It should go without saying that the Razer Phone 2 is designed for mobile gaming and nothing else. Ever since we first laid our hands on it, there’s nothing else worth doing on this device aside from playing games — and a little media consumption on the side.
For one, this thing is big and blocky. Never have I used a phone as daunting as this. While it feels fine during landscape mode with two hands, going single-handed can be a literal pain to one’s hand.
You can get a better feel of it in our initial hands-on video:
It’s essentially the same brick as the original Razer Phone. The gaming company definitely applied the don’t-fix-it-if-it-ain’t-broke mentally here. I’m honestly fine with it since it delivers an unmatched screen-speaker combo, but I imagine small-handed users having a problem with this.
That’s mainly because it owns a 5.7-inch screen with a traditional ratio of 16:9, which means it isn’t as slim as those with the newer 18:9 panels. However, the dreaded notch is still nowhere in sight, and there’s more vertical space when playing in landscape orientation.
And since the stereo speakers are placed in front (where they should be), there’s no way of blocking them while gaming. That’s important, because you wouldn’t want to cover these grilles. They’re the absolute loudest, clearest speakers I’ve ever experienced on a smartphone, and could even beat some of the laptops I’ve reviewed in the past.
But from start to finish, it’s the display you really want. It’s an unmatched 120Hz LCD with a 1440p resolution. There’s really nothing like it in the market; it’s unbelievably smooth when scrolling and incredibly sharp when pixel peeping. Only the ROG Phone’s 6-inch 1080p AMOLED with its 90Hz refresh rate comes close, but I could definitely feel Razer’s extra pixels and hertz.
So, how does all that translate to actual gaming? Mostly hits for sure, but I must point out some misses to make this a complete review.
First, the good. Even though Razer doesn’t advertise it, the faster 120Hz refresh rate applies to practically all games that involve scrolling or movement. That means you get on-screen motion that’s twice as smooth as the usual 60Hz on 99.9 percent of all other phones ever made. It’s tough to describe in pictures or words, but you can take my word that it’s tough to go back to anything less than this.
Combined with the Snapdragon 845 chipset and 8GB of RAM, this is the best mix of hardware you can find until the next flagship Snapdragon gets announced, which may be as soon as next month. It’s a shame really, although this chip is more than enough to power the demanding screen. You can even boost performance further with the Game Booster app, which allows you to customize individual settings per game. I just keep mine on Performance mode to be safe.
My only concern is the heat management. Even though it’s been proven that the internals are cooled by a vapor chamber, I can’t say it’s effective in keeping heat away from my hands during intense gameplay. For comparison, it gets as warm as the vapor cooling-less Pixel 3, and doesn’t maintain temperature as well as the Mate 20 Pro, which isn’t even a gamer-centric phone but does own a more advanced 7nm Kirin processor.
The display’s biggest drawback has to be its poor brightness even at the highest setting. This poses a problem for games like Pokémon Go wherein you gotta go out in daylight to play. It was close to unplayable for me when the sun was high — something that never bothered me whenever I stayed inside my cave.
Speaking of going outside, I also can’t say that the 4000mAh battery capacity is enough. While it may seem ample on paper, I noticed the Razer Phone 2 easily burns through it in a few short hours. I would peg average use on a single charge at five hours of screen-on time tops; about an hour less if you use it purely for gaming. I could probably improve battery life by adjusting the refresh rate to 60Hz, but why would I hinder the phone’s best feature?
And yet, despite these minor complaints, I can’t take anything away from the audio-visual experience the Razer Phone 2 offers. Having powerful stereo speakers and a desktop-grade 120Hz 1440p LCD is unreal, and I don’t understand why more brands aren’t copying this. The era of 60Hz needs to end already, and it should start with smartphones.
With the gaming aspect out of the way, what else can this smartphone do?
For one, the Razer Phone 2 has wireless charging unlike its predecessor. Razer offers an RGB-lighted fast charging pad of its own, and it matches well with the customizable illumination of the phone’s rear logo.
Yeah, that RGB logo really puts the game in gamer! The built-in Chroma app is where the magic happens; there are lots of options to adjust colors and how they radiate. Of course, leaving it on too long drains the battery immensely. My preferred setting is a glowing logo while the phone is on, and totally off when the unit’s asleep.
