Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Is it the phone to beat when it comes to gaming?

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Gaming phones lie in an interesting position between flair and functionality. Most gaming phones look to provide features that diverge from the mainstream. Enter the Lenovo Legion Duel 2: a gaming-first Android smartphone which a unique aesthetic, two cooling fans, two charging ports, eight active triggers, and a pop-up camera. Even with all these novel features, is the Legion Duel 2 a winner? Find out in Android Authority’s Lenovo Legion Duel 2 review.

The second iteration of the Legion Duel comes with the latest Snapdragon 888 processor and up to 16GB with 512GB of storage. Design-wise the phone is similar to its predecessor, but this year Lenovo raised the back of the phone to make room for an additional active cooling fan, as well as eight active triggers. The device comes in two colors Ultimate Black and Titanium White. In the box, you get the phone, a 90W charger, a plastic case, and two USB-C to USB-C cables.

About this Lenovo Legion Duel 2 review: I tested the Lenovo Legion Duel 2 (16GB/512GB) for seven days running software version 12.5.062. The Legion Duel 2 review unit was provided to Android Authority by Lenovo for this review.

Prices start at €799/£699 and the phone is available from May 2021 in Europe and China. It competes against elite 2021 gaming phones like the Asus ROG Phone 5 and the Red Magic 6, as well as other Snapdragon 888-powered phones. Lenovo has yet to detail any plans for a US release, though you can import it for around $699 from some online retailers.

The Duel 2 is built for playing games in landscape mode. That makes it slightly awkward to use as a traditional smartphone.

It’s been a long time since I was genuinely surprised and excited by a new phone. Since smartphone manufacturers are essentially designing the same products, new devices can get lost in the shuffle. I’m happy to report that the Lenovo Legion Duel 2 provides a real “new device” feel and a taste of innovation that is sorely missing from the modern flagship market.

The Legion Duel 2 looks all but boring. The device sports chamfered aluminum sides, two USB-C ports, and a raised back that makes room for two active cooling fans on either side. The right side features a somewhat loud pop-out camera, the positioning of which should appeal to streamers who want to capture themselves while gaming.

Still, its striking design isn’t without its quirks, as the Legion Duel 2 makes day-to-day use somewhat impractical. Using the device in portrait mode makes for a cumbersome experience. Due to the raised nature of the back, holding the phone one-handed is strange, and I wasn’t entirely sure where my hand was supposed to go, resulting in me covering multiple cameras on the back.

When held horizontally the raised back makes for an incredibly comfortable gaming experience. Since the CPU, GPU, and fans are housed in the middle, the Legion Duel 2 focuses the heat in the center of the device, allowing your hands to stay cool during long gaming sessions. The device also features multiple active triggers: four ultrasonic shoulder triggers, two capacitive buttons on the rear, and two pressure-sensitive buttons on the screen. While useful in theory, the implementation of these triggers leaves some things to be desired, as I found the triggers sometimes difficult to press and use in real-time gaming. The triggers are just a tad too small and lie in an awkward position on the bezel of the phone. Don’t get me wrong, the triggers function as they should, but pressing them is slightly more work than it should be.

Downsides aside, the impressive display, aluminum-glass body, and innovative design definitely make this phone stand out from the pack. In addition to this, the phone features a 144Hz Full HD+ display, with a 720Hz touch sampling rate — a feature sure to be appreciated by the most hardcore of mobile gamers. If you find the battery life to be shorter than ideal, you can always select the 90Hz or 120Hz options as a good balance between performance and battery life. The display also supports HDR 10+ and can get as bright as 1,300nits at peak brightness.

Overall the AMOLED display brings fairly accurate color reproduction, although keep in mind the HDR capability is limited to 8-bit color depth. Still, Lenovo is using Gorilla Glass 5 found on just the display, which is a high enough grade for the price, but it’s not the best-in-class Gorilla Glass Victus found on the top flagships (and the ROG Phone 5). Gaming tends to suck the most power compared to any other task on mobile handsets. To counterbalance this, Lenovo included a hefty 5,500mAh battery inside the Legion Duel 2.

Battery life stretches to a full day and then some. Over the course of my testing — consisting of social media, a few hours of YouTube, an hour or so of gaming, and some photography — the device easily lasted into well into a second day. Keep in mind the display was set to 144Hz at all times. I didn’t test extended gameplay, but after about an hour or two of 3D gaming, the phone seemed to drop at about 25% per hour. This is on par with its competitors, such as the Red Magic 6 and Asus ROG Phone 5, but where the Legion Duel 2 pushes beyond these devices is in raw charging speeds. Lenovo states that the Duel 2 can power up from 0% to 100% in just 30 minutes. I was able to corroborate these claims, and in my testing, the device charged from 0% to 50% in just 11 minutes, and a full charge in 33. These incredibly fast speeds are made possible by the 90W dual charger included in the box. In order to accomplish these insane charging speeds, you actually have to plug in two USB-C cables. In practice, this is a relatively seamless process that did not take any additional time compared to plugging in one cable. Also, the position of USB-C ports makes charging while gaming feels more natural.

Considering how fast the Legion Duel 2 charges, its raised back and active cooling fans yield themselves well to keeping your hands cool while charging. The very center of the phone can get a little hot to the touch, but using the device while charging was not uncomfortable at all. Of course, there is always an option to charge at 65W with one cable, but that results in significantly longer charging times. At 65W the phone can charge up from 0 to 50% in just under 30 minutes, which is about twice as long as the 90W charging. As you would expect from a gaming phone with the latest Snapdragon 888 processor with at least 12GB of RAM, the Legion Duel 2 handles mobile gaming with great prowess. I tested the device with games such as PUBG Mobile, Asphalt 9, and Geshin Impact, and not once did I encounter frame drops or laggy performance. In large part, this is due to the Snapdragon 888, but Lenovo’s dual active cooling design helps keep the device from thermal throttling. That said, the fans can get quite loud and can be somewhat annoying after a while.

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