The Indian smartphone market has become home to surprisingly low-priced smartphones in recent years. Manufacturers that have effectively been able to bring down their pricing have encroached upon the comfortable sales that the legacy brands would get.
OnePlus can perhaps be called the poster child of this movement, successfully being able to win over customers who were in the market for a flagship phone. No wonder it was able to achieve the top spot in the Indian market in just five years, by being a worthy player in the premium segment.
Quite naturally, its rampant growth caught competitor’s eye, who slowly started inching towards OnePlus, both in terms of the hardware offerings and the pricing. The ASUS ROG Phone 2 (technically, the ‘ASUS ROG Phone II’) was the most recent player to enter the arena by bringing a high-end gaming-centric flagship experience to the same price segment as the OnePlus 7T. On paper, the ROG Phone 2 is the one to bring more brawn to the table, but real-life comparisons revealed a different picture.
A little bit of a history lesson which is going to tie into the final verdict: ASUS’ flagships hadn’t been selling all that well. ROG Phone was the first gaming-centric smartphone from the company. It was a power-packed beast with a big battery and great audio, with several gaming features on top. However, it failed as an overall smartphone owing to a sub-par display, poor photography experience, and a very complicated software skin. The ROG Phone 2 is just the second iteration in the lineage but seems to fix these issues while adding a lot more to the mix while drastically bringing the price down somehow.
Price in India
Let’s form the basis of this entire comparison— the price. The base variants of both these phones are priced at the same Rs 37,999. The OnePlus 7T offers 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for that price, with the 256GB variant being priced at Rs 39,999.
The base variant of the ROG Phone 2 has the same amount of RAM and storage, while the top variant with 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage is priced at a whopping Rs 59,999. It needs to be noted that the base variant comes with an 18W fast charger in the box and no additional gaming peripherals, which constitute a significant part of the ROG experience. More on that later.
Smartphone designs are usually a pretty subjective aspect, but there are certain generally expected elements, especially in this premium segment such as a choice of materials, ergonomics, weight distribution, and even the overall size. Interestingly, both these devices follow polar opposite ideologies for their designs, reminding us about how they are targeted to very different sets of users.
The OnePlus 7T continues the company’s design philosophy by opting for a premium frosted glass finish on the back that is slightly curved and feels just right in hand. It retains the width of the 7 but ships with an even taller display, adding to the big screen experience. It’s a pretty minimal design, with the back devoid of any interruptions and all the cameras now residing in a circular housing. OnePlus says that it adds symmetry, but I wouldn’t entirely agree with that as the cameras are still in a straight line. It’s more likely to have the 7T stand out from its siblings, to give the consumers that exclusive feeling. Regardless, it’s one of the cleanest designs on any smartphone around.
The ASUS ROG Phone 2, on the other hand, has an entirely different outlook for smartphone design; one that will definitely grab a few eyes when pulled out in public. While the back is still covered by Gorilla Glass 6, it is reminiscent of a motherboard circuitry with contrasting lines that run along the edges. There’s an unmissable perforated copper accent towards the right which is a vent for air circulation. If that wasn’t enough to make the ROG Phone stand out, there’s the iconic ROG “mask” logo in the center that also lights up!
The front is not chic or dainty either, with a big display, flanked by a thick chin and forehead which house big speaker grills. The ROG Phone 2 has a second USB Type-C port on the left side which is used to connect accessories while gaming in landscape orientation, and a headphone jack as well.
However, all these extra ports and vents render the ASUS ROG Phone 2 non-water-resistant as even a small drop of water can make its way to the phone’s internals. The OnePlus 7T, on the other hand, is IP67-equivalent water-resistant and can survive splashes and dips with ease.
For this round, my pick would be the OnePlus 7T. I really like the flashy design of the ROG Phone 2, which would often be a conversation starter and is sure to make you feel unique, but the lack of water-resistance is not something I can risk, considering the weather in cities like Mumbai. Moreover, the weight of 240g is definitely noticeable and will tire your wrists during extended use, and feel out of place in your pocket, almost uncomfortably.
