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The Razer phone – A monstrous review for a monstrous phone

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I have spent several months with this phone as my daily driver.  And while I normally take more than a few months before I make a review about a product of this magnitude, I can honestly say, that I don’t need that long of time with this phone to give my comprehensive thoughts on this big, fat slab of metal.

The word monstrous in this context means extremely and dauntingly large.  And unless you have hands that are freakishly large, this phone is going to be big, clunky and dauntingly large.  This isn’t the largest phone made, but if you are coming from a “normal” sized phone, then this will be monstrous as soon as you get it out of the box.

And with those happy words, it’s time for the review.

The Specs

The Size

  • Length – 158 mm (6.24 in)
  • Width – 77.7mm (3.06in)
  • Depth – 8mm (0.31in)

Processor

  • Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835

System Memory

  • 8GB dual channel (LPDDR4, 1866 MHz)

Storage

  • Internal: 64GB UFS
  • External: microSD (class 10, 2TB maximum)

Display

  • 120 Hz UltraMotion™ screen with Wide Color Gamut (WCG)
  • 5.7-inch IGZO LCD 1440 x 2560
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3

Rear Cameras

  • 12MP AF ƒ/1.75 Wide
  • 12MP AF ƒ/2.6 Zoom
  • Dual PDAF (Phase Detection Autofocus)
  • Dual tone, dual LED flash

Front Cameras

  • 8MP FF ƒ/2.0

Electric Juice

  • 4000 mAh lithium-ion battery
  • Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 4+

The Sound

  • Stereo Front-facing speakers
  • Dual Amplifiers
  • Audio Adapter with THX certified DAC

Wireless

  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • NFC

Bands

  • GSM: Quad-band GSM UMTS: B1/2/3/4/5/8
  • LTE: B1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/17/19/20/25/26/28/29/30/66
  • TDD LTE: B38/39/40/41 TD-SCDMA: B34/39

 

Review Time

As I did in my Initial thoughts article (here), I’m going to break this review down into 5 sections. Plus add a miscellaneous part and then a conclusion.

  1. Build quality
  2. Screen
  3. Speakers
  4. Battery life
  5. Camera
  6. Miscellaneous
  7. Conclusion

But unlike my Initial thoughts article, this will be a lot more in-depth and have a lot more information.  So sit back and grab a drink, because here we go.

Build Quality

I have spent a lot of time with a lot of different phones over the years.  And build quality is just getting better and better.  So much so, now I expect a phone to have good build quality no matter the level.  I expect it to have good fit and finish.  I expect it to be solid and without blemishes.  For the top tier phones, for Flagship phones, being average just isn’t good enough.

HTC really started this with solid phones, but when the HTC M7 came out, it blew everyone out of the water.  And they have continued to make and build solid products.  The Razer Phone reminds me of that M7.  It is solid, metal, cool to the touch and just a nice product. Looking at the phone and the gaps, I find it hard to find a flaw.  Well there is one exception.  On the front facing camera and sensor, it looks like there is a “depression”.  And I’m not sure if that is the correct word here.  It’s like it bends inward right around that area, then goes back to being the perfectly flat speaker grill.  I guess the best analogy is if you slightly pressed your pinky in a cake before you put on the icing.

That one thing is pretty nit-picky. But it is there and noticeable.  And if you are going to charge me $700 for a phone, it gets counted against the phone.  Sorry, but that is just the way it has to be.

In my Initial thoughts article I scored it with a 9.8.  And I still stand by that.  Even after all this time of using it, it is still solid, no flex and has held up well to the abuse that I can give a phone in everyday use.  So great job Razer!

Screen

Coming in at 5.7in screen, it really is just about the best size for a screen.  With this phone you can’t say that a screen to body ratio is an important figure.  Because it just isn’t.  But the way this phone is designed, the 5.7in is the right size.

It being a IGZO LCD 1440 x 2560 (WQHD) with a Wide Color Gamut, means that it is a nice quality screen with great sharpness and is perfect for movies and of course YouTube.  But it also has a little thing that makes it even better.  Variable rate.  What the hell does the variable rate mean?  Well Razer built a phone that lets the user choose from 60Hz, 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rate.  This is the very first phone that allows the user to adjust this.  Which is awesome!

