Mobile phones are more powerful than ever. So much so, calling them phones would be understating what modern smartphones are capable of. Sure, they make calls, but they are also cameras, streaming devices, computers, video editors, and for the 2.4 Billion people in the world who play some type of mobile game – gaming systems. Despite the fact that about 30% of the human population games on their phone, most smartphones tend to be ambiguous in design.. Gaming functionality tends to take a backseat to more practical design choices. The Lenovo Legion Phone Duel, however, defies smartphone expectations. It dives deep into what is possible when a phone is engineered with gaming at the forefront.
The experience which Lenovo has fashioned for its customers begins before the phone even comes out of the box. Unlike many new smartphones which have slimmed down their packaging style and the contents inside – some lead flagships not even coming with a charger anymore – Lenovo has gone the opposite direction. The box is big. The design, unlike the minimalism which is found on other phone cases, is bold and loud. Figuratively and literally. The box lid is reactive. Taking the cardboard sleeve off and then opening up the package makes a noise that sounds like hydraulic hissing and metal gears grinding. The only thing that’s missing is tiny puffs of steam when folding back the two panels.
It was then that I knew just what kind of phone this was going to be. Extra in all the right ways. The Lenovo Legion Phone Duel is available from Amazon for $699. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.
The phone greets you first out of the box, wrapped in protective plastic. Underneath it lies many accessories which don’t ordinarily come with a new phone. First off, a massive battery charger is included. This large power adapter rivals even laptop battery chargers and for good reason. It can charge up to 90W in it’s dual power mode that requires both USB – C cables for use. Speaking of USB – C cables, two beefy, well insulated but somewhat short cables are provided as well. Also included is a USB-C to aux adapter, a clear case with an interesting design for practical reasons which you’ll hear more about in a moment, and a sim card release tool.
The Legion Duel’s style is eye-catching, to say the least. The most immediately intriguing part being the dark, angular layers and shades of blue. In the center lies Lenovo’s Legion symbol which glows red when the phone is turned on along with the “Legion” font below the power button. The glass gives the center with its logo and wavy background a kaleidoscopic sheen that, in the right light, can emit all sorts of colors. It’s a beautiful, ultra-reflective glass back cover.
Looking the part
The Legion Duel has smooth, curved edges with blue accents along the edge. Lenovo’s branding adorns one side. Indicator areas for the trigger bumpers cover the other side. There’s two USB – C ports for the previously mentioned dual-charging battery. One is located on the bottom along with the dual sim card tray. The other is located on the left side just under the volume rocker. Finally, the power button is on the right side. The top and bottom edges of the Legion Duel have ridges hollowed into the aluminum frame. It gives it more character than a simple curved edge.
The cameras are a conversation starter in their own right. The two main cameras on the back are a respectable 64MP main sensor and a 16MP ultrawide. The placement is also odd. The rear cameras are placed directly in the center rather than the top corners as is customary on most phones. You now might be wondering where the front camera is and you’d be right to ask. The selfie camera is a pop up camera which lies directly underneath the power button. To reveal the selfie camera, just flip the cameras when inside the camera app and the motorized camera segment of the phone will lift out. I will admit, I’m not a huge selfie taker, but this cool feature made me want to take more.
The Legion Duel is quite large, taking up even more surface area than my S21 Ultra. At 169x78mm wide, it has a larger footprint than the largest of Samsung’s S series by 6%. It also beats Apple’s 12 Pro Max’s surface area by 5.5% However, perhaps due to the length and width ratio of the phone’s dimensions, it feels like a smaller phone than it is.
Speedy screen, powerful hardware
The screen is also sizeable at 6.65 inches. Lenovo chose to go with a faster but reduced resolution panel than its peers. It has a pixel density of 388 PPI, which is on the lower end of some of the higher end smartphones but still plenty dense enough to look fantastic. However, the display is undoubtedly the quickest, at 144hz. Games, browsing, and apps are buttery smooth. Not only is the display smooth and crisp, but the touch polling rate is 240hz, ensuring that every minute movement is picked up. A fingerprint reader is also packaged underneath the screen which I found to be accurate and quick.
Because of the gaming bumpers and side mounted camera on the side of the phone, normal cases would hinder the usefulness of the Legion Duel. Fortunately, Lenovo sends a case with their phone. While not the most elegant case on the market, the hard plastic does a good job at keeping the screen from lying flat and the corners of the phone from getting chipped when dropped. It also gives plenty of space for one’s fingers to still access the bumper touch pads on the edges. Lenovo is considerate to include a case that works in conjunction with all of its features.