What else is there to know? Aside from all the upgrades over the predecessor I’ve mentioned, the Razer Phone 2 also comes with IP67 water and dust resistance, meaning it can handle unfortunate situations (like dunks in a toilet) more easily. Unfortunately, the 3.5mm audio port has once again been excluded, which is a head-scratcher on any sort of gaming device.
Oh, and the camera performance isn’t that good. As expected of a gaming phone, image quality isn’t a priority, but it gets the job done when daylight is plenty and you have nothing serious to shoot. I also appreciated the 2x optical zoom of the secondary lens. Take a look at some samples:
Is this your GadgetMatch?
If it isn’t clear by now, the Razer Phone 2 is fantastic for gaming, and not much more. Its blockiness and general lack of focus for anything other than raw performance makes it a rather niche product in a sea of versatile smartphones. You could easily buy a different Snapdragon 845-equipped handset for a fraction of this phone’s US$ 799 price, and you’d likely gain other features like better cameras and a modern look, while still getting gaming-level speeds.
However, those would lack the amazing 120Hz display, extra-loud speakers, and all-around customization. At the same time, last year’s discounted Razer Phone has become a little more lucrative, especially since it looks nearly identical to its successor and offers mostly the same signature features.
When all’s said and done, the Razer Phone 2 is a fun little machine. I wouldn’t use it as a daily driver, but whenever a hot new mobile game comes out, this would be my go-to match.
Huawei’s Nova is the brand for the rising youth
And the Nova 5T the perfect companion
Google “Gen Z self expression” and you’ll come up with several results on how the youth of today values self-belief. Technology and innovation sit comfortably in the middle of a contextual generation: Generation Z. It’s the generation that knows little to nothing outside the digital age — which isn’t to say it’s a bad thing.
Technology and the digital space are the contexts our lifestyles adapt to. From the accessibility of online shopping, various news platforms to diverse online friendships, it’s not that difficult to see how this generation, our generation, has unique views and perspectives: self-belief.
Nova and self belief
Huawei’s Nova brand is stepping up to the plate to cater to this advocacy of self-belief and self-expression instead of a uniform marketed identity. Huawei is bringing cutting-edge technology worthy of flagship titles while decking out phones with stunning and exquisite designs.
This is meant to give people the chance to work, express and discover themselves through optimal technology customization and innovation. The goal is essentially to allow users to not just integrate their tech-savvy lifestyle through the Nova series, but also foster the core values of individuality and collaboration.
Want to keep track of your creative progress and teetering your interest into making a daily vlog? Huawei is way ahead of you. With the fundamental significance of self-expression, Huawei equipped the Nova 5T with five AI cameras for users to take drop-dead gorgeous shots of themselves and the view.
Cameras that empower your self expression
If you want to test out your photography skills, take photo proof, or a photo and video journal of your creative progress, the Nova 5T is your best companion. It has you covered from quality super-wide angles, bokeh, and macro shots.
The phone has one camera for super-wide angles, a main 48-megapixel camera, one for macro shots and lastly, depth assists. If you’re worried about how shots of other people and everything else around you will look more stunning than your selfies, drop the silly worrying. The front camera will make sure you step up your selfie game. It’s a 32-megapixel selfie camera with portrait lighting.
Huawei didn’t quite stop there with the Nova 5T. They cased this photography powerhouse into a 3-dimensional holographic design that just makes anyone strut with confidence.
A design that stands-out
And, you might wonder, “what’s the holographic casing got to do with catering to our philosophy?” We honestly thought it was a bit of a pain to figure it out and make something up, but you’ve got to give it to Huawei for sticking to purposeful design.
If you isolate the elements of how it looks — and forgive us if this is a bit of a silly stretch, the holographic design depicts an intention to represent collaborative diversity.
Holographic designs reflect different colors. Sounds a bit familiar? Well, it sounds like the perfect casing to represent the philosophy of individuality, self-expression, and collaboration.
Nova is a brand for the rising youth
The idea of self and embracing individuality doesn’t mean stomping over everyone else. It allows for a deeper understanding for other people. It fosters a community with depth and character and that’s exactly what this holographic designs emulate. Lastly, it also shows movement in its rigidity all while looking beautifully futuristic. This makes sure you and everyone else don’t feel apologetic about being yourselves.
Huawei’s Nova 5T enables people to play around and be creative on their journey towards self-discovery, self-identity, and inevitably, self-expression through its specifications down to it’s thought-out striking design.
This feature was produced in collaboration between GadgetMatch and Huawei Philippines.
