Not that long ago, with a budget under 300 dollars you could only afford a borderline-decent smartphone, with a low performance, a weak camera and overall, there was a mile between it and the more expensive, high-end flagship phones.
But, a couple of years back, we have noticed a shift of interest from the smartphone manufacturers, which started focusing a lot more on the low-mid-range phones, than they would before. So, now, we have high-performing smartphones at surprisingly low prices, capable of playing the latest games, having a decent camera and a decent display (there are even a few of them that almost invalidate the ownership of a high-end flagship phone).
In 2019, this statement is truer than ever, since it still is extremely easy to find a great smartphone under 300 dollars that will compete with the flagships from the last year. So, we tried to find the most balanced, high performing smartphones, with a great camera, a large display and we compiled them into this comprehensive list.
IMPORTANT (09.08.2019): Since some Huawei smartphones are recommended in this article, it it important to address the ban from Google services. At the moment of writing, this ban will not affect any Huawei smartphones that are already released, so these devices will still have access to the Google services, but considering that Huawei will start focusing a lot more towards its own OS, new patches may not arrive as often (or not at all). The Google service licensing will not be granted to any new Huawei smartphone released after the ban was put in place.
UPDATE 05.30.2019: I have added the Motorola Moto G7 to the best phones under 300 dollars list.
|LG G6||Honor 8X||Motorola Moto G7||Honor 8|
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|Honor 7X||Sony Xperia XA2||Asus Zenfone 5Q||LG Q6|
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1. LG G6
LG has had a stroke of bad luck these two couple of years starting with the LG G4 which would suffer from bootloop, then with the LG G5 which experimented with modularity but didn’t quite hit the mark (so the audience hate it). The LG G6 was a significant improvement over its predecessor, but it lacked in timing, so, despite being a well-rounded device, its hardware was behind the other flagship devices from the competition, so considering LG’s previous handsets, once again, the audience was reluctant to embrace it. A couple of years have passed since its release, so now, the LG G6 has become affordable enough to be a part of this list.
The budget and the mid-range smartphones have been pushing against the flagship devices for a while now (and they’re winning), but the manufacturers often cut some corners to keep the price low and that’s why an ex-flagship smartphone, such as the LG G6 can offer a much more premium experience thanks to its superior built quality, better cameras, better WiFi adapter (and more), the only downside being the manufacturer’s support (so far, the G6 has been scheduled to be updated to Android 9.0 Pie).
That being said, I am not going to review the LG G6 as a flagship phone, but from a capable mid-ranger point of view and see how does it fare against other affordable handsets released recently (and from the last couple of years).
Design and Display
The design of the LG G5 was the root of most of its problems (the software optimisation wasn’t the best either), but the LG G6 tried very hard to fix everything that went wrong with its predecessor, starting from removing the modular design and instead going for a metal and glass unibody case and, as for the screen, it opted for the 18:9 aspect ratio. I know that in 2019, the high-end smartphones have completely removed the bezels, but let’s not forget that the LG G6 is the first to decide to got with a wide aspect ratio display.
Furthermore, the case has a bit of weight to it (weighs 5.75 ounces), so it will stay better in hand, but be aware that because of the glass back, it is slippery, so, to protect it, you may need to use a protective cover (or a skin to give it some texture). To deliver some protection in case you drop the phone, LG has decided to chamfer the edges of the G6, so the impact is slightly more attenuated and the end result is a better looking device (better than its main competitors).
The LG G5 measured 5.88 x 2.91 x 0.30 inches, so it was decently sized for one-hand use (if you had bigger hands), but it would be more suitable for two-handed maneuvering and the LG G6, despite featuring a far larger display, it is actually smaller, measuring 5.86 x 2.83 x 0.31 inches. One thing that I actually missed on the newer G6 was the ability to change the battery that the G5 used to offer, but, unfortunately this seems to be the norm now and there aren’t any flagship smartphones (that I’m aware of) to allow the user to change the battery. The button placement of the G6 is similar to its predecessor, but while the G5 had the cameras and the fingerprint areas slightly protruded, the G6 decided to keep them flush on the rear side, a move which, once again, it improves the overall look of the device (the fingerprint sensor is a lot better and doesn’t misfire as much as on the G5).
Another element that is missing is the IR blaster, but LG G6 owners will gain water proofing and dust resistance – the phone is IP68 rated, so it can be kept under water down to 5 feet for 30 minutes (it seems that LG also claims that the G6 is MIL-STD-810G compliant, which means that it’s a rugged device – but considering the large screen and the lack of protective bezels, I’m pretty sure it won’t rise up to the likes of CAT 41 or Sonim XP7).
On the front, the G6 features a 5.7-inch IPS LCD display which covers 78.6% of the front area and it has a 18:9 aspect ratio (it has proven to be the better choice for media consumption). Furthermore, the display has a resolution of 1440 x 2880 pixels (an increase over the 1440 x 2560 pixels of G6’s predecessor), 16 million colours, a pixel density of 564ppi and is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Considering that the screen has gotten larger, does a small 5.7-inch display really need a 2K resolution? Obviously not, as it will have a heavy impact on the battery life, but while some may argue that there is no distinguishable difference between a 1080p and a 2K panel at that size, I did see a sharper text and better, more realistic images and videos. Comparing it with the usual 1080p of mid-range smartphone, it definitely feels superior, but the decision to avoid the AMOLEDs in favour of the LCD technology, (at the first glance,) it may have put the G6 behind the likes of Galaxy S8, but, at the same time, thanks to the HDR10, the LG G6 does have a great colour reproduction and the images do feel more natural.
Performance and Software
Inside the case, the LG G6 is equipped with a quad-core Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 821 chipset (dual-core 2.35GHz Kryo and dual-core 1.6GHz Kryo), an Adreno 530 GPU, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage (there are also variants with 64 and 128 GB) and you can add up to 512 GB using a microSD card. The LG G6 was released earlier than the Samsung Galaxy S8 in an attempt to ‘steal’ some potential buyers, but, unfortunately, Samsung had a better strategy, keeping the Snapdragon 835 for itself and leaving the G6 owners with a dated component from the start (and yes, it did have a serious impact on the LG G6 sales).
That being said, since the G6 is mainly put against mid-ranger handsets (in this list), in terms of performance, it pretty much blows away every smartphone in its price range. The interface feels smooth and reactive, multitasking posed no problems because of its 4GB of RAM and gaming was smooth and without any lost frames. The Snapdragon 821 is known to handle even the most resource-heavy games and yes, the G6 can handle everything you throw at it without breaking a sweat.
