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The new Razer Phone 2 tries again to make the 120Hz gamer phone a thing

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Razer has announced the second iteration of its gaming-focused Razer Phone. Called the Razer Phone 2, the device improves the camera, adds wireless charging, and bumps up the specs across the board compared to its predecessor.

The main draw is still its screen. The 5.7-inch LCD display has a 2560×1440-pixel resolution, HDR support (HDR-10), 645 nits of maximum brightness, and Wide Color Gamut with 98.4% of DCI-P3. But the big claim to fame is a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz with Ultramotion technology; the refresh rate is variable, going as low as 40Hz. The audio setup is also notable; this phone has stereo speakers that are Dolby Atmos certified.

Supporting buzzy hardcore gamer techs like HDR, Atmos, and 120Hz is pretty much what the Razer Phone 2 is all about. That’s partly because it’s difficult to differentiate flagship Android phones on performance when they all have the same SoC—Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845. And this is another reason selling an Android phone as the ideal gaming machine is a challenge; that chip is significantly outperformed by Apple’s A11 and A12 in last year’s and this year’s iPhones. And the iOS platform has generally been a more vibrant one for high-quality games than Android, though that’s not to say there aren’t plenty of great Android games.

Razer claims it has managed to make this phone faster than most thanks to “vapor chamber cooling,” which the company says allows the phone to draw 20-30 percent more power than competing Android phones. It’s related to similar technology used in the Razer Blade gaming laptop.

The Razer Phone 2 also has a hefty 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM. Other specs and features include a 4,000mAh battery, IP67 water resistance, gigabit LTE, 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, and Qualcomm QuickCharge 4.0+. Like its predecessor, it only comes in one storage configuration at launch—64GB—but it has a microSD slot for additional storage.

The previous Razer Phone was criticized for its mediocre camera. There are improvements to the rear camera in this update, according to Razer. It uses a dual-lens system with a wide 12MP f/1.75 lens and a 12MP f/2.6 telephoto lens, plus a dual LED flash. It can record 4K video.

Measuring at 158.5×78.99×8.5mm, the design is similar to what we saw in the first Razer Phone last year. The front still looks like a new-color-scheme evolution of the Nextbit Robin. (Razer acquired Nextbit, and that acquisition led to this line of phones). The speakers occupy much of the top and bottom bezels (when oriented in portrait mode), and the bezels along the sides are quite small. The 8MP f/2.0 front-facing camera and flash sit at the top, too. There’s no notch here.

However, the absence of a notch in the display doesn’t mean the phone doesn’t take some cues from recent flagship phone trends that originated in Apple’s iPhone—likely to many users’ frustration. There’s no 3.5mm headphone jack—just a USB-C port. And the back of the phone is made of glass to facilitate Qi wireless charging. But Razer is working on a matte alternative that also happens to have 128GB of storage, because the company knows not everyone is a fan of the glass backs. Razer says that version is coming “at a later date.” But the glass is Gorilla Glass 5, an upgrade in durability compared to the GG3 used in the screen in last year’s Razer Phone.

Also, it wouldn’t be gaming hardware without RGB lighting. Unlike last year’s phone, Razer Chroma is supported for the logo on the back, and you can customize it to your flashy heart’s content, if you’re into that sort of thing.

The biggest letdown is arguably that the Razer Phone 2 is launching with Android 8.1 (with Nova Launcher) rather than Android Pie, though Razer says it is working on an update to Pie that will come later. Razer made good on a similar promise with the last phone, so we’re expecting the update to actually happen on schedule—it’s just a disappointment that it has to be an update at all.

On the bright side, Razer’s phone comes with its Razer Cortex Mobile app, which includes a curated list of games like PlayUnknown’s Battlegrounds—some of which Razer says will get custom performance profiles and optimizations from the developers—as well as game booster, a tool that lets you tweak the frame rate, clock speed, and other settings of individual games to achieve the best balance between performance, visuals, and battery life.

The Razer Phone 2 ships October 22 for $800. Razer is also launching a few accessories to go with it—an attachable game controller, a case, a screen protector, and a wireless charging station.

Listing image by Razer

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