Razer is no longer a new smartphone company. This is in fact the second smartphone to be released, and it also continues to be exclusive on the Three network.
If you’re just looking at the front you may not notice any differences, however it is under the hood and on the back where you’ll start to see improvements.
Being a big gamer, I was really interested to see what Razer had to offer with their second smartphone, so was really looking forward to putting this through its paces.
During my time on with the Razer Phone 2, I have been using my own Three SIM card – using this as my only device for all my daily uses, to see how it really worked and what the performance is like.
Design and display
This smartphone is far more than just about the design, however this is the part that grabs your attention when you’re in a phone shop, so let’s go through it.
On the front there’s an 8 megapixel camera that can record in 1080p resolution. I will cover the camera later on in the review, however whilst it may not have the huge 20+ megapixel lens found in OnePlus or Huawei phones, it does a great job for selfies and video calls.
Here you’ll also find an ambient light sensor used to control the brightness depending if you’re in a dimly lit or bright area. This is what also notices when your head is near the earpiece whilst on a call and turns the display off so you don’t knock any buttons.
An LED sits up here to show if you have any notifications such as missed calls, emails, messages and so on. It is a simple thing to have but is very handy if you’re getting lots of notifications.
The most annoying thing about the grill-like design is that you get dirt and dust stuck between the holes. It’s almost impossible to clear it fully. This was something that I experienced on the original phone too (full review of that here).
The screen once again really impresses, with an amazing 5.7 inch Quad HD display that features HDR for superior gaming. Colours are bright and clear, full of contrast thanks to that HDR technology. It really does bring your content to life if you view an HDR image or video on this device.
It also has the 120hz refresh rate we saw from the original Razer phone from last year. This impressive refresh rate makes the whole experience much smoother than ever before, but it is what it does when it comes to gaming that really makes it outstanding.
Playing games becomes so much more enjoyable on this. Smooth graphics, clear audio. Even games like Pokemon Go you will find a big improvement on the smoothness of the screen rate and must be seen to really be appreciated.
I loved the display on the original Razer phone, and this one is even better with it being 50% brighter and better at colour accuracy.
Below the screen is a second front facing speaker. I will mention a few times in this review. It is REALLY loud and impressive at the same time. Having the dual speakers does, however, make the phone large and look heavy. It is quite heavy, but what you do get is the best speakers on a phone right now, and with the Dolby 5.1 Surround technology, watching a film on this phone is an incredible experience.
Even with volume at its lowest, it was still very loud and was still clear when watching YouTube or Netflix content.
On the top edge there’s two microphones used for capturing audio in video as well as noise cancellation.
Along the bottom, a microphone for voice calls and again capturing audio when in video mode. There’s also the USB-C charging port which features QuickCharge technology to get as most power to the phone as possible.
Once again the headphone jack is nowhere to be seen, instead Razer give you a dongle in the box (as seems to be the current trend). You can then use your own set of wired headphones or you can go Bluetooth and use any pair you like. With a 24 bit DAC, the audio experience through a wired headset was outstanding, I used the free pair that came with the Pixel 3 as these are also USB-C and the audio quality was one of the best I have ever had on a smartphone.
As mentioned, the USB-C charging port features QuickCharge 4. This means you can speedily charge your battery when you need to. You also have that wireless charging option for topping up.
Turn over to the left and you just get the rounded volume up and down buttons.
You also have the SIM card tray – pop in your Nano SIM card to get connected. Sliding this out also reveals the microSD card slot where you can expand memory up to 1TB.
Move over to the right and, in the middle, a power button. This also acts as the fingerprint sensor to unlock the device, and does so very fast. It was a shame that there was no facial unlock – we are seeing a lot of elsewhere at the moment – but at least the fingerprint reader is in a great location and works quickly.
The back is where you find the biggest design change from last year’s model. The new all-glass back. It is made from Gorilla Glass 5 and now features wireless charging – a great feature to have these days
The camera is now located nearer the centre instead of in the corner, something that will help you snap photos without your fingers getting in the way. The dual camera setup has the LED flash right in the middle, and the cameras are both 12 megapixels to allow for zooming thanks to the telephoto lens. More on the camera later on.
The other key change makes no improvement at all to the specs, but more to the overall design – the light-up Razer logo!
Yes that’s right, the logo on the back now changes colour. You can set that in the phone settings if you want to. This just adds to the extra customizable bits that Razer deliver to make this your own personal phone. This system goes by the name “Razer Chroma” and has 16.8 million colour options for the logo to light up, it also allows you to pick different colours to different notifications. So, if you want a red logo for Gmail you can. Green for WhatsApp etc…
It sounds cool, and looks even cooler when you see in person!
I did notice that the back of the phone clicked a little when you pressed down on it. This was due to the back plate being made from glass and the rest being metal. On the older model it was all a solid piece of aluminium.
More than anything this was frustrating when the vibration kicked in and when typing text on the keyboard and the phone would rattle a little.
The cameras have seen a big improvement over the previous model thanks to a new Sony sensor. There’s also improved software which gives a better overall image. When I tested the original Razer phone I noticed that day-time photos were ok but it was the night-time and low-light performance that really struggled, especially against some other flagship phones.
Thankfully this year Razer have addressed this and really have improved the overall picture quality – both daytime and night-time.
In the gallery below your notice a wide range of photos taken at different times of the day so you can see just what these cameras are capable of.
You get a dual-camera setup with a dual LED flash centred between the two camera sensors. The main camera is a f/1.7 12 megapixel Sony camera. This captures a lot of detail. The secondary camera is again a Sony sensor and is again 12 megapixels, but this time has an aperture of f/2.2, this is a telephoto lens which allows you to zoom in to subjects without losing any image quality.
