Hands-on with the Razer Phone 2
Razer's second take at a gaming phone shows solid signs of improvement, but this is clearly a gamer's phone first and foremost.
This is nowhere near long enough to manage a full review, of course, but it is enough time to get to grips with the basics of the phone.
Razer Phone 2: Early upsides
- Finely tuned for gaming purposes: Razer naturally knows the gaming market, and the Razer Phone 2 is laser-focused towards the kinds of uses you'd want if you're a heavy mobile gamer. You can set performance within games not only for processor load but also screen refresh rate on a per-game basis. Need silky-smooth Fortnite or PUBG action to grab that elusive chicken dinner? It's very easy to do. Want more battery life because Hearthstone is your all-encompassing gaming addiction? Dial it down and save some juice.
- Water resistance: OK, Razer didn't actually let me drown a Razer Phone 2 to test this out, but it's a very welcome addition for what was always pitched as a premium phone line. Indeed, it's something I'd expect from a premium phone in 2018.
- Dual-lens camera: The original Razer Phone wasn't a camera powerhouse, and while that's perhaps not a key "gaming" feature, you're not just going to use this for gaming. I'd definitely need more time to get to grips with how the Razer Phone compares to 2018's impressive premium phone set in camera terms, but it's at least got the basic tools right this time.
- Android 9 promised soon: Android phones have a notable issue with updates, and while the version I tested was running Android 8.0 ("Oreo"), Razer's promise is that it will rapidly offer Android 9 ("Pie") for the Razer Phone 2.
- Decent and loud stereo speakers: Like the original, the Razer Phone 2 doesn't shy away from having significant top and bottom bezels, but they exist for a purpose, and that's delivering some pretty solid audio. Testing with some quick Netflix watching showed that the Razer Phone 2 can manage some very good standard audio output. Not to the point where I'd want you to have one on a crowded train, to be totally honest, but for a little light video or music sharing in a crowd that's happy to hear it, it works very well.
- Chroma logo is fun: Look, it's not to my personal taste, and I'd almost certainly personally disable it most of the time to save power. But it wouldn't feel like a proper Razer product if I couldn't make it glow in the dark when I wanted to. More phones should have a sense of "fun" to them, and this is Razer's take on that idea.
Razer Phone 2: Early downsides
- Big and blocky: Like the original Razer Phone, the Razer Phone 2 is designed to look like Razer's other products such as its laptops. That means it has mostly square edges and a frame that measures in at 158.5x78.99x8.5mm. In a world where we're seeing thinner phones with more rounded edges, the Razer Phone 2 almost feels like a throwback device.
- It's a total fingerprint magnet: This isn't a unique problem for black handsets by any stretch of the imagination, but when your design style is for harsh black, it's terribly noticeable, even after just a little handling.
- No headphone jack: Sure, it was gone on the original too, so I shouldn't be surprised. But Razer sells gaming headphones, and it seems like such an obvious point of symmetry and a missed opportunity, especially on a handset with such a relatively thick bottom edge.
- Lots of competition: Razer's launching at the same time as a lot of high-end handsets, including Google's Pixel 3, most likely Huawei's upcoming Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro and probably LG's V40 ThinQ to name just a few. I love the idea of a niche-specific phone like the Razer Phone 2, but you'd want to be seriously invested in your Android-based gaming for it to make sense. Against such heavyweight competition, the Razer Phone 2 will need to really flex its muscle to stand out.
Stay tuned for our full Razer Phone 2 review very soon indeed.