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Razer Phone 2 – With great power comes great responsibility!
Written by: Darren Zygadlo | Twitter: @darrenzygadlo
The Razer Phone 2 is an interesting offering in the mobile space, marketed as a phone built for gamers by gamers, it features some bleeding edge technology coupled with powerful performance and above average battery life but unfortunately for every other consumer – they just won’t care about this handset from a company that is known for computing innovation.
This is the second offering from the leading lifestyle brand for Gamers – Razer, the company has designed and built the world’s largest gamer-focused ecosystem of hardware, software and services around the world but their foray into the mobile space is just a few years old. After acquiring the team behind the Nextbit Robin, a crowd funded phone that had moderate success, they set out to dominate some choppy uncharted waters with their own Razer Phone. The second-generation device follows the same design cues as last with a bold monolithic rectangular design flanked with two large front facing speaker grills, a Gorilla glass 5 back for the newly included wireless charging and it is now IP67 dust and water certified. Internally, we get the 2018 Snapdragon 845, a whopping 8GB’s of RAM, a measly 64GB of storage with microSD expansion, dual rear cameras, a large battery and a 120Hz IGZO display.
Admittedly, these all sound great and powerful on paper, but we like to highlight what it’s like to use in the “real world” instead of reviewers who touch the device once or twice and formulate an opinion. So, let’s start with the feel in hand, it is good but not great. The device is big and feels big and we are not talking about a bezel-less design here, it is large enough to struggle to fit into a pocket and it is also noticeably heavy with an awkward side positioned fingerprint reader which only activates with a push of the power button which just seems old hat in 2019.
The screen, however, is something of perfection, it is brighter and more vibrant than the first generation and again we have that beautiful QHD resolution paired with a 120Hz refresh rate which makes for beautifully smooth transitions around the ecosystem and latency free game and video play. It is also HDR certified for Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and YouTube or any other service that offers it. We also like that Razer held firm with the 16:9 aspect ratio which is the most commonly used for HD video and gaming resolution. If you use your phone primarily for multimedia consumption, you are also going to be blown away by the amazing front facing speakers. These are, by far – the best and loudest speakers on any phone currently in the market and they also sound great thanks in part to Dolby’s own Atmos tuning which users can customize to their every desire. One thing we though was very innovative of Razer was a USB-C to 3.5mm jack adapter that features a 24-bit DAC to improve sound output over headphones, perfect for those that want richer sound and a more immersive gaming experience.
The battery, too, can last the distance with its 4000Mah capacity. While it does need to power that screen and feed that Snapdragon processor during intensive game or video playback, it did in fact last the entire day to a day and a half with ease. Your usage may vary, especially, if you use the gimmicky glowing razer logo on the back for things like notifications or just to show off. However, with the inclusion of wireless charging, even on the ridiculously overpriced Razer branded charger (added extra), you can power back up reasonably quickly.
Sadly though, Razer has yet again managed to drop the ball when it comes to the cameras. For a phone that costs nearly $1000 and something that most people would consider very important, it just doesn’t cut it. Yes, they included a dual sensor with a primary wide-angle camera and a 2x telephoto lens, both 12MP with the main camera featuring an f/1.75 aperture lens and the telephoto lens at an aperture of f/2.6 with Optical image stabilization included at last, but the results just aren’t impressive. Dynamic range is not great, lowlight performance is a grainy muddy mess and even the quality of the zoom left much to be desired. Sure, their bokeh mode works fine and the selfie camera is OK, but when compared to even the 2-year-old Pixel 2 XL, this is just not a great camera here.
Performance wise, running the show on the Razer Phone is a relatively clean version of Android Pie. By default, Nova Launcher Prime is installed, and we think that is a great idea. Navigating through the interface is fast and fluid and we never had any crashes or lag to speak of. There is also a lot of customization options in Nova that some may find overwhelming but nonetheless are nice to have such as – gesture shortcuts, icon packs and even home screen tweaking. Our only real gripe is the ugly green and black standard icons, which is homage to the brand, but just stand out like a sore thumb, a more stock option here would have worked better. One software inclusion from Razer that we would like to see other manufacturers adopt is their Game booster mode which changes the Razer Phone’s power management mode to prioritize Performance often clocking the processor as high as 2.8GHz, and firing up anti-aliasing for even better performance. Lastly, there is Razer’s own theme store and Chroma app to control the logo coloring on the back, both work well and we have no gripes here.
To conclude, how does it function as an intended gaming phone? In one word – Brilliantly! We played hours of games over the past few weeks and the phone simply never missed a beat. It also stayed cold as a cucumber and did not overheat or downclock the processor to deal with heat dissipation. This is likely thanks in part to vapor-chamber cooling system that allows heat to spread throughout the phone via the vapor chamber. The 120hz refresh rate coupled with excellent RAM and the reliable Qualcomm processor simply is a winning combination in this type of device.
The Razer Phone 2 is a positive step forward for the company and even with a few missteps here or there it is still a unique option for those that don’t want to buy Apple or Samsung. However, given the price, a boxy design and an unforgivable camera this is not the phone for your everyday consumer, it is a powerful gaming device first and a communication tool second and if you are ok with that then absolutely buy it. However, there are some improvements that need to be made before we can wholly recommend this to everyone.
*At the time of writing this, you can now get the phone for $400 off which makes this a more enticing and affordable option. Get yours at https://www.razer.com/ca-en/mobile