Razer Phone 2 review: gaming power makes for an awkward selling point

//Razer Phone 2 review: gaming power makes for an awkward selling point

Razer Phone 2 review: gaming power makes for an awkward selling point

Razer is pushing the phone as the ultimate in gaming performance as well as a flagship-level smartphone for daily use, but unfortunately I found the focus on games and media made for a sub-par experience in some basic phone tasks.

The screen is a 5.7-inch QHD LCD panel, boasting a 120Hz refresh rate you won’t find on other Android phones. This means the possibility of much higher framerates in your games (or those that are capable, and most big 3D games will not be), and you do get the benefit of a much smoother motion when browsing the internet or just moving around the phone too. But despite big improvements over the original Razer Phone the screen is still dim and muted compared to pretty much all flagships. It does look great in ideal lighting conditions, but outdoors not so much.

The speakers a big, but they pack a punch as well.

The speakers a big, but they pack a punch as well.

Meanwhile the pair of 12MP cameras — one wide and one telephoto — don’t produce great results. The picture-taking experience is key to the flagship smartphone and requires top notch hardware and software, and Razer just doesn’t have it. Pics in anything but ideal lighting are noisy and flat.

This could all be easily ignored if Razer offered a significant gaming benefit, but I think that’s arguable at best. I do believe that the Razer Phone 2 offers the best gaming performance of any phone, but mobile games are designed to run on anything. Gaming laptops are popular because there’s a huge difference between how a high-end game runs on high-end hardware compared to a PC built just for word processing, but the optimisation the Razer Phone 2 offers gives you only a very slight increase in quality.

In Fortnite, the combination of heaps of RAM and the 120Hz screen made for a game that looked and ran nicer than on my Pixel 3 XL, and the stereo separation provided by Razer’s big speakers made for a superior audio experience as well. I also played some ARK: Survival Evolved, but it had no chance of making it to a framerate high enough to really show off the screen. In general I actually found that less intensive, 2D games like Rayman or Alto’s Odyssey benefited most, but any flagship phone will get you an experience that’s pretty close.

If you’re interested in eeking out every last bit of performance, Razer’s Game Booster lets you set screen resolution and refresh limits on a per-app basis, and you can even set CPU clock speeds. You’ll probably want to do all this to save battery rather than enhance the games though. Like all phones this one will die quickly if you game on it non-stop. More quickly, in fact, thanks to the intense screen. Despite the vapor chamber I also did find the phone got toasty during game sessions, but no more than most.

Outside of gaming the phone comes with a free, full version of Nova Launcher Prime, making it easy to visually customise Android as deeply as you like. Combined with the high resolution 120Hz display, this can really make the device feel more like a laptop than a phone. This is a good media machine too, with Dolby software simulating 5.1 channel sound out of those big, loud speakers. There’s a very nice set of USB-C headphones in the box as well as a 3.5mm dongle, and a 24-bit DAC so your music and movies will sound nice no matter your choice of headphones.

In the end I think it’s the style and aesthetics and will endear the Razer Phone 2 to more people than the gaming chops. There are many phones that pair the same Snapdragon 845 processor as the Razer Phone 2 with a lot of RAM — including the Sony Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Premium, the LG G7 ThinQ, the OnePlus 6 and 6T — and they all do the basic smartphone stuff better than Razer. There are even mid-range phones costing half as much that take better photos.

But with a big, black design and a glowing RGB logo on the back, not to mention the massive front speakers, the Razer Phone 2 definitely has a vibe you won’t get on any other flagship. If it appeals to you, you’ll likely also love the easy software customisation and the general style the phone brings to Android, and you’ll get the most out of your mobile games too.

By | 2018-12-14T00:51:31+00:00 December 14th, 2018|threatpost|Comments Off on Razer Phone 2 review: gaming power makes for an awkward selling point

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