The Razer Phone 2 runs Android 8.1, with Nova Launcher as the default UI and some helpful Razer customizations to fine-tune the gaming experience.
Starting with Android, 8.1, also known as Oreo, this is last year’s version of Google’s Mobile OS. On the one hand, this still supports all the apps and services you’d be getting with the 2019 flavor, Android Pie, but it still isn’t Google’s freshest update.
Moving onto Nova Launcher, and this is a very stock-looking, customizable take on the traditional Android interface. You have an apps tray, home screens and a notification bar that you can pull down from the top of the screen.
What’s cool about Nova Launcher is that you can tweak a huge number of elements to personalize your phone. The homescreen grid sizes, for example, are set to 5 x 5, but you can change this to from as few as two to as many as 12 apps wide or tall. The applications tray can be tweaked in a similar way, and you can also create gesture shortcuts.
These gesture shortcuts can be linked to launching applications, firing up settings or engaging with UI elements. For example, a swipe down anywhere on the screen can be set to pull down the notification bar – handy for anyone with smaller hands.
The Razer Phone 2 also has three apps onboard to help you get the most out of it from a gaming, or at least gaming enthusiast, point of view: Chroma, Cortex and Theme Store.
Chroma is the control center for the RGB Razer Logo on the phone’s back. As mentioned, you can set the logo to one of three settings: breathing, static or spectrum. Breathing pulses the logo on and off, static just keeps the logo fired up and spectrum cycles through the color spectrum on offer.
The Cortex app is more directly linked to gaming, with three core elements: Featured – where you can browse Razer recommended games, Library – an area that groups your installed games, and game booster.
Game booster is the place to change the Razer Phone’s power management mode, to Power Save or Performance. If you want to go granular, you can assign specific settings to individual games, clocking the processor as high as 2.8GHz, and firing up anti-aliasing.
Finally, the theme store is a quick way to give your Razer Phone 2 a makeover, with plenty of either gaming or Razer themes available.
There’s nothing in the UI that makes us complain – it’s simple, stable and customizable, with some flourishes both stylistically and in terms of gaming-related enhancements. That it extends to the back of the phone in the form of the Chroma logo is just a sweetener.
Clocked at 2.8GHz, the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor inside is paired with 8GB RAM. A few weeks before this review going live, this was as good as it got in the Android world from a performance point of view. Then the Huawei’s Mate 20 series dropped, rocking Kirin 980 chipsets.
Talking pure benchmarks - and we know Huawei hasn’t got the cleanest track record with benchmarks - the Mate 20 currently beats out the Razer Phone 2 across both Geekbench and Antutu by a clear margin.
That said, only Huawei phones get Kirin chips, and outside the Huawei - and of course, Apple - worlds, the Razer Phone 2 reigns supreme, with a Geekbench multi-core score of 8,898.
As for actual gaming performance, all Snapdragon 845 phones are excellent, and the Razer Phone 2 is no different. A vapor-chamber cooling system allows heat to spread throughout the phone via a custom vapor chamber. According to Razer, this results in fewer hot spots and greater performance and stability compared to traditional cooling methods.
The reality is, though, that this phone gets warm. Even when playing back a 90-minute video, it still got warmer than the Mate 20 Pro and OnePlus 6T - the latter running the same internals. That said, at no point does this impact gameplay, and the phone never got uncomfortably hot during our time with it.
Games we tested on the Razer Phone 2 include Monster Hunter, Injustice 2, Shadowgun Legends, Skull Girls, Unkilled and, of course, PUBG and Fortnite. Having spent hours gaming on it, the phone doesn’t only stay cool enough to use, it’s also comfortable to hold and listen to.