Razer Phone

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

Fol­low­ing its ac­qui­si­tion of Nextbit, gam­ing brand Razer has en­tered the smart­phone mar­ket with a hand­set aimed at gamers. It’s called the Razer Phone and of­fers in­cred­i­ble tech not found on any other smart­phones on the mar­ket in­clud­ing a 120Hz Quad HD dis­play ca­pa­ble of of­fer­ing dou­ble the frame rate of the likes of the iPhone X, Pixel 2 and more. It’s a great concept, but has Razer done enough to ce­ment its place in the smart­phone mar­ket? Read on to find out.

De­sign

Let’s be hon­est, the Razer Phone won’t be win­ning any smart­phone de­sign awards when com­pared to the

likes of the iPhone X, Sam­sung Gal­axy S8 or OnePlus 5T. The rather an­gu­lar, blocky de­sign that the Razer Phone em­ploys is oddly rem­i­nis­cent of the Xpe­ria range (which is also con­sid­ered rather unattrac­tive) but with a dis­tinctly Razer feel.

In terms of specifics, the hand­set mea­sures in at a rather thick and broad 778x8mm and weighs in at a hefty 197g, mak­ing it one of the heav­ier flagship smart­phones cur­rently avail­able.

Th­ese fig­ures are im­me­di­ately no­tice­able when you pick the smart­phone up but that’s not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing. It makes the phone feel sturdy and more se­cure in the hand. It is a fin­ger­print mag­net though, es­pe­cially on the alu­minium rear.

It looks like a solid block of alu­minium, with nearly in­vis­i­ble an­tenna lines at the top and bot­tom, with the Razer logo on the back. It’s the only no­tice­able de­sign fea­ture of the smart­phone, as it has been en­graved and coloured, and this can be felt by run­ning your fin­ger over the logo.

The is­sue is that the logo is right where your fin­ger rests on the rear of the smart­phone, and the slightly jagged edges of the en­grav­ing con­stantly catch your fin­gers. It’s not painful, but it’s a lit­tle an­noy­ing (a

thought shared by sev­eral of the Tech Ad­vi­sor team). Apart from the Razer logo and dis­play, the only phys­i­cal fea­ture of the phone you might no­tice are the front­fac­ing speak­ers above and be­low the dis­play, which is half the rea­son the phone feels so tall in the hand. We in­ves­ti­gate the au­dio prow­ess on page 92.

There are also cir­cu­lar vol­ume but­tons on the left of the smart­phone, though th­ese are placed fur­ther down than on other smart­phones. The place­ment, while it looks odd ini­tially, makes sense for gamers – they al­ways in the way when gam­ing in land­scape. Not with the Razer Phone!

It’s a sim­i­lar story with the power but­ton, but it’s flush on the right-side of the dis­play, so place­ment doesn’t mat­ter as much. It’s still easy enough to reach to lock and un­lock the smart­phone with­out ad­just­ing your grip though, don’t worry!

The real deal-breaker? It features a 16:9, 5.7in dis­play. While that may sound okay, many man­u­fac­tur­ers al­ready em­ploy bezel-less 18:9 dis­plays in their smart­phones. This al­lows for a larger dis­play in a smaller body and for some is eas­ier to use. The de­ci­sion means that com­pared to bezel-less smart­phones, the Razer Phone looks a lit­tle dated – on the sur­face, any­way.

Plus, Razer de­cided to fol­low Ap­ple’s ex­am­ple and ditched the 3.5mm head­phone jack on the phone, fea­tur­ing a solo USB-C port in­stead. Ad­mit­tedly, like Ap­ple, the Razer Phone does come with a USB-Cto-3.5mm adap­tor for use with ex­ist­ing head­phones, but most users will likely need to make the switch to wire­less head­phones sooner or later.

So, it’s not the best-look­ing smart­phone on the mar­ket by any means, but there’s a rea­son for some of the slightly odd de­sign choices. Let’s take a look at why.

Hard­ware

As should be ob­vi­ous by the man­u­fac­turer, the Razer Phone was de­signed with one fo­cus in mind – mo­bile gam­ing. It’s why the phone is slightly chunkier and taller than com­peti­tors – it features unique tech to make it the ul­ti­mate gam­ing smart­phone.

Dis­play

The most im­pres­sive fea­ture of the Razer Phone is un­doubt­edly the 5.7in IPS LCD dis­play. It of­fers a Quad HD (2560x1440) res­o­lu­tion and an eye-wa­ter­ing pixel den­sity of 515ppi. Far more im­por­tant here, though, is that the dis­play of­fers the high­est re­fresh rate of any smart­phone on the mar­ket – 120Hz. For com­par­i­son, most high-end smart­phones avail­able at the mo­ment are capped at 60Hz, mean­ing the Razer Phone can dis­play dou­ble the num­ber of frames in a sin­gle se­cond – 120fps, up from 60fps.

