While the idea of serious gaming on a smartphone was once scoffed at, the huge gains in mobile performance mean that’s now a viable option – and many brands are designing gaming-specific phones to eek the most out of the power on offer.
Asus’ ROG Phone has been one of the longstanding entries in the budding market, often with the best gaming experience around, but it seems Asus might’ve got too comfortable with its latest top-end entry, the Asus ROG Phone 5S Pro.
Admittedly, the timing of the ROG Phone 5S Pro wasn’t ideal. Designed as a mid-cycle refresh to the ROG Phone 5, the upgraded smartphone sports Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888+ 5G at its heart.
While that’s a capable chipset, it was made redundant by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 released a couple of months later. It offers key performance upgrades, and it’s the go-to chip for gaming phones in 2022, meaning the ROG Phone 5S Pro is no longer the fastest smartphone around.
In fact, key rivals from the likes of Red Magic beat the ROG Phone 5S Pro in benchmarks, and at half the price too.
With that in mind, is the ultra-premium ROG Phone 5S Pro worth buying in 2022? Well…
Design & build
Large, bulky build
ROG Vision looks cool, but doesn’t add much
The Asus ROG Phone 5S Pro is a gaming phone through and through, and you can tell that just by looking at it. An understated, subtle smartphone this is not.
The overall look is very similar to the ROG Phone 5, with the same aggressively angular lines and rectangular camera module that scream ‘gamer’ as soon as you look at it. That’s made even more evident with the ‘ROG Vision’ rear colour matrix display, which displays a range of animations as you use the phone.
Previously exclusive to the limited-edition ROG Phone 5 Ultimate, the PMOLED display has made the jump to the 5S Pro. It can be used to indicate incoming calls, notifications and charge state – handy if you put the phone face-down – but it doesn’t actually display notifications like the secondary display on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3.
It looks cool at a glance and adds to the overall gaming vibe, but it’s essentially a bit of a gimmick that only those around you will appreciate.
With all the high-end internals, large battery and bespoke cooling system on offer, it should come as no surprise that the ROG Phone 5S Pro is hefty. It measures in at a not-insubstantial 9.9mm thick, and it weighs in at 238g, making other gaming phones like the 215g, 9.5mm-thick Red Magic 7 look relatively svelte by comparison.
It’s not necessarily a dealbreaker, with curved edges helping the smartphone sit comfortably in the hand, but it’s not one of the most slimline smartphones around.
The phone sports a USB-C port both on its bottom and left side, allowing you to use the phone horizontally (like when playing games) and charge the phone without the cable getting in the way. It’s not a new feature, but it’s one well worth praising as it’s still unique among Asus’ gaming offerings.
If the all-black ROG Phone 5S Pro photographed here isn’t to your taste, you can opt for a matte white finish in various regions around the world – though neither offers any kind of official water or dust rating, so keep that in mind if you fancy a gaming session in the rain.
The high-end gaming experience
Great 144Hz display, but not the best around
Built-in touch-sensitive triggers
A wide roster of optional gaming accessories
Of course, the ROG Phone 5S Pro, like the rest of the ROG Phone family, is focused on gaming – and there’s plenty of hardware and software on offer to push that experience to the limit.
The centrepiece is the display; though it’s almost completely identical to that of the ROG Phone 5 range, the 6.78in FHD+ AMOLED display looks absolutely stunning.
The gamer-centric 144Hz refresh rate is accounted for, providing fast frame rate gameplay in supported games – of which there is a growing number – that not only looks slick, but can provide the edge in competitive shooters like Call of Duty Mobile.
That’s improved by the 360Hz touch sample rate, up 60Hz compared to its predecessor, for faster touch input and thus, faster response times in games. It’s worth noting that it’s still a far cry from the 960Hz of the Red Magic 7 Pro, and it’s considerably cheaper than Asus’ option too.
