Razer Phone first looks: Great screen and sound though camera falls short

The Razer phone's specs puts it on a par with flagship models from other brands like the iPhone X, Samsung Note8 and Google Pixel 2 XL.
The Razer phone's specs puts it on a par with flagship models from other brands like the iPhone X, Samsung Note8 and Google Pixel 2 XL.ST PHOTO: LESTER HIO

LONDON - Razer's first smartphone sticks to what the company knows best: gaming.

And the gaming peripheral company designed a phone that makes the focus on gaming quite readily apparent.

With a 5.7-inch display featuring a 120hz refresh rate, Snapdragon 835 processor, 8GB of RAM, 4,000mAh battery and Dolby Atmos-powered front-facing speakers, the Razer Phone has, on paper, the necessary specs to pull off what it set out to do.

Specs like that put it on par with current flagship phones like the iPhone X, Samsung Note8 and Google Pixel 2 XL. But can the Razer Phone compete in actual handling and physical use?

It's still early for a full review, but on first impressions, the Razer Phone is a surprisingly good effort at the firm's first crack at a smartphone - but only because it sticks to tried-and-tested formula.

The Razer Phone's 5.7-inch screen is sharp and crisp, with good colour vibrancy and contrast.

It's the first smartphone to be released worldwide with a 120hz refresh rate, although Japanese firm Sharp - the very same company which made the Razer Phone's IGZO LCD display - has already slapped a similar feature on their Japan-only Aquos R smartphone line.

There is a discernible difference going up from 60hz to 120hz not so much in visuals but in the handling of the phone. The visual bump is subtle, even in-games, but games do look smoother and crisper at that setting.

 

Responsiveness, however, is more readily apparent - the screen just flies while scrolling through menus, Twitter feeds and long webpages, with minimal lag and stuttering.

The Razer Phone is a stout, wide phone that feels radically different in my hands, which have grown accustomed to the longer, skinnier 2:1 screen aspect ratio that's trendy in flagships this year.

But that wideness translates into a better holding grip when using the phone in landscape mode - which is what most games use. In that position, the Razer Phone's width make it ergonomically efficient, giving me a good, stable grip while rotating the phone around in racing game Asphalt 8 or tapping about in fighting game Tekken.

The phone's aluminium body has a matte, anodised feel on the back, making it nice and grippy to hold, unlike, say, the glass back of the Note8 or iPhone that can get slippery at times.

I do enjoy the Razer Phone's massive dual front-facing stereo speakers, even though they add slightly thicker bezels to to the phone's top and bottom.

What the phone sacrifices in the current edge-to-edge design trend, it makes up for loud, powerful audio that make listening to music or watching videos in bed a joy.

 

The difference between the Razer Phone's audio playback and those from phones with bottom-facing speakers are audible even to the non-audiophile. However, the Razer Phone's speakers lack a solid bass response, and tend to crack and distort pretty noticeably at near-maximum volume - which is a good thing that it's louder than most flagships even at only 50 per cent volume.

The camera is where the Razer Phone starts falling short of market leaders like the iPhone and this year's Samsung Galaxy S and Note lines. Quick test shots show decent image quality with faithful colour reproduction and decent detail.

But the shooting process can be improved, as it has noticeable shutter lag in low-light conditions. Action shots tend to be a bit blur too, as the camera has trouble re-adjusting its focus quickly.

All in, the Razer Phone has looks a strong debut effort. I'll know more about how it really stacks up against the competition when I spend a little more time with it.