Which mid-range smartphone is tops?



    Jul 03, 2015

    Which mid-range smartphone is tops?

    MANY of the latest flagship smartphones can cost over $1,000. If you do not feel like paying that premium, there is great value in mid-range mainstream smartphones, which now boast flagship features like full high-definition displays and 64-bit octa-core processors.

    We have tested six smartphones priced under $350 to find out which offers the most bang for your buck.

    All these phones have 4G LTE connectivity, 5- or 5.5-inch displays, and at least a quad-core processor. All have 2GB of RAM except for one with 1GB.

    The SunSpider Javascript test was used to assess the phones' browsing performance when processing Javascript.

    In gauging an Android phone's central processing unit, memory, data transfer and 3D graphics performance, the Quadrant test was employed.

    The 3DMark 2013 benchmark was used to test a phone's capabilities in handling graphics in a game.


    (2GB RAM): $349

    The 2GB RAM version of the ZenFone 2 runs on the Android 5.0 operating system. It has a 5.5-inch display with a full HD 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution (403 pixels per inch). Clarity is top-notch and colour reproduction is accurate, although contrast could be a bit better.

    Photos captured by the ZenFone 2's camera are fairly sharp, although colours are a little vivid. Noise reduction is also a little aggressive, resulting in some smearing.

    The 170g and 10.9mm thick phone's benchmark scores among the six phones are excellent overall. The phone is No. 1 for the SunSpider Javascript test, with a score twice as good as the worst performer. It is tops for the 3DMark 2013 benchmark, scoring about twice as well as the other phones.

    The ZenFone 2 is third for the Quadrant benchmark, and fourth in a test on battery life, lasting 434 minutes or just over 7 hours.

    Also taking into account its ergonomic, premium design, the ZenFone 2 is the winner of our shoot-out.

    RATING: 8.5/10

    LENOVO A7000: $229

    The most affordable phone in the shoot-out, the Android 5.0 Lenovo A7000 has a 5.5-inch display with a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution (267ppi), giving it the lowest pixel density among the six phones.

    Clarity on the phone is not too bad, but it is noticeably worse than the full HD display on the other 5.5-inch device, the ZenFone 2. Colour reproduction is decent, if a little warm, and viewing angles and brightness are quite good.

    For photos taken by the A7000, image quality is quite poor. Images appear soft, with low contrast.

    The 140g and 8mm thick A7000 performed the worst among the six phones for the SunSpider Javascript and Quadrant tests.

    It is a distant No. 2 in the 3DMark 2013 benchmark, and No. 3 in the battery life test, lasting 452 minutes or about 71/2 hours.

    The phone is remarkably cheap and offers great value, but that is about all it has going for it. Its design is very plain, and it is average in the benchmark tests.

    RATING: 7/10


    The Lumia 640 is the only non-Android phone in the shoot-out. It runs on the Windows Phone 8.1 OS, which has a user interface made up of big, colourful tiles.

    The phone has a 5-inch display with a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution (294ppi), which is not as good as the full HD models in the shoot-out, but still reasonable.

    Colour reproduction is fairly good, with vivid colours, and there is a decent level of contrast too. Viewing angles are also quite good, but the display could be a bit brighter, as it does not fare that well under direct sunlight.

    The Lumia 640's rear camera is quite decent with sharp focus and good, natural colour reproduction. But the same cannot be said of its front-facing camera, which takes poor, grainy selfies.

    It stands at No. 4 among the six phones in the SunSpider Javascript test but is last in the 3DMark 2013 benchmark, likely held back by having just 1GB of RAM.

    The combination of a relatively small screen, HD-resolution display and a relatively underpowered processor makes the 145g and 8.8mm thick Lumia 640 the leader of the battery test, at 538 minutes or nearly 9 hours.

    It is a good alternative for people sick of Android or iOS, but is let down by its old processor and very sub-par front-facing camera.

    RATING: 7/10

    PHICOMM P660: $318

    Phicomm is a Chinese manufacturer new to Singapore.

    The Android 4.4.4 P660 has a 5-inch full HD display with a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution (441ppi). This is the same as Xiaomi's Mi 4i in the shoot-out, but, in our opinion, the Mi 4i has the better display.

    Clarity for the two displays is about the same overall, but the Mi 4i's display is noticeably brighter and boasts more accurate colour reproduction. We found the P660 display slightly on the warm side, although its contrast and viewing angles are quite good.

    Pictures taken on the P660 are fairly decent but noticeably grainy. Colour reproduction is neutral and fairly accurate.

    The 110g and 7.3mm thick P660 is No. 3 for the SunSpider Javascript benchmark. The phone is No. 4 for the Quadrant test. It came in fifth for the 3DMark 2013 test.

    When it comes to battery life, the P660 is the worst, lasting 369 minutes or just over 6 hours.

    The P660's magnesium alloy side panels are a very nice premium touch for a phone at its price. It is also incredibly light and thin - the thinnest among the six handsets. Unfortunately, it disappoints because of its lacklustre battery life and its lack of Android 5.0.

    RATING: 8/10

    XIAOMI MI 4I: $279

    The Mi 4i, which runs on a variant of Android 5.0, sports a 5-inch display with a full HD 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution (441ppi). Clarity is top-notch, and both text and pictures look crisp and clean. Colour reproduction is also excellent, with the Mi 4i's display capable of reproducing up to 95 per cent of colours found in the NTSC palette, which puts it on a par with a flagship device.

    The image quality of photos captured by the Mi 4i are relatively good, but a little soft.

    For the SunSpider Javascript test, the 130g and 7.8mm thick Mi 4i comes in fifth. But in the Quadrant test, it is No. 1, likely due to its processor's slightly higher clock speeds. The phone is third for the 3DMark 2013 benchmark.

    It is fifth in the battery test at 411 minutes or close to 7 hours.

    The Mi 4i offers great value: it is the only phone with a full HD display under $300 in our shoot-out and it also boasts a more powerful processor than the more expensive Phicomm P660 and ZTE Blade S6.

    RATING: 8/10

    ZTE BLADE S6: $349

    The Android 5.0 ZTE Blade S6 looks just like Apple's iPhone 6. The Blade S6 has a 5-inch 1280 x 720 HD display (293ppi). Clarity is not as good as the full HD models in our shoot-out, but viewing angles are fairly decent and the display does boast fairly bright and vivid colours.

    Photo quality for the Blade S6 is fairly good with well-controlled noise, although on the whole, images are slightly soft and colours are a little vivid.

    The 154g and 7.7mm thick Blade S6 is second in the SunSpider Javascript and Quadrant tests. In the 3DMark 2013 test, the Blade S6 is No. 4.

    For the battery test, the phone came in second, lasting 470 minutes or close to 8 hours.

    The Blade S6 looks quite nice, but that is only because it looks like an iPhone.

    RATING: 7.5/10


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