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Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate review: Ridiculously powerful

The ROG Phone 5 Ultimate is the peak of gaming phones — if you can get one

rog phone 5 ultimate review
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

While it offers some upgrades over the base model, the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate still has the same shortcomings with camera performance. But it’s the most powerful gaming phone we’ve tested yet.

For

  • Superb performance
  • Beautiful AMOLED display with 144Hz refresh rate
  • Excellent battery life
  • Powerful front-facing speakers

Against

  • Disappointing night mode
  • Bulky and heavy
  • No wireless charging
Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate specs

OS: Android 11 / ZenUI

Screen size: 6.78-inch AMOLED (2448 x 1080); 60 - 144Hz

Processor: Snapdragon 888

RAM: 18GB

Storage: 512GB

Rear cameras: 64MP ultrawide (f/1.8), 13MP ultrawide (f/2.4), 5MP macro (f/2.0)

Front camera: 24MP (f/2.45)

Video: Up to 8K at 30 fps

Battery: 6,000 mAh

Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 13:13 (60Hz) / 11:17 (120Hz) / 10:21 (144Hz)

Charging: 65W

Colors: White

Size: 6.1 x 2.7 x 0.4 inches

Weight: 8.4 ounces

In addition to the ROG Phone 5 and ROG Phone 5 Pro, Asus announced a limited edition ROG Phone 5 Ultimate. This particular model is seen as the cream of the crop, the king of the pack, loaded with 512GB of fast UFS 3.1 storage and a whopping 18GB of RAM. Asus wants it to be the ultimate gaming smartphone and truth be told, it delivers on many fronts.

The ROG Phone 5 Ultimate also shares the same weaknesses as its brethren, notably poor camera performance, but it levels up the rest of the experience in marginal ways. In our Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate review, we’ll go over what’s different about this model versus the ROG Phone 5 and what the two Asus phones have in common. If you want the full lowdown on how the newest generation of ROG Phone performs, then be sure to check out the Asus ROG Phone 5 review.

Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate review: Price and availability

rog phone 5 ultimate review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

As one of the best gaming phones available, the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate commands a price to match that lofty position. It’s available for €1299. As far as we know, it won’t be officially coming to the US, though Asus could change its mind down the road. 

Finding the phone may be a challenge. Asus says that the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate is meant to celebrate the ROG brand and the gamers that have built it up over the years. But unlike the standard ROG Phone 5 which will be widely available, the Ultimate edition has limited stock. 

The ROG Phone 5 Ultimate lacks mmWave 5G, instead simply opting for sub-6Ghz 5G. This omission is likely because mmWave is really only a major thing with Verizon in the US, but if this phone ever makes it to the US, you’ll be limited to sub-6. This is fine, because all the ROG Phone 5 models are GSM-only, so they won’t work on Verizon’s network anyway.

Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate review: What’s different from the ROG Phone 5

rog phone 5 ultimate review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

All that RAM: The extra storage on the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate  is definitely a bonus, but the 18GB of RAM feels like overkill. Not once in my time with the phone did the OS come close to using that much memory. 

Asus claims that the ridiculous amount of RAM will allow you to keep more games in memory, meaning lower loading times. While technically accurate, I don’t see the use case here. In what circumstance am I going to be playing a game and then think, “Let’s jump to another game, but curse the universe if I have to wait a few extra seconds for it to load!” Not to mention that ZenUI, Asus’ custom Android skin, likes to kill background apps that hang out in RAM too long. 

Honestly, the 18GB of RAM inside the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate is a bragging right passed off as something beneficial to the user. It doesn’t hinder the experience in the slightest, but it doesn’t really add that much in real world use, either.

rog phone 5 ultimate review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

More controls: Beyond the extra RAM, the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate features two extra touch sensor zones on the back of the phone. These controls join the ultrasonic AirTriggers on the frame of the device. You can map actions to the sensor zones in much the same way. They act like paddles while you play, but like the AirTriggers themselves, I found them only slightly useful for actual gameplay, depending on the game.

ROG Vision: The base model ROG Phone 5 features an RGB dot matrix display on the back of the phone that you can customize. However, on the ROG Phone 5 Pro, you get a color PMOLED display. You can customize what it displays, including some pretty awesome images.

The ROG Phone 5 Ultimate uses a PMOLED display, too, but it’s monochrome instead of color. Asus went with this to keep the design language consistent with the rest of the Ultimate’s aesthetic. You still get to customize what the little display shows, adding an eye-catching bit of flair to the back of the phone.

rog phone 5 ultimate review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

An extra accessory: The ROG Phone 5 Ultimate comes with the separate AeroActive cooler included, though it’s not white, unfortunately. The accessory works just the same as it does should you buy it separately for the base model ROG Phone 5, and it does make a marked difference in surface temps on the phone. The AeroActive also features extra paddles if you want them.

