Gaming phones like the new Razer Phone 2 seem to fascinate the companies that make them more than the general public. Razer really wants “gaming phones” to happen. But if you’re not sure what that means, the only way for them to convince you is tomake gaming phones.
So Razer is at it again with the second iteration of its phone that’s dedicated to the idea that people want the smartphone equivalent of a high-end PC with gaming specs. Razer’s hope is that if you’re deeply involved in mobile gaming, want to stream gameplay, or think you can gain an edge in your next match from gaming-oriented hardware, investing in a phone specifically tailored for what you’re into might make sense.
What do you get in the Razer Phone 2 that justifies its $799 price tag over a phone with the same price, like the recently reviewed Google Pixel 3? A lot, actually: Dolby Stereo speakers, a fast refresh 120Hz screen with HDR content support, Chroma lighting, tons of Razer game optimizations, and a “game boost” mode that gives you extra power if you need it.
However, mobile gaming doesn’t have the same lofty requirements as PC gaming. You don’t need a massive desktop or a $2,000 laptop to play mobile games at their best settings; any other flagship smartphone will do. What Razer wants you to believe is that the Phone 2 is a great phoneandthe best gaming phone. But only one of those things is true.
Since the original Razer Phone launched last year, the Razer Phone 2 has gone through a long list of improvements, but it kept its boxy design. Razer didn’t change the bezels in this year’s model. They’re everywhere! For a device with such thick top and bottom sections dedicated to the speakers, I would have hoped there would be smaller bezels framing the screen.
The Phone 2 looks and feels like a premium device, though. The rear panel is glass now, which is required for wireless charging, and its build quality is solid. Although an all-black, candy bar phone with a glass back isn’t a unique design, Razer has managed to make its take look different from everything else out there.
There’s more to the Razer Phone 2’s backside than just glass and wireless charging. There’s also a backlit Razer logo. It supports the static, breathing, and spectrum color profiles that are available on all of Razer’s Chroma accessories. It can also be useful as a notification light when it pulses.
You can control the Chroma light’s battery consumption with the included app. There are three power modes: low (notifications only), medium (works only when the screen is on), and high (always on). I used the high power mode during most of my time with the Razer Phone 2, and I found that it didn’t dramatically drain the battery. So your decision about what to do with that light-up logo comes down to how much you like light-up logos.
I was really disappointed when I found out that I couldn’t use the Chroma app to control other Chroma-equipped devices I have at home. There is no Synapse 3 app equivalent for the Razer Phone 2. Hopefully, that will change in the future because a phone would be the ideal control hub for all of my Chroma gear.
This is one of the smoothest displays on an Android phone. The fluidity between home screens, scrolling through webpages or Instagram, and watching content move cleanly across the screen is almost a spectacle. Colors pop, graphics are sharp, and everything on screen has ample saturation with good contrast (though not as wildly vibrant as Samsung’s displays).Pokémon GoandFortnitehave never looked better or smoother on an Android phone.
The Razer Phone 2’s cameras haven’t improved by much. The new rear cameras are 12MP Sony sensors with f/1.75 and f/2.6 lenses. Razer also developed a new camera app that supports 4K recording (up to 30 fps), HDR, portrait modes for all three cameras, and “beauty shots.”
Unfortunately, none of this makes a real difference. The Razer Phone 2’s camera setup won’t stand up to an iPhone or Pixel camera. In most scenarios, photos come out with a flat color profile — which is fine for editing, but it lacks vibrancy and contrast. If you don’t have the best lighting, the results will be noisy, with overexposed whites and blacks that look more like grays.
The new rear cameras also struggle with low-light photography, often resulting in blurry shots. And it only gets worse with the “beauty mode.” Beauty modes that offer facial smoothing to artificially improve the appearance of your skin are nothing new, but the Razer Phone 2 takes it to another level with jaw reconstruction. If you slide the beauty filter to the max, you can watch your jawline get artificially accentuated. It’s really weird.
Razer is also selling a $99 wireless charger alongside the Phone 2. It features Chroma RGB lighting all around the base. It’s also versatile: you can prop your phone up, lay it flat, and charge the phone in both landscape and portrait orientation. It comes with an 18W USB-C charger; it charges slower than wired charging, but it’s still considered fast charging.
However, there seem to be some quality control issues with the wireless charger. After switching between modes a few times, I’ve noticed the hinge became loose. And in case you were wondering: yes, you can charge other phones that support wireless charging. But you will usually have to do so horizontally, because the charging coils were positioned to meet with the Razer Phone 2’s, slightly beneath the backlit logo.
The Razer Phone 2 isn’t going to change the phone market, but it may change how mobile gamers look at run-of-the-mill flagship smartphones. They might want a phone that looks like it was engineered for a specific purpose. There might be a pretty small number of people who fit that bill, honestly, but Razer’s whole business is catering specifically to those types of gamers.