The interface of the LG G6 is built on top of the Android 7.0 (Nougat), but, as expected it can be upgraded to Android version 8.0 (Oreo) and an update to the v9.0 Pie is on its way this year. The G6’s UI looks slightly different than on the previous generations, since it was adapted to the larger screen and one element that remained from the G5 is the reduction of blotaware (so only a few LG apps), but a weird decision was the removal of the app drawer. I am not sure why LG thought that this would be a good idea (maybe they fancied the iPhone look), but there are ways to get it back (LG has an official launcher available if you want the app drawer back). Overall, the interface felt very close to stock and more responsive than with previous iterations.
Camera and Battery Life
On the rear panel, the LG G6 is equipped with a dual camera setup: a primary 13-megapixel camera with a f/1.8 aperture, 30mm lens, 3-axis OIS and LED flash (it can film 2160p videos at 30fps and 1080p videos at 30 or 60fps) and a secondary 13-megapixel wide-angle camera with a f/2.4 aperture and 12mm lens. The main changes from the G5 are obvious, since both cameras now have the same amount of pixels, but the wide-angle camera lacks stabilization and the field of view went from 135 degrees to 125. The rear camera of the LG G5 was regarded many times as possibly the best mobile camera of 2016, but the LG G6 has lost that title to the likes of Samsung Galaxy S8 and then to the new camera king of 2017, the Pixel 2 XL.
On its own, the primary shooter is able to capture really sharp pictures in good light, with a high amount of detail, a very good colour reproduction, the images were vibrant and with a proper exposure. In low light, the primary rear camera handled things really well, but it isn’t perfect, as I noticed a bit of noise reduction and occasional overexposure.
Things get interesting when you switch to the secondary rear camera which has a field of view of 125 degrees (yes, it’s more than the human eye can see), therefore being capable of capturing a lot more scenery than with the primary camera. Of course, the picture quality is more limited, but you’ll find yourself using this feature more often than not.
On the front, there’s an 5-megapixel camera, with an aperture of f/2.2, a 18mm lens and it can film 1080p videos only (at 30fps). The front-facing camera is decent and more than enough for the occasional selfies either during the day or during the night.
Besides improving the design of the smartphone, LG made another well-received choice when it increased the 2800 mAh battery of the G5 to 3300 mAh battery. This way, I was able to get about 8 hours of continuous use and the battery is able to deliver a day and a half before needing recharging. Furthermore, the LG G6 uses Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 (USB type-C), so you can charge the battery from 0 to 60% in half an hour and from 0 to 100% in about an hour.
2. Huawei Honor 8X
The Honor 8X is one of the newest smartphones from Huawei (one of the many that the manufacturer has released in 2018), carrying the name of the fairly successful Honor 8, but while the latter aimed towards the mid-to-higher-end smartphone market (and taking a swing at the more established flagship phones), the Honor 8X seems to be less ambitious and aims only towards the mid-rangers, such as the Motorola Moto G6 Plus.
It’s worth noting that Huawei is not new to the smartphone world, being a well known name in China and that gave it enough confidence to try its luck in the US and the European market – and it seems that it may have struck gold because of the continuously increased popularity with every iteration of released devices, while avoiding (so far) the same fate as the ZTE which got into a political conflict with the US.
Design and Display
Huawei is one of the first manufacturers to push metal and glass to the mid-range class smartphones and the Honor 8X has also adhered to the same approach, so it has a metal and glass case and, while holding the phone in hand, it did give the same high-quality vibe that some more pricier metallic handsets could.
While the front doesn’t differ that much from the high-end handsets (it has a small notch and the screen occupies the whole front side), the glass back panel is quite unique, featuring similar reflective properties to the Honor 8, but instead of a uniform colour, the manufacturer decided to divide the rear surface into two parts: a darker side which would contain the fingerprint sensor and a lighter side for the two cameras, which are positioned vertically, each with its own cut-out. When compared to the Honor 6X, the 8X feels a lot more sturdy and I’m pretty sure it would survive a serious bend test.
From the visual point of view, the phone looks nice, the slightly curved corners do give a higher comfort level when holding the device in hand and there are slightly protruded camera lenses which could reduce the risk of accidentally dropping the phone (although, considering the huge size of the phone, I doubt it would have that much of an impact).
At its 6.31 x 3.02 x 0.31 inches, the phone is large, comfortably entering the phablet realm, so there is no chance you can operate it with only one hand. Furthermore, on the front, there is a 2.5D glass panel (similar to the Honor 8) and there are no capacitive buttons (there are three virtual keys for navigating through the interface – fortunately, Honor decided to get rid of the annoying front logo).
The recessed circular fingerprint scanner from the rear side is surprisingly quick and responsive, but be aware that it scratches and if enough damage has been done, it may stop functioning all together – additionally, Huawei has also added an unlikely feature for the price range of the phone: facial recognition.
The most important aspect of any phone is, of course, the screen and the Honor 8x is equipped with a 6.5 inches LTPS IPS LCD display, with 16 millions colours, a resolution of 1080 x 2340 pixels and a pixel density of 397ppi. Additionally, it seems that Huwaei has decided to follow its competitors and used the Corning Gorilla Glass screen protection, which has proven to be a significant scratch repellent (for additional protection, you should use a screen protector).
Since we are dealing with a 6.5-inch display, I was not really sure that the resolution would suffice, but, while not as sharp as a Quad-HD display or with the deep blacks of an AMOLED panel, it did perform really well when watching videos and images: the text was crisp, the colours were reasonably accurate, although a bit oversaturated, especially when choosing the Vivid mode (you can also adjust between a cooler or warmer colour temperature). The maximum brightness level (470 nits) is more than enough to comfortably view the display under direct sunlight.
Performance and Software
Inside the case, Huawei has equipped the Honor 8X with an octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 710 chipset (a quad-core 2.2GHz Cortex A73 processor and a quad-core 1.7GHz Cortex A53 processor), which is better than the Snapdragon 630 of the Moto G6 Plus; there’s also a Mali-G51 MP4 GPU (the place where Honor cut some corners), 4 or 6GB of RAM and 64 or 128 GB of storage memory. Additionally, the Honor 8X has a dedicated microSD card slot which allows you to add up to 400 GB more storage memory to the handset.
The HiSilicon Kirin 655 is pretty much the equivalent of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 660 chipset, so we can expect the phone to behave as a mid-range device. And this is pretty much the case, because the Honor 6X handles multitasking very well (I haven’t noticed any slow-down or lag), but, resource-heavy 3D games will not be handled properly (the reason is, obviously, the GPU which underperforms), but with the large portion of games and apps, you will have absolutely no issue. The phone will get warm if you play games for an extensive amount of time, but I have not yet experienced any noticeable overheating problems.