But before we start talking about all the fancy tech stuff let me tell you a little bit about the screen.  For me the color representation was just fine.  I didn’t ever think that there should be more saturation or crispness.  I didn’t have any issues looking at the screen from an offset angle.  What I did have a problem with is that the screen just couldn’t get bright enough.  In fact it was such a problem, when I went to use the camera in the day, I had to find a shade tree, just to be able to see the screen to take the picture.  Which of course is a super big problem. Especially if you are someone taking pictures in the middle of the day of your family.  Razer needs to crank the brightness up to 2 Million!

Side by Side 1

Side by Side 2

The Razer does have all the same options to adjust the brightness level, and Night Light mode, but it has a couple of things that make it that much better.

  1. Display Resolution
  2. Refresh Rate

These two choices are awesome.  I wish every phone had these options.  First I’ll talk about the display resolution, then I’ll get into the refresh rate.

Display Resolution

Screenshot WQHD

Screenshot FHD

Screenshot HD(1)

So as you can see by the above screenshots, you can choose the type of resolution you want.  If you want WQHD, Full HD or just HD.  The good thing about this, is if you are in an area that you might want to make sure you don’t use a lot of data, you can change the resolution to use less data, and also utilize less battery as well.  So that is a double whammy for the win.

What is WQHD? And how does it compare to FHD and HD?

Well when we talk about screen resolution, we utilize to different means to communicate the resolution of the screen.  We utilize the method of saying what the pixels are.  1920 x 1080.  These two figures notate the Length (1920) by (x) Width (1080).  The figures notate how many pixels are in a given direction. So the more pixels the greater the clarity, sharpness and overall picture will be.

We also use several terms to denote the picture resolution.

  1. High Definition (HD)
  2. Full High Definition (FHD)
  3. 2K
  4. Quad High Definition (QHD) also Wide Quad High Definition (WQHD)
  5. Ultra High Definition (UHD)
  6. 4K

So those are the terms, but they are all different in the amount of pixels.  Note, no matter how big or small the screen is, the item has the same number of pixels.  The only difference will be the physical size of the pixels.  So a TV with a HD screen will have the same number of pixels as a smartphone that has a HD screen.  1280 x 720.  The only difference between the two is the TVs pixels are much bigger.

So here’s the numbers.

  1. HD – 1280 x 720
  2. FHD – 1920 x 1080
  3. 2K – 2048 x 1080
  4. QHD/WQHD – 2560 x 1440
  5. UHD – 3840 x 2160
  6. 4K – 4096 x 2160

Now, all that is pretty simple.  Each term just tells us the amount of pixels involved.  But I know that most like to see a figure of how many pixels per inch (PPI).  So let’s calculate that just so everyone is happy.  Here’s the formula required in order to calculate the PPI.

d1=√w2+h2  

Where d1 is the number of pixels that fit on the diagonal. So you take the number of pixels for the width and square that (w2).  Add the number of pixels for the horizontal (h2) and then square that answer.  So for the Razer we have 14402+25602 = 2,073,600+6,553,600 = 8,627,200. Then take the square root of that and you get 2937

Then to get the actual PPI you use the formula below.

PPI=d1/d2

Where d2 is the diagonal screen size in inches.

So you got 2937/5.7 = 515.3 or just 515 ppi.

So how does that compare to the competition?  Well here’s what you got.

  1. Samsung Galaxy S8 – 570 ppi
  2. HTC U11 – 534 ppi
  3. iPhone X – 458 ppi
  4. LG V30 – 537 ppi
  5. Sony XZ Premium – 807 ppi

So as you can see it’s not the tops, or the bottom, but smack dab right there in the middle.  And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But compared to it’s competition, the S8, U11 and V30 it isn’t quite there.  But it doesn’t hold a candle to the Sony XZ Premium.  Which has a 4K display (3840 x 2160) and comes in at 5.46 in.  So that one is way up there.  And to be honest, it’s a stunning screen.  But I digress.

Here’s what I  think Razer is doing with this option. I think Razer is adjusting the screen to use more pixels for the same image.  So for example when they go from WQHD to FHD then they are using 25% more pixels for x. And for HD they are using 50% more pixels for x.  “x” being whatever image is being displayed on the screen.

What the Hertz??

