GSMArena smartphone buyer's guide: 2017 July edition

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Introduction

It’s the middle of the summer, which is traditionally a time in the year when the smartphone market settles down a bit. Manufacturers have already brought all their H1 flagships to the market and are focusing their efforts on their Fall and holiday quarter lineups. And without the turbulence of significant launches and announcements every week this looks like a perfect time for a new buyer’s guide.

As goes the tradition we will examine all worthy purchasing options on the market grouped by price. We start at the bottom, sub-€100 phones, and work our way up to those flagships. Some categories are downright overflowing with options, while others are less busy, but we think we have something for everyone here.

The industry push towards mid-range value continues and we have some great phones in the €200, €300 and €400 categories. Those get better and better with each passing year and provide some really solid smartphone experience – long forgotten are the days when mid-rangers all had glaring weaknesses that would drive even a less demanding user insane.

That said, the upper echelons are still where geeks and power users will be doing their shopping and they will have no shortage of options either. In fact 2017 has arguably the strongest flagship lineup ever as all major players delivered stellar devices – no overheating issues, downright poor cameras or sub-par builds to limit the choice.

Smartphone Buyers Guide 2017 H1 review

Before we let you explore the jungle of phones, we should give you a few tips how to navigate the smartphone jungle.

For each phone, we’ve put down the most important specs so that you don’t have to bounce between this page and the phone’s specs page. We’ve also listed any potential issues we see with each phone. Those are certainly not deal breakers as otherwise the phone wouldn’t have been listed in the first place.

We’ve reviewed many of the phones mentioned here and for them we can offer more details. This includes screen brightness, battery life, chipset performance, even the cons section is more detailed.

Hopefully, this will make the information really approachable and help even the most remedial smartphone shoppers out there. Normally, we advise you to pick a price category and also read through the category above and below. This way you make sure you’re not spending too much for the features you want or you’re not missing out on something great that’s just a few bucks above your target budget.

Here’s the directory, if you would like to jump straight to your price range:

Alternatively follow us along as we explore the groups one by one. We start with the sub-€100 phones right after the jump.

Under €100

We always find it particularly tough to recommend anything at the very low-end of the smartphone market. Despite the ongoing efforts of manufacturers like Xiaomi and Meizu to constantly push the envelope sub-€100 that can serve as a daily driver without filling you with red-hot rage at every interaction are rare.

Previously Microsoft’s Windows Phone served the niche as its lighter footprint made it more tolerable on the limited hardware that the phones here offer. But after that got effectively shut down there was a rather bad transition period where this price group had virtually no good options. Some will surely scream Tizen here, but that’s a platform with very limited availability so it’s not really an option for most people.

Either way, that time is now gone as decent chipsets and screens got cheap enough to fit within the budget. Options are still relatively few and they are hardly ideal, but if you really can’t bump your budget at all they’ll do the job.

The Xiaomi Redmi 4a is one. Naturally, it sports an all-plastic build, although complete with a pretty convincing metal-like finish. Its 5-inch LCD isn’t particularly bright or spectacular outdoors, but it does come with HD resolution, which is something you should definitely strive for even in the low-end in 2017. Plus, you get the added bonus of some unspecified Gorilla Glass protection for the screen.

Xiaomi Redmi 4a
Xiaomi Redmi 4a

Specs

  • Build: Plastic (convincing impression of metal)
  • Connectivity: Dual SIM (hybrid microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow (Will likely get Nougat)
  • Screen: 5.0″ IPS LCD, 720p (296ppi); 475nits brightness, 2.635 sunlight legibility; Unspecified Gorilla Glass
  • Camera: 13MP main, 5MP selfie, 1080p video (both)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 425 4x Cortex-A53@1.4GHz (bench: 801), Adreno 308 (bench: 3,335)
  • Memory: 2GB RAM + 16GB/32GB storage
  • Battery: 3,120mAh (sealed); 67h Endurance
  • Misc: Infrared port; FM Radio

Cons

  • Limited internal storage
  • Mediocre display image quality

Something you can’t realistically expect in the sub-€100 range is a powerful CPU. Still MIUI 8 runs decently and most games will scale down to run smoothly enough to be playable – they just won’t look very pretty.

An adequate camera combo rounds things up and the IR blaster is a nice little treat. An increasingly rare one as well.

Of course, there’s always another concern when in comes to Xiaomi and other Chinese manufacturers – support and availability. If you can’t get the Redmi 4a where you currently live, the Lenovo Vibe C2, or simply Lenovo C2 on some markets might be an alternative.

Lenovo Vibe C2
Lenovo Vibe C2

Specs

  • Build: Plastic
  • Connectivity: Dual SIM (dedicated microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Screen: 5.0″ IPS LCD, 720p (294ppi)
  • Camera: 8MP main, 5MP selfie, 720p video (both)
  • Chipset: Mediatek MT6735P 4x Cortex-A53@1.0GHz, Mali-T720MP2
  • Memory: 1GB RAM + 8GB storage
  • Battery: 2,750mAh (removable)
  • Misc: FM Radio

Cons

  • Insufficient RAM
  • Very limited internal storage

You still get a 720p screen resolution and four Cortex-A53 cores of admittedly rather low clock speed. Opting for the more widely available Lenovo, also leaves you with a slightly downgraded camera and battery and only 8GB of built-in storage. The latter can turn into a major problem if you plan on running anything more than a handful of apps. At least you get a memory card slot for storing your images and videos.

Honorable mentions in this price bracket include the LG K4 and Alcatel One Touch POP Star 4G. Just be advised that both run on Lollipop and are quite unlikely to even get any major Android update. The LG also only get 480 x 854 pixels on its 4.5-inch panel. It is compact though, we’ll give it that.

As you can see, it’s slim pickings in this price range, but still more than we had three months ago. Still, if you can up your budget just a little we would advise you to do so. The next page, we have several great value options lined up.

€100-€200

Things are starting to pick up here. We are still some way off getting any sort of bragging rights, but over here there are offers that will make you question why you ever paid more than €200 for a phone. Granted, they won’t work for power users, avid mobile gamers, or photography enthusiasts, but those with more casual needs might make this their last stop on the guide.

All you need isa good understanding of your personal requirements and use-cases, so you can pick a device that cuts the right corners. Since there are a lot more options this time, let’s try to work out way from the cheapest options up.

At €125 or so, you can easily pump your selection up from a Lenovo Vibe C2 to the Lenovo K6. So what do the extra €20 or so get you? Well, for starters, FullHD resolution. Also, that quad-core Mediatek MT6735P chipset we barely tolerated is swapped for an octa-core Snapdragon 430.

You also get twice the amount of RAM at 2GB, as well as base storage at 16GB. Believe us when we say this all adds up to a much smoother experience. Even a fingerprint reader is there, if not quite the best we’ve seen.

Lenovo K6
Lenovo K6

Specs

  • Build: Metal
  • Connectivity: Optional Dual SIM (hybrid microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Screen: 5″ IPS LCD, 1080p (441ppi)
  • Camera: 13MP main, 8MP selfie, 1080p video (both)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 430 8x Cortex-A53@1.4GHz, Adreno 505
  • Memory: 2GB RAM + 16GB/32GB storage
  • Battery: 3,000mAh (removable)
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader; Dolby Atmos audio enhancement; FM Radio

Cons

  • 720p display

Plus, you also get a bump in the camera department, with a 13MP main and 8MP selfie shooter and a marginally bigger 3,000 mAh battery. The image quality isn’t quite as exciting as numbers suggest but it’s better value, no doubt about it.