Another improvement created by swapping out the older Samsung sensor to the newer Sony one is the addition of OIS, otherwise known as Optical Image Stabilization. This really helps in poorly lit conditions.
The camera interface is pretty simple. You don’t get many fancy modes, then again you don’t really need them on a phone which is meant for the gamer market.
You do get a few options to choose from, such as a beauty mode, portrait mode; but it’s pretty much a point and shoot unless you use a third-party app from the Play Store.
Video quality is decent and can capture slow-motion videos at 120 frames per second at 720p. It may not be the same experience as phones packing 960 frames per second slow-mo, but it’s still nice to see it as an option.
Razer, being a gaming company, want to make sure their main market is catered for. This is why the front facing camera, which is 8 megapixels, can capture video at 60 frames per second. Ideal for super smooth video when live streaming via Twitch etc.
Of course this is handy for anybody who wants to video blog on the move, but its main focus is for the online gamer.
Whilst the camera is an improvement over the original Razer Phone, it still falls short when compared to the competition. This costs nearly £750, and there are plenty of other choices out there if you want a great camera.
Performance and battery
Razer decided to go ‘all out’ with their second Razer phone. The Snapdragon 845 Processor, combined with 8GB of RAM, makes even the most graphic-heavy game run as smooth as you would hope from a gaming phone.
The battery is huge at 4,000mAh and now features wireless charging, so if you are in a location that has this facility, you can now top-up the battery on the go.
With 64GB of storage, you have enough built in storage to keep you going. If you did need even more, you have support for microSD cards up to 1TB.
Screen performance is top of the line, as mentioned before the 120hz display makes a huge difference in day to day use. This does have an impact on the battery, hich is why you have a larger battery anyway, but you can choose in settings to change to 90hz or 60hz if you wanted to save that extra bit of power.
Networking and connectivity is also as you would expect from a flagship such as this, you have the normal Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS and you also get Gigabit LTE support for super-fast networking over your carrier.
With Three rolling out 4G+ carrier aggregation, the Razer Phone 2 was able to get some superb speeds when out and about. This will depend on your location though, but at times I was hitting over 100Mbps – incredible.
Speaker performance is also brilliant. That dual front facing setup delivers a really loud and clear sound. The 24-bit DAC and Dolby Surround 5.1 audio, when paired with the right content, really made it stand out, even though there’s a slight trade-off with the speaker size.
The Razer Phone 2 also includes IP67 water resistance, so you can use your phone in the rain, playing your games, or use the camera without worrying about causing any damage.
Finally, it would not be right to talk about performance without highlighting the very cool sounding “Vapor Chamber Cooling” which is a new plate inside which dissapates the internal heat. This spreads the heat to prevent specific hot-spots and keeps performance at its best.
Considering Android 9 Pie has started to roll to devices such as the OnePlus 6, it was a little disappointing to see the Razer phone to launch with Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box
This will get the upgrade to Android 9, but we don’t have any time-scale on when this will happen. It was disappointing that it couldn’t happen at launch, especially considering near stock Android experience.
When it comes to software, this is the closest thing you’ll get to a Pixel-like experience. Apart from a few gaming options, such as the Theme Store, display settings and a Game Booster, there’s no additional bloatware here. This means that you can use up more storage. The Theme Store is nice to have and seems to be much better in the way of content than it used to be.
Razer have also added options to control the gaming experience. This allows you to change the refresh rate of the display. You can also choose different settings for different games, so for example if you want your Pokémon go to run at 90 frames per second to improve battery you can. You can run other games at 120 frames per second. You can also tweak the display resolution as well as processor speed, allowing you to really customise your overall game experience on this device.
I enjoyed my time with the original Razer Phone. That was quite large in the hand due to its “brick” design. So I was very interested to see what the company had on offer in this second model.
The screen continues to be the biggest selling-point – the 120 hz refresh rate and the fluid experience made it a joy to use, whether it was gaming or just browsing and doing the usual social-media bits.
Other companies are trying to move into this market now too. The ROG phone from Asus is one, however the 90 hz screen refresh isn’t as good. Here, the Razer Phone 2 might look the same, but there’s now a glass rear back, wireless charging, better cameras and new RGB lighting for your notifications.
The software is very good and isn’t bloated. It was also nice to see the Nova Launcher Prime as default out of the box again. The Razer Themes section adds a stack of preset gaming themes. I was able to use the Razer Phone 2 as my daily driver to compate against some of the more recent flagship powerhouses, like the OnePlus 6 and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. If you are into your mobile games, than the Razer Phone 2 will be a perfect phone for you. It has a huge battery, wireless charging and the amazing display.
The camera on the original Razer was knocked for poor performance, but now on the Razer Phone 2 it’s much improved – now you get a very capable camera, both day and night.
Whilst the RGB glowing logo on the back and dual front facing speakers may sound impressive, the concerning part seems to still be the design again. The lack of curved edges make the phone feel really big in the hand, just like the original Razer Phone. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have a decent pair of front facing speakers and an impressive display to enjoy. However, in 2018 this feels and looks like a really big phone. It’s going to put some people off, and this is a shame because once you get over the size, this is a very enjoyable phone.
The Razer Phone 2 is also far from being a cheap device. SIM-free from Razer it will set you back £779.99. Thankfully Three continue to be the supported network and have a range of pay monthly options available to you, including unlimited data if you want to never worry about your data use.
A big thank you to Three PR for the loan device to be able to put this review together, you can order your own Razer Phone 2 on Three here.