In the real world, this means the smart­phone pro­vides a bet­ter mo­bile gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence than any­thing else avail­able at the mo­ment. The graph­ics are but­tery smooth – so smooth, in fact, that you’ll strug­gle to play games on any other smart­phone once you ad­just to the im­proved re­fresh rate.

Even in rel­a­tively ba­sic games such as Poké­mon GO, the ex­pe­ri­ence is in­stantly im­proved – the dif­fer­ence in per­for­mance even when com­pared to flag­ships like the Google Pixel 2 is day-and-night.

It’s not only games that get the but­tery-smooth treat­ment ei­ther – you can head to the Set­tings menu and en­able the 120Hz re­fresh rate through­out the op­er­at­ing sys­tem, mak­ing swip­ing be­tween screens, brows­ing through your li­brary of apps and surf­ing the web as smooth as can be.

Back­ing up the 120Hz re­fresh rate is a Wide Colour Gamut. This pro­vides the dis­play with a wider breadth of colours than what’s pro­vided on stan­dard dis­plays. It doesn’t only im­prove the gen­eral look of your favourite An­droid games, but makes ev­ery­thing – from YouTube videos to the Google Play UI – look bright, ac­cu­rately rep­re­sented and vi­brant.

Gam­ing

This, of course, is the main fo­cus of the smart­phone. The com­bi­na­tion of im­pres­sive in­ter­nals, an in­cred­i­ble

dis­play, front-fac­ing stereo speak­ers and soft­ware en­hance­ments pro­vide some­thing close to the PC gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence on a mo­bile. Be­lieve us – that’s not some­thing we thought we’d ever say.

The 120Hz dis­play pro­vides up to 120fps on sup­ported games – and al­though it’s an im­pres­sive feat, it’s also where the big­gest is­sue cur­rently is.

While there is ad­mit­tedly a fast-grow­ing list of An­droid games that of­fer sup­port for the Razer Phone’s im­pres­sive Ul­traMo­tion dis­play, the vast ma­jor­ity of pop­u­lar games don’t of­fer sup­port at the time of writ­ing. You can see a list of sup­ported games on the Razer web­site at fave.co/2DoSSsR to give you an idea.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween sup­ported and un­sup­ported games is im­me­di­ately no­tice­able, es­pe­cially in terms of how smooth sup­ported games look on-screen. Even when ac­cess­ing in-game menus or watch­ing the same bat­tle an­i­ma­tions you’ve seen thou­sands of times be­fore, it looks smoother and frankly bet­ter on the Razer Phone than most smart­phones on the mar­ket.

It def­i­nitely makes a dif­fer­ence to the over­all gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence too; rather than be­ing some­thing that you play for five- to 10 min­utes at a time, the Razer Phone’s im­pres­sive dis­play and speaker set-up keep you com­ing back for more – if for noth­ing more than to marvel at how amaz­ing games look on the smart­phone.

The ex­pe­ri­ence is im­proved with the in­tro­duc­tion of Game Booster, an app found ex­clu­sively on the Razer Phone. The app pro­vides both gran­u­lar con­trol over the per­for­mance of in­di­vid­ual games and the abil­ity to gen­er­ally favour game per­for­mance or bat­tery life on the smart­phone.

It’s the gran­u­lar con­trol over in­di­vid­ual games where Game Booster re­ally shines. Un­like with any other smart­phone, you can cus­tomise not only the res­o­lu­tion but frame rate, anti-alias­ing and even how much CPU power is ded­i­cated to the game.

The higher you crank it, the more your bat­tery will drain – but it’s also true of the op­po­site. If you reg­u­larly play a mo­bile game that doesn’t need flashy graph­ics, you can turn the per­for­mance down and use less bat­tery life than usual. That way, you can en­joy the best games at 120fps and text-based games at 720p/30fps and help you game for longer.

It’s es­sen­tially as close to con­fig­ur­ing a PC game’s Graph­ics set­tings on An­droid as you’ll get for a while, and it’s in­cred­i­bly im­pres­sive.

Au­dio

Along­side the stun­ning dis­play, you’ll find two front­fac­ing stereo speak­ers. While most smart­phones of­fer a sin­gle mono speaker or com­bine it with the phone ear­piece to pro­vide still poor stereo au­dio play­back, the Razer Phone pro­vides amaz­ingly clear stereo au­dio with two ded­i­cated di­rec­tional speak­ers.

