The "1-Minute" Review
- Chunky design
- Weak camera
- So-so battery life
- Phone gets warm during gaming
- No 3.5mm headphone jack
Gaming phones are a relatively new category.
Razer’s initial release -- the Razer Phone -- set the bar for the niche. And now that other companies are releasing gaming-focused options, Razer is back with a refresh -- the Razer Phone 2.
But does a phone built for gaming first and everything else second work for the average person?
While most brands are trimming bezels and introducing curves to their designs, the Razer Phone 2 is a hefty rectangle of glass and aluminum. The only stylistic flair comes from the RGB logo on the glass rear panel. The logo offers 16.7 million color options and doubles as a notification light with the color changing based on the app wanting your attention.
Reviewers found the design chunky -- both in terms of how the phone looks and how it feels when holding it. While those with larger hands found the phone easy to use, reviewers with small hands found one-handed operation difficult and noted that the squared corners were uncomfortable in the hand after a few minutes of gaming.
On the upside, the design features an IP67 water and dust resistance rating.
Around front, you’ll find the star of the phone -- a 5.7-inch 1440-by-2560 LCD panel with HDR support that runs at 120hz.
What does 120hz mean? Essentially, for every frame that a normal phone renders, this one renders two. This provides silky movement and extra snap in responsiveness. Reviewers indicate the difference in smoothness and response offered by 120hz is noticeable.
However, the 120hz mode only works when apps support it. So don’t expect it to work everywhere.
Reviewers applauded the phone for its excellent contrast and punchy colors. While they also note that it doesn’t compare to an AMOLED or OLED panel, most were happy with the experience when watching movies or playing games. Lastly, with a 500 nit brightness rating, there are no worries about use in brightly lit rooms or outdoors.
The Razer Phone 2 sports the popular 2.8Ghz Snapdragon 845 processor found in many of 2018’s high-end phones. Paired with 8GB of RAM, reviewers had zero issues with sluggishness, stuttering, or crashes.
The included Game Booster app also allows you to set performance and visual settings for each game to provide a balance between detailed graphics and battery life. Reviewers found the app worked as described by Razer.
Unfortunately, this performance comes heat concerns. The phone gets warm after a few minutes of game play. Reviewer opinions ranged from “warm to the touch” to “uncomfortable to hold”.
The phone’s software is also a mixed bag. While it ships with Android 8.1 Oreo -- an older Android release -- it includes virtually no bloatware and offers a near-stock Android experience. Razer has promised an update to Android 9.0 Pie in early 2019.
While 64GB of internal storage is enough for the average phone user, gamers might run out of space quickly. Still, microSD card support for cards up to 1TB in size makes expanding the storage on the phone fast and affordable.
On paper, the dual-lens rear camera looks impressive. Both lenses are 12MP but one lens is a 2x telephoto lens while the other is a wide-angle lens with optical image stabilization. In real-world use, reviewers had mixed opinions. The camera improves on the lackluster performance of the original Razer Phone but doesn’t keep up with similarly priced options from the competition.
While photos were often in focus and white balance was good, reviewers complained of washed out colors and a general lack of contrast. In low-light situations, noise and a lack of detail rendered many shots unusable.
The 8MP front-facing lens garnered similar reviews. However, it has one stand out feature -- 60 FPS recording. This makes the phone ideal for mobile gamers might stream their game play online or record commentary.
The Razer Phone 2 includes a massive 4000mAh battery with USB Type-C fast charging. Quick Charge 4.0 offers a charge from empty to 50% in about 30 minutes. There’s also wireless charging.
And if you plan to play games regularly, you’ll need all the charging you can get. Reviews showed that a 2-hour gaming session would drop the phone’s battery to half capacity.
However, if you’re simply using it as a phone -- checking emails, browsing social media, and taking the occasional call -- reviewers had no problems hitting a full day from a single charge.
The phone might disappoint if you’re looking to use your favorite cans to immerse yourself in the latest games and movies. There’s no 3.5mm headphone jack. While Razer includes a 3.5mm to USB Type-C adapter, using it means you can’t charge your phone and use headphones at the same time.
However, if you don’t mind others hearing what you’re playing or listening to, the two front-facing speakers that flank the display received endless praise from reviewers. Many called them the best speakers they’d heard on a mobile phone.
Whether you’re using headphones or the speakers, Dolby Atmos is included to provide more spatial awareness -- a critical feature in games like PUBG or Fortnite. Better still, reviewers found that Atmos was more than a gimmick, allowing them to hear players sneaking up behind them or cars zooming around corners.
Reviewer recommendations on Razer’s latest release are mixed.
On one hand, it offers stellar performance -- even if it gets warm. But battery life is only so-so when gaming and the cameras are weak compared to similarly priced options.
While the phone offers a gaming experience like no other, it sacrifices ergonomics and camera quality to do so. For some reviewers, that compromise was unacceptable.
Engadget says, “If you're a person that puts gaming first, then definitely take a look at the Razer Phone 2. If you're not though, then you might want to look elsewhere.”
Android Central says, “I'd recommend the Razer Phone 2 to anyone 's fully onboard to invest in mobile gaming and appreciates the ability to play the latest and greatest games as they were meant to be experienced.”
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