Tag Archives: Smartphone

Razer Phone 2 Review


For years I’ve always gotten around with prepaid burner phones. I don’t generally spend much time on a phone. I’ve rarely used one for much more than emergencies, save for the odd trip or a convention visit. But my LG 305C Tracfone has finally gotten so long in the tooth it barely holds a charge. A battery costs more than the phone and when it does work it drops calls and gets texts sometimes days after they’ve been sent. Even the web browser support has been abandoned. It thinks all links are malicious. Good luck trying to look up directions on it if you get lost. At least the built-in Facebook app still works. Even if none of its basic features work properly anymore.

PROS: 120hz Screen. Powerful GPU. Cooling System. Gaming Performance. Funky light.

CONS: Slightly older CPU. Mid Tier cameras. Accessories are uncommon at retail.

GAMING: It’s still a phone, so you’ll have to search hard for games that aren’t freemium.

Why not get a smartphone a decade ago when they were commonplace? It was a combination of my limited need for one and having to be thrifty in some areas. I once worked in tech sales. I knew just how expensive contracts were back then. Many locked you into a device for two years, and they had caps on everything. Over the years prepaid solutions from carriers were cheaper. Yes, you still had to pay rates based upon what you did on the phone. But you only paid for what you used. If you were like me and mainly had it for a roadside emergency (or occasionally using it to check social media while getting coffee) paying close to $100 or more a month wouldn’t seem feasible.

Over the years though, the big carriers began offering their own no-contract alternatives which have only gotten less expensive. The smaller prepaid names have adopted better phones and even rent the lines from the big players. Ultimately, buying a phone unlocked and taking it to a carrier isn’t too much more of an expense. There’s also the fact that my friends and relatives have been haranguing me about getting a smartphone for what seems like forever.


So these factors have finally led me to get a smartphone for myself. So I ended up rolling with the Razer 2 phone. It’s a phone many people have never heard of. It’s made by a company known for gaming keyboards, mice and respectable headphones. Somewhere along the line, they decided to make a phone. The original Razer was a cult hit. It competed well enough that many PC gamers picked it up and loved it. So a sequel went into production. So why rock the Razer 2 over one of the Apple or Samsung phones? Well, there are a few reasons. But first I’ll mention what may be obvious to some. If you already have an iPhone and love it,  some of those apps are First-Party. So you’re locked into that ecosystem. Coming over to this means there are some things on that phone that won’t carry over to this one or another phone powered by an Android OS.

The Razer 2 has some really cool things I noticed about it right away. Most notably the audio. The sound quality is excellent. If you put a lot of music on your phone and use it as a media player you will not be disappointed here. It has a clear, stereo audio with some nice bass and treble to boot. It also works with the SYNC software in my Ford Fiesta. So playing music in my car without having to plug in an Auxilary cable is great. It also means I can use the Google Maps GPS function on long trips and hear it through the car audio. But even if I was still driving my old car, the speakers on the phone are so good it doesn’t matter. You don’t even have to turn the volume up all that much.


The screen is also the other major thing of note. With a 120hz refresh rate you really do notice it in movies and shows. While I don’t do that often on it, I can see watching YouTube videos and Twitch Livestreams on it if I go somewhere where there’s a public hotspot knowing I’ll be there a while. Both of which I tested out at the local Starbucks a mile away from home. They worked fantastically, especially Twitch. So much so that I was getting questions about it from employees and customers alike. The 1440 x 2560 resolution also ensures things look crisp.

Less important, but still fun is the customizable LED on the back of the phone. It comes with an app from Razer called Chroma where you can go in and tweak it. You can have it stay on a single color, fade between colors and patterns, or even tweak the frequency of time it stays on. You can even disable it entirely if you don’t care about it and want to save power consumption on your battery.

The phone also has something called Vapor Chamber Cooling. It’s basically an upper ended shield to displace heat evenly throughout the phone. More or less behaving like a heatsink. It’s something few users will ever open up to examine. But it does work toward improving performance a bit. All electronics heat up from intensive use. Ask any PC gamer with a water-cooled tower. Keeping them as close to room temperature as possible does help. Getting too hot can actually damage components. Which is why even my old Tracfone would shut off on its own if I forgot it in the car on a very humid summer day. Most devices will shut off in this case. But if they get hot enough during normal operation they can take performance hits. If you’re playing a game you don’t want random slowdown or drops due to heat.