So let’s get right down to it.  Razer made this phone for gamers.  Not the average consumer.  This means that it does something that no other phone does.  And that is refresh itself at 120 Hz.  Yes, that is the same speed that most gaming monitors refresh at.

But why does that even matter?  Why would Razer make the screen do that?  Well that is where “this is a gaming phone for gamers!” statement comes from.  So let’s talk about what the refresh rate is, and then we will see why it makes a difference.

 What is a Hertz?

A Hertz is a unit of measurement that defines how many times it takes whatever to complete something in a second.  In this case, it’s how many times the screen actually writes to the screen and then does it all again, and again and again per second.

So what is the screen actually doing?  Well there are two different ways that a screen displays images.  There is interlace and progressive.  So picture this.  a screen is 1080 pixels in height.  That means you can say it’s 1080 rows high.  When a screen shows an image, it doesn’t just put the whole image up at once.  It actually fills in each row with information.

So in the case of a screen that is interlacing the image it is filling in every odd number row first, 1, 3, 5..etc. Then going back to the top and filling in rows 2, 4, 6 and so on.  Those two actions produce one cycle of the screen.

In the case of progressive, the screen is filling in every row sequentially. So filling in rows 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on.  In order and not skipping a row.  So the screen goes through all 1080 and then goes back to the top row and starts it all over again.  This is how progressive makes one cycle.

Screen makers let the consumers know which type of screen it is by putting a little letter at the end of the resolution.  So 1080i is 1080 resolution with interlaced scanning.  1080p is 1080 resolution with progressive scanning.

scanTo my knowledge I don’t know of a smart phone screen that uses interlacing.  They are all progressive scanning. Progressing scanning is better than interlaced when involving fast moving objects.  Such as items within mobile games.

So when a screen shows it has a refresh rate of 120 Hz, it is going from 1 to 1080 and then going back to 1 and doing it all aver again.  120 times PER SECOND! That is a hella good refresh rate for such a small device. This high refresh rate makes games buttery smooth and a joy to play.

via GIPHY

Almost all phones have a 60 Hz refresh rate.  So even though they are smooth, 120 Hz is just that much smoother.

Screenshot Refresh Rate Choices

One nice thing that Razer does is give you the option to choose what refresh rate you want to be at.  Whether it be 60, 90 or 120 Hz.  That’s a nice touch.  A lot of people might not be able to handle the 120 Hz.  They might get sick, so being able to change it is a very good thing.

For me the phone came out of the box at 90 Hz.  But it was easy enough to go into the settings and change that.  I have only changed it back to 60Hz when I was first trying to watch a movie using the Plex app.  There seemed to be some stuttering of the movie.  But for some odd reason, when I went back to Plex after playing a game at 120Hz, I didn’t have an issue.  So might have just been a funny bug or something.  Who knows.  I haven’t been back to 60 Hz since then.

With this refresh rate, I have loved playing games and while it wasn’t bad on previous phones, it is just so much better.  The visuals seem smoother.  The transitions are so much better.  While most people might not get it, those of us who know the difference and can see it, will appreciate it and love it all at the same time.

Speakers – Oh the glorious noise!

One of the main attractions to this phone, besides the RAM and refresh rate, is the speakers.  I will not mince words here.  These are simply the best speakers on a phone that I have EVER heard.  I thought the best speakers were the ones on my Nexus 6.  Even the Sony Xperia XZ has some pretty good speakers.  But these speakers are just in a different league, playing a different game.  Any other phones’ speakers, just can’t compete.  PERIOD THE END!

So what is it that makes these speakers so much better than all the rest.  Well, let’s get into it.

First, each speaker has it’s own dedicated amplifier.  Let’s put that in perspective.  On just about every other phone you get one amplifier to be used by both speakers. So what that means is that the power to drive the speakers is divided.  So let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that you had 10W for the speakers.  When the amplifier is driving two speakers, that effectively put 5W to each speaker.  So less power means quieter speaker.  Conversely, if you had 10W going to each speaker, those speakers have the full monty going to them.  So much louder and better.

What is an amplifier?

So let’s look at why the amplifier, two of them in fact, is so important.  But what is an amplifier and how does it work?

There are two parts to the speaker system.

