Razer Phone review: Don’t go outside

Razer’s first Android phone is a striking piece of hardware with excellent performance, undone by a dim display and a calamitous camera.

The quick take

The Razer Phone is supposed to be a device for enthusiasts, but for it to make sense at the $699 price point, you need to be the kind of enthusiast who doesn’t care about water resistance, a good camera, or display daylight visibility.


  • Sharp, bold design
  • Exceptional performance
  • 120Hz display brings game-changing smoothness
  • Multi-day battery life


  • Mediocre daylight visibility
  • Dumpster fire camera
  • No water resistance
  • Ships on Nougat

Razer Phone Full Review

For most of us, the term “gaming phone” probably conjures up memories of things like the Nokia N-Gage and Sony Xperia Play. For all the hype and hope that preceded those gadgets, they were spectacular commercial flops, mainly because they prioritized gimmicky gaming features above merely being a good phone.

Now, PC gaming brand Razer is hoping to succeed where Sony, Nokia and others have failed. Its new phone, built with talent acquired from Nextbit last year, aims to be gamer-centric, but not to a fault. The idea was to build a phone not just for playing games, but one with hardware and features that gamers want in a phone, whether they’re gaming or not.

And while the premise is promising, the Razer Phone as an overall package is far from the home run many will have been hoping for. For all that’s right with this phone, in its current state it’s hard to recommend to anyone besides hardcore fans of the brand.

Razer Phone

About this review

We’re reviewing the Razer Phone after ten days with the device, which was provided by Razer for review. During our testing, we used it on the Three network in the UK, and briefly on Yoigo while roaming in Madrid, Spain. The phone was running on Android 7.1.1 Nougat, with the September 5, 2017 Android security patch.

Razer Phone Hardware

You could call the Razer Phone’s hardware a throwback to the proportions of “phablet” devices of years past, or a deliberate antithesis to current flagship trends. It goes against the grain of super-thin, super-tall, bezelless phones we’re seeing from just about everyone else this year. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the giant stereo speakers on the front which, of course, are ludicrously loud and a fairly bold design feature.

The Razer Phone deliberately goes against the grain of flagship phone designs, and I’m fine with that.

Razer Phone

The blocky aesthetic of the Nextbit Robin has been transformed into a sheer aluminum unibody, making for a chassis that’s simple, angular and which shares plenty of DNA with Razer’s gaming laptops. It’s a serious piece of hardware, but it’s nowhere near the visual aneurysm we usually witness when tech companies try to pander to gamers. (Looking at you, Acer Predator tablet.)

The Razer Phone is big, and it’s heavy, and one-handing it is more than a little awkward. But there’s no mistaking it for any other device on the planet. The trademark Razer logo around the back is, on the face of it, a giant exercise in branding. However, it’s pulled off in a way that’s not gaudy.

Like the Robin, the Razer Phone uses a recessed power button on the side, with a built-in fingerprint scanner. I’ve heard others complain about this, but I’ve had no problems using it with either my right thumb or left middle finger. Once you get used to it, muscle memory quickly kicks in.

Razer Phone

The sheer size of the Razer Phone, and its brushed aluminum chassis, makes it somewhat slippery, but the extremely angular shape goes some way to compensating for this. It is worth zeroing in on the coating of the metal for a second, though: The soft-touch finish feels great, but in my experience has been incredibly scratch-prone — and it’s scratched more visibly than many glass phones I’ve used after just a week or so, which is not great.

The design certainly isn’t for everyone, but that’s absolutely fine in a niche product like this. Personally, I appreciate the aesthetics of it, and how different it is.

Being a smartphone for gamers, naturally, the Razer Phone includes the most powerful hardware available in any Android phone at launch time. The top-end Snapdragon 835 chip from Qualcomm, 8GB of RAM, 64GB of storage plus microSD expansion, and a huge 4,000mAh battery — the largest we’ve yet seen in an Android phone, matching the Huawei Mate 10 Pro and BlackBerry Motion.

