When word got out that Razer, the company best known for its gaming-branded mice, keyboards, and other PC peripherals, was making a phone, you could hear the groans from space. "Gaming" phones have never been a very successful foray—Sony's Xperia Play perhaps most famously failed to capture much attention—so I went into my hands-on briefing with it last month with a heaping dose of skepticism, on the lookout for a gimmick that would bury Razer's shot at Android right next to the Nokia N-Gage.
Today, Razer revealed why I left that meeting impressed: the Razer Phone is an Android smartphone featuring a 5.72-inch 1440x2560 IGZO display with a 120Hz refresh rate, variable refresh rate technology, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 64GB onboard storage, and 8GB of RAM. Other features include dual front-facing speakers backed up with Dolby Atmos technology, dual rear 12 MP cameras, an 8 MP front camera, fingerprint reader, a microSD slot capable of up to 2TB capacity, and a 4,000 mAh battery with Qualcomm QuickCharge 4.0+. According to Razer, that's enough charge for 12.5 hours of video playback, 63.5 hours of audio, or seven hours of Hearthstone straight.
There's no gimmick here, just a spec list that puts the Razer Phone up against other flagship Androids. The most "gaming"-focused of the Razer Phone's feature set is the 120Hz screen, a feature we usually look for in gaming monitors and the first of its kind on a handheld smartphone. It's meant to make playing games like Arena of Valor—the hugely popular mobile MOBA soon to launch in the US—an even more posh experience. I play virtually zero mobile games as it is, but the few minutes of Arena of Valor I tried did look and play better than any other mobile game I'd tried before thanks to that screen.
While Razer says the phone is designed with gamers in mind, that doesn't necessarily mean this is a "gaming phone." Several phone makers have attempted to build such a device over the years, but none proved very successful. Razer hopes to break that cycle by instead focusing on features that appeal to gamers, not by specifically designing a phone for gaming. Yes, mobile games will look and play great on the Razer Phone's top-end hardware, but the company hopes to also appeal to its core audience of PC gamers—those who appreciate power, design, and customizability.
To that end, the high-end hardware is good for more than just gaming. Apps are quick to load, and even quicker to switch between, thanks to the 8GB of RAM. The 120Hz screen is also useful for regular tasks, as it makes scrolling through your Twitter or Instagram timeline smoother than ever, and the IGZO screen's 1440x2560 resolution and Wide Color Gamut looked top-notch. This paired with Dolby Atmos-powered front speakers made for one of the best mobile media experiences I can think of.
Visually, the Razer Phone should appeal to anyone who likes Razer's existing hardware. Taking inspiration from Razer's Blade series of gaming laptops, the phone has a large (but thin—8mm to be precise) aluminum body with sharp corners instead of the rounded edges and glass shells of many recent smartphones like the iPhone 8 and Samsung Galaxy S8. Like the iPhone, it also foregoes a headphone jack in favor of a single USB-C port. The Razer Phone also uses the popular Nova Launcher Prime, which is known for its customizability—another thing we appreciate as PC gamers. Android-wise, it's on Nougat version 7.1.1, and will receive the upgrade to Android Oreo in spring 2018.
Of course, all these high-end features aren't worth a thing if the accompanying price point puts them out of reach. In fact, I had all but written the phone off throughout my briefing, thinking "yeah this is great, but it probably costs more than $1,000." I was shocked (and pleasantly surprised) when Razer told me it would retail for $700—no other phone on the market has a 120Hz screen, adaptive refresh rate tech, or 8GB of RAM. For comparison, the iPhone 8 also starts at $700, while the Google Pixel 2 starts at $650.
The Razer Phone will be available on November 17 in North America and Europe. Pre-orders are available now.