Can I say unequivocally that this one feature is going to give you a win over someone else? No. But it’s a small thing that shows they’ve tried to go the extra mile. Speaking of which, the packaging is over-the-top when it comes to trying to impress you. The box has a gatefold cover, similar to that of a high-end hardcover edition of a novel. You then get a screen printed greeting from Razer. Underneath that lie a few compartments for the included phone, USB C to mini cable, AC Adapter for said cable, and a USB C to audio cable if you want to use wired headphones or an auxiliary cable with it.

The phone itself has a great texture on it too. It’s smooth but with enough of a simple groove to keep hold of it. This allows for liquid to just run off of it. If it rains, the dog dries itself next to you, or you spill a soda in the car, there’s a very good chance the phone is still going to work. That said, I still recommend getting a good case and tempered glass screen protector for it. The Warranty is limited after all and won’t cover negligence or abuse. I obviously don’t recommend spilling things on the phone on purpose either.


The phone also doesn’t come bloated with a ton of stuff in it. Other than Razer’s own utility you basically have the core features of Android OS and little else. That’s another thing you may want to consider when getting a phone. Much like an OEM computer from a company like Dell, for example, these come preloaded with a lot. Many apps run when the phone turns on, using up a big chunk of the memory. Some new phones run like a 4-year-old device out of the box as a result. In the time I’ve had this phone (a few days), I’ve only put on the Nintendo Online app, Steam app, Twitch app, Facebook app, tinkered with the Zedge app. and bought a game or two for performance testing.  None of this really impacted the performance of the phone that much.

I was able to move some stuff from my PC to it to personalize it fairly simply. It requires you pick up another USB C to USB cable of course. Do note you’ll want a good one that can also carry power. The cheap Dollar Store one I had knocking around wouldn’t work at all with it, so I had to buy something more substantial. Once I did, moving files was a breeze. Windows 10 just saw the phone as a storage device, and I was able to move pictures and music to the appropriate folders. Now I can customize my contacts to have different ringtones and images.


The phone also supports wireless charging though I don’t have a dock to test that function out with. But the built-in wireless network card works very well. It works with every major 802.11 frequency and even has two Multi Input Multi Output antennas on it. The Bluetooth chipset worked like a charm in my car as noted earlier. The website shows the stock version of the phone comes with Android 8.1 but mine came with version 9 on it. So they likely haven’t updated the specs section of the page.

There are two small drawbacks with the phone though. The cameras in it are quite good, but if you’re into taking a ton of photos, and video you’ll find some of the Samsung solutions have better specs in the same range of phones. Mainly due to a more color-accurate image sensor. Be that as it may, I was still impressed with what I did get out of the Razer 2’s Sony cameras. I was still able to take a 4k video clip of my Sister’s Yorkie that looked impressive. And the regular photos are still so good all but the most discerning shutterbug who loves to nitpick won’t have anything to complain about.


The other thing to be aware of is that while this does have a powerful Adreno 630 GPU for processing graphics, the Snapdragon 845 CPU in it is a little bit older than the SM8150 in the latest Samsung Galaxy line of phones. A couple of other things to be aware of is the fact that being a little more esoteric means the Razer 2 phone accessories you might want will have to be ordered online. It’s slim pickings at retail. I should also note that those looking for something lightweight might not be happy with the added heft some of the features add to the package.

Still, the phone has more than enough packed into it that it’s a fantastic option to consider. The phone has 8GB of RAM which can run multiple apps nicely and has a bit of headroom for some of the more demanding cell phone games. And it supports up to a 1TB microSD card. So if you are a bit of a power user who has gobs of apps, multimedia, and business files on your phone storage shouldn’t be much of an issue. It comes with 64GB internally.


And while I am not a big fan of the practices of a lot of freemium games that are prevalent on tablets and phones, there are a few traditional games you can buy on a cell phone. So I nabbed a couple for the purpose of this review. VVVVVV (Which I reviewed forever ago on PC) and DOOM (1993) (A game that needs no introduction). Both games performed very well, with no real slowdown to speak of. VVVVVV’s amazing soundtrack continued to prove the Razer 2 has a winning sound. DOOM ran exceptionally smooth and was fairly responsive. One thing I will say is you’ll still probably want to find a compatible Bluetooth controller for traditional games like these. While the games ran wonderfully, using the touch screen gestures takes a lot of getting used to. In the case of DOOM even more so as Bethesda’s solution for controlling all of the various functions is kind of weird. You hold the phone sideways, as the case with most phone games. But the screen is broken up into three sections. On the left, you can swipe your WASD movements. On the right, you can swipe your thumb about for mouselook.


