch camera to get in the way. Because of its size, the phone is also heavy. It weighs 239 grams, which is the same as the last one. As I watched a movie for an hour with the phone in my hand, it started to hurt.

A good point is the way it looks. It is very clear because of its size and quality of 2448 x 1080. It also has a bright AMOLED screen that does a great job of showing HDR material.

With a refresh rate of 165Hz, it’s also ready for smooth gaming, and the two speakers on the front make for great sound for a phone. Like many other Android phone makers, Asus put a fingerprint sensor under the screen. This makes it easy to open the phone.

Asus ROG Phone 7 – Software

You might think that a gaming device will have a lot of extra gaming apps and a flashy user interface, but Asus has avoided that trap. The phone comes with Android 13 and not much extra software besides the Armoury Crate app, which is a key part of getting more speed and gaming features out of this phone.

Without those tools, there’s not much reason to buy this phone, so Armoury Crate seems fine here. And while Asus has a theme for the user interface called Dark Matter Flow that looks like it was made for gamers, it also has a basic theme that looks like any other Android phone.

Asus even lets you choose Stock Android when you first set up the phone. Asus says that there will be two OS updates and four years of security patches. This isn’t a bad deal, but Samsung and Google have better deals.

Asus ROG Phone 7 – Gaming and Performance

The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate has more than enough power for most games right now, and it will likely really shine in games that come out in the future. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, which runs the system, is currently the best you can get for an Android phone. In the Ultimate model, Asus pairs this CPU with 16GB of LPDDR5x memory.

For the kinds of things a phone usually does, that’s a lot of memory. Everyday use of the phone shows how fast it is. It’s easy to switch between apps, including the camera app. The Ultimate model has 512GB of fast UFS 4.0 storage, so there’s plenty of room for apps, games, and videos.

With that Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset and advanced cooling, the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate was able to run both Genshin Impact and Apex Legends at their highest levels at a smooth 60fps while barely taxing the CPU and GPU in Apex Legends.

When they are running around in Apex Legends, they are both used less than 50% of the time. After installing the AeroActive Cooler 7, the system stays at a nice 33 degrees Celsius. The heat is concentrated near the phone’s power button, which is far from the hands when the phone is set up to play games.

This makes the phone feel good when you touch it. Most of the time, Genshin Impact worked well, but every once in a while, something went wrong. As cool as this sounds, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra works just as well with these games.

The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate’s predecessor was also good at performance, but it wasn’t good at connecting to other devices. The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate, luckily, doesn’t seem to have the same problems I had with the ROG Phone 6 Pro.

During my testing, I’ve had good 5G service around Chicago. When I’m not on 5G, the phone can connect to Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7 networks, but I only had Wi-Fi 6 to test on.

The big, bright, and fast-refreshing screen on the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate can really drain the battery, especially when you are playing games. But at 65 watts, the phone can be charged very quickly.

It does this quickly because it has two 3,000mAh batteries that both charge at the same time. It’s also not exclusive because PD3.0 works with it. If the phone’s battery is already full, it has a bypass mode that lets a wired connection power the phone straight without using the battery. This helps keep the phone from getting too hot.

Asus ROG Phone 7 – Camera

Like a lot of high-end phones these days, the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate has three cameras on the back and a face camera on the front. Even though the internals of each ROG Phone 7 model are a little different, most of the hardware is the same.

This includes the cameras. So, whether you get the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate or just the ROG Phone 7, you can expect the photos to work the same.

Asus ROG Phone 7 – Camera Samples

Not everything is bad about the main 50MP camera. Photos look real and clear, but they don’t do too well in low-light situations. But, like the camera on the ROG Phone 6 Pro before it, the camera on the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate doesn’t stand up to close inspection.

When I look at pictures on the phone’s screen, I don’t see much wrong with them, but when I zoom in a little, I can see that they are a little soft. When put next to a Pixel 7 Pro, the change in quality is easy to see.

Asus ROG Phone 7 – Ultrawide Camera Samples

The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate’s ultra-wide camera is even worse. Even though it can fit more on the screen, it doesn’t take as close of a look to see that the picture is getting fuzzy and noisy.

Even though the macro camera is better than the 5MP sensor on the model from last year, the images are still not very good. Still, they don’t look much better than the same shot taken with a digital 2X zoom from the main sensor, and they look a lot worse than the same shot taken with the even better zoom levels of a cheaper camera like the Pixel 7 Pro.

The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate, like last year’s ROG Phone 6, has a fairly good selfie camera. This time, it uses a different sensor with a higher resolution, but a quad-bayer binning method reduces the 32MP to 8MP. Even in moderate lighting, it stays sharp, has realistic colors, and can do what it needs to do.

Overall, the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate shows once again that a gaming phone’s camera isn’t its best feature.

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