As a former game developer, I kept a distant eye on the rise of Gaming phones, especially in the past couple of years. They started as being just big phones, but more and more “Gaming” features were added over time. The Legion Phone Duel caught my eyes at launch for being the most gaming-oriented phone I had seen, so I took one for a spin.
The Lenovo Legion Phone Duel is a hefty phone, and feels like holding a Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, although the Duel is even slightly bigger than Samsung’s largest high-end phone. The curvature of the phone makes it agreeable to hold and it feels substantial (solid) in your hand.
The Volume controls are on the left, and the Power button is placed right in the middle of the right side and has a good travel distance when pressed, making it smooth to press. While this may seem like a strange location at first, it is a master move because the Power button is integrated in the pop-up Selfie camera.
That is the first of many signs that the Lenovo Legion Phone Duel is totally optimized for landscape usage. After all, gaming happens overwhelmingly in landscape mode, and that includes live streaming.
The back cover has a fun design that is reminiscent of what you can see in certain Gaming PCs and PC accessories, including Lenovo’s extensive Legion line. In the context of a gaming phone, I really like it even if the back is visually busy. The text “Stylish Outside” and “Savage Inside” is a good tagline too.
“I REALLY LIKE THIS GAMING PHONE DESIGN”
And of course, you have the Legion tri-star logo in the middle, with an RGB backlight as any respectable gaming device should have (every OEM tells me that RGB LEDs makes everything sell for more, lol). By the way, we have the “Blazing Blue” device, but there’s also a “Vengeance Red” version of this phone.
To protect the phone, a clear case with a matching design is included. It is a nice touch because unlike high-volume handsets like the Galaxy S, iPhone and other Huawei, you will probably not find a ton of case designs for this phone.
Exceptional mobile sound experience
Thanks to its dual front-speaker at the top and in the chin of the phone, the Lenovo Legion Phone Duel has the most impressive sound I have heard on mobile. Some of the high-end phones have very decent phones, but this is on another level.
The audio has excellent clarity and volume with powerful bass and the whole sound experience is unexpected for a mobile device. This is better audio than certain laptops despite the dramatic size difference.
Unfortunately, there is no 3.5mm audio connector, but Lenovo has included an adapter in the box, so it is mostly not a big deal, and certainly not a sway factor in my opinion. If a 3.5mm user revolt was to happen, it would already have.
Excellent Gaming features
Gaming phones started as just “bigger phones with better cooling”, but every year they become more and more dedicated to gaming and at the moment, the Lenovo Legion Duel sets itself apart with a landscape-first design that’s fully oriented towards a great gaming and streaming experience.
6.65-inch 144Hz AMOLED Display
The AMOLED 2340×1080 display has a great resolution for gaming and favors high-frame rate over high pixel density (PPI) and that is a good choice. The 620 NIT brightness is sufficient to play outdoors and in brightly lit rooms.
The display refresh rate can hit 144Hz but 90Hz and 60Hz are also available for battery preservation when the maximum refresh is not necessary. There is even an option to automatically force 144 Hz when running games, so you are in control. I would like to see a dynamic refresh rate that is completely automated, so the user doesn’t have to think about it.
The AMOLED display quality is great, with deep blacks and vivid colors. I imagine that one could quibble about whether this is the best quality or not, but it is plenty good, and most people couldn’t tell the difference with higher end displays without running some synthetic tests.
If you want to play on a monitor, just connect the phone to a monitor via USB-C, or use a mobile display such as the Lenovo ThinkVision M14.
The Legion Phone Duel comes with two haptic, pressure-sensitive, Y-Triggers. They are conveniently placed, and you can tune the force required to trigger an action, depending on how you hold the phone.
The triggers do not protrude, so there is no tactile feel to tell you they are there, but it is difficult to press in the wrong place. There is some force feedback, but it is of course not the same as having physical buttons.
The haptic buttons are probably a better way to go in this case because physical buttons are more likely to be damaged as they get pressure applied in the pockets.
The whole phone, including the user-interface has been optimized for landscape usage, including the UI for various Lenovo settings and utilities.
During normal “phone” usage, it works perfectly fine in portrait mode as well, but many classic phones are not doing so well in landscape mode because it is not a priority to them.
We have spotted a few issues such as the phone not returning to portrait while the lock screen is active, but we expect these issues to go away as the interface matures.
While gaming, you can swipe down from the top of the screen to make the Legion Assistant appear and change many gaming settings without exiting the game.
Settings include display refresh rate, CPU/GPU “rampage” (maximum speed) mode, game recording, streaming mode screenshots, Volume, and brightness – well done!
Key information about network and 5G speed is also visible, along with current temperature, FPS counter, battery status and CPU/GPU speed information.
Legion Realm is another utility that helps you quickly access your games and tweak various settings, including some for Legion Assistant and the physical Y-trigger controllers.
Battery: World-class charging speed
Gaming is just about the most intensive computing task you can do, and that depletes the battery quite fast. To deal with this reality, Lenovo has not only included a large 5000 mAh battery, but it also has extremely fast charging.
“EXTREMELY FAST CHARGING”
Thanks to its 90W charger and dual USB-C charging ports, it can charge 100% of the battery in 30mn, making it the fastest mobile charging we’ve ever tested at 167 mAh/mn, or twice as fast as the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra.