You tap the upper center for activating switches or doors while the lower center pulls up a weapon wheel. If you want to toggle running you either have to double-tap the WASD section which it doesn’t always detect or go into a menu and set “Always Run” to “On”.  Double-tapping then holding down on the right shoots your weapons. This is a weird layout because you have to take your hand off of the right when you go to activate a switch or a door. Sometimes you may find you need to do this while firing which requires some contortion. This isn’t a problem with the phone, you’ll run into this on any phone that can run the game. But it’s something I’m mentioning here while it’s on my mind. That said, DOOM looks wonderful on the Razer 2. It does come up with the same log-in screen as the Switch version (You can tap “Later” instead of having to log into a Bethesda account) which tells me the Switch version is likely the same game as the Switch is essentially Android tablet tech inside.


In any case, if you do play a lot of games on your phone, This one definitely has a leg up on other models out there as it plays them well. The graphics are sharp. The colors pop. The games can run at fairly high frame rates. The 120hz refresh rate even feels more responsive. It’s very noticeable on more demanding titles. If you’re looking for a phone that can play bigger budget experiences, it’s definitely one to consider. The thing is, I would still choose a phone based on the other things it can do over gaming at this point. Unless there’s a particular title you’re going to play a lot of as again, the vast majority of cell phone games are using some sort of free to start model, rather than a traditional experience you pay for once. Be that as it may If you want a phone that can handle that Fortnite itch without too many performance dips I think you’ll love the Razer 2. At the time of this writing, it’s also been halved in price by the manufacturer making it a very attractive alternative to some of the higher tier solutions by Apple and Samsung.

Final Score: 9 out of 10.

Windows 10 Review

Microsoft always gets flak whenever they stir the OS pot. Any interface change, is met with torches. Any new feature is met with skepticism. Of course there have been very good reasons for that over the years. Windows 95 was the first really lauded version. It came out as I was getting out of High School. It was the first version to really prove people wrong. A lot of folks, most folks some would say, vowed that DOS would reign forever. Obviously that hasn’t happened. But 95 would prove itself, only to be replaced by 98 which was loathed. Bugs, performance issues kept it down, until it’s revision Second Edition came out. Suddenly Windows was loved again. Then, when XP would be delayed came a stopgap version of 98 called Millennium Edition. This was probably the worst version in the history of the OS. Fortunately XP came along, and for 14 years, made people forget about it.

But even good OS software goes obsolete. So Microsoft brought us Vista. It let us access more RAM, take advantage of 64 bit processors, in exchange for a lot. Particularly displeased were businesses that used expensive proprietary programs. All met with the reality of either keeping all of their old stuff running, or buying the latest versions of their proprietary software because the developers weren’t patching the old versions to run on Vista. But along came Windows 7, which basically took the Vista structure, and patched up a lot of Vista’s headaches. People were okay with that for a while, a lot of folks started buying tablets. So Microsoft gave us 8, which tried to blend the desktop, and tablet interfaces.

While nowhere near the travesty of millennium Edition, or Vista, people really didn’t dig the new interface on their desktops. Eventually people on the whole got used to it, an 8.1 update beefed up some security, and things began to settle down.

So now we have 10. Should we be happy, or should we grab the torches again?

PROS: Start button menu returns. DX12. Performance gains. Edge performs better than IE. Free for a year.

CONS: Does very little to excite the average person. Only free as a digital upgrade for 7, 8, or 8.1 users.

BLAND: The light/dark theme in Edge.

Installation went fairly easy, and brisk. Normally I opt to go for a physical copy in case I need to wipe a drive, and start over. But with the free upgrade offer, I took a shot in the dark. In my case I had no problems. Windows 8 update easily downloaded the upgrade files, and then gave the option to go through the installation when it was ready. Of course I still advise anyone to back up any important files (pictures, documents, songs, video footage, etc.) to an external hard drive before you begin. Though you should be doing that anyway. Because if something glitches out you may end up needing to wipe the drive, and start over. Which means losing everything on your primary hard disk. Anyway, once it was completed, the only drivers I even needed to download manually were for my video card, and for my printer. Windows 10 actually found all of my other drivers on its own, with little to no trouble.

Windows 10 comes off as another 8 at first. The art design from 8, carries over while at the same time bringing back some of the functionality we saw back in Windows 7. The most obvious one being the Start button menu. Now you can once again, click it, and go to all programs (now called all apps), and choose your executables that way. You can still go under File Explorer, and search your drives that way. You also have the power, and shutdown options there. However there are also the tiles from Windows 8.1 you may have gotten used to by now. You can still customize, and rearrange them, making it handy for things you use all of the time. It isn’t exactly the same though. There are limits on the number of programs it will list, and often times instead of simply putting an .exe file shortcut instead it has a folder with a drop down menu.

