ASUS ROG Phone 6 Hands-On Performance Review: Gaming Beast

ASUS, First Out Of The Gate With Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 And ROG Phone 6 Cranks

ASUS ROG Phone 6 kit
ASUS figured out several years ago that it could cater to mobile gamers by packing fast, optimized hardware with intelligent features into its gaming phones, and then surround them with an ecosystem of complementary software and peripherals. Thus the ROG Phone was born. Now in its fifth iteration (ASUS ultimately skipped an ROG Phone 4 SKU), the ROG Phone 6 is the first to employ Qualcomm’s supercharged Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor. Thankfully we managed to get our hands on one with short notice, and we were able to run a bunch of benchmarks and some other testing on this new ASUS gaming flagship.

We’ve actually also previewed the Snadpragon 8+ Gen 1 in May, and as we noted at the time, it’s faster at everything with better efficiency to boot. From a technical standpoint, Qualcomm’s flagship silicon retains the same 1+3+4 Kryo CPU complex as the non-Plus variant, with a single Prime Cortex-X2 core, three Cortex-A71 performance cores, and four Cortex-A51 Efficiency cores.

What’s different is that Qualcomm goosed the peaked clock on the Cortex-X2 to 3.2GHz, a 200MHz increase over the standard Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. Qualcomm also bumped the Peformance cores to 2.75GHz (up from 2.5GHz) and the Efficiency cores to 2GHz (up from 1.8GHz). So it’s faster from top to bottom. And on the GPU side, the Adreno 730 GPU is 10 percent faster on the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1. All of this performance lift is also met with better performance-per-watt metrics as well, courtesy of a fab process migration Qualcomm made from Samsung to TSMC. And thankfully, the new ASUS ROG Phone 6 gives us a chance to finally test out this new mobile platform in a retail ready device.

ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro Design And Features

ASUS ROG Phone 6 back with lighting
ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro - Powered By Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1

ASUS is offering two base ROG Phone models, the standard ROG Phone with up to 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 512GB of UFS 3.1 storage, and the ROG Phone 6 Pro with up to 18GB of LPDDR5 RAM and also 512GB of UFS 3.1 storage. The only other difference is the addition of an ROG Vision color PMOLED display on the back of the Pro model.

There are two color options on the standard ROG Phone 6, Storm White and Phantom Black, while the ROG 6 Pro only comes in Storm White with a frosted glass back panel. We received the ROG Phone 6 Pro variant in Storm White and it definitely brings that "futuristic look" ASUS was aiming for. The futuristic vibe is something ASUS brought to its ROG Phone 5 Ultimate handset last year, and the company says the response was so good that it decided to extend it to the standard model for this go-round.

Both the Pro and non-Pro look similar with the same rounded edges, and both feature Gorilla Glass 3 on the back. These are attractive handsets with a decidedly different aesthetic than what you'd typically find on a premium smartphone—nobody's going to mistake this for a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra or Apple iPhone 13 Pro. And of course the Pro model ups the ante with the aforementioned rear display, for which ASUS added 60 new animations for this year's model.

ASUS ROG Phone 6 flat
ASUS ROG Phone 6 display
6.78” HDR10+ AMOLED 165Hz Display by Samsung, Tuned By ROG

The main display on the ROG Phone 6 and 6 Pro is a big and vibrant 6.78-inch AMOLED panel made by Samsung. This year's model increases the refresh rate to 165Hz (up from 144Hz) while still retaining delightfully wide color gamut coverage (111% DCI-P3) for great accuracy. Each phone comes calibrated to Delta-E <1 for two different brightness levels, 450 nits and 100 nits. The display can also crank up the brightness much higher, peaking at 1,200 nits, to really make HDR10+ content pop.

Another metric we're starting to see touted on gaming phones is touch latency, which defines the time from user touch input to an actual action. The ROG Phone 6/6 Pro boasts an industry-leading 720Hz touch sampling rate, meaning the phone reports a touch position 720 times per second.

We also have to give props to the sound system in this phone. The dual front speakers on the ROG Phone 6 Pro are amazing for a smartphone. As in, they actually produce some bass and offer up great spatialization.