Note: One feature which fortunately has been added to the Honor series, is the NFC function.
The Honor 8X runs the Emotion UI 8.2 interface which is built on top of Android v8.1 Oreo OS and it is planned to receive the latest upgrade to Android v9.0 Pie. Similarly to other Chinese manufacturers, Huawei decided to get rid of the app drawer in favour of the more iOS-ish look, where all apps are laid bare on the screen, making the display seem overcrowded. I’m not sure Android users will appreciate this approach, since it’s way far from the stock-looking Android, but to accommodate them, EmUI allows the addition of an app drawer (and there’s also a notch toggle).
Besides the fair amount of bloatware, there are some interesting features worth mentioning, such as pick the phone to automatically answer a call or flip the phone upside-down to mute any incoming calls.
Camera and Battery Life
On the rear side, the Honor 8X sports a dual camera, a main one with a 20-megapixel sensor and secondary one with a 2-megapixel sensor specifically created to provide a better amount of depth (dual-tone LED flash, HDR and f/1.8 aperture). The main camera manages to capture very good photos during the day, with accurate colours and with a decent amount of detail (although it still feels like it’s lacking in this department).
The secondary camera’s purpose is to allow the bokeh effect, where you can either blur the background or the foreground, but, the camera did prove to be hit-and-miss (this type of cameras are a bit more tricky, especially on the low-to-mid-range smartphone market and they don’t always work as intended – even high end smartphones, such as LG G5 learned this the hard way).
Indoors and in low-light, it becomes clear that we are dealing with a mid-range phone because the photos were a lot grainier and there was a larger amount of noise (the OIS is only software-based, so it’s less reliable). On the front, the phone has an 16-megapixel camera which can film 1080p videos (30fps) and it is perfect for selfies and video conferences.
The Honor 8X is also equipped with a non-removable 3750 mAh battery which will get you through a day and half of medium use (especially because of the intelligent power saving technology) and if you’re more of a conservative user, the battery could deliver more than two days. Since it doesn’t have any quick charging features, the Honor 8X will go from 0 to 100% in about 2-2.5 hours.
3. Motorola Moto G7
Over the last couple of years, we saw an increased focus towards the budget-friendly smartphone market and the flagships were and are in big trouble (Samsung has felt it probably the most), especially considering that the 1K price tag was most often unjustified. For a long time, the Motorola name was associated with good quality at a good cost and Lenovo is trying to keep up with the expectation, this year with the new G7 line, which includes the base G7 model, the G7 power (battery-focused), the G7 Play (with a focus on the lower-end segment) and the Motorola Moto G7 Plus (the best equipped variant).
Considering that Huawei’s fate in the US is uncertain (at the time of writing), a lot of people are looking now towards the Motorola and the G7 intends to offer significant improvements over the last gen and to be suitable for 2019’s exigences. The case has been redesigned, adopting the bezel-less approach with the teardrop notch, the aspect ratio has been increased from the 18:9 ratio of the G6 Plus to 19:9, there’s also a significant upgrade over the G6 and G6 Plus in terms of performance, but there’s no change in the battery department and the camera hasn’t been significantly upgraded.
Design and Display
The Motorola Moto G6 Plus happily sported premium materials (glass on the front and rear sides along wit a metal frame), but, while the G7 remains an attractive device, it went with a polycarbonate frame (which does look like metal) and it has kept the front and back Gorilla Glass panels. This makes the phone both elegant and very slippery, so you may want to use a case or even better, a skin.
Furthermore, the corners remain softly curved (which, along with the thin bezels, manage to take away from the rectangular look – even the screen migrated from the sharp corners of its predecessor) and the slightly curved rear panel allows the phone to sit nicely in the palm of your hand – as a bonus, the device is now smaller, but it is heavier (it measures 6.18 x 2.96 x 0.31 inches and weighs 6.07 ounces).
The first thing that you’re going to notice is the teardrop notch which contains the front-facing camera and, this may be a deal-breaker for some, while a mild inconvenience for others (although the extra space can be used for various info icons) and you’ll also notice that the fingerprint sensor on the front is now missing (which was kind of a signature design element for Motorola, but, just like on the Apple iPhones, it was removed for the sake of more screen real estate).
The fingerprint sensor has been moved to the rear panel, below the relatively large circular glass bump which contains the cameras and the flash. This area is fragile, so, if you’re not using a case, it is prone to scratching and breaking (if it falls). From the top, you can access the SIM and the microSD tray, the volume controller and the Power switch can still be found on the right side and on the bottom, there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack (don’t you ever let got of it, Motorola!) along with reversible Type-C port.
Furthermore, the smartphone lacks any IP rating, but the manufacturer claims that the device is water repellent thanks to its P2i nano-coating (it will do fine with some accidental spills of water, but don’t take it with you in the shower).
On front of the Moto G7 rests a 6.2 inches LTPS IPS LCD display, with a resolution of 1080 x 2270 pixels, 16 million colors, a pixel density of 405 ppi (so, it’s an overall upgrade over the G6 Plus – except for the pixel density, but it’s nothing noticeable); the display also has excellent viewing angles and, just like some new mid-to-high end smartphones, it decided to switch to the 19:9 ratio (which is fantastic for both watching movies and playing games). The screen is also protected by Gorilla Glass 3 (even if older, it is still decently reliable).
Sure enough, the display is not as vibrant as the OLED screens from some of the flagship handsets, but it’s still a very good display, featuring decently accurate colors (they are a bit saturated, though), a decent contrast (approx 950:1), it’s also quite crisp and, considering it’s size, it doesn’t suffer from pixelation. The brightness is not extraordinary, but decent, being capable to go up to 480 cd/m2, so the display will be viewable on the beach under direct sunlight.
Performance and Software
The Motorola Moto G7 is equipped with an octa-core Qualcomm SDM632 Snapdragon 632 (quad-core Kryo 250 Gold clocked at 1.8 GHz and quad-core Kryo 250 Silver clocked at 1.8 GHz) which is newer than the Snapdragon 630 of the G6 Plus (and a lot better than the Snapdragon 450 of the Moto G6); the GPU has stayed the same as on the G6 (Adreno 506), so it’s going to remain under the 508 of the G6 Plus – the G7 Plus is also stuck on the Adreno 508. Additionally, the smartphone comes with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of flash memory (you can increase the storage up to 1 TB through the microSD card slot).
The phone does manage to deliver a good day-to-day performance, so, opening multiple apps is handled well and in most cases, it will do just fine running mobile games, but, if you run resource-heavy games or applications, the G7 will sometimes drop frames, but it delivers a smoother experience than last year’s Moto G6. Similarly to other mid-range handsets, the G7 got a bit warm after some longer gaming sessions.