It’s pretty much like the running gaming laptop jokes, about how you shouldn’t carry one to a meeting or college. It’s refreshing to look at, but might not be suited for all environments, so consider your use scenario.
Smartphone displays have come a long way in the last half-decade. AMOLED panels are not exclusive to high-end flagships now. However, all displays are not made equally, and the flagships do bring a lot more to the table with their displays. Both of our contenders are at the forefront of the recent refresh-rate revolution, thankfully not participating in the resolution wars.
The spec sheet may make you think that these displays are going to look very similar, except for the higher 120Hz refresh rate on the ROG Phone 2. But there are some more game-changing differences that I was able to observe.
For the first time on a smartphone, we have a 120Hz AMOLED panel, on the ROG Phone 2. It is big 6.59-inch with a resolution of 2340 x 1080 (19.5:9 aspect ratio) with HDR10 capabilities.
Similarly, the OnePlus 7T boasts of a 6.55-inch Fluid AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate. The resolution is set at 2400 x 1080, resulting in a 20:9 aspect ratio. The display supports HDR10+.
When I held the OnePlus 7T for the first time, I was immediately impressed by the panel’s shape. An extra tall 20:9 display makes handling very convenient as the width doesn’t increase by much, but the added height continues to give you big viewing experience. Add the fact that the bezels on three sides are pretty slim, and the notch is one of the smallest on any phone, just make the experience that much more immersive.
I genuinely feel that taller aspect ratios are the way to go for Android smartphones. One, it just improves the viewing experience by giving you more vertical real estate while scrolling or reading, and a bigger field-of-view while gaming. Secondly, the display inherently becomes less wide, helping in one-handed operations, especially with all the navigation buttons and gestures making use of the bottom edge only.
The ROG Phone is already pretty tall and owing to its aspect ratio; it’s extremely wide and unwieldy as well. But the overall bigger display footprint does add to the gaming experience too, giving you ample space for viewing without the fingers obstructing the display.
High refresh-rate AMOLED displays are complicated to craft and were one of the main reasons for the slow adoption of this tech. The OnePlus 7 Pro was the first device actually to nail colour accuracy while crossing the 60Hz threshold. Unfortunately, the ASUS ROG Phone falls short in this regard, with a display that has a perceivable green tint and inaccurate contrast levels. It’s not very extreme and can be lived with. But when the phones are held side-by-side, the difference becomes evident. Ignore this bit if color accuracy is not a priority.
Fun fact: The OnePlus 7T has a peak brightness of 1,000 nits, which is higher than even 7 Pro. The ROG Phone 2 is no slouch either, but for the sake of this comparison, the 7T gets visibly brighter.
One of the most common questions I received was how noticeable the difference between 90Hz and 120Hz is? For starters, both are visibly smoother than regular 60Hz, and even an untrained eye should be able to spot this. Isolated testing results were inconclusive but using them alongside each other did highlight the ROG Phone’s pedigree in this field. Lesser motion blur was perceived, and content was legible even while scrolling vigorously.
I reckon this smoother feeling also has a correlation with the ASUS ROG Phone 2’s massively higher-touch sampling rate, coming in at 240Hz. It is basically how many times the touchscreen is tracking any input, making it all a lot more responsive. This feeling might be further augmented by the longer animation duration on the OnePlus 7T.
For me, the max brightness, more accurate and vivid color output, and the taller aspect ratio are more valuable than a marginally faster refresh rate. But it’s still commendable how ASUS was the first one to bring such a high-end display to the market.
There’s also not a lot of content to make use of panels with a refresh rate of over 60Hz, and most games aren’t coded to cross 60fps anyway. But the differences are existent throughout the UI; be it scrolling through the home screens, reading, social media, etc. Can’t wait for the time when more games will support this.