Killer price for an unlocked smartphone, Fast next-generation CPU and GPU
Google has delivered an impressive smartphone with the Nexus 5 from LG, an unlocked powerhouse with a palatable price and solid performance, and the new Android 4.4.1 KitKat update largely fixes the phone's initial camera problems.
Great screen, Low price, Blazing performance
Although the issues we take with the Nexus 5 are considerable, they're not enough to keep us from recommending this device.
One of the issues we have, which is the lackluster camera, might be resolved with a software fix. And even if it were a minor fix, it's not so bad that you'll never be able to take good photos with it.
What really gets us here is what we're not used to seeing, and that's a device with these kinds of specs at this price point.
Impressively spec'd smartphone at a bargain price
It's a year since Google made a splash with an impressively spec'd smartphone at a bargain price. The Nexus 4 wasn't a financial success perhaps but making a profit off selling hardware is rarely the first thing on Google's mind. The pure Android experience was the major selling point and getting more people into their cloud services must've been worth the investment - the Nexus price is clearly subsidized, the way Amazon subsidizes its Kindle tablets so it can make profit on selling content.
Great features at a low price with no contract commitment
The Nexus 5 isn't the best smartphone on the market. In fact, there isn't a "best phone", because folks' needs are different: some want a small phone, others want lots of software features and still others want a phablet or a pen. The Nexus 5 is undoubtedly the best smartphone you can buy for just $349 full retail. It has a great mix of features for the price including a very fast CPU, a sharp full HD IPS display and the promise of always running the latest OS.
Pros: Value for money, display.
There's a lot packed into the Nexus 5, particularly given the £299 and £339 pricepoints for 16GB and 32GB respectively. For that money, you get a display that rivals devices that cost some £200 more, and a chipset that is, in many cases, more powerful. In addition to that, you have a Nexus device, meaning it's uncluttered by bloat and first in line for Android updates.
Hard-to-beat $100 on-contract cost, Excellent still image quality
For those who are contemplating on picking this up without a contract, its $584.99 price point still seems pretty good in comparison to other phablets - though, there's no arguing that its on-contract cost absolutely gives it more bang for the buck. At the end of the day, there's plenty to like about the 1520, as it's no doubt the best Windows Phone out right now. For a long time there, Windows Phones in general just seemed underpowered in comparison to those premier Android smartphones.
Great 1080p display, Fine camera, Solid build quality
The Nokia Lumia 1520 is an absolute beast of a phone that we suspect only the large-handed and generous pocketed will be able to live with day to day.
Those who accept the challenge will find the most capable Windows Phone 8 device yet, with top-of-the-range specs that include a stunning 1080p display and a superb 20-megapixel camera.
Despite its size, however, the Lumia 1520 feels like it's missing something.
Half An Inch From Greatness...
Another flawed gem of a phablet. Like competitors, the Lumia 1520 sports an excellent set of hardware. The screen, battery, camera, processor and build are all fantastic and score it top marks, but the phone is simply oversized and isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea
Pros: Excellent build, fantastic camera and options.
READ:. The Nokia Lumia 1520 has to be the best Windows Phone 8 handset on the market. It's certainly the best Lumia we've used to date. That's not just thanks to the reassuringly high quality build, but also thanks to the new Black OS. The OS version we've seen is missing one or two components, but it's still a definite step forward. Accompany that with an ever growing selection of apps, and the first Nokia phablet is a genuinely capable mobile OS.
Good-looking and high-quality exterior
With the Xperia Z1, Sony has finally become truly competitive. The Japanese company has been experiencing great difficulties during the last few years, but after a relatively lengthy transition, it's finally caught up with the big players of the wireless industry.
Handsome looking brute
The Sony Xperia Z1 marks the second rebirth of the company's premium take on what a smartphone should be like. The Xperia Z was a great foundation and laid the groundwork for the company to expand with the Z1. Yes, the naming scheme doesn't really make sense, but nowadays manufacturers are very frivolous with the names of their products. But we digress.
The company has matured its OmniBalance design philosophy by ever so seductively continuing to use aluminum and glass.
