Hands on: Razer Phone 2 review

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Our Early Verdict

The Razer Phone 2 isn't a re-imagining of the gaming phone, it's merely just an iteration. The cameras and display have been slightly upgraded, and it now has a glass back, wireless charging and a light-up Chroma logo - but also a higher price tag.

For

  • Display better than original
  • Plenty of power for gaming
  • Light up Chroma logo is cool

Against

  • Question mark over battery
  • Not latest Android version
  • Design looks outdated

The Razer Phone 2 doesn't see itself as just a gaming smartphone, it's just as much a flagship smartphone good enough to rival the major players in the market. At least, that's what Razer believes.

On paper things are promising, with the Razer Phone 2 specs aligning nicely with the flagship competition it wants to rub shoulders with. There's a 5.72-inch QHD display, Snapdragon 845 chipset, 8GB of RAM, 64GB of storage with microSD slot, dual rear cameras, 4,000mAh battery and IP67 dust and water resistance.

Razer has also taken on-board feedback from fans and provided an illuminated Chroma logo on the rear of the handset. It's an iconic design feature on the firm's other products and something that was sorely missing from the original Razer Phone.

So far, so good then, but slide it alongside its predecessor and it's difficult to tell the two apart. Razer is far from the first phone manufacturer to reuse the same design language, but with only a handful of upgrades under the hood the familiar look - and increase in price - is a little disappointing.

Razer Phone 2

Razer Phone 2 release date and price

The Razer Phone 2 price is set at $799 (£779, around AU$1,200), which is $100 (£80, around AU$100) more expensive than its predecessor. 

It's not a huge surprise that the price has been increased - it's a common theme across the mobile industry - but with this device it feels less warranted than some.

As for the Razer Phone 2 release date, you'll be able to get your hands on the Mirror Black version first sometime in October. The Stain Black version will come later. It'll launch in the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific soon after its pre-orders. And pre-orders go live on October 11 at midnight Pacific time. We'll let you know a firmer release date when we have one.

Design

As we've mentioned the Razer Phone 2 looks virtually identical to its predecessor, with sizable bezels housing the powerful speakers above and below the display, squared off edges and a side-mounted power/lock key which houses a fingerprint scanner.

Flip the Razer Phone 2 over though and things are more noticeably different. Razer has given the Phone 2 a Gorilla Glass 5 rear, and moved the camera bump to a central position at the top of the device.

The camera bump itself isn't the most elegant and looks like an implementation we would have seen on phones a few years ago, but the design is at least function and the glass looks and feels premium. It is, however, a fingerprint magnet.

It's Razer's Chroma logo which is the most exciting feature here, as it now lights up. 

The Chroma app on the phone allows you to customize its color from a choice of 16.8 million hues and you can also choose from three different states: breathing (shifts brightness up and down), static (keeps light on at one brightness) and cycle (a party mode which cycles through all colors).

Unsurprisingly the RBG lighting can be a bit of a battery hog, so the app also allows you to turn off the illumination completely, or pick from lower power modes which only triggers the light effect when the screen is on/unlocked. 

It's a fun feature that works well, and one that's unique in the smartphone world. 

In the hand the edges of the Razer Phone 2 are subtly more rounded that its predecessor, making it more comfortable to hold, and the aluminium frame provides a good deal of rigidity to the handset.

The Razer Phone 2 measures 158.5 x 78.99 x 8.5mm, which makes it ever so slightly wider and thicker than the original phone - but the difference really is minimal and you can still use it with one hand.

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There's no headphone jack, with a USB-C connection the only port on the handset. The Razer Phone 2 does come with a headphone adapter in the box though, and it includes a 24-bit DAC for enhanced audio quality.

Meanwhile the dual front facing stereo speakers on the Razer Phone 2 boast Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital 5.1 support and their own 32-bit DAC. They continue to be some of the best sounding smartphone speakers on the market.

It is a shame that the Razer Phone 2 does look so similar to its predecessor though, and in a year where full-screen designs and slender bodies are in vogue, it's hard for the Razer Phone 2 not to feel a little outdated.

Display

The Razer Phone 2 uses the same 5.7-inch QHD 120Hz UltraMotion display as its predecessor. 

The 120Hz refresh rate provides latency free gameplay, extremely smooth scrolling and an 8ms response rate, while Razer's decision to stick within a 16:9 aspect ratio over the more common 18:9 or higher screens that are now popular is purely down to providing an enhanced gaming experience. 

The 16:9 ratio gives you a taller field of view when playing with the phone in landscape. It means that when you're playing the likes of PUBG and Fortnite, you won't have to vertically scroll the camera to look around as much, saving you precious seconds during the heat of the battle. 