As for the Redmi 4a, its respective €125 alternative is the Redmi 4, also known as the Redmi 4X in its home market, Malaysia and Pakistan. Coming with Snapdragon 435 and its octa-core CPU and a larger 4,100 mAh battery it’s easily worth the extra €25.

Just keep in mind that the Redmi 4 is still stuck with a 720p display – if you want to get around that look for the Redmi 4 Prime. It also throws a mid-range and efficient Snapdragon 625 in the mix, which makes it probably the best value in this price group. Unforutanately it’s even harder to find than the vanilla 4.

Xiaomi Redmi 4 (4X)
Xiaomi Redmi 4

Specs

  • Build: Metal body
  • Connectivity: Dual SIM (hybrid microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, Nougat update is likely
  • Screen: 5″ IPS LCD, 720p (294ppi); 527nits brightness, 2.92 sunlight legibility; Unspecified Gorilla Glass
  • Camera: 13MP main (PDAF), 5MP selfie, 1080p video (both)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 435 8x Cortex-A53@1.4GHz (bench: 832), Adreno 505 (bench: 7,608)
  • Memory: 2GB/3GB/4GB RAM + 16GB/32GB/64GB storage
  • Battery: 4,100mAh (sealed); 80h Endurance
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader; Infrared port; FM Radio

Cons

  • 720p display

Where there’s a Xiaomi handset, you can be pretty sure there is also a Meizu ready to take on it. In this case it has to be the Meizu M5, which can currently be had for about €135 (again, in relatively few markets around the globe). And as with the Xiaomi handsets, we certainly have to issue our standardsupport warning here.

Putting all that aside, the Meizu M5 is a pretty close match to the two handsets above. One difference is that the M5 is rocking a MediaTek MT6750, instead of the Qualcomm alternative. Also, you get a marginally bigger panel at 5.2 inches and a smaller 3,060 mAh battery, but the latter only adds up to 4 hours of difference in endurance rating in our tests.

Meizu M5
Meizu M5

Specs

  • Build: Plastic (unibody)
  • Connectivity: Dual SIM (hybrid microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow (Flyme 5.2)
  • Screen: 5.2″ IPS LCD, 720p (282ppi); 480nits brightness, 2.71 sunlight legibility
  • Camera: 13MP main (PDAF), 5MP selfie, 1080p video (both)
  • Chipset: Mediatek MT6750 8x Cortex-A53@1.5GHz, Mali-T860MP2
  • Memory: 2GB/3GB RAM + 16GB/32GB storage
  • Battery: 3,070mAh (sealed); 76h Endurance
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader; mTouch key

Cons

  • 720p display
  • Slightly dated chipset, but with good performance

From a purely physical perspective, the Meizu M5 utilizes a physical home button, which also means a front-mounted fingerprint reader. Just in case that is your personal preference, that is.

Another viable option that will cost you as much as the Meizu is the unfortunately named Huawei Y6II Compact. It definitely sounds a bit obscure, but we found it to be a better option than the much better known Huawei P8 lite, which is now showing its age or the Huawei Y6, with its quad-core MediaTek CPU.

Huawei Y6II Compact
Huawei Y6II Compact

Specs

  • Build: Plastic
  • Connectivity: Dual SIM
  • OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Screen: 5.5″ IPS LCD, 720p (267ppi)
  • Camera: 13MP main, 8MP selfie, 1080p video (both)
  • Chipset: 8x Cortex-A53@1.2GHz, Mali-450MP4 -or- Adreno 405
  • Memory: 2GB RAM + 16GB storage
  • Battery: 3,000mAh (sealed)

Cons

  • 720p panel

Not only this, but the Y6II Compact packs a 5.5-inch display, which just happens to be right in the sweet spot for most buyers, if statistics are to be trusted.The only obvious trade-off is a 720p panel. Also, considering the models rather obscure nature, you might very well be stuck with the Android Marshmallow ROM it ships with.

If better after-market support is what you are after you shuold check out the Sony Xperia XA. It has an excellent camera combo going for it, especially if you are more “selfie-inclined” and will even get a Nougat update. Sony has a much wider distribution network too, which means that not only are you able to buy this one in more markets, but it’s also much easier to find a service center should you need one.

Sony Xperia XA
Sony Xperia XA

Specs

  • Build: Metal frame (polycarbonate back)
  • Connectivity: Single SIM (dedicated microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
  • Screen: 5″ IPS LCD, 720p (294ppi); 523nits brightness, 2.609 sunlight legibility; Scratch-resistant glass
  • Camera: 13MP main (PDAF), 8MP selfie (autofocus), 1080p video (both)
  • Chipset: Mediatek Helio P10 4xCortex-A53@2.0 GHz & 4xCortex-A53@1.0 GHz (bench: 1,013), Mali-T860MP2 (bench: 6,420)
  • Memory: 2GB RAM + 16GB storage
  • Battery: 2,300mAh (sealed); 54h Endurance (!); Fast Charging (Pump Express+ 2.0)
  • Misc: NFC; FM Radio

Cons

  • 720p panel
  • Poor battery life
  • OS takes up about half of the 16GB of storage
  • Below average speaker quality

On the flip side, you have to live with a 720p panel and a very small 2,300 mAh battery, which only managed a 54 hour endurance rating in our tests.

On to the higher reaches of the price segment then. Motorola has a pair of interesting offers that caught our eye. The Moto G5 puts a 5-inch FullHD panel, a decent Snapdragon 430 chipset and a pretty clean Android Nougat OS on the table, which are no mean feats in this price range.

Motorola Moto G5
Motorola Moto G5

Specs

  • Build: Plastic
  • Connectivity: Optional Dual SIM (hybrid microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 7.0 Nougat
  • Screen: 5″ IPS LCD, 1080p (441ppi); Scratch-resistant glass
  • Camera: 13MP main (PDAF), 5MP selfie, 1080p video (both)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 430 8x Cortex-A53@1.4GHz, Adreno 505
  • Memory: 2GB/3GB RAM + 16GB/32GB storage
  • Battery: 2,800mAh (removable)
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader; FM Radio

Cons

  • Slightly dated chipset, but with decent performance
  • OS is not as bloat-free as older Moto devices

Just keep in mind that the battery capacity is far from great and ROM is not quite as clean and bloat-free as older Moto devices. The promise for speedy updates was Motorola’s thing when it was under Google ownership, but we wouldn’t count on those now that Lenovo is having trouble turning in a profit. Still, it launches with Nougat so it’s either outdoing or at least matching most of its rivals here.

The Moto G4 Plus poses an interesting dilemma. It costs around as much as the Moto G5, so if you are willing to live with an older and slightly less potent chipset, it can hook you up with a 5.5-inch panel and a significantly more sophisticated 16MP camera, with laser autofocus.

Motorola Moto G4 Plus
Motorola Moto G4 Plus

Specs

  • Build: Plastic (removable back, but not battery)
  • Connectivity: Optional Dual SIM (dedicated microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, upgradable to 7.0 Nougat
  • Screen: 5.5″ IPS LCD, 1080p (401ppi); 478nits brightness, 2.582 sunlight legibility; Gorilla Glass 3
  • Camera: 16MP main (PDAF and Laser autofocus), 5MP selfie, 1080p video (both)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 617 4xCortex-A53@1.5 GHz & 4xCortex-A53@1.2 GHz (bench: 799), Adreno 405 (bench: 6,380)
  • Memory: 2GB/3GB/4GB RAM + 16GB/32GB/64GB storage
  • Battery: 3,000mAh (non removable); 70h Endurance; Fast Charging
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader; FM Radio

Cons

  • No NFC or magnetometer (digital compass)
  • The battery is not user-replaceable
  • GPU struggles a bit to render some games at 1080p

Throw it the bigger battery on the G4 Plus and it’s a head-scratcher for sure. Still, the pair sports pretty different and distinctive designs, so looks and size alone should be enough to sway you one way or the other.

