Friday, June 21, 2024

We tested … the five best smartphones at 200 euros


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They are among the five best smartphones at 200 euros according to various European technological media. Once unpacked, you would think you are looking at clones, since these phones are very similar, but their small differences end up, accumulating, designating a winner, as our tests revealed.

Our selection does not include models capable of navigating in 5G, which cost a few tens of euros more. But this investment is far from being essential today, as our tests or the study of the telecommunications “gendarme” show.

The smartphones from Oppo, Realme, and Xiaomi make exactly the same ergonomic compromises. Its readability is excellent thanks to its large, sharp screen (67 millimeters). Their size is neither too baggy nor too thick: they hold quite well in the hand. But its screen is too high: it is difficult to touch the buttons on the top, and this slows down the use of these smartphones with one hand.

On the right, the Vivo is penalized by its thick edges that make your grip uncomfortable and make it difficult to move your thumb on the screen.  On the left, the curved edges of the Xiaomi screen are much more ergonomic.

The Oppo, Realme and Xiaomi are not compact phones, far from it, but they are a little less unpleasant to handle than the average of current smartphones. Samsung’s format comes close but its display is disappointing: it’s less sharp, with a resolution of just 274 dpi. Many farsighted people won’t notice it, but this slight blur will get in the way of average myopic people, who can read screens very closely, especially if they’re flipping through A4 documents, magazines, or comics.

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The Vivo suffers from the same screen fineness problem, to which is added a format problem: it is more massive. This mobile is really unpleasant in the hand, without its screen being more comfortable. Note that the screens of these five smartphones do not display the colors in a perfectly balanced way. Color inaccuracy is very tolerable, but it will upset imaging professionals.

Here too, the similarities are obvious: the menus of these five smartphones are controlled not with gestural shortcuts, as in Apple or Google smartphones, but with three classic buttons that appear at the bottom of the screen. Your home page is quite simplified, the background of your screen is very clear; They are provided without a duplicate request.

All these mobiles keep their apps in a separate drawer, leaving only a copy of the most useful apps on the home screen. All, except the Xiaomi: as in the iPhone, its home screen houses absolutely all the applications, many times hidden in folders. The absence of an application drawer simplifies the use of the mobile, but it is perfectly possible to choose to reintroduce this element that makes Android so unique. Xiaomi offers it when you turn on the mobile for the first time.

Manufacturers express their freedom by adding some additional icons to Google applications. Oppo reports negatively by automatically embedding three Amazon apps, Samsung forces six apps to download, including Decathlon. With all these builders follow some homemade applications, generally quite clear and useful. However, we regret that the icons of these applications are too similar in Vivo and Oppo: it is difficult to find them in the blink of an eye on the home page.

Aesthetically, these mobiles differ mainly in their rear part.

Most of the tested smartphones have a fingerprint reader on their side, which allows them to be unlocked. This reader is as easy to use as the more traditional under-screen readers that Realme and Oppo equip, while proving to be more reliable and faster.

Despite the presence of an FM radio, the Vivo smartphone lags behind: its configuration is particularly poor. Its competitors are very close to each other, offer a moderately expanded selection of parameters and share a number of advanced functions: “one-handed piloting” mode, configurable information panel displayed in one corner of the screen. When it is off, choice of the size of the icon rows on the main screen, detailed notification settings, etc.

The Samsung stands out with a 90Hz display mode that makes the screen smoother, at least in the eyes of the users who perceive it, a minority. The Xiaomi has an infrared port that allows it to be turned into a universal remote control. All except the Oppo are equipped with an NFC antenna.

During the day, these five smartphones take beautiful images and rarely miss a photo at wide widths. However, problems are more common with Realme, which has an unfortunate tendency to sharpen images to the point of becoming aggressive, especially when photographing nature.

The Oppo accentuates the sharpness in an exaggerated way, the trees lose all their naturalness.

