With such a wide collection of Smartphones available these days, it can sometimes be hard to pick the best one for you. Having said that, when we decided to pick out the best five Smartphones, we weren’t struggling finding the Smartphones to include in the list, more the position to give them.
Just like we did in the Q1 Top 5, Q2 Top 5, and Q3 Top 5, it’s finally time for our eventual Top 5 of Q4, this is our Christmas Special! That’s right, this is where we douse the Smartphones that have either just arrived, or are still the best from this entire year. Whilst this is a Top 5, we will of course have some honourable mentions as well, and maybe a few non-honourable mentions too. Plus, we’re doing things slightly different this year, as whereas we will be mentioning Top Smartphone itself, should a company have done either no-wrong, or no-right, then expect that to fill an entire section!
Without further ado, here’s our Top 5 Christmas Picks of 2017, the Best Smartphones You Can Buy Right Now;
Sure, with the announcement of the 5T, the company did increase the price of their “affordable flagship killer”, but it’s still a steal after that! It’s rather incredible what you can actually get for just £449. You’ve the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 6 or 8GB of RAM, the new 18:9 aspect ratio standard you expect from a 2017 flagship, and a dual Camera set up! Though, when it comes to that dual Camera set up, it’s easy to see where the company have made a few shortcomings. It’s not a bad Camera, just not going to compare to any of the devices following on this Top 5, so don’t get the OnePlus 5T expecting a fantastic Camera, it’s alright, but that’s about as far as we’ll go.
The display on the OnePlus 5T has finally entered the OLED variety, though the company has once again stuck with the 1080p wide as resolution, despite the larger 6 inch display. However, the display is bright, vibrant, accurate, and you’d be hard pressed to complain about the resolution … I mean come on, you’ve just spent £449 on a true flagship device, for practically half that of the majority of devices following, this is a great Smartphone choice!
This is the second time this year we’ve had an HTC with the “U11” name in it, though this is different, this is the U11+, and that plus is an important differentiator between that and the regular U11. The U11+ retains the same top spec hardware you’d expect, though HTC have added an 18:9 aspect ratio display, it is of the LCD variety, which isn’t too much of a bad thing, but something to keep in mind should you be expecting an OLED display, but is the high 2880 x 1440.
As introduced on the U devices before it, you’ll be able to squeeze the U11+ to get to the HTC Sense Companion, though you can remap the gesture to additional tasks or should you prefer the Google Assistant, or even Amazon Alexa, that option is for you to do. The U11+ also comes in a special edition version, as shown on the picture, which shows some internals of the device, which gives the device an incredible look, though limited is definitely the keyword on that.
Whilst HTC’s software has come along way, we’re at least happy the company is toning down their Sense UI, and with Oreo right out of the box on the U11+, you should expect a speedy Android experience. The Camera on the U11+ may seem rather basic by it’s looks, but remember last years U device equalled the Google Pixels DXOMark Score, so expect a great Camera on the U11+ as well.
Whilst the U11+ continues the lack of Headphone jack, HTC continue to throw in some great headphones in the box by JBL, which no one can really complain too much about, with the same Audio tuning option available last year, which makes this one of the best Audio experiences out of the box … not the best though, but we’ll get to that one very quickly.
Speaking of best Audio experiences out of the box, it doesn’t get better than LG’s V series. Seriously though, where did this come from? LG have completely surprised us with the V30. The LG V line of Smartphones tend to traditionally be rather conventional, rather blocky designed product with the clear focus on Camera and Audio, whilst that focus hasn’t necessarily gone in the V30, what has gone is that conventional design, in replace with what’s easily their best looking Smartphone to date, we love this design!
Whilst the rather modularity of the original V10 has gone, and the dual display is gone, what you do have is a far more refined version of the G6, with the latest Snapdragon 835 on top of the latest Android 8.0 Oreo, however literally the only thing that will let you down with the V30 is the complete reason why the device is our Number 2, rather than Number 1, LG’s software skin. It’s not terrible, but it reminds of the old Samsung days, don’t get us wrong it’s fixable on Android rather easily, but we always review all devices for their out of box experience and that’s one area where LG falls short.
Where they don’t fall short is in both Cameras and Audio. The LG V30 has a dual-Camera set up at the back of the device, which takes the alternate approach of using the second lens as a further zoom back, creating an almost Super Wide Angle affect, which has now been incredibly refined on the V30. Previously, the second lens would create artefacts and curvature at the edges, on the V30, everything is good and just looks incredible. Photo nerds will also love the vast level of options that LG have added to the V30s Camera, including an incredibly useful zooming functionality, which allows you to smoothly zoom seamlessly giving your videos a much more professional feel, which we love absolutely love.
Another area we’re incredibly in love with on the V30 comes down to Audio. Now, the V20 already had industry leading Audio from it’s 3.5mm headphone jack, thanks to a powerful 32-bit DAC and support for Lossless formats natively, this is the phone for Audiophiles! LG have proved time and time again to, not only Apple but other manufactures removing it too, that the headphone jack is still the more powerful solution for Audio output, and we love that. Do make sure you enable the High Performance DAC in the shortcuts top of Notification Shade though. Regardless we absolutely love the V30, just wish that LG’s skin didn’t annoy us.
