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Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate mini review


Introduction

There is no point in pretending the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate is anything but a “flex”. Nothing wrong with that either – Asus itself knows it too well and has stressed multiple times that the Ultimate edition of its already industry-leading gaming handset will only be available in very small numbers, likely to be used mostly as a promotional tool. A theory further backed-up by the fact that we and many other media outlets got one and it was accompanied, as promised, by a whole box of ROG “swag”. A hat, some badges, a towel, a face mask and some Lego-style building blocks. You can check most it out in this pic, which has to be the most “FPS” ever worn by a human.

Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review

The point we are trying to make is that we are aware that hardly any end users will be able to get their hands on the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate. Still, we aren’t going to miss the opportunity to check out the most insanely-cool version of what is already one of the coolest devices around right now.

This is not going to be an exhaustive review. We have already done our due diligence with the regular ROG Phone 5, which you can read about in-depth here. The Ultimate edition also affords us the opportunity to get a glimpse of the ROG Phone 5 Pro, as well and particularly the additional couple of touch sensors on the back cover and the ROG Vision display and its functionality, since both it and the Ultimate we have, share these features.

Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review

So, without further ado, what is it that the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate offers over its regular sibling? Well, the main bits in no particular order are – two extra Air Trigger-style touch sensors on the back cover, along with an ROG Vision Display – a black and white one, to go with the overall aesthetic of the phone. The Pro version actually has its ROG Vision display in full color, but that’s hardly a huge change in terms of everyday usefullness.

The Ultimate also comes with an insane 18GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 512GB of UFS 3.1 storage. The rest of the differences are cosmetic. The Ultimate comes in a silky-smooth white matte finish. Its box is also more extravagant than the vanilla one and includes the AeroActive Cooler 5, which you have to otherwise buy separately. You can check out this table for more details on differences between the three ROG Phone 5 editions.









ROG Phone 5 Ultimate ROG Phone 5 Pro ROG Phone 5 Version A ROG Phone 5 Version B ROG Phone 5 Version C
Colors Matte While Glossy Black Phantom Black / Storm White
Memory/Storage 18GB/512GB 16GB/512GB 12GB/256GB, 16GB/256GB 8GB/128GB, 12GB/256GB, 16GB/256GB 8GB/128GB, 12GB/256GB
Extra sensors 2 extra touch sensors on the back NO
Back cover ROG Vision – monochrome PMOLED display ROG Vision – Color PMOLED display ROG (RGB light) logo
Data rate Support EN-DC(5DL+FR1)
FR1: DL up to 4.0Gbps / UL 542Mbps (after April FOTA)
LTE 7CA DL Cat20 Up to 2.0Gbps UL Cat13 Up to 150Mbps
DC-HSPA+: DL 42Mbps / UL 5.76Mbps
2×2 MIMO and CA with 4×4 MIMO support
Support EN-DC(5DL+FR1)
FR1: DL up to 4.0Gbps / UL 542Mbps (after April FOTA)
LTE 7CA DL Cat20 Up to 1.4Gbps UL Cat13 Up to 150Mbps
DC-HSPA+: DL 42Mbps / UL 5.76Mbps
2×2 MIMO and CA with 4×4 MIMO support
Bands 5G (n41/77/78/79, n66, n71, n1,n2 n3, n5, n7, n8, n12, n20, n25, n28, n38,n40 *US not Support n40)
FDD-LTE (1(2100), 2(1900), 3(1800), 4(1700/2100), 5(850), 7(2600), 8(900), 12(700), 13(700), 17(700), 18(800), 19(800), 20(800),25(1900), 26(850),28(700), 29(700),30(2300), 32(1500), 66(1700/2100), 71(600)
TD-LTE (34(2000), 38(2600), 39(1900), 40(2300), 41(2500), 48(3600), 42(3500) * US not Support b40) (800 (19)/ 850(5/6) / 900(8) / 1700(AWS) / 1800 / 1900 / 1(2100)
EDGE/GPRS/GSM (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 – SIM 1 & SIM 2)
5G n41/77/78/79, n1, n3, n7, n8, n20 , n28, n38
FDD-LTE 1(2100), 2(1900), 3(1800), 4(1700/2100), 5(850), 7(2600), 8(900),18,19, 20(800),26, 28(700)
TD-LTE 34(2000), 38(2600), 39(1900), 40(2300), 41(2500), 48(3600), 42(3500) * US not Support b40
WCDMA HSDPA 850(5) / 900 / 1700/1800/1900 / 1(2100)
EDGE/GPRS/GSM (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 – SIM 1 & SIM 2)
Accessories AeroActive Cooler 5
Aero case
HyperCharger
ROG Ultimate fan gift collection
Aeroactive Cooler 5
Aero case
HyperCharger
Aero case
HyperCharger

