In January, it was revealed that Razer had purchased Nexbit. Nexbit was the company responsible for the Nexbit Robin. Rumors began to swirl that the company was planning on entering the smartphone market. Several years ago, the company added laptops to the line of products it makes, alongside gaming peripherals. The move to making a smartphone would only be logical.
Then, Razer CEO, Min-Liang Tan stated that a smartphone was in development and that it would launch by year’s end. Rumor confirmed. Since then, gamers and tech lovers alike have wondered what the company would release. Fortunately, we have an answer now. On November 1st, Tan took to a stage in london to unveil the brand new Razer Phone.
Hardware & Design
The all-black Razer Phone takes its design cues from the Nexbit Robin. The phone has a 5.72” QuadHD IGZO LCD display with a pixel density of 515 ppi. At both ends of the screen are bezels, something most flagship phone makers are attempting to move away from. Though these bezels do serve a purpose. The bezels contain two stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos compatibility, aiming to create a great sound experience for gaming. They’ll also be beneficial for media consumption. The top bezel also houses an 8MP front facing camera for selfies and video chatting.
On the left side of the phone are the volume buttons. The right side of the phone has a combination power button/fingerprint sensor. As edge-to-edge displays have become common on phones in recent years, phone makers have had to get creative with where to put their fingerprint sensors. Some devices house these on the side in the power button while others put them on the back. The power button seems to have been Razer’s best option.
On the back of the device is a dual camera setup that houses two 12 MP cameras. The wide-angle sensor has an f/1.75 aperture, while the zoom sensor contains an f/2.6 aperture. Dual cameras are also becoming a bit more standard on flagship devices. With that in mind, it’s nice to see them included here.
The bottom of the phone has a USB-C port and there’s no headphone jack. Headphone jacks are slowly moving on the way out, whether users like it or not. Unlike most phones of today, however, the phone lacks an ingress protection, or IP, rating. That means that the phone isn’t water resistant and this is most likely due to the setup for the speakers. Still, it looks like an interesting device.
Smartphones these days are often powered by what’s known as a system on chip, or SOC. Almost every flagship phone this generation has been powered by the Snapdragon 835, making it a great choice here.
In benchmarks shown, the Razer Phone was able to beat out the Galaxy S8+ in a variety of tests. Until reviews of the phone start to come out, we won’t know how the phone compares with the iPhone X, set to release soon from Apple. One thing is for sure, based on the numbers presented at the event, this is a phone that puts gaming first.
Being a smartphone in 2017, there’s a few other specs that don’t change much from phone to phone. One of those is the internal storage of the phone. The Razer Phone comes with 64GB of internal storage and supports microSD cards up to 2TB. While a 2TB microSD card is yet to be released, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when that limit is reached.
Being a gaming device, I was surprised that Razer opted to go with 64GB of internal storage, but it was announced that the phone features Flex Storage, meaning the storage of a microSD card can be “adopted” into the phone’s memory. This still isn’t the most ideal for intensive games, but it could serve as a good way to offload less demanding apps that can take a minor performance hit.
Whether the phone is a success or not, it will go down in the books as the first smartphone to feature a display with a 120hz refresh rate. Having a 120hz display on the phone eliminates a few things that many could see as a negative, including lag, ghosting, and motion blur.
Razer also adapted a form of Nvidia G-Sync into their phone, allowing the phone’s GPU and screen to sync up, effectively eliminating screen tearing.
For a point of reference in regards to the refresh rate, most displays, smartphones or otherwise, run at a refresh rate of only 60hz. Even the cameras that were capturing the Razer event were running at 60hz, meaning they couldn’t capture the true perfect of a 120hz display. It’s something you literally have to see for yourself. Admittedly, Apple’s iPad Pro also runs a display with a refresh rate of 120hz, but it’s not a standard among devices and is a standout feature when its present.
With a QuadHD, 2K display, the games you play and the movies you watch on this phone are going to be beautiful.
In a move that surprised me, the Razer Phone contains 8GB of RAM. At this point in time, most flagship phones run between 2GB and 4GB of RAM. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 has 6GB of RAM. We’ve made another leap forward.
