The iPhone X and the Razer phone were two of the most celebrated phones of 2017. Both were billed as revolutionary, albeit in different ways.

Razer boasts that its phone is the ultimate gaming experience, with a screen capable of vibrant HDR colours, a 120Hz display allowing for animation twice as smooth as any other handset, and even Dolby Atmos sound through dual speakers.

Impressive specs. But how is the phone in reality? We took it for a spin to see what the Razer Phone could do.

Knives Out

I’ve been playing Knives Out -- a smartphone clone of the hit PC game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds from NetEase -- for the past few weeks on my iPhone X. Playing the same game on the Razer Phone really highlighted a lot of this phone’s advantages.

The screen was bright and colorful, displaying the island battleground clearly. It helps that it’s physically large too -- making it easier to spot buildings or players in the distance. I was impressed with how well the game ran, which could be down to the Razer Phone’s beefy processor or 8GB of RAM.

The speakers produced great sound, but a bigger advantage had nothing to do with audio. The big bezels on either side of the screen that house the speakers may not make the phone as nice to look at as other modern smartphones, but they’re far more functional -- holding the phone felt natural and was much more comfortable when playing Knives Out. The phone’s physical size may make it less convenient in some ways, but it felt great for gaming.

Arena of Valor

Next up, I tried Tencent’s Arena of Valor -- one of the most popular mobile games in the world, and one of the few properly enhanced for the Razer Phone. It supports the phone’s 120Hz screen, arguably its main selling point as all of its competitors are stuck with 60Hz screens. That means apps, games, even just the general scrolling animation of the phone can be twice as smooth as other handsets.

The difference was clear in Arena of Valor. Everything from the movement of the characters to just scrolling around the environment seemed noticeably smoother than other phones. It simply made it easier to play during some of the more action-packed parts when the game remained smooth instead of being choppy and less responsive.

Arena of Valor can be played at 120Hz refresh rate on a Razer Phone. (Source: Razer handout)

Netflix

Games seemed better on the Razer Phone. But with that vivid screen and booming speakers, I had to try watching video. So I fired up Netflix to catch up on Star Trek: Discovery.

The first thing I noticed was the sound -- crisp and clear, with sharp lasers and booming voices. And it’s loud: I’m used to turning the volume up to the maximum on my iPhone, but on the Razer I actually had to turn it down after some dirty looks from my colleagues.

The Razer Phone’s screen was also impressive. Bright and with vibrant, vivid colors, it did a good job balancing the darkness of space with the brightness of stars (and the gleaming USS Discovery itself).

But even more impressive is that there’s more to come: Razer says it’s updating the phone to support HDR video in Netflix. HDR -- or High Dynamic Range -- is specifically designed for scenes with a lot of contrast, making it perfect for Star Trek’s space scenes. Honestly, it’s hard to see how it can look any better, but I can’t wait for the update to test it out.

The Razer Phone supports Netflix in HDR. (Source: Razer handout)

Great for gaming and Netflix, but what about everything else?

I spent most of my time with the Razer Phone testing its media capabilities, and so I didn’t really try to use it as a normal handset. I will say that the speaker bezels -- so useful as grips while gaming in landscape mode -- are far more of an obstacle when using the phone in its normal upright orientation. They make the Razer Phone significantly larger than the iPhone X, despite Apple’s handset having the bigger screen.

We’ll give the Razer Phone a much more thorough test for a review later, but for now, early signs are looking pretty good for Razer’s smartphone debut.