The last time I held a ROG Phone was the ROG Phone II in 2020 just before that whole thing. Since then, I’ve handled a couple of other smartphones designed with gamers in mind, but this is Republic of Gamers (ROG), so it’s literally in the name. There are two versions of the ROG Phone 7 and the ASUS ROG Phone 7 Ultimate which has better specs.
First of all, I was sent the Ultimate to review, which came with a fancier box compared to the other version. Basically, it makes starting up the phone for the first time a memorable experience, but the box is pretty much useless once you’ve set things up. It is cool, though. In it you get the following:
- Sim tray removal doodad
- AeroActive Cooler 7 & case (only with the Ultimate)
- Thin protective case
- Charger plug and cable
I was also sent these two things, but I think they’re sold separately: Antibacterial glass screen protector & Devilcase Guardian case. I used the Guardian but not the protector, and it was nice and rugged.
The specs for the ROG Phone 7 are: Qualcomm snapdragon 8 Gen 2 3.2GHz CPU, with up to 512mb RAM and 16GB memory. The display is capable of up to 165Hz refresh rate and is covered with Victus Gorilla Glass, and can reach a 1500nits peak brightness (1000nits in full daylight), as well as ray tracing on certain titles. The cameras are a 32MP OV32 front, 50MP IMX766 main, with ultrawide-angle and macro cameras.
The build quality of the ROG Phone 7 is nice and solid, with the power and volume buttons on the right side as well as two touch-sensitive “triggers”, and charging ports on both the bottom and left side, as well as the headphone jack at the bottom. Yes, there are two USB-C ports which I’ll get into shortly. On the back of the handset are the three cameras and a flash, as well as an LED screen, and the cooling hatch. The hatch is designed to open up to cool down the handset, but in practice it would only open when the AeroActive Cooler 7 was attached (you can also use an AeroActive Cooler 6 if you have one).
I’d just like to get it out of the way — as a phone, it worked perfectly fine. Good signal strength, audio quality was adequate, and the photos are decent quality. It’s good at being a smartphone, which is half of its whole deal.
I tried out a bunch of games on the ROG Phone 7, and everything ran nice and smoothly. The touch screen was responsive, and the triggers reacted as designed on compatible titles. The battery lasted ages while gaming too, which is always a bonus. Unfortunately, the handset heats up pretty quickly. I’d start downloading a handful of app updates and it would be warming up before the third app was installed, let alone when gaming.
But heat can be dissipated easily thanks to the AeroActive Cooler, which plugs into the left side of the handset and attaches over the power button. The accessory is the sole reason for the phone having two USB-C ports, though you can use either for charging. You can charge when the cooler is attached, thanks to a passthrough port. It has two speeds in addition to what the company calls passive cooling, “frosty” and “frozen”, though frozen requires additional power, so you can only use that while the ROG Phone 7 is plugged in. Honestly, though, I never had an issue with frosty; it kept the handset nice and cool.
The cooler has the side effect of making the phone clunky to hold, though it does make things sound better with its built-in subwoofer. It has four buttons on it, ostensibly for games, but if I’d found a use for them I still doubt that I would have used them as they’re difficult to press. The angle that your fingers need to move for the four buttons as well as the two triggers and screen controls is almost a form of medieval torture.
Despite the decent battery life, I discovered that it doesn’t like being left plugged in for days at a time. After 48 hours, it tells you that it will only charge to 80%, to protect the battery or something. I missed this notification the first time it happened, so having unplugged the phone, I was surprised to find that it had no charge a couple of days later. In fact, I would say that it uses a startling amount of battery power just being in standby mode because I’ve had recent phones that were getting notifications and the odd game session, which lasted much longer between charges than this did receiving no notifications and sat doing nothing. Maybe it’s to do with that rear display…
One thing about the design of the ROG Phone 7 bothers me and that’s the screen on the back of the device. It shows you notifications, which is neat, but there are a bunch of designs that you can have light up the display — so long as the main screen is on. So, that feels like it misses the point of having the rear display? You can't see it, and depending on how you’re holding the handset nobody else can see it, either. If you have the cooler attached, it blocks the display completely!
On the whole, the ASUS ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is a decent handset, but it’s not the best device for gaming that I’ve come across. If you’re looking to upgrade from a previous ROG Phone then it’s definitely worth considering, but it’s not a must-buy for anyone looking for a gaming phone.
ASUS ROG Phone 7 Ultimate Review
Some major improvements on the 2020 model, but unless you're already a fan there's not really enough to bring you to the ROG camp.