When news of the Razer Phone broke, I was as excited as any fan; Razer has always delivered quality and created some of the best hardware available – albeit at a premium price. So I was even more thrilled when I learned that the Razer Phone would be a competitively-priced device at only $699.99, coming in well under Apple and Samsung’s top offerings this year.
In the interests of full disclosure: I have not used a Razer Phone myself. This is entirely based on the reviews that I have seen and read.
The Razer Phone quickly rose to the top of my shortlist – comprised of the ASUS ZenFone 4 Pro, the OnePlus 5T, and the Razer Phone itself. As soon as Christmas was past, it was going to be my new phone. But as time passed, and more reviews came out, I ultimately had to decide against it.
Not that the Razer Phone is a bad device, by any means; according to Android Benchmark, it has taken the number one spot on PassMark with a shocking 15,103 overall rating. The 120 Hz screen is hands-down the best for gaming and video in the industry. As are the front-facing speakers and THX-certified sound. Don’t get me wrong; the Razer Phone is an incredible device.
What gets it are the little things. A series of relatively insignificant flaws, which taken together, mean that the Razer Phone is an amazing device – if you’re not planning to leave the house.
Let’s take that amazing screen; 120 Hz is literally unprecedented, and the color depth is unmatched. According to Engadget, the Razer Phone has one of the nicest-looking displays they’ve ever seen.
But according to Android Central, that gorgeous display comes with a price – namely, the brightness. The 120 Hz Quad HD LCD panel can only manage 310 nits of brightness. As some reviewers have noted, that means that it’s barely visible at all in daylight.
The Razer Phone’s front-facing speakers are the second component of the phone’s design that Razer touts: they’re THX-certified dual speakers with Dolby Atmos amplifiers, they can manage up to about 90 dB, and they sound amazing. But one only hopes that they’re not being used to their full potential in public. Of course, there’s always headphones as an option, but there’s a problem there, too; the Razer Phone has joined the no-headphone-jack bandwagon. Again, not a huge deal on its own. But if you want the full THX-certified experience, you have to use the USB-C headphone dongle. Bluetooth headphones don’t get the same sound quality. And while the dongle is plugged in, you can’t charge the (admittedly massive 4000 mAh) battery – a battery which is said to have a poor lifespan in spite of its size, due to the amount of power needed to drive the phone’s other features.
And speaking of the battery, the Razer Phone’s Li-Ion pack brings the phone’s weight up to a (relatively) whopping 6.95 oz. Which might not seem like that much more, but if you’re using it as a gaming device – which is what it’s designed to be – you’re going to be feeling that in your wrists sooner rather than later. It’s also said to be, frankly, uncomfortable to hold, as it’s all metal and right-angles.
Finally, for being packed so densely with top of the line technology, the Razer Phone is surprisingly vulnerable – its Gorilla Glass 3 screen is two generations back (and the screen has no curves to add tensile strength), the device has no IPX dust/water protection rating, and that extra weight just makes it more liable to drop and break.
The final nail in the coffin for me was the Razer Phone’s modem. I’m on a gigabit LTE network. And while, according to PC Mag, very few phones can handle a gigabit connection, the Razer Phone sports a Category 9 modem, only capable of 450 mbit/s down and 50 mbit/s up – something certain to impede mobile gaming.
Oh, and the camera is allegedly terrible. So much for capturing Pokémon.
Overall, the Razer Phone is an incredible piece of technology. According to almost all reviews, it never slows down, it never overheats, and both the display and sound are incredible – but it seems to have missed the “mobile” part of “mobile phone” somewhere along the way. Anyone looking for a handheld gaming console won’t be disappointed, but the Razer Phone just doesn’t seem to support a lifestyle that involves leaving the house.