Razer Phone 2 review: One for the fans
At first blush, a gaming smartphone might sound a like a luxury you can’t afford and aren’t really all that interested in being upsold on.
However, sizzling below the surface, the reality is that there are plenty of reasons that opting for something more-specialized might make more sense if you do play a lot of games. As with PC and console gaming, it’s a matter of having the best gear that offers the best experience.
And Razer’s second effort in the mobile space doesn’t shy away from that easy-to-pick-up argument. Across the board, it improves on its predecessor in strong form. All the same, if you’re still a skeptic for gaming phones, this probably won’t win you over.
More than anything else, the Razer Phone 2 is a product that preaches to the converted.
Specs - Razer Phone 2
Display size: 5.72-inches
Display type: IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen
Processor: Snapdragon 845
Operating System: Android 8.1
Fingerprint Sensor: Yes, side-mounted
MicroSD slot: Yes
Ports: USB Type-C
Connectivity: Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 5, NFC,
Rear Camera: 12-megapixels (f/1.8 ) with dual pixel PDAF and OIS + 12-megapixel (f/2.6) with 2x optical zoom
Front-Facing Camera: 8-megapixels (f/2.0)
Dimensions: 158.5 mm x 79 mm x 8.5 mm
Availability: JB Hi-Fi, Optus
Design - Looks, Feel and Features
The short version here is that, when it comes to form-factor and aesthetics, the Razer Phone 2 is more a revision than a reinvention of what the company thinks a gaming smartphone ought to look like.
Razer’s second smartphone retains the same blocky, squared design of its predecessor. This time around, however, the back of the device is made out of glass - meaning it supports wireless charging.
That change in material aside, there’s a lot of specs being recycled here. The screen is still 5.7-inches in size, it still relies on an LCD panel and it still boasts the same higher, crisper 120Hz refresh-rate found in the original phone.
Even if the Razer Phone 2 doesn’t look that different from the first Razer Phone, it does still look pretty different to most other 2018 flagships. Where LG, Samsung, Google and others have opted for svelte curves, Razer have gone for pointy angles.
As for the new, Razer’s second-gen smartphone also features IP68 water resistance and a Chroma-lit Razer logo on the back. The screen on the Razer Phone 2 is also little bit brighter and it does come flanked by a reworked pair of front-firing Dolby Atmos speakers - which sound genuinely great in action. Combined with the glass back and support for wireless charging, the sum total of these additions serves to put the Razer Phone 2 much closer to what other smartphone brands playing in that same space offer.
And yet, I can’t really say that I was all that won over by design choices here. Yes, the raw “biggerness” and 144Hz refresh rate of the screen do make it good for watching video content and playing games and, again, the dual front-firing Dolby speakers do sound quite good. However, those feats noted, the trade-off of having a bulkier device which required two hands to use and large pockets to carry didn’t really seem worth it to me - especially you’ll probably mostly be listening to audio via a set of headphones.
Camera - How Does The Razer Phone 2 Compare To The Competition?
As with its predecessor, smartphone photography continues to be the biggest shortcoming of the Razer Phone 2. It’s definitely a step above what’s come before, mind you - but not by such a degree that it can even really be said to be in competition with the other options in the price-bracket.
Both the original and revamped Razer Phone feature 12MP wide-angle lens with f/1.75 aperture paired up with a 12MP telephoto lens with f/2.6 aperture. However, only the new Razer Phone 2 features an updated Sony sensor and optical image stabilization - which does make a much better smartphone photography experience in comparison to its predecessor but not much else.
Images don’t look bad, but the color balance and detail didn’t really dazzle us. What’s more, the camera app itself was often quite slow and clunky to use.
Again, the long story short here is that Razer have managed to top their own personal high score but barely registered compared to the reigning champs of smartphone photography like the Galaxy Note 9, Mate 20 Pro and Pixel 3 XL.
Performance - Software, Benchmarks and Battery Life
Where other brands traffick in their own Android skins, Razer have opted to preload the Razer Phone 2 with Nova Launcher. If you’re the kind of Android user who digs close-to-stock skins, you’ll probably like what’s on offer here - although the fact that the device doesn’t run Android 9 Pie out of the box is a bit of a shame.
And to Razer’s credit, the 120Hz display on the Razer Phone 2 makes navigating Android feel just that little bit snappier. The effect is difficult to describe or capture but it’s definitely noticeable. I long for a future where this tech can be found elsewhere and in other smartphone brands.
When it came to benchmarks,the Razer Phone’s hefty 8GB of RAM and Snapdragon 845 processor lived up to their potential - even if the final results failed to really blow away the competition.
Apart from SlingShot Extreme, the most gaming-focused benchmark we run as part of our testing process, there proved few areas where the Razer Phone’s performance offered an edge - and even there, the edge is so marginal that it’s difficult to reconcile the added expense, even as a person who plays a lot of games. When it came to compute, it was easily dwarfed by Apple’s iPhone XS. Meanwhile, elsewhere, other devices like Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro, Pixel 3XL and Oppo’s Find X trumped it.
As for battery life,I we’d make it through the usual 9-5 work day pretty consistently but did need to make the time for a top up if we planned on doing anything afterwards. We’re talking nine or ten hours of use here, though - as always - your mileage may vary (especially if you watch or film a lot of video content). I could make it through a long day - but never quite to a second. At least, not without cheating a little.
The Razer Phone 2 features both support for Qualcomm fast-charging via USB Type-C and Qi wireless charging.
The Bottom Line
If you’re the kind of person who digs Razer’s gaming gear, there’s a good change you’ll probably find something to like about it’s new smartphone. It scratches a lot of the same itches. However, if you’re a more everyday smartphone buyer looking for value, there’s more to be found elsewhere, and if you’re looking for the device that makes the idea of a gaming phone make sense, that too can be found elsewhere.
The Razer Phone 2 feels like a phone for Razer diehards with cash to burn, and that might be a game everyone is interested in playing.
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