We’ll go through the main additions to the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate one by one.

Package and unboxing

One of the slightly-underwhelming aspects of the vanilla ROG Phone 5 has to be its downgraded retail package. Both in terms of aesthetics and more-unfortunate still – additional accessories. We can’t say we care all that much about the shape of the box itself or how fancy it is, since it is destined for a drawer or wardrobe anyway. Still, historically, the ROG Phone line has always had that extra bit of gamer “flare” starting from the box. Not so much with the vanilla ROG Phone 5.

Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review

Well, the Ultimate edition is definitely a step-up and a “return to form” of sorts in terms of packaging. And we aren’t even talking about the extra box of “swag” that comes with every unit. The phone itself sits in a hexagonal prism that is held together by magnets and opens down the middle to reveal two cradles on either side. One of them has the phone, while the other contains the AeroActive Cooler 5.

Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review

There is some more stuff underneath the cradles too – a 65W brick that uses Asus HYPERCHARGE technology, based on Power Delivery 3.0 + PPS at 3.3V to 21V and 3A of current. Plus, a nice braided cable to go along with it. You also get a special Aero case for the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate (a transparent one, instead of black), some stickers and a spare rubber cover for the side connector. We wish Asus included the latter for the vanilla ROG Phone 5 since it is very easy to lose.

Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review

Beyond that, there is plenty of art all around the box, including on the inside of the sleeve that covers the box. There is even a special AR symbol, like the ones we’ve seen before on earlier ROG Phones. You scan that within the Armory Crate app in the Connect section to unlock content.

Design and black and white ROG Vision display

There is no difference on the inside between the regular ROG Phone 5 and the Ultimate editions. Nor the Pro one, for that matter. The back panel design on the Ultimate is very noticeably different, though. Beyond the obvious white color, which is actually more of a gray in person, the feel and finish are also different. In place of the smooth, glossy and smudge-prone glass on the regular ROG Phone 5, the Ultimate has a sort of matte look. As far as the feel goes, it is almost silky.

Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review

Asus went for a monochrome aesthetic, infused with gamery geometry and elements, which is naturally going to be a polarizing look, but this particular reviewer digs it. The subtle blue accents in particular works well with the black and while main color scheme. There is a small strip near the camera, the rim of the power button and the SIM card tray.

Of course, the main attraction on the back of the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate has to be the ROG Vision display. Like we already mentioned, the Ultimate gets a black and white unit to go better with its color scheme, while the ROG Phone 5 Pro has a proper color one. We aren’t quire sure why Asus felt the need to really impose this limitation, since mostly the same effect could have been achieved by pre-loading only monochrome designs on the Ultimate and still put a color display on it. Not that it really matters that much. The tiny diagonal panel fulfils its goal either way.

Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review

In typical Asus fashion, the software implementation for the ROG Vision display is in-depth and very versatile. You can have different, individual effects – static or animated in different scenarios including attaching an external accessory to the ROG Phone 5, toggling X Mode, having the display on, charging, gaming and getting a call. Asus is also partnering with game publishers to display specific content for in-game events, like winning a match.