This phone’s internals are every bit as beastly as its tank-like exterior would suggest.

That’s high-end stuff, but nothing out of the ordinary. What makes the Razer Phone unique is its display. The 5.7-inch Quad HD LCD can run at up to 120Hz, pushing more frames than any other Android phone, which means smoother gaming and a more fluid experience in general. Ideally, you’d get double the 60 frames per second at which most Android phones max out. The default refresh rate is 90Hz, but you can crank it all the way up to 120 for maximum smoothness — presumably at a small battery cost. (I briefly ran the phone in 120Hz mode, and didn’t notice any huge difference in longevity. YMMV.)

More: Razer Phone specs

Superficially, this looks like a decent panel, with pleasing colors and decent viewing angles. Use it indoors to play a game or watch a movie, and you’ll have a great time. But between a highly reflective screen and what seems like lower than average brightness from the backlight, daylight visibility is just flat-out disappointing for a phone this expensive — a couple of years out of step with the competition in this area. It’s not quite LG G5 or HTC One M9 bad, but it’s far from ideal in bright, outdoor conditions.

The display pulls off higher refresh rates, but with noticeably inferior daylight visibility.

I don’t need to explain why sub-par daylight visibility is a bad in what’s supposed to be both a premium smartphone and a portable gaming device. I think most of us would prefer to play games at 60fps if it meant not having to squint at the display.

For what it’s worth, though, the extra smoothness that this higher refresh rate offers actually is kind of revolutionary, and I’m sure it’s something we’ll see in more phones in the coming year. This isn’t one of those placebo effects — you can in fact see the difference even bumping up to 90Hz.

Razer Phone

Most Android apps will just look and perform more smoothly on Razer Phone’s super-responsive panel. However, there is a big hurdle to be overcome, ironically, in terms of game support. The titles preloaded on the phone by Razer, like Titanfall Assault and Gear Club, work really well at up to 120fps, but there are still big gaps elsewhere, and when you step down to 60 or even 30 in games like Need for Speed: No Limits, it’s really noticeable. Razer is working to grow support among Android games, but 120Hz support isn’t anywhere near universal just yet.

Razer certainly has the clout to see that developers do update titles to fully support its screen, but that’s not going to happen overnight.

Another bump in the road is the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack. As I mentioned, the built-in speakers excellent — loud, bassy and clear — almost too loud, at times, for things like notification sounds. (There’s also an obnoxious lock/unlock ding that you’ll quickly want to disable.) But for wired audio, you’ll need to keep hold of Razer’s proprietary, THX-certified dongle, which, like all dongles, is easy to lose in a bag or a pocket, and annoying to carry separately. (It’s basically bad is what I’m saying.)

The hardware of the Razer Phone gives us a taste of the flickers of brilliance that make this device exciting, and the compromises that might ultimately undo it. It’s a powerful, good-looking, truly unique phone, but also a device with some unique hardware weaknesses.

Razer Phone


Razer Phone Software

Android absolutely flies on the Razer Phone — in part thanks to the top-notch internals, Razer’s performance tuning, and the 120Hz display. It’s running Android 7.1.1, and it’s disappointing to not see 8.0 out of the box — Razer tells us it wouldn’t have been possible to ship Android Oreo while also optimizing the OS for this new display. The Oreo update is slated for Q1 2018, so Razer Phone buyers could be waiting a while.

The basic look and feel is that of stock Android, plus a whole bunch of green accents, in keeping with Razer’s colorful laptop branding. There’s theming support, with a comprehensively stocked Theme store to choose icons and wallpapers from, if that’s your thing. And speaking of customization, the stock launcher for this phone is none other than Nova Launcher — specifically, a special version of Nova Launcher Prime created for Razer, with Google Feed support as standard. Nova is fast, a joy to use and extensively customizable. In general, it feels like a great fit for this phone.


