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Lenovo Legion Duel 2 review: Big game hunter

Jon Mundy
22 Oct 2021
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
699
inc VAT

Lenovo’s latest gaming phone places the onus on all-encompassing landscape usage, for better and for worse

Pros 
Huge, fluid, uninterrupted display
Flexible and fast dual charging system
Landscape-oriented design is great for gaming
Cons 
Cameras quite unreliable
Big, heavy, and unwieldy in portrait
Generally solid battery, but mediocre on media playback
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Gaming phones are still something of a niche concern and the Lenovo Legion Duel 2 is unlikely to be the one that breaks out into the mainstream. It’s another brash, unwieldy handset aimed squarely at the gaming enthusiast community.

READ NEXT: The best Androids and Apple smartphones you can buy

But for those who are serious about their mobile gaming, and who seek a competitive edge over the Samsung Galaxy S and iPhone-owning masses, it’s an eye-catching choice. It’s a phone that’s got the power to match almost any Android handset on the market, with a huge and responsive display, and a design that places your gaming needs front and centre.

Buy now from Lenovo


Lenovo Legion Duel 2 review: What you need to know

The Lenovo Duel 2 goes all-in on gaming, from form factor to features. This singular focus occasionally compromises the phone’s day-to-day usability, but it all pays off in the hands when you’re popping off headshots or running the lanes in your favourite mobile MOBA.

From a performance standpoint, the Legion Duel 2 is largely unimpeachable. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 has technically been one-upped by the Snapdragon 888 Plus, as found in the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro, but the difference is mostly negligible.

It’s a similar case with the Lenovo Duel 2’s huge 6.92in display. A 144Hz refresh rate is even faster than the 120Hz flagship standard you’ll find with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and the iPhone 13 Pro, and makes for an impressively fluid experience.

Only the 165Hz display of the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro tops it, and even then, no game really takes full advantage of such speeds. More important for gamers is the Duel 2’s 720Hz touch sampling rate, which is a match for the Nubia.

Lenovo Legion Duel 2 review: Price and competition

With prices starting from £699, the Legion Duel 2 is a bit more expensive than the £519 Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro, but much cheaper than the £799 Asus ROG Phone 5.

If you were to spend this kind of money on a non-gaming phone, you would be shopping for an iPhone 13 Mini or an Oppo Find X3 Neo. In other words, you’re in almost-but-not-quite-flagship territory here.

Lenovo Legion Duel 2 review: Design and key features

Perhaps the most tiresome thing about gaming phones is their wearisome adherence to a so-called ‘gamer aesthetic’. Who actually wants the smartphone they carry around with them to look like a car from the Fast & Furious franchise? Gamers do, apparently.

To that end, the Lenovo Legion Duel 2 is extremely big, with a 9.9mm-thick aluminium frame and a split rear panel that’s largely made of glass. It weighs an astonishing 259g, which is 25g more than the ludicrously chunky Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, and 21g more than the Asus ROG Phone 5.

It’s solidly built, but the Lenovo Legion Duel 2 feels weird to use as a normal phone. That’s because its extended camera bulge is positioned in the middle of the handset, rather than the top.

This is actually much more than a camera bulge, since it houses the phone’s cooling fan (which kicks in under gaming load), RGB lighting, and pop-out selfie camera. This mechanical front-facing camera pops out of the left-middle edge of the phone and again, it’s intended for landscape use. If you’re used to portrait selfies, as most of us are, then this will feel downright weird.

One key advantage this huge phone has over the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro is a pair of front-firing speakers, housed in a sizable chin and forehead bezels. It does make the phone extremely tall at 176mm, but again, it’s all about the gaming, and games sound great on the Lenovo Legion Duel 2. The lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack feels like an oversight, though.

The obligatory RGB lighting comes predominantly from a large three-pointed Legion logo on that protruding middle section on the rear of the handset, which pulses when you receive notifications, play a game, recharge, and pretty much any other activity you can think of if you tinker with the settings in the pre-installed Legion Realm app.

Buy now from Lenovo


Lenovo Legion Duel 2 review: Display

The Lenovo Legion Duel 2’s 6.92-inch AMOLED display is one of the largest smartphone screens you’ll find. It’s an almighty gaming canvas, especially given that it’s both flat and unbroken by troublesome notches.

There’s no QHD resolution on offer here, which makes sense since hardcore mobile gamers tend to prefer raw performance to pixel-peeping. The 2,460 x 1,080 (FHD+) resolution proves ample for sharp, speedy gaming, and it shows off normal content well enough too, though it does seem a tad reflective.

I recorded a maximum brightness of 470cd/m² with auto-brightness off and the screen brightness cranked to the maximum setting, which is pretty good.

This being a gaming phone, the Duel 2 is extremely fluid, with a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz. Curiously, it’s set to 60Hz by default and to be honest, most games will peak at such frame rates anyway, but it’s always a little irritating when you have to manually activate such a feature in a performance-oriented phone.

More importantly, the touch sampling rate is 720Hz, just like the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro. This is the rate at which the display registers your touch inputs, and both of these gaming phones are about two to four times more responsive than most flagship Android phones.

To my eyes, the Duel 2 offers a nicely balanced-looking picture – at least once you switch away from the default Vibrant setting to the more muted Natural colour mode.

Lenovo Legion Duel 2 review: Gaming, performance and battery life

The Lenovo Legion Duel 2 runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 5G, which is still the go-to chip for an Android phone in 2021. The Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro’s Snapdragon 888 Plus gives it a slight edge, though the two chips are identical except for a slightly higher-clocked performance core in the plus variant.

Sure enough, my Geekbench 5 tests turned up comparable performance to the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro and most vanilla Snapdragon 888 devices, with an average multi-core score of 3,748, and an average single-core score of 1,126.

