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November 10, 2017

Android flagship throwdown: Razer Phone vs. Google Pixel 2 XL

by John_A

The Razer Phone and the Google Pixel 2 XL are two devices that stand out among the current fleet of flagships. The Pixel line, designed by Google, is made to work seamlessly with Android, and is meant to offer the smoothest experience possible. The Razer Phone is the smartphone for gamers, thanks to an incredibly smooth 120Hz Ultramotion display, and a state-of-the-art cooling system that keeps the device from getting too hot during monster gaming sessions. They’re both incredible devices — but which one of these two should you buy? Let’s take a closer look at the specs to find out.

Specs

Razer Phone

Google Pixel 2 XL
Size
158.5 x 77.7 x 8 mm (6.24 x 3.06 x 0.31 inches)
157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm (6.22 x 3.02 x 0.31 inches)
Weight
197 grams (6.95 ounces)
175 grams (6.17 ounces)
Screen
5.7-inch 120 Hz Ultramotion IGZO IPS LCD display
6-inch P-OLED display
Resolution
2,560 x 1,440 pixels (514 ppi)
2,880 x 1,440 pixels (538 ppi)
OS
Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Android 8.0 Oreo
Storage
64GB
64GB, 128GB
MicroSD card slot
Yes
No
NFC support
Yes
Yes
Processor
Snapdragon 835 with Adreno 540
Snapdragon 835 with Adreno 540
RAM
8GB
4GB
Connectivity
GSM, UMTS, HSPA, TD-SCDMA, LTE, TDD LTE, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
4G LTE, GSM, CDMA, HSPA+, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
Camera
Dual 12 MP rear (f/1.75 wide angle & f/2.6 zoom), 8 MP front
12.2MP rear, 8MP front
Video
Up to 4K at 30 fps
Up to 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 120fps, 720p at 240fps
Bluetooth
Yes, version 4.2
Yes, version 5.0
Audio
Dual front-facing speakers, no headphone jack
Dual front-facing speakers, no headphone jack
Fingerprint sensor
Yes
Yes
Other sensors
Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Barometer, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, Active Edge
Water resistant
No
Yes, IP67 rated
Battery
4,000mAh

Qualcomm QuickCharge 4.0+

3,520mAh

Fast-charging, with 7 hours in 15 minutes of charge

Charging port
USB-C
USB-C
Marketplace
Google Play Store
Google Play Store
Colors
Black
Black, Black and White
Availability
Razer

Best Buy, Unlocked from Google, Verizon

Price
$700
$850
DT review
Hands-on review
4.5 stars out of 5

Both the Razer Phone and the Pixel 2 XL are equipped with the Snapdragon 835, bringing them into line with most of 2017’s flagship devices. While they offer similarly slick performance, there is a difference in the amount of RAM offered in each device. The Google Pixel 2 XL comes with 4GB of RAM, while the Razer Phone doubles that number to an incredible 8GB.

While the impact RAM has on smartphone performance is debatable, the boost in RAM should give the Razer Phone the edge when swapping between demanding apps — like games, which are the Razer’s focus. Razer also has a unique approach to keeping the phone cool — a series of thermal shields and tubes transfer heat from the processing areas, and out through the body, keeping the phone’s brains cool and performance up. It’s an approach that we haven’t seen before, and it scores Razer some points.

While both models start at 64GB of internal storage, only the Pixel 2 XL offers a model with increased storage options — 128GB. That seems like it would give the Google phone the edge, but when you consider the lack of MicroSD support on the Pixel 2 XL, the Razer Phone pulls ahead with the option of expandable storage. While Pixel owners get unlimited high-quality photo storage, it doesn’t quite match up to the extra expandable room on the Razer Phone.

Both devices forgo the venerable 3.5mm headphone jack, but only the Pixel 2 XL has taken advantage of Bluetooth 5‘s increased range, strength, and features. The choice to run with Bluetooth 4.2 on a phone without a headphone jack is a strange one for the Razer Phone, and it does lose the gaming-centered device some points. Keeping the focus on audio, both the Pixel 2 XL and the Razer Phone are packing an impressive set of speakers. Both have gone for two front-facing stereo speakers that provide excellent sound, and make these phones perfect for media consumption. If we had to pick between the two, the Dolby Atmos-loaded speakers on the Razer Phone would get our vote, but the Pixel 2 XL’s speakers are also excellent.

When picking a winner in the specs category, it’s often about pure numbers, and that’s pretty much the case here. Both devices are loaded with powerful hardware, including the Snapdragon 835, and enough RAM to run smoothly. However, the extra 4GB of RAM, the option for expandable storage, and the cooling system on the Razer Phone beat out the inclusion of Bluetooth 5 on the Google Pixel 2 XL.