More: Nova Launcher: Everything you need to know

Razer’s software customization is pretty light, besides the splash of green paint. The Game Booster app is one important addition though, which lets you prioritize battery life or performance, or disable notifications if you don’t emails and instant messages getting in the way of your fun.


Besides these few tweaks, there’s not a whole lot to say about Razer’s user-facing software additions. Most of the work done to optimize the OS for the phone’s fancy 120Hz display is invisible, and thanks to the company’s light touch, you’re mostly just looking at an extremely responsive version of stock Nougat.

That’s only going to get better once Oreo lands in the Razer Phone next year.

Razer Phone


Razer Phone Battery Life

This shouldn’t come as any surprise given the enormous 4,000mAh battery lurking within, but the Razer Phone is, in my experience, good for at least a day and a half of use per charge. Sure, if you’re gaming constantly you’ll be able to knock that down to under a day. In either case, you’re looking at really reliable battery life from this phone whatever you’re doing, even with that fast 120Hz screen.

Surprise! A 4,000mAh cell buys you great battery life.

Screen-on times, for me, routinely exceeded the six-hour mark. That’s a little less than the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, but still a commendable performance.

For fast refills, the Razer Phone is the first (and currently only) device to use the latest Qualcomm QuickCharge 4+ standard. In casual side-by-side tests, I’ve found that QuickCharge 4+ isn’t quite as speedy as OnePlus’s Dash Charge, but at the same time, you’re also filling a much larger battery. Regardless, Razer should be praised for riding the cutting edge here.

Finally, in a neat bit of design symmetry, the USB C-to-C charging cable that comes with the phone (and the headphone dongle, actually) features the exact same style of braiding used on Razer’s laptop chargers. Small design touches like this add polish to the overall package.

Razer Phone cameras


Razer Phone Cameras

There’s no delicate way to say this, so I’ll just say it: The Razer Phone’s cameras, in their current form, are a hot mess. They’re embarrassingly poor for a $700 phone, and while there are almost certainly improvements that can be made in software, right now photography on the Razer Phone is a bad experience.

The Razer Phone’s camera, in its current form, is a hot mess — embarrassingly bad for a $700 phone.

There are dual 12MP sensors around the back, behind a regular f/1.75 lens and a f/2.6 telephoto lens, respectively. There’s no optical stabilization, but that’s not necessarily a deal-breaker. What certainly is a deal-breaker though is image quality. Photos are consistently dark, flat and lifeless, quickly becoming noisy in low-light conditions compared to the competition. In ideally lit conditions, the Razer Phone will produce the same good-looking shots as any basic smartphone, but that’s about it. I’d call it a “mid-range” camera experience, but to be honest, even that is being generous.

What’s more, the camera app itself is a joke. There are no shooting modes at all — literally none — besides an HDR toggle, and also no way to quickly zoom into a telephoto view — you need to pinch to zoom, which is awkward on a phone of this size. And you’re just SOL completely if you want to take panoramas or manually adjust things like ISO and shutter speed. It’s also buggy, slow, constantly fails to focus, and just not what should be shipping on a phone… well, on any phone, frankly, in 2017.

All these criticisms apply to video too, where despite 4K shooting being supported, the Razer Phone’s autofocus issues make for a haphazard video experience.

And that really sums up the camera for me: This is about the worst photographic performance I’ve seen in a $700 phone. (Though admittedly, I haven’t used the Essential Phone, which was also panned for launching with an underperforming camera.) In any case, it’s disappointing that such a massive area of the modern smartphone experience has been overlooked like this.

Razer Phone


Should you buy the Razer Phone? Wait and see

At present, the Razer Phone is a very mixed bag. The camera, obviously, is a big miss, and for me, the biggest reason not to buy this phone. It’ll probably get better with time, but it’s shipping this month, and right now the camera is nowhere near ready.

It’s also weird to see an enthusiast-focused phone missing important enthusiast features, like a headphone jack and an up-to-date OS.