ROG Phone 5 Ultimate review: What’s the same from the ROG Phone 5

rog phone 5 ultimate review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Other than what’s listed above, the specs and features on the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate are the same as what you’d get with the £799/€799 ROG Phone 5. The ROG Phone 5 Ultimate also features all the same software goodness as the base model. That means all the charging options, over-the-top Game Genie for game optimizations, and other tweaks available in the ZenUI settings like gestures and theme packs are on this phone.

Battery test results vary slightly, but they are still within the same ballpark. That’s not a surprise, as the same mammoth 6,000 mAh battery, split into two 3,000 mAh packs, that powers the ROG Phone 5 also is found in the Ultimate edition. In the battery-efficient 60Hz mode, the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate lasted for a whopping 13 hours and 13 minutes. In 120Hz mode, it ran for 11 hours and 17 minutes. And at 144Hz, it managed 10 hours and 21 minutes.

Unfortunately, the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate retains the so-so camera performance of the base model. The triple camera setup looks good on paper — a 64MP main camera is joined by a 13MP ultrawide angle lens and a dedicated 5MP macro shooter. But the photos that the ROG Phone puts out are just disappointing. Even under optimal lighting conditions, the images look flat, bland, and devoid of life. And then there's the night mode, which isn't up to par with other similarly-priced phones.

I took out the Ultimate alongside the Galaxy S21 Plus and the difference was staggering. Compare the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate to the iPhone 12 Pro or Pixel 5, and the difference is even more noticeable. The ROG Phone 5 can’t hold a candle to the best camera phones in terms of output, and it would struggle against more middling competition.

ROG Phone 5 Ultimate review: Verdict

rog phone 5 ultimate review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

You don’t buy a phone like the Asus ROG Phone 5 because you’re interested in mobile photography, even considering its lofty price. The games are the thing, and the Ultimate, like the main ROG Phone 5, delivers on that front. These new phones from Asus top every other Android device, though they struggle to match the iPhone 12 series’ power. Apple’s A14 Bionic is silicon magic and the Snapdragon 888 is just shy of equaling it.

The ROG Phone 5 is the most powerful Android device we’ve tested yet, but it’s telling that the iPhone 12 Pro or iPhone 12 Pro Max are not only better phones all around, but they’re also gaming devices of a similar caliber. They may lack the huge battery, AirTriggers, touch sensors, and AeroActive cooler, but they also work on all carriers and support both mmWave and sub-6 5G. The ROG Phone 5 is limited to GSM carriers and sub-6GHz 5G.

If you only care about a premium mobile gaming experience, then the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate is for you. It has insane power, ridiculously long battery life, and all the features and gimmicks you could want. But it’s not as good as the best phones, thanks to those subpar cameras, which limits the ROG Phone’s appeal outside of gaming circles.

Jordan Palmer

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. It's hard to nail down one thing that Jordan is passionate about, since his attention span for a single given topic or activity doesn't last long. Jordan tends to lurk on social media, but you can best reach him on Twitter: @jccpalmer — his Instagram feed is mostly photos of his cat.

  • dishonored
    Bulky and heavy
    well every phone is getting heavy so you need to accept that as refered to "new tech of today daily routine" stacking up all that stuff + 6000mha if fair good enough
    Poor camera performance
    welp they stack up everything in power and since gamer's aren"t photographer's fan it will do it's job and rog mean well to long to write you know its means for gamers
    so photo should'n be the interest point here it gives enough good photo's so it's not a probleme
    anything other great review
    Reply
  • Lonesols
    I gotta say if you had the s21 ultra just from your review, i havent had the rog phone yet, but the s21 is not a superior phone in anything but the camera and its not that great. The s21 is worse than the s20 ultra in every way, and the rog phone 5 would beat the s20. The camera is worse, the speakera are worse, the screen changes refresh rates randomly, it overheats just using its camera lol so really u cant even say its better there.

    The s21 is so bad that after playing runescape for 10 mins it is so hot it burns my hands, lowers the fps to 10 to 15, and barely works. The s20 ultra i have runs it for 60 mins before it slows down to 20 fps, and never burns. Also you forgot to add stability test, which is the only important number, it does not matter if the i garbage gets 7000 on the wild life test for 30 seconds lol. The s21 is right there with the i garbage, they both have a stability score of under 50 percent. The s21 being so bad it drops down to 845 snap dragon levels after 10 mins. The iphone drops down to snap dragon levels after like a few mins.

    The s21 isnt compareable to any of these phones, it litterally is worse than a note 10 minus the camera and 120hz, but since applesung added that it randomly changes the refresh rate, and most games are 60fps it doesnt even matter. The note 10 will get better fps than the s21 after 10 mins. The s21 is such a garbage phone i am honestly surpised samsung isnt ashamed of it.
    Though from the standpoint of profit they would be, since they made a cheaper worse phone than last gen, but sold it for almost the same price.
    Comparing the s21 to the 5 ulitmate its no conatest the 5 would win, minus marketing.
    Reply