FIVE PHONES THAT HAVE GOT GADGET GEEKS TALKING
- Published 26.11.17
Google Pixel 2 XL
Google uses the Pixel devices to showcase the best-in-class Android experience, and 2016’s devices topped it off with arguably the best cameras of the year. Google’s Pixel devices for 2017 share a lot in common under the hood, but the larger Pixel 2 XL is the more adventurous and modern design of the two, and would most certainly be the one to pick…. Save for one considerable flaw.
C With its 2017-spec design — the dual-tone pairing of glass and aluminium, trimmed bezels and a taller 18:9 aspect ratio display — the Pixel 2 XL breaks free of the boring design that its predecessors (and the smaller Pixel 2) could be accused of, and gains IP67 dust/water resistance and a neat squeeze-to-invoke-Assistant feature (called Active Edge) in the process.
You also get fast charging and a 3,520mAh battery that lasted well over a full day on a single charge. In both Pixels, Google’s picked the latest Snapdragon 835 chip with 4GB of RAM and 64/128GB of storage, and the vanilla Android 8.0 flies on this hardware, proving 4GB is more than sufficient if software is optimised to the hardware.
Where the Pixels blow competitors out of the water is in the camera department — images are excellent, both in daylight and low light, and the portrait modes on the sole front and rear cameras often beat the dual-camera competition. Google’s machine learning chops are its secret sauce, and boy, it shows!
DThe LG-made Pixel uses a sharp six-inch, 1,440 x 2,880 pixel LG pOLED display that has been the subject of criticism, mostly around muted colours and a marked blue tint (when viewed off-centre). Google’s addressed these issues somewhat with a software update, but the display just isn’t as good as its peers in the premium segment. These would have been hard to ignore in a mid-range phone, let alone in something that sets you back by 70 grand plus.
Google Pixel 2
Second among equals, the smaller Pixel 2 got the shorter straw in terms of design, but it is by no means a pushover and, to many, represents a safer, more sorted choice than its flashier bigger sibling.
C The HTC-made Pixel 2 packs in a five-inch, full-HD AMOLED panel, and colours look noticeably better (with no noticeable blue tint) out of the box than the XL. With identical specs and software to the XL, including the Active Edge and the front-facing stereo speakers, the Pixel 2 is just as snappy in day-to-day use. There’s this nifty little feature called Now Playing, which automatically recognises a song playing in the background and shows you song information at the bottom of the lock screen. And yes, the Pixel 2 also manages to turn out the same stellar images and OIS-stabilised videos as the XL.
D Design-wise, the Pixel 2 misses the 2017 bus and looks positively dated, what with the big bezels and standard 16:9 display, but the smaller size and lower weight helps with one-hand use. You can manage to last through the day on the 2,700mAh battery, but it’s just about average… well, at least you have fast charging.
Xiaomi Redmi Y1
Xiaomi’s had a great year thus far, with competent offerings across price points, but the latest Y1 plugs a hole in the product offering — a selfie-focused smartphone, 16-megapixel front camera with selfie flash and all. Worth it beyond the mugshots it takes?
C Good looks run in the family and it’s easy to mistake the Y1 for the Redmi 4 if you’re not looking too carefully. The similarities aren’t just skin deep — a 720p resolution screen (albeit on a bigger 5.5-inch display), the same Snapdragon 435 chip, with 3GB/32GB and 4GB/64GB variants are available, both of which can be expanded to 128GB via microSD. Performance is par for the hardware and the overall experience is lag-free.
The Y1 is also one of the first phones to land with the Android Nougat-based MIUI 9, which adds in features like Dual Apps (two instances of one app), theme support and a reading mode for added comfort. Battery life is good, and the phone lasts a good day’s worth of heavy use.
DDaytime photos are rich in detail and colours, but low-light shots from the rear camera take a hit. The headlining feature, the selfie camera, took strictly average photos, nothing outstanding, though the selfie flash did help light up my selfies when there was zero usable light.
Asus ZenFone 4 Selfie Dual Cam
When it comes to selfie phone mindshare, Oppo and Vivo have done a great job carving out a niche, and the ZenFone 4 Selfie Dual Cam is Asus’ attempt in this segment.
CThe focus is the two shooters up front, and Asus uses the 20-megapixel camera for regular selfies and the eight-megapixel camera for wide-angle selfies. Regular selfies turned out great, but the wide-angle selfies compromised on detail and exposure to get more of the scene in the frame, yet were perfectly usable if social media is the end game.
The portrait mode worked well to blur out the background, and you can even beautify your face with software effects. The front LED flash worked when needed. The rear camera is good in daylight, poor in the evening.
DAsus has clearly prioritised the dual selfie cameras here, and the phone lacks some basics which we have come to expect at this price point — a full-HD 1,920 x 1,080-pixel display, a 620-series Snapdragon processor and a bigger battery.
10.or (pronounced Tenor) impressed with its debut ‘E’ smartphone, and the Amazon-marketed brand’s next offering, the 10.or G, looks set to repeat the same price-defying feat.
C For specs nerds on a budget, the 10.or G aims to please, with the Snapdragon 626 chip ably assisted by 3GB/4GB of memory and 32GB/64GB storage, plus a 4000mAh battery, all in an all-metal body. Courtesy the near-stock Android Nougat 7.1.2 out of the box, the phone is a competent performer and breezes through particularly long days on its capacious battery. The dual camera setup has a colour-plus-monochrome sensor setup (for added detail), which throws up some pretty interesting depth-effect shots. But everyday shots, particularly in artificial light, were lacking in quality and detail.
DLacks fast charging and the 5.5-inch, full-HD LCD panel is strictly average.