Sorting through the ASUS ROG Phone’s suite of accessories
ASUS’ ROG Phone has made a sizeable dent in the gaming phone landscape with not only its design and specifications, but also with a luggage full of purpose-made accessories. For an additional S$1,000 or more, you can get five physical adds-ons meant to take your mobile gaming to the next level — and that’s not including the phone’s four-figure price tag.
We have controllers; we have docks; we even have a second display to turn this thing into a pseudo Nintendo 3DS. Should you get them all in one fell swoop or just pick the accessory that’ll benefit you the most? We leave that to your judgement but, to help, here’s a look at each of the different items, their strengths and weaknesses, and what we think about them.
TwinView Dock ($399)
What it is
We’re starting with the most novel option of the lot: the TwinView Dock. This hefty accessory is home to the same 6-inch AMOLED display used on the ROG Phone. It’s seated within a clam-shell dock with shaped controller grips, a pair of trigger buttons, and four front-facing speakers. Hidden from sight are motors for force-feedback, a 6,000 mAH battery to power the display and charge the phone, plus its own cooling system.
The phone slots in from the extendable top-half and connects to the TwinView via the proprietary side port, which means you can’t use this with other phones. Games are displayed on the bottom screen so you’re free to snap different apps to the top. Everything is locked in landscape, however, so forget playing games such as Downwell, Underhand, or Pokemon Go on this thing.
What it’s like
Other than the plastic bits and bobs on the top-half coming across as fragile, the whole thing feels much more comfortable to hold when gaming for hours at a time. The grips made the gyro-controls for Asphalt 9 not feel like a madman’s endeavour, and the physical triggers improved aiming and shot control in PUBG Mobile so much it almost felt like cheating.
Oh, that second screen? Good question. I had it run Game Center once, Discord another time, and a website listing drop tables in yet another. It’s gorgeous in very much the same way that ROG Phone’s display is, but until a game comes along to take advantage of that second screen then this very much feels like a nice-to-have toy rather than a must-buy accessory.
Who it’s for
ASUS says that the TwinView’s target audience are streamers, as the top screen lets them keep an eye on the stream or the chat. Compared to a studio set-up with a camera over the shoulder, this definitely scores marks for convenience.
Yet it fails to recognize the fact that most content creators use PC emulators instead, and they’ll continue to do so from the sheer power, flexibility, and efficiency that desktop systems provide. PCs may be a luxury in developing markets but nobody is going to pay nearly $2,000 when budget-priced rivals such as Xiaomi’s Pocophone F1 exist. On-site streaming for location-based games, such as Niantic’s Ingress Prime, are also out of the picture since those are designed for one-handed, portrait-oriented play.
The TwinView Dock is ahead of its time, at least in the mobile gaming ecosystem. It’s nice for what it is and does its role well, but without the software to push it this very much feels like a forced sell — in gaming and tech, that’s an all-too-familiar death knell.
For gamers who’d like to multi-task while grinding out their dailies on the commute, or those who need constant reference material, the TwinView does make for a great add-on. Aside from that, you may want to carefully consider how you’d put this second display to use. I’d tell ASUS to look at getting some 3DS games ported for the phone but, let’s face it, that’s a pipe dream at best.
What it is
If it sounds familiar then that’s because it is: Gamevice is a company that makes portable, detachable controllers for leading smartphones. The ROG Phone version doesn’t stray from their default template, which itself should be familiar to most gamers. There’s a digital four-way D-pad, the usual A-B-X-Y face buttons, two clickable analog sticks, and two sets of trigger and bumper buttons.
The most important feature of the Gamevice is that it connects through USB-C, not Bluetooth, for latency-free gaming. The two halves are connected by a fold-out rubber section that stretches to fit the phone, allowing it to get nice and compact when not in use. It might seem a bit tight but the snug sizing ensures the phone stays secure throughout frantic sessions.
What it’s like
As painless as Bluetooth controllers are, there’s just no getting away from the latency they might introduce. The Gamevice removes that possibility from the table entirely, and while the flat design may not be the most ergonomic, the mere presence of physical, hardwired buttons more than makes up for it. Should a game not recognize the Gamevice, you can easily configure the various triggers and buttons to the on-screen controls with a visual editor.
The connective membrane does seem like it’ll be the first to go but there was nothing to suggest poor materials or construction, so long as you don’t shove the controller in pockets or bags without some form of protection. Unfortunately, the D-pad isn’t too great for anything other than navigating menus or activating shortcuts. On the bright side, those analog sticks and face buttons are all smooth and tactile with zero play in them.