There are plenty of built-in animations to choose from, plus the ability to create your own, based on an image, text or “signature”. You can add one or a few images, aligning and cropping them just the way you like and adding an animation effect on top. Text effects and signatures are very similar and both require you to input text, select from the few eye-catching included fonts, a color and then an animation effect. The only difference with “signature” is that it does a scrolling text effect, by default, so you can include a longer string.


ROG Vision UI - Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review
ROG Vision UI - Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review
ROG Vision UI - Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review

ROG Vision UI - Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review
ROG Vision UI - Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review
ROG Vision UI - Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review

ROG Vision UI

Additional Rear touch controls

Both the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate and Pro have a couple of extra touch controls on the back panel. These are dubbed Rear touch and positioned quite low on the back, with the intention of being operated with either your middle or ring finger. Just like the AirTrigger sensors on the side of the ROG Phone 5, these feature a textured finish as sort of a guide for your fingers.

Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review

Speaking of the ultrasonic AirTrigger system, the Rear touch controls are similar, but a lot simpler in design. These can only recognize swipes in both directions, or just left or right, depending on your needs. There is no way to tap them once, let alone separate them out into two tappable segments, like the AirTrigger sensors.


Rear touch - Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review
Rear touch - Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review

Rear touch - Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review
Rear touch - Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review

Rear touch

Beyond that, a swipe gesture on the Rear touch controls is still mappable to an on-screen tab gesture or a macro, just like you can do with some function on the AirTriggers or the two physical buttons on the AeroActive Cooler 5. In fact, adding all of these together, you end up with a whopping 18 mappable inputs on the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate and Pro variants. Frankly, too many for us to handle.

And that’s before delving into the mappable Motion controls, which on the ROG phone 5 have been massively extended and now total 6 different gestures. You can read more about that in the controls section of the full review.

Performance

Last, but not least, we just had to run a few benchmarks on the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate and see how they stack-up against the regular ROG Phone 5. We were expecting to get the exact same scores as the couple of extra gigs of RAM the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate has for a whopping total of 18GB is more of a “flex” than a practical addition to the 16GB already available on the regular ROG Phone 5. We can’t really think of any practical scenario where it would be down to those extra gigs to make a difference in performance.

Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review

Other than that, the two models have the same Snapdragon 888 chipset and identical internals and cooling systems – both passive and active, in the form of the AeroActive 5 cooler. Starting with GeekBench then, it hardly comes as a surprise that the Ultimate editions scores identically to its sibling.

GeekBench 5 (multi-core)

Higher is better


  • ROG Phone 5 (X Mode+ FAN)
    3745

  • ROG Phone 5 Ultimate (X Mode+ FAN)
    3729

  • ROG Phone 5 Ultimate
    3728

  • ROG Phone 5
    3710

  • ROG Phone 5 (X Mode)
    3709

  • Huawei Mate 40 Pro (perf. mode)
    3704

  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    3636

  • OnePlus 9
    3629

  • Xiaomi Mi 11
    3489

  • Sony Xperia 1 II
    3318

  • Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra (SD)
    3294

  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (SD)
    3244

GeekBench 5 (single-core)

Higher is better


  • ROG Phone 5 Ultimate (X Mode+ FAN)
    1129

  • OnePlus 9
    1129

  • ROG Phone 5 Ultimate
    1128

  • ROG Phone 5 (X Mode+ FAN)
    1127

  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    1126

  • ROG Phone 5 (X Mode)
    1121

  • ROG Phone 5
    1110

  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (SD)
    1109

  • Xiaomi Mi 11
    1085

  • Huawei Mate 40 Pro (perf. mode)
    1020

  • Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra (SD)
    988

  • Sony Xperia 1 II
    897

What about those 2GB of extra RAM? We hear you asking. Well, if your really want to see those in action, AnTuTu is a great choice, since it is a compound benchmark that takes into account things like memory and storage, as well. Our vanilla ROG Phone 5 benchmarks were done on a 16GB/256GB unit, compared to the Ultimate edition, with its 18GB/512GB setup. We also made sure to run in both the default performance mode on the ROG Phone Ultimate, as well as the all out X-Mode with the AeroActive 5 cooler attached. Just like we did for the regular ROG Phone 5.