Winner: Razer Phone

Design and display

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Pixel 2 XL is the first of Google’s phones to fully embrace the bezel-free design philosophy that’s come into full force this year. A smooth mix of glass and metal creates the iconic Pixel band on the rear of the phone, while flipping the phone over to the front reveals a huge 6-inch POLED screen with a 2,880 x 1,440-pixel resolution and an 18:9 aspect ratio. It’s safe to say that the Pixel 2 XL’s display has had its share of issues, but those concerns aside, it’s still one of our favorite displays on a smartphone, with inky blacks, vibrant colors, and crisp details.

The designers of the Razer Phone clearly weren’t phased by the bezel-free revolution, and make no attempt to mimic the crowd. An all-aluminum body covers the phone, giving it a utilitarian streak and a no-nonsense feel. The angular corners, in particular, remind us of the Sony Xperia range — and it’s not a bad look. The 5.72-inch LCD screen may also not be able to compete with the raw beauty of the Pixel 2 XL’s POLED screen, but it does a good job, producing sharp details, as well as bright and clear colors. But you really need to see it in motion to appreciate the Razer Phone’s real strength — the Ultramotion display is capable of running at 120Hz, or twice the usual rate of most phones, and the result is a display that feels incredibly responsive and smooth. We’ve seen this tech before in the iPad Pro, and seeing it here really cements the gaming focus that Razer is aiming for.

Durability-wise, the Pixel 2 XL comes with an IP67 rating, so it should be able to resist short dips in still water, like drops into the bath or the toilet (though we don’t recommend testing that). By contrast, the Razer Phone comes with no water resistance at all, which is a surprise for a 2017 flagship phone. Water resistance isn’t a vital feature on a smartphone, but it’s nice to have that peace of mind, especially since phones accompany us everywhere. Both phones should be able to take a knock thanks to their metal designs, though the glass band at the top of the Pixel 2 XL is always a worry — we recommend a case if you’re worried about that.

There’s a lot to love about the designs of these phones. The Razer Phone’s aesthetic celebrates a bygone era for smartphone design, with a no-nonsense aluminum body, a sizable forehead and chin (which do help with gripping the phone during gaming — you can see what they were thinking), and angular corners that make the phone stand out from the trend toward curvy phones. However, we’re not over the wow factor of minimal bezels yet, and the combination of a lack of sizable bezels with an OLED screen is just too much for the Razer Phone’s LCD to top — no matter the refresh rate. The Google Pixel 2 XL is a triumph of modern design, and while it might still be considered ugly by some (that back glass panel is divisive), we think it’s utterly gorgeous, and award the Pixel 2 XL the win here.

Winner: Google Pixel 2 XL

Camera

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

We haven’t had chance to spend any real time with the Razer Phone’s cameras yet, but the numbers on display here are encouraging. While Razer has eschewed the bezel-less trend, it’s jumped right on the dual lens bandwagon, with two 12 megapixel lenses side-by-side — a wide-angle and zoom lens with apertures of f/1.75 and f/2.6 respectively. Around front, you’re looking at an 8-megapixel camera for taking selfies, while video functionality allows 4K recording at 30 frames-per-second (fps). There’s no slow-motion trickery on display here yet, but we expect that mode will follow in a later update.

The Razer Phone’s cameras are solid, but they can’t compare to the single snapper on the Pixel 2 XL. Despite the single 12-megapixel lens, it’s currently the highest-scoring smartphone camera on DxOMark’s scoring system, beating out the Galaxy Note 8 and the iPhone X. During our time reviewing the Pixel 2 XL, we noted the particularly good performance of the selective blur behind subjects (the DSLR-like “bokeh” effect) on both the 8-megapixel front-facing camera’s portrait feature, and on the rear camera. The secret of the Pixel 2 XL’s performance lies not in the camera’s hardware, but in how well Google has built the camera’s software to mimic the features that dual-camera smartphones are able to create. If you’re shooting video, the Pixel 2 XL also shoots up to 30fps at 4K, as well as captures slow-motion video at 240fps, at 720p.

This category is an easy call to make — the Google Pixel 2 XL’s camera is one of the finest shooters we’ve ever seen, and though the Razer Phone’s numbers are pretty good, it’s clear that Razer’s focus isn’t on smartphone photography. It’s no knock on the Razer Phone to lose out to the current king of the hill. The Pixel 2 XL performed incredibly in our tests, and it’s consistently great.

Winner: Google Pixel 2 XL

Battery life and charging

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Battery life is becoming one of the major battlefields in the flagship arena, with devices increasingly competing to provide the largest battery, increased optimization, and reduced charging times. The Pixel 2 XL comes with a 3,520mAh battery that lasted us the day during our review. With heavy usage, we saw the battery dip to around 20 percent by 8 p.m., after having been off the charger since 8 a.m. that morning. Lighter usage saw it last until 9 p.m. with 45 percent remaining. That’s respectable battery life, but it’s not the best.

Thankfully for Pixel fans, Google’s phone comes with extremely fast charging. We watched the Pixel 2 XL charge from 39 percent to 79 percent within 40 minutes — pretty fast.

