Razer is a company well-known for its gaming products; its line of keyboards and mice are used by gamers worldwide, even at the professional level. Its laptops, too, are well-known for being good for gaming (if somewhat unreliable). The company is always looking to expand its product line, and while it has a reputation for being one of the companies where every LED costs €100, it’s undeniable that they make good products. Thus, the initial prospect of a Razer phone was quite exciting. While the first device was more of a proof of concept than an actual fully-fledged smartphone, it has paved the way for the Razer Phone 2 to improve upon all its predecessor’s misgivings.
Smartphone gaming as a whole is not something that’s looked upon particularly favourably by the gaming community. It’s viewed as something that’s far more casual, and the notion of competitive smartphone gaming draws snorts of derision from certain uppity PC gamers. Razer, it seems, is aiming to change this with its line of smartphones. Their expansion into mobile gaming could be the thing that changes people’s view of it. But there are caveats.
The first Razer Phone was the source of much buzz within the smartphone community, but fell a little flat in the end. While it was a decent phone, it wasn’t really anything to shout about. The Razer Phone 2 looks to improve on this, and in some ways, it succeeds.
In spite of this success, however, the Razer Phone 2 is still very much a flawed device. If you’re buying it purely for playing games, I can’t recommend it enough. But if you’re buying it to replace your current phone (or even the OG Razer Phone), you might want to think twice.
|Category||Razer Phone 2||Razer Phone 1|
|Dimensions||158.5 x 78.99 x 8.5mm||158.5 x 77.7 x 8 mm|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 @ 2.8GHz||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 @ 2.0GHz|
|GPU||Adreno 630||Adreno 540|
|RAM||8GB (LPDDR4X)||8GB (LPDDR4)|
|Rear Cameras||12MP (f/1.75 wide with OIS) + 12MP (f/2.6 telephoto) dual-tone LED flash, dual autofocus phase detection, 2160p @ 60FPS video recording||12MP + 13MP f/1.75 w/ dual-tone LED flash, dual autofocus phase detection|
|Front Camera||8MP f/2.0 w/ 1080p video recording||5MP F/2.0 w/ 1080p video recording|
|Storage||64GB/128GB (Satin Glass only) w/ microSD support||32GB/64GB w/ microSD support|
|Display||5.72-inch 1440×2560 16:9 IGZO LCD
Wide Color Gamut (WCG)
645 nits maximum
Corning Gorilla Glass 5
|5.7-inch 1440×2560 16:9 IGZO LCD
Wide Color Gamut (WCG)
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
|Audio||No 3.5mm headphone jack (USB-C to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter included, 24-bit DAC), stereo front-facing speakers with dual amplifiers and Dolby Atmos||No, 3.5mm headphone jack, stereo front-facing speakers supporting Dolby Atmos|
|Battery||4,000mAh battery with Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0+, fast wireless Qi charging||4,000mAh battery with Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0+|
|Ports||USB Type-C||USB Type-C|
|Fingerprint scanner||Yes (Side-mounted)||Yes (Side-mounted)|
|Software||Android 8.1 Oreo (upgradeable to Android Pie soon)||Android 8.1 Oreo|
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
LTE with VoLTE
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
LTE with VoLTE
Appearance and Build Quality of the Razer Phone 2
The back of the Razer Phone 2 is a sheer slab of glass, interrupted only by the camera bump. An RGB-backlit logo sits behind the glass, which can be customised using Razer Chroma. Options like a breathing effect and colour cycling are available. However, stupidly, it serves as the notification light for the RP2, with no indication on the front of the device as to whether or not you have messages or something else awaiting your attention. This is annoying at first, especially if you’re one of the people like myself who leave their phone on silent all the time. However, after a few days of use, I adapted and starting leaving it face-down on tables, which meant I now knew when I had notifications, but annoyingly had to turn the device over to view them.
Turning the device over meant that I was greeted with the monstrosity that is the front screen. The difference between the two sides of the RP2 is eye-watering. In an era where many OEMs are striving for a complete lack of bezels, Razer has instead opted to slap a gigantic chin and forehead on the phone. Their justification is it allows space for dual speakers, which support Dolby Atmos 5.1 Surround Sound. While, admittedly, the speakers do generate good sound, in a blind test I conducted, people actually said that my Samsung Galaxy S9+ sounded better than the RP2.
