GSMArena smartphone shopping guide: November 2013

GSMArena team, 4 November 2013.


This is a relatively narrow segment with some premium devices that aren't quite flagship material. These devices are for people looking for something missing from the 200-300 offerings without going overboard with the spending.

The LG Optimus G is the former LG flagship and the basis for the Nexus 4. It's a little pricier, but it resolves two of the more common complaints people had with the Nexus 4 by adding 32GB of built-in storage and LTE connectivity. You also get a better 13MP / 1080p camera.

You do, however, lose the pure Android version with timely updates. The Optimus G did recently get a 4.2 update, but don't hold out much hope for an official 4.4 build, as even 4.3 might take a long while (if it is available at all). Still, if you like the Nexus 4 package but not the storage or lack of LTE, this is one way to go. Even the battery life is better.

LG Optimus G
Pros Cons
  • 4.7" WXGA screen, 318ppi
  • Quad-core Krait
  • 13MP camera with 1080p video capture
  • Free Office Suite
  • Poor screen visibility in direct sunlight
  • Non-expandable storage

The HTC One mini is the second mini we're recommending, but it's noticeably pricier than the first one. Still, it has the same lauded aluminum unibody design as the HTC One, which might appeal to those of you who hate large, plastic-y Android phones.

The 4.3" screen has 720p resolution - none of that qHD nonsense we had with the Galaxy S4 mini - plus the front-facing stereo speakers are cool and there's LTE on all models. The non-expandable 16GB storage and 4MP camera without OIS might be deal-breakers, though.

HTC One Mini
Pros Cons
  • Beautiful aluminum unibody
  • 4.3" 720p screen, 342ppi
  • Dual-core Krait 200
  • 4MP camera with 1080p video capture
  • LTE
  • Stereo speakers on front
  • Free Office Suite
  • Non-expandable storage
  • Slower chipset than S4 mini
  • Poor camera

This price segment also yields a device on the opposite end of the size spectrum. The Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3, as the name suggests, is a phablet with a 6.3" screen. It is in essence an upscaled Galaxy S4 mini. The screen does have 720p resolution, which keeps the pixel density at a decent 233ppi.

There's also the relatively speedy Snapdragon 400 chipset (dual-core Krait 300 @ 1.7GHz, 1.5GB RAM, Adreno 305) and LTE. The 8MP camera shoots 1080p video, there's 8GB of expandable storage and a good 3,200mAh battery.

Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
Pros Cons
  • 6.3" 720p screen, 233ppi
  • Dual-core Krait
  • Android 4.2
  • 8MP camera with 1080p video capture
  • LTE
  • IR blaster
  • It's large, even by phablet standards
  • Screen pixel density is a bit low

The Sony Xperia ZR is a more compact version of the Xperia Z it has a 4.55" 720p screen but keeps the highlights of the Z. It has an attractive design, Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset, 13MP camera and, of course, water-resistant body.

Compact, powerful phones are rare even at this price range, but the water-resistant design of the Sony Xperia ZR opens up possibilities for summer fun that are out of reach for most other phones.

Sony Xperia ZR
Pros Cons
  • Beautiful design
  • Water-resistant
  • Quad-core Krait
  • Android 4.1, upgradable to 4.2
  • Screen has poor viewing angles
  • Camera not great
  • Chipset is getting old

The Nexus 5 is official after tons of leaks and is a real beast in its price range. It has a 5" 1080p screen and is powered by a Snapdragon 800 chipset (the most affordable phone that offers that combo). There's also the 8MP camera with optical image stabilization.

The Nexus 5 also adds LTE, which is missing from the Nexus 4, an important feature for countries that are having LTE networks rolled out. It's an excellent device for pure Android fans, with flagship specs at far sub-flagship price. The 2,300mAh battery may not last long (we're guessing here), but the added wireless charging sounds nice.

The Nexus 5, of course, runs the latest Android version (4.4 KitKat) and will get quick updates as new OS versions become available, at least for a year and a half (the 2-year old Galaxy Nexus was cut off, which might have been due its TI chipset and the chip designer's exit from the phone market).

Note that we're looking at the 32GB model, the 16GB one is 50 cheaper, but we don't think it's worth it.

Nexus 5 (32GB)
Pros Cons
  • Pure Android, timely updates
  • 4.95" 1080p screen, 445ppi
  • Quad-core Krait 400
  • 8MP camera with OIS and 1080p video capture
  • Non-expandable storage

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