Three years after gaming hardware company Razer made the first one, gaming smartphones remain a niche device.
But while Razer seems to have bowed out of this segment, Asus continues to push the boundaries with its ROG Phone series of gaming smartphones.
Its 6.59-inch display now has a 144Hz refresh rate, up from 120Hz in the previous model. A high refresh rate makes games feel more fluid and smooth, though the jump from here is so slight that I could not tell the difference.
The processor, too, has been refreshed with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus chip, which is slightly faster than the standard non-Plus edition found in most flagship Android smartphones.
This chip is 5G-compatible and should work with local 5G networks.
With its custom performance-enhancing X Mode enabled, the ROG Phone 3 scored 984 (single-core) and 3,343 (multi-core) in the Geekbench 5 benchmark. These scores are better than those chalked up by the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 (973 for single-core and 2,858 for multi-core), which uses the same processor.
The number of rear cameras has gone up from two to three, with Asus adding a 5-megapixel (MP) macro camera for close-up shots. The primary camera is now a 64MP one, up from 48MP previously, and there is also a 13MP ultra-wide camera.
While these cameras are not as good as the top smartphone cameras, they are very decent. Photos look crisp and have relatively little noise. Low-light performance is also passable.
But these upgrades, while useful, are not why I consider the ROG Phone 3 one of the best gaming smartphones in the market now.
Instead, the key feature of the ROG Phone series has been the pressure-sensitive sensors (dubbed AirTriggers) that act like the shoulder trigger buttons on a game controller.
These sensors, which vibrate when tapped, can be mapped by users to their preferred in-game controls. In the ROG Phone 3, the AirTriggers support more gestures, such as slide and swipe.
You still need to fiddle around to find the right control scheme for your games. This can be done by swiping left from the screen in games to bring up the Game Genie, a handy floating toolbar that lets you customise the AirTriggers, as well as a host of other gaming-centric features, such as adding a crosshair or setting the screen refresh rate.
Another useful software tool in the ROG Phone 3 is the Asus Armoury Crate app, which monitors key metrics like the temperature and clock speed of the phone's processor and allows for customising of features like the backlit ROG logo at the back of the phone.
Gamers will also appreciate the app's game recommendations, which lists titles that support the ROG Phone 3's gaming features, like its 144Hz display, AirTriggers and Asus' dizzying range of gaming accessories.
These accessories, which include a detachable game controller and a dock with a second screen, are sold separately. And because the ROG Phone 3 has a similar design and is just as heavy at around 240g, the accessories for last year's ROG Phone 2 will work with the new model.
The only accessory that is not backward compatible is the bundled AeroActive Cooler 3 fan module, which connects to the two custom USB-C ports on the left side of the ROG Phone 3 to keep it running cool even when you are playing graphics-heavy games.
The new fan module includes a 3.5mm headphone jack, which has been removed from the ROG Phone 3 and a kickstand that lets you place the phone on the table for watching videos or gaming (with a separate game controller).
The ROG Phone 3 may lack flagship niceties like class-leading cameras, wireless charging or water resistance, but its performance and gaming features make it the ideal smartphone for mobile gamers.
Runs cool in games
Lacks wireless charging and water resistance
Large and heavy
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus (Single-core 3.1GHz, triple-core 2.4GHz and quad-core 1.8GHz)
Display: 6.59-inch Amoled, 2,340 x 1,080 pixels, 391 ppi pixel density
Operating system: Android 10
Memory: 512GB, 12GB RAM
Rear cameras: 64MP (f/1.8), 13MP ultra-wide (f/2.4, 125-degree), 5MP macro (f/2.0)
Front camera: 24MP (f/2.0)
Value for money: 4/5
Battery life: 5/5