The Razer Phone is packed full of power and potential, but the stumbling block is its niche appeal. Its design may not blow people away, but the super stereo speakers and gaming-focused display will appeal to some.
The Razer Phone is built for gamers, with high-end specs, silky smooth screen and powerful stereo speakers. But do gamers want a smartphone dedicated to gaming?
Update: Razer has unleashed its first major update to the Razer Phone’s camera app, bringing a slew of new features that fans have asked for.
When you download the new patch, you’ll see that Razer has added 2X zoom to the app, and that shutter speed across the board of lighting conditions has been sped up. Additionally, Razer claims that the image sensor generally produces less noise in dark places and thus, clearer shadows. Best of all, it says that users will find that it takes better photos than before.
We’ll be checking out the camera app update shortly and will note if there’s anything new that we discover.]
With so much competition at the top end of the mobile market, and flagship handsets already offering great screens and a whole lot of power for gaming, the Razer Phone is a bold play from a firm well known for its gaming laptops and peripherals, and which is now hoping its legions of fans will buy into its latest device.
This Android phone is focused on two core elements: the screen and the sound.
Its 5.7-inch display packs the world’s first 120Hz refresh rate on a smartphone, and it’s flanked by Dolby Atmos-tuned stereo speakers. The result is a handset that boasts some seriously strong credentials when it comes to visuals and audio, and with plenty of power under the hood.
Razer Phone price and availability
- Launch price: $699, £699.99 (around AU$890) SIM-free
- Release date: November 2017
RAZER PHONE SPECIFICATIONS
DimensionS: 158.5 x 77.7 x 8mm
OS: Android 7.1.1
Screen size: 5.7 inches
Resolution: 1440 x 2560
CPU: Snapdragon 835
Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 8MP
You can pick it up from Razer’s online store in the US and UK, while those in the UK also have the option it grab it on contact exclusively at Three. In the US, you’ll have to buy it at full price.
Three is also offering the Razer Phone for £594.99 on PAYG (pay as you go) with at least a £10 top-up, which brings the price of the handset down by almost £100.
The Razer Phone release date was November 17 in a number of countries including the US, UK and Canada.
Razer told us it’s currently looking at bringing the phone to Australia, while India has been ruled out and the Middle East is a possibility later along the line.
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- World’s first 120Hz smartphone gaming display
- 5.7-inch LCD IGZO QHD (1440 x 2560)
Razer has opted for LCD technology over the brighter, more colorful AMOLED tech you’ll find in the likes of the Galaxy S8 and Google Pixel 2 XL because it has the ability to deliver higher refresh rates and frame rates. That’s ideal, of course, for 3D gaming.
The result is a display which boasts a 120Hz variable refresh rate, and is capable of up to 120fps (frames per second). It means movement on screen is silky smooth – even just scrolling through your Twitter timeline you can appreciate the higher frame rate as it glides effortlessly, and more quickly, beneath your fingers.
- Square, blocky and a little uninspired
- No headphone jack, but audio adapter with built in 24-bit DAC in box
If the design of the Razer Phone looks familiar, that’s because the gaming giant purchased startup smartphone maker Nextbit back in January 2017 – igniting rumors that it was planning on launching its own smartphone – and it’s used the design of Nextbit’s only handset, the Nextbit Robin, here.
The three key visual differences between it and the Razer Phone are the latter’s slightly taller, wider build, its new black paint job, and the increased size of the speaker grilles on the front. It’s also a lot heavier at 197g, versus the 150g Robin.
It’s not a bad design, and it’s more comfortable to hold landscape then you’d expect with its flat edges and angular corners, but its looks are polarizing.
We met some people during our time with the phone who loved the design, but the majority we spoke to were less enamored with what Razer has done.
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The phone boasts the same finish as other Razer products, in an attempt to win fans of the brand over, and it was designed based on the phone being primarily used in landscape orientaion for gaming, which partly explains the larger bezels above and below the display.
As well as housing a couple of excellent speakers, the bezels provide the perfect place to rest your hands when you’re gaming, meaning you cover less of the screen with your mitts, giving you a better view of the action.
At 8mm thick and with no rounded edges the Razer Phone does feel a little chunky, and it’s less comfortable to hold in portrait orientation. Plus, at 197g it’s also one of the heavier handsets on the market.
There’s a centralized power/lock key on the right of the handset which also houses the fingerprint scanner, while on the left two small circular buttons provide volume control. A USB-C port resides on the bottom.
There is, however, no headphone jack, although Razor includes an audio adapter with a built-in 24-bit DAC with Dolby Atmos support in box, allowing you to plug in your corded headphones.
That’s a potentially big stumbling block for some gamers, as dedicated gaming headsets generally utilize the 3.5mm headphone jack, and its omission here feels like it could alienate some fans. The adapter is a nice addition, but you’ll want to be careful not to lose it.
Round the back a large black and white Razer logo dominates, but there will be a limited number of handsets with a green logo for those who pre-order, or purchase the phone on launch day.
Razer has also used the fanless cooling technology found in its laptops in the phone, which stops the handset heating up too much and prevents hot spots, allowing for a more comfortable gaming experience for longer.
It works too. The phone still gets warm during extended periods of gameplay, but the heat is distributed evenly across the mental unibody, and in our time with the handset it never reached an uncomfortable temperature.
- The best speakers on a smartphone
- Tuned to Dolby Atmos standards and first to be THX-certified
Another important feature of the Razer Phone are the speakers, and we’ll get right to it. The dual front-facing speakers on this phone are, hands-down, the best speakers on any smartphone at the moment.
Each speaker has its own amplifier, and they’ve been tuned to Dolby Atmos standards and are the first smartphone speakers to be THX certified. Together they provide a ‘3D visualization’ of sound, meaning they sound just as good when you’re behind the phone as when you’re in front of it.
The impressive stereo and immersive qualities make it sound like Razer has packed in more than just the two speakers, and you notice the quality every time you listen to audio on the handset.
From quick YouTube clips and Twitter videos to movies and games, the Razer Phone speakers aren’t just loud, they’re also crisp and clear. While there is some bass, it’s not going to be shaking the floor – this is still a smartphone, not a large sub box.
There’s very little distortion even at the highest volume, and you can really appreciate the stereo quality of the sound when holding the phone in landscape.
We put the Razer Phone up against the iPhone 8 Plus and it comfortably won the head-to-head, with richer, clearer and more immersive sound even at full volume.
This phone gives you proper, room-filling sound without distortion, and the iPhone sounded tinny in comparison.
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The Razer Phone is one of the most innovative and interesting flagship smartphones on the market. Its design may not be eye-catching, its camera may be run-of-the-mill and the lack of a headphone jack will irk, but it’s the only phone pushing mobile gaming to the forefront.
It’s easy to appreciate the excellent audio and smooth gaming experience. The 120Hz refresh-rate screen and dual-amplified stereo speakers are features we’d like to see on more phones, and currently no one does these specific features better than Razer.
The gaming brand has a legion of fans, so perhaps this phone will really speak to them – but while its gaming credentials may be applauded it doesn’t feel like the definitive answer to mobile gaming we’ve been waiting for.
There are better all-round devices on the market for a similar price, which can provide a strong gaming experience alongside excellent cameras and general usability. Then there’s the fact that the Razer Phone feels a little light on actual games.
There’s the promise of more titles fine-tuned for the handset in the coming months, but as it stands it doesn’t feel like it works hard enough to push the best titles to your screen.
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