Based on early impressions from YouTubers and tech journalists who were invited to try out the phone, Android on this phone runs smoother than it has on any phone to date. This is at least partially attributed to the higher amount of RAM, as well as the display.
From the moment I heard that Razer was making a phone, this was one of the aspects I was most concerned with. As much as I love gaming on my phone, battery life can always be questionable depending on the game. Even dedicated gaming systems like the Nintendo Switch have questionable battery life when it comes to pushing graphically intensive games.
The games we play, combined with the amazing screen that Razer put into this phone, means that they needed power to match. I was quite pleased to see that Razer has managed to fit a 4000mAH battery into a device about the same size as an iPhone 8 Plus.
Furthermore, the phone is shipping with Qualcomm Quick Charge 4+ which means this phone is going to charge up quickly. At the event, Tan stated the device can go from 0% to 85% in one hour of charging. That’s fast.
When it comes to battery life, the most important thing is how long the battery will last. In benchmarks given during the presentation, Tan said that the phone can handle 12.5 hours of movie viewing or 7 hours of gaming. It’s important to note, especially in the case of the movies, that this was most likely done with local files and not Netflix streaming. Actual battery time will vary from use case to use case but with those as starting figures, this phone is going to pack some serious punch.
In regards to the actual version of Android that ships on the phone, Razer made another interesting decision. The phone itself will ship later this month running Android 7.1.1 (Nougat), with an upgrade to 8.0 (Oreo) in Q1 of 2018.
Unlike a lot of devices that ship with bloatware bogging down the phone from the start, Razer decided to run the device on stock Android, meaning that there won’t be any bloatware and serious tweaks to Android to hinder your experience from the start.
That being said, the phone is still running a custom launcher. Every Razer Phone that ships will be running Nova Launcher Prime Razer Edition. As someone who’s new to Android, I gravitated to Nova Launcher. I can personally say that Nova Prime is a great launcher and its inclusion was smart. I really have to applaud Razer for deciding to include that one.
On the PC, Razer offers Cortex, a software that allows gamers to optimize their PC performance for games. At the unveiling of the Razer Phone, Tan revealed that Cortex is present on the phone as well. Gamers can set custom profiles for each of their games. Among the adjustable settings include the refresh rate during gameplay, performance levels, and do not disturb settings.
The Razer Phone will also feature a Razer theme store. The store will feature themes based around popular games. These themes adjust everything from the wallpaper to the ringtone to the default icons and the lock screen.
When I gave my wishlist for features in a smartphone for gamers, one of the things I said Razer needed to get was exclusive games, not unlike what was on the N-Gage years ago. To an extent, Razer got this. Tan announced that the company was working closely with game developers to bring exclusive 2K versions of games to the device. This will be a perk to owning the Razer Phone.
Razer really surprised me with the Razer Phone, especially with a lot of the design choices that they made. Looking at the phone on a spec sheet shows that a lot of the choices they made are safe and standard, as opposed to anything truly revolutionary. That being said, they make up for that in other areas.
Having their first foray into the smartphone market also represent the first time a flagship phone has had a 120hz refresh rate on a display is huge. While it’s true that an OLED display would offer even better battery performance, the 4000mAh battery this phone is rocking should still be more than enough.
My biggest criticism of the phone would have to be that it’s GSM only. Not having CDMA networks also supported restricts your market a bit, but I can understand why the decision was made. A lot of Razer’s business decisions in recent years have been aimed at the Asian market, and in most Asian countries (as well as most of the world), GSM is incredibly popular. Here in America, CDMA networks are really the standard and GSM networks are more of an outlier.
Regardless, I’d like to see this phone succeed enough for Razer that they decide to make a Razer Phone 2. That’s where I’d like to see them add an OLED screen and CDMA support for the countries that need it. Overall, I’m pleased with what Razer announced and I look forward to seeing how this new journey goes for a great tech company.
What do you think of Razer’s new phone? Let us know in the comments below!