Wednesday, June 19, 2024
Smart Phones

ROG Phone 8 Pro vs ROG Phone 7 Ultimate: parting ways


Intro

Asus’ ROG Phone 8 series departs from the typical style of its predecessors. For the first time ever, we have thin bezels all around, a focus on camera features, and an attempt to please the mainstream consumer. This is in stark contrast to the ROG Phone 7, which was the ultimate niche gaming phone, with the all-out aggressive style, big bezels to hold front-firing stereo speakers, and a shape that made it feel like a handheld console.Dedicated gamers may feel like they’d rather get last year’s ROG Phone 7 Ultimate instead of going for the ROG Phone 8 Pro. More casual users may wonder if the latter is worth dabbling into, now that it fits the orthodox smartphone mold a bit better. Both groups would be kind of right. Here’s how the new ROG Phone 8 Pro compares to last year’s beast of a ROG Phone 7 Ultimate.

ROG Phone 8 Pro vs ROG Phone 7 Ultimate differences explained:

Table of Contents:

Design and Display Quality

Two different beasts, but still beasts

So, the difference between the ROG Phone 8 and the ROG Phone 7 is very evident when you first lay eyes upon them. The new model has an all-around thin bezel, which is beautiful to look at, and has a selfie camera hole-punch in the display, which long-time fans of the brand hate (well, that’s not fair, many will probably not mind it too much).

The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is heavier and bigger, with its top and bottom bezels, but it’s more comfortable to hold and game on horizontally. That elongated design helps you place your fingers right about where the ultrasonic gaming triggers are. On the ROG Phone 8, these triggers are way too close to the edge of the frame, so you need to awkwardly curl up your index fingers to game. Not impossible, possibly can get used to it, but not as comfortable as the ROG Phone 7.

The ROG Phone 8 comes in a stealthy black color — matte glass back, very subtle accents to remind you that it’s a gamer device. The Pro Edition version, which we have here, has an LED matrix, which shows cool little white icons on the back — it can be turned off and completely disappears under the glass. The normal and Pro models have the RGB logo light, which can also be off.

In contrast, the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is all white and very evidently a “techy” phone, with plenty of streaks, strikes, and accents. It has a mini screen on the back, which can show flashy colorful animations (customizable), and the non-Ultimate also has the same RGB logo. The Ultimate also has the AeroActive Portal — a little flap that opens when you connect the AeroActive Cooler 7 accessory, so it cools the processor with a direct airflow more effectively. Still, the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate has an IP54 rating — limited dust and water sprays protection. In comparison, the ROG Phone 8 Pro has no flap and achieved IP68 for dust-resistance and submersion protection.

Still, both phones have bottom- and side-mounted USB C ports so you can charge from either side (when gaming, you can get pass-through charge to spare the battery). Each has their respective AeroActive Cooler — an external fan that adds physical buttons for even more comfortable gaming. The ROG Phone 8‘s AeroActive Cooler X is smaller than before and comes with 2 buttons. The ROG Phone 7’s AeroActive Cooler 7 has 4 buttons and an integrated subwoofer, which makes the phone sound truly awesome. These coolers come in the box with the most expensive version of each respective phone. Otherwise, you can buy them separately.

Speaking of what’s in the box — you get the phone, a thin wireframe case, the 65 W charger, and a high-quality USB C cable with these phones.
Their screens are more or less the same. Samsung-made AMOLED panels, 165 Hz super-fast refresh rate (can be dynamic, so refresh rate changes as needed to save battery). Beautiful colors, great viewing angles, and extremely fast touch response. These are the screens of gaming phones, alright.

They are also HDR-compliant. The peak brightness of the ROG Phone 8 is 2,500 nits, significant upgrade over the ROG Phone 7’s 1,500 nits. In any case, both of these phones can play HDR movies.

Display Measurements:

Asus uses optical fingerprint scanners hidden under the screen. We didn’t feel as if there’s a significant upgrade here — they are mostly accurate, pretty fast to read when all is well. Sometimes, we get a missed read and have to re-do the scan, but nothing annoying.

Performance and Software

ROG Optimizations

ROG Phones typically have the best hardware currently available. So, the ROG Phone 7 launched with Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, the ROG Phone 8 upgrades to Gen 3. Then, there are advanced thermals inside and a lot of software tuning to enhance performance. ROG Phones come with a special X Mode, which prevents the processor from throttling and delivers continuous top performance. Needless to say, we recommend you use an AeroActive Cooler when planning to use the phone in overdrive for a long period.