The Razer Phone sports a larger 4,000mAh battery. While you might expect a longer battery life because of that, we’ll postpone judgment until we’ve had a proper play with it. That 120Hz Ultramotion screen will likely prove quite draining, even on a battery that large, and we anticipate the Razer Phone’s battery life also being tested by its gaming capabilities. That said, we have spotted that the Razer Phone modulates the on-screen framerate depending on the situation, limiting itself to 25fps on a static screen, and ramping up to the 120fps only when needed. That sort of smart operation will save precious battery life.

Charging-wise, we’re looking at another fast charger. The Razer Phone will be the first phone to launch with Qualcomm QuickCharge 4.0+, which Razer has claimed is capable of charging from 0 to 50 percent in 35 minutes. If true, that’s impressive for a battery that large.

We’re going to hold off on making a call on this category for now — the Razer’s battery is largely untested, and we’d really like to put it through its paces before we make a decision. While the Pixel 2 XL’s charging speed is impressive, that 6-inch screen is a major drain on the battery, and we’ll be interested to see how the Razer Phone’s battery life and charging speed compare in our full review.

Winner: Tie

Software

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Both the Pixel 2 XL and the Razer Phone ship with the stock version of Android, no bloatware pre-installed, and all of Google’s latest features included. The Razer Phone does come with Nova Launcher, our favorite custom launcher, but apart from that, the Razer Phone benefits from all the advantages that come with Google’s slimmest, fastest implementation of Android. Unfortunately, the Razer Phone is stuck with Android 7.1.1 Nougat, rather than the brand-new Android 8.0 Oreo you’ll find on the Pixel 2 XL, but you can expect the Razer Phone to have Android Oreo implemented by early 2018.

Even when the Razer Phone has caught up with the Pixel, we expect Google’s phone to have an edge. The Pixel 2 XL is likely to still be the smoothest performer, having the advantage of being designed by Google to work specifically on its OS. It’s an advantage that any third-party will struggle to match, and even when running the same stock Android, Google’s greater knowledge of how to build hardware for Android is likely to show through.

Outside of the general performance of Android, we see various additions to the Pixel 2 XL that make life just a little bit more fun. The Always-On display can now identify songs you’re listening to, thanks to a large database of songs. Active Edge (HTC’s Edge Sense feature) allows users even easier access to Google Assistant, and the general software experience is smooth, solid, and a joy to use. Google’s real expertise with software shines through here, and though our time with stock Android on the Razer Phone has been great so far, Razer can’t match up with Google.

Winner: Google Pixel 2 XL

Price and availability

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Google Pixel 2 XL is currently available for purchase, and starts at $850 for 64GB of storage. Upgrading to the 128GB model will cost an extra $100, pushing the price to $950. So far, only Verizon is offering the Pixel 2 XL on its service, but you can also buy a handset from Best Buy, and from Google itself — though you will need to unlock it from Verizon to use it on any other carrier. You can see all your buying options in our Pixel 2 buying guide.

You can currently sign up to be notified when the Razer Phone goes on sale, though we do know that the price is going to start at $700 for 64GB storage. In terms of network coverage, none of the major carriers have announced that they will be offering the Razer Phone, and Verizon and Sprint customers will be disappointed to learn that a lack of banding for those networks means it won’t be coming to them.

The Pixel 2 XL is a Verizon exclusive, but can be unlocked to access any network — whereas the Razer Phone will be stuck with T-Mobile and AT&T pretty much regardless. That said, there’s a difference of $150 between the base models of each of these phones, and with the Razer Phone’s comparable specs and performance, avid mobile gamers may find themselves drawn to Razer’s beast. Ultimately, the price speaks volumes for us, too — the Razer Phone represents great value for money, and beats the Pixel 2 XL here.

Winner: Razer Phone

Overall winner: Google Pixel 2 XL.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

It had to be — Google’s Pixel 2 XL is one of the major players at the top of the flagship scene right now, and the Razer Phone isn’t. Yet.

The Razer Phone puts up a great fight — it has the RAM to handle pretty much anything, backed up by the Snapdragon 835, all running behind that gorgeously smooth 120Hz Ultramotion display. If you can’t afford the Pixel 2 XL, or just don’t want to give Google even more control over your life, then Razer’s gaming-focused beast may catch your eye.

But the Razer Phone just can’t beat the Google Pixel 2 XL. Google’s latest and greatest represents almost everything fantastic about smartphones right now, with sumptuously smooth performance, a camera to die for, and one of the best displays on the market. It’s gorgeous, and it’s likely to last buyers a long time.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Razer Phone vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 8: A new challenger approaches
  • Razer Phone hands-on review
  • The Razer Phone, with its Snapdragon 835 and 8GB of RAM, is finally here
  • Razer unveils a revamped Blade Stealth and a new external GPU, the Core V2
  • Razer Lancehead review




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