Given the size of the top and bottom bezels, you might expect the screen to reach edge-to-edge on the sides, and you’d be sorely disappointed. There are relatively large bezels on the sides. In all honesty, the size of all the bezels reminds me of an iPhone 5, which was released, um, 6 years ago. That being said, I believe that it is a conscious design choice, and one that makes sense in the context of the type of phone this is. The screen not reaching edge-to-edge means it’s easy to avoid accidentally touching the sides of the screen while playing games.
Furthermore, the whole appearance of the phone is bricky, we’re used to seeing rounded corners and no sharp edges at all on most modern flagships. The RP2, however, doesn’t abide by any such taboos, instead opting for a bricky appearance that still manages to look surprisingly sleek.
Despite all this, the Razer Phone 2 isn’t exactly what I’d describe as an ugly phone. The build feels solid and weighty in the hand, and the glass back – necessary for wireless charging – is nice and smooth. Once you get over the initial shock of the enormous bezels you come to realise that the RP2 is not so bad. The back of the device is simplicity at its finest, and the front maintains a certain dignity in spite of the speakers.
The fingerprint sensor on this phone is fine, as fast as you’d like. However, the placement of the fingerprint sensor is more questionable. Located on the right edge of the device, it’s perfect for right-handed people. Your thumb almost automatically sits right into it, and given that the sensor is also the power button, all it takes is a simple press to unlock the device. But then, for lefties such as myself, some problems can arise. You’re forced to either use your right hand to unlock it or stretch your fingers around the back of the device to reach the button. This stretching method is especially troublesome for those with smaller hands, and in my mind is a huge oversight on Razer’s part. Noticeably, though, your finger sits into the button. The device’s power button is recessed, instead of extruded. This is a real pain, as you won’t always find it straight away when running your finger along the side. Fumbling for the power button in the dark is a nightmare.
Two volume buttons are positioned on the left edge of the phone. Unusually, they’re seated in the middle of the edge, instead of tending towards the top; like we’d see in other flagships. This is a deliberate decision, however, and that becomes clear once you use the phone in landscape mode – exactly like you’d be doing if you were playing a game. When you use the phone in landscape mode the buttons are safely out of the way of both your hands, ensuring you don’t accidentally hit them in the middle of a gaming session.
A USB-C port is present at the bottom of the device, and the lack of a headphone jack is very very noticeable. Razer doesn’t bundle USB-C earphones with the phone, but mercifully we do get a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter. However, what this means is you cannot charge your phone and have earphones plugged in for in-game audio while gaming. Given that gaming is not exactly a low-battery-consumption activity, this is another oversight on Razer’s part, in my mind.
As mentioned before, the display is where the Razer Phone 2 really shines. Running at QHD 1440×2560, with HDR support and, of course, 120Hz, the display is something to marvel at. Videos look crisp and smooth, with fantastic colours.
At 5.72 inches, it’s quite a bit smaller than other flagship devices, but most of the time you won’t notice the difference. The screen is pretty much the perfect size for a gaming phone. Big enough for you to be able to see small details, but small enough to fit in your pocket while allowing for the large speakers at either end.
On the downside, however, the display uses LCD instead of OLED, meaning it consumes slightly more battery, as well as missing out on the darker blacks OLED has to offer. That being said, LCD was a necessary choice for this phone, since OLED panels only support up to 90Hz at the moment, such as in the case of the ASUS ROG Phone.
The screen is absolutely the singular biggest drawing point for this phone, and it’s clear that Razer has put a lot of thought into it. It’s perfect for gaming and does the job as a regular smartphone screen too. It’s an LCD, but it’s a high-quality one at that. Tilting it from side to side reveals that there are wide viewing angles before any discolouration, something that manufacturers fail to nail sometimes. This is, overall, one of the best displays I have ever seen on a phone. It’s 1440p so it’s extremely crisp, and the 120Hz display is nothing short of spectacular to look at. I often found myself simply sliding up and down menu options simply to see how smooth it was.
The Razer Phone 2’s speakers
The Razer Phone 2 has gigantic dual speakers on the front of the phone, which, impressively, manage to remain waterproof. Unfortunately, though, the sound that comes out of them is not as impressive. It lacks bass, which admittedly is a problem with virtually all smartphone speakers, but is especially noticeable when you’re expecting rich, deep audio. It’s loud though, and works great for gaming and watching movies and TV shows. Your fingers won’t block them either while you’re playing games, in case you’re worried about that.
