Razer Phone 2 vs. Galaxy Note 9: Closer than you think

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Razer Phone was a great gaming-focused phone from 2017, but it fell short of being a great smartphone because of a weak camera and a lack of water-resistance. Razer has taken the criticism to heart with the Razer Phone 2, enhancing the weaker points to deliver a phone that hopes to be a great gaming device and smartphone. But the Razer Phone 2 has a lot of competition, and it’s eventually going to find itself up against one of the biggest and best smartphones around — the Galaxy Note 9.

Which phone comes out on top when these two titans clash and which should you buy? We found out.

Specs

Razer Phone 2
Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Size
158.5 x 78.9 x 8.5 mm (6.24 x 3.11 x 0.33 inches)
161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8 mm (6.37 x 3 x 0.34 inches)

Weight
220 grams (7.76 ounces)
201 grams (7.09 ounces)

Screen size
5.7-inch UltraMotion IPS LCD
6.4-inch Super AMOLED display

Screen resolution
2,560 x 1,440 pixels (515 pixels per inch)
2,960 x 1,440 pixels (516 pixels per inch)

Operating system
Android 8.1 Oreo
Samsung Experience 9 (over Android 8.0 Oreo)

Storage space
64GB

128GB, 512GB

MicroSD card slot
Yes, up to 1TB
Yes, up to 512GB

Tap-to-pay services
Google Pay
Google Pay, Samsung Pay

Processor
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845

RAM
8GB
6GB, 8GB

Camera
Dual 12MP (with OIS) and 12MP telephoto rear, 8MP front
Dual 12MP (with dual OIS) rear, variable aperture, 8MP front

Video
2,160p at 30 frames per second
2,160p at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps

Bluetooth version
Bluetooth 5.0
Bluetooth 5.0

Ports
USB-C
3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C

Fingerprint sensor
Yes (side)
Yes (back)

Water resistance
IP67
IP68

Battery
4,000mAh

QuickCharge 4.0+

Qi wireless charging

4,000mAh

QuickCharge 2.0

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace
Google Play Store
Google Play Store

Network support
T-Mobile, AT&T
T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint

Colors
Black
Ocean Blue, Lavender Purple

Price
$799
$1,000

Buy from
Razer

Samsung, Amazon

Review score
Hands-on review
4 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Both of these phones put a heavy emphasis on gaming performance, and so it’s unsurprising that we see some exceptionally powerful hardware here. Both the Razer Phone 2 and the Note 9 are equipped with this year’s “flagchip,” the Snapdragon 845. Thanks to that chip, you get smooth performance whether you’re playing the latest mobile game or just checking your emails. Both have innovative cooling systems too — the Note 9 comes with water-cooling, while the Razer Phone 2 comes with the Vapor Chamber cooling system, which spreads heat around the phone.

There is lots of RAM here with 8GB in the Razer and 6GB or 8GB in the Note 9. While the Razer Phone 2 has just 64GB of onboard storage compared to the Note 9’s 128GB, both have a MicroSD card slot to boost that, so the lower capacity shouldn’t matter too much. Both phones come with whopping 4,000 mAh battery capacities that should easily last the day. Both also come with Qi wireless charging but the Razer Phone 2 comes with much faster charging, thanks to the rare inclusion of QuickCharge 4.0+.

It’s an exceptionally tough category to judge since both phones rock similar specs. We’re calling this section a tie.

Winner: Tie

Design and durability

Call 2018 the year of repeated designs because both of these phones (and many others) are calling upon their predecessors for style tips. Most people would be hard-pressed to tell the Note 9 apart from the Note 8, while the Razer Phone 2’s front is a doppelganger for the Razer Phone, and it’s only when you see the glass back that the differences become obvious.

But that’s where similarities end. The Razer Phone 2’s design has angular corners and hard edges, as well as sizable top and bottom bezels that house the front-facing speakers. It’s definitely a gaming phone though, and it sports RGB lighting on the Razer logo. By contrast, the Note 9 is a culmination of modern design, with an all-glass design and soft curves that glide into each other. These phones have different styles, but the Note 9 is definitely the better looking.

Water resistance has been added to the Razer Phone 2, with an IP67 rating, but it doesn’t quite match the Note 9’s IP68 rating. However, the aluminum front of the Razer Phone 2 probably gives it better drop-resistance than the all-glass Note 9. On the other hand, the Note 9 is one of the few flagship phones to still come with a headphone jack — worth keeping in mind if you can’t lack the jack.

While the Razer Phone 2’s design will have its fans, the Note 9 is far prettier and has better water resistance.

