Razer Phone Review: There’s A First Time For Everything

Our verdict of the Razer Phone:
Razer’s first iteration of a mobile device is bringing true innovation. If the cameras were improved, it would be near perfect.
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Razer – a company synonymous with PC gaming – has stepped into the mobile device arena with their all-new Razer Phone. But do they have what it takes to stand out in a cutthroat, hyper-competitive market?

Razer Phone Specifications

  • Dimensions: 158.5 x 77.7 x 8 mm
  • Weight: 197 g
  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Octa-core (4×2.35 GHz & 4×1.9 GHz)
  • GPU: Adreno 540
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB (expandable via microSD card)
  • Display: 5.7″ IPS @ 1440 x 2560 @ up to 120Hz
  • Audio: Dolby Atos (THX Certified)
  • Battery: 4000 mAh
  • OS: Android 7.1 Nougat

This is by no means the first time we’ve seen Android being paired with some gaming marketing. Companies like Nvidia have also been trying their hand with their Sheild devices. This is, however, the first time a company well known for their kidney donating prices and gaming PCs has tried to instill some gaming pedigree into a smartphone.

This is also the first device to feature a 120Hz display, which was secretly also HDR capable. It’s the first device to feature Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 4.0 plus. Razer has also boasted about being able to turn said device into a laptop, of sorts. What what?

Design

While companies are deciding to opt for more curves, Razer has not. Following their acquisition of Nextbit, it’s clear to see where the inspiration for the Razer phone came from. The former Google and HTC employees, who developed the Nextbit Robin have followed through on their iconic square design.

Razer Phone Review: There's a First Time For Everything razer phone side volume

This is going to be somewhat polarizing. The device isn’t as ergonomic as it’s curvaceous competitors, but the blocky Razer Phone can be spotted a mile away. Razer has stated that this design also allows for the large heat pipes used for cooling the device and the enormous 4000mAh battery.

On the left are the volume buttons, which unfortunately are not premium to the touch. The dual 12MP cameras garnish the back of the device with the aggressive Razer logo. The perfectly placed power switch and fingerprint sensor is on the right. On the bottom is the USB C charging port and unfortunate omission of a headphone jack. Which brings us to the front of the device.

Razer Phone Review: There's a First Time For Everything razer phone rear

As far as bezels go, this phone is well endowed. Two anti-2017-design bezels occupy the front along with the 8M camera. But is there some method to this anti-pattern? Oh, yes!

Bezels

The trade-off that Razer undertook here is completely understandable. Behind those monstrous bezels are the best speakers, of any smartphone, ever. Completely dwarfing volume and quality of any other flagship on the market, Razer has nailed this. The Razer Phone also features Dolby Atmos audio. Rather than being constrained to channels, sounds can be precisely placed and moved in three-dimensional space.

Razer Phone Review: There's a First Time For Everything razer gaming

The bezels also provide a place to rest your fingers on a protracted gaming session. Without these bezels, you may have been prone to accidentally touching the screen and an uncomfortable gaming experience. All in all, I think it was well worth it.

As the famous saying goes, it’s not about the bezels but what’s between them that counts. This is Razer’s focus for this device. The pièce de résistance. The chef-d’oeuvre. The highlight of this device, which is the display.

Display & Battery

To say that on this display, Android feels smooth would be an understatement. After to switch the default setting to 120Hz max, it’s like that scene in the Matrix when Neo realizes his entire life was a lie.

Razer Phone Review: There's a First Time For Everything razer phone front

Going back to another Android device just feels slow and lethargic. Everyday tasks like scrolling and moving through the app drawer feels buttery smooth. Android becomes a pleasure to wield and even just day to day tasks like scrolling through a long Facebook feed becomes enjoyable. And this is all before you get to what the display was meant for: gaming.

Before we move on to that, understand that this is an IPS display. So it’s not going to be as colorful or as bright as an OLED display. It’s not that the Razer display is not bright, but the range of brightness isn’t as variable as some others.

The display also uses a variable refresh rate. So when your phone is just idling the refresh rate tones down, and as soon as it’s needed the refresh rate will scale up to meet demand. This is done to preserve battery life.