In terms of graphical performance, the Lenovo is a match for the Asus ROG Phone 5, and falls a mere 9fps or so behind the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro. Performance really needn’t be the deciding factor when it comes to choosing your gaming phone, as pretty much all of the top candidates are extremely fast.

When it comes to the fun stuff, CoD Mobile runs flawlessly on top settings, as you’d expect. More importantly, it plays brilliantly thanks to those hardware shoulder buttons. Like the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro, these benefit from some excellent haptic feedback to make them feel more button-like.

While the Lenovo doubles the shoulder button count, with an extra pair of controls situated behind and slightly inside the L1 and R1 buttons, this isn’t necessarily a good thing. I found it tricky to press the L2 and R2 buttons when under pressure – which, of course, you’re always under in a hectic FPS or competitive MOBA. All in all, I preferred the clarity of the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro’s dual-button set-up, but the more nimble-fingered and persistent among you may differ.

When it comes to battery life, the Lenovo Legion Duel 2 benefits from a huge 5,500mAh cell. In general terms, a relatively intensive 14-hour day with 4hrs 40mins screen-on time left me with 47% left in the tank, which is pretty good going.

However, the Duel 2 didn’t do so well in our looping video battery test. With the display set to 170cd/m² brightness, the display cranked up to its maximum 144Hz refresh rate, and flight mode enabled, it lasted 16hrs 25mins.

That’s not terrible, but it doesn’t compare well to its gaming phone rivals. The Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro, for instance, scored 21hrs 37mins, and the Asus ROG Phone 5 lasted 23hrs 45mins.

Recharging is very fast at least, with 65W delivery through a single USB-C port, and an impressive 90W when you employ the second USB-C port on the left-hand edge. Yes, the Lenovo Legion Duel 2 has two charging ports, which lets you charge its two cells simultaneously via the bundled dual-port charger, and can get you to a full charge in 30 minutes. It also lets you charge the phone more comfortably whilst using the phone in landscape, which is another useful gamer-friendly feature.

Lenovo Legion Duel 2 review: Software

Just as you expect any new gaming phone to come with gaudy RGB lighting and a high refresh display, you can also expect busy, hyperactive software as part of the package as well. The Lenovo Legion Duel 2 is no exception.

Scan through the gaudy wallpaper options, witness the absolute mess of icons in the notification menu, and note how the phone defaults to dark mode. It all feels a little chaotic.

For all that, though, the Lenovo Legion Duel 2’s custom software is a little more reserved than the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro’s. There are none of the latter’s vomit-inducing home screen widgets, nor do you have to put up with a baffling secondary web browser.

There’s the obligatory gaming interface app, here called Legion Realm, which offers quick access to games and game-related settings from the home screen. When in games, you can drag down to check out your ping or FPS, see how hard the CPU and GPU are working, bind controls to those physical trigger buttons, and more.

I did pick up on one or two bugs, which also isn’t uncommon on gaming phones. Aside from the intermittent focusing issue in the camera (more on that in a moment), I experienced a weird one-off glitch where activating the auto-brightness toggle reduced the brightness to almost nothing, making it temporarily impossible to see the screen outside.

Lenovo Legion Duel 2 review: Cameras

With precious resources spent on things like advanced cooling systems and bespoke gaming buttons, gaming phones don’t tend to have great cameras and the Lenovo Legion Duel 2 is sadly no different.

You have to hand Lenovo props for not attempting to give the impression of something more here. There’s no superfluous depth or macro sensor covering up for the lack of a telephoto lens. Rather, you get a 64MP (f/1.9) wide sensor and a 16MP (f/2.2) ultra-wide sensor with a 123-degree field of view.

Admirable lack of obfuscation aside, this camera system still isn’t particularly great at taking pictures – at least for the money you’re spending. You’ll get perfectly passable shots in good lighting, with some appropriately vibrant colour choices from the built-in AI assistant when shooting things like flowers or food. But there was nothing during my time with the phone that stood out as particularly impressive.

More worryingly, I found that the Legion Duel 2’s main camera would quite often fail to focus on the subject properly, both in low and decent lighting. I was surprised to find a number of downright blurry shots among the 40-odd I took during my testing. Whether this was a bug or a hardware issue I can’t be certain.

There’s no OIS to be found here either, and even when you activate the manual Night mode, the Lenovo Legion Duel 2 isn’t the phone you want in your pocket when the lights drop. The 16MP ultra-wide fails to match the main sensor on sharpness or tone, with a soft, hazy look to everything I shot.

You might expect the selfie camera to be a little more accomplished than it is, given its 44MP resolution and eye-catching pop-up lens. But in my experience, the phone’s selfies lack detail, blow out highlights, and smudge skin tones to a distracting degree.

Lenovo Legion Duel 2 review: Verdict

The Lenovo Legion Duel 2 is a fine gaming phone with a laser-like focus on giving you a premium gaming experience. Its landscape-weighted design makes it uniquely suited to extended gaming sessions, as does its dual charging system, and it’s just about as powerful and fluid as they come.

It does compromise on a number of everyday concerns in order to attain gaming mastery at an acceptable price, however. This is one of the most unwieldy phones I've ever used, at least in portrait usage, while the camera barely competes with the better mid-priced phones on the market.

All in all, the Nubia Redmagic 6S Pro matches or even beats the Lenovo Legion Duel 2 in most of the ways that will count to gamers, with a more compact design and a much lower price. It remains our Best Buy pick for avid gamers, though the Lenovo Legion Duel 2’s ‘go big or go home’ approach makes it well worth considering as a more expansive gaming alternative.

Buy now from Lenovo


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