That’s aside from table-stakes things like water resistance and a screen that looks great outdoors as well as indoors. These are things that just about every other $700 phone worth buying does that the Razer Phone does not.

The Razer Phone is a good idea with flawed execution.

The Razer Phone, overall, is a great, high-performance portable gaming-slash-entertainment gadget. But it does that at the cost of being a great all-around phone, which right now it is not. The main reason for that is the camera, but it’s also not helped by these other feature omissions. Mainstream-focused competitors like the Huawei Mate 10 Pro lack Razer’s fancy speakers and display, but are far more balanced overall, with great performance, long battery life, a more up-to-date OS, a phenomenal camera and water resistance.

That said, I don’t think the Razer Phone has fallen into the same trap as the N-Gage or the Xperia Play. Those two examples of failed gaming phones were doomed from the outset. With the Razer Phone, the idea isn’t fundamentally flawed, but the feature set is incomplete, and the execution — particularly the camera — isn’t quite there yet. There’s the core of a great product here, if Razer keeps working at it — which I sincerely hope it will.

Until then, the Razer Phone is a quirky little device with probably quite a limited audience. Unless you absolutely must experience Android games on a 120Hz display, I’d recommend you wait and see what the first few rounds of software updates do for the phone’s camera before parting with your cash.

Celtics’ Winning Streak Adds Significance With Each Game

Jayson Tatum, right, has been a crucial figure for the Boston Celtics during their 16-game winning streak, helping make up for the absence of Gordon Hayward. CreditErik S. Lesser/European Pressphoto Agency

If Kyrie Irving is to be believed, the Boston Celtics are keeping up their astounding 16-game winning streak simply by listening to their coaches, sticking to their game plan and not giving in to the idea that huge scoring runs are necessary to thrive in the modern N.B.A.

“Teams make their runs and we just stay the course,” Irving told reporters after Boston’s 110-102 overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday. “We’re just unwavering in our approach.”

But how long can the Celtics’ streak last? And what does it mean for their future if they keep it going?

Already tied for the 22nd-longest winning streak in N.B.A. history, Boston has a stretch of manageable games ahead of it and has a realistic chance of joining the short list of teams to win 20 straight.

Boston does have at least one naysayer: Brad Stevens, their coach, who thinks his team’s streak has had more to do with good fortune than anyone has acknowledged.

“We haven’t played well enough to consider this win streak to be valid, in my opinion,” Stevens told reporters before the team’s victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday. “We’ve figured out ways to win games. We’ve got to play a lot better.”


Victor Oladipo and the Indiana Pacers present one of the biggest challenges to the Celtics’ winning streak.CreditJeff Haynes/Associated Press

The numbers, however, indicate that Stevens may not be giving his team enough credit. Boston’s scoring differential, when worked into the concept of Pythagorean standings (a formula that calculates expected winning percentage using points scored and allowed), suggests they should have expected to go 14-4 so far — not far from their actual record, 16-2.

The Celtics have succeeded by slowing the game down. An offense led by Al Horford, Jaylen Brown and Irving is in the bottom half of the league, with 103.1 points per 100 possessions, but that is more than enough when the team has locked down opponents to the tune of 95.8 points allowed per 100 possessions, which leads the N.B.A.

The streak is especially impressive considering it began after the team lost Gordon Hayward, Boston’s prized off-season acquisition, in the first game of the season. Expected to lock down the small forward position for the next several years, Hayward became a high-priced cheerleader for Jayson Tatum and Brown, who had a combined one year of N.B.A. experience before this season.

 At 16 wins, the Celtics are on the verge of some historical benchmarks over their next few games. Boston’s next two opponents are Miami (7-9) and Orlando (8-9) — two teams the Celtics have already beaten during their streak. No game in the N.B.A. can be considered a guaranteed win, but Boston should be heavily favored in both, which could get them to 18 straight wins, a figure reached by 15 teams.