They aren’t ran­dom speak­ers ei­ther – they’ve been Dolby AT­MOS tuned and you’re pro­vided with sev­eral au­dio pro­files (Movies, Games, and soon) to en­hance your au­dio ex­pe­ri­ence de­pend­ing on what you’re do­ing. They’re easy to se­lect too, as the tog­gle is ac­ces­si­ble from the No­ti­fi­ca­tion Shade on the smart­phone. The au­dio is pow­ered by a THX-cer­ti­fied DAC, which pro­vides im­pres­sive au­dio qual­ity when lis­ten­ing to mu­sic via head­phones. The over­all au­dio qual­ity is im­pres­sive for a smart­phone, but the lack of a 3.5mm head­phone jack may put some users off. As men­tioned, there’s an adap­tor in the box but Blue­tooth head­phones may just be the way for­ward in 2018.

Pro­ces­sor, mem­ory and stor­age

Of course, just be­cause a dis­play of­fers the abil­ity to dis­play 120fps when gam­ing, it doesn’t mean it al­ways will – any PC gamer will tell you that! So, how did Razer make sure its in­au­gu­ral smart­phone had enough oomph to power a Quad HD dis­play at 120fps?

The Razer Phone features an octa-core Snap­dragon 835 pro­ces­sor, the most pow­er­ful chip avail­able right now from Qual­comm, along­side an Adreno 540 GPU and a whop­ping 8GB of LPDDR4 RAM – the most (and fastest) RAM in any smart­phone on the mar­ket.

There’s also 64GB of built-in stor­age with the op­tion to ex­pand it by up to 2TB via a Class 10 mi­croSD card slot. This means the Razer Phone pro­vides a de­cent bang for its buck, es­pe­cially when you con­sider that lower-spec­i­fied flagship smart­phones cost £100 to £200 more than Razer’s op­tion. The smart­phone is in­cred­i­bly re­spon­sive when open­ing apps, swip­ing be­tween menus and scrolling through Twit­ter, and it’s equally as im­pres­sive in the gam­ing de­part­ment. Even when ren­der­ing games at 120fps at 1440p, the Razer Phone barely breaks a sweat.

We’ve got some num­bers to back up the im­pres­sive per­for­mance of the smart­phone, which can be seen in the be­low chart. Though the num­bers aren’t chart­top­ping, the real-world dif­fer­ence isn’t no­tice­able when com­pared to other smart­phones – and thanks to the 120Hz dis­play, apps, games and menus of­ten look nicer just be­cause they’re a lot smoother. Bat­tery life That 120Hz dis­play and high-end in­ter­nals must have an ef­fect on over­all bat­tery life, right? Es­sen­tially, yes, but it’s not as sim­ple as that.

The Razer Phone has an im­pres­sive non-re­mov­able 4,000mAh bat­tery, one of the largest of any smart­phone on the mar­ket at the mo­ment. But de­spite the high ca­pac­ity, the dis­play and in­ter­nals draw more power than the av­er­age smart­phone.

In real-world use, we’ve found the Razer Phone to last com­fort­ably all day when us­ing so­cial me­dia, re­ply­ing to texts and read­ing emails, but when you add gam­ing to the mix (which, let’s be hon­est, is the whole

point), the bat­tery drain is more no­tice­able and chances are you’ll need to top it up be­fore the end of the day.

The good news is that if it does re­quire a top-up, the Razer Phone features Qual­comm Quick­Charge 4.0+, which can charge the bat­tery in next to no time. It’s one of the first phones we’ve seen to move be­yond ver­sion 3.0. It features Dual Charge tech­nol­ogy and In­tel­li­gent Ther­mal Balanc­ing to elim­i­nate hot spots, pro­vide lower ther­mal dis­si­pa­tion and an over­all re­duced charge time.

The down side is that this is only pro­vided by the of­fi­cial Razer plug and the USB-C to USB-C ca­ble in­cluded in the box. That means that if you use a non­branded USB-C charger to top up the smart­phone, chances are you’ll be wait­ing for quite a while, es­pe­cially with such a high-ca­pac­ity bat­tery in­side.

There’s also a Game Booster app that al­lows gran­u­lar con­trol over the per­for­mance of the smart­phone gen­er­ally and when play­ing spe­cific games. It al­lows users to change the pri­or­ity from per­for­mance to bat­tery life with a tap. Con­nec­tiv­ity The Razer Phone of­fers fairly stan­dard con­nec­tiv­ity op­tions in­clud­ing Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Blue­tooth 4.2 and NFC. It also boasts 4G LTE ac­tiv­ity for all UKbased net­works. We’ve al­ready men­tioned the lack of a head­phone port and the lone USB-C port. Cam­eras and pho­tog­ra­phy In terms of cam­eras, the Razer Phone has an im­pres­sive – but not per­fect – cam­era set-up. On the rear of the de­vice you’ll find a dual cam­era set-up com­prised of

two 12Mp cam­eras – one stan­dard lens with f/1.8, while the other is a tele­photo lens with f/2.6. This is cou­pled with phase de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus and a dual-LED flash that should in the­ory pro­vide well-lit, per­fectly fo­cused im­ages.