Typically we’re quick to add Samsung’s latest Note device to our Top 5 of the Year, however, this year Samsung’s been a bit weird, but in a definitely positive way, both are as good as the other! Whilst their are some notable benefits and new additions to the Galaxy Note 8, which the Galaxy S8 can’t experience, such as the usuals like the S-pen and the second Camera for Portrait and dual OIS, for more or less everything else, they’re the same phone! The same Exynos, or Snapdragon in Americas, is inside, the same RAM options, storage options, and the display technology is the same too! In fact, we’d argue the Galaxy S8 has a better design, due to being more compact featuring less bezels!
So, what we’re saying this year, is Samsung themselves have generally been on top with all their flagships this year, and you can’t go wrong with either. The Galaxy Note 8 is the latest and will come, at least out of the box, with a later build of Android and features the secondary Camera and the S-pen, but then again, everything else is on the Galaxy S8, which will get those updates down the line and will be cheaper as it came out in March!
It’s worth checking what you’re getting from both below, but regardless, if it’s flagship and a Samsung, you’ve one of the best Smartphones of 2017 hands down!
Here we are again, another year, a new Pixel. It hasn’t exactly been a smooth ride for Google, like last year, but it’s impossible to deny the quality of the Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL. With most display niggles amended in software and newer units, this is the device for two key factors, which it bests on. One, software experience, and, two, Camera. There’s no denying it, the Google Pixel 2 devices have the best Cameras of the year once again, and with Android Oreo, you’ve easily the cleanest Software experience you can get on a Smartphone today, well, unless you update last years Pixel devices of course.
The new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL also feature a few tricks up their sleeves, such as the new Now Playing and Google Lens, but let’s not forget the Pixel Visual Core, which once launched will make your Camera even better and faster at the HDR+ level, which means an already great Smartphone is only going to get better and better.
Whilst it was a rougher year this year for the Pixel project at Google, it’s clear that it won’t stop the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL from being our easy top pick for 2017. You can find so much more about the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL in our Review, which is linked below!
So, there you have it, the Google Pixel 2 XL is our Smartphone choice of 2017, which considering last year was also the Google Pixel, that’s good going for Google there! But, we ain’t done just yet. Their was a collection of Smartphone releases this year, meaning we’ve a collection of Smartphones to talk about still, and two we’re gonna mention below, as well as explaining why a certain fruit didn’t make the cut;
Whilst these devices didn’t make the Top 5, it’s clear to see that 2017 had a great collection of hardware releases. And here’s, just some, of the devices that didn’t quite make that Top 5.
Has it a good Camera, hell no, we’ll get that out of the way right now, but the Razer Phone attempts to make that up in display technology and a mostly stock experience. It’s hard to see whether that makes up for it, but this is the only Smartphone right now with up to a 120Hz refresh rate, which is pretty big right now, and we really hope this becomes a standard next year in Smartphone flagships. It does this currently on an LCD panel, as OLED can’t just yet perform such refresh rates, but this is thing is smooooth. Is that enough to make it a clear recommendation though, we’re gonna have to say no, for now.
It was great to see the Nokia brand return to the Smartphone market this year, only problem was, they did it very subtly, both in terms of marketing and what they pushed out. The Nokia 8, the closest to a flagship we got from HMD Global, was great on paper, but just didn’t stand out at all. Surprisingly the Cameras were rather “okay”, design felt incredibly old, as in most were expecting Windows Phone on these things, though we are happy that the latest Android is being pushed out to these devices quickly, just we wanted more Nokia. Maybe next year.
Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact
Yep, it’s Sony again. We’d honestly to make sure that actually was the Xperia XZ1, which in itself is the biggest problem with Sony at the moment. They made solid devices, smoothest Android skin you can find, be it dated, but they do it in a way which just got old years ago. Rumours are circulating that Sony will finally change the design of their next year flagships, to which we’ll finally shout hallelujah. That’s the problem, the Xperia XZ1 is a fantastic phone, just wrapped in a disappointing shell. This is even more annoying considering the Xperia XZ1 Compact, is the only smaller display flagship still getting updates! So, we hope Sony will improve the shell, as that’s literally the only thing stopping this from entering that Top 5 this year, there’s a great collection of Cameras, decent displays and great performance.
OK, maybe “disaster” is a stretch, but ‘Disappointment of the Year’ definitely goes to Apple. What were that company doing this year?! Whilst we’ve been complaining about Apple’s lacklustre software since the release of iOS 7, this year really took the cake, ever constant inconsistencies to an overwhelming battery drain issue, made iOS 11 easily Apple’s worst release of software to date!
Then, came the iPhone X, and where do we even start. If the awful Notch wasn’t enough to convince you of the poor decisions on Apple’s part, just look at how you’re expected to navigate the device, search for any developers reaction to this thing, it’s honestly terrible. As we mentioned in our, rather detailed, iPhone X rant, in terms of both UI and UX, the experience the iPhone X provides is a far stretch from the years of perfectionism that once defined Apple. So, there you go, our Disappointment of the Year this year, is Apple, as a whole!
And there you go, that’s our Q4 Top 5 of 2017, let’s bring on 2018 eh, but for now, these really are the best Smartphones you can buy today for Christmas 2017!