Who it’s for
If your games calls for more active participation (read: racers, shooters, PVP action) then the Gamevice will be a great addition to your new ROG Phone. The benefits of physical buttons cannot be understated when you require fine or precise controls, and it’ll be a while longer before touchscreens can fully get there. If you’re already hooked to using a controller for your mobile games then the Gamevice might be a worthy side- or upgrade. Besides, with its small footprint you’d be more inclined to toss it in the bag with you.
ASUS also presents the controller as part of a home streaming package, where the Gamevice and WiGig Display Dock can be used to bridge the console gap, as it were. It works just as great in this setup since the physical connection won’t add or fall victim to any wireless interference.
Partnering with an existing company was a good move, and opting for one that offered a hardwired solution was smart. It’s a sure sign that ASUS are serious about mobile gaming, and the Gamevice makes for a safe and reliable purchase that’ll see use throughout multiple titles and genres.
There are supposed to be game profiles you can automatically download and apply but I didn’t run across any so far. You’ll need to be a little patient with the initial set-up if that’s the case, but the drag-and-drop visual editor is so simple to use that it won’t cause any frustration. In short: highly recommended.
WiGig Display Dock ($339)
What it is
It’s a tad misleading but the ROG Phone won’t be docking to the WiGig. Rather, this 100mm tall accessory is meant to wirelessly cast the phone’s display to a connected big screen. What is telling about the name is that it uses wireless gigabit, specifically QualComm’s 802.11ad technology, to maintain smooth, low-latency gameplay compared to conventional methods.
The entire setup is as straightforward as it gets. Connect to a power socket, connect to a TV through HDMI, and then tap on the WiGig icon on the phone’s quick settings drawer (where you swipe down from the top). Like any casting solution you’ll see the phone’s display mirrored on the TV.
What it’s like
The big sell is in WiGig technology itself, and here ASUS states that you’ll see latency under 20ms with data transfer speeds of up to 4.6Gbps. Chromecast and Miracast weren’t ideal for certain games running off the phone, but the Dock directly addresses those severe lag issues. Games such as Asphalt 9, PUBG Mobile, and Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition were surprisingly viable, even as the action picked up on-screen.
I didn’t run into any latency spikes or sudden disconnects in the office but that may change in more wirelessly congested areas — say, a HDB apartment in the evening. Using it together with the Gamevice made for a cool experience, and there was little to no apparent delays between my button inputs and action on-screen. You will, however, need to find a spare wall socket in an already crowded living room.
Who it’s for
If you frequently mirror your display onto the TV then picking up the WiGig Display Dock almost feels mandatory — if you’re going to buy a top-end gaming phone then it only makes sense for gaming to be on the list of screen-casted entertainment options. Right?
Yet what kind of games is this good for? Titles that have backseat co-op value, such as puzzle series The Room, make a great choice since everyone can have a good look at the important clues and pieces. The same goes for hotseat multiplayer stuff, while competitive multiplayer games such as PUBG Mobile and Vainglory stand to benefit from the extra screen space. Yet the major money-makers like Fate: Grand Order or Clash Royale, let alone something like Pokemon Go, aren’t going to see significant improvements to the gameplay experience simply due to their design.
Is bigger always better when it comes to gaming? The industry has always lusted after a gamer’s living room space, but this is a question you’ll need to seriously consider before dropping $339 on a souped-up streaming device — that’s almost as much as a traditional gaming console. Yes, the WiGig Display Dock is a high-specced item that demands such a price, but it’s very much a niche. Even then, this is limited to phones that support the 802.11ad specification in the first place.
The technology is here, and the potential is there, but unless we see more mobile games that call for the big screen, cinematic treatment, then this little accessory is going to have to sit in the nice-to-have category.
Mobile Desktop Dock ($199)
What it is
There’s no confusion here: hook this Deskop Dock to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, and you’re basically one step away from using the ROG Phone like a PC. There’s applicable use in productivity work just like the Samsung DeX, of course, but ASUS calls the line “Republic of Gamers” for a reason.
The accessory’s rear has ports for HDMI and DisplayPort, Gigabit LAN, a microphone, and a combo-jack for headphones or S/PDIF audio. They’re joined by a group of four USB 3.1 Type-A ports to connect all necessary peripherals. On its left are PC input in the form of DisplayPort 1.2 and USB Micro-B, as well as a SD card slot.