Software-wise, the Motorola Moto G7 features a relatively clean, near stock version of the Android 9.0 Pie (the latest version available at the time of writing) with very few apps from Motorola and it doesn’t suffer from bloatware (if we follow the way Lenovo operates, it’s safe to assume that the smartphone will be upgraded to the Android Q version). Some of the pre-installed Motorola apps include the Moto Voice that works in the same manner as the Google Assistant (which is also available), but it is less responsive and there’s the Moto Display that, if you’re familiar with the Always-On Display, it works in a similar way, allowing you to view and responding to new notifications (and other updates). There’s also the Moto Actions which allows you to associate specific one-handed gestures to some app functions and tools.
Camera and Battery Life
It’s now been two generations since Lenovo decided to follow the new multi-camera trend (the first to be equipped with a dual-camera system was the Moto G5S Plus) and the Motorola Moto G7 also comes with two rear cameras. That being said, on the circular rear panel, there’s a 12-megapixel main camera with an f/1.8 aperture, 1.25µm and dual-LED dual-tone flash, as well as a secondary 5-megapixel camera with an f/2.2 aperture, LED flash and a depth sensor (not much has changed from last year). As expected, the secondary camera has the role to adjust the background blur level, while the 12-megapixel camera is the one that captures the photo.
The image quality is good in ideal conditions, so the photos have a decent exposure and a good amount of detail (although some noise can still be seen) – it’s pretty much identical to what the G6 had to offer, until you use the HDR mode which does significantly improve the quality of the image. But, things get a bit tricky in low light, where the noise level increases and the lack of OIS shows the camera’s weaknesses; at the same time, let’s not forget that we’re dealing with a budget smartphone, so the camera does a great job considering the price point of the device.On the front, the Moto G6 Plus has an 8-megapixel camera with LED flash and an aperture of f/2.2, so it will do a decent job with selfies or conference calls.
The Motorola Moto G6 Plus had a 3000mAh battery and the Moto G7 and the G7 Plus are stuck on the same amount, also sporting a non-removable Li-Ion 3200 mAh battery that can get you through a day if on low to medium use; on medium to extensive use, it managed to score around 9 hours. Additionally, the Moto G7 also comes with the Turbo Power Charging feature, which means that the battery gets from zero to 100 % in about an hour and a half.
4. Huawei Honor 8
The Chinese smartphone manufacturers get more popular everyday in the US and the European marketplace (and it’s no surprise since their phones are usually much cheaper than the competition), which has a deep impact into the how flagship smartphones are perceived and it further thins the already narrow line between them and the mid-range handsets.
That being said, a year ago, Huawei released the Honor 8 as one of its latest attempts to take on “the medium-range flagship smartphones” and since the user reaction was pretty much positive, it has put Honor on the map as a highly desirable smartphone manufacturer (along with OnePlus and ZTE). Since OnePlus 3T and ZTE Axon 7 are out of my reach for now, let’s see how does the Honor 8 perform.
Design and Display
The mid-range smartphone zone is definitely changing and the design of the Honor 8 is proof of that. If one looks at the phone for the first time and moves it from one hand to another, it won’t believe that it is not a premium flagship smartphone. The top and the bottom part of the Honor 8 are completely made of 2.5D glass, with both parts curving towards the edges and being fused to the aluminium band which surrounds the phone. The main attraction of the Honor 8 is the rear glass panel which instead of using the usual six to eight layers, it features 15 layers of glass that use a 3D grating effect, so the light doesn’t simply reflect just like in a mirror, instead it refracts and diffuses in a spectacular and unusual fashion.
The thin bezels and the lack of any bumps all around the case offers a seamless, smooth feeling while holding the phone in hand, but, at the same time, it also feels incredibly slippery (a case is mandatory to ensure the phone’s survival) and bear in mind that the glass is a magnet for fingerprints. On the front of the device, you won’t find any capacitive buttons (the mildly annoying Honor logo sits proudly in their place) and you only get on-screen keys for navigating the interface. On the back, there’s a circular fingerprint sensor which works really fast and, even if it scratches (and it may, because it’s not made of glass or ceramics), it will continue to function correctly.
At the top, Honor has also added an IR blaster (something that seems to becoming extinct from the newer smartphones), which will allow you to control your TV or other compatible devices. Overall, the design of the Honor 8 is second only to the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and that’s saying a lot for such an inexpensive smartphone.
Between the narrow bezels, rests the 5.2-inch LTPS touchscreen display, with 16 million colours, a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels and a pixel density of 423ppi. The display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3, so the coating on the screen is a bit less resistant to scratches than a Gorilla Glass 4.
I think the Full-HD resolution is suitable for a 5.2-inch display and I don’t think a 2K would make a noticeable difference to a smaller than a 5.5-inch screen. Of course, the display doesn’t have the high contrast and the vibrancy of an AMOLED, but the images and the text were sharp enough, the colours were a bit on the cooler side and the maximum screen brightness is 455 nits, which is average, but it will definitely handle a sunny day without problems.
Performance and Software
Under the hood, the Honor 8 sports an octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 950 chipset (a quad-core 2.3GHz Cortex-A72 processor and a quad-core 1.8 GHz Cortex A53 processor), a Mali-T880 MP4 GPU, 4GB of RAM and 32 or 64GB of internal storage. Also, the Honor 8 comes with a microSD card slot, which supports an addition of up to 256 GB.
The HiSilicon Kirin 950 chipset is “home-made” by the Chinese company, but it is surprisingly almost on par with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 performance. This means that I had experience some dropped frames from some resource-heavy mobile games, but overall, it had a stellar performance while playing most modern games, the multitasking was smooth and without any stuttering (I could open a large number of apps and I experienced no problems) and most importantly, the phone did not get hot very easily (something that most flagships are guilty of), but it will overheat after more than a couple of hours of heavy playing, which is normal.
The Honor 8 features the Emotion UI 5.0 which is built on top of the Android Marshmallow v6.0 and it’s upgradable to Android Nougat v7.0 (so far, it is unclear if the Honor 8 will receive the update to Android 8.0). Because it lacks an app drawer, every icon for every app is laid bare on the screen (similarly to the iOS from the iPhones) and people that are not used to this approach may get scared by the overcrowded display (of course, in time, people will get used to it, but I like my phone screen to be as clean as possible).
Furthermore, the UI has some interesting features, such as the Smart Key, which gives a lot of additional functionality to the fingerprint sensor (slide the finger down to bring up the notifications, but you can also add some new functions for one press, a double-press or press and hold) and there’s also the motion control which automatically responds a call if you pick up the phone and mutes the call if you turn the device upside-down.