Xperia Z gets tuned but puts on weight
Sony has upgraded its fantastic Xperia Z. The Xperia Z1 feels nicer but is unfortunately bigger and heavier. It's a powerhouse with an all-round impressive specification. Easily one of the best Android handsets around but the high price tag taints this slightly.
Pros: Plenty of decent software refinements, battery life with Stamina mode.
There's a lot to love about the Sony Xperia Z1. It's a valiant effort, but not infallible. We like the the design overall, it's a smart-looking device that exhibits plenty of quality and there's stacks of power under the hood of that 5-inch HD display.
Beautiful tempered-glass design, fairly good battery life
The Sony Xperia Z1 is one of the better smartphones to debut in the later half of the year. While its raw performance is similar to the LG G2, the Z1 stands out with the use of better materials, water-proofing capabilities and most importantly, an impressive camera.
Thin and light premium design
The Ascend P7 is a great-looking handset with a premium feel and a nice specs sheet. Its eye-catching chassis design also makes it one of the thinnest and lightest Android 5-inchers out there, and an ambassador of Huawei's engineering prowess. The phone is a nice upgrade over its predecessor, as it offers a good 1080p display, and improves on the weakest spots of the
P6, like the camera quality, and the 3D gaming performance.
The Huawei Ascend P7 surely does at least one thing right - stand out visually in the Android crowd.
It was probably the P6 that put Huawei on many people's map, but the Ascend P7 intends to make the brand a fixture in the mobile industry. Ours is of course a mostly Western perspective as Huawei is already extremely popular in its home market and Southeast Asia.
The Huawei Ascend P7 surely does at least one thing right - stand out visually in the Android crowd.
Firm's best smartphone is sleek and affordable but let down by software
Huawei has produced a stunning smartphone in the Ascend P7 and this is couple with good value for money with that non-flagship price tag. There's some decent hardware on offer here, particularly the camera but the P7 is let down by software performance issues.
Pros: Thin and light design, ample performance.
Huawei has made a decent smartphone in the Ascend P7. It's a considerable step up from the earlier P6 model thanks to a larger scale 1080p screen and a design that avoids treading into the "oversized" category. Is it enough to keep the other well-established big guns at bay? There's a mixed answer to that. One area we feel isn't quite as strong as the competition is battery life.
The design and build are distinctly different from the competition and, one might argue, superior to most of them.
The phablet space has certainly gone a long way in the past three years. From a virtually empty niche to one of the most hotly-contested segments of the market. The once mocked Samsung Galaxy Note lineup is now receiving the highest form of flattery, with just about every manufacturer pushing a direct rival.
Yet, the Oppo N1 isn't just another Galaxy Note 3 wannabe.
Pros: Affordable, comfortable in hand.
Of all the phones we’ve handled we’ve never been approached by so many members of the public and fellow press to ask about what we're using. From restaurants, to casinos, to conferences - the Oppo N1 caught peoples’ eyes and stood out as the different, alternative phone that it genuinely is. Now that doesn’t make it an instant success, but it goes a step in pointing out how the leftfield can be more interesting than the norm.
Svelte metallic design, Pentaband radio
With its combination of curved lines and sharp metal edges, the slimmest phone out there is undoubtedly one of the most elegant designs we've seen, too, and not only in the Android world.
The Ascend P6 gets almost all major smartphone details right except for the mediocre camera, which has some issues both with pictures and video. For about 400 (USD or EUR), we can't complain if something is lacking on a midranger, especially in such a thin and light package.
Stylish, powerful enough for most uses
We like the P6. It's got good looks, runs well and it feels well built. Yes, there are some really minor niggles, like that daft headphone cover/pin, among some more major issues such as the limited battery life - but we still rather like the phone when it's in full swing.
Incredibly thin, Highly customisable homescreens
If you want a ridiculously slim phone to slide into your pocket and don't mind that its specs are more typical of last year's kit, the Ascend P6 is one to consider. Its overheating is a concern though, as are the small issues with construction and software. Let's hope Huawei sorts them out before it goes on sale.
Clearly arranged operating system
Overall, the Ascend P6 lags behind the current first league of smartphones in a few points. Nevertheless, it is an impressive phone but not only because of its very slim build and good workmanship. Users who do not need LTE or a Full HD screen and can accept a lower performance will get a good smartphone for just under 450 Euros (~$599), which is more located in the midrange than the premium range.