AnTuTu 8

Higher is better


  • ROG Phone 5 Ultimate (X Mode+ FAN)
    745994

  • ROG Phone 5 (X Mode+ FAN)
    718864

  • OnePlus 9
    715196

  • ROG Phone 5 Ultimate
    708579

  • ROG Phone 5 (X Mode)
    708531

  • ROG Phone 5
    708216

  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    691055

  • Huawei Mate 40 Pro (perf. mode)
    686835

  • Xiaomi Mi 11
    668722

  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (SD)
    657273

  • Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra (SD)
    571312

  • Sony Xperia 1 II
    534701

That’s not a bad flex if we say so ourselves. But, will that translate to more actual FPS in game in any way? Well, like we said, in all likelihood – no. Unless, someone comes out with an Android game that manages to use more than 16GB of RAM (give or take system usage).

3DMark Wild Life Vulkan 1.1 (offscreen 1440p)

Higher is better


  • Huawei Mate 40 Pro (perf. mode)
    6679

  • ROG Phone 5 (X Mode+ FAN)
    5763

  • ROG Phone 5 Ultimate (X Mode+ FAN)
    5761

  • ROG Phone 5 Ultimate
    5745

  • ROG Phone 5
    5744

  • ROG Phone 5 (X Mode)
    5740

  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    5701

  • Xiaomi Mi 11
    5673

  • OnePlus 9
    5667

  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (SD)
    5547

  • Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra (SD)
    4194

Here are some GFXBench on-screen numbers to further hammer in the point.

GFX Aztek Vulkan High (onscreen)

Higher is better


  • ROG Phone 5
    43

  • ROG Phone 5 (X Mode)
    43

  • ROG Phone 5 (X Mode+ FAN)
    43

  • ROG Phone 5 Ultimate (X Mode+ FAN)
    43

  • OnePlus 9
    43

  • Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra (SD)
    34

  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    27

  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (SD)
    25

  • Xiaomi Mi 11
    24

  • Huawei Mate 40 Pro (perf. mode)
    21

  • Sony Xperia 1 II
    20

GFX Aztek ES 3.1 High (onscreen)

Higher is better


  • ROG Phone 5 Ultimate (X Mode+ FAN)
    41

  • ROG Phone 5
    40

  • ROG Phone 5 (X Mode)
    40

  • ROG Phone 5 (X Mode+ FAN)
    40

  • OnePlus 9
    40

  • Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra (SD)
    34

  • Huawei Mate 40 Pro (perf. mode)
    32

  • Sony Xperia 1 II
    27

  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    24

  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (SD)
    23

  • Xiaomi Mi 11
    22

Final thoughts

If there was ever any doubt that the ROG phone 5 Ultimate is a uniquely awesome device, having experienced it ourselves, we can assure you that it was unfounded. It somehow manages the impossible – to deliver an even cooler version of the excellent ROG Phone 5. To reiterate once again, however, the Ultimate edition is very limited in availability and meant as more of a showpiece than a marketable product. OK, but say you do manage to get access to one, should you get it over the vanilla?

Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review

The answer would be a very solid no. Even if you are the ultimate gamer mobile gamer and money is no object, there is hardly any practical reason to go out of your way to acquire the Ultimate. The extra RAM won’t get you any more real-world performance. The exclusive white finish on the back, while cool, is not necessarily cooler than the other available color options. Unless you can’t live without a white ROG Phone or the swag box of ROG-branded gifts, the most dedicated fans out there should still probably stick to the ROG Phone 5 Pro.

Rog Phone 5 Ultimate review

It has you covered with the extra Rear touch buttons, as well as the ROG Vision rear display and even ships with the AeroActive Cooler 5 in the box. That being said, you should have absolutely no regrets with going for the vanilla ROG Phone 5 either. Besides still being the best gaming smartphone, it is an excellent all-round flagship phone, with unique versatility under its collar. Of course, no one phone is perfect and there are plenty of drawbacks to consider as well. For the full version, head on over to our full ROG Phone 5 review.



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