Tech Review: The Razer Phone 2 is a solid smartphone that can’t stop getting in its own way

Holy wow, the Razer Phone 2 is a powerful handset. If ever a mobile phone has been built from the ground up to make games look better and run more smoothly, its this one. The strong specs are hard to argue with. Its exterior design, however, brings a pretty solid Android phone down a few pegs.

So that I don’t take the wind out my own sails at the end of the review, I’m going to make my complaints up front so that I can spend the rest of this review lavishing deserved praise. I hate the design of this phone. It is a pointy, thick black rectangle that refuses to sit comfortably in my hand. The combination of larger size and angular corners led to me nearly dropping the phone on more than one occasion because I couldn’t get a decent grip on it.

It isn’t terribly heavy, though certainly heavier than other phones in its price range. Given this, I’m also not 100% sold on the decision to combine the fingerprint scanner and power button into a single activator. It’s already hard enough to hold in one hand, and you’re gonna make me position my thumb just right too? I’m definitely going to drop this thing, it’s just a matter of time.

Despite its size, the handset’s 5.72-inch display also doesn’t quite reach edge-to-edge. This is a fairly minor gripe and will likely only irritate the most particular of smartphone enthusiasts.

Alright, alright, onto the good stuff.

The Razer Phone 2 features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor running at 2.80 GHz with an Adreno 630 GPU. It’s also hauling 8GB RAM and an internal storage capacity of 64GB (expandable up to 1TB via microSD). Its 5.72-inch LCD display features 2560 x 1440 QHD resolution at 120Hz with UltraMotion Tech and is covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 5. For those of you who don’t speak Tech Spec, all of this means you get one of the smoother rides an Android phone can offer. It also means your games and media will look and run very well indeed.

The front and back cameras are solid offerings, but don’t take the greatest images I’ve ever seen from an Android device. The rear cam boasts a wide f1.75 lens shooting at 12MP and OIS and an f/2.6 telephoto lens, also 12MP. It features dual PDAF and can shoot video up to 4K resolution. The front cam features a standard f/2.0 lens at 8MP with 1080p video. So, on paper at least, the specs are there. And while every photo I took was quite crisp, in terms of colour reproduction, it didn’t have the pop of a Samsung or even my iPhone. The images it takes are fine and will look great with a little retouching, but don’t have the immediate wow factor the big dogs are so good at.

There are a few of the usual Razer touches around the device, like being able to change the colour of the LED behind the Razer logo on the back and the colour of your on-screen icons to suit your tastes, but that’s about it. It doesn’t feel like Razer are swinging for the LED fences the way they usually do.

One area is did want to give Razer credit for was on power consumption. I was able to get a couple of days out of the Razer Phone 2 with what could be considered semi-regular use. On those occasions when I took it as my day-to-day handset, it was able to survive the working day with a sizeable amount of battery left. The phone fast charges via USB-C and uses Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 4.0+ hardware to do it — I was able to go from a flat battery to 50% charge in around 25 minutes. Very impressive, especially if you’re the sort of person that likes to top up their battery throughout the day.

My objective opinion is that the Razer Phone 2 is a solid Android device. While far from being unremarkable, it is odd that a device from a company that puts as much emphasis on personality as Razer is so lacking in that department. It does everything you want it to do and it does run games and resource-intensive apps very well, but it feels curiously lacking in the razzle dazzle that Razer love to embrace elsewhere.

My personal opinion is that I’d like this phone a lot more if they could just round those pointy edges off. Actually, that serves as a pretty good metaphor for the phone as a whole. You’re SO close to nailing this one down, Razer. You’re SO close. I’ve grumbled a lot, but I do look forward to seeing what they do with the inevitable V3 iteration.

THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Highlights: Strong specs; Nice screen; Great for games
Lowlights: Angular design makes it awkward to hold
Manufacturer: Razer
Price: $1249 AUD
Available: Now (Outright and Post-Paid)

Review conducted using a loaned, unlocked retail handset provided by the manufacturer.

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David Smith

David Smith is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. He has previously worked as a freelance games journalist and critic, appearing on PC World Australia. He tweets at @RhunWords and plays the odd game at twitch.tv/RhunWords when the internet works.