Razer Phone review: an absolute beast of a smartphone

Built for Gamers, but you don't have to be a gamer to want it...

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T3 Verdict

The Razer Phone is a very impressive device from the gaming hardware company, especially considering it's its first attempt. It's sure to please gaming fans, but the camera lets it down.

Reasons to buy

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    Distinctive design

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    120HZ screen

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    Dolby Atmos audio

Reasons to avoid

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    Camera

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    Do mobile games need the extra grunt?

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    No headphone jack or water resistance

The Razer Phone is a smartphone built for gamers, by gamers, but we'll say this straight away – you don't need to be a gamer to appreciate this smartphone.

How exactly has Razer built a phone for gamers? Well, for a start it has an amazing screen with technology not seen in a phone before, brilliant speakers, and a design which makes it easy to hold in landscape mode.

It's all been very well thought out, but does the world need a gaming smartphone? 

We've been using the device for a few weeks to find out…

Stealth design

Let's start with the design, which is maybe one of the more divisive aspects of the Razer Phone – this one the office divided.

Taking inspiration from Razer's range of gaming laptops, the Phone is crafted from matt black aluminium, giving it the appearance of a stealth jet.

Personally I like its mean, menacing appearance.

The rear casing features a contrasting black Razer logo on the back giving away its identity (a limited edition launch model will feature a venom green logo).

It still manages to be understated though, and should appeal to both gamers and non-gamers alike. Just imagine, it could be a lot worse, with colour changing choma LEDs which would be sure to put off many non-gamers.

Others in the office dislike by the boxy, minimal design. It's certainly not as sleek or elegant as the iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy S8, for example.

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This boxy design does make it easy to grip and hold for long periods of mobile gaming however, and the large bezels at the top and bottom of the screen stop accidental touches which tend to happen on a bezel-less display.

It's a thought out design then, but there are some things that let it down, such as no water resistance and no headphone jack.

The Razer Phone does come with a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box.

You won't find a fingerprint sensor on the front or rear of the device, instead it's hidden inside the side-mounted power button. It's lightning fast, and in a natural location where my thumb rests.

Razer sharp screen

The next thing you'll notice when holding the Razer Phone is the stunning QuadHD 5.7-inch IGZO LCD panel.

It's bright and colourful, although not quite as vibrant as the OLED panels found in other flagships.

Razer have gone with LCD technology as it's capable of higher refresh rates, and that's where the real innovation is here, as the Razer Phone is one of the first to feature a display with a 120Hz refresh rate.

It's also capable of up to 120fps (frames per second), which means games should look silky smooth.

It's not just games that benefit from this display, you'll even see even a an improvement scrolling through Twitter and surfing the internet.

This high refresh rate is a technology Razer uses in its gaming laptops, so it's really cool to see this being transfered to Razer's smartphone.

Razer has called this an "Ultramotion" display, meaning it'll dynamically synchronise the GPU and display.

It looks great, and it's sure to please Razer's hardcore gaming fans, but it's not revolutionary or going to change the mobile experience.

The refresh rate and resolution can be turned down in the settings to save battery life, but where's the fun in that?

Amazing audio

Flanking the display are two large speakers, each with a dedicated amp. These are perhaps my favourite part of the Razer Phone, and are perhaps the best speakers on any smartphone currently available.

These speakers are loud, and sound rich and clean, even at higher volumes. They do, however, suffer from a lack of bass, just like every other smartphone speaker around. 

Not only are these speakers impressively loud, but they also support Dolby Atmos and are THX certified. The stereo speakers are capable of creating an incredibly immersive surround sound effect.

I was blown away by the Dolby Atmos demo that's installed on the device, the level of surround sound the two speakers are able to create is phenomenal. 

This will be great for gaming, as well as watching films, but it even makes a difference when watching YouTube and Twitter videos.

And, finally, the large dual front facing speakers mean that you hands won't cover them while you're holding the phone in landscape mode.

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Specs and camera

Inside of the device you've got Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor and a monumental 8GB RAM (that's more than my ageing MacBook Pro).

That's a lot of grunt, which should keep games and apps running smoothly.

We're still not sure a phone needs 8GB RAM, but Razor claims it'll allow you to run multiple intensive apps with no lag or slow-down.

Obviously the focus here is gaming, but we could also see this powerful phone used for on-the-fly video or photo editing as well.

Elsewhere the Razer Phone packs a large 4000mAh battery which will comfortably last a full day, Qualcomm 4+ Quick Charge, and 64GB of internal storage, which is expandable via microSD.

The Razer Phone has an 8MP front-facing camera, and dual 12MP camera system with a wide angle lens and a telephoto lens on the back.

Unfortunately, this is the weakest part of the Razer Phone.

In daylight it's capable of taking some acceptable shots, but things quickly head south when the lighting gets darker.

The camera app is also slow, especially when using HDR mode. 

Razer's competitors have all spent years (and lots of money) developing advanced smartphone cameras, and it's clear that Razer lags behind in this area.

Razer have acknowledged this, and have promised a number of new features (such as slow motion video and portrait mode) via a software update soon.

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Highly customisable Software

The Razer Phone comes running Android 7.1, which will be updated to Oreo in Q1 2018, with the customisable Nova Launcher on top.

Nova Launcher in its standard form is very close to stock Android, but offers some very powerful and detailed customisation options.

The handset also has a Theme Store preinstalled, which is already populated with gaming skins for the device.

Razer has been working with developers to create 120HZ optimized games, such as Arena of Valor, Tekken, and Final Fantasy 15. Only Arena of Valor is available right now.

Verdict

The Razer Phone is a very impressive device from the gaming hardware company, especially considering it's its first attempt.

The 120Hz screen and amazing Dolby Atmos audio are the real standout features here, while the camera needs work.

The handset is sure to please die hard Razer fans, as well as people looking for something a little different to the current crop of similar-looking flagship smartphones.

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