Razer Phone

High-end fea­tures with­out a high-end price. ADAM PATRICK MURRAY looks at Razer’s first smart­phone

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

The Razer Phone is a bit of a puz­zle. It’s not sur­pris­ing that it ex­ists, given that Razer, best known for PC hard­ware and pe­riph­er­als, ac­quired smart­phone maker Nextbit in Jan­uary of 2017 in or­der to pro­duce this de­vice. Nor is it sur­pris­ing that, based on our hands-on time with the de­vice at a re­cent brief­ing, the Phone seems to be equal parts Nextbit’s Robin and Razer’s lap­top line, tout­ing im­pres­sive spec­i­fi­ca­tions at a rea­son­able price of £699.

What’s con­fus­ing is what it isn’t. Razer says this isn’t meant to be a gam­ing phone. Rather, it’s a phone for gamers, Razer fans, and An­droid en­thu­si­asts, mean­ing it’s in­tended to de­liver a great ex­pe­ri­ence for all kinds of ‘con­tent con­sump­tion’, not just gam­ing. But it’s a weird mes­sage when Razer’s core au­di­ence is gamers – and Razer is still push­ing gam­ing part­ner­ships that take ad­van­tage of the Razer Phone’s unique screen.

A 120Hz dis­play

The Razer Phone is packed with a 120Hz, 2560x1440, 5.72in LCD panel. If you’ve ever used a high frame rate PC dis­play, you know the dif­fer­ence a faster refresh rate can have on sim­ple tasks – not just games.

Thumb­ing through feeds, switch­ing apps, and ‘con­sum­ing con­tent’ all felt su­per-smooth. I even got to track the refresh cy­cles with Razer’s own built-in ver­sion of FRAPS (yes, I asked, and yes, you can turn it on in the fi­nal ver­sion). The panel uses some of the same adap­tive refresh tech­nol­ogy as Nvidia’s G-Sync and

AMD’s FreeSync, so when you’re idle you also aren’t wast­ing pre­cious bat­tery.

Speak­ing of bat­tery, the Razer Phone packs a 4,000mAh one in­side its 197g body. That, paired with the newer Qual­comm Snap­dragon 835, help it last for long ‘con­tent con­sump­tion’ ses­sions. The phone also fea­tures 8GB of dual chan­nel LPDDR4 RAM clocked at 1,600MHz. Razer re­ally knows its au­di­ence when it lists de­tailed spec­i­fi­ca­tions like that for a de­vice.

How about an­other PC-cen­tric spec to catch your at­ten­tion? Mem­bers from the same team that came up with the cus­tom-cool­ing so­lu­tions in the Razer Blade line also had a hand in cus­tom cool­ing for the Snap­dragon 835. Razer says its cool­ing so­lu­tion al­lows the 835 to run longer be­fore throt­tling down, and when it does, it doesn’t throt­tle as low.

Shared de­sign lan­guage

Razer also wants the Razer Phone to feel right at home with the com­pany’s other hard­ware of­fer­ings – and it does. The en­gi­neers worked with some of the same teams that helped make Razer’s re­fined Razer Blade lap­top series. At first glance it looks much like the Robin that came be­fore it, but in my hands, the Razer Phone made the Robin feel like a toy. I would de­scribe the over­all de­sign to be mono­lithic.

The chas­sis is alu­minium and has a nice, tac­tile feel in my hand. I’ve never been a fan of all-glass phones, so I’m glad to see Razer lean into what it knows. It also feels like a tank that could eas­ily with­stand some drops – much like LG’s V20. It was dense with­out feel­ing too weighty.

The back of the phone is one solid piece of alu­minium, dis­rupted only by Razer’s snake logo in the mid­dle and a cam­era bump at the top. The edges show a glimpse of an­tenna lines, but they blend in well. On the front of the Razer Phone is a dual speaker grille – again, like the Razer Blade – with notches taken out for the front-fac­ing cam­era and sen­sors.