  1. Amplifier
  2. Speaker

The amplifier provides the signal required to make the speaker vibrate at a specific frequency and making the sound we hear.  The amplifier is an important part of what makes up the speaker system.  If you have a weak amplifier, then the power of the frequency that comes from it is weak and thus you get a quiet sound.  Conversely, if the amp is too powerful for the speaker, you will get a lot of crackling, popping and just an overall bad experience.

Now unfortunately, I didn’t receive any type of specific information from Razer as to which type of amplifier they are using in the phone. I wish I could have found out that little bit of information. Since the type of amplifier really does make a difference.  And you can read about the different types here. I’m just going to go with a Class D amplifier since it is the best and what is most likely in the Razer. (This is purely a guess. Nothing more.)

First let’s talk about what the amplifier does.  It is the “tool” that helps drive the speaker.  To “drive” the speakers means to push and pull the diaphragm.  Or to move it back and forth.  Just like you do a car.  You either it drive it forward or backwards.  Same thing with the speaker.

There are several classes of amplifiers. Class A, B, A/B, D, G and H. I’m not going to go into detail about what all the different classes are and do.  But, if you want to read up on it and learn a lot more, then go here and get some reading on.

The one we care about is the Class D amplifiers.  This is the best of the Class A, B, and A/B amplifiers.  It not only boasts better efficiency, but is also lighter than the others.  So it requires less heat sinking to keep it cool.  Which in turns helps whatever device it’s in, be just that little bit lighter.

So let’s look at one and get down to why and how it works.  So there are really three parts to a Class D amplifier.  First is the comparator, the transistors and finally a low-pass filter.

The comparator, also known as a Pulse Width Monitor, takes in two signals. The first being that actual sine wave of the sound.  The second being a triangle type wave.  So to keep it short, when the incoming sine wave is more positive than the triangle wave, the transistor goes to the maximum state.  When the incoming since wave is more negative that the triangle wave the transistor goes to the most negative state.  So you get a series of pulses that match the incoming sine wave, but is amplified.

comparator

Once the amplified signal is passed through the comparator, it then goes to one of two transistors.  One transistor does the pushing and the other does the pulling.

class D-amp

As you can see in the diagram, the signal goes from the comparator to one of two transistors.  As stated one transistor does the pushing and the other does the pulling.  So if the signal is more positive, then it will go to the top transistor.  Which then pushes the diaphragm out.  When the signal is more negative, then the signal goes through the bottom transistor and pulls the diaphragm back.

But the signal isn’t actually moving the diaphragm, it affecting the polarity of a magnet directly behind the diaphragm and that in turn does the actual push and pull action.

The final part of this amplifier is the Low-pass filter. It is there to mitigate the noise that the Class D amplifier makes during the process of amplification.  So what you get out, is an amplified signal that is pretty clean of noises.  That is the down and dirty version.

So by having great digital signal processing, and giving the Class D amplifier solid and stable sine waves in, it is getting high quality, amplified sound out.  So good in gives good out.

Now the second part of the system is the speaker.  The better the speaker itself is, meaning materials it is made from, the better the sound and clarity.  I can tell you that for a phone, the Razer phone has some incredible speakers. Are they as good as super high end over the ear models.  No, but I’ll be dammed if I can’t just use this phone just like I do my Bowers & Wilkins T7.

Speakers

So how does a speaker work.  Well they are really simple.  You put an electrical signal in one end, it creates an electromagnetic field, which moves a magnet, and that in turns pushes and pulls a diaphragm in and out at the specific frequency of the input signal.  And it’s this push and pull motion that moves the air and makes the sound we hear.  See simple. If you want to delve more into how speakers work, go here.

via GIPHY

So as I stated earlier, the amplifier is what provides the signal to the speaker that allows it to move the diaphragm in and out.  So in a digital signal, it is either on or off.  No middle ground.  With an analogue signal there are a lot of little nuances that can be in the signal that you just don’t get with digital.

A digital signal, while a bit more efficient, doesn’t have the nuances that the analog signal does.  This is why a lot of phones now, have DACs (Digital-to-Analog Converters).  It’s the subtleties in the sound, music and anything else that you are listening to, that makes it more encompassing to listen to.

Analog Sine waveBits & Bytes - Digital Music Playback Demystified.indd

In the top diagram, the signal is fluid.  Not blocky.  That’s what an analog signal is.  Smooth and has lots of information in it.  But the second diagram shows you what a digital signal looks like.  Blocky, jagged and very, very precise.