Of course, this price segment wouldn’t be complete without mentioning at least a couple of devices based on the 14nm power-efficient Snapdragon 625 chipset. It’s the pioneer of a new wave of chips that leverage smaller fabrication processes to deliver longer battery life to the masses, rather than strive for performance as most flagship chipsets.

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is certainly its most popular bearer and with an 119 hour endurance rating, it really proves the chipset’s worth. The handset is pretty well-rounded too – offering decent camera experience, and 5.5-inch FullHD display. It runs on Marshmallow, but it was promised an update to the Nougat-based MIUI 9.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 4
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4

Specs

  • Build: Metal unibody
  • Connectivity: Dual SIM (hybrid microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow (Will likely be upgraded to Nougat)
  • Screen: 5.5″ IPS LCD, 1080p (401ppi); 484nits brightness, 2.714 sunlight legibility
  • Camera: 13MP main (PDAF), 5MP selfie, 1080p video (both)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 625 8x Cortex-A53@2.0GHz (bench: 1,050), Adreno 506 (bench: 10,446)
  • Memory: 2GB/3GB/4GB RAM + 32GB/64GB storage
  • Battery: 4,100mAh (sealed); 119h Endurance (!)
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader; Infrared port; FM Radio

Cons

  • Below average audio quality with headphones plugged in

An alternative to those not fond with MIUI or simply unable to get the Xiaomi handset in their market is the Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016). It drops the resolution back down to 720p, but its panel is fo the Super AMOLED variety.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)

Specs

  • Build: Plastic
  • Connectivity: Optional Dual SIM (dedicated microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
  • Screen: 5.5″ Super AMOLED, 720p (267ppi); 353nits brightness, 3.756 sunlight legibility
  • Camera: 13MP main, 5MP selfie with LED flash, 1080p video (both)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 617 4xCortex-A53@1.5GHz & 4xCortex-A53@1.2GHz -or- Exynos 7870 8x Cortex-A53@1.6GHz (Exynos bench: 1,007), Adreno 405 -or- Mali-T830MP2 (Mali-T830MP2 bench: 11,199)
  • Memory: 2GB RAM + 16GB storage
  • Battery: 3,300mAh (removable); Exynos 7870: 101h (!) Endurance; Fast Charging (15W)
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader; Samsung Pay; NFC (market dependent for dual-SIM model); FM Radio

Cons

  • 720p panel
  • The Snapdragon 617 chipset option is not really as competitive as the Exynos

An important note about this one – be sure to look for the Exynos 7870 Octa variant, as it is the 14nm one. The other version of the Galaxy J7 (2016) uses the Snapdragon 617, which is a generation older and not nearly as efficient.

And last, but not least there’s the Huawei P9 Lite to be found right around the €200 mark as well. It shouldn’t be confused with the P8 Lite (2017), although Huawei did its best to thoroughly mix up naming this year. It has a smaller battery and shorter power autonomy compared to the two above, but it’s a solid overall package nonetheless.

Huawei P9 lite
Huawei P9 lite

Specs

  • Build: Metal frame (polycarbonate back)
  • Connectivity: Dual SIM (dedicated microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow, upgradable to 7.0 Nougat
  • Screen: 5.2″ LCD, 1080p (424ppi); 497nits brightness, 2.679 sunlight legibility
  • Camera: 13MP main, 8MP selfie, 1080p video (both)
  • Chipset: Kirin 650 4xCortex-A53@1.5GHz & 4xCortex-A53@1.2GHz (bench: 1,242), Mali-T830MP2 (bench: 7,681)
  • Memory: 2GB/3GB RAM + 16GB storage
  • Battery: 3,000mAh (sealed); 79h Endurance
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader; NFC, FM Radio

Cons

€200-€300

As we go higher, we move beyond the search for phones that cover as many of the basics as possible – here we are expecting a rounded experience as a minimum. You can even hope for an area or two where the phones here excel, while design becomes more than an aftertought.

We kick things off with the Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) – a perfect choice if you are after a compact device. With its 4.7-inch display it’s among the smallest smartphones in the market right now and it’s a beautiful one too.

Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017)
Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017)

Specs

  • Build: Metal frame (glass back); IP68 waterproof
  • Connectivity: Optional dual-SIM (hybrid/dedicated microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow; upgradeable to Android 7.0 Nougat
  • Screen: 4.7″ Super AMOLED, 720p (312ppi), 518nits brightness, 3.688 sunlight; Gorilla Glass 4
  • Camera: 13MP main, 8MP selfie, 1080p video (both)
  • Chipset: Exynos 7870 Octa, 4x Cortex-A53 (bench: 999), Mali-T830 (bench: 5,160)
  • Memory: 2GB RAM + 16GB storage
  • Battery: 2,350mAh (non-removable), 93h endurance
  • Misc: Always On Display, Samsung Pay, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • Mid-range chipset and camera
  • Iffy autofocus
  • 720p resolution too low for a PenTile panel
  • Only 10GB of built-in storage is user-accessible

As the cheapest of this year’s Galaxy A series, it is stuck with a 720p panel, but it’s an AMOLED one with great contrast and sunlight legibility. The, efficient Exynos 7870 chip adds up to a very impressive 93 hour endurance rating despit the tiny 2,350 mAh battely. There’s also the IP68 protection against dust and water, which is a real rarity in this price range.

The Nokia 6 has vanilla Android with timely updates as its key selling point, along with the Nokia brand, of course. It is currently the top member of HMD’s revived Nokia lineup and its well crafted metal exterior certainly looks better than the price tag will suggest.

Nokia 6
Nokia 6

Specs

  • Build: Metal body
  • Connectivity: Dual SIM (hybrid microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 7.1 Nougat (unskinned)
  • Screen: 5.5″ IPS LCD, 1080p (403ppi), 522nits brightness, 3.244 sunlight; Gorilla Glass 3
  • Camera: 16MP main, 8MP selfie, 1080p video (both)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 430, 8x Cortex-A53 (bench: 1,041), Adreno 505 (bench: 7,522)
  • Memory: 3GB RAM + 32GB storage -or- 4GB RAM + 64GB storage (Arte Black only)
  • Battery: 3,000mAh (non-removable); 75h endurance
  • Misc: Stereo speakers, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • Older, low-performance chipset
  • Camera produces photos with dull colors and low contrast

Still, it’s not all fun and games on the hype train, as the Nokia 6 is a short on processing power – the Snapdragon 430 is a little hard to swallow given the alternative available.

Priced at about €250, the refreshed Galaxy J5 (2017) finds itself in a somewhat awkward position, but its more upmarket Galaxy J7 (2017) brings enough on top to represent better value. It barely fits within the category price-wise, but offers a metal body, fingerprint reader and a FullHD AMOLED panel.

Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)

Specs

  • Build: Metal body
  • Connectivity: Optional dual SIM (dedicated microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.1 Nougat
  • Screen: 5.5″ Super AMOLED, 1080p (401ppi), 482nits brightness, 3.812 sunlight;
  • Camera: 13MP main, 13MP selfie (with LED flash), 1080p video (both
  • Chipset: Exynos 7870, 8x Cortex-A53 (bench: 1,171), Mali-T830MP2 (bench: 5,489)
  • Memory: 3GB RAM + 16GB -or- 32GB storage
  • Battery: 3,600mAh (non-removable), 108h endurance (!)
  • Misc: Always on Display, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • Weak GPU (especially for a 1080p screen)
  • Old microUSB port without fast charging
  • Camera has poor dynamic range

The Huawei nova is another worthy option. Built around the Snapdragon 625, it delivers excellent battery life and offers 4K video capture – the first of the handsets so far to do so.

Huawei nova
Huawei nova

Specs

  • Build: Metal body
  • Connectivity: Optional dual-SIM (hybrid microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow; upgradeable to 7.0 Nougat
  • Screen: 5″ IPS LCD, 1080p (441ppi), 385nits brightness, 2.467 sunlight
  • Camera: 12MP main, 8MP selfie; 2160p video (main)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 625, 8x Cortex-A53 (bench: 1,218), Adreno 506 (bench: 10,511)
  • Memory: 3GB RAM + 32GB storage
  • Battery: 3,020mAH (non-removable); 84h endurance
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader

Cons

  • No scratch-resistant glass
  • No version with dedicated microSD slot
  • Sunlight legibility is not great
  • Average audio quality and low volume with headphones
  • Poor low light photos; low-quality audio in videos

Next up is Motorola Moto Z Play – with a 5.5″ 1080p Super AMOLED panel, Android 7.1.1 Nougat ROM and technically a part of a flagship line so it has decent chances to get future upgrades.

Motorola Moto Z Play
Motorola Moto Z Play

Specs

  • Build: Metal frame, glass back; splash and dust resistant
  • Connectivity: Optional dual SIM (dedicated microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 7.0 Nougat; upgradeable to Android 7.1
  • Screen: 5.5″ Super AMOLED, 1080p (403ppi), 371nits brightness, 3.526 sunlight; Gorilla Glass 3
  • Camera: 16MP main, 5MP selfie (with LED flash), 2160p video (main), 1080p video (selfie)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 625, 8x Cortex-A53 (bench: 1,031), Adreno 506 (bench: 10,401)
  • Memory: 3GB RAM + 32GB storage
  • Battery: 3,510mAh (non-removable), 100h endurance (!)
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader

Cons

  • The glass back is easy to scratch
  • MotoMods still a gimmick
  • Terrible panorama mode
  • Audio quality in videos is iffy; EIS available only in 1080p

There is also the matter of Motorola’s Moto Mod ecosystem. Most addons are quite pricey – some of them cost more than the Moto Z Play itself. Then again, if the Mods get you excited the Z Play is your cheapest way into the fun.

The Z Play’s stablemate Lenovo P2 is a proper battery champion. Hardly as premium-looking as some of the alternatives it still matches the Moto Z spec for spec. There are a few corners cut in the camera department, but for many that will definitely pale in comparison to the monstrous 5,100 mAh battery and the record-holding 149 hours of battery endurance it delivers.

Lenovo P2
Lenovo P2

Specs

  • Build: Metal body
  • Connectivity: Optional dual SIM (hybrid microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow; upgradeable to Android 7.1 Nougat
  • Screen: 5.5″ Super AMOLED, 1080p (401ppi), 510nits brightnss, 3.316 sunlight; Gorilla Glass 3
  • Camera: 13MP main, 5MP selfie, 2160p video (main), 1080p video (selfie)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 625, 8x Cortex-A53 (bench: 1,235), Adreno 506 (bench: 10,472)
  • Memory: 3GB/4GB RAM + 32GB storage -or- 4GB RAM + 64GB storage
  • Battery: 5,100mAh (non-removable); 149h endurance (!!!)
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader

Cons

  • No version with dedicated microSD slot
  • Bland design
  • Below average selfies; no video stabilization

Another standout feature comes from the Huawei Honor 8 and its dual camera setup, which is potent enough even without the Leica branding. Sure, there are some compromises to be made, 4K recording being a pretty painful one.

Huawei Honor 8
Huawei Honor 8

Specs

  • Build: Metal frame, glass back
  • Connectivity: Optional dual SIM (hybrid microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow; upgradeable to 7.0 Nougat
  • Screen: 5.2″ LTPS IPS, 1080p (423ppi), 460nits brightness, 3.346 sunlight; Gorilla Glass 3
  • Camera: Dual 12MP with Laser AF (color + B&W), 8MP selfie, 1080p @ 60fps video (both)
  • Chipset: Kirin 950, 4x Cortex-A72 + 4x A53 (bench: 2,099), Mali-T880MP4 (bench: 16,592)
  • Memory: 4GB RAM + 32/64GB storage
  • Battery: 3,000mAh (non-removable), 70h endurance rating
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader

Cons

  • No 4K 2160p video; 1080p videos not very good

What you do get for your money is a gorgeous handset with solid performance and the best camera in the price range.

€300-€400

The next group of phones no longer settles for good – very good performance is expected with excellency in at least a few areas being the norm. There are even some former flagships here and even if their age is starting to show they were designed to be a brand’s pride and joy and that shows in a number of ways.

Sub 5-inch compact phones

An iPhone for €400 you say? YES! It’s no wonder that the iPhone 6 has been blowing up in popularity lately as a few price cuts made it the cheapest entry point to Apple’s walled garden. It is two generations old now, but those were two relatively conservative updates by Apple so it’s not that far behind the curve still.

Apple iPhone 6
Apple iPhone 6

Specs

  • Build: Metal body
  • Connectivity: Single SIM (no microSD slot)
  • OS: iOS 10.3
  • Screen: 4.7″ IPS LCD, 750p (326ppi), 740nits brightness, 3.838 sunlight, ion-strengthened glass
  • Camera: 8MP main, 1.2MP selfie, 1080p video (main), 720p video (selfie)
  • Chipset: Apple A8, 2x Typhoon (bench: 1,252), PowerVR GX6450 (bench: 15,841)
  • Memory: 1GB RAM + 16/32/64/128GB storage
  • Battery: 1,810mAh (non-removable), 61h endurance
  • Misc: Apple Pay, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • No microSD slot
  • No 4K 2160p video; poor selfie camera; no OIS

Sure, there is the iPhone SE as well, which could potentially run you even less than the iPhone 6, but the 4-inch panel is tiny by current standards and it doesn’t give the ecosystem enough room to unleash its potential.

Sony’s 2016 Xperia X lineup may come with a few hardware compromises here and there, but it has aged very well, both support-wise and in pricing. The Xperia X Compact is one of the few options (and arguably the most capable) for Android fans, looking into the sub-5-inch space.

Sony Xperia X Compact
Sony Xperia X Compact

Specs

  • Build: Polycarbonate
  • Connectivity: Single SIM
  • OS: Android 6.0; Upgradeable to Android 7.1 Nougat
  • Screen: 4.6″ IPS LCD, 720p (319ppi), 534 brightness, 3.694 sunlight, scratch-resistant glass
  • Camera: 23MP main, 5MP selfie, 1080p video (both)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 650, 2x Cortex-A72 + 4x Cortex-A53 (bench: 1,738), Adreno 510 (bench: 15,415)
  • Memory: 3GB RAM + 32GB storage
  • Battery: 2,700mAh (non-removable), 73h endurance
  • Misc: Large image sensor (1/2.3″), stereo speakers, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • No 4K 2160p video; noisy still shots; selfie camera is average
  • No waterproofing (on an Xperia Compact); no metal frame either
  • Fingerprint disabled in the US

Its Snapdragon 650 offers plenty of power, the 23MP main camera is a solid performer and its 4.6-inch screen offers very good image quality. The 720p display resolution and lack of 4K video recording are some of the only caveats you have to live with.