Camera and Battery Life
On the rear side, Huawei equipped the Honor 8 with a dual 12-megapixel camera setup, an f/2.2 aperture, laser autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash and a 1/2.9″ sensor size. The two rear cameras take composite photos (one captures coloured images, while the other shoots monochrome images, which are later combined to give the final result) and this approach is working fine for Honor 8 because the photos are some of the best I’ve seen taken by a mid-range smartphone.
In good lighting, the shots were very good, the images were rich in details, the colours were crisp and accurate and there’s a good amount of contrast. In low-light, the Honor 8’s camera was surprisingly good (even if it lacks optical image stabilization), the photos were rich in detail and there was an impressive balance between shadows and bright areas (although, it sometimes overexposes some photos). An interesting camera feature is that you can alter the amount of blur that’s applied to the background or the foreground. There’s also an 8-megapixel secondary camera which works very well with selfies or for conference calls.
Inside the case, the Honor 8 is equipped with a non-removable 3000 mAh battery and while looping a video continuously, the battery died after about 6 hours and a half. As expected the FullHD display helps a lot with conserving the battery life and you can easily get a day and a half of medium use (light gaming, watching YouTube, checking FaceBook). Additionally, the phone also comes with the Smart Power 4.0 fast battery charging feature which will charge up to 50% in about 30 minutes.
5. Huawei Honor 7X
The Huawei Honor 7X is the successor of last year’s relatively successful mid-ranger, the 6X, which, along with the Honor 8 challenged the mid-to-high range smartphone market and took everyone by surprise with the implementation of powerful hardware suitable for both heavy multitasking and gaming, as well as above-average cameras, all that covered by an attractive design. But the most attractive aspect of both these devices was, of course, the affordable price.
The Honor 7X continues this legacy and this time, it borrows even more elements from the expensive flagship devices, managing to further negate the need to spend a lot of money for a great smartphone experience. That being said, the Honor 7X has a bigger and better display, more powerful internal hardware and a lot more capable cameras so let’s have a closer look at what can this smartphone deliver.
Design and Display
The design of the Honor 7X does not follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, this time it features a slightly larger case and a bigger display, but it kept the aluminum body, which is now a lot more refined and feels better in hand (the metal unibody curves along the edges to meet the display).
It seems that Honor took notice of the fragile case of the 6X and it’s clear that the 7X is now built in such a way that it will definitely survive a bend test (something that its predecessor could not). Even if it now measures 6.1 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches, the phone is not uncomfortable to hold (it has a very good grip) and considering that it weighs 5.82 oz, it felt very balanced (as expected, you won’t really be able to operate it with only one hand).
On the rear side, you’ll notice that Honor has now positioned the cameras horizontally towards the left side (while before, these were aligned vertically), it has kept the fingerprint sensor in the same position (the sensor still remains one of the fastest I saw on a smartphone – take notes, LG!) and, besides the small logo towards the bottom side and the necessary antenna lines, nothing else really breaks the design continuity. On the left edge, the smartphone features a SIM tray which allows the addition of a microSD card and, on the right edge of the Honor 7X, you can find the volume controller and the power button, while on the bottom side, there’s a 3.5mm headphones socket and a micro-USB (it’s a shame that Honor still hasn’t gone to the new type-C standard).
The main selling point of the Honor 7X is obviously the front side, where you’ll immediately notice the almost bezel-less IPS LCD touchscreen display which got a significant upgrade from the 5.5 inches of the 6X to 5.93 inches (the screen-to-body ratio is now close to 77%), it has gained a bit in terms of resolution because of the larger display (1080 x 2160 pixels), while also upping the aspect ratio from the usual 16:9 to 18:9. This will definitely make the movie watching experience and the mobile gaming a lot more immersive, but it will also allow more information to be displayed on the screen.
It’s a great thing that the manufacturers have managed to increase the screen size, while not making the smartphone bigger than necessary and since this design approach has been ported so fast to the low-to-mid-range smartphones market (the LG G6 and the Galaxy S8 being the first to do it), it becomes clear that the Honor 7X and the LG Q6 (which also has a larger screen and really narrow bezels) are only the first tease of what we can expect in 2018.
That being said, the quality of the display is decent, managing to deliver reasonably vibrant colours (the black levels are good, although not on par with an AMOLED), good viewing angles and the 450-nit brightness should be more than enough for outdoor visibility (also, the 1080p display is still fine for this size and has a less heavier impact on the battery life, a lot less than a 1440p display would).
Note: Underneath the display there are no capacitive buttons, there’s only the Honor logo occupying the place (it’s less intrusive than on the Honor 6X, but still annoying).
Performance and Software
Inside the case, the manufacturer has equipped the Honor 7X with the proprietary octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 659 chipset (uses a quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU clocked at 2.36 GHz, as well as a quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU clocked at 1.7 GHz) which can be considered slightly better than the Snapdragon 625. It also is equipped with a Mali-T830 MP2 GPU, 3 GB or 4 GB of RAM (the US version seems to be limited to the 3 GB RAM) and 32 or 64 GB of storage memory, which can be enhanced by up to 256 GB using an additional microSD card.
The overall performance of the Honor 7X is a bit better than last year (with the 6X), the multitasking being even smoother (the RAM helps a lot) and it was able to run most of the newer games, 2D, as well as 3D titles, without problems (although if lots of apps are opened in the background, you’ll experience occasional freezes). One thing that I have noticed, though, is that the phone tends to run a bit hot after a while when playing resource-heavy games, something that will have an impact on the battery life.
Note: Similarly to the Honor 6X, the 7X still doesn’t have NFC implemented.
The Honor 7X features the Emotion UI (EMUI) 5.1 which is built on top of Android 7.0 Nougat OS and this is a bit disappointing, since the Android Oreo 8.0 is out for about four months now (we may see an update soon?). Anyway, the interface is quite similar to the 6X UI, having that Android and iOS mashup feeling, so the app drawer is still gone (can be added back through the settings) and there are different layouts to choose from (there’s also a one-hand mode for people that want to operate the phone while having one hand occupied).
Overall, there isn’t that much bloatware, but it can’t really be considered stock by any means, as there are some apps pre-installed, such as the HiCare, HiGame, Mirror, Backup, Weather, Themes and more (and there’s also the expected Google Assistant).
Camera and Battery Life
On the rear side, the Honor 7X has kept the dual-camera setup, this time featuring a 16-megapixel main shooter (1.25 µm pixel size, 1/2.9″ image sensor, can film 1080p videos at 30fps) and a secondary 2-megapixel camera which helps the main one to gain more depth data (it is not monochrome). By default, the camera won’t really be that impressive, but, by adjusting some settings (such as turning on the HDR or modifying the resolution), you’ll be able to get some surprisingly good shots in good light (there’s still some post-processing done to achieve the bokeh effect).