There’s a reason why digital is much better at transmitting information.  It’s either on or off.  Yes or no.  1 or 0.  Which is perfect for a computer, or a chip to read.  But not so good for music. The Razer phone is thankfully equipped with a DAC that is THX certified.  Which if you have never heard this, then I’ll just say that I’m sorry. It’s GLORIOUS!

DAC

So why is this DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converters) so important.  Well let’s talk about that digital signal.  When an artist makes music, it is recorded in an analogue format.  The issue with today’s systems is that they are utilizing digital signals.  So even though you are getting quality sound, you are still loosing part of the signal.  Just due to the difference in the nature of the different types of signals.

So what a DAC does, is take that digital signal, and convert it to an analog signal.  This analog signal is then sent to the amplifier, which in turns sends it to the speaker.  This means that you get a much better, and fuller sound coming out of the speakers.

Analog and Digital signals

A DAC takes that bottom signal and goes through all the finite points and outputs the awesome analog signal.  You want smooth and fluid.  Not blocky and high-rise looking.  And this is a beautiful thing.  Because as I stated, analog is so much better.

I wish every phone, better yet, every system that used digital signals and has speakers, used DACs. It just makes listening that much more pleasurable.

THX

THX, which was made due to the needs of George Lucas and the Star Wars films.  Here’s what THX tells us about their history.

It is May 21st 1982. You are George Lucas and Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back has just debuted in theaters to great acclaim. It will go on to be considered one of the greatest movies of all time.

Instead of resting and lapping up praise after years of difficult production, you do something extraordinary. You hire audio scientist Tomlinson Holman and brief him to examine and improve film audio throughout the entire production chain from Set to Theater.

These first steps led to the birth of THX and is a testament to George Lucas’s obsession with quality and artistic vision.

THE QUALITY ‘BLACK HOLE’

Holman was shocked at what he found. Although there had been significant improvements to how sound was recorded and played back on film, there was no control over what happened on set or in the cinema itself.

It was like discovering a huge black hole in the middle of film production, sucking the artist’s vision away and leaving audiences unsatisfied.

Poor viewing angles and bad light levels in cinemas made a mockery of high production values. Low-quality sound systems and terrible auditorium acoustics made it difficult for audiences to hear dialogue, let alone experience the artist’s original vision.

Holman took all this learning and set up the state-of-the-art audio mixing rooms that eventually became Skywalker Sound. Soon after completion, Hollywood started to take notice and studio executives started calling to incorporate Lucas’s performance standards into their cinema auditoriums and aging mixing rooms.

DISRUPTING HOLLYWOOD

Realizing this could positively disrupt a sluggish film industry, George Lucas and team designed a certification program to help every artist realize their truest vision to their audience. Thus THX was born and made available to audiences with the release of Lucas’ next film “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” in 1983.

But to be clear THX isn’t a recording technology.  It is really just a standard as to which those who hear something that has been “THX Certified” know that the sound is as close to what the artist or entity intended for us to hear.

So what does this mean for us, the users of the Razer phone?  It means that movies, games, music and anything else that comes out of the speakers is going to be as near awesome as it can get. In the end, the speakers on this phone are simply the best I’ve ever heard on a cell phone!  Period. The End.

Battery Life

I won’t spend too much time on battery life.  For me, if the battery is there when I need it, then it’s doing it’s job.  I generally charge my phone all day long.  If I’m near a charger, then it is generally plugged in.  So I don’t have the specs to show that the battery lasted 17hr and 36mins with 17% left.  That just isn’t the way I use my phone.

At 4,000 mAh this is a HUGE battery.  But don’t let that keep you away or also, conversely, have you make your choice.  This size phone NEEDS that size battery.  You look at the Samsung Note 8 and compare some specs.

Razer Phone
Samsung Note 8

Screen – 5.7in
Screen – 6.3in

Resolution -1440 x 2560
Resolution -2960 x 1440

RAM – 8GB
RAM – 6GB

Battery – 4,000 mAh
Battery – 3,300 mAh

As you can see, the Note 8 has a much smaller battery compared to the Razer phone.  And yet it is powering a much bigger screen with a slightly higher resolution.  The Note 8 in general has great battery life.  But, it also isn’t powering a 120 Hz refresh rate.  Dual front facing speakers with their own amps.  And the SAMOLED screen on the Note 8 will have better power consumption that an LCD display will.

