Feature Articles

Best mobile devices on the go: Tech Awards 2021 Editor's Choice Results (Part 1)

By Team HardwareZone - 10 Apr 2021

Best Premium Smartphone

Note: This article was first published on 5 Apr 2021.

Recognising the best in the consumer tech landscape

The 12th edition of our annual HardwareZone+HWM Tech Awards 'event' kick-started with a massive Readers' Choice voting campaign in December 2020 and we'll have all the results compiled in a separate article shortly.

Of course, the other segment of our prestigious awards hedges on all the products that our editorial team vigorously tested across various product categories to crown the winners. This year, we'll commence our Tech Awards reporting with the Editor's Choice segment. For Tech Awards 2021, we've tested a total of 99 products introduced over the last year and leading up to March 2021. The tech industry and product lifecycles have been shifting for certain product categories due to supply chain disruptions brought about by Covid-19; elsewhere some industries have shifted their launch cycles completely. As such, we've lengthened our qualification period to better reflect the current state of the industry.

Due to the sheer number of categories and details, we've split our detailed reporting into four Editor's Choice articles, starting with the Best devices on the go.

Best mobile devices on the go (Tech Awards 2021)

We might not be travelling much these days but for the times that we do, it's good to know that we have the best tools in our bags and pockets. Notebooks are getting faster and lighter, and it's not hard to find notebooks that weigh only about a kilogram (or less) these days. Likewise, phones have been getting exponentially more powerful and capable, enabling new ways of interaction and the ability to run more complex apps. Some people even rely exclusively on their phones to get work done when they are on the go. 

For Tech Awards 2021, we have gathered and tested all the major devices that you need to get the most out of your time on the road. These are the award categories that the editors have assessed for this segment:-

  • Best Premium Smartphone
  • Best High-end Smartphone
  • Best Value Smartphone
  • Best Camera Smartphone
  • Best Ultraportable Notebook
  • Best True Wireless Earbuds
  • Best Noise Cancelling Headphones
  • Best Smartwatch
  • Innovation Awards

Other segments to be published later this week include Best devices for the Home, Work, and Gaming. Not to forget, our Readers' Choice results for the Best Tech Brands.

Read on and find out what they are. For this segment, we begin with the most indispensable tool in our daily lives – the smartphone. In fact, it's so important, we've carved out four award categories just for phones.


Best Premium Smartphone

The best smartphone category is always tightly contested, and this year is no different with great phones from the world's major smartphone brands. Make no mistake though, as in this premium category, we’re judging design, build, benchmark performance, battery life, imaging competence, display quality, audio quality, handling, as well as any other extra features like advanced biometric security, AI capabilities, stylus and much more that go towards improving the phone's usage experience.

To make the cut, the phone has to be released in 2020 and has to be the brand's flagship offering that best embodies everything it has to offer - beyond just top phone specs.



  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • ASUS ROG Phone 3
  • Huawei P40 Pro+ (the Mate 40 Pro is newer, but it's not as competitive)
  • OnePlus 8 Pro
  • Oppo Find X2 Pro
  • Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra


And the winner is...

Apple IPhone 12 Pro Max.

This year, the best overall smartphone goes to the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max. It's no secret that the iPhone 12 series had stellar general performance, but it also clocked the longest battery uptime we've ever tested in an iPhone handset. When it comes to power, it delivers both ways. 

That's not to say that the other phones that made the cut aren't up to par. It was so competitive, so Apple's attention to detail was the tie-breaker for many of these equally competent phones.

While the imaging capabilities aren't visibly better than its other variants, photo-taking for the Pro Max has been easier in many meaningful ways with the Apple phone. The iPhone 12 Pro Max has a sensor-shift stabiliser, a 47% larger main camera sensor, and many minor imaging changes befitting of a top-end, premium flagship device. That's a huge quality-of-life upgrade for the average person who just wants a good photo in minimal tries.

And, if you're from the professional side, the addition of 10-bit HDR and Dolby Vision recording, along with Apple Pro RAW, makes it so much better than before for purists.

Couple all that with its premium build quality (made from stainless steel and finished with an electromagnetic coating process), its excellent display (OLED at 2,778 x 1,284 pixels resolution), and checking all the boxes for a premium phone (water resistance, wireless charging, 5G readiness), it's really hard to say no to the latest top-end iPhone. Just ask the iOS camp - or us.


Best Flagship Smartphone

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

ASUS ROG Phone 3

Huawei P40 Pro+

OnePlus 8 Pro

Oppo Find X2 Pro

Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra
Design 9.0 7.5 8.5 8.0 8.5 8.5
Performance 10.0 9.5 8.5 9.0 8.5 8.0
Features 9.0 9.0 8.5 8.5 8.5 9.5
User-friendliness 9.0 8.5 7.5 8.0 8.5 8.5
Value 7.0 7.5 7.5 8.0 7.5 7.5
Overall 8.5 8.0 8.0 8.5 8.5 8.5
Price From S$1,799 S$1,598 S$1,898 S$1,298 S$1,699 S$1,898

*Note: Prices and ratings listed are accurate at the time of individual product evaluation.

For more information on how the nominees fared in detail and thus helping us pick our winner, check out the full reviews and articles listed in the References below.



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