Gaming

Razer Phone 2 hands-on: Not only for gamers

All glass, all power

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Last year, Razer — the company known for gaming notebooks and peripherals — released a smartphone designed specifically for gamers, with features like loud front-firing stereo speakers, a brilliant display with fast refresh rates, and all the power to run your favorite games.

And just like that the gaming smartphone category was born.

This year, new competitors like the ASUS ROG Phone and ZTE Nubia Red Magic have cropped up. But Razer is back with an update! And from the looks of it, we might just have a phone that not only gamers would want to use.

At first glance, the Razer Phone 2 looks very much like last year’s model. It’s the same size, has the same boxy shape, and the same front-firing speakers on both its forehead and chin.

But turn it around and you’ll know it’s completely different. The 12-megapixel dual-camera setup (one has a 2x telephoto lens) is in a new place, and the back is now glass instead of aluminum.

In my briefing with Razer, I was told the decision on glass was to enable faster connectivity speeds — Gigabit LTE, to be exact — and to enable wireless charging.

Plus, they sell this wireless charging stand separately with cool RGB lighting underneath!

But you know what’s really cool? The Razer logo on the phone’s back lights up. Not just with Razer’s signature green, but any color of the rainbow! All of which can be managed with an app.

One thing that was really important to Razer this time around was to build not just a gaming phone, but also a flagship phone. So this year, they set out to improve the Razer Phone 2’s cameras.

The phone has got new Sony image sensors and better post-processing software, which are supposed to improve photo quality that, they say, should be able to compete with other flagships.

The camera app too has been updated — made simpler and easier to use. And for those who like it, there’s even beauty mode on the front-facing 8-megapixel camera.

Of course, all of what makes the Razer Phone 2 a great gaming phone is here.

The screen’s refresh rate is still a crazy 120Hz, but the panel has been improved further with even better dynamic range, whether you’re watching YouTube, an HDR movie on Netflix, or playing PUBG, which runs great on this device as can be expected from its pretty specced-up configuration.

This includes a high-end Snapdragon 845 processor, 8GB of memory, 64GB of expandable storage, and a hefty 4000mAh battery. All these power what you see on the 5.7-inch IGZO LCD and its 1440p resolution. Keeping everything cool is Razer’s vapor chamber cooling system.

With the official case on

So, is the Razer Phone 2 your GadgetMatch? Of course, you’ll have to wait till we finish our full review to find out whether or not the Razer Phone 2 lives up to its hype. But from the limited time that I had with the device, I think it has plenty of potential.

Gaming

Xiaomi Black Shark Helo is first smartphone with 10GB RAM

Out to compete against the Razer Phone 2 and ROG Phone

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Just six months after the release of the original Black Shark, we now have a successor in the Black Shark Helo.

Even though it forgoes a version number, it feels more incremental than substantial in upgrades. It has all the specs of a 2018 flagship — 6-inch 1080p screen, Snapdragon 845 chipset, and 4000mAh battery — but most are also found in its predecessor.

Same goes for the camera sensors, which are 20 and 12 megapixels for the rear cameras, plus 20 megapixels for the front. But that’s where most of the similarities end.

The most notable improvement is in the memory capacity; it now goes up to 10GB of RAM, which is a first for any smartphone currently available. This configuration comes with 256GB of storage.

Other upgrades are the use of an AMOLED panel instead of LCD (still only 60Hz, though), improved stereo speakers in front, and additional LED lights on the edges. An aluminum frame sandwiched by glass panels reinforce the more premium feel.

Of course, the gaming features are what make this phone what it is. There’s a dedicated button on the side to activate Shark Space, which diminishes background activity to boost performance while playing games. In addition, the liquid-cooling system is back.

Another pleasant inclusion is the attachable controller in the box — two if you get the most expensive package. It provides better control during gameplay and is sure to give you a leg up in competitive play.

The pricing starts at CNY 3,199 (US$ 460) for the 6GB+128GB model, CNY 3,499 (US$ 505) for 8GB+128GB, and CNY 4,199 (US$ 605) for the top-end 10GB+256GB variant.

Availability is currently limited to the Chinese market.