Phone au­dio with a punch

The Razer Phone’s dual speaker grille and stereo speaker con­fig­u­ra­tion are not a first by any means, but I’d be hard-pressed to find a louder setup on any phone! Each speaker has its own amp, al­low­ing the Phone to be pushed to higher deci­bels with­out dis­tor­tion. I’m cur­rently us­ing a Google Pixel 2 XL (which also has dual front-fac­ing speak­ers), and side by side it’s no con­test: The Razer Phone blew the Pixel out of the wa­ter at the high­est lev­els.

Sadly, the Razer Phone does not in­clude a head­phone jack, and I’m not a fan of this de­ci­sion. It es­pe­cially makes no sense when Razer makes a num­ber of high-qual­ity head­phones that still sup­port this for­mat. Razer does of­fer a cou­ple of head­phone op­tions that sup­port Ap­ple’s Light­ning con­nec­tor, so I’m hop­ing the com­pany re­leases USB-C sup­port in the fu­ture. Un­til then we are stuck with don­gles.

Stock for the An­droid en­thu­si­ast

Razer is also try­ing to court An­droid en­thu­si­asts. The Phone runs a near-stock ver­sion of An­droid 7.1.1 out of the gate, and Razer prom­ises 8.0 Oreo sup­port in Q1 of 2018. Un­like Nextbit with the Robin, Razer

fo­cuses on the ba­sics while adding only a few cus­tom tweaks, like its own Game­booster tech­nol­ogy and a theme store. We’ve heard this ‘fo­cus-on-the-ba­sic’ ap­proach be­fore (re: Essen­tial), so I’m hop­ing Razer can de­liver.

One choice I liked was Razer’s de­ci­sion to de­fault to Nova Prime Launcher rather than make its own. I’ve been us­ing Nova Launcher for years, and it’s one of the most pop­u­lar out there. The Robin had a heav­ily skinned UI that matched the aes­thetic they were go­ing for at Nextbit, and Razer could eas­ily have gone down that same path. In­stead Razer is al­low­ing the free­dom of stock An­droid and pro­vid­ing a theme store if you want cus­tom Razer looks.

To round out the en­thu­si­ast an­gle, the Razer phone is sold un­locked (GSM only), with the boot­loader un­locked out of the box as well. This phone might be a great op­tion for the tin­ker­ers out there!

Ver­dict

I would have loved to have seen a head­phone jack and more at­ten­tion paid to the cam­era setup (it’s very ba­sic), but there’s still plenty to like about the Razer Phone. Gam­ing phone or not, Razer is still part­ner­ing with big phone gam­ing pub­lish­ers like Square Enix (Fi­nal Fan­tasy) and Ten­cent (Arena of Valor) to of­fer

120Hz op­ti­mized ex­pe­ri­ences. Dur­ing my meet­ing, I got the feel­ing that the team from Nextbit got to fol­low their pas­sions on the soft­ware side while hav­ing ac­cess to the hard­ware re­sources of the teams at Razer. It feels like a grown-up Robin, which is what Razer needed.

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

5.7in full-HD (2560x1440, 515ppi) IPS dis­play An­droid 7.1.1 Nougat Qual­comm MSM8998 Snap­dragon 835 pro­ces­sor Octa-core (4x 2.35GHz Kryo and 4x 1.9GHz Kryo) CPU Adreno 540 GPU 8GB RAM 64GB stor­age, mi­croSD up to 256GB Fin­ger­print scan­ner (side-mounted) Dual rear-fac­ing cam­eras: 12Mp, f/1.8, 25mm and 12Mp, f/2.6, 2x op­ti­cal zoom, phase de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash 8Mp front-fac­ing cam­era, f/2.0 802.11ac Wi-Fi Blue­tooth 4.2 A-GPS NFC USB Type-C Non-re­mov­able lithium-poly­mer 4,000mAh bat­tery 158.5x77.7x8mm 197g

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