ASUS ROG Phone 6 Thermal Solution - Amped In Every Way

ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro cooling arrangement
ASUS ROG Phone 6 with cooler
ASUS ROG Phone 6 AeroActive Cooler 6

ASUS upgraded the cooling scheme on the ROG Phone 6/6 Pro with a 30 percent larger vapor chambor and 85 percent bigger graphite sheets. It also now sports a 360-degree cooling system focused on a center placed dual-PCB layout with an interposer design. What this basically entails is placing the most heat-generating components towards the center between the dual batteries, one on each side of the main PCB, so that hot spots are kept away from your fingers while gaming. The arrangement also means that heat from the CPU can be evenly transferred to all edges and corners of the chassis. In addition, ASUS says it's using a proprietary method to fill the air gap between the two PCBs, which it says further improves cooling performance by up to an impressive 10C.

As with past iterations, the ROG Phone 6/6 Pro comes with an external cooler attachment. The AeroActive Cooler 6 has been completely overhauled from the previous version and now makes use of a Peltier cooler in addition to the attached fan. With the most powerful cooling mode selected, ASUS says it can reduce surface temps by up to 25C.

ASUS ROG Phone 6 Cameras And Photo Samples

ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro cameras

Gamers take photos too, and the ROG Phone 6 Pro obliges with a 12-megapixel Sony IMX663 sensor on the front for selfies, and a triple lens setup on the rear consisting of a 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 main camera, 13-megapixel ultra-wide lens, and a macro lens.

Let's look at some sample photos...

ASUS ROG Phone 6 sample photo
Portrait Mode
Portrait mode shot shows excellent separation of shot subject, a good level of background blur and good color reproduction with just a hint of noise in the foreground area.

ASUS ROG Phone 6 indoor photo
Indoor Detail Shot, Mixed Lighting

Indoor detailed shot shows excellent capture detail with low noise and accurate colors, but things are maybe just a touch under-exposed in this challenging mixed lighting shot next to the window.

ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro outdoor photo
Outdoor Detail Shot (Cloudy But Bright)

Here a challenging outdoor standard shot of flowers shows good detail and separation of foreground subject and background in challenging grass area. Overall this is a pretty solid shot but not amazing in terms of detail.

ASUS ROG Phone 6 X-Mode: What Does It Do?

Before we dive into the benchmarks, let's go over one of the unique features of the ROG Phone family, which is X-Mode. This is one of several system modes, and the most performant one for when you're chasing higher frame rates or otherwise want the ROG Phone 6/6 Pro to perform at its absolute peak.

You think of X-Mode as a hyper optimization mode. It changes network, display, and touch sensitivity settings while increasing CPU, GPU, RAM, and skin temperature thresholds so the phone will not throttle as quickly. When attaching the AeroActive Cooler 6, you can enable X-Mode+ for even higher limits and better performance. For our benchmark numbers below, we chose the standard X-Mode setting because we were short on testing time, but may circle back with some spot checks on the X-Mode+ setting.

Finally, other modes include Dynamic (default mode with optimized performance for daily use), Ultra Durable (a power saving mode with lower throttling limits and a 60Hz cap), and Advanced (customize your own settings).

ASUS ROG Phone 6 Benchmarks - Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 Takes Flight In A Retail Phone

ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro specs screenshot

ASUS sent us the highest end configuration ROG Phone 6 Pro, which is equipped with 18GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 512GB of UFS 3.1 storage. Here's how it performed...

ASUS ROG Phone 6 Geekbench results

Starting off with Geekbench 5, the ROG Phone 6 Pro performed almost identically to the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 test vehicle we previewed a couple of months ago. Turning on X-Mode provided a small performance boost. Compared to last year's model, the ROG Phone 6 Pro scored a little over 17 percent higher in the single-core test, and 13.5 percent higher in the multi-core test.

ASUS ROG Phone 6 PCMark Android Results

In PCMark for Android, there's a less than 1 percent difference between the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 reference phone and the ROG Phone 6 Pro in X-Mode. Most of the individual tests are close, though the reference phone generally comes out just slightly ahead.

