ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate review: Ultimate gaming at a high price
- Battery Score
- Camera Score
- Design Score
- Performance Score
- Battery Score 4
- Gorgeous 165Hz-capable display
- Insanely powerful
- Great battery life for such a big phone
- It costs a lot. Like, a lot of a lot. And then some more
- Cameras are ordinary for such a pricey phone
- Poor water resistance for a flagship phone
|Launch price (RRP)||$2,099|
According to ASUS's rather overblown marketing prose, the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate is "your high-tech companion for your journey through space and time".
That's a big bold claim, and just to be accurate right off the bat, this isn't in fact a TARDIS.
However, rather like the Doctor's classic time travelling box, there's an awful lot of fun to be had here with ASUS's latest gaming-centric phone.
While it won't take me back to ancient Roman times, or even back to last Thursday so I can pay my phone bill on time, I can certainly spend a lot of enjoyable gaming time with this particular handset.
It's a supremely expensive investment, mind you.
I have not tested a better gaming phone, but if you're not in that very obsessed Android gaming space, it's a much harder sell.
Buy ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate products
Design: Not at all subtle about its gaming ambitions
There's a lot going on with the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate in design terms. A whole lot, more than you'll find on most phones even at its lofty $2,099 price point.
Let's start with the box. There's been a big trend in premium phones to go small, with minimal boxes containing little more than a handset and a cable.
This is not how ASUS has thought about the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate. It ships in a large irregular hexagon-shaped box – no, really – that slides open as though it was the mystery MacGuffin in a science fiction flick.
Work out the very slight mystery of opening it (relative to other smartphone boxes) and you get not only the phone but also a clip-on cooling fan (ASUS calls it the Aeroactive Cooler 6), a charging cable and a charger as well. You certainly get a lot in the box for your money and a lot of box.
The front of the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate features a 6.78-inch 165Hz-capable AMOLED display covered in Corning Gorilla Glass Victus.
It does have fairly noticeable bezels for a modern smartphone, although that does allow ASUS to hide away the front-facing selfie camera at the top of the display. It uses an in-display fingerprint reader, and those can be quite variable.
It may be down to the very high refresh rate and equally nippy 720Hz touch sampling rate, but I had no issues at all with fast and reliable unlocking throughout my review period.
Like prior ASUS ROG phones, it also uses tappable areas – ASUS refers to them as "Air Triggers" – on the sides of the phone.
The idea here is that they can act as buttons when you're playing a game in landscape mode, tapping the side of the phone like they were trigger buttons on a standard games controller. There's a learning curve here, but it does match up with the phone's stated gaming mission.
At 173x77x10.4mm and 247g, there's a lot of phone here, making it one of the trickier devices to use on a day-to-day basis. It doesn't really want to sit all that comfortably in a pants pocket thanks to its height alone, for a start.
Flip the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate over, and there's even more going on, from the deliberately angular camera bump at the top to the "ROG Vision" display at the rear that can show charging status, play an animation when you're starting a game or even animate an existing photo or design from the back of the phone.
Is this at all practical? No, not in any way at all, it's totally there to be a fun and eye-catching element. It's the phone equivalent of all the RGB lighting that adorns so much gaming gear.
Surprisingly for a phone with such a lot, you only get one colour choice, named "Space Grey". So original there, ASUS. It's highlighted with a lot of blue colour accent sections, including just one of the rear-camera lenses and the entire dual Nano SIM card tray. This is a phone that wants you to pay attention to it, no matter what.
To the side of the ROG Vision display sits a small black portal. It's a new feature for ASUS's ROG phones, though you might not realise it at first. Just above it sits a secondary USB-C port that's used with the included Aeroactive Cooler 6 clip-on fan.
ASUS has offered up cooling fans for its ROG phones before, but where the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate ups the ante is by using that small black port as a gateway to the phone's internal circuitry. Clip the Aeroactive Cooler 6 onto the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate and the back plate will slide open, allowing the cooling fan air to keep the phone more evenly cooled – which in gaming terms equals sustained power and hopefully battery efficiency too.
The Aeroactive Cooler 6 also isn't just a fan. It's got the requisite RGB lighting you were probably already missing, and it'll act as a stand for the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate as well.
Did I mention that there is a lot going on with the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate already? The Aeroactive Cooler 6 also adds 4 more trigger buttons on the rear of the casing if you favour actual physical feedback for your frantic in-game tapping.
Aside from the dent in your wallet that this entails, the other price you pay for the convertible nature of the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate is that it's not as finely tuned for water resistance as most phones in this price bracket.
