Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate review: the hottest and coolest gamer
Jul 20, 2023
It’s fast, that’s for sure, and if that’s why you want the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate, truly the ultimate gaming phone, then you won’t be disappointed. Regular phone fans, or those looking for the best phone all-around, should stay away, but that’s not a criticism. This phone is for gamers in the same way a Ferrari is for fast drivers, and if you want a car that does everything, you buy an SUV. If you want the fastest phone ever, and you relish the quirks and weird options that make it so, the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is the phone to buy.
Amazing speed, tops its rivals in benchmarks
Excellent display runs faster than it should
Big battery for long game times
Terrible software extras often get in the way, hard
Not fully water resistant
Cameras are plain lousy, unlike any other phone this price
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The Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is the fastest Android phone you can buy, and it offers more options for tweaking and boosting performance than any phone needs. In every way that matters for gamers, the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate beats its rivals hands down. It has a display that runs faster than the frame rate of any game you’ll play, a huge battery, and some unique features that go some way towards justifying the sky-high price.
Everything about this phone is geared towards gaming, from the moment you open the box. The design isn’t a huge departure from last year’s model, but if you’re new to ROG phones you’re in for a treat. The style is aggressive, with lines and detailing like a spaceship, and the phone even has a 2-inch OLED display on the back that can flash a limited set of animations to let the world know you’re gaming on your gaming phone. Stand back or gather round; your choice.
The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is a maxed out version of the impressive Asus ROG Phone 7, with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, a delirious 16GB of RAM, and a half-terabyte of storage. You get the latest UFS 4.0 storage, the latest Wi-Fi 6e and Wi-Fi 7 (which isn’t even officially official), and not one but two USB-C ports, including one that can handle DisplayPort for video output.
There are some differences between the Ultimate and the base model ROG Phone 7. You can get the Phone 7 with the same 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, but the Ultimate gives you more. The Ultimate model gives you a 2-inch OLED display on the back, with some limited features. If that isn’t impressive enough, it also comes with the AeroActive Cooler attachment, which is a combination subwoofer and fan, capable of blowing air into a special port on the back of the Ultimate model.
If those things aren’t meaningful to you, then the Ultimate ROG phone probably isn’t for you. This is a phone that’s made for running big multiplayer games with highly-detailed graphics. It’s a phone for maxing-out the detail levels in Call of Duty, or preloading all the maps in Genshin Impact. It’s not for being productive. It’s not for taking pretty pictures. It’s for gaming, pure and complex.
You could get similar gaming performance from the Galaxy S23 Ultra, although not really. If you’re not a gamer, you might not notice the differences; fast is fast. But the ROG Phone 7 lets you fine-tune exactly how you want the phone to perform. You can dial down the graphics to improve response. You can tap the shoulders of the phone like game console controller buttons, and fine-tune their response. Heck, you can fine- tune just about everything on this phone.
It’s all a bit much, whether you’re a gamer or not, and the software is not without problems. Sometimes it was buggy and simply crashed at the worst possible time, while I was playing. Sometimes I’d accidentally touch something that required further action, again taking me away from my game. When the software gets in the way of gaming, the software needs to go.
The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate isn’t just blazing fast; it also comes with an external cooling fan that can blow air into the phone itself. Yet it still remains sleek and splash-proof (to an extent). The fan is a wild contraption, and it includes the LED lights you’d expect from a gaming peripheral. It also adds a real subwoofer, and the sound difference is intense – if you want to annoy your neighbors on the train, there’s nothing better.
This phone isn’t for everyone, in the same way a Ferrari isn’t for everyone. It doesn’t have great cameras, or easy multitasking, or a special AI buddy that answers your questions. If you want all that, and a phone that does everything else, buy an SUV like the Galaxy S23 Ultra, which is actually less expensive.
The Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is the phone for people who demand the best possible gaming performance from their phone, and want the world to know it. If you’re into hardcore mobile gaming, this phone won’t disappoint you, but you won’t be able to blame your hardware any more when you lose.
The Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is one of the most expensive phones you can buy (that doesn’t fold in half). Is it worth the price? That’s not really the question. The question is whether anything that costs less can give you more. Is this truly the best gaming phone you can buy at any price? If so, Asus can charge whatever it likes just for the bragging rights.
The best comparison would be the Nubia Red Magic 8S Pro, a phone released a bit more recently than the ROG Phone 7. That phone costs $799 / £709 / AU$xxx for a model with the same storage and RAM, plus some gamer lighting effects. Nubia even gets access to an overclocked Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor that matches the speed of the Galaxy S23’s ‘for Galaxy’ Snapdragon. So is there any reason to spend so much more for the $999 / £999 / AU$1,799 ROG Phone 7, let alone this Ultimate model?