What it’s like
They’ve left no stone unturned when it comes to giving ROG Phone users an expanded gaming experience. We’ve got access to 4K video, 5.1 channel surround sound (when connected to a PC, and near-seamless support for mouse and keyboard. The last two are mapped through the Game Genie app, in the same easy-to-use fashion as the Gamevice controller.
If playing PUBG Mobile (or partnered battle royale game Free Fire – Battlegrounds) on the Gamevice felt like cheating then this takes an even bigger bite of the proverbial cake. Just don’t expect a 100% accurate translation to mouse-and-keyboard, as the keys are still mapped to touch controls. Even so, you can imagine how much easier it is to aim and shoot. Other games that make a great fit for the Mobile Desktop Dock include Lineage II Revolution, Cat Quest, World of Tanks Blitz, and Vainglory.
Who it’s for
It feels sketchy suggesting this for competitive gamers but, fact of the matter is, that’s where the inclusion of mouse and keyboard really comes through — so long as you don’t plan on competing professionally. Otherwise, games that benefit from a bigger presentation works well here, too. XCOM: Enemy Within, Shadowverse, and other tactics games, for instance, would easily look and feel better on a monitor.
Of course, games aren’t the only thing the Mobile Desktop Dock could be used for. The usual productivity refrain applies, as anyone who’s had to type plenty of emails or documents would happily prefer a physical keyboard over a touchscreen. You could say the same for movies and TV shows too, for as good-looking as the ROG Phone’s display is, you sometimes just want to lean back and soak in all of the visuals on something larger than a phone.
All things considered, the Mobile Desktop Dock makes for a convincing proposition should you play loads of competitive mobile games at home. It seems moot if you already own a gaming rig — why not just play those same games on PC, instead? — but for those that don’t, this seems like a great stopgap measure. It’s plug-and-play, didn’t run into any issues, and is fairly inexpensive.
Those same few points give this accessory a leg-up over the WiGig Display Dock, as it’s simply far more versatile in gaming and general use than the home streaming device would be. Unfortunately, that also saddles it with a similar teething problem: that there just may not be enough games to justify the purchase, unless you really love playing the same few competitive games again and again.
Professional Dock ($139)
What it is
By professional, what ASUS really means is “working professional” — folks who need to get some work settled while travelling, without the bulk and wires of the Mobile Desktop Dock. Shedding the extra size and connectivity, what you get is a 100 x 60 mm dongle (small enough to sit on your palm) that’s enough for a monitor and peripherals. That is, all we get is the HDMI port and two USB 3.0 ports, plus an extra USB-C for charging.
What it’s like
To get it out of the way, using this to get work done is fine and dandy. Even without a monitor, you could connect the Professional Dock to a TV and still take advantage of the keyboard and mouse support. It’s no replacement for an ultraportable notebook for business travellers, but it does seem promising as a backup.
It works fine with the same few games I tested the Mobile Desktop Dock with, but the lack of additional USB ports feels limiting.
Who it’s for
Yup, working professionals through and through. The sort who’d want to get some gaming time in together with their work, and also require a mouse and keyboard to tackle both.
Unless you need something small and portable, there’s little reason to get the Professional Dock instead of the more fully-featured Mobile Desktop Dock. There’s not too much of a price gap but the additional connectivity means plenty of room for expansion — connect a pair of speakers, plug in a USB headset, and so on.
There is the possibility of someone getting both docks, of course, in which case the Professional Dock’s portability does have greater value; it’ll be assumed that connecting a mouse and keyboard to the ROG Phone would be a well-worn habit for said user, so they’d certainly miss not having that functionality around. Other than that specific scenario, I’m hard-pressed over why someone would want this. For the money, I’d rather get the Gamevice.
Summing it up
While there are plenty to go with the ROG Phone, not every accessory is going to see the same amounts of use. Of the five, it seems that the Gamevice controller and Mobile Desktop Dock are the more useful complements to the brand spanking new phone, with the TwinView Dock trailing behind out of sheer novelty factor. While the WiGiG Display Dock does sport cool tech, it feels a touch more limiting and niche to climb any higher on our ladder. Down on the bottom rung is the Professional Dock, which comes across as a repurposed PC connectivity dock rather than anything game-specific.
What’ll be interesting is to see whether ASUS pursues any new partnerships to further their software support, now that they already have this stunning gaming phone and its suite of add-ons. They may have fallen a bit too far ahead of the curve, so it’s time to see whether the mobile games themselves wish to push the limits forward.