Indoors and in dimly lit scenes, the lack of OIS will have a heavier impact, as you’ll need a steady hand to capture some decent pictures (overall, the shots will be grainier and with a noticeable amount of noise). The front 8-megapixel camera can also capture 1080p videos and the shots are decent, with low noise levels, so it’s more than capable for selfies.
The Honor 7X also comes with a non-removable Li-Ion 3340 mAh battery which should be able to deliver a full day of light to moderate use and, if you want to watch some movies (while on a plane trip), you’ll be able to do so for about 6 hours, while keeping the brightness to about 70 %. The phone does not come with any Quick Charging features, but the provided charger can refill the battery from 0 to 100% in about two and a half hours.
6. Sony Xperia XA2
The appearance of the Pocophone and overall, the impact that the likes of the OnePlus and now, Huawei is making on the global smartphone market is huge because people can get an equivalent performance to the high-end smartphones at a significantly lower price. So, while Samsung, Apple, LG or other similar manufacturer may have to rethink things, Sony is in serious trouble because it always had problems coming with a competitive price tag and a harder time competing in the low to medium range market. Sure, the reason is a combination between a higher quality build, significant camera technology improvements and brand name, but, as expected, a lower priced phone with a higher performance is always the winning combo, even if it comes with some shortcomings (such as less frequent software updates and a less solid build quality).
This meant that Sony had to also cater to a broader audience which expects inexpensive handsets with as many high-end features as possible and that brings us to the Sony Xperia XA2, a successor to last year’s XA1, sharing the same signature design (still unique when compared to the mountain of similar looking smartphones that have been released the last couple of years), but coming as an overall improvement in almost every aspect, including the display, the internal hardware and camera performance. That being said, let’s see if this smartphone is a relevant choice today and if it can dethrone our number one pick for best camera on a mid-range smartphone which, at the moment, is still held by the older LG G5.
Design and Display
While the premium Xperia phones feature a glass and metal chassis, in order to keep the cost a bit lower, the Sony Xperia XA2 went with a plastic rear side, but it has kept aluminum for its rounded sides, where the user grips the phone, so it does have a premium feel and it sits comfortable in the hand despite the rectangular shape (not much has changed on this chapter from the XA1). Even so, the rear panel doesn’t feel like plastic and it can easily be mistaken for metal (the phone feels surprisingly sturdy).
It’s interesting to see that Sony continues to stubbornly keep the same design formula with minor adjustments for every new Xperia iteration and surely, this can be seen as an advantage for its brand identity (and it’s true that the XA2 does feel more elegant than its competitors), but it can also be perceived as a lack of design innovation for long-time users that may crave for something different while looking for their next Xperia phone.
Just like its predecessors, the XA2 has the circular metallic power button positioned on the right edge along with the volume controller and the camera key (yes, there’s a dedicated camera button for a quicker way to capture photos) and also, the microUSB port is now exposed (while on some earlier Xperia models, it was covered by a protective flap). One element that I did not expect to be missing from the previous Xperia XA1 was the fingerprint sensor, especially since this feature is now becoming more popular among the cheapest handsets available on the market, but thankfully, Sony came to its senses and it has added a rear-positioned circular fingerprint sensor which has proven to be very fast and accurate (once again, take note, LG). You may have seen that the LG Q6 has implemented the new facial recognition system (that the flagships from Samsung and Apple are priding themselves with), but I’m not entirely sure if people may prefer it over the efficiency of the fingerprint sensor (I surely don’t).
The more expensive Xperia models come with an IP rating, so they were usually water and dust resistant, but the XA series lacks any of these two capabilities and it’s a shame since Sony smartphones were among the first to adopt the water-resistant feature (which is now pretty common) and it can be considered one of the signature elements of the Xperia line. Overall, the design of the Xperia XA2 still remains quite unique in the smartphone world (where everybody copies everyone), but, since it has a more rectangular shape, it may not be on everyone’s taste and may still not feel as comfortable in hand as the other, more rounded phones.
The front side is mostly occupied by the 5.2-inch IPS LCD display, which has 16 million colours, a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels and a pixel density of 424ppi. This is a huge increase over the XA1 which was still stuck on a 720p panel with 294 ppi – sure, other manufacturers were more daring and also went for a wider 18:9 aspect ratio, but even if it’s stuck to the 16:9, I think it’s still a significant step forward for Sony. Furthermore, from the info I could gather, the screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 4, so it has a very good protection against scratches, but nothing more.
The XA2’s display is really good and if you’re using the Vivid mode, then it is well above average, easily competing with some AMOLED display, having a good colour reproduction, solid contrast levels (approx 1300:1), a good amount of details, as well as clear and crisp text thanks to the increased ppi and, outside, in case of bright sunny days, it won’t be very difficult to watch the screen’s content since it features a peak brightness of 507 cd/m2, which is more than enough. I know that Sony fancies the idea of going past the 1440p resolution on a small screen, but, I genuinely don’t think people would appreciate the effort and would definitely not like a higher price tag for this sole reason.
Performance and Software
Inside the case, the Sony decided to leave behind the Mediatek Helium chip and, instead equipped the Xperia XA2 with an octa-core Qualcomm SDM630 Snapdragon 630 SoC (2.2 GHz Cortex-A53), an Adreno 508 GPU (a step up from the Mali-T880MP2 of the XA1), 3GB of RAM and 32GB of flash storage memory. The XA2 also comes with a microSD card slot (the second SIM slot), so you can add up to 256GB of additional storage.
The Snapdragon 630 paired with the 3 GB of RAM should be able to handle multitasking with ease (and it does, apps load fast and the interface feels responsive), while the Adreno 508 GPU definitely helps a lot with some modern games that require some more resources for a smooth performance.
I did notice some occasional lags and stutters which I’m willing to bet come from a poor software optimization than the internal hardware, but overall, I am quite pleased by the performance improvements made by Sony.
In terms of software, the Sony Xperia XA2 comes with the Android 8.0 (Oreo) and it is worth mentioning that the previous generation, the XA1 is upgradeable to the v8.0 Oreo straight away (this is one of the advantages of the Xperia series). Of course, you won’t get a pure Android experience with either versions since Sony still keeps its custom interface and, while it comes with some preinstalled apps (bloatware), most can be uninstalled or disabled.