2019 Kona 2.0 GLS: Mr. Extrovert
Is it a crossover? Is it a hatchback? Is it an APV? I, too, was confused when I first laid eyes on the 2019 Hyundai Kona. It was one of a kind, unique from any segment I was familiar with.
In line with the Mazda CX3 and Honda HRV, the Kona is a subcompact crossover SUV.
This vehicle is a true head-turner. I highly appreciate car companies whose designs are bold and thought of outside the box. In short, designs that make a statement.
The sleek and futuristic look of the Kona is best complemented in the flagship color Acid Yellow that gave my child-like imagination the impression of a glowing radioactive spaceship.
From the front, its fascia is exciting and modern in style with the growing trend of separated headlight design (like the Nissan Juke), streamlined daytime running lights, and low set fog lamps all go together with Hyundai’s trademark grille design.
Side profiles are matched with dynamic character lines as well as accents of matte black plastic cladding around the wheel arches and rocker panels.
Walking around to the back, you will find a design that is very consistent with the front. It’s almost identical and probably has one of the best looking rear-ends in its segment.
If we were to personify this Kona, it would undoubtedly be an extrovert. He’d be that kind of guy who’s not afraid of being a little flashy and would confidently come up to you to get your attention.
What I’m not a big fan of is the unnecessary amount of plastic cladding. Anyone who has ever owned a vehicle with this type of material will agree when I say it demands high maintenance since it tends to fade quickly.
Overall, the exterior feels exciting and fun, but stepping inside is a different story.
The interior is, well, basic. Scratchy-hard and soft plastic, fabrics, and polyurethane are the main materials used for the interior. It doesn’t give you the same exhilaration as the exterior and sadly feels like it stepped out of character.
Mounted on the dashboard, you will find a somewhat unappealing infotainment system — A non-touchscreen mono LCD unit that’s initially confusing to use while underneath is its manual climate control. Oh, and its instrument panel didn’t help spice the interior up, either, as it seemed a little too straightforward for this car’s asking price.
On the up-side, cabin space and comfort are not lacking whatsoever. With head and legroom to spare and plenty of cargo space for everyone. Cup holders, USB ports, and 12V sockets also come as standard.
When it comes to safety, Hyundai didn’t skimp on this crossover as it earned a high safety rating in the United States. With a score of 9.8, it has been given the Top Safety Pick+ award. It has Anti-Lock Braking System, traction control, dual airbags, and side curtain airbags as standard.
The ride is decently high with a ground clearance of 170mm, nearly as much as its bigger brother, the Tucson. Firing up the engine via keyless push-start button, you hear a smooth running 2.0 DOHC engine.
This is then mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that produces 147hp and 179nm of torque. It’s not the most powerful but is definitely one of the most economical, giving you up to 20km per liter (at best) on highways.
The Kona has three different driving modes you can shift through with a push of a button. You have Normal, Eco and Sport modes which just basically times gear changes differently to give you better responsiveness.
Driving this vehicle is very simple with no unneeded drama. The ride felt smooth and quiet while steering felt properly firm. You do get a bit of body roll around the corners, though.
Lacking from this vehicle is a reverse camera and proximity sensors and, from its price point, you would expect these features as standard. A feature I didn’t find necessary was the hill descent control which would be useful on its AWD variant but not on the FWD version that we have.
For now, the 2.0 GLS is the only variant available here in the Philippines. A straightforward, rather basic but economical ride that would make a perfect daily driver. Although if I were to choose between the two Kona models, I would probably go for the higher AWD 1.6 turbo Ultimate trim model which is a better option than the GLS trim.
To sum it up, it’s a bit of a bummer that it lacks a reverse camera, proximity sensors, and still runs a sub-par infotainment system in this age of touchscreens and Android Auto. What I do like, though, is how it looks. This car unquestionably wins in the looks department. And factoring in its safety achievements and fuel economy, we can easily overlook its shortcomings.
Smartphone makers need to stop chasing numbers
How close are we to smartphone launch fatigue?
The year 2019 has to be one of the busiest for everyone in the mobile technology industry. A decade back, it was dominated by the likes of Nokia, BlackBerry, and Motorola. Samsung was just gaining momentum and Huawei simply existed in the consumer electronics space.
Back then, we saw one-year refresh cycles for phones. Apple would release a new iPhone every year, Samsung’s S and Note series were a huge hit and each got an upgrade every year, and all other brands started following a similar format. Then came a time when HTC, LG, and Samsung would compete to build the perfect flagship.