Most of them tend to be IP68 rated for water ingress. The ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate can only measure up to IPX4 resistance, which means that it'll likely survive an inadvertent water splash or some rain, but not total immersion.
Camera: The weak link
ASUS's marketing spiel for the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate declares that the camera system on the phone is "AWESOME" – all in caps because there's rarely been a gaming product that didn't want to shout at you.
I'm going to beg to differ here. For the $2,099 asking price of the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate, you could have any other smartphone on the market you liked, including every flagship camera phone from the likes of Apple, Samsung, Google or Oppo to name just a few. Indeed, in many cases, you'd have a fair old chunk of change left over.
The ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate features a trio of rear lenses, but where its competitors typically opt for wide, ultra-wide and telephoto, ASUS has instead opted for a wide/ultra-wide/macro combination.
Specifically, you get a 50MP f/1.9 wide sensor, 13MP ultra-wide and 5MP macro. At the front, there's a 12MP selfie camera. It's notable if only because there's no notch, hole punch or even a dynamic island for it to sit in, as is the prevailing trend for phones these days. Instead, it sits in the top bezel entirely.
The issues I had with the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate were very similar to those I had with the ASUS Zenfone 9.
That's not entirely surprising when you consider that its primary lens is the exact same Sony module as the much cheaper phone ships with.
It's not that the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate has bad camera performance; it's simply that it's sometimes a touch inconsistent in terms of shooting speed and focus, and it's definitely a step below the very best in this class.
The jump in quality between the wide and ultra-wide lenses is notable, and even more so with the macro lens, which takes a lot of careful work to get behaving properly.
The ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate also has the same problem that I find with larger phones such as the Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max. Because at its size, it's a chunky critter to actually frame and shoot with compared to any smaller phone.
I think it's fair to say that the gaming-centric target market for the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate probably won't be quite as photo obsessed as they are gaming obsessed. Still, it is one of the most expensive phones you can buy outright at the moment, and its camera prowess can't help but feel ordinary next to the heavy hitters in this space right now.
ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate Sample Photos
Performance: Dimensity 9000+ delivers the gaming goods (and then some)
Typically when you're building out a premium Android smartphone, the recipe is incredibly reliable and repeatable.
Grab a whole bunch of RAM as well as oodles of storage and drop it on top of whatever Qualcomm's current premium processor offering might happen to be that year. That's exactly what ASUS did with the slightly cheaper ASUS ROG Phone 6.
But not for the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate. The D after the number there stands for "Dimensity", the name the Qualcomm rival MediaTek gives to its premium processors.
The ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate features a MediaTek Dimensity 9000+ processor, 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. There's no capacity for storage expansion via microSD, but at 512GB, you'd have to be pretty demanding to need more anyway.
All of that makes for an interesting recipe that appears premium, but would the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate actually deliver the goods in terms of performance?
Like other ROG phones, it features an overclocked "X-Mode" for enhanced performance at the cost of some battery life.
Overclocking is very much par for the course in the gaming space that the ASUS ROG brand otherwise occupies. I hadn't yet tested any other Dimensity 9000+ phones, so I was keen to see how it would compare against other flagship phones.
The answer? It compares very nicely indeed.
Apple still rules the roost when it comes to straight-line CPU performance, but that gap between the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate and the iPhone 14 Pro Max is more slender than I've seen from other Android phones and their Apple equivalents for some time now.
You also can't get a 165Hz screen of this size on any Apple phone, either. Where that's more marked is against the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate's Android competition, where its multi-core performance really shines.
It's much the same story for 3D-graphics performance, where its Mali-G710 GPU brings the goods:
The ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate maxed out the standard Wild Life test, which means that for comparative purposes I've got a smaller bank of tested phones to compare it against.
Combine that fast refresh rate screen, the integrated controls on the Aero Cooler and the power of that GPU and you've got one heck of a gaming phone on your hands.
In software terms, the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate is running Android 12, and at the time of writing, it was up-to-date with Android security updates.
However, it's not clear how many Android updates in the future it may see and that's disappointing for such a premium-priced device. There's little doubt that the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate should have enough grunt to handle future Android OS upgrades, but will ASUS actually offer them?
Like its gaming laptops, the primary software inclusion added to the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate is ASUS's own Armory Crate app, used for optimisations and for launching your installed games library as well as customising features like the ROG Vision display.
This is a big, bold, noisy bit of software that's meant to hit you with its attitude and flashy style in exactly the same way that its gaming laptop cousins do. While it's nicely laid out, I did notice that it highlighted a lot of games that weren't actually available to install locally through Google Play, which was annoying.