The specifications of the Legion Duel are impressive. Lenovo has engineered a phone that is able to compete with the industry-leading phones of 2021. The Legion Duel has 16GB of ram for plenty of multitasking abilities. 512GB of storage which provides tons of space for apps, pictures, and 4k videos. And it comes with the Snapdragon 865 Plus, which runs at just over 3 Gigahertz. On the graphics side of things, the Adreno 650 GPU takes control over visuals.
Battery life for days
The battery is designed to keep you gaming as long as possible. The Legion comes with two 2500mAh batteries combined to make one massive 5000mAh battery. This helps anything from keeping your games running for as long as possible to keeping the screen cranking out all 144 frames per second. Each battery rests symmetrically on either side inside the phone. Lenovo claims that it’s to keep heat-generating components like the battery and logic board away from each other to keep thermals low and the user’s hands more comfortable.
I had zero issues making it through the day on a full charge with moderate use. I ended the day with about 58% left. This was with some calls made, music streaming in the car, consistent screen time, and a bit of gaming. Lenovo rates the battery life for 24 hours of normal usage and 7 hours of intermittent gameplay. I’d say that’s a conservative estimate, although intermittent gameplay could be left up to interpretation.
However, battery drain is much less of a problem when one can charge the Lenovo Legion to 50% in just ten minutes using the 90W dual charging capabilities. In just a half hour, the Legion can be fully charged. The side-mounted charging port is located to stay out of the way of your palms while gaming. Charging with one doesn’t quite give the same charging power as with both USB cables. However, it’s still more than enough to charge your battery while gaming. Despite all the ways to charge your phone with a cord, wireless charging is noticeably absent.
That’s all well and good but how does the Legion Duel perform in comparison to other popular phones? In Wildlife, 3DMark’s mobile benchmark and stress test, the Legion Duel scored a 4156, which is a respectable score and higher than Samsung S20 Ultra’s 3817, but lower than the Samsung S21 Ultra’s 5464. In Geekbench, the Lenovo scored a 3427 in its compute benchmark and the Samsung S21 scored a 4625. However, in multicore tests, the Legion Duel outpaced the S21 Ultra 3374 to 3308, perhaps due to higher clock speed.
In a render test, I exported the same 30 second clip from both the S21 and the Legion Duel. The Legion completed the render in 27.5 seconds, while the S21 Ultra managed to complete it in 22.5. Still, the Legion Duel is nothing to turn your nose up at. It’s a remarkably fast phone that will not flinch when put to the test.
But speed is not the only thing that matters. The Legion Duel is purpose built with gaming at the forefront. It all starts with turning on the phone. After first going through the standard Android setup, I was greeted with a hype-filled preview which introduced me to some of the unique features which the Legion Duel has to offer. The over-the-top introductory cutscene is never something Apple or Samsung could get away with. But for the Legion, it’s perfect. I love that they fully embraced their gaming element.
Features that make a difference
Intro cinematics and cool box opening noises don’t constitute a gaming phone, however. It’s the Legion Duel’s practical hardware features which make it the better pick for gaming over a standard smartphone option. On the right phone edge lies touch sensitive parts of the frame which serve as triggers when pressed. The honeycomb pattern gives a visual indication of where to place your fingers. I’ve played mobile games using the standard on screen controls for thumb-only operation before. However, I had no conception of just how much these two bumpers would help.
I don’t think I could ever go back to normal, thumb-exclusive operation for games, especially first person shooters after experiencing the ergonomics and control of the Legion’s triggers. The ability to move while shooting can’t be underestimated. It also can be remapped on the fly to any area of the screen by utilizing the drop down Legion Realm software overlay. Not only can it be used as triggers, but it can be remapped to any on-screen button to offload the work from your thumbs. Your thumbs, which on any other phone, would have to be doing all the work. I found them easy enough to activate, however, the pressure sensitivity can be adjusted in the settings if one wishes.
Sound and vibration motors
The Legion Duel has two vibration motors on either side of the device which immerses one into the action even more. Better yet, the vibrations have the ability to be tied to the stereo speakers and coordinate their vibrations with the side of which the sound is coming from. For example, if in Call of Duty Mobile you are getting attacked from the right, the motors on the right side of the phone will vibrate more intensely.
