Lenovo Legion Duel 2: Is it the gaming phone to beat?

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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.

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.

What you need to know about the Lenovo Legion Duel 2

Lenovo Legion Duel 2 4

Luke Pollack / Android Authority

  • Legion Duel 2 (12GB/256GB): €799/£699
  • Legion Duel 2 (16GB/512GB): €999/£899

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.

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.

How does the design hold up?

Lenovo Legion Duel 2 1

Luke Pollack / Android Authority

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

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.

Related: The best Bluetooth gaming controllers for Android, PC, and more

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).

How’s the battery life?

Lenovo Legion Duel 2 21

Luke Pollack / Android Authority

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.

Related: The best phone charging accessories

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.

The only real knock against the Legion Duel 2’s charging suite is the lack of any wireless charging. That’s a big miss at this price point.

How does the Legion Duel 2 handle gaming?

Lenovo Legion Duel 2 19

Luke Pollack / Android Authority

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.

Not every game can run at higher refresh rates, and while games like PUBG and Geshin Impact cap out at 75fps, the support for higher refresh rates is still limited. As a result, I would recommend setting the device to 90Hz or 120Hz to be able to make use of those higher refresh rates, while still balancing out battery life performance. Keep in mind the 144Hz and 120Hz modes are adaptive which means the phone will automatically reduce the refresh rate when viewing static content. For the most part this works pretty well, but if you would like to set the phone to a constant refresh rate then 90Hz is your best option. Regardless, the 720Hz touch sampling rate of this display makes gameplay feel ridiculously smooth.

The Legion Duel 2 is packed with gaming features and more than enough power to match.

There is a bevy of additional gaming features such as a LED logo on the back that allows the user to select a variety of colors and animations, as well as a unique in-game UI for customizing the eight adaptive triggers and buttons. Like most gaming phones, the Duel 2 comes with its own custom game launcher called Legion Realm. Its purpose serves to be a one-stop-shop for all things gaming, showing all of your installed games with options to install new games and filter results by support adaptive triggers or dual vibration. Still, probably my favorite feature of the UI has to be the always-on display, which lets you set gaming-related clocks and information on the screen.

For those interested in benchmarks, the Legion Duel 2 handled itself admirably in every test. Geekbench 5 saw respective scores of 1,132 and 3,759 in single and multi-core performance. These results are on par with competitors such as the ROG Phone 5 and the Red Magic 6. 3D Mark’s Wild Life test placed the Duel 2 with a score of 5,864 and an average frame rate of 35.10fps. These results beat out both the Red Magic 6 and the ROG Phone 5, but only by a very slim margin. We also ran our own custom Speed Test G benchmark, and the Duel 2 completed the time test in 74 seconds. This puts comfortably among the top Android performers of 2021.

I might add that when running these tests the active fans come on immediately upon opening the benchmark apps. While it doesn’t seem to have a big impact on benchmark results, it still left a bad taste in my mouth. It seems Lenovo is trying to put its best foot forward but does so in a way that might provide unrealistic results. In order to make sure this wasn’t the case, I played a round of PUBG and then re-ran Geekbench 5 to find only marginally worse results, so I don’t think this is a major area of concern.

How are the cameras?

Lenovo Legion Duel 2 14

Luke Pollack / Android Authority

I didn’t expect amazing results coming from the 64MP f/1.9 camera, and my expectations were right. Photos are generally fine, but Lenovo’s software processing softens out details making for an overly painted image. At first glance, images look fairly attractive, but upon closer inspection, the colors are oversaturated and not accurate. I will admit dynamic range isn’t half bad, but indoor high dynamic range scenes underperform. Unfortunately, low light photos perform terribly, as the images are very soft with little to no detail, and there is a considerable amount of noise and oversoftening present in each image.

One of the more interesting observations is that the 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera is much softer and less detailed than the main camera, but provides far accurate color reproduction than the main sensor. Its images are color accurate, but again are not as sharp and also struggle with higher dynamic scenes. Unfortunately, this camera is also affected by Lenovo’s image softening, and this cannot be turned off.

The 8MP telephoto camera performs similarly to both the main and Ultra-wide camera and tends to produce some overly soft images. The color matches the main sensor better but is still not accurate.

Lastly, the 44MP f/2.0 front-facing shooter performs the worst out of all the cameras. Its images produced make my face look pale and washed out, and soften my skin beyond any reasonable point. Unfortunately, while you can turn off the beauty mode, there is still a considerable amount of image softening happening, which in my opinion makes the selfie camera useless for photos.

Video seems to be a different scenario, as you can record all the way up to 4K 60fps and results are not half bad. While the camera struggles with adapting the exposure to different lighting scenarios, the autofocus kept me in focus the whole time, and I could see this being used for streaming due to the unique positioning of the pop-up. You can check out an example of this here.

Anything else?