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Features

What does the GPU Turbo do to your phone?

Is it more than just a marketing gimmick?

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It’s been two months since Huawei rolled out the GPU Turbo update to its smartphones. Promised with a 60 percent increase in performance and reducing 30 percent on power consumption, a lot of fans and users were excited after the announcement.

Back then, everyone (including me) was hyped about lag-free games and longer battery life while playing. However, upon receiving the update, I began to wonder: Has GPU Turbo delivered what it promised?

What’s inside the update?

GPU Turbo was originally marketed as an improved gameplay experience, available only to PUBG and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.

The Game Suite app, which comes with the update, offers an uninterrupted gaming feature, hiding all notifications when enabled (except for calls, alarms, and low-battery alerts).

Mistouch prevention is another feature to avert users from clicking the back and home button while playing — perfect for when you want to focus on your game.

Screenshots by Miguel Pineda, Huawei Mate 10 user

To some older smartphones like the Huawei Mate 10, the Game Suite App offers three performance modes: Gaming mode, which improves game performance but increases power consumption; Smart mode, which balances performance and power consumption; and Power saving mode, which saves power but reduces game performance.

For the newer Huawei P20 Pro (which I’ve been using) and Honor Play, it only has a gaming acceleration mode to toggle on or off.

Thoughts on the reduced power consumption

Because I used the Mate 10 before and recently transitioned to the P20 Pro, I’ve experienced the GPU Turbo update in both phones and I can guarantee that they’ve delivered on lowered power consumption.

With Game Suite, I can put my phone on power saving mode to further save battery. For instance, I was only able to drain the Mate 10 down to 15 percent during a 12-hour road trip despite switching between the games I play and other apps, such as Messenger, Netflix, Spotify, and taking photos and videos every once in a while. The same goes for the P20 Pro.

As a power user, I already get a lot of things done with these highly efficient smartphones and GPU Turbo; these allowed me to do more on a single charge. However, it’s a different case for gaming.

Improved gaming experience, but there’s a catch…

When I started playing games on gaming mode (or game acceleration mode on the P20 Pro), I could run Mobile Legends: Bang Bang on a high frame rate with the highest graphics setting available. Compared to how the game stuttered and lagged during 5v5 clashes, with GPU Turbo, it now runs smoothly, as if I have a smartphone made for gaming.

System notice when enabling the high frame rate on Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and the effects it may have on your gameplay

As shown above, most mobile games will notify their users about the possible repercussions of higher frame rates and using the best settings available. To prove that a smartphone with GPU Turbo can handle this, I sought out to confirm my suspicions.

After asking fellow Huawei users, I found out that after installing GPU Turbo, energy consumption is a lot faster than before. Their smartphones also heat up more easily, especially when playing games with the game acceleration mode on. This isn’t part of what was promised, and it’s pretty disappointing.

It’s not yet perfect

In my experience, GPU Turbo tries to boost performance above a smartphone’s limit hoping that users can experience better gameplay.

GPU Turbo can’t choose when to perform its best. It’s an update that is constantly running in our smartphones without any way to switch it off. We can only hope that Huawei will address these issues for the next batch of updates.

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Gaming

ASUS ROG Phone receives US pricing

Last piece of the puzzle

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ASUS is certainly taking its time with the release of its one and only gaming phone. First announced at Computex 2018, the ROG Phone finally has an official price to go with its US release.

For the model with 128GB of storage, you’d have to shell out US$ 899. For the larger 512GB storage variant, the cost goes up to US$ 1,099. Both come with a high-end Snapdragon 845 processor and 8GB of memory.

Of course, there are accessories to go with it. First is the ROG Mobile Desktop Dock, which costs US$ 229; the ROG Phone Case retails for US$ 59; the ROG Professional Dock is valued at US$ 119; you can buy the ROG TwinView Dock for US$ 399; the ROG Gamevice Controller is at US$ 89; and lastly, the ROG WiGig Dock goes for US$ 329.

Those are a lot of accessories for one phone, but that’s what makes the ROG Phone a truly gamer-centric device.

As stated last week, the ROG Phone will hit US shores starting October 18, with other regions to follow soon after.

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