So if you put just those few things there, the Razer phone NEEDS a 4,000 mAh battery just to keep up with itself.  And I think Razer did the right thing here by stuffing as much of it in this phone as they could.  having that much power, and just using the phone normally, the average user will never need to hit a charger until it’s time to hit the sack and get some zzzz’s.  And that’s what we all want from a phone.

The Camera

Ugh, this is the worst part about this phone.  And I meant THE WORST!!!! Literally for the first few weeks, I couldn’t even use the freaking thing.  When I did use it, it was so slow to respond that I could have chiseled a portrait in stone before it actually took a picture.  It was so bad, that I had to carry my HTC U11 with me just to take the pictures of my family.  So stupid.

Now having said that, Razer have done a decent job of making a few updates to the camera and it is a little better.  But, the truth of the matter is this.  It will NEVER compare to what HTC and Samsung put out.  Not even close.  You can see the videos and pictures I took here.  But be warned, you will be sadly disappointed.

While the pictures are definitely usable.  And while they are good if you are doing some social sharing, and they will most definitely help you remember some good times.  They just aren’t stellar.

The camera app is so basic that all you get are the normal stuff. This is one of my biggest bitches, gripes, complaints, or any other word you want to put in there for yourself, THERE ISN’T A WAY TO SAVE THE PICTURES TO THE SD CARD! I mean seriously Razer???????   Okay here are some shots of the camera app and you will see what I mean. </rant over>

Camera - General screen settings

And just for the record.  The very first selection “Save Location” is about saving the physical location you are.  For example: Bob’ Best Burger Joint IN THE WORLD!! 234 Main St.

Camera - Volume key action

Just so you know, those little nubs called “Volume Keys” are too freaking small to do anything with.  Especially with the case on.

Camera - Back camera settings

Camera - Front camera settings

Camera - Video - Back camera resolution

Where Razer is better than my HTC U11, is that there isn’t a 6 minute record time for UHD 4K.  That’s a good job there Razer!

Camera - video - front camera resolution

 

So that is it for the camera settings.  Notice how there is no place or choice to let me know that I can save my videos and photos to the SC card.  So stupid!!!!!!!  The sort of defeats one purpose of the SD card.  To help free up space on the internal storage.  And we know that 4K video can be big sometimes.

The Specs

So let’s get into the specs of the cameras.  And Razer is doing something pretty good here.  Coming out of the box with two rear cameras.  I think that is a very smart move.  So let’s start off with the rear cameras.

Rear Camera

The rear of the phone has two cameras.  Specs below.

  • 12MP AF ƒ/1.75 Wide
  • 12MP AF ƒ/2.6 Zoom
  • Dual PDAF
  • Dual tone, dual LED flash

The “main” camera, if we can call it that.  is a 12MP affair with Auto focus capability. It has an aperture of ƒ/1.75. and is a wide lens.  So 12 MP is pretty standard fare for a smart phone camera.  It is also necessary in order to shoot 4K video.  I would love to see one of Sony’s 23MP cameras in here, but that is just straight up wishful thinking.

The ƒ/1.75 is a pretty good aperture for a smart phone.  When a lot of the phones are at ƒ/2.0 or ƒ/2.2, this lower rating should, in theory be a better thing.  But why does this matter?  Well here’s the reason why.

Aperture: In optics, an aperture is a hole or an opening through which light travels. More specifically, the aperture and focal length of an optical system determine the cone angle of a bundle of rays that come to a focus in the image plane. The aperture determines how collimated the admitted rays are, which is of great importance for the appearance at the image plane. If an aperture is narrow, then highly collimated rays are admitted, resulting in a sharp focus at the image plane. If an aperture is wide, then uncollimated rays are admitted, resulting in a sharp focus only for rays with a certain focal length. This means that a wide aperture results in an image that is sharp for things at the correct distance. The aperture also determines how many of the incoming rays are actually admitted and thus how much light reaches the image plane (the narrower the aperture, the darker the image for a given exposure time). In the human eye, the pupil is the aperture.      Source: Wikipedia

So now that that is out of the way, let’s talk about both in a more easier to understand way.  The aperture is just an opening that let’s the light in.  Nothing more than that.  So in camera speak, the bigger the hole the smaller the number that represents it.