After Orlando, the Celtics travel to Indiana to play an entertaining group of youngsters in the form of the rebuilding Pacers. Having traded away Paul George, the Pacers were expected to fall apart, but instead they have thrived thanks to spectacular play from the players they acquired for George, Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, as well as the hard work of Myles Turner, a potential franchise star.

Entering Tuesday, the Pacers were the No. 8 team in the Eastern Conference, which would match them against Boston in the first round of the playoffs if the standings did not change. This game seems like a difficult one for Boston, with the Pacers most likely hoping to prove themselves and the Celtics coming off a game against the Magic in Boston the night before. But a veteran-laden team should be equipped to handle those factors and push the streak to 19, a figure reached by 10 teams.

To be the seventh team to win 20 straight, however, the Celtics would need to beat the East’s other darling this season, the Detroit Pistons, on Monday. The underlying statistics suggest that Detroit, at 11-6, has slightly more offense, but not nearly as much defense as Boston. But Coach Stan Van Gundy is always up for a challenge, and if a 20-win streak is on the line for his opponent, he will certainly have his team prepared for an all-out attack.


Wilt Chamberlain and the Los Angeles Lakers reeled off a record 33-game winning streak during the 1971-72 season. CreditDavid Smith/Associated Press

The concept of getting beyond 20 straight wins may be too abstract to analyze at this point. Four teams have accomplished the feat, and three of the four went on to play in the N.B.A. finals. Most recently, the Golden State Warriors won 28 consecutive games in a streak that spanned the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, but then went on to blow a 3-1 lead in the 2016 finals to Irving’s Cleveland Cavaliers.

But here is a hard reality check for any Celtics fans wondering if the team could be on the verge of a record winning streak: Boston, with more than a month of not losing, is not yet halfway to matching the record of 33 straight wins set by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1971-72 season. Even if everything were to go right for the Celtics, the earliest they could match Los Angeles’s record would be Dec. 21 against the Knicks, which would mean they would have gone more than two entire months without a loss. That would seem to take a lot more than just staying the course.

Drone Maker D.J.I. May Be Sending Data to China, U.S. Officials Stated

A drone made by D.J.I. in a demonstration at the company’s headquarters in Shenzhen, China, last year. The company said accusations by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency that it shares sensitive information on American infrastructure with the Chinese government were false. CreditQilai Shen/Bloomberg

SHANGHAI — D.J.I., the popular drone maker, stands as a symbol of China’s growing technology prowess. Its propeller-powered machines dominate global markets and buzz regularly over beaches, cityscapes at sunset and increasingly, power plants and government installations.

Now D.J.I. is fighting a claim by one United States government office that its commercial drones and software may be sending sensitive information about American infrastructure back to China, in the latest clash over the power of data in the growing technological rivalry between the two countries. It also shows how consumer technology companies have become increasingly central to debates about national security.

The company, formally named Da Jiang Innovations Science and Technology Company, put out a statement this month contesting the allegations made in a dispatch from United States customs officials. The memo, from the Los Angeles office of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau, was dated in August but had begun to circulate online more recently.

It said officials had “moderate confidence” that the D.J.I.’s commercial drones and software are “providing U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government.” It cited what it called a reliable source, who it did not identify, in the drone industry “with first and secondhand access.”

In a statement, D.J.I. said the report was “based on clearly false and misleading claims.”

“The allegations in the bulletin are so profoundly wrong as a factual matter that ICE should consider withdrawing it, or at least correcting its unsupportable assertions,” the company said.

The I.C.E. memo focused on the drones used by companies and institutions, not the drones flown by hobbyists in the United States and elsewhere. D.J.I. dominates the overall drone market, with a nearly two-thirds share in the United States and Canada, according to Skylogic Research, a drone research firm. To grow beyond hobbyists, the company has been targeting commercial customers, like utilities, law enforcement and property developers.

The allegations could not be independently confirmed, and a spokeswoman for I.C.E. declined to comment. In a statement to The New York Times, a D.J.I. spokesman said that users can control how much access the company can have to their data and that it shares data only “pursuant to appropriate legal process.”