It’s plenty bright, ideal for gaming in outdoor spaces, with a claimed maximum of 800cd/m2 in bright conditions with automatic brightness, and that cranks up to 1,200cd/m2 when watching HDR content. The display doesn’t quite reach as lofty heights with auto-brightness disabled, cranking up to 467cd/m2 at most during testing, but it’s still more than bright enough for most environments.
Display aside, there’s other gaming-related tech on offer. There’s a stealthy pressure-sensitive area at the bottom of the phone, which when squeezed activates the phone’s X-Mode for high-performance gaming, and there are touch-triggers mounted onto the right side of the phone too.
The mounted triggers aren’t physical buttons that pop out like the Black Shark 4 Pro, but rather touch/pressure-sensitive areas that work in a similar way. The triggers do work by default in plenty of shooters – with all supported games listed within the ROG Armory software – and provide more of a console-esque experience.
That’s further improved by optional accessories like the ROG Kunai 3 controller, offering full compatibility with a roster of mobile titles, and the bundled AeroActive Cooler 5 to keep performance sustained over long periods. It also has additional triggers and even a kickstand built-in – handy, right?
While the ROG Phone 5S Pro might not have the best display, the various tech, accessories and software tweaks make it one of the most comprehensive mobile gaming experiences in 2022.
Specs & performance
Snapdragon 888+ can’t compete with 8 Gen 1
Not as fast as 2022 rivals
Still offers a great gaming experience
One of the key differences between the ROG Phone 5 and the 5S Pro is the chipset, sporting Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888+ 5G. It does offer a small boost compared to the regular Snapdragon 888 found in its predecessor, with the main performance core clocked at 3GHz rather than 2.84GHz, but it’s not a game-changing upgrade.
Essentially, if you’ve got the ROG Phone 5, there’s no real reason to get the ROG Phone 5S Pro.
The other elephant in the room is the introduction of the newer Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, released months after the ROG Phone 5S Pro and found in new key rivals like the Red Magic 7 and Red Magic 7 Pro.
While the ROG Phone 5S Pro’s whopping 18GB of LPDDR5 RAM means it’s still a very capable beast, there are cheaper gaming phones that can match – or even beat – Asus’ gaming phone in 2022.
That’s backed up by our benchmark results, with the ROG Phone 5S Pro delivering similar results to the standard ROG Phone 5, and in most tests, it’s trailing behind key rivals like the Red Magic 7 and its Pro sibling.
Of course, in real-world use, the ROG Phone 5S Pro is about as snappy as you can get, with a smooth responsive experience with no visible lag or stutter in any app.
As you’d expect from a gaming phone, it’s able to handle even the most graphically advanced games on Android without breaking a sweat – especially when kicked into X Mode.
You’ll need to use the bundled AeroActive Cooler 5 to keep performance stable over long gaming sessions in X Mode, especially when playing titles like Call of Duty Mobile and Genshin Impact on high graphics settings, but with extra triggers and a stand built into the cooler, it’s not a bad thing.
Elsewhere, you’ll find a whopping 512GB of UFS 3.1 storage as standard – which kind of makes up for the lack of an SD card slot – and it comes with the latest and greatest connectivity including 5G, Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2.
In terms of software, you’ll get Android 11 (with Android 12 on the way, but no word on Android 13) with Asus’ gaming-focused ROG UI overlayed.
6000mAh battery is one of the biggest around
65W charging, but only get a 30W charger in-box
Battery comfortably lasts all-day
The Asus ROG Phone 5S Pro has one of the largest capacity batteries in a smartphone to date, sporting a whopping 6,000mAh battery split across two 3,000mAh cells that provide phenomenal everyday battery life.
I found that it’d comfortably last two days with regular use – tweeting, browsing Instagram, scrolling through TikTok and playing the occasional game – and even when hammering the battery, I wasn’t worried about running out of battery before I got home.
That does change somewhat when you game in the phone’s X-Mode – running all components at top speed takes more power, after all – but I still squeezed a solid few hours of high-end gaming out of it before it needed a top-up.