5 to 5.5-inch phones

While on the topic of Sony and last year’s X series, we can’t fail to mention the Xperia X. It doesn’t 4K capture either, but it offers an impressive selfie camera and a 5-inch FullHD panel. Surprisingly enough, it costs only a little more than its X Compact sibling.

Sony Xperia X
Sony Xperia X

Specs

  • Build: Metal frame, polycarbonate back
  • Connectivity: Optional dual SIM (hybrid/dedicated microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0; Upgradeable to Android 7.1 Nougat
  • Screen: 5″ IPS LCD, 1080p (441ppi), 539 brightness, 2.989 sunlight, scratch-resistant glass
  • Camera: 23MP main, 13MP selfie, 1080p video (both)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 650, 2x Cortex-A72 + 4x Cortex-A53 (bench: 1,714), Adreno 510 (bench: 15,087)
  • Memory: 3GB RAM + 32GB/64GB storage
  • Battery: 2,620mAh (non-removable), 67h endurance
  • Misc: Large image sensor (1/2.3″), stereo speakers, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • No 4K 2160p video; noisy still shots; selfie camera is average
  • No waterproofing
  • Fingerprint disabled in the US

Over at camp Samsung, the 5.2-inch Galaxy A5 (2017) caught our eye. If you find its metal body and Super AMOLED panel alluring as well, you will likely be faced with a decision between it and the J5 (2017).

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)

Specs

  • Build: Metal frame, glass back; IP68 waterproof
  • Connectivity: Optional dual SIM (dedicated microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Screen: 5.2″ Super AMOLED, 1080p (424ppi), 559nits brightness, 3.804 sunlight, Gorilla Glass 4
  • Camera: 16MP main, 16MP selfie, 1080p video (both
  • Chipset: Exynos 7880, 8x Cortex-A53 (bench: 1,417), Mali-T830MP3
  • Memory: 3GB RAM + 32GB Storage
  • Battery: 3,000mAh (non-removable), 95h endurance
  • Misc: Always on Display, Samsung Pay, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • No 4K 2160p video
  • Selfie camera is good but the fixed focus is an issue
  • Still waiting on Nougat

Still, we feel the FullHD display, IP68 dust and water resistance rating and a few small performance improvements here and there worth the premium.

We struggled a bit with our decision to include the aging ZTE Axon 7 in the list, but it won us over at the end. Sure, it is easy to focus on the Snapdragon 820 chipset, but there is also the matter of the stunning QHD, AMOLED panel, 20 MP OIS-enabled camera, Quick Charge 3.0 support, 4GB of RAM. The list goes on, but if you really need to pinpoint one reason to go for the Axon 7, it has the be the phenomenal Stereo speaker system with Dolby Atmos audio enhancement.

ZTE Axon 7
ZTE Axon 7

Specs

  • Build: Metal body
  • Connectivity: Dual SIM (hybrid microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow; upgradeable to 7.1 Nougat
  • Screen: 5.5″ AMOLED, QHD (538ppi), 352nits brightness, 4.145 sunlight; Gorilla Glass 4
  • Camera: 20MP main (OIS), 8MP selfie, 2160p video (main), 1080p video (selfie)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 820, 4x Kryo (bench: 2,346), Adreno 530 (bench: 32,243)
  • Memory: 4GB RAM + 64GB storage
  • Battery: 3,250mAh (non-removable), 70h endurance
  • Misc: Android Daydream, stereo speakers, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • Android keys are not backlit
  • The metal body can be slippery
  • Audio quality degrades with headphones

All this can be yours for about €330. Now that OnePlus more or less abandoned the “ultra value” race, we just had to include the ZTE. Plus, the slightly modernized Axon 7s is already a thing as well, rocking a Snapdragon 821 chip. It is still pretty impossible to find at any reputable retailer, but be sure to keep an eye out for it.

5.7-inch and bigger phablets

We get it, multimedia is king in 2017 and if you want to supersize your smartphone on a budget, Xiaomi has you covered. Last year’s Mi 5 flagship is now well within budget and so is its modernized Snapdragon 821 Mi 5s variant. But what we are really interested in here is the Mi 5s Plus variant.

Surprisingly enough, it costs just about as much as its 5.15-inch smaller sibling, while bringing a 5.7-inch panel to the table. Not only that, but there is also the matter of its quite capable dual 13MP camera setup. The value is definitely there.

Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus
Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus

Specs

  • Build: Metal body
  • Connectivity: Dual SIM (no microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Screen: 5.7 IPS LCD, 1080p (386ppi), 637nits brightness, 2.884 sunlight
  • Camera: Dual 13MP camera (color + B&W), 4MP selfie camera (large 2µm pixels), 2160p video (main), 1080p video (selfie)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 821, 4x Kryo (bench: 2,424), Adreno 530 (bench: 36,062)
  • Memory: 4GB RAM + 64GB storage -or- 6GB RAM + 128GB storage
  • Battery: 3,800mAh (non-removable), 104h endurance (!)
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader

Cons

  • No microSD slot
  • No OIS for the camera
  • No scratch-resistant glass
  • Audio quality degrades with headphones
  • Average 4K 2160p video quality

And you can go bigger still. The original Mi Max and its recent refresh both sport whopping 6.44 inch panels. These use a standard 16:9 aspect ration as well, making them pretty huge and tough to handle in every direction. Still, if you have the hands and pockets for it, go right ahead.

As for the question of deciding between the pair, it is a rather tough one once again. The original Mi Max is based on either the Snapdragon 650 or 652 chipset – both strong mid-range performers. The 2017 refresh feels like somewhat of a downgrade in terms of performance, with its Snapdragon 625 chip, but the real-life difference between the bunch really isn’t all that significant.

Xiaomi Mi Max 2
Xiaomi Mi Max 2

Specs

  • Build: Metal body
  • Connectivity: Dual SIM (hybrid microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 7.1 Nougat
  • Screen: 6.44″ IPS LCD, 1080p (342ppi), nits brightness, sunlight, Gorilla Glass 4
  • Camera: 12MP main, 5MP selfie, 2160p video (main)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 625, 8x Cortex-A53, Adreno 506
  • Memory: 4GB RAM + 64GB/128GB storage
  • Battery: 5,300mAh (non-removable)
  • Misc: Stereo speaker, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • No OIS for the camera

On the other hand, what the MI Max 2 brings to the table is a 14nm manufacturing process on that chip and the battery endurance benefits that come along with it. Not only that, but a bump up in battery capacity from 5,850 mAh to 5,300 mAh. The original Mi Max already has an endurance rating of 108 hours, which is great in itself. But the Mi Max 2 is likely an even better bet for the battery-conscious among you. We’ll get back to you on that once it comes into the office for testing.

To cap things off and appease any Sony fans out there, the Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra is definitely an honorable mention in this category.

€400-€500

We’re officially in flagship territory now – current ones, mixed with those of yesteryear. Value-for-money is starting to decline as grounds for bragging rights appear.

Now you can buy an HTC 10 for about €450 – a great deal too for an underrated flagship. If you don’t mind dealing with some of the company’s recent questionable decisions concerning Sense UI, you can still enjoy a crisp 5.2-inch QHD panel, a powerful, albeit no longer top-of-the-range Snapdragon 820 chip and a solid 12MP, OIS-enabled, laser autofocus camera.