Winner: Galaxy Note 9

Display

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Here’s where both phones get to be a little bit special. The Note 9’s 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display is utterly gorgeous and showcases some of the deepest blacks and most vibrant colors we’ve seen on a smartphone. It’s so good that it was awarded DisplayMate’s highest ever score, making this an exceptional piece of technology.

The Razer Phone 2’s 5.7-inch UltraMotion IPS LCD display isn’t able to match the Note 9’s amazing color reproduction, but it’s still special in its own way — it supports a super-smooth 120Hz refresh rate. This means the Razer Phone 2’s display updates twice as often as most other phone displays, making performance smoother than normal — and significantly improving how good games feel on the device.

It’s another tough matchup — but we think the Note 9’s higher quality screen will be coveted, but gamers will want the smoother 120hz display. We’re giving the Note 9 the win for being technically superior.

Winner: Galaxy Note 9

Camera

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Razer Phone’s camera was one of its major weaknesses and it was primarily the software that let it down. That seems to have been fixed in the Razer Phone 2, which sports a much-improved camera app to complement the dual 12-megapixel lens set-up. But it’s up against a photography monster here. You’ll find a similar pair of 12-megapixel lenses on the Note 9, but the variable aperture borrowed from the Galaxy S9 ensures photography is solid in a variety of lighting conditions, and Samsung’s artificial intelligence optimization is top-notch.

The Note 9 also comes with a portrait-taking mode called Live Focus too, and though both phones have an 8-megapixel selfie shooter, Live Focus really gives Samsung the edge in selfies. Video capabilities are similar, with both being able to take video in 4K resolution — but the Note 9 can record at 60 frames-per-second, and in super-slow motion.

The Razer Phone 2’s camera is much improved, but it’s a mismatch — like throwing a new boxer against a world champion. The Note 9 wins.

Winner: Galaxy Note 9

Software and updates

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Note 9 comes with Samsung’s custom user interface — the Samsung Experience — laid over the top of Android 8.0 Oreo. It looks good and it offers some good customization options and additional features but there is a good deal of apps that repeat Android’s own base apps. That’s not an issue with the Razer Phone 2, which runs almost stock Android 8.1 Oreo, but with Nova Launcher pre-installed. Nova Launcher offers a huge amount of customization, and you can tweak to your heart’s content. You won’t find many pre-installed apps either, except for Razer’s Chroma and Cortex apps.

While neither has Android 9.0 Pie yet, you can expect it to come to both phones eventually. However, we expect Razer to have the update out well before Samsung, since Razer doesn’t need to adapt its own custom UI in the same way Samsung does.

Both phones have great software, but we’re suckers for purer versions of Android. Add Razer’s better update history to that and the Razer Phone 2 comes out on top.

Winner: Razer Phone 2

Special features

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Razer Phone’s special features are mostly entertainment-based. The front-facing stereo speakers hidden in the chunky top and bottom bezels are exceptionally loud, and there’s a THX-certified 24-bit Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) included, which you can use with wired headphones. Outside of that you’ll find Razer’s special game-boosting apps that serve to help keep your games together and optimize your experience — and the awesome RGB lighting on the back. Make no mistake, this is a gaming and entertainment-focused phone.

The Note 9’s features cater for a wider audience. Bixby is pre-loaded, and though it’s still not great, it’s improving. Samsung’s DeX mode has improved too, enabling your Note 9 to serve as a makeshift desktop and you can now use it with just a single cable. But the real headline feature here is the S Pen, which can be used to write on the screen, access quick features, or — most excitingly — be used as a camera trigger or clicker thanks to a low power Bluetooth connection. It’s a big change in the Note’s stylus, and it’s now something you might use.

While the Razer Phone 2’s features are more tempting if you love your games or movies, we feel the Note 9’s are better suited to most people.

Winner: Galaxy Note 9

Price

The Galaxy Note 9 is currently available, and prices start from $1,000 for 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM. As a Samsung flagship, it’s usable on every major U.S. network.

The Razer Phone 2 will be available for pre-orders from October 11 and will start from $799. Unfortunately, it will only work on T-Mobile and AT&T.

Overall winner: Galaxy Note 9

We all knew it would end up this way but the Note 9 really had to fight to keep its crown this time. The Razer Phone 2 looks to be a real contender, with tons of power, an improved camera, and an amazing 120Hz display. If you love your mobile gaming, your music, or your movies, then the Razer Phone’s super-smooth display, loud speakers, and flashy RGB lights will likely make you very happy. But for everyone else, the Note 9 is the phone to get — even at $200 more.

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