So, obviously, the Snapdragon Gen 3 is newer and will outperform its predecessor, as evident in benchmark scores. In real life use? We find both of these phones to be excellent.

Performance Benchmarks:

It also helps that both have LPDDR5X RAM and UFS 4.0 storage, so it’s not all about the processors — the other internals are on equal footing, and the cutting edge of tech.

The ROG Phone 8 Pro comes with a very slightly different ROG UI skin — there’s a modest use of AI in the settings search. You no longer need to know the exact name of the item you are looking for, just describe what it does in the search bar and you should find it. Neat. It also has a new control panel, a-la iOS, and a “play YouTube in background” toggle. At the time of writing this, these features have not trickled down to the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate. Unfortunately, Asus only promises 2 years of OS updates for these phones, and they are kind of slow to arrive.

Camera

A mainstream phone needs a mainstream camera

OK, so a big focus on the camera with the upgrade. We have 50 MP sensors on both main cameras, but the ROG 8 now has a Sony IMX890, versus the IMX766 in the ROG 7. That change in itself doesn’t mean much — both sensors are 1/1.56″ in size and have the same 1.0 μm pixels. But you may have noticed, the ROG Phone 8 has a more prominent camera hump — that’s because it has a gimbal system for optical stabilization inside.

OIS doesn’t only help for steady video — it’s also good for photos, as it holds the sensor steady and allows it to take in more light from the details without adding blur. Also, something that was very noticeable throughout the test shoot — the ROG Phone 7 has a very, very noticeable shutter lag after taking a photo. The ROG 8 was very much improved in that area.

The ROG Phone 8 gets an actual zoom camera — a 3x telephoto lens. The ROG 7 has a macro camera there, so yeah… That’s less useful.

Main Camera – Day

Very similar performance from both phones, with good dynamics and a bold stroke of software sharpening — though, it doesn’t go to the realm of the absurd. The ROG Phone 8 Pro applies less noise reduction, so it manages to preserve finer details like the black dots over the bricks of the cathedral there.

Their colors are also pretty much identical — that is to say, quite realistic and down to earth. The reds are kept in check, the sky’s blue appears as it should. As I noted on the ROG Phone 7 review last year — it may be a gaming phone, but the camera is very much usable.

Main Camera – Low-light

Night samples, however… a swing and a miss. It is very evident that the ROG Phone 8 Pro tries to do something completely different, but the results aren’t better than before, just different. So, we have a massive amount of noise reduction, so night scenes become blurry paintings. Fair is fair, at least the dynamics and exposure are more night-like.

The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate shots look very boosted, very HDR-esque, very oversharpened, and the colors are all off.

Zoom Quality

OK, so the ROG Phone 8 Pro has a new 3x telephoto camera, and the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate only has digital zoom. We can’t say the improvement is massive, though. At 3x zoom, both images look very jagged from the aggressive sharpening. Sure, the ROG Phone 8 Pro shot looks a bit more realistic, as the ROG 7 has a lot of HDR artifacts with auras around branches and other objects.

At 5x, the ROG 7 Ultimate shot starts to look a little bit hazy, but not necesarrily bad — at least we are rid of the jagged edges around details. The ROG 8 Pro keeps it up with the sharpening, though, bolstered by the confidence of having a 3x telephoto lens as a startoff point.

The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate’s digital zoom taps out at 8x, and at this point you can see the image starting to get washed out, painting style. The ROG Phone 8 Pro held it together a bit better here, at 5x and 10x steps. It can go all the way up to 30x zoom so it has a higher max threshold. Here’s how that looks:

Ultimately, you won’t be getting breathtaking zoom shots from either of these phones, but for what it’s worth — the ROG Phone 8 Pro is a bit better in this regard, both in terms of representing detail and giving you more magnification.

Ultra-wide Camera

Ultra-wide camera performance is mostly the same during the daytime. Both suffer from extra sharpening and an overly aggressive HDR. They are not unusable, but they are not excellent — both are around the same quality.

At night, the ROG Phone 8 Pro’s ultra-wide camera does a bit better, with exposure and dynamics that you’d expect to see from a night shot, and better colors. The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate boosts the exposure, applies a heavy noise reduction, and washes out or saturates some colors.