Speaking of the 4000mAh hour battery, it comfortable handles medium to heavy use getting 5 and a half to 6 hours a day of screen-on time. Having a 1440p display running at 120Hz all while gaming is going to be demanding on any battery. Fortunately, I was almost always left with a charge before the end of the day, even with the max refresh rate set to 120Hz, and high GPS usage.

Gaming and Performance

It’s no surprise that the beefy specs in the Razer phone allow it to have great synthetic benchmark scores. Scoring 179718 in AnTuTu, with the Geekbench weighing in at 1963 on single-core and 6599 on multi-core.

Razer Phone Review: There's a First Time For Everything razer benchmarks

As this is the first smartphone to sport a 120Hz display, there are relatively not as many games that support that refresh rate just yet. There are some games that come pre-installed which all support 120Hz if you’d like to give it a try right out the box.

It goes without saying that phone designed by a manufacturer that makes gaming devices needs to be distinguished in the gaming department. The rock solid specs, ergonomics and brilliant display all come together harmoniously to provide one of the best gaming experiences on a mobile device. The high refresh rate also makes the phone feel very responsive and adds to the overall experience.

Android Games that Support 120Hz

Razer has officially released a list of games that can take advantage of the display. Some of these games are as follows:

  • Tekken Mobile
  • Injustice 2
  • Mortal Kombat X
  • Real Racing 3
  • Final Fantasy XV: Personal Edition
  • Runescape
  • Super Mario Run
  • Subway Surfers
  • Warhammer 40k: Freeblade
  • Minecraft
  • Sandbox 3d
  • Pokemon Go

The Cameras

Now before we commence with a celebratory lap, we come to the worst part of this phone. The cameras. The Razer Phone has a dual camera setup on the rear much like many other flagships of recent. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite perform like any other phones in its class; it’s somewhat worse.

Razer Phone Review: There's a First Time For Everything razer camera macaron

Razer Phone Review: There's a First Time For Everything razer iphone camera macaron

Pictures were quite soft, dynamic range was lackluster, and low light performance is substandard. The native camera app should also be replaced by a third party one if you are going to buy this phone. The same picture quality can be said for the front-facing camera as well.

Razer Phone Review: There's a First Time For Everything razer camera flowers 2

Razer Phone Review: There's a First Time For Everything razer iphone camera flowers

Over and above everything else the shutter lag is really significant and leaves the experience feeling rather dated. The cameras are just not very competitive right now.

This might be a deal breaker for some. However, you should not overlook that fact that this device is geared towards gamers and not photographers. If the phone had compromised on the gaming aspect when its unique selling point was gaming, that would be a lot worse.

The Future

If you’ve been following CES 2018, you may have seen a few announcements that are making headlines regarding this phone. Another debut that the Razer phone is bringing is HDR ready content via Netflix. This combined with the astounding front facing speakers is going to make media consumption untouchable on this device.

Razer Phone Review: There's a First Time For Everything razer phone HDR

Another announcement at CES was project Linda. Project Linda is a laptop shell, which has a dock for your Razer Phone. Your Razer Phone now becomes a trackpad or a secondary display for the shell. Project Linda features an RGB keyboard and a larger battery to provide sufficient juice. There’s even a little cutout to allow the Phones fingerprint sensor to be used for login.

There hasn’t been any price or release date announced, but it looks really cool. Now, this is conceptual, and I have my reservations as to whether this is going to become an actual product or not, but this does provide insight as to where Razer wants to take this product and potentially attract game developers for supporting more mobile games. This also allows better productivity use cases!

Do You Need A Razer Phone In Your Life?

If photography is not on your top list of priorities, but media consumption and gaming are, there is little in the way of the Razer Phone. The liquid-smooth interface and overall experience makes this an unparalleled Android experience. If you’re after a more all-rounded smartphone, there are many others in a similar price bracket that are worthy contenders such as the Galaxy S8 or the OnePlus 5T.

Razer Phone Review: There's a First Time For Everything moto razr

The most annoying thing about this phone is having to explain to everyone you speak to that this is not the Motorolla Razr that your grandparents used to send you SMSs on.

Do you think Razer has what it takes to make Android a true gaming platform? Would you consider project Linda as a one device solution? Can your eyes see faster than 120Hz? Let us know in the comments below.