Earlier, high-end smartphones were priced at more than Rs. 50,000. However, the trend that Xiaomi and OnePlus started has come a long way. Now, many smartphone manufacturers are providing high-end smartphones from as low as Rs. 30,000. High-end smartphones sit a level below the flagship smartphones. Unlike the flagship smartphones, that pack cutting-edge technologies, wow-factors, and sometimes unnecessary features, high-end smartphones just focus on the actual performance and usability. So let us have a more detailed look at the qualities a high-end smartphone should have before looking at the best high-end smartphones of 2017 and picking the best of them.
Qualities that a high-end smartphone should have
- Most powerful processor or flagship chipset
- High amount of RAM and storage
- Latest operating system
- Smooth performance
- Top-notch camera performance
- Excellent, if not the best display
- Adequate battery backup with fast charging technology
- Up to date connectivity features
- Excellent build quality
- A few additional features, like stereo speakers, or waterproofing
Not all the high-end smartphones have all the above-listed qualities and features, but yes, all the high-end smartphones have most of those features and qualities.
Trends in the high-end smartphones this year
- Bezel-less displays
A bezel-less display is basically a display that has very thin or non-existent borders. Due to thin bezels, the manufacturers can either cramp a larger display in the same footprint or make the device more compact. The trend of bezel-less display was first started by Sharp, and then it was followed by other manufacturers like Xiaomi and Samsung. Currently, smartphones priced from as low as Rs. 20,000 come equipped with a bezel-less display. However, not having a bezel-less display is not a bad thing.
- Snapdragon 835 & Snapdragon 821 processors
Currently, Qualcomm, Samsung, Huawei, and MediaTek are the top smartphone chipset manufactures in the market. Almost all the smartphones that are on sale in India use the processors from the manufacturers mentioned above. Now, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 is the most powerful chipset you can have in a smartphone. Almost all the high-end smartphones are equipped with Snapdragon 835 processor.
- 64GB and 128GB storage
Since high-end handsets usually support 4K videos and get high-resolution imaging capabilities, it is imperative that they get a decent amount of storage space. Most high-end smartphones, therefore, ship with at least 64GB of storage. Handsets with 128GB of storage aren’t uncommon either. Having a 64GB or higher memory storage eliminates the need of using a microSD card.
- 4GB, 6GB, and 8GB of RAM capacities
Until last year, most high-end smartphones shipped with 4GB of RAM. OnePlus changed that trend by shipping its OnePlus 3 with a staggering 6GB of RAM. In 2017, the company upped the ante and came up with the OnePlus 5/5T with 8GB of RAM. While it is great to have dollops of RAM at your disposal, there is a general consensus over the fact that anything more than 6GB of RAM in a smartphone is an overkill. Currently, all the high-end devices are being equipped with 4GB of RAM or higher.
- Dual-camera setup
As the name suggests, the dual-camera setup has two cameras. Every manufacturer is using the dual-camera setup for different purposes. For example, Apple and Samsung are using the dual-camera setup to provide the user with normal FoV and zoomed FoV; this setup allows the user to capture images with background blur. On the other hand, LG is using the dual-camera setup to provide the user with the capability to capture wide-angle images. Manufacturers like Nokia and Huawei are using one colour sensor and one monochrome sensor, which according to them, results in a more detailed image. Anyway, the dual-camera setup increases the camera performance in some or the other way.
- Phase-detection and OIS-equipped primary cameras
There are many autofocusing technologies in the camera sensors. However, the two most widely used autofocusing technologies are contrast-detection autofocus and phase-detection autofocus. The phase-detection autofocus focuses much faster than the contrast-detection autofocus. Hence, with the phase-detection autofocus, a user can capture the image quickly and with accurate focus.
The OIS is another hardware-based feature that enhances the image quality. The OIS (optical image stabilisation) stabilises the camera sensor during any movement and therefore reduces the blur caused by shake. As the OIS keeps the camera sensor stabilised, the camera sensor can keep the shutter open for long, due to which, the sensor captures more light, which results in brighter and more detailed images. This way OIS helps in blur-reduction, as well as, in low-light photography.
- High-resolution front-facing cameras
Currently, the image capturing from the front-facing camera is trending. Therefore, the demand for a better front-facing camera has increased. To improve the front-facing camera performance, manufacturers are upgrading the resolution of the camera sensor, and some are even equipping it with autofocus technology.