ASUS ROG Phone 6 AnTuTu benchmark resutls

The ROG Phone 6 Pro took the top spot in the AnTuTu benchmark in a few of the individual tests, notably the CPU and memory. Across the board, however, it was another virtual tie with reference platform, both of which come out ahead of all other Android phones we've tested.

ASUS ROG Phone 6 AITuTu benchmarks

Here we see the ROG Phone 6 Pro separate itself a bit from the reference Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 handset. AI performance is one of the highlights of Qualcomm's flagship mobile chip, and that's on full display here. While not necessarily a big deal for gaming just yet, AI has become an important part of modern smartphone use cases, facilitating better real-time language translation, better looking photos, and more.

3DMark Slingshot ASUS ROG Phone 6 scores

Turing our attention to 3D graphics and gaming, the upgrade from last year's model to this year's iteration is a significant one in terms of performance. The ROG Phone 6 Pro scored nearly 22 percent higher than the ROG Phone 5 in the 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme benchmark. It also beat out the Galaxy S22+ by a slightly wider margin, though again it didn't quite catch the reference Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 handset we previously tested.

3DMark Wild Life ROG Phone 6 Scores

A different 3DMark test with the same overall results—it's nearly a dead heat between the ROG Phone 6 Pro and reference phone, both of which leave other Android handsets in the rear view mirror.

GFXBench T Rex ASUS ROG Phone6 scores

The same trend carries over to the GFXBench tests we ran. Here we see the ROG Phone 6 Pro climb to the No. 2 spot, edging out the RedMagic 7 by a few percentage points and scoring a whopping 55.3 percent higher than last year's ROG Phone 5.

GFX Bench Manhattan ROG Phone 6 Review

We saw a similarly huge generational leap in performance in the Manhattan test, with the ROG Phone 6 Pro pushing 49 percent faster frames per second than its predecessor.

asus rog phone 6 aztec ruins gfx bench score

For our final benchmark, we look at Vulkan performance as represented by GFXBench's Aztec Ruins test. We don't have a score here for last year's model and not very many handsets to compare against yet. However, for the ones we do have scores for, the ROG Phone 6 Pro flexes once again, with a score that's about on par with Qualcomm's reference Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 reference phone that isn't actually a retail product.

ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro: Closing Thoughts

ASUS ROG Phone 6 back with front display box
Overall we're fairly impressed with the ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro. This redesign is eye catching and functional, and we really like the Storm White aesthetic with integrated display accents. This definitely feels like a more polished smartphone than last year's model, which we also liked. Our only real gripe is that it's such a large device, which also kind of comes with the territory in true gaming phone.

Looking at the overall performance picture, the ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro is about on par with the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 reference phone we looked at in May. It would have been nice to see the ROG Phone 6 Pro leapfrog ahead, especially in X-Mode, but then again you can't actually buy the reference model and the performance disparity is negligible anyway. Looking at the broader picture, the ROG Phone 6 Pro is the overall fastest Android phone we've tested to date. And again, we're going to poke around with X-Mode+, just for giggles, when we get a minute to breathe.

While performance is great, the other allure of the ROG Phone 6 Pro is the focus on gaming from a usability standpoint. The AirTrigger 6 and ultrasonic button implementation help make this a legitimate handset for playing games, with some new features added to this year's model. And there's an ecosystem of add-ons like the newly redesigned AeroActive Cooler 6. This is all to say, there's a lot more here than just a 'gaming' label attached to a high-end handset.

On the software side, ASUS Armoury Crate is still excellent as it applies to gaming and system-side tweaks. However, the ROG software setup may not be for everyone, though—some may prefer the classic Zen UI model over the ROG UI. But it's also yet another distinguishing aspect and one that's geared towards the phone's target market of gamers.

What this all translates into, in our opinion, is that the ASUS ROG Phone 6 once again solidifies itself as the one of, if not the best gaming phones on the market right now. ASUS tells us pricing will start at $999.99, which while not cheap, is in line with most flagship smartphones wielding similar specs. We're also working on finalizing our battery life tests, so stay tuned here for that as well. 

Related content