Selfies

Both of these have a 32 MP front camera and it appears to be the same. Under sunlight, we get a good amount of details, well-balanced dynamics, a bit of sharpening but nothing too aggressive. Indoors, the noise reduction kicks in and starts erasing some finer facial features.

At night, they hold it together pretty well, but we can see how the noise reduction has made me about 10 years younger. Not going to complain there!

In seriousness, the selfie cameras are serviceable, but won’t be making super-detailed shots in more demanding scenarios, like other premium phones do.

Video Quality

Video Thumbnail

The gimbal in the ROG 8 Pro definitely makes a difference here. During the daytime, the ROG 7 Ultimate video is definitely shakier, its exposure is constantly shifting, even color calibration is slightly off. The ROG Phone 8 Pro produced a more stable video through and through. The difference is even more evident at night, with a lot of shakiness in the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate footage. There’s some jitter visible in the ROG Phone 8 Pro footage here, too, but it stabilizes much faster. Though, the night videos from both phones are quite noisy, with burned highlights, and generally not great.

Audio Quality and Haptics

The ROG Phone 8 Pro sacrificed its front-firing speakers on the altar of the mainstream appearance — a thin bezel all around means less room for those meaty drivers. And you can tell. Now, to be clear, the ROG Phone 8 Pro still sounds punchy and has a nicely thick bottom end to separate it from the pack of premium phones.

But, as soon as you compare it to the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate, your jaw drops. The predecessor sounds much better with deeper lows, more detailed mids, chimier highs. And that’s before attaching the AeroActive Cooler 7 to it for an extra bass boost!

Yeah, unfortunately, removing those bezels came with a price.

The good news is that haptics are on point on both phones. Very prominent, sharp, quick, and responsive vibrations let you know exactly when you press a virtual key, swipe back, or do anything else across the ROG UI interface.

Battery Life and Charging

Huge powerbanks

The ROG Phones have always had massive batteries — the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is the peak, with a 6,000 mAh cell. Then came the slightly smaller ROG Phone 8 Pro, with a 5,500 mAh battery. That’s a slight downgrade, but we are happy to report that it didn’t affect our day-to-day experience with the phone.

In fact, as you can see from our tests, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 seems to be more efficient for regular tasks, and it is only in 3D Gaming where the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate actually lasts longer than the ROG 8 Pro:

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:

As for charging, nothing has changed — we get a 65 W brick in the box, which can top up the ROG Phones quite fast. These two charge in identical timeframes:

PhoneArena Charging Test Results:

The ROG Phone 8 is the first ROG Phone to have wireless charging. Now, it’s not an immensely fast wireless charging, mind you, but it’s there.

PhoneArena Wireless Charging Test Results:

Specs Comparison

The ROG Phones are always loaded with cutting-edge tech and the newest specs available. There hasn’t been a major development in the industy recently, so the ROG Phone 8 Pro vs ROG Phone 7 Ultimate specs are very, very similar. Here are the highlights:

Yeah, those storage and RAM options do look weird. The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is quick to jump to 512 GB for a modest $1,100. The ROG Phone 8 Pro, on the other hand, sticks to 256 GB storage, until you cough up $1,500 for the fully upgraded variant. These storage options seem to be subject to change based on region, so be sure to check in with your localized Asus website.

Summary and Final Verdict

So, which of these is better and was the road taken by the ROG Phone 8 for the better? It could be… I noted in a full opinion piece how the form factor itself was enough to finally get me to use a ROG Phone as a main device. But then… after writing that, I came back and picked up the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate for another spin. It is still very, very good and — for media consumption — superior, thanks to those speakers and the subwoofer in the AeroActive Cooler.

Which of these is better will be entirely up to personal preference. We’ve seen users praise the ROG Phone 8 for finally having full IP68 rating for water-resistance. We’ve seen users praise its slimmer bezels and more friendly overall shape, size, and weight. But also, we’ve seen dedicated gamers lament the new features, which they see as “downgrades” — the speakers, the punch-hole selfie camera in the display, the slightly lower battery capacity (though, we saw in our tests that’s not an issue), and the ergonomics when holding the device horizontally for gaming.

If you are an avid mobile gamer and want to use your phone like a portable console, we’d say give the ROG Phone 7 a spin. If you see yourself more as a casual user, that would like a more compact and balanced device, but you still want that phone with ultra-fast response times and a couple of gaming triggers that can make FPS games more enjoyable on a phone, the ROG Phone 8 should be more up your alley.



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