- Quick Charge 3.0 technology
Quick Charge 3.0 technology is basically a fast battery charging technology. The Quick Charge 3.0 uses 18W of power to charge the battery, compared to the traditional 10W power usage. Smartphones like LG G6, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2, and Nokia 8 come equipped with Quick Charge 3.0 technology. Apart from the QC3.0, manufacturers like OnePlus and Oppo are using their own fast battery technology, such as Dash Charge and VOOV fast charge. So, if you are a person who is always in a hurry, then you should definitely get a smartphone with fast battery charging technology.
- USB Type-C port, Bluetooth v5.0, and aptX HD connectivity
The usage of traditional microUSB ports in the smartphones is being replaced with USB Type-C port, as the USB Type-C has a faster data transfer speed and a reversible design. Similarly, wireless data transmission technology has also seen a change in 2017, the smartphones are now using Bluetooth v5.0 instead of Bluetooth v4.2, as it has faster data transmission speed and lower power consumption.
As the technology is advancing, a few smartphones are now featuring water-resistance build. As you might have guessed, waterproofing allows the user to use the smartphone in wet conditions, thereby, reducing the risk of liquid damage.
- Stereo speakers
Stereo speakers are basically two speakers, where one speaker puts out the left channel audio, and the other puts out right channel audio. The stereo speaker setup enhances the audio listening experience by a huge margin. Currently, flagship smartphones from HTC and Apple are equipped with stereo speakers.
Contenders for best high-end smartphones award
The OnePlus 5T is the successor to the OnePlus 5. The biggest change OnePlus 5T brings over its predecessor is the currently trending bezel-less display. The bezel-less display has not only given the OnePlus 5T a futuristic look and a larger screen size, but it has also made the device much more comfortable to use. Also, the OnePlus 5T is the only device among our top contenders to feature an AMOLED display. We have to say, the combination of bezel-less display and AMOLED technology has given it an edge over the other contenders.
Moving on to the camera performance, the smartphone has a dual-camera setup on the back, consisting of one 16MP sensor and one 20MP sensor. First, we were sceptical about the camera performance of the device as it does not feature an optical image stabilisation. However, in our tests, the device performed excellently; it has a superb daylight and low-light image quality performance. The OnePlus 5T performed better than the rest of the four smartphones. We also loved the portrait mode of the OnePlus 5T, as it captures in normal FoV, unlike the zoomed FoV portrait mode of Apple iPhone 8 Plus/X, or the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.
As for the performance, the OnePlus 5T comes with Snapdragon 835 processor, 6GB/8GB of RAM, and Android 7.1.1 Nougat. The combination of powerful processor, bloatware-free and optimised software has given the OnePlus 5T the smoothest performance of the lot; it even beats some of the costlier devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note8 and HTC U11.
The OnePlus 5T also comes with the very popular and much loved Dash Charge technology, which charges the smartphone at blazing fast speed. The device packs a 3300mAh battery, and it provides with 30 – 36 hours of battery backup.
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 is the most expensive smartphone that the company sells. The USP of the device is its bezel-less display. The smartphone looks truly futuristic with the bezel-less display. Sadly, it comes with an LCD display. An AMOLED display would have made justice to the bezel-less design of the device. Nonetheless, it is among the best performing LCD displays on the market.
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 disappointed us in the low-light camera performance with high amount of noise, and low details in the images; we were expecting good image quality in low-light as the device features OIS. The front-facing camera performance was disappointing too. Not only the front-facing camera has a relatively lower resolution, but it is placed below the display, which makes it hard to operate. Also, there is no display flash for the front-facing camera, which is a downer for a smartphone of this price tag. On the positive side of things, the daylight image quality from the primary camera was excellent; on par with the devices in the similar price category.
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 comes with the Snapdragon 835 processor, 6GB RAM, and 128GB of storage. Xiaomi has updated the device with the MIUI 9, which provides a fast and fluid performance. We just wish that the UI was a bit futuristic looking, which would have suited the device’s physical design.
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 packs a 3400mAh battery along with Quick Charge 3.0 and it provides with a day and a half worth of juice on a single charge. Read our full review of Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 here.
Nokia has returned to the smartphone market with the Android smartphones, and the Nokia 8 is their latest and greatest innovation so far. The device comes with an old-fashioned display surrounded by bezelsl; it has 5.3-inch screen size and QHD resolution. In real-world usage, the display has an abundant amount of brightness, and the colours are on the cooler side. Surprisingly, the Nokia 8’s display, in spite of being an LCD, comes with an Always-On feature.
The Nokia 8 has a dual-camera setup on the back (13MP colour + 13MP monochrome); the primary camera also features phase-detection autofocus and OIS. With these specifications, one might expect excellent image quality. Unfortunately, the Nokia 8’s image quality is not so good in the real world as it is on paper when compared to the image quality from the OnePlus 5T and the LG G6. The images captured from primary camera have great amount of lens flair. However, the device has an excellent front-facing camera performance, thanks to the 13-megapixel snapper with phase-detection autofocus. We were very pleased with the images obtained from the front-facing camera; the images were properly in focus, and they had lots of details and relatively more colour accuracy.