Dolby’s 5.1 Atmos Surround Sound software allows for a lot of customisation, with all of the various sliders an audiophile could ask for. Different sound modes boost certain parts of the audio, in an attempt to make certain types of music sound better. While I’m no expert, I’ve been told the differences are subtle but noticeable, and generally improve the quality of the sound over your standard 3.5mm headphone jack usually built into a smartphone. This is likely because of Razer’s acquisition of THX, a company known for its audio quality. The USB-C to 3.5mm DAC even has THX’s logo on the side.
Performance of the Razer Phone 2
Say what you like about the Razer Phone 2’s appearance, but it performs like a beast. CPU-intensive games such as PUBG and Fortnite are no challenge. I played both on the highest settings and experienced no framerate or lag issues whatsoever. Emulation also works extremely well, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and Super Mario Bros. Wii ran perfectly at 60fps with no stuttering in sight. But what’s important to note here is that there is virtually no flagship smartphone nowadays that will struggle to run these games. Almost all high-end smartphones have the hardware capable of running PUBG and Fortnite. Sustained performance is what’s great here, as the Razer Phone 2 rarely throttles thanks to the huge amount of heat dissipation. Many worried that the inclusion of a glass back would mean that it would lose its heat loss properties, but it doesn’t seem to have affected it at all.
On the other hand, the 120Hz display is a marked improvement over the typical 60Hz in other flagships. Everything flows so smoothly, menus and web pages whizz by with no tearing whatsoever. The main drawing point of the Razer Phone 2 is this 120Hz display, and rightly so, it’s entrancing. Going back to my 60Hz S9+ after using the Razer Phone 2 was almost repulsive, I couldn’t bear to see how jerky some animations looked.
In other words, if you’re searching for a smartphone that can emulate many games to near perfection with loud, booming speakers then the Razer Phone 2 may well be up your alley. Despite the fact that nearly every smartphone powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 will be capable of similar performance, you won’t get the same loud speakers or 120Hz display. There are more and more games supporting the 120Hz display every day, and you can check out the list below.
Benchmarks and storage speed
While Razer is advertising the RP2 as a gaming phone, and in doing so implying that it will run games better than other devices, the specs of the device don’t wildly differ from other flagship handsets. To illustrate this, I did some benchmarks on the Razer Phone 2 using Geekbench 4 Pro and then performed the exact same ones on other high-end devices.
|Razer Phone 2||Samsung Galaxy S9+ (Exynos)||Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S||OnePlus 6|
As for storage benchmarks, our unit failed to save screenshots randomly, so I’m not able to just show you a picture of the storage speed results we got in AndroBench. As a result, take a look at the table below.
|Sequential read||713.26 MB/s|
|Sequential write||104.36 MB/s|
|Random read||128.11 MB/s, 32798.58 IOPS (4KB)|
|Random write||20.84 MB/s, 5336.19 IOPS (4KB)|
|SQLite insert||649.49 QPS, 3.15 sec|
|SQLite update||1048.93 QPS, 1.96 sec|
|SQLite delete||1151.2 QPS, 1.78 sec|
As you can see, the storage speed is about what you’d expect from a device sporting UFS 2.1 storage. Fast storage is just as important as a great processor, and manufacturers will sometimes cheap out on storage as reviewers very seldom focus on it. If you have great processing hardware but terrible storage, you just won’t benefit from it. Razer’s storage speed should allow you to load games quickly with ease and should be great for loading other applications into RAM quickly as well.
Battery on the Razer Phone 2
The 120Hz display may be fantastic, but it comes at a cost. Updating the screen twice as frequently means that the device consumes more power. This offsets the large 4000mAh battery, and means that it only lasts about 7 hours with medium usage. In an hour and a half journey, I used it continuously for video streaming and social media browsing. I had the screen running at 120Hz, and the logo on the back in full RGB mode. At the start, the battery was about 100%. By the time my journey was over, it was touching 40%. In contrast, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S lasts up to around 15 hours with the same amount of usage.
On the upside, however, charging the battery is very, very fast; thanks to QuickCharge 4+ support. Razer claims this can charge the phone to 50% in 30 minutes, and in our tests – with the phone turned off – it charged to above 50% in roughly 25 minutes. Wireless charging is also supported, but is noticeably slower.