Great design, Super thin form factor
The Ascend P6 combines a good set of hardware in a very sexy design and super thin form factor that very few other handsets have achieved. Huawei has certainly done a lot of effort in order to give the P6 the title of worldÃ¢Â? Â? thinnest and the attention to detail is very evident.
Phenomenal price point
Specs-wise, the Google Nexus 4 is an impressive smartphone. Sure, it may not be the best in any particular category, but it's a very well-balanced package with an incredibly powerful processor and a gorgeous IPS screen. When it comes to its design, we do appreciate some of the delicacies of its premium exterior elements, but it doesn't really come off as something totally invigorating to cause us to drool over it.
Beautiful, elegant design, Excellent screen
Giving a handset on TechRadar a full five star rating is almost impossible. You could have the best phone in the world that can solve famine, pick the kids up from school and decipher Mandarin Chinese in a millisecond.
But it's not just about specs - value plays a huge part to play. A five star rating is reserved for a phone that we would say you should go out and buy pronto. Right now. Immediately.
The Nexus 4 comes SO close to that, it's unreal.
Performance and features of a high-end smartphone for half the price
As long as the storage capacities suffice, the Nexus 4 is the definition of a bargain. You quite simply get the performance and features of a high-end smartphone for half the price you would expect to pay. Unless you're set on an iPhone, the Nexus 4 is an unbeatable deal.
Budget friendly Android smartphone
If you're looking for a budget friendly Android smartphone with high end features, the Google Nexus 4 certainly is it. It's fast, has an excellent IPS display and is sold unlocked for use with any GSM carrier. The only drawback in the US? No LTE 4G. The Nexus 4's other problem is availability; it's been out of stock since introduction.
Impressively lightweight smartphone
As an independent smartphone, the Asus Padfone 2 is one impressive device that can tangle with some of the greats out there, seeing that it has that wonderful balance between raw performance and impressive hardware. Crazy to believe it, but the handset is one of the lightest smartphones in its class! Beyond that, we're glad that Asus decided to go with a different route in how the smartphone is docked with the Padfone Station.
Crisp, clear screen, Snappy performance
The Asus Padfone 2 may be a smartphone-tablet hybrid, but the star of the show is undoubtedly the smartphone element. It's powerful, well built and energy efficient, and the camera is capable of taking decent photos and videos in the right conditions.
However, that's only half the story, and the tablet part of the Asus Padfone 2 package is sadly lacking when stacked up against rival devices such as the Google Nexus 10.
Lighter and looks more stylish than its predecessor
So at the end of the day the Asus Padfone 2 will only cater for the needs of a specific group of people, but it will do so quite well. And as tablets continue to gain popularity, a combo like this will only be getting a bigger field to play in.
Unique two devices in one hybrid
The Asus Padfone 2 is a difficult device to dislike because it's interesting and innovative, but it is also a difficult to defend. The idea of it makes sense on paper and there is a very capable, well-built phone coupled with a functional, if average, tablet. The problem is that it comes at a hefty premium and only one person can use the device at a time.
If the Padfone 2 provided a perfect phone and tablet experience we might be more forgiving of the lack of microSD card slot.
Really is a good deal
The Asus Padfone 2 is an interesting and unique offering. For £599 you get both a phone and a tablet in one although this has its limitations. Good hardware and excellent battery life are the standout features while build quality is a bit of a let-down. We really like the Padfone 2 but if you're looking to a smartphone and a tablet on the cheap then we suggest Google's Nexus devices.
Good smartphone performance
The more we've lived with the Padfone 2, the more apparent it has become that for every highlight, there's a simple, regular solution. That leaves the Padfone 2 in something of a tricky situation. It's well engineered, it's almost priced right, but you walk away without a hero handset or a hero tablet. You don't get the both of best worlds, you get something in the middle: a compromise.
Compromises aren't necessarily bad, as long as you're getting what you need.
Improved design, long battery life, overall speedy performance
We love the concept of the smartphone-tablet hybrid, and we think it's great that Asus has taken our complaints of the original PadFone into consideration and improved on many aspects of it--for example, making it slimmer, lighter, faster and less unwieldy. However, the camera could have been improved even more, as it's still not on par with some of the better high-end smartphones.