Camera and Battery Life
Similarly to the XA1, the Sony Xperia XA2 sports a 23-megapixel rear camera with an aperture of f/2.0, LED flash, autofocus, 1.12 µm pixel size and 1/2.3″ sensor size. The 23-megapixel sensor is definitely one of the most attractive features of this phone which helps a lot with the amount of detail that it can capture and this is shown into the quality of photos.
Outdoors, in good lighting, the camera can capture sharp, detailed photos and with a good colour balance.
It can actually be considered one of the best camera in this price point and it could compete with what the flagships smartphones of last year could offer, well, minus the Pixel 2 XL. Furthermore, the time waiting between shots has been significantly reduced, but the app needs some time until it allows you to press the capture button. That being said, indoors, the shots were also surprisingly decent and clear, with a very good amount of detail. There is a reasonable balance between shadows and light sources (although the camera did sometimes overexpose some brighter white zones), the LED flash does a good job in total darkness, but Sony did not add the much needed optical image stabilization feature which would substantially reduce the amount of noise (it is available on the Ultra model).
On the front, there’s an 8-megapixel camera, with an aperture of f/2.4, which allows you to capture some good selfies and it’s reliable for video calls.
Inside the case, the Sony Xperia XA1 is equipped with a non-removable 3300mAh battery, which is a huge improvement over the last gen’s 2300mAh battery, so it will be able to deliver a solid performance. This way, you can get a full day of moderate use, but, if you want to play a game or watch some YouTube videos, you will end up searching for your charger before bedtime. Thankfully, this time Sony decided to add the Quick Charge 3.0 technology (it’s worth mentioning that the phone comes with a type-C port), but the charger is not included into the package.
7. Asus Zenfone 5Q
The Asus Zenfone 5Q is the newest member of the Zenfone family and it seems that this year, Asus wanted to dominate the mid-range smartphone market in multiple ways: focusing on delivering the best performance using the 5Z, focusing on allowing its users to take great photos with the 5Q and somewhere in the middle, there’s the ZenFone 5.
It’s clear that every year, the manufacturers have a harder time gathering the user’s attention since both the flagships and the mid-range smartphones are powerful enough for most people and perhaps the last differentiating factor is the camera quality.
Dual rear cameras are now a common thing, but Asus went to a different level and equipped the Zenfone 5Q with a quad-camera setup, so both the rear and the front side now feature both a normal and a wide-angle camera.
OK, the cameras are an interesting addition, but did Asus skimp on everything else? It doesn’t seem like it did since the Zenfone 5Q also comes with 18:9 display, a Snapdragon 630 SoC, a 3300 mAh battery and a very attractive price tag, so let’s have a closer look at this device and see how does it stand in the oversaturated smartphone market.
Design and Display
The Asus Zenfone 5Q (also known as the Zenfone 5 Lite) has adopted a slightly different look than its more powerful siblings, sporting a larger case (it measures 6.3 x 3.0 x 0.3 inches as opposed to the 6.0 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches of the Zenfone 5 and 5Z) and, while the the 5Q has a larger top and bottom bezel, it has kept the same look, featuring soft curved edges that make the phone comfortable to hold and it has opted for 2.5D glass on both front and rear side (with an aluminium frame).
The back panel looks really nice, but it is a fingerprint magnet and, since it is very clear, you can use it as a mirror. Furthermore, similarly to its predecessors, the smartphone remains very slippery, so if you don’t want your phone to have a very short life, I suggest to get a protective case from the beginning.
There are further differences between the 5Q and the Zenfone 5 and 5Z: all three devices have the Volume and the Power keys on the right side, while the 5Q added the 3.5mm headphones jack on the top (the 5 and 5Z have it on the bottom) and the rear camera is positioned on the top-middle part on the 5Q, while the dual rear camera on both the 5 and 5Z are positioned vertically on the left side in a very similar manner to the iPhone X. The similarities with Apple’s device don’t end here because on the front, the Zenfone 5 and 5Z feature an almost identical notch on the top front side.
The Asus Zenfone 5Q lacks the display notch, so it does look better in this regard. What’s interesting is that despite its larger size, the screen-to-body ratio is slightly smaller, so we’re getting a 6-inch IPS LCD display (instead of the 6.2 inches of the 5 and 5Z), with 16 million colours, a resolution of 1080 x 2160 pixels, 402 ppi pixel density and 18:9 ratio (so far, I was unable to find out if Asus uses Gorilla Glass for protection against scratches).
Overall, the display is reasonably clear and with a decent colour representation and will be enough for the large majority of people (as expected the colours don’t really pop-out as on AMOLEDs – they’re a bit on the cooler side). Furthermore, the display can go up to approx 480 nits, so it isn’t as bright as its competitors (who can go to as high as 600 nits), so if you want to use it on the beach during the summer, you may have a harder time seeing the displayed content if the sunlight shines directly on the screen.
Performance and Software
The Asus Zenfone 3 features a Qualcomm SDM630 Snapdragon 630 (octa-core 2.2GHz Cortex-A53), backed by an Adreno 508 GPU, 4GB of RAM (there are variants that have 3GB of RAM), 64 GB of internal storage (there are also 32GB variants available) and you can add up to 512GB via microSD.
In terms of performance, the Zenfone 5Q can easily handle most applications and games: it can run some heavier games, it delivers a smooth Internet surfing experience and it can open multiple apps without breaking a sweat. Obviously, the Zenfone 5 and 5Z will handle things a lot better, but, regardless, the ZC600KL remains a capable smartphone that will satisfy even the more demanding users.
Software-wise, the Zenfone 3 comes with the Asus ZenUI 5.0, which is built on the Android 7.1 Nougat platform (it is a bit strange that Asus did not go directly to Oreo considering that the smartphone was released in 2018 – but it does seem to have the upgrade to Android 8.0 Oreo planned for release in the near future).
The UI looks better with each iteration and it definitely feels cleaner, but it still has some amount of bloatware. It seems that Asus just doesn’t want to understand that users despise pre-installed apps and that a cleaner, stock-like software is the preferred option (Samsung learned this lesson eventually).
Camera and Battery Life
The Asus Zenfone 5Q is a rather unique device as it sports a dual-camera setup on the rear side and a dual-camera setup on the front. The 16-megapixel (f/2.2 aperture and the PDAF technology) primary + the 8-megapixel wide-angle (120-degree) secondary rear cameras (which work independently) will allow you to capture some great photos with a lot of detail and with decently accurate colours (although I have noticed a bit of oversaturation) when shooting during daylight or in bright environments.
Indoors and in low-light, the camera remained more than decent and, while I have noticed a bit of noise, it still preformed way above its competitors from the same price range.