In terms of software, there are many options available to extend battery life. There’s the standard suite of Android tools but Razer has also included a thing or two. Game Booster is an app that changes the screen refresh rate and performance mode based on what app you’re using. For example, launch PUBG, and Game Booster can change the refresh rate to 120Hz, and up the CPU clock speed to 2.8GHz. Changing the performance mode to Optimal drops the clock speed to 2.32GHz, and a screen refresh rate of 90Hz.
Note: This section was written before the camera update which improves performance. We do not have photos on the newer version, but we will revisit this in the future.
All this focus on the display and performance, however, has meant that the camera has been neglected on the Razer Phone 2. The device comes nowhere near to the likes of iPhone and Pixel cameras in terms of colour diversity and overall picture quality. While support has been added for 4K video recording at 30fps on the rear camera, it doesn’t make much of a difference since colours are so flat. Interestingly as well, it is advertised that it should support 4K@60FPS… but it doesn’t.
Things get worse in low-light, with many shots coming out blurred, and in the best case you still end up with a lot of noise in photos. Shooting in anything less than bright daylight is virtually pointless if you’re looking for good, high-quality photos.
Thankfully, the camera app UI is vastly improved over the first Razer Phone. Razer had the sense to include a dedicated button to switch to the 2x optical lens. Pictures are taken pretty quickly, but for the quality of images you get, I’d rather it took longer if it meant getting better photos.
On the downside, Razer’s attempt at a “beauty mode” – which is a common mode in smartphones nowadays that attempts to smoothen skin and remove blemishes etc – is abysmal. Jaw reconstruction is completely out of kilter and turning up the beauty filter all the way results in some very very strange-looking results.
If you’d like to avoid all of that, thankfully the Razer Phone 2 actually supports the Google Camera application, complete with all of its software tweaks and quality. It salvages the camera to a point that it’s usable, and even improves upon lowlight performance dramatically. Here are some photos below.
In a step away from a lot of modern OEMs, Razer has opted to keep stock Android – by and large. There has been some green reskins added to app icons; such as the clock and contacts. Aside from that though, there is next to nothing in terms of bloatware. The only things Razer has added are Chroma, Cortex, Game Booster, Dolby Atmos, and Theme Store. Almost all of which, you could argue, are necessary for the phone to operate as intended. It’s stock Android otherwise, which is great to see for a number of reasons. It’s well optimised, there’s little to no bloat and it’s recognisable. There are no weird UI elements that are wildly different from most phones, so it’s not too hard to get used to.
The lack of bloatware only helps the device to run more smoothly, further showing off the 120Hz screen. Even better as well, the launcher that comes preinstalled is actually Nova Launcher. As such, you get a huge amount of options right out of the box, including the ability to have the Google Now panel slide in from the left. You get all of the premium features as well, so you get gestures and more.
Disappointingly, the Razer Phone 2 does not have Android 9.0 Pie, instead coming with Android 8.1 Oreo as standard. Hopefully, the Android Pie launch comes sooner rather than later, especially as more and more OEMs release their updates. Project Treble support is here, and you can modify the device to your heart’s content. Three has not locked the bootloader on the Razer Phone 2, so you can unlock and root it if you’d like. The company has even released factory images so that you can rescue it and reset it with ease should you accidentally brick it. If you are downloading them, be sure to download the correct ones for your device. The Razer Phone 2 launched in Ireland requires the CKH factory images.
While it’s important to note that the device is primarily intended to be a gaming phone, Razer also wants you to believe that it’s good as a regular smartphone; they want it to be your daily driver. This key term, “daily driver”, is where the Razer Phone 2 gets a little conflicted. It’s not abysmal, but it’s not great. What I mean is that the Razer Phone 2 feels a little uncomfortable to use at times. Its bricky design is a far cry from the smooth rounded corners we’re used to seeing and feeling. The massive bezels on the phone are radically different from every other flagship out there. Its lack of headphone jack neuters it as a multimedia device.
However, where the Razer Phone 2 is unparalleled is as a gaming device. Everything runs incredibly smoothly, audio is fantastic, and overheating/throttling isn’t a problem. This is where its biggest strength lies, and given that that is its primary purpose, Razer has done a very very good job. But so much focus has been given to it as a gaming device, that if you look at it as a smartphone, it’s somewhat underwhelming, especially when compared against other flagships.
The Razer Phone 2 tries to straddle the gap between high-end gaming and comfortable daily usage, but unfortunately, it can’t quite reach the latter.