Lenovo Legion Duel 2 9

Luke Pollack / Android Authority

  • In-display fingerprint reader: I had mixed success with the in-display fingerprint reader. I found it took quite a few extra tries to get it to read during setup. After that the success rate was variable. When it worked it was fairly fast, but more often than not it took a few attempts to unlock the phone. At first, I thought this was due to the screen protector, but I removed it, re-registered my prints, and still ran into similar issues. This could be fixed with a software update, but you shouldn’t count on that.
  • Software: The Legion Duel 2 runs Android 11, though future update support is unclear. We’ve asked Lenovo to clarify if it has a set commitment to updates and will amend this review accordingly. The fact that it (or its predecessor) isn’t listed on Lenovo’s official upgrade program page isn’t very encouraging. As for the UI/UX, there are plenty of options to change the theme, icons, and the RGB led on the back. For the most part, the system is pretty easy to navigate, although I did find the menus and settings to be a tad confusing. I also had to factory reset the device to get the display settings to show up. All in all, pretty smooth and fun Android skin, but definitely some quirks here and there.
  • Audio: The dual-firing speakers provide a decent enough soundstage, with decent mids and highs for a smartphone, but the bass was a little underwhelming. That said, the stereo nature of these speakers means the device gets quite loud and truly provides an immersive experience when viewing content, and especially while playing games. There is also an included equalizer which lets you fine-tune the audio. Still, there is no 3.5mm headphone jack, which means you will have to use a dongle with one of the USB-C ports. This is common for general smartphones nowadays but less so for gaming phones.
  • Haptics: Simply put, the haptics on this device are nothing short of amazing. In-game haptics increase or decrease in vibration corresponding to certain things happening on screen, and represent the most minute of actions, overall adding to the immersive gaming experience.
  • IP rating: Due to the fan ports and pop-out camera, the Duel 2 does not support any water and dust resistance rating. While there are plenty of phones in the price range that do have official ratings, this is a trade-off you’ll have to live with for those novel gaming features.
  • 5G: The Duel 2 supports both mmWave and sub-6GHz 5G networking.

Lenovo Legion Duel 2 specs

Lenovo Legion Duel 2
Display 6.92-inch AMOLED
FHD+
HDR10+
144Hz refresh rate
720HZ touch sampling rate
Corning Gorilla Glass 5
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
GPU Qualcomm Adreno 660
RAM 12/16/18GB
LPDDR5
Storage 256/512GB
UFS 3.1
Non-expandable
Battery 5,000mAh battery
90W dual-wired charging
Cameras Primary:
64MP OmniVision flagship OV64A, 10x digital zoom
f/1.9 aperture, 82° field of view
1.0 μm pixel
Dual-LED flash
8K/24fps, 4K/60fps video
Secondary:
16MP ultra-wide sensor
f/2.2, 123° field of view
1.0 μm pixel
Front: 44MP Samsung GH1+
f/2.40 aperture
.07 μm pixels
Connectivity Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.2
NFC
Dual nano-SIM
Operating System ZUI 12.5
Android 11
Audio Dual Stereo speakers with Dobly Atmos
Dimensions 176mm x 78.5mm x 9.9mm (12.56mm mid)
259g
Colors Ultimate Black
Titanium White

Value and competition

Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 Titanium White

Lenovo Legion Duel 2

Lenovo Legion Duel 2

Lenovo Legion Duel 2 features a pop-out camera, the blazing-fast Snapdragon 888, a beautiful 144Hz refresh rate AMOLED display, 90W fast charging, and an incredibly large 5,000mAh battery

The Lenovo Legion Duel 2 sits at the higher end when it comes to gaming devices. Priced at €799 for the 12GB/256GB base model, the Duel 2 costs exactly the same as the base ROG Phone 5 but is more expensive than the €599 (or $599 in the US) Red Magic 6. The fact that the Legion Duel 2 out-benchmarks both phones, albeit marginally so, makes it the slightly better option for anyone who craves the best of the best performance. The 90W charging shouldn’t be discounted either, and for buyers who need to get a full day’s charge in literal minutes, again makes the Legion Duel 2 a great choice. Lastly, I could see Duel 2 appealing to content creators or mobile gaming streamers who don’t really want to invest in a full setup. There are baked-in settings to stream directly to Twitch or YouTube from the device, and the included pop-out camera means that you could theoretically stream from anywhere.

Related: The best phones for gaming

That said, if the unusual and arguably over-the-top gaming aesthetic and slightly unwieldy design isn’t your cup of tea, then the ROG Phone 5 might be the better buy. While the ROG Phone 5 still holds true to the gaming aesthetic, its design follows a more simple and straightforward interpretation. Furthermore, considering the device offers almost an identical experience in terms of power — plus a better camera system and less buggy software — the ROG Phone 5 is the more obvious choice for dedicated gamers that also want a great everyday phone. It also has a huge range of custom accessories for die-hards, the option of a more stock-like software setup, and a phenomenal audio suite.

The Legion Duel 2 provides a flashy and atypical gaming phone experience.

If gaming isn’t your primary focus, then the OnePlus 9 series or Galaxy S21 series might offer the best of all worlds. Those devices also ship with the Snapdragon 888 and perform similarly when it comes to benchmarks and gaming, but absolutely destroy both the Duel 2 and the ROG Phone 5 with their camera performance.

Lenovo Legion Duel 2 review: The verdict

Lenovo Legion Duel 2 3

Luke Pollack / Android Authority

I’ve got to admit, the Lenovo Legion Duel 2 genuinely surprised me. The innovative cooling design, great performance, and over-the-top aesthetics really make the device stand out amongst the competition — even in the fast and flashy world of gaming phones. Features like the 90W dual-wired fast charging and horizontal pop-out camera are truly unique additions. Throw in the stereo audio, amazing haptics, customizable adaptive triggers, and the fluid 144Hz display and you’ve got a top contender that can hang with the very best gaming phones.

However, there are some things that just aren’t up to par. The camera performance is adequate at best, the fingerprint sensor is fast but unreliable, and the quirky design makes onehanded use awkward in even the best of scenarios.

The Lenovo Legion Duel 2 screams cool.

Whether or not the Legion Duel 2 is best for you comes down to your priorities. If bleeding-edge performance and a top-tier mobile gaming experience are your main concerns then the Legion Duel 2 is an easy recommendation. However, if camera quality and day-to-day usability override are just as important, then you might be better suited to the ROG Phone 5, or even a more traditional flagship like the OnePlus 9 Pro or Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Still, the Lenovo Legion Duel 2 screams cool and is a great option for any seasoned gamer looking for a unique mobile companion.

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