Lenovo does that by using two fast-charging batteries that charge in parallel, thus doubling the effective charging speed.
This general principle was already in use by Huawei, Xiaomi or Oppo in some models but with a lesser Wattage. Lenovo has pushed the concept to the next level, thanks to the dual-port charging – bold!
As a gamer on the go, this could make all the difference between gaming without limits and having to slow down framerate or display brightness to save on battery. Now, you just need to spend 10mn to charge up to 50% or 30mn for a full charge.
By the way, outlets are limited to 75W in planes, so I wonder if this charger would make the circuit trip in dual mode. However, you can probably get by with single charging mode if you stay plugged in.
Thanks to its Snapdragon 865+ platform (a slightly faster version of Snapdragon 865), the Legion Phone Duel can run games and do everything else at blazing-fast speed. This is as fast as it gets on Android. Below are the numbers of GFXBench (gaming benchmark) and Geekbench (CPU benchmark).
In some benchmarks, it did score higher than other Snapdragon 865+ like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, but by a small margin.
The cooling is a more interesting feature to look at. For example, the Legion Phone Duel ran 2 degrees Celsius cooler than the Note 20 Ultra 5G in the 3DMark benchmarks (28.5C vs. 30.5C). We expect the difference to become even larger the longer you run games.
This shows that the temperature will build-up slower and dissipate faster even though both are equipped with some of the most advanced cooling systems available. Lenovo has thrown more cooling at the problem and it shows.
Cooler systems can run at higher frequencies for longer, which is exactly what you want for gaming devices. For example, I was able to play Real Racing 3 at 144Hz and it is amazing, but some games like Pub-G or Call of Duty cap their maximum rendering speed to 30 or 60 FPS.
Testing on the office’s 1Gb symmetric internet connection, the WIFI-6 speeds we got with this phone were consistently ~125/130 Mbps versus the 345/540 Mbps we get with the Note 20 Ultra.
This is higher than what most players would get at home, so it is not an immediate issue, but we’re not sure why there’s such a gap – perhaps on the antenna side.
Legion Phone Duel Camera system
As we mentioned earlier, the star of the show is really the selfie camera which is located optimally for live streaming during gaming, but how good is it?
Selfie camera made for gaming streaming
Selfie cameras are typically not as powerful as rear cameras because they have a smaller lenses and sensor. That’s the case with this device as well but casual testing shows that it does pretty well and is comparable to the Galaxy Note 10’s selfie camera in both low-light and bright light situations.
For better streaming quality, we recommend using “some” lighting in the room to avoid noise. There is a “beauty” filter enabled by default, but you can disable it in the settings. There is also a background-removal feature which is handy sometimes.
“WE GIVE THE LEGION PHONE DUEL A 11/10 FOR STREAMING”
Finally, the selfie camera is placed perfectly, right in the middle of the phone (landscape mode). With a traditional selfie camera located at the top of the phone, you not only are seen from the left/right side, but your hand or thumbs are likely to cover the camera, thus spoiling your streaming activity.
Clearly, the best selfie camera is the one that’s not obstructed by young thumb!
From an audio recording perspective, this phone has a quad-microphone setup for noise-cancellation and the case design does not obstruct the microphones, so this is pretty much the best you will get short of having a dedicated microphone. We give the Legion Phone Duel a 11/10 for streaming: it goes above and beyond the call of duty.
Rear dual-camera system
In the back of the phone, there are two camera modules: Wide (~25mm) and Ultrawide (~17mm) which is a good combo that covers most photography situations in the real world.
I am not sure there was room or budget for a zoom camera, but zoom doesn’t contribute as much to the camera experience, so that was the right call from Lenovo.
With the date we have, we rank this camera system with a Camera HW (hardware) score of 137, with sub-scores of 7.2/10 (Wide) and 4.3/10 (Ultrawide).
That is not the most powerful camera hardware available, but it is very decent for a gaming phone, and comparable to the hardware in a Galaxy S10e camera for example.
The Lenovo Legion Phone Duel (aka Lenovo Legion Phone Pro in some regions) is the first Gaming Phone that picked my interest. Gaming Phones are in a category that has been rising steadily since 2017, with an interest spike since April of this year, perhaps due to the lockdowns worldwide.
The Legion Phone Duel pushes the boundaries for processor speed, sound quality, display refresh, battery charging and more importantly: ergonomics. The software integration of utilities like the Legion Assistant, is exemplary and very efficient at the same time. It has everything you need, in one place.
“THE LEGION PHONE DUEL IS AN INCREDIBLY INNOVATIVE PHONE”
At present time, it is not available in the USA but we have spotted the Chinese version (Legion Phone Pro) priced at ~$515 USD (3,499 CNY) which is an extraordinarily affordable price for this device.
That said, pricing in mainland China is often extremely aggressive, so the upcoming European launch of this device should give us a more realistic view of its pricing in western countries. I have seen the Legion Phone Duel 16GB/512GB model on eBay for ~$650 so, that is an extremely attractive price.
The Legion Phone Duel is an incredibly innovative phone that will force competitors to copy many of its features. Just watch.
Overall product rating: 9.5/10