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Hands-on with the Razer Phone: Big bezels, big sound, big ambitions

By Koh Wanzi - 6 Nov 2017

Hands-on with the Razer Phone: Big bezels, big sound, big ambitions

Razer Phone

Razer's attempt to make a difference in the smartphone scene

So it finally happened. The Razer Phone is Razer’s first ever smartphone, the latest addition to the company’s expanding ecosystem of gaming-oriented peripherals, systems, and software.

This focus on the gamer is fine when we’re talking about keyboards, mice, and laptops, but things start to get a little fuzzy when it comes to phones. How exactly does one make a phone for gamers, when practically every other flagship smartphone is a specifications monster?

Consider the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, whose A11 Bionic chip blows most of the competition out of the water. On the Android side of things, every Android flagship uses the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor that the Razer Phone uses, and phones like the OnePlus 5 and the special edition of the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 already come with the 8GB of RAM that Razer is so proudly touting.

The Basics

Before we go on, here’s a recap of the phone’s specifications:

  • 5.72-inch 2,560 x 1,440-pixel 120Hz IGZO LCD display
  • Snapdragon 835
  • Rear cameras: 12MP f/1.75 wide-angle, 12MP f/2.6 zoom
  • Front camera: 8MP f/2.0
  • 64GB Universal Flash Storage
  • 4,000mAh Li-ion battery
  • 158.5 x 77.7 x 8mm
  • 197g

Razer Phone

There’s no doubt that these are flagship-level specifications, but as I said before, they’re not exactly groundbreaking.

Nevertheless, Razer says this is a phone for gamers, by gamers, and it’s thrown in some performance tweaks to help justify that description. According to Razer, its phone can maintain higher frequencies for longer periods, thanks to the cooling solution that also uses the aluminum frame as a heatsink.

There’s no way for me to test that now, so until we begin to benchmark the phone, you’ll just have to take Razer’s word on that.

Razer Phone

120Hz Screen

Of course, the standout feature on the phone is its 120Hz IGZO LCD display by Sharp. This may not be the first mobile device to use a display with such a high refresh rate – some of Sharp’s own Aquos phones and this year’s iPad Pro already do that – but Razer says it’s the first to combine that with its dynamic refresh rate technology dubbed UltraMotion. The latter is actually based on Qualcomm’s own Q-Sync, but with tweaks for tighter integration with games and the like.

Razer Phone

Today’s smartphones are generally locked to 60Hz, so a 120Hz screen represents quite a huge leap forward. I can say that the 120Hz refresh rate does make a difference, and even simple things like scrolling through settings menus and walls of text feel more fluid.

However, the difference is quite subtle, and doesn’t appear as large a jump as moving from 60Hz to 120Hz on a PC. The improvement translates to games as well, but it’s difficult to say how much of a difference it’ll actually make to improve your gameplay.

You’ll also have the option to choose your preferred refresh rate. The Razer Phone ships at 90Hz by default, likely in the interest of battery life, but you’ll be able to set it to 60Hz or 120Hz if you want without needing to restart the phone.

The IGZO panel itself is quite a joy to look at and use. It’s bright, although perhaps not as bright as certain OLED screens, and colors appeared vibrant and pleasing to the eye. Having said that, the colors aren’t quite of the retina-searing intensity you get on OLED screens, and the differences are especially obvious when you look at things like the green in the Google Play Store.

I actually prefer the Razer Phone’s slightly more muted colors, but you may feel differently. And after all the furor surrounding the blue cast on the Google Pixel 2 XL, the good news is that there’s no obvious color shift when viewing the screen from an angle.

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