And now it’s finally ready to take on the smartphone world with the Razer Phone, a flagship Android phone designed specifically to be a mobile gaming and entertainment powerhouse.
Though Razer is often seen as a startup because of its scrappy operations, the company’s morphed into a behemoth within the last decade. An IPO looms over it, and the company is valued at as much as $5 billion.
This is the company that bought THX. Yes, the THX founded by George Lucas to give us the high-fidelity audio and video we’ve come to expect from movies.
And with years of successful Blade gaming laptops under its belt, it’s no wonder Razer is ready to launch a phone.
It’s for gamers who bleeds the company’s signature neon green.
The Razer Phone will cost $699 (unlocked) when it launches on Nov. 17 in North America and Europe at $699. Pre-orders start on Nov. 1 at 5 p.m. ET. While not as pricey as a $1,000 Samsung Galaxy Note 8 or iPhone X, it’s still an expensive device.
So why should anyone buy the Razer Phone? As with the company’s Blade gaming laptops, the Razer Phone is not for everyone. It’s for the gamer who bleeds the company’s signature neon green.
It’s impossible to say if this gamble will pay off for the company. But if the Blade laptops are any indication, Razer may be able to carve out a niche even in an overwhelmingly crowded product category. Its product focus is much like Apple’s: a premium feel comes first and foremost.
Big and blocky
One look at the Razer Phone and you can see it’s very different from any other phone. It’s actually not hard to see the Robin’s DNA in it.
It’s big and blocky with sharp corners. There are no curves on this phone. No rounded display corners. It’s a monolith and it’s not ashamed of it. The fingerprint sensor is hidden in the pill-shaped power button.
Razer’s milled this baby from a block of aluminum and it feels nice and weighty in the hand. It’s distinct and I like it even if it’s not the thinnest or lightest.
The company didn’t scrimp on specs. You’ll find flagship hardware that helps the phone crush even the most graphic-intensive mobile games.
It’s packing a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip, 8GB(!) of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage (there’s also a microSD card slot for storage expansion). It doesn’t come with a headphone jack, but Razer’s included a THX-certified 24-bit dongle in the box.
It’s bulky size does have a benefit: There’s room for a huge 4,000 mAh battery. In comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 only has 3,300 mAh and the Apple iPhone 8 has 2,691 mAh. There’s no wireless charging or water resistance, but it is the world’s first phone to support Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4+, which promises to charge the battery from 0-50 percent in 15 minutes.
The Razer Phone runs on a virtually stock version of Android 7.1.1 Nougat (it’ll get updated to Android 8.0 Oreo at some point). The only real changes are customized icons (in Razer green, of course) and a few extra settings. Performance was fast and smooth as far I could tell in my brief hands on.
And for cameras, there are dual 12-megapixel shooters on the back (one wide-angle and one zoom) and an 8-megapixel selfie shooter on the front. Not the best quality images, but you wouldn’t buy this phone for photography.
Big screen and big sound
Everyone’s moving to longer bezel-less and edge-to-edge displays, but Razer’s sticking with the tried and true 16:9 rectangle.
And for good reason: Most games and movies are formatted for 16:9. Plus, the Razer Phone’s huge 5.72-inch (2,560 x 1,440) HDR-ready screen has a special feature called “Ultramotion” that makes it better for gaming, while simultaneously helps manage battery life.
Ultramotion works exactly like the iPad Pro’s ProMotion display technology. Instead of being locked in at refresh rate, the Razer Phone’s display can dynamically adjust its refresh rate, ramping up to 120Hz when necessary.
For games, Ultramotion is a killer feature. Games that have a lot of on-screen action will run noticeably smoother with less image tearing and lag because of the higher refresh rate. Scrolling in general within a web browser is also more fluid.
When you’re not playing games that need the fast refresh rate, the screen dials down appropriately to save power.
And before you knock the thick “forehead and chin” above and below the screen, know that they contain a pair of front-firing stereo speakers that get extremely loud. These Dolby Atmos-certified stereo speakers might even be the loudest I’ve ever heard on a smartphone.
I tested a number of 3D games including Riptide GP Renegade, Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition, Titanfall: Assault and watched a few trailers on YouTube, and the Razer is an impressive device when the volume’s cranked to the max.
One to watch
From what I tried, the Razer Phone is no immediate threat to any premium Android phones or the iPhone.
It will not kill any of them, and Razer’s not trying to.
Just like with the original Blade gaming laptop, this is version 1.0. Razer has just started climbing the smartphone hill. It may not summit, but it’s gonna try.
Razer’s mission is to establish itself within the mobile space with a phone that’s specifically for gamers. The Razer Phone prioritizes gaming and videos first. Phone stuff is secondary.
Mobile gaming is huge, but the potential to be a hardware leader is even larger, especially in Asia where mobile esports is only growing more popular. In the company’s arena, the Razer Phone is skating to where the puck is going to be, not where it’s been.
tri-headed snake logo.
But why make a phone when the space is so crowded? For the same reason it made the Blade gaming laptops: Because it can and there’s a devoted niche of gamers who will buy anything stamped with the company’s signature tri-headed snake logo.