GSMArena smartphone buyer's guide: 2017 July edition

2017 July edition

GSMArena Team, 28 July 2017.

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 beautiful, 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 with great contrast and sunlight legibility. The efficient Exynos 7870 chip adds up to a very impressive 93 hour endurance rating despite the tiny 2,350 mAh battery. 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 would 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 alternatives 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 and Android 7.1.1 Nougat ROM. It's technically a part of a flagship line, so it has a decent chance to get future updates.

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 to join in on 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. A few corners have been cut in the camera department, but for many that won't matter when they see 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.

Reader comments

  • AnonD-416241

A tablet buyer's guide would be very helpful for us...

  • AnonD-692663

The problem with the v20 (and V10) is, that there screens has a standard error...and the worst is, that LG knows that, but they are doing nothing against it...

  • AnonD-692663

I just missed the ZUK Edge / Z2 Pro from the list at the 200-300$ groop. If the axon makes itt,this two should too ;)