Razer Phone 2 Wants to Be More Than a Gaming Phone: Is It?

Updated

The first Razer Phone that launched a year ago offered an unparalleled mobile gaming experience, with an impressive 120Hz display and audio that outclassed most laptops. But as fantastic as it was for gaming, the Razer Phone fell short as an every-day device

Razer took note, and now it’s back with another phone — the Razer Phone 2, available for pre-order now with prices starting at $799 and shipping in time for the holidays. And this time, Razer says, the phone isn’t just for gaming. It may look confusingly similar to last year’s model, but the Razer Phone 2 has been redesigned with an eye toward making a handset that appeals to everyone.

Still a gaming phone

Don't worry, gamers — Razer hasn't abandoned you. As many times as Razer told me at this week’s unveiling that the Razer Phone 2 is a "flagship device" and a "daily driver" designed for the masses, they also reiterated that it is solidly part of the gaming phone category.


It might seem like many of the Razer Phone 2's new features and improvements are not gaming-related, and that's true — the original Razer Phone was a standout gaming device, so Razer didn't feel like it needed to completely rework what wasn't broken.

For example, the Razer Phone 2 has the same 5.7-inch "true" 120Hz screen (that's 120Hz refresh rate and 120Hz touch sampling), but it's now 50 percent brighter than its predecessor. Razer also tweaked the new phone's screen settings to make colors more vibrant and improve off-axis viewing angles.

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The new phone looks almost identical to the original Razer phone — and that was also a gaming-related decision, according to Razer. Many of the first Razer Phone's design elements, such as the bezel created by the phone's front-facing speakers, exist as the result of gaming ergonomics. In other words, it doesn't matter if you love or hate the phone's boxy aesthetic — because, according to Razer, the physical design is part of what makes it so great for gaming.

(That's not to say there are no case-related upgrades -- when I mentioned to a Razer representative that the phone was just large enough that I'd probably drop it on my face, he told me that the new phone uses Gorilla Glass 5 instead of Gorilla Glass 3, and it would definitely be fine.)

But not just a gaming phone

Most of the improvements to the Razer Phone 2 are aimed at making the phone a better at the smartphone part of its duties. The Razer Phone 2 is water-resistant with a rating of IP67 — the company says it's "life-proof" but you shouldn't start throwing it in pools just because you can. It has a shiny glass backplate that supports wireless charging, and louder speakers that still sound excellent thanks to some Netflix-certified Dolby wizardry.

But the biggest improvement Razer has made — and one of the reasons the company thinks its phone can go toe-to-toe with other flagship models — is the new rear-facing camera.

If you can't remember what the first Razer Phone's camera was like, here's a recap: No optical image stabilization, poor low-light performance, inaccurate color representation, and a bare-bones app. By contrast, the Razer Phone 2's camera is much better. Whether it’s flagship-worthy, though, is still up for debate.

The Razer Phone 2 has a dual 12-megapixel rear cameras (like the original phone) with Sony lenses and IMX sensors. The lenses are now spaced further apart for portrait-mode pictures. The wide-angle camera now has optical image stabilization and low-light performance should be better overall, though Razer's development team did tell me to curb my expectations because no company can compete with Google's database-informed post-processing found in the latest Pixels that were also unveiled this week.

The new camera on the Razer Phone 2 brings a new camera app, which is more robust than the first app but still pretty basic. At the moment there are only two shooting modes — portrait and beauty — plus the regular photo and video modes. Razer did announce panorama mode at the launch event, so I assume that will come in an update. The app also offers white-balancing, a positioning grid, and HDR. And that's basically it — better, though not exactly feature-rich.

At the Razer Phone 2's launch event, I took a few photos on the new camera in different lighting scenes, and the resulting photos were decent if underwhelming. The colors seemed a little washed out and the details weren't as crisp as I wanted. I'm not sure if this could be due in part to the fact that the phone's screen is just so incredible that the camera can't keep up, but the camera still feels like a weak link in the device.

Is it for everyone?

The first Razer Phone made me consider the idea that I might need a dedicated gaming phone, and the Razer Phone 2 makes me seriously consider it. The phone's screen is gorgeous and its speakers are better than anything I've heard. But I don't know if the Razer Phone 2 is ready to compete with iPhones and Galaxys.

The camera on the Razer Phone 2 is better, though still not particularly impressive in some limited hands-on time with the device. Features like water-resistance and wireless charging are the sorts of things you should expect from a higher-end phone these days. And the brighter screen, louder speakers, and super-pretty Chroma lighting are all excellent improvements.

I'm a little worried about battery life. The Razer Phone 2 has a 4,000-mAh battery, which is huge — but the original Razer Phone also had a 4,000-mAh battery and it didn't perform well in our battery tests. That pretty 120Hz screen needs a lot of power, and now it's competing with Chroma lighting and a more powerful processor.

We’ll see soon enough whether Razer has done enough to give us more than just a gaming phone. From what we’ve seen so far though, there’s more here than just a better way to play PUBG Mobile.

Image Credits: Tom's Guide