The Lenovo brand is again stamping a cell phone in Brazil with the Legion Phone Duel. The first openly gamer smartphone sold by Motorola in the country features flashing lights at the rear, plenty of power, a 144 Hz screen and ingenious design solutions, including a retractable camera on the side and not one, but two USB ports to speed up battery charging.
As you could imagine, the Legion Phone Duel is quite expensive. For R $ 7,199 at launch, the phone is equipped with Snapdragon 865 Plus, stereo speakers, liquid cooling and everything. But is it worth it? I’ve used Motorola’s new gamer phone in the past few weeks and I’ll share my impressions below.
Video Legion Phone Duel review
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The Legion Phone Duel was provided by Motorola on loan and will be returned to the company after testing. For more information, visit tecnoblog.net/etica.
The design is the point that draws the most attention in the Legion Duel, not only for the flashy look, but also for the engineering of the product, which is clearly designed to be used in landscape mode. Nothing is very normal here: the front camera is on the side; the battery is divided into two cells that can be charged in two different ports; and one side hides pressure-sensitive buttons that act as triggers in compatible games.
Right away, the Legion Duel impresses with its size, bigger than an iPhone 12 Pro Max, and with 239 grams, above any other conventional smartphone you find out there. At the rear, both the Legion mark and the “Y” symbol light up while you are using your phone. If you want, you can change the color of the LEDs and choose a movement effect; the most striking is the flashing red, to show everyone that you’ve arrived.
The Legion Duel reminds me of the gamers notebooks with a more eccentric look, which have flashing lights in every corner and several colorful details in a thick and heavy body. Theoretically, it is even possible to use your cell phone anywhere, but in practice it has a little versatile design that requires a nice social detachment to take it out of your pocket when you are away from home.
Screen and sound
If the design is a divisor of opinions, the screen is almost unanimous: it is so exaggerated that it is difficult to point out defects in it. The 6.65-inch AMOLED panel is very bright, has excellent clarity thanks to the Full HD + resolution and surprises by the fluidity with its refresh rate of up to 144 Hz. The response to the touch of 240 Hz also guarantees fast and accurate recognitions.
By default, the Legion Duel’s screen is set to 90 Hz, a good compromise not to spend as much battery as the 120 or 144 Hz, but enough for anyone to notice the difference in fluidity in the animations compared to the traditional 60 Hz. The software detects when a game is running and automatically switches the refresh rate to 144 Hz, so you don’t have to get lost in the settings.
But it is worth the caveat: I have already commented in previous reviews that refresh rates above 90 Hz are an overvalued specification by a bubble and I maintain my position. Few notice the advantage of 144 Hz (or even 120 Hz) on a cell phone screen, and most Android games run at 60 fps, either due to restrictions imposed by the developer or the power limitation of the graphics chip. It’s like a 4K screen on a smartphone: if you have it, great; if you don’t, you don’t change a purchase decision.
Under the panel, there is an optical fingerprint reader that was my first disappointment. To start, it only worked with the screen on: I need to double-tap to activate the display and only then put my finger. An alternative was to enable Always On Display, but this should not be necessary. In addition, the recognition area is small and the unlock speed is slow, reminding me of the first generation of these sensors, such as the one that equipped the Galaxy A50.
Speakers can decide on a purchase, at least if you can hear them in person. The Legion Duel has one of the best integrated audios I’ve ever heard, the kind that makes several Bluetooth speakers lose their meaning. The bass has that body that a conventional cell phone speaker cannot play, and the midrange is rich and detailed, making movie dialogues more engaging (and games too, of course).
Unfortunately, perhaps to impress, Lenovo has exaggerated the volume limit and the treble can be shrill when the sound is close to maximum. But, at normal levels, it is sensational to appreciate the sound amplitude of the Legion Duel’s stereo set and realize that all of this is inside a cell phone.
Legion Duel’s Android 10 runs Lenovo’s ZUI interface, with a theme that resembles the aesthetic details of the phone. As soon as you turn on the smartphone for the first time, you can choose between a sober look, without much invention and more similar to the Motorola interface; or a gamer look, with drawings around the icons and a darker color scheme.
From the factory, the device comes with the Google application package pre-installed, as well as tools such as a compass, sound recorder and the Legion Realm, which acts as a hub for configuring triggers, sound quality and Do Not Disturb while you’re playing.
Legion Realm offers easy access to the games that are installed on the device and detects when a game is running to apply specific screen, sound and performance settings. I found it strange that Real Racing 3, a title that Lenovo itself recommends to test the cell’s vibration motors, was not identified at the outset; I had to add it manually for the magic to happen.
The main problem with the software is the lack of a good update policy. Publicly, Motorola only promises a new version of Android, which would already be bad for a top of the line, but the aggravating factor is that the Legion Duel was released with an outdated version. That is, the device is only guaranteed for Android 11, which was launched in 2020.
In addition, the commitment of security patches for only two years and on a quarterly basis is not only noteworthy when compared to Samsung and Google, but also when we analyze Motorola’s past, when the company has already become a market reference and an example for competitors.
The optical set of the Legion Duel is simpler than what we are used to seeing on a cell phone in this price range. Only two cameras are in the middle of the rear: a 64-megapixel main with f / 1.9 aperture and a 16-megapixel ultrawide with f / 2.2 aperture. They shoot in 4K at a maximum of 30 frames per second, below 4K60 or even 8K24 from competitors in the same category.
Although the numbers are not impressive at first glance, the Legion Duel’s cameras do a good job of photography. Both the main and ultrawide have good definition and little noise. The saturation of the colors is quite strong in some cases, but it does not even leave an artificial aspect. The dynamic range of the sensor is great for a cell phone that has little intention of pleasing photography lovers.
