Phones

Razer Phone: Made for gaming

Other than being ideal for playing games, the Razer Phone doubles as a great all-round entertainment device.
Other than being ideal for playing games, the Razer Phone doubles as a great all-round entertainment device.

The Razer Phone is the smartphone equivalent of a gaming PC, packed with top-tier components for smooth usage

When gaming accessory company Razer - best known for its gaming keyboards and mice - released its first smartphone in November, gamers worldwide sat up and took notice.

The Razer Phone will not appeal to everyone. Razer unapologetically calls it a gaming device first and foremost, which is a pity, as its specs make it quite the premium flagship smartphone for spec-chasers.

Think of the Razer Phone as the smartphone equivalent of a gaming PC - to provide smooth performance for resource-intensive gaming, it comes with top-tier components. Its specs, which include a Snapdragon 835 processor, 8GB of RAM, expendable storage and 4,000mAh battery, are competitive with - and even exceed - other flagships in the market.

Its 5.7-inch LCD screen, while not as immediately eye-catching as the Oled displays on the iPhone X or Samsung Note8, is nonetheless a gorgeous display.

Furthermore, it is the first phone available worldwide to come with a 120Hz refresh rate for its display, unlike most flagships, which come with 60Hz. This makes the display look and feel smoother, and makes a noticeable difference while gaming.

Graphics are crisper and smoother, and the increased responsiveness makes gaming such a fluid experience that it is hard to go back to a 60Hz phone after this.

As of publication, Razer has almost 50 mobile games which are specially optimised for the 120Hz refresh rate, including graphicintensive ones such as racing game Asphalt 8 and fighting game Mortal Kombat X, along with popular hits such as Pokemon Go and Minecraft.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $1,068

    PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (Quad-core 2.35GHz, quad-core 1.9Ghz)

    DISPLAY: 5.7-inch IGZO LCD 2560 x 1440 pixels, 515 PPI pixel density

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 7.1.1

    CAMERA: 12MP, f/1.75 wide-angle, 12MP f/2.6 telephoto (rear); 8MP, f/2.0 (front)

    MEMORY: 64GB (microSD expandable up to 2TB), 8GB RAM

    BATTERY: Non-removable 4,000 mAh

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 5/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    OVERALL: 5/5

The one flaw the display has is that it is not bright enough. I found myself using it at maximum brightness indoors and wishing it could go higher when I was using it outdoors under sunlight. I often had to cup my hands over the display to block out the sunlight so I could see the screen.

The Razer Phone is a huge one - spanning 7.8cm wide - and so is quite unwieldy for one-hand use. But playing games in landscape mode makes one appreciate its stouter design as it provides a solid, comfortable grip that is aided by its choice of a grippier matte back.

Sure, the Razer Phone does not look immediately sexy like other phones in the market. But its minimal, functional design gives it its own brutalist aesthetic that fits the core of what Razer is doing with its first smartphone: to make the best gaming phone on the market.

And Razer succeeds on that count. Gaming on the Razer Phone just feels right.

Playing quick-reflex games such as Vainglory is a joy as there is no visual lag and all the action, whether shooting enemies from afar or using special abilities that cause explosions on-screen, is visually very impressive and smooth.

Couple that with a battery life that can last a day even when one squeezes in several matches of Vainglory, and the Razer Phone is quite the winner.

Given its high-end specs, the Razer Phone doubles as a great all-round entertainment device. As someone who relies on his phone as his primary music device, I love the Razer Phone's powerful dual front-facing speakers, as I can blast music at home and hear it from a distance without the need to connect to a wireless speaker.

However, the lack of a headphone jack still bothers me, especially given the size of the phone. Razer's headphone dongle doubles as a digital-to-analogue converter for high-resolution music, which I appreciate, but is also a bit too long and unwieldy.

The Razer Phone's camera was its weakest point when the phone was launched, but the company has promised software updates which will bring it up to speed.

The first of such updates, which happened late last month, improves shutter speed in low light and when using HDR. It also reduces noise and gives better picture quality.

This has resulted in a better shooting experience and photos taken in natural lighting look great with accurate colour and good dynamic range.

But despite the latest software update, the camera still has its quirks. It tends to overexpose under bright fluorescent lighting and misses out on details in low light. Photos tend to look quite washed out and muted under artificial lighting.

Verdict: Razer's first crack at smartphones is a decent premium offering, with high-end specs, great performance and a functional, sturdy design. But while it will likely be a hit with gamers, its plain design and quirky camera might not endear it to the masses.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2018, with the headline 'Made for gaming'. Print Edition | Subscribe