Razer was first to the pass with its 'gaming phone', the originally titled Razer Phone, which launched in 2017. Just shy of one year later and the Razer Phone is back, in new form, in the even-more-originally-titled Razer Phone 2.
Yep, the sequel is here with even more power, a brighter screen (it's still 120Hz fast-refresh, of course), a glass rear and wireless charging, plus Razer Chroma LED logo for a look unlike any other phone on the market.
But questions linger: does anyone really need a gaming phone and is the follow-up device enough of a change to entice a wider market than just the mobile gaming niche?
Design & Logo
- Glass back with aluminium frame
- LED-backlit Razer logo, 16.8 million colours (Razer Chroma)
- 158.5 x 78.99 x 8.5mm
- IP67 water resistant
- Wireless charging
We used the original Razer Phone for a number of weeks in 2017 and rather liked it. Well, kind of. We belovingly called it a "brilliant brickphone", because, frankly, it is a hefty slab of smartphone.
The Razer Phone 2 doesn't get around that design decision: it's more-or-less the same footprint as the original model (it's half a millimetre thicker and just over one millimetre taller, but you won't notice that in hand whatsoever - even side-by-siding the phones their footprints look much the same by eye).
There is a significant change for the follow-up phone: its rear is glass, thus it's Qi wireless charging compatible (although no charger is included in the box, you'll need to buy the light-up Razer one separately). This shiny exterior is a bit of a fingerprint magnet, but it does look altogether more 2018 and in line with the competition.
There's an astounding design quirk like no other though: that Razer logo on the rear is actually the notification light. It's LED-backlit and, thanks to the pre-installed Razer Chroma app, you can select from 16.8 million colours to your preference. Or switch it off. Or even make it cycle seamlessly between every colour option, breathe by fading in or out, or always remain on with a colour of your choice. As cosmetic features go, this one is very much in keeping with Razer's design language and wider product range. Our inner geek thinks it's rather great.
New for the 2018 Razer Phone is IP67 water and dust resistance. So come rain or shine, it's always gaming time. No pool/bathroom disasters either, which is always a reassurance.
Screen: 120Hz but brighter
- 5.7-inch, 2560 x 1440 resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio LCD panel
- 120Hz panel for super-fast refresh and 8ms response time
- 645 nits (50% brighter than original), 10-bit colour
The biggest sell for the original Razer Phone was its 120Hz panel. This refresh rate is double that of most phones, which delivers a silky smooth motion. Plus a bunch of games are designed to run at up to 120fps natively, meaning they appear much more fluid when paired with such a device.
The Razer Phone 2 continues with the 120Hz panel key specification. It's the same size, at 5.7-inches, and the same 16:9 aspect ratio. It doesn't have that more modern-looking 19:9 aspect ratio, but for playing games the slightly wider handset makes better sense, giving that's the format in which many titles are rendered.
The big difference with the sequel is the screen is 50 per cent brighter than before and can handle 10-bit colour too. That makes for a more illuminated and colour accurate viewing experience, plus HDR (high dynamic range) and Dolby Digital 5.1 remain supported for Netflix.
Performance: Flagship specs
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 platform, 8GB RAM
- Vapor Chamber Cooling system
- 64GB storage, microSD
- 4000mAh battery, USB-C quick charge
- Razer UltraMotion frame-rate sync
The Razer Phone 2's innards get a bump, by updating to the latest and greatest Qualcomm chipset, along with the standard 8GB RAM. Cooling is handled with a new vapour chamber cooling system (the same kind of tech that Nvidia uses in the GTX 1080 graphics card) for greater efficiency and so the device won't get too hot in the hands.
We've dabbled in a few games and everything runs lovely and smooth. However, not everything directly benefits from the 120Hz panel: games like PUBG Mobile is only 60fps maximum.
Cleverly, Razer has applications that allow for games to be setup on a game-by-game basis. By offering control over frame-rate, anti-aliasing, resolution and graphics render levels, it's possible to tailor experiences as you want them. You might want those extra frames per second for better response, rather than marvelling at every blade of grass while your in-game character gets shot in the face repeatedly.
Add Razer's UltraMotion technology and the phone can sync an app's ongoing frames-per-second with the graphics processing unit (GPU) to avoid tearing, ghosting or any other such visual nastiness. Even when just swiping around the operating system it'll dip to an ultra-low frame-rate to save battery.
Speaking of which, the battery on board is the same 4,000mAh capacity as before. However, with a more powerful processor and that rear LED Razer logo we suspect there will be a minor dip in overall longevity - that said, we've not used the phone for long enough just yet to bring accurate judgement.
The Razer Phone 2 also goes one-up with connectivity, offering Gigabit LTE (1.2Gbps) at CAT 18, which is theoretically 20 per cent faster than the original (if you're in the right part of the world on a compatible network anyway).
Cameras: Much the same
- Dual 12MP rear cameras (wide-angle f/1.75, standard f/2.6)
- Optical image stabilisation (OIS) for wide-angle camera
- 2160p60 (or 1080p120) / 8MP front-facing camera at 1080p60
The last major part of the Razer Phone 2 puzzle is its camera setup. If you're familiar with the original phone then it's clear the see these are positioned differently, to the centre of the body, but the core camera units remain much the same: dual 12MP sensors.
However, the wide-angle camera now offers optical image stabilisation (OIS), while a bump in video capture frame-rate means 4K capture at 60fps is possible. Even the front-facing camera offers Full HD at 60fps for those streamers and vloggers out there.
Additional modes, such as 'Face Beauty' are on board, although with limted appeal. What we really want to see from the Razer Phone 2 is a more fluid and responsive camera setup than its predecessor.
The Razer Phone 2 delivers a similar key spec to its predecessor, ensuring top-end 120Hz gaming, while dangling gamers' favourites from the brand such as that light-up LED Razer logo. It's a better phone for its advances, but ultimatey it's still a brickphone dressed in glass clothes.
No, most people don't need a gaming phone, but if that's a must for you then Razer is still the category winner. Despite being a niche product we still love the Razer Phone 2 for its boldness, quirks and points of difference - there's no denying people will want to know about it, even if just because of that light-up logo to the rear.
The Razer Phone 2 will be available from late October 2018, its price is yet to be confirmed.