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Shootouts

Shootout: Flagship smartphones compared

By Marcus Wong - 18 Jan 2020

Imaging systems, Conclusion

Imaging systems 

With the camera system being considered such an integral part of the smartphone these days, it's interesting to see how the various brands differed.

Apple went with a three-camera system and introduced its own dedicated computational photography mode - Deep Fusion, while Asus went with a 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 sensor on their main camera and kept to the basics.

Google on the other hand, added a second telephoto lens unit while Huawei focused on video capabilities, with a dedicated Ultra-wide Cine camera that allows for better low light performance and super slow-motion capture. Finally, Samsung eschewed high resolution for better productivity tools like a native video editor, audio zoom for video, and AR capture tools.   

To more in detail about the respective camera systems, hit the links below:

 

And the Best Flagship Smartphone is….

The Samsung Galaxy Note10+

While the iPhone 11 Pro Max undoubtedly had the best benchmark performance scores, it's more about future-proofing the phone's ongoing OS capability updates along the pipeline than of any real-world day-to-day benefit. While imaging was a big leap on the iPhone, it was left undone in the stamina department. The iPhone 11 Pro Max was a really close contender for the best smartphone award, but it was not an all-rounder and is quite expensive even with a contract.

Over on the Huawei side of things, the Mate 30 Pro had crazy-good battery life and amazing imaging/video capture capabilities. Its undoing came from the new workarounds to get the ground up and running because it's still early days for Huawei Mobile Services, and is unfortunately put at a slight disadvantage from forces well beyond its control.

The Pixel 4XL is Google's best and largest update yet in the Pixel line-up and while it has a whole bunch of stuff like secure Face Unlock on an Android device, smooth 90Hz refresh rate display, great camera performance, and access to latest Android features and updates, it has its own set of oddball limitations that make you think twice to consider it as well. The phone design is uninspiring along with its thick bezels, battery life leaves much to be desired, it misses the spot of what could be a fantastic camera if only it had a wide-angle lens to accompany it, no free unlimited Google Cloud storage for your full-res snaps, limited to only 64GB or 128GB internal storage and no expandable storage! A whole bunch of these are frankly puzzling decisions that could have been easily overcome and truly make the Pixel 4  series the undisputed Android smartphone albeit at a higher cost. Speaking of its value, it's not any affordable either and it has a sticker price of S$1,469 for the 128GB edition. Did we also mention there's no 3.5mm to USB-C adaptor in the box? So while it's a great showcase phone for what's to come for Android devices and of course the most secure Android device in the market, if you really want a more all-rounded device, this isn't quite it. 

Meanwhile, the ASUS ROG Phone II is undoubtedly a beast of a smartphone for its gaming capabilities and pretty apt accessories to kit out further. It's no slouch in the performance segment too as the current fastest Android smartphone in the market. However, at its heart, it's still a specialist phone geared for gamers at heart and as we've also found, a great device for entertainment in general. The design and marketing angle clearly shields the phone away from the masses, not to mention the high price tag and average camera performance.

That said, we're giving the best overall smartphone goes to the Samsung Galaxy Note10+. This phone easily the most well-rounded feature set. You’ve got future-looking Augmented Reality features, a capable in-built video editor, and better support for audio capture during video. The Note10+’s integration with computers is also more seamless than ever, so you can really take full advantage of the larger display of your laptop for both work and play. The Note10+’s Dynamic AMOLED Infinity-O display is also one of the few that will go up to WQHD+ (3,040 x 1,440 pixels) resolution. It also has a quality set of speakers that give good resolution and imaging.

Productivity features thanks to the S Pen, 12GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage that can be further increased by way of a microSD and a fairly large 4,300mAh battery just add to that the fact that the Samsung Galaxy Note10+ offers the best value of all the smartphones in this shootout. With a retail price of S$1,598 it's more than S$400 cheaper than the S$2,039 of the iPhone 11 Pro Max. Not to forget, Samsung also has the even handier Galaxy Note10 that starts from just S$1,398 and retains almost all the key features of the Note10+. And we've not even considered discussing phone contract prices which make the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ much more 'affordable' than an iPhone 11 Pro Max.

The price differential more than covers the price of a 256GB microSD card and a full set of accessories! So, when you consider all aspects of a device from performance, features, price and value, the Samsung Galaxy Note10+ gets our vote as the best overall phone in this comparison.
 

Final Ratings
Samsung Galaxy Note10+

Click to see the score breakdown

iPhone 11 Pro Max

Click to see the score breakdown

ASUS ROG Phone II

Click to see the score breakdown

Google Pixel 4 XL

Click to see the score breakdown

Huawei Mate 30 Pro

Click to see the score breakdown