With the introduction of new players like Xiaomi, Vivo, OPPO, and Realme, strategies and product launches have drastically changed. These new players rule the affordable and midrange segments and have managed to dethrone Samsung in terms of market share.
But this quick rise to fame has been on the back of repetitive launches. Earlier, a year-long cycle was maintained for each series and this was slowly brought down to six months. Now, we see a new phone launching every one to three months. And each new offering undercuts the previous product. Basically, even if they belong to a different lineup, they end up killing the previous one.
In an attempt to cover every possible price bracket, each of these new launches is also accompanied by a host of configuration options and limited editions. While there is no doubt that this has made the buyer a king in terms of choices, the market is headed in stormy waters from a long-term point of view.
Each of the new offerings come with incremental upgrades. It’s something you can definitely live without for a long time, but your purchase is bound to age quickly. And this brings to an even more important question, are smartphone makers blindly chasing numbers?
Should smartphone makers give up or should they just keep chasing numbers?
A couple of years back, every brand wanted to offer as much RAM as possible. We’ve reached a point where a full-fledged Windows 10 laptop comes with 8GB RAM and a “mobile” operating system like Android needs 12GB.
2018 was all about chasing the screen-to-body ratio figure. Just to get a few more points, brands tested out pop-up cameras, water-drop notches, and even cut-outs. Now, thanks to the rise in popularity of mobile gaming, the processor is a crucial part of the phone.
Recently, Realme’s CEO, Madhav Seth had an interview with the folks over at GSMArena and when asked about the quick update cycle between the Realme 3 and Realme 5 Pro, this is what he had to add:
Now if I say for 3 Pro and between 5 Pro, what would be the difference, mainly? I’d say there are two differences: the performance doesn’t compromise much because I don’t play this game of this processor – the 710 and 712. There isn’t much of a difference between your day-to-day usage. Even while you are gaming, there’s not much of a difference. There is a difference, but not that drastic.
Yes, the executive agrees there’s “not much difference”, but there is a difference. And the brands are able to cash-in on this. A difference of just two digits between the 710 and 712 has given brands an opportunity to launch a brand new product within just four months.
How many megapixels do we really need?
Similarly, another department where brands are going nuts is the camera. How many megapixels do you need? Apparently, as many as possible. You’ll always end up clicking a 12-megapixel picture with a 48-megapixel sensor on a normal basis unless you start the dedicated mode. But, on-paper, 48 is a larger value than 12. We’ll also ignore the fact that pixel size or software processing also matters. There’s a reason why Pixel 3 is the best camera phone with just a single 12-megapixel sensor.
While this thought process of amping up numbers has been fairly common in the Android ecosystem, OnePlus has been able to carve out a different niche for itself. Sure, it packs all the latest hardware. However, this doesn’t force it to focus just on specs and launch a new phone every now and then. They have a fixed six-month cycle for years and a secret weapon — their Android skin.
What sets a phone apart from the pack?
OxygenOS is a well-carved product that perfectly compliments the hardware. This is assuring for the user because they know a T-series phone will not practically affect them and the brand won’t forget about software updates after a few months.
Similarly, even Apple relies on a year-long refresh cycle. Their weapon is iOS. This single piece of software lets them completely omit figures like RAM, battery size, and even camera lens details. They don’t reveal the nitty-gritty details because the end-user doesn’t care. It’s an iPhone.
On the other end, even Android players are proud of their software. Xiaomi has MIUI, Realme has ColorOS, and Vivo has Funtouch OS. But the main question is, how long do they last? Software updates are quite often delayed, the UI is bug-ridden, and simply lacks a polishing touch. Not to forget, a few brands like Honor literally forget they’ve launched quite expensive phones and should ideally provide support.
From a long-term perspective, this confidence in products is what makes Apple a “brand”. Even OnePlus and Samsung have achieved a similar status among the masses and consistency and commitment should be the key focus. Samsung has transformed itself from being a TouchWiz meme master to deploying OneUI on every possible new phone.
In the affordable segment, Nokia-branded phones have done a fairly good job. They stick to stock Android and deliver on their promise of consistently supporting older phones. A reputation is formed, something that’ll last.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not favoring stock Android. I’m personally not a big fan. However, I’m stressing that brands keep aside the numbers game and focus on delivering an experience. If you’re just going to assemble hardware, there’s no difference between you and defunct players like Micromax and Karbonn.
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