Razer Phone 2 hands-on: The first gaming phone gets better

It was only last year that Razer finalized its purchase of Nextbit and quickly released the Razer Phone—the world’s first -centric smartphone. This year’s Razer Phone 2 maintains its focus on the unique design language and hardcore internals we loved, while refining key weaknesses and adding RGB for maximum ‘tude. My colleague Gordon Mah Ung and I got some hands-on time with the Razer Phone 2 a couple of weeks before launch—and even though it looks similar to last year’s version, it’s been reworked from the inside out.

Razer Phone 2 specs and features

Announced Wednesday, the Razer Phone 2 will be priced at $800 and will be available for pre-order soon. Below are the main Razer Phone 2 specs (look for camera specs later in the story):

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (2.8GHz)
  • System memory: 8GB (LPDDR4X)
  • : Internal – 64GB V4 UFS / External SIM + micro SD slot (up to 2TB)
  • Display: 5.72-inch IGZO LCD 1440×2560
    • 120Hz, Wide Color Gamut
    • UltraMotion Technology
    • Corning Gorilla Glass 5
    • 645 nits (typ.) 470 nits (min.)
  • Power: 4000 mAh Li-Po battery
    • Qualcomm QuickCharge 4.0+
    • Wireless Qi inductive fast charging
  • Size: 158.5 x 78.99 x 8.5 mm

Razer Phone 2 Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

RGB: A new trend in phones??

Mixed feelings about the glass back

I won’t lie, I’m pretty bummed by the move from a brushed-aluminium back on the first Razer Phone to a glass one. But there are some upsides. First off, the Razer Phone 2 now includes Qi wireless charging for its 4000mAh battery (same size as last year). This is a convenience that also allows Razer to sell a new wireless charging dock that’s lined with RGB lighting in the base. Unfortunately the dock doesn’t sync up to Razer Synapse or Chroma studio on the PC.

Razer Phone 2 Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

Need more RGB? Get the Qi wireless charging dock!

Speaking of RGB, Razer’s triple-headed snake logo on the back of the Razer Phone 2 now lights up. The effect is controlled by the Chroma app, and has the typical RGB lighting features like breathing and spectrum—alongside the static option. The logo will also light up for notifications if you choose, and has a brightness slider to control the glow. 

Razer Phone 2 Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

Razer Chroma controls your RGB desires.

Even though the glass back does allow these features and more to be placed in the Razer Phone 2, I still prefer an all-metal phone. The previous model felt like it could withstand some serious wear and tear over time without a case. The glass will have a negative effect on temperature control as well, which has been reworked with this iteration.

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Vapor chamber

Gordon grilled Razer over the new cooling design in the Razer Phone 2, and his first impressions are positive. To deal with the increased heat, Razer said it switched from heat pipes to a full vapor chamber design almost as large as the back of the phone. Like heat pipes, the vapor chamber helps wick heat from the Snapdragon 845 and disperses it over a larger surface area in the phone, which should, in theory, better aid in dissipation.

The vapor chamber, Razer claims, helps the Razer Phone 2 maintain clock speeds and frame rates most other phones can’t, due to heat buildup in long sessions. The only other phone that we know of to feature a vapor chamber is the Asus ROG Phone, also aimed at gamers. The ROG Phone’s “3D vapor-chamber” seems to be somewhat smaller than the design Razer picked, but it does combine several layers. Razer is claiming a 20-percent to 30-percent improvement over last year’s phone equipped with a Snapdragon 835. We’ll have to wait for reviews to judge how effective the cooling is.

Razer Phone 2 Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

Selectable clock speeds on a phone. Not as cool as RGB—but still very cool.

In the new Razer Cortex app you’ll find a list of games installed on the device, each with its own custom settings—like the Game Booster app on the first Razer Phone. Unlike most game launchers installed on phones, you can tune each game to run the way you’d like, with discrete toggles for CPU clock speeds, screen resolution, frame rate, and anti-aliasing. When it’s not worth digging that deep into each game to set such configurations, you can use preset sliders on either a per-game basis, or on the phone as a whole.

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