Laggy performance Too big and heavy
There is definitely a market for the Ascend Mate, but we don't belong to it. If you are someone who doesn't mind using two hands to hold a phone, someone who carries their handset in a bag anyway, then it could be the phone for you. You'll be rewarded with amazing battery life if you decided to choose a Mate.
Bigger screen, a faster processor and - quite possibly - a lower price
However, we remain unconvinced by the Huawei Ascend Mate. It has a big, huge, massive screen. But isn't it too big? We've leaped over many screen size hurdles over the past four years, but when you need to start wearing surfer shorts to accommodate a new phone, isn't that something else? Perhaps we'll learn to love the Huawei Ascend Mate in time, but for now we'll stick to our Samsung Galaxy Note 2s.
Lags when performing processor-intensive tasks
If extended battery life and a huge screen for web browsing is all your after, then the Huawei Ascend Mate will see you right. However, those after an immersive gaming experience might find the processor lets things down a little. Waiting for Samsung's Galaxy Mega 6.3 might be a better option.
Sensibly priced, big screen is very useful and the quality is good
So with everything considered, the price, the brilliance of the phone in general, we have to say the Mate has earned our respect. We liked it from the moment we took it out of the box, and it just kept impressing us. This is one of Huawei's finest, and we hope it does more like this.
Very bend and torsion resistant
In the end, there are only two areas where the Huawei smartphone is not so impressive. Those would be the completely average image quality of the integrated cameras and the occasional soft background noise that we heard when phoning a landline, regardless of where we were standing. Altogether, the Ascend Mate imparts a really good attitude and is a looker with definitely more to offer than just a large display.
Display offers a comparable image quality
I am personally a big fan of phablets so I was really excited to discover the Huawei Ascend Mate when it was unveiled at CES 2013.
The product design quality is similar to my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 except for the lack of stylus, additionally, the display offers a comparable image quality. I am a little concerned with the fact that the device is slightly too wide for my hand, there is a tipping point where the user experience might stop to be agreeable with this type of form factor.
Fast camera with dedicated shutter key
The Sony Xperia T doesn't offer groundbreaking features compared to the other flagships out there, but it is a pretty compelling package nonetheless. The sturdy arched design will appeal to many, and the 13MP camera will let you capture those impromptu moments on the fly because of the dedicated shutter key. There are no major gripes with the handset either it is zippy, with expandable storage and easy to access card slots.
Quick capture on camera
The Sony Xperia T is a very, very good phone. Everything about it is slick and well-executed and the performance is certainly what we expect from a £400 device.
However, the Sony Xperia S was a very, very good phone. When a new model comes out, we look for it to improve upon the previous one and unfortunately, hand on heart; this doesn't improve on the last generation of smartphones as much as it should.
Feels sturdier and more solid
While we've looked at devices which are much better than the Xperia T on paper, we can't forget to factor in build quality and design. The Xperia T feels sturdier and more solid than both the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III (with the glaring exception of the poorly-designed microSD/SIM card cover), and the curved back panel not only makes holding the Xperia T a more pleasurable experience, but also separates it from a design template that currently dominates the market.
Shatter-proof and scratch-resistant glass
The Sony Xperia T is a solid effort from Sony - it has a decent screen and camera but lacks the excitement we expected from a 'Bond Phone'. Our sample didn't even include the Bond wallpaper used in the phone's marketing. In short the handset doesn't seem very alluring when compared with its competition. We're not saying the Skyfall's awful and it is cheaper than other brands' flagship phones. But for sheer value the Nexus 4 now out-does the lot at £239.
13MP rear camera
In most Android handset bouts, the Galaxy S3 would come out on top as the superior smartphone you can't argue with Popup Play and Smart Stay for next-gen giddiness. And then there's incredible battery life. But for some gadgeteers the plasticky build stops them dropping £'500+ on the Samsung. If that's you, and you want a big HD screen with Sony's camera and entertainment expertise, plus features to feed your Facebook addiction in a slick package, the Xperia T is an excellent bet.
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