The good news is that, with a side-mounted USB-C cable as well as the standard one at the bottom of the phone, you can charge the ROG Phone 5S Pro as you play without the cable getting in the way.
And when it comes to charging, 65W fast charging tech will get you untethered fairly quickly, though you’ll only get a 30W charger in the box, meaning slower charging times unless you’ve got a more powerful charger handy.
Good point-and-shoot main camera
Basic setup compared to similarly priced rivals
Average low-light performance
YouTuber MKBHD ran a blind smartphone photography test back in 2021 to see, objectively, which smartphone had the best camera – and, to the surprise of many, the ROG Phone 5 took the top spot.
Asus must’ve been so happy with that result that it decided not to touch the camera setup for the upgrade, as the camera offering is the exact same as that as the ROG Phone 5. It sports the ever-popular 64MP Sony IMX686 wide-angle sensor alongside a 12Mp ultrawide and a 5Mp macro camera.
To be fair to Asus, the main camera is fairly capable. Sporting a decent f/1.8 aperture, it’s great in well-lit and fairly dim conditions, capturing plenty of detail with generally accurate colours. It’s great for point-and-shoot photography, with several shooting modes to choose from.
There are discrepancies in quality between the main and 12Mp ultrawide, as you might imagine, but not just in terms of overall quality. The colour palette on offer is more washed out than the main sensor, making it obvious at a glance which snaps were taken with which lens.
It’s still handy for taking wide, expansive shots with a 125-degree field of view, but images are often softer and the f/2.4 aperture means it’s not as capable in low-light conditions.
There’s also a 5Mp macro camera that I can guarantee that nobody will use on a regular basis – it’s just there to bump up the sensor count.
And herein lies the problem; the ROG Phone 5S Pro is expensive at £1100/$1299, and for that price, you tend to get top-quality cameras from rivals like Oppo and Samsung. You don’t even get a telephoto lens – the zoom in-app is purely digital.
While some die-hard gamers will be fine with the compromise, it’s a tough pill to swallow with such a premium device.
With such lofty specs it should come as no surprise that the ROG Phone 5S Pro is expensive, but at £1,099/$1,299 for the 512GB model – the only one available – it’s comfortably flagship level, directly competing with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, iPhone 13 Pro Max and Oppo Find X5 Pro.
The problem is, it’s not actually in competition with any of those models, with true flagship phones offering much higher resolution displays, better camera setups and more to entice consumers. The ROG Phone 5S Pro’s competition is largely the likes of the near-identical £679 Red Magic 7 Pro and affordable £489 Black Magic 4 Pro, making it much harder to justify.
There is a lot to love about the ROG Phone 5S Pro, but when it comes to value for money, it’s not the best – especially when you’ve got to buy most accessories separately. If you are dedicated, the gaming phone is available from Asus directly as well as retailers like Amazon.
For more inspiration, take a look at our choice of the best gaming phone.
The ROG Phone 5S Pro is packed with all the bells and whistles that gamers would want, with fairly decent (but no longer ‘top’) specs, a fast, responsive display and a raft of gaming-focused features like touch-sensitive triggers and optional accessories. There’s also a huge 6,000mAh battery that’ll keep you going for long periods.
The problem is its price; it’s way too expensive when compared to the likes of the Red Magic 7 and Red Magic 7 Pro available in 2022, which cost almost half the price but offer similar – if not improved – performance, with improved specs and faster displays too.
It’s a great high-end bit of kit, but there are plenty of gaming phones that’ll give you more bang for less buck in 2022.
Asus ROG Phone 5S Pro: Specs
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888+ 5G
18GB LPDDR5 RAM
512GB UFS 3.1 storage
6.78in FHD+ AMOLED display
144Hz refresh rate, 1ms response time, 360Hz touch sample rate
ROG Vision rear matrix colour display
6000mAh battery with 65W fast charging
Triple rear camera (64Mp main, 13Mp ultrawide, 5Mp macro)
24Mp front-facing camera
AirTrigger 5 gaming controls with touch-sensitive triggers