462px-Aperture_diagram

As you can see, the larger the ƒ figure the smaller the hole.  Now I’ll admit, that is pretty freaking stupid.  To have the smaller number represent a larger hole.  But that number is based on a mathematical formula.

N = \frac{f}{D} \

Where f is the focal length, and D is the diameter of the entrance pupil (effective aperture). It is customary to write f-numbers preceded by f/, which forms a mathematical expression of the entrance pupil diameter in terms of f and N. For example, if a lens’s focal length is 10 mm and its entrance pupil diameter is 5 mm, the f-number is 2, expressed by writing “ƒ/2.0”, and the aperture diameter is equal to ƒ/2, where ƒ is the focal length.

So in the case of the Razer the aperture is at ƒ/1.75.  The typical camera on a phone is usually around ƒ/2 or ƒ/2.2.  Which means the camera can let in more light than those other cameras and thus give you sharper and cleaner pictures.  If you want a more in-depth article to read then go here. But be prepared to have to think through that read… just saying.

Now, that we’ve gotten through that, the “main” camera also has a Wide angle lens.  This means that it is showing more of the area.  Kind of like a funnel.  When you are near the small opening, it is a small width.  The farther you get away the wide the opening becomes and thus showing you more of whatever you are looking at.

A shot put field is a good example of the difference between a narrow and a wide angled lens.

Shot-put-Field-Dimensions

Let’s say the High School field is the Wide angle and the College field is the Narrow angle lenses.

As you can see the Wide angled lens shows a lot more field.  Or has more material between the lines.  While the Narrow lens has a lot less material between the lines.  This difference means that you wither have to get farther away from a subject in order to capture the entire scened.  Or it means you can be a bit closer and still get it all in.

Also the type of lens has a lot to do with how much light is let in.  The wider the lens the more light it lets in and gets to the sensor.  Thus giving you better low light performance.

But wait, the second rear camera has a aperture of ƒ/2.6 and has a lens specifically meant for zooming. Why would Razer do this type of configuration?  Well.. this allows Razer to actually utilize the zoom specific lens JUST FOR ZOOMING.  So this means that the main camera can focus on getting the best and widest photo possible and allowing the second camera to do a specific thing.

Razer does something unique here.  They call it “Seamless Zoom (with Image Fusion)”  which is a mouth full.  But actually makes sense.  What Razer is doing, is instead of taking a switch and going back and forth between cameras, they actually take two pictures simultaneously and when you zoom in, you can’t see the switching between the main camera and the second one.  they “fuse” or put both pictures together to make the seamless zooming possible.  I will tell you, it does work well.  When I did zoom in on a item, it was buttery smooth.  Gotta give them props on that one!

The rear cameras have the Dual Tone and Dual LED flash.  Nothing fancy there. pretty much standard fare there.

Pixel Dual Autofocus

But the biggest thing I see that Razer has in the rear camera system is the Pixel Dual Autofocus.  Now, it’s kind of sketchy as to how this is working on the smart phone.  But I imagine it works pretty close to how Cannon’s Dual Pixel Autofocus works.  And since Cannon is know to have pretty much the best autofocus on the planet.

So to simplyfy things, here is the nickel tour of how this should work.

Put simply, DPAF takes autofocus to the next level. It provides both smooth and consistent focus for a wide range of photo and video applications. Each pixel on the CMOS imaging sensor has two separate, light-sensitive photodiodes, which convert light into an electronic signal.  Independently, each half of a pixel detects light through separate micro lenses, atop each pixel.  During AF detection, the two halves of each pixel — the two photodiodes — send separate signals, which are analyzed for focus information.  Then, an instant later when an actual image or video frame is recorded, the two separate signals from each pixel are combined into one single one, for image capturing purposes. This greatly improves AF speed over the majority of the area on which you’re focusing. The result is phase-detection autofocus, which surveys the scene and recognizes not only whether a subject is in focus or not, but in which direction (near or far), and by how much. 

You can read the full article here.  But also know that we still don’t know what type of sensor is in the Razer phone.  So take this part with a grain of salt.