In test­ing we had mixed re­sults. Take a look at the be­low photo of St. Pan­cras Ho­tel – while it cap­tures de­cent de­tail and light on the whole, when you zoom in you start to no­tice ‘soft’ patches, es­pe­cially on the ho­tel brick­work. Whole patches of brick­work are fea­ture­less blurs, thanks to slightly over-ag­gres­sive noise can­cel­la­tion, an is­sue suf­fered by many flagship smart­phones. It’s not com­pletely lack­ing in de­tail

though, as you can still eas­ily make out things like street signs and road mark­ings pretty well.

Like other dual-cam­era smart­phones, the Razer Phone opts for a tele­photo lens to of­fer 2x op­ti­cal zoom on-the-fly. The tog­gle in the cam­era app looks and works much like what’s of­fered by the iPhone 8 Plus, but the degra­da­tion in qual­ity is more no­tice­able than with Ap­ple’s of­fer­ing. We found im­ages to be more washed out and noisy than those taken with the stan­dard lens, as can be seen with a zoomed im­age of St. Pan­cras ho­tel be­low taken di­rectly after the im­age on the pre­vi­ous page was taken.

There’s also the op­tion to record at up to 4K at 30fps on the rear-fac­ing cam­era, al­though the record­ing

op­tions are lim­ited to 4K, 1080p and 720p, with no op­tion to change the frame rate. We’ve recorded some 4K sam­ple footage, which can be seen be­low, but we’re not too im­pressed – es­pe­cially at how dra­mat­i­cally the colour changes to­wards the end of the video.

On the front of the smart­phone, you’ll find a rather stan­dard 8Mp front-fac­ing cam­era that pro­vides de­cent qual­ity for the likes of Skype, Snapchat and tak­ing self­ies for so­cial me­dia. It’s also ca­pa­ble of shoot­ing up to 1080p video if re­quired.

It’s worth not­ing that Razer is con­stantly up­dat­ing the cam­era app to im­prove the qual­ity of im­ages and add new features, so it’s pos­si­ble that our com­plaints could be some­what al­le­vi­ated by a fu­ture up­date. Soft­ware The Razer Phone comes with An­droid 7.1.1 Nougat in­stalled, with no up­grade to An­droid 8.0 in sight – for now. Though it hasn’t been con­firmed by Razer, we imag­ine that it(which will likely be the flagship for most of 2018) will get some An­droid 8.0 love at some point in or­der to keep it com­pet­i­tive, es­pe­cially as other 2018 flag­ships are an­nounced and re­leased.

It’s very much stock An­droid, but with a few de­sign tweaks. In ad­di­tion to the plethora of Google apps, you’ll find the Razer Store. While you may think this is the place to find games, you’d be wrong. In­stead, it’s where you can browse from a va­ri­ety of game- and Razer-re­lated themes for your smart­phone.

While the de­signs vary, the themes change more than your back­ground – they’ll change the icon style and the colour scheme used through­out the op­er­at­ing

sys­tem. Some could ar­gue that it’s gim­micky, but we think it’s a nice way for users to per­son­al­ize the phone with­out spend­ing too much time in the Set­tings menu. Ver­dict The Razer Phone is the per­fect smart­phone... if you’re a gamer. While it doesn’t fea­ture the sleek, bezel­less de­sign of other flagship smart­phones, no other de­vice on the mar­ket can come close to match­ing the stun­ning 120Hz re­fresh rate. It makes a huge dif­fer­ence to gam­ing on mo­bile, es­pe­cially when com­bined with stereo front-fac­ing Dolby AT­MOS-cer­ti­fied speak­ers and an app that lets you tweak the per­for­mance of games on a per-app ba­sis.

But while the dis­play is per­fect, we can’t re­ally say the same about the cam­era set-up. Ad­mit­tedly, the rear-fac­ing dual-cam­era set-up isn’t bad, but the qual­ity

of im­ages cap­tured isn’t enough to com­pete with the likes of the iPhone X or Google Pixel 2 XL.

But hey, if you’re a ded­i­cated gamer on the mar­ket for a new smart­phone that can pro­vide the best An­droid gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence pos­si­ble, the Razer Phone is the ideal can­di­date – and it’s much cheaper than other flag­ships too. Lewis Painter Spec­i­fi­ca­tions 5.7in (2560x1440, 515ppi) dis­play An­droid 7.1.1 Nougat Qual­comm MSM8998 Snap­dragon 835 pro­ces­sor Octa-core (4x 2.35GHz Kryo, 4x 1.9GHz Kryo) CPU Adreno 540 GPU 8GB RAM 64GB stor­age, up to 2TB with mi­croSD Fin­ger­print scan­ner 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 3.1, Type-C 1.0 Non-re­mov­able lithium-ion 4,000mAh bat­tery 58.5x77.7x8mm 197g

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