Is a generation old phone worth it? Yes, but...


Feb 23, 2011
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After using the Razer Phone 2 for about two weeks now on Verizon, overall I'm happy. I'm actually keeping signal now in places I thought were just dead zones when I was using an LG V20. While that's a major benefit, the V20 has also spoiled me. It's my benchmark when comparing phones because nothing has ticked all the boxes like it did (not even the successors, V30-50).

First the good stuff:
Reception and faster mobile data speeds
VoLTE and HD calling (at least on Verizon)
Flat LCD screen
SD card slot
Loud front facing stereo speakers
Telephoto camera lens
Rear Razer logo lights up with cool effects
Decent battery life
Nova Prime launcher included as OEM stock
Customizable performance options

The bad stuff:
No secondary display or quick slide functions
Speakers are a little muffled (due to water resistance)
Non-removable battery
Glass back
Wireless charging quirks
Power and volume button placement hit and miss
User interface a bit clunky
No headphone jack (USB dongle included)
Camera performance laughable at times
Auto-brightness reacts too quickly

I'm not going to expand on every single point, but there are a number deserving a greater explanation.

In the pros section, the logo lighting up isn't just a static color. It's a multi-LED logo that can cycle through colors, flash as a notification light, simply fade in and out, and a "wave" feature that has the colors shift across the logo. It's not extremely bright and I leave it off most of the time except for notifications. I read it can eat 3%/hr of your battery, so no point leaving it on when I'm mostly alone. If using in public, I'll turn it on to show off. Lol. The performance options allow you to adjust the processor speed, resolution, and maximum frame rates either across the board or on a per app basis. For example, I'll run Shadowgun Legends full tilt, but some of my more relaxing games I run at the lowest settings because they only run low graphics anyway and it saves battery with no performance loss on them.

On the down sides, this phone leaves a lot to be desired. By giving up the secondary display and quick slide functions when I left the V20, a number of actions now take longer. What use to be available from any screen as a single tap or two now requires exiting to the home screen and going to whatever function I wanted. If you've never had that kind of quick actions before, then you're not losing anything going to the RP2. If you have used those features before, you know my pain.

The phone does have wireless charging, but is not fully up to the Qi standard. The reason why is because the charging coil sits lower than standard, making it hard to align on Qi pads. On stand up charging stands, it may be impossible to charge wirelessly. Instead, Razer sells their own Qi charger stand for the phone that does work correctly. It has lighting effects that can sync with the phone, but is also pricey at US$100. I've never bothered to jump on the wireless charging bandwagon, so this isn't a big deal for me. If you want to wireless charge, good luck unless you buy their charger.

The power and volume buttons are on both sides in the middle of the frame. The case I have for it makes the volume buttons hard to push, which can result in also pressing the power button if your fingers or thumb are not spaced right. The fingerprint sensor in the power button is slow to register, making it easy to get "finger moved too fast" errors. It also only activates the reader with the screen on. I think overall I preferred the power button on the back and the FPS to activate even with the screen off. On the RP2 you either put more wear on the power button, or you can turn on the double tap to wake option to turn on the screen and FPS without pressing the power button.

The user interface is also somewhat odd at times. On every other phone I've used, pressing the volume buttons with no audio paying would adjust the ringer volume. Not so on the RP2. The volume buttons only work media volume. To adjust the ringer, or other volume settings, you have to press a volume button, then the settings button on the pop-up (which is located opposite of the buttons, completely non-intuitive). There's is at least a silence toggle on the pop-up. The navigation bar use two buttons + gestures. I think gestures can be great, but the back button is on the far left and hard to reach with my right thumb. Again, I'm missing V20 features, where I had 5 navigation buttons that were able to be arranged in a way I liked. If I could at least have one more on this phone, it would be one to drop the notification shade from any screen for better one handed use. Nova does have a swipe down gesture for this, but that only works on the home screen.

So about this laughable camera. Well everyone is slamming the app for being buggy, having limited controls, and mediocre photos. It's a gaming phone, so some tradeoffs are to be expected. Thankfully I haven't encountered any bugs (I took a system update right after setup that was supposed to address those camera bugs). What made me honestly laugh when I checked some samples is how bad HDR photos are compared to normal photos. HDR is supposed to give greater details and lower noise. Check the two sample photos and you'll see the exact opposite. The non-HDR photo on the top looks better in almost every respect.


The Gcam app has been ported over to the RP2, but I haven't looked into using it. From what I've read, those using it are saying it's worlds better than the stock app. I'd personally rather use a more manually focused (no pun intended) camera app, but it seems the api is firmware limited. When using an app with manual controls, I'm only able to get 1/4" exposure at most. I'm use to 30" maximum exposures.

With all that said, what's it like in everyday use? Mostly good. It's a gaming phone, and as such, plays games very well. Running in full performance mode, nothing has made it so much as hiccup. The screen has a 120Hz refresh rate to really run things buttery smooth, but I've kept things mostly to 90Hz. I don't really see enough difference between the two, so not worth the extra battery hit. The developer options allow showing the current frame rate on screen, and most of the games I play don't make much difference. On one hand, Shadowgun Legends looks phenomenal, but is app locked to 60fps. Actual game play on ultimate graphics hovers around the mid 40's, but still runs smooth. I'll take that over Unkilled, which is a 120Hz rated game from the same developer but doesn't look near as good.

Everything else is nothing special, with the camera app being the lone downfall so far. Being a hobby photographer, that was a huge tradeoff for me, and even average users will dislike it. So with all those downsides and quirks, why do I say it's worth it? Price. I picked the phone up during a Black Friday sale at Best Buy for $250. I basically stole it at that price, and makes those tradeoffs worth it without question. If it were still full, or even half price, that would be another story. It's currently $330 at Best Buy with activation today, but otherwise $380 through them, or $400 direct from Razer. Those prices still aren't too horrible, but anything above $350 would start tipping the scales on the value judgement for me.

Also, an honorable mention for the Dolby Atmos demo video. You can view it on YouTube here, but it's included in the Atmos app on the RP2. I never thought virtual surround sound could be that good, at least not from standard two speakers. Wow!
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Feb 23, 2011
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More stock HDR craziness. I do have a Gcam port now, though. Still toying with it, but so far liking it better.


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