We’re not quite sure there’s a huge demand for them, but ~$ 1,000 gaming phones are something manufacturers continue to push onto the market. If nothing else, they’re at least interesting, and the latest entry, the “Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2,” has one of the most extreme cooling solutions in a phone, ever.
The phone design revolves around the camera bump—it feels like underselling it to just call it a “camera bump”—smack in the middle of the phone body. This bump covers about 25 percent of the back of the phone and houses two cameras, an RGB LED lighting system, a landscape pop-up camera (!), and two internal cooling fans.
Lenovo’s internal diagrams show a large amount of copper and graphite cooling plates inside the phone; the plates contribute to the phone’s impressive 259 g weight. In landscape mode, it looks like the fan in the bottom-left corner of the rear bump is exposed to the outside world and pulls in cool air. The air then travels along copper ducting and can exit out the vent at the bottom or get blown out the top by a second, totally internal fan in the top-right corner of the rear bump.
The front camera is a pop-up camera, which also lives in the rear bump, and it shoots out of the side of the phone, so it’s a landscape pop-up camera. Lenovo imagines Twitch streamers would use the landscape pop-up camera to livestream a cell phone game along with the camera feed. There is even support for overlays and virtual avatars. The power button is actually on top of the pop-up camera, which is strange.
The phone seems 100 percent designed for holding in landscape mode, and holding it in portrait mode, like you would a normal phone, seems like an interesting proposition. It looks like the thickest part of the phone would be right where you grip it. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. Lenovo’s press release points out several thoughtful design considerations for landscape use, like how the centrally located SoC and cooling means your hands will be kept away from the heat-dissipating parts of the phone, and that the dual battery, split between the left and right sides of the phone, is “built for players to feel the phone’s weight more evenly in their hands.” Just like on a game controller, there are dual vibration motors.
There are six extra buttons on the back. Four ultrasonic shoulder buttons on the top of the phone (in landscape) replicate the L1/R1 L2/R2 design of most console controllers, and a touch point on either side of the rear bump can also be used. Most smartphone games are touch only, but you’re usually able to map these buttons to virtual touch points on the display, ensuring compatibility with most games.
Like on the Asus ROG phones, there are two USB-C ports on this device, one on the bottom of the phone and one on the side, making it easier to charge the phone while playing in landscape. One of the crazier features of Lenovo’s gaming phones is the ability to use both USB-C ports at once for 90 W charging over two cables. We’re not kidding. The (sold separately) 90 W charger for the phone actually has two USB ports on it, comes with two USB-C cables, and you’re supposed to plug in both of them at the same time. Lenovo says that “ultra-fast double charging” will charge the phone to about 80 percent in 17 minutes, with a full charge taking half an hour.
The specs are about what you would expect for a high-end phone. You get a Snapdragon 888 SoC, 12GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, a 5500 mAh battery, and Android 11 with Lenovo’s “ZUI 12.5” skin. The display is a 144 Hz, 6.92-inch, 2460×1080 OLED.
Lenovo’s press release tries to justify the existence of the gaming phone market by saying there were 2.6 billion “mobile gamers” last year, but the company immediately makes the leap that these are all hardcore PC-gamer types who want RGB LEDs and edgy laser beam designs. The most popular games on the Play Store are all casual games like infinite runners, turn-based games, and puzzle games, while these gaming phones all talk about fragging people at 144 fps and pwning the competition. If there is such a thing as “mobile gaming enthusiasts,” their best bet is probably to just buy an iPhone, which has better app support thanks to a more profitable app store and easier, console-like hardware support.
The Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 ships this month in China and will be out in May 2021 in Europe, starting at €799.00 (~$ 950). Lenovo leaves the door open for a US launch, saying, “Availability for North America is to be determined.”
Listing image by Lenovo