As the main rear camera has a high resolution of 64 megapixels, it also functions as a “telephoto apprentice”: with a digital zoom of up to 2x, the images are perfectly usable, with good wealth of details. And the night mode, which can only be used on the main lens, even pleases me a little more than that of the Moto line: Lenovo’s post-processing does not lighten the photo so much and the sharpness filter is not so heavy.
The 20-megapixel front camera is one of the Legion Duel’s most curious points. The retractable mechanism, which positions the camera in the center while using the cell phone in landscape mode, is nimble and rises in less than a second. It is difficult to predict the durability of this rise and fall in the long run, but it cannot be said that Lenovo has not made an effort: a drop sensor allows the lens to retract automatically if it detects that the phone is falling.
Selfies with the front camera please, but with reservations. Motorola seems to have forgotten to adapt the photo processing to the Brazilian’s taste, and the Legion Duel is configured by default with a very aggressive embellishment mode, typical of Asian cell phones, which leaves the skin too light and even refines the face. Fortunately, you can disable the filters with two taps, and the photos will have good definition and correct colors.
Hardware and battery
The Legion Duel is equipped with the processor that was once the best for games on an Android, the Snapdragon 865 Plus, which comes with 12 GB of RAM and 256 GB of space in the version sold in Brazil. Despite not having the latest Qualcomm chip, Lenovo’s gamer phone still has enough hardware to run any game well.
Asphalt 9 stays at 60 fps at all times with graphics at maximum. In Alto’s Adventure, you can delight in the smoothness of 144 fps as you descend a mountain. Real Racing 3, a game I haven’t tested in a long time, also looks beautiful and fluid on the Legion Duel’s screen, with the added bonus of making the dual vibration motors work well to increase immersion during the race.
Of course, the Legion Duel gets hot when it’s in high demand, especially if you increase the brightness of the screen. But, apart from the minor discomfort in the hands, this firepower did not cause any serious thermal strangulation that would affect the device’s graphic performance. Motorola says the phone has a dual liquid cooling system, with layers of graphite and copper tubes. It looks efficient.
Like the Motorola Edge +, the Legion Duel is not compatible with the 5G DSS of Brazilian operators, such as Claro and Vivo, only with frequencies that will still be auctioned by the government, such as 3.5 GHz. But the most curious is that the Legion Duel 5G is blocked by software and will only be released in a future update. This means that even if you are in a country with real 5G, you may still not be able to access the new network. It is not the end of the world, but it is worth mentioning.
The 5,000 mAh battery is only satisfactory for a cell phone the size of the Legion Duel. In the quarantine pattern, with three hours of streaming on Netflix, one hour of browsing and half an hour of Asphalt 9, always with maximum brightness and connected to Wi-Fi, the charge went from 100% to 39%, a result well below the 59% of the Motorola Edge + and slightly worse than the 41% of the Galaxy S21.
The interesting thing is that the Legion Duel spent more battery not while it was running Asphalt 9, something expected in 144 Hz mode, but when playing the three hours of Netflix, which drained almost half of the load. This indicates that, even at the standard 90 Hz setting, the screen of the Lenovo gamer phone tends to expend a lot of energy. And, of course, the LEDs on the rear steal a little bit of charge as well.
The Legion Duel is just not considered bad battery because the charging is very fast. The two 2,500 mAh cells can be supplied simultaneously at 45 watts through the two USB-C ports, resulting in a total power of 90 watts. In some countries, Lenovo ships a two-port charger, but unfortunately Motorola has decided to include a simpler 45-watt model in Brazil. If you have any other more powerful charger, you can use it in conjunction with what is already in the box.
And in fact, the charging speed in the dual turbo charging mode is quite impressive. Starting from zero tank, I connected the Motorola 45 watt charger on the side and a 61 watt MacBook adapter on the bottom. In 5 minutes, the charge reached 10%. In 10 minutes, 27%. In 20 minutes, 55%. And, half an hour later, the battery was already 74%. The 100% was reached in 58 minutes. Heats up? Of course it heats up. But it is so fast that it is difficult to go back to another cell phone without this feature.
It is worth it?
The Legion Duel is a smartphone full of goodness and entertainment, as was clear throughout the review. The design goes beyond the conventional and brings innovations, but it is heavy and not very versatile. The software even has useful features, but it loses points for the bad policy of updates to a top of the line. And the performance is very good, but it gives the impression of “old” hardware, since the phones with Snapdragon 888 have already started to be launched.
In addition, I have restrictions with the concept of “cell phone gamer”. A gamer notebook is thicker, heavier and has a battery that lasts less, but makes up for it with a more powerful video card. In the current smartphone market, a gamer phone shares the same Snapdragon processor as a non-gamer model. The performance advantage ends up being in the details, due to superior thermal cooling or a small increase in the frequency of the CPU or GPU.
The launch price of R $ 7,199 also helps to belittle the Legion Duel, since the Motorola Edge + costs R $ 4,500 at retail at the time of publication of this review. Having 144 Hz, a little more powerful hardware, an incredible sound and a very fast loading is nice, but it may not compensate for the lower cameras and the almost three thousand reais difference for the top of the line “non-gamer” from Motorola. When the figures are closer together, Legion Duel can make sense.
For a first try, Legion Duel brought some interesting news. Who knows in the next generation?
Lenovo Legion Phone Duel
- Impressive speakers
- Strong performance
- Battery charging is very fast
- Screen more fluid than that, impossible
- Android 10 with update only for 11?
- Limited 5G compatibility
- Versatile and heavyweight design
- Inconsistent fingerprint reader