Gaming is slick, but the 120Hz interface is on another level
Last year, Razer entered the smartphone market with its highly distinctive, gaming and media-focused Razer Phone, combining what was then the fastest Android-optimised processor on the market with a variable refresh rate screen, powerful front-facing speakers and a ginormous 8GB of RAM. It’s the phone I use to this day, and for reasons that shall become clear, the recently released Razer Phone 2 is essentially the only upgrade choice I’m considering right now. There are faster, more powerful phones available but Razer’s unique mixture of RAM and VRR display looks and feels so good that even the fastest rival flagships I’ve used seem to fall short.
Perhaps not surprisingly, what I love about the original Razer Phone is fully present and correct in its successor, because the core proposition remains very similar. Pairing a 5.7-inch 1440p 120Hz display with a surfeit of RAM produces its signature smooth operation and lightning-fast response. Yes, the Razer has a focus on gaming, but the big deal for me is that the basics are on another level: you can swap between apps instantly, while swiping and scrolling is so much smoother than the competition. It just feels right. In the last 14 months, I’ve tested and passed up on the Samsung Galaxy S8, the S9+ (in both Snapdragon 845 and Exynos 9810 variants) and the iPhone XR, though I did find the £220 Honor Play to deliver exceptional value. In many other ways – be it display brightness, form factor or camera quality – both S9+ and the XR outstrip the Razer Phone and indeed the Razer Phone 2, but the quality of the interface – the basic ‘handshake’ between user and phone – hasn’t been surpassed.
Not surprisingly, the Razer Phone 2 offers several improvements over the original. First of all, the Snapdragon 835 processor of the original is swapped out with its 845 successor, with higher CPU and GPU performance. Secondly, the screen is much improved. As much as I enjoy the original’s super-smooth refresh, it’s simply not bright enough outdoors. The Razer Phone 2 is a big improvement here – it’s not up there with the OLEDs, for sure, but its 645 nits peak brightness is enough to make for a big improvement and it also opens the door to viable HDR support. I tested out our YouTube HDR content where I’m very familiar with the source material and how it should present. Dynamic range isn’t as wide as a living room display or some of the OLED phones out there, but you do get a convincing enough HDR presentation and it’s a sizeable improvement over the original Razer in this regard.