Some smartphones make aesthetic decisions that can be divisive: the Xiaomi captures particularly bright images, the Vivo slightly dark shots. It is a matter of taste. At night, the Oppo loses control and makes a lot of mistakes. Most of its competitors shoot much more honorable photos, especially the Realme, as long as you activate its night mode, sadly a bit hidden in their menus. The photos of the Vivo and Xiaomi are a little less clear, but they are still more correct when you do not make an effort to activate the night mode.

On the right, the Samsung's ultra-wide angle captures much cleaner night images than the Realme (on the left).

The Vivo and Oppo are deprived of the “super wide angle” lens that equips their competitors: they see less “wide”. This will deprive them of spectacular vacation photos, for example, some charming landscapes or villages. On Samsung, Realme and Xiaomi, the super wide angle captures images that are less beautiful than the main lens, but still quite nice. When night falls, these shots become frankly bad, those of the Xiaomi less than the others. On the zoom side, detail images are lost, except on Oppo, the only one that offers an acceptable X5 zoom when the light is abundant.

Healthy sideAll of these smartphones are equipped with a decent, or even good, quality headphone jack for Vivo and Xiaomi. On the other hand, the speakers of these mobiles are only passable. The Oppo is so disgusting that you can’t even use it to stream a podcast. The speakers of the Vivo and Xiaomi are not doing too bad.

Video sideThese smartphones are almost all equipped with an OLED display, a feature previously reserved for high-end mobiles: video games and movies with a dark atmosphere stand out against a perfectly black background, and it’s nice. Only the Vivo skip the OLED; Its classic LED screen with passable resolution (1600 x 720 pixels) is not an ideal companion for movies and series.

3D games side, the Oppo should be avoided: too slow, has a hard time running games like PUBG correctly. Samsung and Vivo mobiles are a bit faster, but if you want to be able to run most games in 3D for a few more years, you’d better go with Realme and Xiaomi, which are significantly faster. Its performance is close to that of a 2018 high-end smartphone.

With their huge 5000 Mha battery, these phones offer very good autonomy, which can reach two days if you play little and watch videos in moderation. The Samsung floats: its autonomy can last three days, as long as you moderate the use of all its applications. These smartphones cannot work with a wireless charger. It takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to fill your batteries, and even two hours for Samsung and Vivo.

With their plastic edge and backing, these smartphones mark every little scratch – offering them a protective shell is imperative. Its all-plastic construction allows you to fear the worst in the event of a fall: this flexible material will not protect internal electronics like an aluminum frame would. In the event of a breakage, however, we should be able to repair the Samsung without too much difficulty, which gets a pretty good repairability rating. The rating of its competitors is more average, even bad enough for Realme.

None of these phones are waterproof, only the Oppo is sold as resistant to light rain, but not to submersion. Its menus are quite fluid, but we can fear that they will slow down in two or three years, especially those of the Samsung, whose processor and memory are not the fastest. Realme and Xiaomi are the least bad in this regard. In general, these smartphones are not built to last.

Read also Right to repair electronic devices: first successes of the repairability index

For around 200 euros, therefore, you can enjoy a versatile smartphone, which does not lack anything essential, but which probably will not last five years. As is often the case in recent years, our choice is more on the Xiaomi mobile. The Mi Note 10s is the smartphone with the most balanced score, with the rarest fake notes. It seems a bit more durable and easier to use than its competition.

But its lead is so slim that two other smartphones can perfectly match. The Samsung A22 offers the best battery life in this comparison and does not suffer from any crippling defects.

The Realme is also a good option, more durable than the Samsung, thanks to its relatively fast electronics, and a bit more self-contained than the Xiaomi. More balanced in short.

Ebenezer Robbins
Ebenezer Robbins
Introvert. Beer guru. Communicator. Travel fanatic. Web advocate. Certified alcohol geek. Tv buff. Subtly charming internet aficionado.

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