The accusations point to a broadening debate in both the United States and China over how to secure vast data reserves that are being vacuumed up by commercial technology companies. Likened by metaphor-minded tech types to gold or oil, data has become a hugely valuable way to suss out market trends and target ads.

Now equipped with remote sensing technology to monitor crops, infrared scanners to scrutinize power lines, cameras and tracking systems, drones — much like smartphones — are the stuff of espionage dreams. Customers often have little knowledge of where their data might end up, experts said, while D.J.I. and others give themselves considerable leeway in the fine print of their user agreements to transfer data across borders.

American intelligence and political circles are beginning to consider how companies and governments manage the data they collect. Given that major Chinese companies must maintain close ties to the government, new China tech players like D.J.I. have raised particular concerns.

This summer, the United States Army issued guidance calling for forces to stop using D.J.I. drones because of unspecified security vulnerabilities.

Yet those worries have not spread widely to customers, according to Colin Snow, chief executive of Skylogic.


D.J.I. has said that consumers have total control over whether to upload data, such as flight plans and video, to the company’s servers. CreditKin Cheung/Associated Press

“Only those few who use drones around critical infrastructure are concerned and chose not to use D.J.I.,” Mr. Snow said in an email. “The rest don’t care because of the price/benefit of D.J.I. aircraft.”

Chinese officials expressed similar concerns in the wake of Edward J. Snowden’s disclosures that American companies aid in Washington’s electronic espionage efforts. A recent cybersecurity law calls for companies like Microsoft and Apple to store data within China’s borders. Earlier this year Apple said it would build a new data center in China to meet that requirement.

The I.C.E. memo listed what it said were a number of examples of D.J.I. drones used in potentially sensitive areas. It said that a Department of Homeland Security facility built to study diseases that threaten American agriculture and public health used D.J.I. drones to assist with construction layout and security. The agency did not respond to a request for comment.

The memo said in other cases, water reserves, power plants, rail hubs and other large-scale infrastructure were often monitored by Chinese-made drones.

“Much of the information collected includes proprietary and sensitive critical infrastructure data, such as detailed imagery of power control panels, security measures for critical infrastructure sites, or materials used in bridge construction,” the memo said.

D.J.I. said that consumers have total control over whether to upload data, such as flight plans and video, to the company’s servers. Yet like many apps, the company’s software encourages such uploads. D.J.I.’s app offers an automatic function to store user flight logs periodically, though it can be turned off. Out of concerns about data protection, the company added a feature last year that allows a drone pilot to cut off any connection to the outside internet while flying.

A new D.J.I. product set up to help large companies, government agencies, farms and law enforcement manage drones, uploads a large amount of critical data — like flight plans, video and location — to servers. D.J.I. said it was working out the terms of service for the product, and will likely include an option to allow companies to store data to their own servers.

Similar concerns have emerged in China over Apple’s products. In particular, state-run media have showed how the iPhone keeps track of a user’s commonly visited locations. Turning off the function requires a journey deep into the phone’s settings. Apple has said it has strong data privacy and security protections in place in China.

For D.J.I., questions about its data storage practices are not new. Last year company officials told The New York Times that it complied with Chinese government requests to hand over data it collects in China and Hong Kong.

More recently, one security expert recently outlined how D.J.I. left key digital information accessible to the public that could allow someone to look at customer data on its servers, including military and government flight logs. In a statement, D.J.I. said it hired an independent cybersecurity firm to investigate the report and the impact of any unauthorized access to consumer data.

Dan Tentler, founder of Phobos Group, a computer-security company, said such weaknesses were often a bad sign.

“In my experience doing security assessments I’ve never found a massive pile of egregiously staggering security problems somewhere to then find a shining, palace of hardened impenetrable security elsewhere in the org,” he wrote in a Twitter message.

In terms of companies with major security vulnerabilities in one part of the company, he added, “it’ll be a Dumpster fire the whole way through.”