Razer Phone Review: Media Consumption Monster
Razer takes handheld media to the next level with its first smartphone
PHOTO CREDIT: Inc Southeast Asia
In recent years, I have had something of an odd relationship with Razer. I’ve been a fan of the company ever since i got my first Razer Krait a decade ago to play World of Warcraft. When I told people that the mouse cost nearly a hundred bucks, I was called insane. It was fine, though. Gaming was my cult and Razer was the arbiter of cool. I was l33t, they were not.
As I’ve grown, so has Razer, with the company diversifying from making pure gaming hardware to going more mainstream with laptops, PC Cases, and even virtual currency.
When Razer announced that it had acquired Nextbit, I knew that a phone was inevitable. Part of me hoped that the company wouldn't make a phone, that most mass market of hardware devices.
The fact that Razer CEO and black t-shirt aficionado, Tan Min-Liang, was very vocal about this phone being a “phone for gamers” did little to quell the feeling that this would just be a reskinned Nextbit Robin with a, hopefully light-up, green snake on the back. An Android brick with gamer kitsch just tossed about.
If this sounds like the whining of an overgrown hipster, you are probably right. But in many ways, Razer’s gear reminds of a simpler time where my only concern was tanking Onyxia without many whelps appearing.
So for this phone, I decided not to only use it for a few weeks and write a review as I would normally do, but to use it as my daily driver--day in and day out and subject it to all the abuse that a so-called “power user” like me subjects my personal devices to.
Did the phone pass muster? Read on to find out.
The Razer Phone’s internals will not leave you wanting.
One does not simply market a phone for gamers without equipping it with the best internals available in the market.
While the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip is fairly common on Android flagships, very few are paired with such an enormous helping of RAM. The Razer Phone comes with an insane 8GB of LPDDR4 system memory. That’s more than the Galaxy Note 8. This device will not simply crush, but annihilate the most graphics intensive games even without turning on its Game Booster software tweaks.
Speaking of software, aside from some features baked in to make the most of its beefy specs, the Razer Phone is running near stock Android. I personally applaud this decision. Often custom Android skins take away more than they actually give due to redundant apps and optimization issues. Stock Android means fast updates for the Razer Phone. It also matches well with the phone’s clean design.
One would logically assume the Razer Phone’s hardware will take a toll on its battery life, but it would be an incorrect assumption. Some form of sorcery gives it surprising longevity, even taking into account its 4000 mAh battery. Qualcomm Quick Charge technology ensures you won’t need to play your games next to a power socket for long even when you run out. Wireless charging is not an option.
The most awe-inspiring feature of the Razer Phone is undoubtedly its speakers. The individually amplified twin stereo front-facing speakers are in a league of their own. Nothing else comes remotely close. They get loud – really loud. They render your Bluetooth speaker obsolete. I pity the fool who uses the Razer Phone as an alarm clock at max volume. Beyond their ludicrous volume, they also produce great clarity with deep bass and a well-defined mid-range.
While the Razer Phone did do away with the headphone jack, whatever earphones you will end up using with the included type-C adapter will benefit from its THX certified DAC. It did not do away with its micro-SD card slot, ensuring you have plenty of storage for media and games.
The Razer Phone is the antithesis of the iPhone X.
While curved glass surfaces and razor thin bezels are in style, Razer chose to go in the total opposite design direction. Matte black metal and sharp lines dominate the Razer Phone’s intimidating form, protecting it from unsightly finger smudges. The coal finish is offset only by the laser-etched tri-serpent logo adorning its back.
The fingerprint reader had been integrated into the power button on the right side of the phone to keep the design sleek. In terms of looks alone, the Razer Phone looks at home next to the company’s lineup of gaming laptops.
In terms of function however, I do have a few gripes. Most egregiously, the Razer Phone would have been the undisputed king of the can if only it had water resistance. The Razer Phone’s godly speakers would have served me better if I didn’t have to worry about some accidental moisture.
Also, the tactile feel of the hardware buttons and vibration motor are a bit unrefined. They take away from the overall polished feel of the product.
The Razer Phone’s gorgeous 5.7-inch IPS display is its defining feature and one of its biggest selling points over its rivals. While screens with high refresh rates have made their way into laptops and tablets, the 120 Hz quad HD panel on the Razer Phone is the first of its kind on a mass market smartphone.
To be able to touch such fluid vivid motion in the palm of your hands is an experience in itself. Beyond its obvious advantages to gaming and media consumption, you will find scrolling through long articles or WhatsApp group chats less of a chore. I’m also impressed that keeping the display at 120Hz made no significant impact on battery life at all.
On top of that, you get HDR support, wide color gamut, great viewing angles, and sufficient brightness for daylight usage. Together with its speakers, the Razer Phone has the best media experience on any smartphone hands down. Where has this been all my life?
The Razer Phone needs better cameras to be the complete package.
If you’re looking for feature-rich software or some revolutionary dual lens system, you’re not going to get it with the Razer Phone. Out of the box, its dual rear mounted 12 MP shooters and front-facing 8 MP camera are painfully average.
The cameras will suffice for basic point and shoot scenarios. Some recent updates have made the cameras significantly better but the shooters here are still a ways off from phones like the iPhone X and the Google Pixel 2 XL.
Should you buy it?
Razer has done well in its first foray into the smartphone market. The Razer Phone far outperforms the incumbents with its screen and speakers alone. It is a powerhouse for media consumption and gaming.
If you can overlook a few issues, the Razer Phone will no doubt titillate your senses. At the very least, it should make you excited to see the smartphones Razer will come up with in the near future.