The Nokia 8 packs Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage, which is kind of disappointing as the lower priced Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 features 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Nonetheless, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage are more than enough for most of the smartphone users. The Nokia 8 comes with stock Android 7.1.1 Nougat out of the box. The device has a smooth and fast performance, but it lacks the ultra-silky UI feel of the OnePlus 5T.
The Nokia 8 has a 3090mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 technology. The battery capacity is smallest of the lot. However, due to the smaller screen size, the Nokia 8 consumes less power and provides with 28 – 30 hours of battery backup with 5 – 6 hours of screen-on time.
The LG G6 features a 5.7-inch QHD+ IPS LCD display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The LG G6 is the only smartphone among the lot to feature an HDR10/DolbyVision compliant display; it even features an Always-On technology. There is no doubt that the LG G6’s display is the best LCD display among its competitors.
The LG G6 sports a dual-camera setup (13MP + 13MP), one with normal FoV, and other with wide-angle FoV. So far, this is the best dual-camera setup we have seen, as it is actually very useful in the real world usage. The 13MP sensor is also optically stabilised for a better low-light performance and shake-reduction. The image quality from the primary camera is excellent in daylight. The low-light image quality is decently good too, but it falls short when compared to the OnePlus 5T. The LG G6 comes with a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, and unfortunately, it has a bad performance, worst among its competitors. We hope LG will equip its upcoming smartphones with a better front-facing camera.
Moving to the performance of the device, the LG G6 is equipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, which isn’t as powerful as the Snapdragon 835 processor, but it still more than enough for any task. The device has 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The UI of the LG G6 looks a bit old; the icons and other design elements don’t look of this era, and that is the only downside. The LG G6 performs smoothly at any task you throw at it; even the gaming is silky smooth. The device does not lags or gets heated even under heavy loads.
The LG G6 packs a 3300mAh battery along with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0. The device lasts about 28 – 32 hours with an average screen-on time of 5 hours on a full charge. Read our full review of LG G6 here.
The Huawei Honor 8 Pro is the most affordable smartphone of the lot. It comes with a 5.7-inch QHD display. There are no wow-factors in the display department, but the display itself performs decently; it can get bright enough in sunlight and has punchy colours.
The Honor 8 Pro features a dual-camera (12MP colour + 12MP monochrome) setup in spite of being so affordable. The dual-camera setup works similarly as that in the Nokia 8. The image quality from the Honor 8 Pro’s camera isn’t as good as its competitors. The images captured in daylight have artificial sharpening effect, which doesn’t look good, and in low-light, the images come out with a high amount of noise. However, the front-facing camera of the Honor 8 Pro puts out bright and detailed images.
The Huawei Honor 8 Pro comes with Kirin 960 chipset, which isn’t as powerful as the Snapdragon 821 or the Snapdragon 835, but it does a decent job at providing with fast and fluid performance. The Huawei Honor 8 Pro ships with Android 7.0 Nougat, and similar to LG G6, the Honor 8 Pro too has an old UI design, which is the only negative part in the performance department.
The Huawei Honor 8 Pro packs a 4000mAh battery, which is the largest among its five competitors. As a result of a large battery, the Huawei Honor 8 Pro provides with one and a half day of juice on a single charge.
And the awards for the best high-end smartphones go to…
Gold Award – OnePlus 5T
The OnePlus 5T’s AMOLED display is the best performing display among its competitors as the visibility under direct sunlight is very good, and even the blacks levels are excellent. The smartphone has also triumphed in the camera department, as it has better image quality in daylight, as well as, in low-light conditions. The OnePlus 5T also has the smoothest and the fastest performance among the five smartphones. Lastly, we loved the Dash Charge technology. Considering that the smartphone has triumphed in the three criteria, it is our Golden Award winner; it is truly the best smartphone you can buy in its price category.
Silver Award – Xiaomi Mi Mix 2
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 ranks second as it lacks an AMOLED display and the camera performance that the OnePlus 5T offers. Apart from those two factors, the Mi Mix 2 is packed with useful software features, fast performance, great design, and an excellent battery backup.
Bronze Award – LG G6
The LG G6 comes with an HDR-capable display, and an IP68 certification, which the other smartphones lack; it even has a fast UI, superb primary camera performance, and excellent battery backup. So, why did it rank third? Because the UI design is old, and the front-facing camera is not so good, both of which have a great impact in day to day usage.
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