Something Razer has enhanced in the Razer Phone 2 display is upping its max brightness by 50% over its predecessor. Brightness now goes up to 645 nits, providing an enhanced viewing experience, especially in brighter environments. 

This increase in brightness also adds to the HDR support of the screen, making your Netflix sessions look even more impressive. 

One thing to note though is the Razer Phone 2 still comes with an LCD rather than an LED display. The technology allows for the higher refresh rate, but the trade off is a slightly thicker phone and less punchy colors versus LED displays (found on the latest flagships from Samsung, Apple and co.). 

Overall though, the Razer Phone 2 screen still looks great and for mobile gamers there is no better phone display specifically tuned to your needs on the market.

Battery

Razer has stuck with the same 4,000mAh battery in the Razer Phone 2, and with a brighter screen and light-up rear logo it may not perform quite so well over the same sized power pack in the original Razer Phone. You'll have to wait for our in-depth review to find out how it performs though.

The Razer Phone 2 battery does support Quick Charge 4+ however, allowing you to top the handset up quickly if you do find it running low.

The introduction of a glass rear has also allowed the inclusion of wireless charging in the Razer Phone 2, and the firm is offering an additional wireless charging pad with a light up base. 

The stand can be flipped, giving you the choice to lay the phone flat, or have it stand up, and will be available to buy separately. We currently don't have any release date or price information for the stand though.

Camera

On paper, dual 12MP rear cameras may seem to be the same snappers found on the original Razer Phone, but there have been a number of upgrades here.

First up, Razer has swapped the Samsung sensors for Sony ones for the Razer Phone 2, while also improving OIS (optical image stabilization) on the wide-angle lens, flash and the software behind the scenes.

It means the cameras on the Razer Phone 2 should provided a more comprehensive shooting experience with improved low light performance. 

The rear cameras can also capture slow motion footage at 1080p at 120fps. That's not as slow as the 240fps or 960fps we've seen on the latest Samsung and Sony handsets, but it will be a welcome addition for some.

With two rear cameras, one of which is wide-angle and the other telephoto, you're able to achieve a 2x zoom, allowing you to get closer to your subject without a reduction in image quality.

However, the handset we got hands on with wasn't running final camera software so we were unable to put these upgrades to the test.

Meanwhile, the front camera can now capture full HD footage at 60fps, as Razer says it's had feedback from streamers that they want to be able to record themselves while playing games.

Performance and interface

The Razer Phone 2 boasts the latest flagship power under the hood with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 chipset lining up alongside 8GB of RAM. 

Razer has focused on reducing lag and latency as much as possible, and it's resulted in supremely smooth gameplay. Improvements to its vapor chamber cooling which debuted on its predecessor, also helps keep the temperature of the handset down and the power high.

We sat down and played Gear.Club for a while during our hands on time with the Razer Phone 2 and witnessed swift load times, smooth gameplay and no sign of lag or stuttering during races. 

You can also fine tune the performance of the handset for specific games with Game Booster, which also featured on the original Razer Phone. 

Here you can set the resolution, refresh rate and more on a game-by-game basis. This allows you to make sure you're getting maximum power when playing PUBG, while conserving battery life during your less intensive Candy Crush sessions. 

Razer is also introducing a new app here, Razer Cortex. It's a storefront that highlights the best games to play on the Razer Phone 2, which may not be as easy to find in Google Play.

There's no indication here as to which games have been specifically tuned to take advantage of the Razer Phone 2's 120Hz display and Dolby 5.1 surround speakers, which is a shame, but it's good to see a new way to discover games.

Gamers will also be able to earn virtual currency from games downloaded via Razer Cortex, which can be redeemed at a later date - but we're yet to get full details on this.

The Razer Phone 2 arrives with Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, which is a little disappointing considering Android 9 Pie is now available. 

Razer says the handset will be upgraded to Android Pie in the future, but it's yet to provide any timeline for this update. 

Razer has also applied the Nova Launcher interface to Android, with a custom theme which alters the appearance of icons and menus. It's not as slick in appearance as stock Android, but you can easily alter the look with the Theme Store.

Inside you'll find 64GB of storage which is a good base to start with, but this can be enhanced thanks to the inclusion of a microSD slot which can support cards up to 2TB in size.

Early verdict

The Razer Phone 2 brings a host of small improvements it last year's gaming-centric smartphone, refining the package to make it even better for its core audience while enhancing the overall experience.

They jury is still out on its general flagship prowess though, and you'll need to wait for our full review to find out if the Razer Phone 2 can stand up to the best in the biz - especially when it comes to the battery and cameras.

Eyebrows were raised last year at the original Razer Phone's price, and with a small increase for the Razer Phone 2 and a seriously competitive market it remains to be seen if the gaming pull is enough to win over consumers.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.