Razer made a smartphone, and it’s an all-black version of the Nextbit Robin
Nearly a year after Razer bought Nextbit, we now know what the startup smartphone company has been working on while under the gaming company’s leadership. Razer debuted its first smartphone today, the Razer Phone, and it’s clearly born from the ashes of the Nextbit Robin. Mobile gaming continues to be important to all types of smartphone users, and gaming companies are now focusing on making mobile games or translating big titles for mobile. While it’s not being billed as a “gaming phone,” the Razer Phone is the company’s attempt to give gaming enthusiasts the hardware they need to play any kind of title on the go.
Unlike the Nextbit Robin’s blue-and-white plastic construction, the Razer Phone is made of aluminum and has an industrial, all-matte black aesthetic like other Razer products. It has two large speaker grilles on the top and bottom of the front side like the Robin had, but Razer worked with Dolby to make these speakers Atmos-certified, and each has its own amplifier. In the short demo Ars received, the speakers filled the room with loud, booming sound, but the details did get a bit distorted at max volume.
The 2560×1440, 5.7-inch display takes up the rest of the space on the front of the device. Razer sourced the display from Sharp, which provides the panels for its gaming peripherals. Mobile gamers will appreciate the adjustable refresh rate, which can go as high as 120Hz. We haven’t seen this technology on a handset, but Apple did bring it to its newest iPad Pro models. This makes for smoother transitions between on-screen graphics, which should make the visual and performance experience better for both mobile gamers and regular users alike. The display also supports Razer’s “Ultramotion” technology, which is similar to Nvidia’s GSync and allows the screen’s refresh rate to sync up with the smartphone’s graphics system.
The sides of the Razer phone are fairly bare: two volume buttons sit on the left side, a USB Type-C charging port is on the bottom edge, and the power button/fingerprint reader combo is on the right side. It’s a nice change to have the fingerprint reader on one of the side edges since you naturally pick up your phone that way. Right-handed users could set their thumbprint to unlock the device, while left-handed users could use their index fingerprint.
The dual camera setup sits at the top-left corner on the back of the handset, but unlike other smartphone manufacturers, Razer didn’t highlight the camera in our meeting. According to company representatives, Razer wanted the camera to take great photos and didn’t want any extraneous hardware or software features bogging it down. The rear camera has one 12MP, f/1.75 wide-angle lens and one 12MP, f/2.6 zoom lens; the combination of the two should provide a better zoom experience than on single-camera smartphones. The front-facing camera is a standard 8MP f/2.0 shooter.
The incredibly simple camera app is almost refreshing to see. There aren’t any manual controls, special selfie features, or custom filters, just an on-screen button that can either snap photos or record video and a few simple controls at the top menu bar, including flash, timer, and more.
The Razer smartphone runs an almost-pure version of Android Nougat, and representatives say it will update to Oreo some time during the first quarter of 2018. They also say the Razer phone will have at least two years of regular Android software updates, which future-proofs the device at least for that amount of time. I appreciate when manufacturers barely skin Android, so I was happy to see Razer’s versions of necessary apps (phone, contacts, messages, etc) fit in with stock Android nicely. But for those who like to customize Android however they see fit, Razer’s theme store will be available for the smartphone and will have a bunch of game-related skins. The smartphone also comes with Nova Launcher installed in a nod to power-users.
Let’s talk about the Razer phone’s internals: the smartphone’s only configuration includes a Snapdragon 835 processor, 8GB RAM, and 64GB of storage. While that seems like not nearly enough storage for gamers and power users, the handset does have a microSD card slot capable of housing a card with up to 256GB of extra storage. It also supports Android’s adoptable storage feature, so users can move files, apps, games, and more from the SD card storage to and from the onboard storage as they please.
Battery life is a huge concern for mobile gamers (and most regular users at this point, too) so Razer included a 4,000 mAh battery in its smartphone. It supports Qualcomm QuickCharge 4.0 as well, allowing the smartphone with its included charger to recharge up to 50 percent in just 35 minutes. Razer’s “game booster” setting can also help extend battery life by letting you adjust power consumption, frame rate, and other settings for specific games that, if left alone, would significantly reduce battery life. In the short time I had with the Razer smartphone, the game booster option seemed to be one of the most useful Razer-developed settings that anyone can use, no matter what kinds of games they play on the smartphone.
With more AAA content coming to mobile and more game developers embracing mobile, Razer thinks now is a good time to introduce a smartphone that was made with gamers in mind. But there’s no denying that the smartphone space is a crowded one and one that might prove difficult for Razer to break into with this first-generation product. The Razer Phone is available for pre-order today for $699 and will be available in North America and Europe beginning November 17.
Author Valentina Palladino