Proper, front facing stereo speakers are also something of a rarity in phones now. The Legion Duel’s stereo speakers are not only front facing, but also sound great. Bottom firing speakers are simply an inferior audible experience compared to the sound coming straight from the screen as it does on the Legion. In all of my testing and media consumption I was continually impressed with this audio solution. It’s just better, more full, and more consistent audio than most other smartphones I’ve encountered.
As for software, the Lenovo Legion Duel comes with Android 10 with a bit of Lenovo’s flair baked on top. This is seen in its angular icon designs and its integrated Legion Realm app. However, the integration is somewhat light coming from someone who previously owned a Pixel. Those familiar with the Android experience will not be frustrated at missing or hidden menu items. Everything feels right where it should be. There was one bug which I found annoying. The display tab in the settings was blank. Several updates didn’t do the trick to fix it. I was able to view individual display settings by searching them in the search bar. But for some reason the display options just didn’t want to show up.
The Legion Realm app serves as a hub for all your installed games as well as a powerful control panel for when one is in game. While playing, simply swipe down from the top of the screen to reveal the Legion Realm taskbar. On it, there are basic functions such as brightness and volume, but there is also a bunch of other cool stuff. Options include readouts of your processor’s speed and temperature as well as a “rampage” switch that manually maxes out the processor’s power.
Legion Realm also serves many other purposes. One can access all the tools which Legion Realm puts at your disposal such as RAM clean-up which may help with performance in games, a back-recording button which allows for the capture of the past 15 seconds, and others such as lighting controls for the back LEDs, and screenshot capabilities. The live-mode is a particularly powerful tool for streamers that allows one to start a livestream of themselves and their game in seconds.
Decent cameras in good light
The Legion Duel has really solid cameras. The videos and pictures of the rear main 64MP camera turn out beautifully. Details are captured nicely and in general, it’s a serviceable camera. I took particular notice of the Legion’s autofocus doing a fantastic job prioritizing a target. However, compared to Samsung’s S21 Ultra, photos look less punchy. They lack the sharp, bright colors of its peer. In general, the Legion provided a softer, more subdued and in most cases less dynamic pictures. Portrait photos are satisfactory and render almost instantly, the Legion’s software doing a great job at recognizing edges and feathering them appropriately. The camera does have a night-mode option, but it pales comparison to some of the other leading cameras out there.
The video quality did not have quite as dramatic a difference as the photos. The Legion Duel can shoot 4k at 30FPS and does a great job stabilizing the video. During an identical walk through the park, I found the Legion’s stability features to be less jerky and unpredictable, although there were still some floaty motions. So long as you don’t need to use the digital zoom, the Legion Duel’s main camera is perfectly usable for video.
The Legion’s selfie camera, however, I preferred over the S21 Ultra’s in bright, natural light. It seemed to give more accurate, true-to-life colors. This is a plus for those who wish to utilize the selfie camera for streaming or recording while gaming. It’s great to have a solid selfie camera that is not an afterthought. To top it all off, it too can record video at 4k at 30FPS.
Oh yes, this is a phone too!
As a phone, the Legion Duel worked wonders as well. My voice was picked up cleanly and clearly and I received calls reliably. The Legion Duel is 5G ready. However, here in the US, it doesn’t pick up the radio bands required for 5G service so I was stuck with 4G LTE. During my time with the phone, it never dropped service and remained dependable at all times. Despite the Legion Duel not officially being supported for the US airwaves, I never noticed a difference in quality. 5G is still spotty here in the US anyways, only covering some of the major city areas, so most wouldn’t miss it anyways.
Gaming on a vanilla smartphone has always felt like a compromise. From using one’s thumbs for things that triggers should provide for, or trying to charge from the bottom port while playing games, it feels like normal phones are just trying to deter you from playing games. The Legion Duel removes all roadblocks and awkwardness from playing mobile games. Instead of trying to create a phone which does everything OK, the Legion Duel does gaming, and it does it excellently.
An easy choice for gaming
The Legion Duel is really two devices in one. It’s the fast, powerful smartphone you want and the gaming controller you need to play. The controller which on any other phone, would be completely separate, bulky, and unrealistic to carry around all the time. What the Legion Duel does best at gaming is make it more accessible than ever to play games on your phone. Not only is it powerful and multifunctional, but it’s also less pricey. The Legion Duel and its sibling the Legion Pro, which, by all intents and purposes is the same thing depending on your region, starts at around $700 bucks. Compared to the near-doubled price of the S21 Ultras and Apple 12 Pro Max’s, it’s a deal which, if you game on your phone often, would be too silly to pass up.