Perhaps the most common complaint about last year’s Razer Phone was its mediocre camera. The company obviously listened, because the camera in the Razer Phone 2 has been redesigned from the ground up. The broad strokes are still the same, with a 12-megapixel dual-lens on the back and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera — but everything else has changed. Razer switched from Samsung to Sony sensors, improved the lenses and threw in optical image stabilization for good measure.
It also shifted the sensors apart, which Vivek Gowri, Razer’s senior manager in hardware engineering, said allowed the cameras to get better depth information. The software algorithms have been improved as well — all of the HDR, autofocus and low-light processing capabilities were redone.
“We basically started from scratch,” said Gowri. “Nothing was carried over from the first-gen. That was something that we consciously recognized we had to change in order to be truly flagship level.”
I wasn’t able to give the camera a thorough examination during my demo, but it did look much improved over last year’s. Photos looked brighter and crisper, even under low-light conditions. There appear to be a few software enhancements on the front-facing camera, too, like a portrait mode and beauty filter for better selfies. Shutter speeds seemed quicker too. These aren’t unusual features for phone cameras these days, but they do make the Razer Phone 2 more competitive with other modern flagships.
Of course, we can’t talk about the Razer Phone 2 without talking about performance. Thankfully, the company didn’t skimp here. It’s loaded with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor with an Adreno 630 GPU and 8GB of RAM. Combine that with the super-smooth 120Hz screen and I felt very little noticeable lag, even when playing games like Forza Horizon 3 and Tekken 3.
One interesting change that Razer added to the Phone 2 was its very own vapor chamber cooling system, an idea taken from its laptop line, shrunken down and placed into a smartphone. “Typically in the past, we would be using a heat pipe, which is a thin strip that moves heat from one point in the phone to the other,” said Gowri. “With the vapor chamber, we’re able to spread the heat across the entire surface of the phone.”
This, he said, helps keep frame rates high and temps low. Compare that to other phones, where — once you hit a certain temperature — performance is generally throttled. “We don’t do that,” said Gowri. “People are not playing these AAA titles for five minutes; they’re playing them for 30 minutes or more. We need the phones to run at high levels of performance at extended periods of time.”
On the software side, Razer is introducing a new Cortex app helps you organize your games and makes recommendations based on your performance and the type of game you like. It’ll highlight games optimized for 120Hz screens, and yes, it retains that game booster mode from the last Razer phone (that lets you customize the optimal game settings for). You can go in and tweak individual settings like CPU, resolution and FPS as well.
Just as before, the Razer Phone 2 comes with Atmos-certified Dolby audio processing , a 24-bit DAC and dual front-facing speakers, which come together for a really immersive surround sound experience. I had a demo where I could actually hear the music move around my head, which is a feature I imagine is especially useful in games because now you can hear footsteps creeping up behind you. The speakers are loud, punchy and not grainy at all — even at high volumes.
The Razer Phone 2 has other small yet significant features that bring it up to par with other flagship phones. It’s now IP67-rated to be water-resistant for up to 30 meters, and it also supports Qi wireless charging. If you do plug it in to charge, the Phone 2 supports Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 4+ that will bring it to 50 percent life in just 30 minutes. It also has a 4,000 mAh battery (unchanged from last year’s Razer), so you should have a solid day of gaming and entertainment ahead of you.
With all of these improvements, it’s clear that Razer wants its handset to be more than just a gaming phone. “This is a daily driver phone,” said Breslin. “That’s really our goal. Flagship gaming is our tagline.”
Yet, Razer die-hards likely don’t need a lot of convincing, as they probably thought the original Phone delivered what they needed already. What Razer needed to do was draw in those who weren’t sold they needed a phone just for gaming. And all of these extra features — better camera, water resistance, and that Chroma logo — could be enough to convince them that a gaming phone could be great for everything else too.
The Razer Phone 2 with 64GB storage will be available for $800, with pre-orders starting tomorrow. There will also be a premium Satin finish option with 128GB for a yet to be determined price.