On the front, there’s the 20-megapixel primary camera (f/2.0 aperture, 1/2.8″) and the same 8-megapixel wide-angle secondary camera as on the rear side (covers 120 degrees) which don’t differ that much from the rear cameras, so they’re pretty great for taking selfies (and the wide-angle camera allows you to fit more people in the shot).
Asus Zenfone 3 is equipped with a 3300 mAh non-removable Li-Ion battery which seems to be the best fit considering the size of the display. That being said, you can get a full day under normal to heavy use and can handle up to 10 hours of video playback (70% screen brightness).
Unfortunately, the smartphone does not come with a USB-C port, instead it decided to keep the older standard, the micro-USB port and, considering the fact that it lacks support for fast charging, the battery will take up to two hours to go from zero to 100 percent.
8. LG Q6
LG has had a couple of rough years, first because the modular experiment LG G5 was not welcomed by the audience, even if it had flagship-level specs and secondly, because the G6, while it was and still is a great smartphone, it came at the wrong moment and was overshadowed by Samsung’s Galaxy S8, which had the advantage of exclusivity for the better Snapdragon 835 chipset.
Even so, compared to the G5, the LG G6 was such as fundamentally different device (a more refined exterior, a lot more screen estate, better battery life, while pretty much keeping the same camera as last year’s flagship and most, important, no more modularity) that it managed to once again change the people’s perception towards the Korean manufacturer, which gave it more confidence into releasing a mid-range variant of the flagship smartphone called LG Q6.
Design and Display
While a bit smaller, the Q6 keeps the same design and look as the G6, featuring an almost bezel-less case, with soft rounded corners, which makes it very comfortable to hold and a glass front with a plastic rear side kept together by an aluminium frame (7000 series). Unfortunately, LG had to cut from the premium materials to keep the cost as low as possible and went for a plastic back panel which is covered by a glossy finish (so it does try to mimic glass) and, as expected it will retain fingerprints or smudges and it will scratch easily, but, if you drop the phone, it will offer a better overall shock protection.
The Honor 8 has kept a high place as one of the most elegant mid-range smartphones on the market, but since the LG Q6 has adhered to the new small-to-no bezels fashion, it does manage to raise the bar for all affordable smartphones on the market from the design point of view.
On the left of the device, you can find the volume controller and the nano-SIM & microSD card slot, while on the right, there’s the Power/Lock key. On the bottom of the smartphone, you can find the 3.5mm headset jack and the USB charging port (LG decided to steer clear of the USB type-C), while on the rear side, there’s a single mono speaker. You may have noticed that LG ‘forgot’ to add a fingerprint sensor, something which even some smartphones at a lower price point have implemented and the reason for that (except the financial one, as I suspect) is that it decided to simply go with the new facial recognition system.
The phone manages to recognize a face really fast and immediately unlocks the phone (the whole process is almost as fast as the fingerprint sensor) and you can add more than one person to be able to unlock your device, but, by default, you can use a photo of yourself to bypass the security system.
To fix this, you can use the advanced face recognition feature which will make the process a lot slower and it will not work too well in low light (call me old fashioned, but I do prefer the reliability of a fingerprint sensor any day). Similarly to the G6, the Q6 does not feature an IR blaster, but it does come equipped with NFC.
In between the slim bezels, there’s a 5.5-inch IPS LCD touchscreen display, with 16 million colours, 18:9 aspect ratio (an increase from the common 16:9), a resolution of 1080 x 2160 pixels and a pixel density of 442ppi (the screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3).
While it definitely looks impressive, the display is another element that had to undergo some downgrades and while it won’t be as sharp as the 1440p display of the G6 (which has a 564 ppi pixel density), the resolution is definitely enough for the smaller 5.5-inch display (cut back from the 5.7 inches of the G6). Besides the fact that the display is very vibrant and crisp, with a decent colour reproduction, the aspect ratio is one of the most interesting parts of the smartphones, since it will make gaming and watching movies a more immersive experience.
Performance and Software
Inside the case, LG has equipped the Q6 with a 64-bit Qualcomm MSM8940 Snapdragon 435 chipset (octa-core Cortex-A53 clocked at 1.4GHz), an Adreno 505 GPU, 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage memory (on top of that, you can add up to 256 GB using a microSD card). As you would expect, the Snapdragon 435 is not a powerful chip (it’s actually quite modest even for a mid-ranger), but it will do a decent job with most apps, especially because of those 3GB of RAM which will handle multitasking with ease and in everyday use you won’t notice any slow-downs or lag (that is, until you put it next to a flagship smartphone).
Furthermore, if you like to play resource-heavy games, then this phone may not be the best fit, but with most other games, it will deliver a decent performance.
At first glance, the design and overall look of the Q6 is definitely better than the G5, but, since the Q6 is a bit underwhelming (more than a bit actually), if you can ignore the problematic quirks of the G5, you would get a far better performance with the latter (the LG G5 handles everything you throw at it without breaking a sweat and, at this moment, it’s very similarly priced to the Q6).
The Q6 uses the v7.1.1 Nougat of Android (which includes pretty much all the fixes and patches released by Android so far for this version), but it will be updated to the latest Android 8.0 Oreo as soon as LG finishes creating its own variant of the OS. To be honest LG hasn’t really made that many changes to the stock version of Android during the years and I expect that the v8.0 to also have some minor design tweaks and nothing more (no bloatware from LG). The only weird thing that I noticed on the LG’s UI based Nougat version is that it lacks an app drawer by default (although, you can enable it afterwards).
Camera and Battery Life
The camera has been one of the best things about the last two generations of LG flagships and it seems that the manufacturer wanted to keep this advantage over its competitors even in the case of the mid-ranger LG Q6. So, the smartphone comes equipped with a 13-megapixel rear camera, with an f/2.2 aperture, LED flash and autofocus, but there is no OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) and this will have an impact on how the camera will behave.
In good light, the Q6 manages to capture very good photos, with a decent level of details and an accurate colour reproduction (the contrast is also quite decent). Indoors and in low light, the LG Q6 also does a good job, having a low level of noise and blur, but, since it lacks OIS, you need a steady hand especially in dimmer environments. On the front, the smartphone features a 5-megapixel wide-angle camera (100 degree), with an f/2.2 aperture and a 1.12 µm pixel size. The front camera is not really fantastic, although it is fairly decent with capturing selfies and the wide-angle will allow more people into the shot.
LG has decided to implement a non-removable Li-Po 3000 mAh battery inside the Q6, which is down from the 3300 of the G6, but higher than the 2800 of the LG G5. The battery will deliver up to 10 hours of continuous video playback and it will easily last for a full day until it will need recharging (it does not feature any fast charging technology, but it will take under two hours to fully charge the battery).