Here’s what getting the Ultimate gets you. You get a faster, brighter display, up to 165Hz, which is frankly ludicrous because I couldn’t push any gaming content to draw that fast, but it beats the 120Hz that’s the norm on other top-end phones. It has two USB ports, so the cord will never get in the way while you’re playing, and it can output video to an external display.
You also get some serious audio, with an extra push from that AeroActive cooler. If you like to play loud without headphones, whether it’s gaming or watching movies, the extra sub provides a real boost. Plus, it has that very slick cooling feature that blows air into the phone itself, something I haven’t seen on any other device.
Are those extras enough? I’m a bit disappointed to see a faster processor already shipping on a competitor gaming phone; unlike gaming PCs, gaming phones aren’t upgradeable at all, so they need to ship with the best, or get bested soon after. There isn’t much more that Asus can do to differentiate the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate on hardware, but the accessories and extra LED display on the back set it apart enough to make it the most unique phone around.
The question isn’t whether this phone is worth the price. The question is whether any other phone gives you the same gaming bonuses – and the answer is no. It comes close, so I can’t call the ROG Phone 7 a good value, but at least it delivers on what it promises.
In a spec-by-spec comparison, the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is a beast. It matches or beats just about everything out there for all-around gaming performance specs. The slightly-newer Red Magic 8S Pro has a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor that’s just a tiny bit faster, but only a 5% higher clock on the biggest processing core. Nubia also claims to have a faster touch sampling rate than the ROG Phone 7 on its touch display and shoulder bumpers, but the difference is marginal, and I had no issues with the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate.
Where Asus skimps is on the cameras. There are three lenses on the back, as well as a selfie cam, but they aren’t very good. They use mid-range, older sensors, and there’s only an ultra-wide or wide option, with no zoom lens. It’s a bit surprising, considering that the rest of the smartphone world measures itself on camera performance ahead of almost anything else, but apparently Asus thinks gamers don’t care as much.
If you’re familiar with Asus gaming laptops, the aesthetics of this gaming phone design won’t look out of place. There are phones, and laptops, that try to be subtle about their gaming credentials. The Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is not one of those. Everything about this phone tells you, and the world, that it’s built for gaming.
For starters there’s a 2-inch OLED display on the back that literally says ‘Game Start’ whenever you start playing a game, among other preset messages it can broadcast. There’s also a port on the side that will only open when you attach the AeroActive Cooler. It isn’t hidden; in fact it’s painted black to stand out against the ‘Storm White’ finish of the phone’s body. Gamer indeed.
Otherwise, there are some superfluous lines and details drawn in to make this seem like some piece of technology from the future that fell back in time. Nothing about it is subtle, but it kind of works nicely together. It isn’t garish, like the biggest gaming laptops can be.
The white color is mixed in tones and finish. There are some fascinating electric blue accents, including a ring around the main camera, on the SIM card tray slot, and also a tiny bit of the letter R in ROG painted on the back, as if the acronym were actually blue but had been painted over at the last minute.
The power button also gets a blue accent, but the volume rocker is plain black. The power button can open the camera with a double-press, but it doesn’t activate Google Assistant by default – I fell into the habit of pressing the button to try and give my phone spoken commands.
The ROG Phone 7 is thicker than most other phones, and it does have a huge battery, but there are phones with batteries just as large that are not as thick or heavy as this. Of course, no other fan has an opening for an external fan to blow air through, and that probably needs more space to flow. It still manages an impressive IP54 rating, which means it's mostly dustproof and can take some splashing or rain, though not a real dunk in water.
The display on the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is fantastic, and maybe overkill for the current state of mobile gaming. It can refresh at up to 165Hz, which sounds fast, but is there any game or software that actually runs that fast, besides maybe the phone’s own interface?
Call of Duty Mobile looked spectacular on this display, and the phone had no trouble with the game’s new Super Resolution experimental mode, either. But the frame rate topped out at just above 60fps, so not even close to the screen’s potential.
Even in GFXBench benchmark testing, we only saw 144fps on the fastest test. That’s faster than a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra could display, and faster than the Red Magic 8S Pro, too. Still, no real-world contact was displaying that fast.
There’s no doubt that the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is a better gaming phone than the Galaxy S23 Ultra, but the latter phone has a display that’s by far superior, except for its refresh rate. It’s brighter, sharper (with more pixels per inch), higher-resolution, and even more sturdy. Asus uses Gorilla Glass Victus, which is very strong, but the S23 Ultra uses Gorilla Glass Victus 2, which Corning says can take a drop onto concrete.
Still, gamers know that pushing more pixels doesn’t make for better gaming, and while the Galaxy S23 Ultra has a nice screen, it does stutter a bit during games, where the Asus is buttery smooth. If games matter, the nicer-looking screen won’t be as welcome as the blazing performance of the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate.