Microsoft also has a new browser called Edge in Windows 10. It sits there on the taskbar waiting for you to go web browsing. But it isn’t just for web browsing. As Internet Explorer did in Windows 8 to an extent, Edge also lets you search your entire computer. It’s embedded in almost everything, even putting a search bar on the taskbar. Overall, at least on its face, it doesn’t seem much different from Internet Explorer. You still have tabs, a favorites list, and the options to tweak the look. The theme is a little bland however. Pulling up the browser settings is similar to Windows 8’s charms bar. A side bar flies in from the right with the options you’d expect. You can look at your favorites, history, and other options pretty easily. The browser adds a couple of new functions. A reading mode that lets you make the content of a page or document the center of attention. You can also have a reading list that queues up things of interest. Joining the mode is the Cortana application from Windows Phone. It is embedded in Edge’s search function. (You can also run it as a separate program) Cortana works as well as it does on phones here. So long as you have a microphone or a headset for the program to hear you even if it does seem a little weird to use on your desktop. They also gave tablet, and touch panel users the ability to write notes on web articles. If you prefer to use Internet Explorer or another browser, you still can.

Microsoft also carried over their digital storefront application to 10. If you happen to use their store, the handbag icon on the taskbar takes you there as it has before. The layout has changed, and the selection has expanded somewhat. But on the whole it is going to feel familiar, and easy enough to navigate. This is where you’ll begin to see some overlap with the Xbox branding. You’ll find many of the apps, including video games will run on X86 or ARM so you can download them to a Windows Phone, Tablet, or computer. It still has a long way to go to catching up to Google or Apple storefronts, but it looks to have made some headway here. The apps themselves often feature a Windows 8 style side bar which makes them useful on Tablets which many of them are geared for. Still, they’re easy enough to navigate on a mouse as well. So should you want to run one of them on your desktop, or notebook it isn’t going to confuse you.

Windows 10 also takes a page from Aero 3D with its Task viewer. You can see several window panels laid out upon clicking the icon on the taskbar, and then selecting the window you want. You can also snap the windows side by side, or even on multiple monitors if you have such a setup.  Down next to your clock, you once again will see your volume, notifications, hidden icons, and network connection status. Most if not all, of the shortcuts you’re used to using are also back. Basically if you’re still on Windows 7, this is going to be pretty easy to get used to. If you’re on 8, you’ll have some “Oh, that’s right.” moments. But beyond these interface changes is there anything else? For those really obsessive about security it does support biometric scanning through it’s Hello software. Provided you have a supported fingerprint reader, and don’t trust yourself to make new passwords very often. It should also be noted that Windows 10 does something 8 probably should have done, and that is make the Start screen a default tablet interface, and the desktop a default well, desktop interface.

But as this is a gaming blog, you’re going to want to know if Windows 10 is a valid upgrade for gaming. I would have to give you a resounding yes. At least in my case, Windows 10 seems to use considerably fewer system resources than 8 or 8.1 ever did. As a result, most anything I do on the system runs noticeably smoother. There has been a lot of positive buzz for Direct X 12. But since I don’t have a DX12 card, and nothing utilizing DX12 is out yet, I have no way of testing that. However, a host of my games ran better than they ever had on Windows 7, 8, or 8.1. Chivalry, Insurgency, Ultra Street Fighter IV, Mortal Kombat 9, Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams, and Rise Of The Triad (Reboot) all performed 15-25% better on my machine. Running the 3DMark Fire Strike 1.1 (standard version) even scored slightly better at 5732 instead of 5687 I had before. If you predominantly use your computer for gaming, it’s worth downloading, and installing Windows 10. If the rumors about the next DX revision hold true, you’ll especially want to download, and install it. Because they won’t be bringing it to the older versions of Windows, and hardware manufacturers will certainly support it.

For everyone else, it’s going to depend on the situation. The average person will probably get used to it rather quickly, and the quicker response time is likely going to impress them. The returning Start menu although not identical, is still similar enough that they probably won’t mind it. Some however, may want to wait. particularly if they’re in a situation where they’re required to run an expensive proprietary utility in a business, that may need patches or other updates to run on the new OS. Realistically however, this time it is likely a much smaller number of users than it was with the last few versions.

Overall I would say Windows 10 is certainly worth the upgrade, more for the game fan, but with benefits for the average computer user too. It’s just too bad there isn’t much outside of gaming that it offers to get excited about. Further uniformity between platforms, comfortable interfaces, and security improvements are certainly important. They’re just not that exciting. Still, they are all things you may have been wanting since the days of Windows 7. If you have, you may want to follow your gaming brethren into the pool.

Final Score: 8 out of 10