.

HTC 10
HTC 10

Specs

  • Build: Metal body
  • Connectivity: Single SIM (microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow, upgradeable to 7.0 Nougat
  • Screen: 5.2″ Super LCD5, QHD (565ppi), 428nits brightness, 2.378 sunlight; Gorilla Glass 3
  • Camera: 12MP with OIS, Laser AF, 5MP selfie with OIS, autofocus; 2160p video (main), 1080p video (selfie)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 820, 4x Kryo (bench: 1,839), Adreno 530 (bench: 28,882)
  • Memory: 4GB RAM + 32GB/64GB storage
  • Battery: 3,000mAh (non-removable), 66h endurance
  • Misc: Large image sensor (1/2.3″), stereo speakers, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • Thicker than competition, heavier too
  • Average sunlight legibility
  • Fingerprint reader occasionally wakes the phone accidentally

If you fancy a more trendy 2017 design LG G6 will give you a taste of those ultra-wide screens for about the same price as the HTC 10. It will throw in IP68 water and dust resistance into the mix and a dual camera too.

LG G6
LG G6

Specs

  • Build: Metal frame with glass back, IP68 waterproof, MIL-STD-810G
  • Connectivity: Optional dual SIM (hybrid/dedicated microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 7.1 Nougat
  • Screen: 5.7″ IPS LCD (18:9), Dolby Vision/HDR10, QHD+ (564ppi), 564nits brightness, 3.556 sunlight; Gorilla Glass 3
  • Camera: Dual 13MP camera (regular + wide-angle) with OIS, Laser AF, 5MP selfie, 2160p video (main), 1080p video (selfie)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 821, 4x Kryo (bench: 2,126), Adreno 530 (bench: 30,507)
  • Memory: 4GB RAM + 32/64/128GB storage
  • Battery: 3,300mAh (non-removable), 72h endurance
  • Misc: Always on Display, fingerprint reader, wireless charging (US only), Hi-Fi Quad DAC (Korea exclusive)

Cons

  • No headphones in retail box (of a flagship!)
  • No Daydream support
  • Average volume with headphone jack
  • 1080p video is not flagship level
  • Many region-dependent features

The G6’s display is fully geared and ready for the next wave of multimedia content thanks to its Dolby Vision/HDR10 compliance. At its current price, the LG G6 is nothing short of a steal.

Yet a handset doesn’t necessarily have to experience a rapid price drop to shine in this price bracket – some a priced right from their very debut. Such is the case of the Honor 9 – the 2017 flagship of Huawei’s value-oriented sub-brand.

Huawei Honor 9
Huawei Honor 9

Specs

  • Build: Metal body
  • Connectivity: Dual SIM (hybrid microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 7.0 Nougat
  • Screen: 5.15 LTPS IPS, 1080p (428ppi), 522nits brightness, 3.289 sunlight; Gorilla Glass 3
  • Camera: Dual 20MP + 12MP (B&W + color), 8MP selfie, 2160p video (main)
  • Chipset: Kirin 960, 4x Cortex-A73 + 4x Cortex-A53 (bench: 3,072), Mali-G71 (bench: 29,398)
  • Memory: 4GB/6GB RAM + 64GB/128GB storage
  • Battery: 3,200mAh (non-removable), 77h endurance
  • Misc: Lossless 2x zoom, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • Portrait mode is disappointing, fixed-focus selfie cam
  • Quiet audio with headphones

It matches the specs of its pricier P10 sibling quite closely, while undercutting the price by a significant amount. Sure, Huawei made a few cuts in the camera department, taking away OIS and the Leica branding, but nothing too drastic, really. The Honor 9 still boasts one of the most impressive cameras in this price segment. And the rest of its hardware package is flagship-grade as well.

Despite its specs, which are up there with the best, the Xiaomi Mi 6 also keep the pricing in check. Sure, the 1080p screen resolution is an easy target for ridicule for some, but others still value it for its battery efficiency alone. Plus, at 5.15 inches in diagonal, the screen certainly doesn’t feel soft.

Xiaomi Mi 6
Xiaomi Mi 6

Specs

  • Build: Metal frame with glass back, splash proof
  • Connectivity: Dual SIM (no microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 7.1 Nougat
  • Screen: 5.15″ IPS LCD, 1080p (428ppi), 603nits brightness, 3.767 sunlight
  • Camera: Dual 12MP camera with OIS (regular + 2x telephoto lens), 8MP selfie; 2160p video (main), 1080p video (selfie)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 835, 4x Kryo + 4x Kryo (bench: 3,547), Adreno 540 (bench: 38,541)
  • Memory: 6GB RAM + 64GB/128GB storage
  • Battery: 3,350mAh (non-removable), 80h endurance
  • Misc: Stereo speakers, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • Limited market availability
  • No 3.5mm headphone jack
  • No microSD slot
  • Average 4K 2160p video quality; low audio bitrate
  • Telephoto unusable in low-light

In fact, that compact form factor might just be a huge draw for many. Xiaomi has manged to work around it masterfully, still fitting a strong dual 12MP camera setup, a respectable 3,230 mAh battery and stereo speakers in the chassis. Not to mention a no compromises top-of-the-line Snapdragon 835 chipset and a few little bonuses, like NFC and an IR blaster.

At the very top of the price bracket, we find the Sony Xperia XZ hovering around the €500 mark. It’s yet another member of Sony’s late 2016 lineup, which is enjoying a second lease on life now that their prices have settled down.

Sony Xperia XZ
Sony Xperia XZ

Specs

  • Build: Metal frame with ALKALEIDO alloy back; IP68 waterproof
  • Connectivity: Optional dual SIM (hybrid/dedicated microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow, upgradeable to 7.1 Nougat
  • Screen: 5.2 IPS LCD, 1080p (424ppi), 608nits brightness, 3.795 sunlight, Gorilla Glass
  • Camera: 23MP main, 8MP selfie (with AF), 2160p video (main), 1080p video (selfie)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 820, 4x Kryo (bench: 2,151), Adreno 530 (bench: 29,548)
  • Memory: 3GB RAM + 32GB/64GB storage
  • Battery: 2,900mAh (non-removable), 72h endurance
  • Misc: Large image sensor (1/2.3″), stereo speakers, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • Only 3GB RAM; S820 in the S835 price category
  • Noisy 23MP shots
  • 2160p video has limited FoV
  • Fingerprint reader disabled in the US

Just like the Xiaomi Mi6, the Xperia XZ doesn’t have a fancy QHD panel to boast about, but it’s FullHD screen still scored top marks in our tests. It is also based around last-year’s Snapdragon 820 chipset, but that’s still plenty capable in 2017.

The Xperia XZ offers an IP68 rating as well as a rather unique design. On a side note, just remember that the side-mounted fingerprint reader is disabled in the US for legal reasons.

Last, but not least, there is the the OnePlus 5. It is currently retailing for exactly €499 – more expensive than any of its predecessors. Yet it brings enough to the table to still be a worthy purchase.