It’s amazing that the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate can ship with cameras that aren’t very good, but then I also wouldn’t buy a Ferrari expecting a lot of trunk space; there are some things that must be sacrificed in the name of speed.
However, while the Ferrari can go faster by shedding weight, the Asus ROG Phone 7 could only skimp on cameras to cut cost. It’s already a big, heavy phone with room to spare inside, and a better camera sensor would fit; we’re not talking about a set of golf clubs here.
More affordable options than the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate include… well, everything. In fact, the ROG Phone is more expensive than every camera phone on our best camera phone list. Take your pick; they’re all better and cheaper, but the Galaxy S23 Ultra is the closest in price, and not coincidentally, the best camera phone we recommend.
Compared to the slightly cheaper S23 Ultra, the ROG Phone 7 took photos that look blurry and washed out, and lacking detail. The lens has a narrower aperture than better phone cameras, and this lets in less light and also keeps too much of the scene in focus, making it harder to capture the cool blurred background effects, or bokeh, that we love on other cameras.
The camera did okay with low-light photos, though it can’t handle astrophotography or moon shots, like other top-tier – and cheaper – cameras. Selfies, meanwhile, were a bit of a blurry mess, and to make matters worse the selfie camera produces a mirror-image selfie that is simply wrong – a spot on your left cheek will be on what appears to be your right cheek, for example. Every other camera phone I’ve tested is smart enough to correct for this quirk of selfie photography by default.
When I started this review, back when the ROG Phone 7 was first launched, I had some serious software trouble that caused glitches and problems while I was gaming. To be frank, the phone made me lose, and more than once. Some features would stop working, or some request would pop up at the wrong moment. I lost some crucial matches, and I was ready to hold a grudge.
After some software updates, I’m pleased to report that I’ve had no such trouble with the phone in the past month, giving it a fresh look. No games glitched, no matches were lost. For both games and general performance, everything was mostly solid. Mostly.
It’s still a weird and intrusive software experience. There were occasional bugs here and there, and messages got sent multiple times. The interface overall just felt bogged down by too many extras trying to grab my attention.
It was also too easy to trigger some feature or change something accidentally. Swipe from the corner wrong and you’ll open a control panel on top of your game. Jiggle the AeroActive Cooler just so and it will lose its connection and cause a delay while it reconnects. These are avoidable issues if you’re careful, but they don’t need to be issues at all.
I would have liked a lot more customization options for the home screen. There are some wallpapers and themes, but there are no interesting widgets or cool software additions that make this a better smartphone than other Androids. Even the Android phone makers that go with a so-called ‘vanilla’ flavor of Android include a few widgets as a token. Asus sticks with gaming software and themes, and that’s pretty much it.
In fact, just before publication my AeroActive Cooler stopped working altogether. Every time I plug it in, the phone tries to update the firmware with the same version, and when it's done it asks me to reattach the Cooler, causing an endless loop of firmware updates. I'm hoping a future software update fixes this, but for now I just won't be using the premiere accessory.
I expected a lot more customization for the homescreen. There are some wallpapers and themes, but there are no interesting widgets or cool software additions that make this a better smartphone than other Androids. Even the Android phone makers that go with a so-called ‘vanilla’ flavor of Android include a few widgets as a token. Asus sticks with gaming software and themes, and that’s pretty much it.
You came here for speed, and you’ll get speed. We don’t usually care about benchmark tests, but you’ll be happy to know that the Asus ROG Phone 7 produced our fastest benchmark results to date. What’s better is that you can see the difference in the real world, even against the top performing phones.
I play Marvel Snap on both my Galaxy S23 Ultra and my Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate. On the Galaxy, I get some stuttering and clipped frames, especially during transitions. It runs at 60 fps usually, but there are occasionally hiccups.
The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate finds hiccups offensive. It doesn’t trip or pause. While other phones can hit the same performance rate on occasion, the ROG Phone 7 held the best looking graphics and the fastest frame rate throughout. Even without the added cooling accessory, it maintained high performance for a full day of gaming.
I could go on and on, but frankly there’s not much else to say when a phone is the fastest. One problem to note is that your carrier may not perfectly match the ROG Phone 7’s network capabilities. I tested the phone on AT&T in the US, and I got a warning from AT&T that the phone was not supported, but was still able to connect to the 5G and LTE networks.
I can’t complain about the size of the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate because it has such a big battery inside, and that’s the most important quality for a gaming phone, after the fast processor. A gaming laptop can get away with only an hour or so battery time. A phone needs to last all day, whether I’m gaming or not, because it’s much more than just my game machine.