I will say this.  Before the first camera update, the camera was slow to focus and also when it did, it was easy to loose focus.  But after the first update, it got much better.  I really didn’t have any issues focusing on a particular subject or item.  When I tapped on the screen it smoothly transitioned to the item I wanted in focus.  So that is a good thing.

This one thing that Razer forgot was Optical Imagine Stabilization.  Which totally sucks.  Neither the front nor the rear facing cameras have it.  I would think if they wanted to put this much effort into this phone, they would just go all the way and get it in there.  It really does make a difference in being able to take 3 pics with 1 being blurry.  To taking 3 pics and ALL being blurry. It’s just no bueno!  #NoBueno

4K

The rear shoots 4K video.  Well UHD (Ultra Hi-Def) video.  That’s a pretty good thing.  It’s nice to see the sharpness of the videos.  But the videos colors, and just the overall look of it isn’t very good.  This goes back to the camera stills function also not being that awesome. Yes the video will do, but it can be a lot better.  You can see some 4K videos here.

The front facing camera only shoots 1080p.  But that’s still good enough for almost every selfie video you wish to shoot.  With the exception of OIS, it does a pretty good job.

Miscellaneous Stuff

I will say this, on the whole this is a pretty good phone.  But there are a few miscellaneous things that just make me go. WTF?

First, is when the first update came through it made a lot of changes. But the one other thing it did was break a game that was pre-installed on the phone. How does that happen?

Update screw up

A picture just says it all.  Now to their credit, I can play the game after this latest update, but that kinda sucked at the time.

The Game Booster setting is probable the coolest thing ever! With three different modes to choose from. It really allows the user to somewhat customize the phones performance to whatever activity you are doing.  And with the meter they provide you get a real sense of what is being affected.  That’s a very good thing!

Game Booser - Custom

Game Booster - Power Save

Game Booster Performance

The Razer Preferences is the most useless thing in the settings. Why not just label it “Share Data”  Because that is all that you are checking. I mean seriously, this is just a waste of screen real estate.

Razer Preferences

Razer Preferences - WTH

See what I mean??

I’m still confounded as to why Razer and IGZO didn’t make the screen brighter.  We all know that we want a super bright gaming monitor.  So if this is a gamers phone, why wouldn’t they make the screen super bright? That makes no stinking sense.

With the latest update Razer did an awesome thing by really making Netflix a part of the system update. Adding HDR content playback and also enabling Dolby 5.1 audio playback support.  That’s just gonna make those speakers so much better.  But I don’t understand how Netflix is included with Razer Phone!? I mean are they preinstalling the app for those who don’t have it installed???

System Updated

But, let’s also give Razer much needed credit.  Still improving the camera with every update, making sure that they have the latest security update and also tackling the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities so quickly, is just proof that they seem committed to making this phone the best they can.

Photo links – You can go to the below links to see all the photos I’ve take at their original resolutions.

Razer Phone – Unboxing

HTC U11 and Razer phone comparisons

HTC U11 and Razer 4K videos

HTC Christmas Photos for comparison with Razer

Final Conclusion

I am torn as to whether to say this phone is awesome or just average.  It’s a hard call.  If you are an avid mobile gamer, then this phone is the phone for you.  If you love big phones with a lot of screen real estate, then this is a good phone for you.  If you want the best front facing speakers ever!  Then this phone is for you.

But, if you don’t fall into any of those categories, then this phone is just an average high end phone. It’s not as good as my HTC U11.  Nor is it as good as Samsungs’ products.  But, that withstanding, it is still a very good first outing into the very tough and competitive phone market.

I like what Razer has done here.  I like the feel, fit and finish.  I like the screen.  I like just about everything about this phone.  But Razer needs to bring more of their spunk to the camera and screen side.  It NEEDS brightness and the ability to rival in the camera department.  No matter what else they do, they will always be known as a company who got close, but didn’t quite make it.  And the sad thing is, it is just a couple of things needed to take them over the top.

IF, the cameras were awesome.  IF the screen was bright enough to see in daylight, then this would be the phone to beat.  Hands down. It would trump everything out there.  I would have no problem spending $700 for the phone and also recommending it. As it stands, unless I know you are a gamer, or love to watch movies on your phone, I can’t recommend this phone. I would send a person to HTC or Samsung.  And that is the hardest statement to write.  For even though I have no love for Samsung, I would still send someone to them before this phone.

 

Published in Phones Review