OnePlus 5
OnePlus 5

Specs

  • Build: Metal body
  • Connectivity: Dual SIM (no microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 7.1 Nougat
  • Screen: 5.5″ AMOLED, 1080p (401ppi), 435nits brightness, 3.914 sunlight; Gorilla Glass 5
  • Camera: Dual 20MP + 16MP camera (B&W + color) with OIS, 16MP selfie (EIS), 2160p video (main), 1080p video (selfie)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 835, 4x Kryo + 4x Kryo (bench: 3,601), Adreno 540 (bench: 38,844)
  • Memory: 6GB RAM + 64GB storage -or- 8GB RAM (!) + 128GB storage
  • Battery: 3,300mAh (non-removable), 83h endurance
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader

Cons

  • Same old screen as the OnePlus 3/3T; jelly effect when scrolling
  • Photos noisy even at base ISO, tele cam is no good
  • EIS turns panning 1080p/30fps videos jerky, 1080p/60fps lacks EIS
  • No microSD slot
  • Uninspired design

5.5-inch AMOLED panel, Snapdragon 835, 6GB of RAM and an impressive dual 16MP camera setup – the specs sheet gives you nothing to frown at. Well, to be fair, some ingress protection would have been a nice touch, perhaps a micoSD slot as well.

The phone has been plagued by some software issues initially, but OnePlus should address those sooner, rather than later.

€500-€600

Moving on to the second flagship tier we start with a rather unorthodox device. The BlackBerry KEYone is hardly the most sensible purchase going by its specs alone, but those that still fancy a QWERTY keyboard have virtually no other options.

BlackBerry KEYone
BlackBerry KEYone

Specs

  • Body: Hardware QWERTY keyboard
  • Connectivity: Single SIM (microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 7.1 Nougat
  • Screen: 4.5″ IPS LCD, 1080p (433ppi), 670nits brightness, Gorilla Glass 4
  • Camera: 13MP main, 8MP selfie, 2160p video (main), 1080p video (selfie)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 625, 8x Cortex-A53 (bench: 1,132), Adreno 506 (bench: 10,445)
  • Memory: 3GB RAM + 32GB storage
  • Battery: 3,505mAh (non-removable), 81h endurance
  • Misc: Large image sensor (1/2.3″), fingerprint reader

Cons

  • Much too costly for that CPU
  • 3:2 screen aspect is rare on Android, some apps have issues
  • Any color you want, as long as it’s black
  • Loudspeaker is lousy, headphone jack has poor stereo separation

The Snapdragon 625 chipset is very hard to forgive in this price range, but for the right buyer the KEYone makes the difference between a boring a flashy toy and a capable multi-tool you are more than happy to conduct your business affairs through.

Moving on from a niche offer to one for the masses – the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge is the most affordable of Samsung curved screen flagships. And even though it’s a year old now its 5.5-inch QHD curved Super AMOLED panel is properly impressive.

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Specs

  • Build: Metal frame with glass back, IP68 waterproof
  • Connectivity: Optional dual SIM (hybrid/dedicated microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow, upgradeable to 7.0 Nougat
  • Screen: 5.5″ Super AMOLED, QHD (534ppi), 610nits brightness, 4.439 sunlight, Gorilla Glass 4
  • Camera: 12MP main with OIS, Dual Pixel AF, 5MP selfie, 2160p video (main), 1440p (selfie)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 820, 4x Kryo (bench: 2,352), Adreno 530 (bench: 32,160)
  • Chipset: Exynos 8890, 4x Mongoose + 4x Cortex-A53 (bench: 2,050), Adreno 530 (bench: 28,480)
  • Memory: 4GB RAM + 32/64/128GB storage
  • Battery: 3,600mAh (non-removable), 92h endurance
  • Misc: Always on Display, Edge screen features, Samsung Pay, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • Camera struggles to hold focus in 1080p/60fps videos

If you are currently drooling over the S8 and its Infinity display, but don’t really feel like dropping more than €500 on a new phone – the S7 edge is for you. You can plenty of perks as well: Gorilla Glass 4 on both sides, IP68 certification, powerful Exynos 8890 chipset and a 12MP Dual Pixel camera.

Two of Huawei’s current generation flagships can also be had for less than €600, further reaffirming the company’s good value image. We already suggested the Huawei Honor 9 in a previous section as a great value option and we’re not backing away from that. However, if you want to go the whole nine yards, OIS and Leica in tow, the P10 is not a purchase you will regret.

Huawei P10
Huawei P10

Specs

  • Build: Metal frame
  • Connectivity: Optional dual SIM (hybrid microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 7.0 Nougat
  • Screen: 5.1 IPS-NEO, 1080p (432ppi), 592nits brightness, 3.379 sunlight, Gorilla Glass 5
  • Camera: Dual 20MP + 12MP (B&W + color) with OIS, Leica optics, 8MP selfie, 2160p video (main)
  • Chipset: Kirin 960, 4x Cortex-A73 + 4x Cortex-A53 (bench: 2,910), Mali-G71 (bench: 39,433)
  • Memory: 4GB RAM + 32GB/64GB storage
  • Battery: 3,200mAh (non-removable), 75h endurance
  • Misc: Lossless 2x zoom, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • No Leica Dual Camera 2.0 Pro with f/1.8 lens (exclusive to the P10 Plus)
  • Noisy 4K 2160p videos in h.265 format (difficult to share)
  • Disappointing portrait mode; fixed-focus selfie camera
  • No stereo speakers; quiet headphone jack audio
  • No version with dedicated microSD slot

We can’t really say the same about the P10 Plus though, which offers little to justify an over €200 premium on top of the regular P10. If a bigger display is simply what you are after the Huawei Mate 9 is the far more obvious option. Witg its 5.9-inch diagonal, it costs as much as the P10 at most retailers.

Huawei Mate 9
Huawei Mate 9

Specs

  • Build: Metal body
  • Connectivity: Optional dual SIM (hybrid/dedicated microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 7.0 Nougat
  • Screen: 5.9″ IPS LCD, 1080p (373ppi), 665nits brightness, 3.680 sunlight, Gorilla Glass 3
  • Camera: Dual 20MP + 12MP (B&W + color) with OIS, Leica optics, 8MP selfie, 2160p video (main)
  • Chipset: Kirin 960, 4x Cortex-A73 + 4x Cortex-A53 (bench: 2,637), Mali-G71 (bench: 36,519)
  • Memory: 4GB RAM + 64GB storage
  • Battery: 4,000mAh (non-removable), 82h endurance
  • Misc: Lossless 2x zoom, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • 1080p screen in this price range
  • Screen color accuracy isn’t great
  • 4K 2160p videos with h.265 codec are difficult to share, 1080p videos are nothing special

Despite that, you are not really losing anything. You still get the powerful Kirin 960 chipset, 4GB of RAM and a 20MP + 12MP dual-camera setup. OIS and Leica customizations are here too and the only thing you’ll be sacrificing compared to the P10 Plus is the slightly brighter aperture.

€600+

Finally, welcome to the V.I.P. section of the guide. The money-is-no-object segment offers plenty of choice this year. And that is before we have seen the iPhone 8 and the Samsung Galaxy Note8.

Speaking of Apple smartphones, though, it is worth noting that now seems like a bad time to shoot for an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus. With the looming release of what could potentially be two regular models and a special anniversary one, prices are bound to fall soon. Plus you wouldn’t want to drop flagship cash on a phone that will no longer be a flagship two months from now.

We’ve had a really strong premium segment lineup this year. Choosing the right one for you will likely come down to design preferences and picking the exclusive features that work best for you.

Samsung’s Infinity display design really shook things up and finally rocked the tired old “slab” aesthetic we have been living with for years. And the new form factor is more than just a fashion statement too.

Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung Galaxy S8

Specs

  • Build: Metal frame with glass back, IP68 waterproof
  • Connectivity: Optional dual SIM (hybrid/dedicated microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 7.0 Nougat
  • Screen: 5.8″ Super AMOLED (18.5:9), QHD+ (570ppi), 618nits brightness, 4.768 sunlight; Gorilla Glass 5
  • Camera: 12MP main with OIS, Dual Pixel AF, 8MP selfie with autofocus, 2160p video (main), 1440p (selfie)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 835, 4x Kryo + 4x Kryo, Adreno 540
  • Chipset: Exynos 8895, 4x Mongoose + 4x Cortex-A53 (bench: 3,376), Mali-G71MP20 (bench: 42,370)
  • Memory: 4GB RAM + 64GB storage
  • Battery: 3,000mAh (non-removable), 84h endurance
  • Misc: Multi Frame Image Processing, Always on Display, Samsung Pay, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • Fingerprint reader inconveniently located
  • Glass back makes phone slipperty
  • OIS+EIS makes video wobble sometimes

The smartphone industry is finally dropping clear signs that it is on board with the ongoing multimedia push towards wider screens and the S8 and S8+ duo is among its pioneers.

Samsung Galaxy S8+
Samsung Galaxy S8+

Specs

  • Build: Metal frame with glass back, IP68 waterproof
  • Connectivity: Optional dual SIM (hybrid/dedicated microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 7.0 Nougat
  • Screen: 6.2″ Super AMOLED (18.5:9), QHD+ (529ppi), 647nits brightness, 4.658 sunlight; Gorilla Glass 5
  • Camera: 12MP main with OIS, Dual Pixel AF, 8MP selfie with autofocus, 2160p video (main), 1440p (selfie)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 835, 4x Kryo + 4x Kryo (bench: 3,406), Adreno 540
  • Chipset: Exynos 8895, 4x Mongoose + 4x Cortex-A53 (bench: 3,298), Mali-G71MP20 (bench: 43,862)
  • Memory: 4GB RAM + 64GB storage -or- 6GB RAM + 128GB storage
  • Battery: 3,500mAh (non-removable), 88h endurance
  • Misc: Multi Frame Image Processing, Always on Display, Samsung Pay, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • Fingerprint reader inconveniently located
  • Glass back makes phone slipperty
  • OIS+EIS makes video wobble sometimes

One thing the S8 pair skipped on yet again is a dual-camera setup. This does mean no clever loseless zooming, advanced portrait mode or wide-angle photography. You do get an excellent 12MP Dual-Pixel camera, which has been enhanced further by Samsung’s new “Multi-Frame Image Processing”.

Next up, HTC U11. It might not have the marketing backing of the Samsung star duo, but it can still mostly match it in a specs race. You’ll be missing on the Infinity display with skinny bezels and the 3.5mm audio jack but the “Liquid Surface” design has its own appeal.

HTC U11
HTC U11

Specs

  • Build: Metal frame with (liquid) glass back, IP67 waterproof
  • Connectivity: Optional dual SIM (hybrid/dedicated microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 7.1 Nougat
  • Screen: 5.5″ Super LCD5, QHD (534ppi), 583nits brightness, 3.089 sunlight
  • Camera: 12MP with OIS, Dual Pixel AF, 16MP selfie, 2160p video (main), 1080p video (selfie)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 835, 4x Kryo + 4x Kryo (bench: 2,970), Adreno 540 (bench: 38,399)
  • Memory: 4GB RAM + 64GB storage -or- 6GB RAM + 128GB storage
  • Battery: 3,000mAh (non-removable), 73h endurance
  • Misc: Edge sense (squeeze detection), Amazon Alexa, stereo speakers, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • No headphone jack
  • No OIS or autofocus on selfie camera (like HTC 10)
  • Relatively small battery
  • Questionable durability of Liquid Design
  • Edge sense is mostly a gimmick

Plus, the HTC U11 has the unique squeeze-sensitive frame on its side too. While a little gimmicky, it does hold some potential and is fun to play around with.

Another phone of distinctive looks, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium bets on a mirror finish that looks gorgeous as long as you manage to keep the fingerprints away. And Sony really went all out in the camera department this year. It’s special triple-stacked sensor with a RAM buffer chip allows for some really unique modes, like 960fps HD video and Predictive Capture.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium
Sony Xperia XZ Premium

Specs

  • Build: Metal frame with ALKALEIDO back, IP68 waterproof
  • Connectivity: Optional dual SIM (hybrid/dedicated slot)
  • OS:Android 7.1 Nougat
  • Screen: 5.46″ IPS LCD, 4K (807ppi!), HDR10, 573nits brightness, 2.877 sunlight, Gorilla Glass 5
  • Camera: 19MP main, 13M selfie with autofocus, 2160p video (main), 1080p video (selfie)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 835, 4x Kryo + 4x Kryo (bench: 4,127), Adreno 540 (bench: 38,507)
  • Memory: 4GB RAM + 64GB storage
  • Battery: 3,230mAh (non-removable), 72h endurance
  • Misc: 960fps slow-mo video (at 720p), large image sensor (1/2.3″), stereo speakers, fingerprint reader

Cons

  • 960fps videos capture only 0.2s (it’s difficult to time the shot right)
  • Other than the gallery and video player, most apps work in 1080p mode
  • Sunlight legibility is low for the class
  • Fingerprint reader disabled in the US
  • Relatively small battery

And last, but not least, there is Google’s own Pixel pair. The Pixel XL is the only reason why out list stretched all the way to €900. These are exuberantly expansive devices, not to mention ones that are unavailable in most countries and in limited stock in some of the others.

The very distinct appearance of the two phones is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea too, but this are Google’s phones and there’s nothing in the market quite like them.

Google Pixel
Google Pixel

Specs

  • Build: Metal body (glass window on the back), splash resistant
  • Connectivity: Single SIM (no microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 7.1 Nougat)
  • Screen: 5″ AMOLED, 1080p (441ppi), 445nits brightness, Gorilla Glass 4
  • Camera: 12.3MP main, 8MP selfie, 2160p video (main), 1080p video (selfie)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 821, 4x Kryo (bench: 2,461), Adreno 530 (bench: 33,023)
  • Memory: 4GB RAM + 32GB/128GB storage
  • Battery: 2,770mAh (non-removable), 64h endurance
  • Misc: HDR+, large image sensor (1/2.3″), fingerprint reader

Cons

  • Older chipset for this price class
  • No microSD slot
  • Design is an acquired taste
  • Only partial water resistance
  • Small battery

Google Pixel XL
Google Pixel XL

Specs

  • Build: Metal body (glass window on the back), splash resistant
  • Connectivity: Single SIM (no microSD slot)
  • OS: Android 7.1 Nougat)
  • Screen: 5.5″ AMOLED, QHD (534ppi), 432nits brightness, 4.164 sunlight, Gorilla Glass 4
  • Camera: 12.3MP main, 8MP selfie, 2160p video (main), 1080p video (selfie)
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 821, 4x Kryo (bench: 2,461), Adreno 530 (bench: 33,023)
  • Memory: 4GB RAM + 32GB/128GB storage
  • Battery: 3,450mAh (non-removable), 78h endurance
  • Misc: HDR+, large image sensor (1/2.3″), fingerprint reader

Cons

  • Older chipset for this price class
  • No microSD slot
  • Design is an acquired taste
  • Only partial water resistance

Like we said in the beginning, there are really no wrong choices at the utmost high end of today’s smartphone market. That being said, we really didn’t manage to do all these great devices justice with the few sentences we shared on their distinct individual traits.

Be sure to hit up our reviews for a more in-depth look at any device in the buyer’s guide that caught your eye. The opinion sections on the specs pages are a great resource for getting additional first-hand impressions and answers to specific questions as well. Happy shopping!

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