They say that first impressions last and the Razer Phone 2 makes a pretty solid impression. Particularly if you drop it on something because it’s a hefty piece of kit, really hefty. While the dimensions face on are similar to many phones currently on the market, it’s the depth of the phone (and the cooling system) that make it feel really chunky in the hand and rather heavy.
What’s it good at?
I really like the fact that rather than try to create their own version of Android, the Razer Phone II has some exceptionally stock behaviours and running Oreo 8.1 (with plans to go to 9.0). Razer has also partnered with Nova Launcher, including the launcher as default on the phone. This gives users much more choice in how they use their phone.
Being a gaming phone, the Razer Phone II’s hardware is high end. The screen is one of the best I’ve seen in a while, offering a 5.72-inch screen running at 1440 x 2560 resolution at 513 ppi. The Snapdragon 845 processor and Adreno 630 GPU offer plenty of grunt for gaming sessions. There’s plenty of grunt to give the gaming performance expected from a gaming brand like Razer.
A high end device deserves a high end charging solution. Razer included a QC4 charger which is super quick. I tried it from 10% charge and checked 15 minutes later to find the battery at just shy of 50%. Importantly, road warriors who take 15 minutes out of their day for a coffee here or there could find a power plug to ensure they get through the day.
It’s also worth mentioning that the call quality was excellent – even in fringe areas where the signal was less than optimal. I had no issues with the call sound getting broken or causing any issues with calls.
Design and Hardware
Aesthetically, the Razer Phone 2 is chunky and it’s not light either. When you look at it, that’s ok though. Despite its physical size and weight, the Razer Phone 2 is a nice looking beast. While chunky, the lines and shapes of the phone are actually quite nice. Friends and colleagues who’ve seen the device have commented on the Razer Phone 2’s style.
This is the second phone recently (see Z3 Play review) with a side-mounted fingerprint sensor. While I’m assured by some that it would be fine, left-handed people found it awkward to use. This potentially cuts the potential market by about 10% out of the box. I like the positioning as it is quite a natural place for a right handed user to have their thumb when holding the phone. Essentially you pick up the phone and it unlocks for you.
There’s the full range of connectivity including NFC, but excluding a headphone jack. Importantly, for a gaming device, the Raer Phone 2 has a 4000mAh battery. This gives solid and predictable performance for the device to maximise your use and performance through the day.
For a phone that is about gaming first, the Razer Phone 2 has impressive cameras. The main camera is a dual lens 12 MP, f/1.8 aperture setup with 25mm wide-angle lens on one side, and a 12 MP, f/2.6 setup with 2x optical zoom. When you’re taking a few photos you very quickly become thankful for the MicroSD storage slot (supports up to 512GB).
As you can see, the camera is very capable in varied light conditions and on various targets. It’s not a feature that’s really marketed for the Razer Phone, but I think it should be. Very few people are going to be disappointed with the results.
Gaming, Performance, Battery and Sound
This is what the Razer Phone 2 is all about, getting your game on. When you get down to it, the phone handles anything you want to throw at it really well. The phone offers performance that you’re going to struggle to replicate on most other phones. I found few issues with performance when playing some of the latest release games, primarily Fortnite.
The quality of the screen meant my eyes didn’t fatigue heavily and the gaming experience was smooth, rich and enjoyable. The sound on the device left a little bit to be desired. However, paired with the Razer Hammerhead USB C Noise cancelling earphones, you’re looking at a far more immersive gaming experience. The issue I had from here was that it’s not got the same feel or experience as a stand alone gaming setup whether it’s PC, Playstation/Xbox or a Portable gaming device. The gaming experience was fine on the games that are available, but you’re still limited by the games that are designed for the platform or ported to Android.
The other consideration is that gaming on the Razer Phone 2 really chews the battery. I found that 90 mins of gaming would use roughly 50% of the battery. So if you’re wanting to play a game on the way to work while commuting, having a powerbank to hand or carrying a wall charger is highly recommended.
In a remarkable contrast to this, even a heavy use day (minus gaming) the battery would last and I’d be plugging in at 11pm with around 20% battery remaining after taking it off charge around 6am. A really good level of stamina from the battery given the multiple email accounts, social media, phone calls, varions messaging platforms, web use, music streaming, video streaming and often use of navigation as party of my standard day.
What’s it not so good at?
Audio playback and gaming without headphones can be a bit hit-or-miss depending greatly on what you’re listening to. To be brutally honest, it’s more miss than hit. What I found was that generally the audio was flat in the mid range and somewhat overpowering in the low range which meant that the sound just wasn’t “right”. There’s plenty of volume, particularly with notifications. Depending on the tone of the notification, that alone is close to vibrations which is excellent for those who have a habit of putting down their phone and need to hear their notifications.
I’ve already mentioned the battery a couple of times, but for the marketed function of this phone – gaming – the battery leaves a bit to be desired.
There’s heaps to like about the Razer Phone 2 starting with the internals, they’re premium performance parts and you should expect a premium price to match it. The latest is €850 (or around $1329.57 AUD) which is pretty steep price before you even add the Australia tax on, so if you get much change from $1400 you’ll be going well.
I think the main issue with the Razer Phone 2 is summed up in one of the reviews I’ve read which says “It glows but doesn’t shine” and I can’t help but feel that statement almost nails it. I’d almost go a step further and question the need for a gaming phone.
The gaming experience is good however; you’re very much at the mercy of the developers and what they bring to the platform. I also can’t really help but think it’s a solution for a problem that doesn’t really exist… if you assess it as a stand alone phone it’s actually very good, I’m just not sure that it’s $1300 + good.