Razer Phone 2 first look: great speakers, fast refresh rate, but no big changes from last model

Cult phone maker Razer’s follow-up smartphone has a new glass back, slight improvements to its cameras and better waterproofing, and retains most of the best features of the first model

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 October, 2018, 11:19am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 October, 2018, 11:24am

Gaming hardware maker Razer has announced a follow-up to last year’s cult favourite Razer Phone, and much like Apple’s new iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9, it’s an iterative update that may have audiences asking “wait, that’s it?” at first.

Whether it’s the boxy rectangular design, the 5.7-inch 2K resolution display, or the dual front-facing speakers that fill most of the forehead and chin bezels, the Razer Phone 2 looks just like its predecessor.

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Were it not for the new glass back – which brings with it wireless charging – they would feel exactly the same in the hand too.

Little touches remain, such as volume buttons that sit in the middle of the phone to avoid accidental presses when gaming and the side placement of the power button/fingerprint sensor.

Here’s what has been upgraded: the processor got bumped up to the expected Snapdragon 845; the LCD display panel is slightly brighter; the Sony IMX camera sensor aperture has been improved slightly (to f/1.7, from last year’s f/1.8); and the phone is now IP67 water-resistant, no small feat for a phone with such large speaker grilles.

All of the above are nice additions, but the features that make me enjoy the Razer Phone 2 were found in the first phone. The highlight remains the phone’s 120Hz refresh rate that governs how often a display refreshes itself per second. That number is at least double that of 99 per cent of other displays, including TVs, computer monitors and most phones. This makes the display on the Razer Phone 2 (and the original) super fluid.

It’s something that is hard to describe, and can’t really be shown off in videos because most videos don’t record at fast enough frame rates – it’s just something you have to see for yourself.

I enjoy the refresh rate, not just for gaming but even for mundane tasks such as scrolling through a webpage. Paired with 8GB of RAM, the phone did not suffer from frame rate stutter or lag once during my hour of continuous testing.

The other stand-out feature of the phone is the speaker grilles, which face the user and pump out the richest sound of any portable device I’ve held. But as mentioned, both the uber-smooth fluidity and extra-full sound are features already available on the first phone.

I only had about an hour with the phone in a heavily controlled environment, so I was unable to really test the cameras or battery life, both of which were weaknesses in last year’s phone.

Razer has updated its camera app to include more shooting modes such as bokeh, panorama, and slow-motion videos. And battery life should in theory be better due to the Snapdragon 845 being a more efficient chip set and Razer’s built-in Game Boost mode that lets the phone ramp up or down CPU usage for specific games only.

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It’s a bit too early to give a final opinion, but early impressions have me believing that the Razer Phone 2, like the iPhone XS, is not for people who already have last year’s model, but rather for newcomers.

Razer declined to reveal pricing on record as of time of writing, but I can say it’s significantly cheaper than Apple and Samsung’s top models. The Razer Phone 2 will be available in Hong Kong in early November.


5.7 inch Quad HD (2k) LCD display with a 120Hz refresh rate

Snapdragon 845 processor

Dual front-firing speakers supporting Dolby Atmos 5.1

4,000 mAh battery

Glass back – wireless charging

Dual 12-megapixel cameras on the back: a main lens with f/1.7 aperture and a telephoto lens with f/2.6 aperture