Still, gaming is very much the point here, so I set to testing it across a range of Android titles, using both the Aero Cooler and associated Air Triggers for control as well as pairing to a distinct Bluetooth gamepad – in my case the Nacon RIG MG-X Pro.
That's right, I dropped a RIG onto the ROG, just because I could, although that was just using it as an external gamepad if I had the aero cooler installed, as it won't fit with such a big rig strapped to its back.
There's definitely a learning curve with using the Air Triggers, or indeed the button controls on the Aero Cooler for in-game action, and some titles will require tweaking to work properly with them – if they support customisation at all.
I had slightly fewer issues with the gamepad. ASUS has its own take on this, the Kunai 3 Gamepad, though I wasn't able to test that with the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate.
All this game testing was, and I won't lie, a lot of fun, and not that much like work at all.
There's certainly nothing that the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate can't handle in Android gaming terms, and if gaming is your passion and you don't want to sit within the slightly different iOS world of gaming, it's easily the best gaming phone I've tested to date.
Battery: 6,000mAh battery is big, but it's also needed
The ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate is a big phone, and that gives ASUS a lot of scope for battery inclusions, even with the interesting cooling arrangements in place on the phone. It certainly doesn't waste that space, packing in 6,000mAh of battery capacity.
That's been the story for many of ASUS's ROG phones in the past, beating out the industry average of 5,000mAh by a considerable chunk.
Having a big battery and having good battery life are two very different matters, however. That 6,000mAh of power has to feed the large screen, high-powered processor and, if you're using it with mobile data, the power needs of 5G as well.
To put that to the test, I first put the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate through Finder's standard battery test. Here's how it compared against other premium phone offerings:
Again, it's somewhat bested by the exceptional performance of the iPhone 14 Pro Max, but considering what else the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate brings to the phone space, that 96% battery score is still very impressive. Typically I look for over 90% in this test for phones that should last through a regular day, but every percentage point above 90% can equate to extra hours of usage.
That's not exactly the story for the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate, mind you. It absolutely can do a day's regular usage without going flat, but I did find that much beyond that wasn't likely to happen, for the most obvious of reasons.
The ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate is a gaming phone, and I spent more than the usual amount of time running games that are among the worst battery-sapping apps you can get on it.
At the end of each testing day, it did tend to end up on the lower end of the battery scale than I'd usually see out of phones that score at this level. You could get more battery endurance by not gaming on it, but where's the fun in that?
More to the point, nobody should buy a gaming phone for non-gaming purposes, and it can at least last out a day of moderate gaming and other usage.
Charging up the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate is via USB-C only. It's unusual for such an expensive smartphone not to include Qi-based wireless charging, though the flipside of this is that you get a 65W PD charger in the box with the phone.
Should you buy the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate?
- Buy it if you want the best gaming phone money can buy.
- Don't buy it if you want more out of a phone than gaming.
Gaming laptops are a very specific niche of the laptop market, built for those who are super passionate about portable gaming rigs with price points that would make the ordinary laptop user wince.
Gaming phones really aren't that much different.
There's a lot going on with the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate, and a whole lot to like if you're a gaming fanatic. Performance is absolutely top-notch, and the strong focus on gaming is carried through both its software and bundled hardware.
However, you do pay a big price for this, and that does present a problem.
At the ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate's asking price, you can have any other phone you'd care to name.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra? For sure.
Oppo Find X5 Pro? Easily.
Google Pixel 7 Pro? Definitely, and with plenty of change.
You could even score an iPhone 14 Pro Max – typically the high water mark for flagship phone pricing for less.
Those phones aren't as gaming-friendly, but they're not exactly hostile to the idea either – and they do throw in other premium goodies such as water resistance, wireless charging and markedly better cameras as well.
Pricing and availability
The ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate retails in Australia with pricing from $2,099.
Power, storage and battery
How we tested
The ASUS ROG Phone 6D Ultimate used in this review was loaned to me by ASUS Australia for the purposes of review.
It was run through our standard testing procedures including camera evaluation, benchmarking and battery tests. Also, I may have played a few games on it. OK, that's an understatement because I played a lot of games on this exceptional phone. It's what it's for, so that still counts as work… of a kind.
As a product reviewer, I have more than 20 years of experience covering the consumer tech space including virtually every smartphone released in that time frame. I'm a multi-time Australian IT Journo award winner, including winner of the 2022 Best Reviewer award.
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