The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate lasted through hours of gaming, at least a full eight hours of play time before I had to give up. The phone lasted longer than I did. In normal use, it always held a charge to the end of the day, even if I played heavily on my train ride home.
In battery testing benchmarks, the phone beats competitors like the Galaxy S23 Ultra or the iPhone 14 Pro because it has a much larger battery, and it doesn’t squander the power when you aren’t playing games. There are three different levels of performance, from a miserly “Ultra durable” mode to the highest performance option simply labeled “X Mode.”
I got fantastic performance in Dynamic mode, in the middle, but even in X Mode I was able to game for hours, I just needed to top off after dinner to make sure I lasted until bedtime.
You want the top-performing gaming phoneSure it’s expensive, but it’s also the best gaming phone you can buy, and you can’t put a price on being the best.
You want extra-long battery life and play gamesBesides that great gaming performance, you also get a huge battery, and it really lasts a long time.
You want a phone that just screams gamer, loudlyThere are other gaming phones out there, but most won’t flash the word GAME while you game.
You want great cameras The cameras aren’t terrible, but they aren’t as good as any other phone in this price range, not even close.
You want a lot of features and versatility Other phones have more interface options, and Samsung even gives you a pen at this price.
You don’t absolutely need the best performance This is the best performer, but the second-best is much cheaper, and you probably won’t notice.
If you can't win the battle over the budget to defeat the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate's high price tag, here are some other phones that are great for gaming.
Nubia Red Magic 8S ProIf Asus is the Ferrari of gaming phones, the Red Magic 8S Pro is a fast Corvette, a bit more sedate and a lot more affordable, but nearly the same speed and performance.
Samsung Galaxy S23 UltraIf you want blazing performance for more than just gaming, and you need a good camera, consider the Galaxy S23 Ultra, which is astonishing in more ways than one.
I used the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate as my primary phone for both business and personal use for two weeks while writing this review. I used the Phone 7 Ultimate in every way I imagined a typical user would want to use it, but really I played a lot of games.
I took photos, played games, sent messages, played games, made phone calls, and played games. I also played games. I used productivity apps and tools, games, mindfulness and health apps, better games, and fitness apps on the phone. Also games.
I also used the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate with wearable devices, including the Pixel Buds Pro earbuds and my Pixel Watch. I used it with an Xbox gaming controller, my Honda and Kia cars, and other Bluetooth accessories.
For games I mostly play Call of Duty Mobile and Marvel Snap, but I like to try new games all the time, and during my review period I play a wider variety. I also connected the phone to my Xbox to use it as a remote play device with my Xbox games.
We benchmark all the phones we test using standard benchmarking software, and we also perform internal testing on the phone’s performance and battery life. I used GFX Benchmark, PhoneTester Pro, and Geekbench, among other testing apps. I also access the developer options on Android phones for direct feedback on performance from the device itself.
First reviewed: August 2023
Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, having reviewed his first device (the Sony D-EJ01 Discman) more than 20 years ago for eTown.com. He has been writing about phones and mobile technology, since before the iPhone, for a variety of sites including PCMag, infoSync, PhoneScoop, and Slashgear. He holds an M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University.
Phil was the internal reviewer for Samsung Mobile, writing opinions and review predictions about top secret new devices months before launch. He left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. He has been a High School English teacher at Title I schools, and is a certified Lifeguard. His passion is smartphones and wearables, and he is sure that the next big thing will be phones we wear on our faces.
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By Sharmishta SarkarAugust 22, 2023Ultimate model is $1,399 / £1,199.99 / AU$2,099That’s $400 / £200 / AU $300 more than the ROG Phone 7Includes AeroActive Cooler, a fan/subwoofer attachmentValue score: 3/5Distinct, stylized gamer designAlmost no change from ROG Phone 6Big and heavy but comfortable to holdDesign score: 5/5Super-fast refresh rates up to 165HzNice and bright, with great colorThe Galaxy S23 Ultra’s display is sharper and brighterDisplay score: 5/5No zoom lens at allSub-par image qualityTerrible compared to the best in this price rangeCamera score: 2/5Software gets in the way and causes problemsTools to adjust performance and record your gameNo cool widgets or custom home screen featuresSoftware score: 3/5You won’t find a faster phoneNot just in benchmarks, this thing is fastEvery game maxed out graphics no problemPerformance score: 5/5Huge 6,000mAh, which is standard on gaming phonesLasted through a full day of games and messagingDifferent modes for power managementBattery score: 5/5You want the top-performing gaming phoneYou want extra-long battery life and play gamesYou want a phone that just screams gamer, loudlyYou want great camerasYou want a lot of features and versatilityYou don’t absolutely need the best performance Nubia Red Magic 8S ProSamsung Galaxy S23 Ultra