Do newcomers need to cater to a niche audience to survive in the smartphone world today? Razer is a gaming company that has dipped its toes in other categories like wearables, but now it has introduced its first smartphone: The Razer Phone. It’s being promoted to a relatively niche audience — mobile gamers and Android enthusiasts — but it manages to look like a normal smartphone.
The question is, does it do anything another high-powered smartphone can’t? In our Razer Phone review, we found the camera to be lackluster, but this is a phone that certainly has some standout features.
MINIMALIST WITH CHUNKY BEZELS
Remember the Nextbit Robin? It was an unusual phone that utilized cloud storage in a very “mobile-friendly” way. Razer acquired Nextbit earlier this year, which is why the Razer Phone shares a similar design. We think you’ll either love or hate the chunky, blocky style, with its sharp lines, squared off shoulders, and minimal fuss.
It’s made from anodized metal with a soft texture to it, and feels so substantial and well put together, we almost expect the floor to crack in the event of a fall. Subtle it’s not, but the design has grown on us.
It’s a big phone that shuns the 18:9 aspect ratio and bezel-less trend for large stereo speakers above and below the 5.7-inch, 2,560 x 1,440 pixel screen. The matte black finish amps up the Razer Phone’s monolithic look; the antenna bands blend into the body; and the power key doubles as the fingerprint sensor, Sony Xperia-style. There are two volume buttons on the left edge, and they’re circular in shape.
A massive Razer logo dominates the rear, but that’s all in terms of branding. The limited edition version of the Razer Phone adds a splash of green to the logo on the rear.
The Razer Phone really does deliver a superior mobile gameplay experience.
Minimalist and fuss-free it may be, but it’s not pretty. Put it next to almost any other 2017 flagship phone, and it looks not only giant, but also very 2016 due to the chunky edges around the screen. The body is slippery, with nothing to grip at all; and due to its sheer size, just holding on to it is a challenging juggling act.
The fingerprint sensor is frustrating, because it blends into the body without any texture or way to quickly identify it without feeling around. It unlocks the phone really quickly though, and offers a nice vibration when it recognizes your print. After a week of use, you do begin to learn the sensor’s position.
One thing is for sure, no-one will mistake the Razer Phone for any other. In these days of derivative design, that’s a big bonus.
THE FIRST SMARTPHONE WITH A 120HZ REFRESH RATE
The LCD 5.7-inch screen size and resolution aren’t what make the Razer Phone’s screen special. Rather, it’s the first phone with a screen that offers a 120Hz refresh rate. This means it’s able to show you more frames on the screen per second. It’s especially helpful when gaming, as it makes playing games smoother and more visually impressive.
In reality, the differences in day-to-day use between 60Hz — the standard in smartphones — and 120Hz is like spotting the differences between 1080p and 1440p. They’re there, but only visible in some situations to the eagle-eyed. You can choose your preference of refresh rate (between 60, 90, or 120Hz) in the Razer Phone’s settings, and scrolling through your Twitter feed in 60Hz and 120Hz reveals only a small change in smoother scrolling.
It’s the same when scrolling around the Android operating system. You’ve got to want to see differences to spot them, and we couldn’t find many differences between the experience on it and a Google Pixel 2.