How the test was made
We carry out all of our tests ourselves and test all products in real conditions. We use mobile phones for everyday tasks just like the consumers themselves would use them. And as we use them, we note both major and minor issues that could be important to anyone buying a mobile phone. Some of the most important factors we take into account are:
Performance: How fast is the mobile phone interface? Can it handle demanding game apps? How does it react when running lots of apps at the same time?
Ease of use: Is the interface easy to learn? Are there smart solutions for shortcuts to the most common functions etc.? Are the interface, functions etc. personalised for each unique user?
Camera: How well does the camera perform under normal light conditions? How does it perform in poorer light conditions? How good is the colour reproduction? Is there "noise" on the images? How does the camera handle contrasts? How sharp are the images? Is it easy to find the focus?
Operating time: How long does the battery last before the mobile phone must be charged again under normal conditions? How does this change when we work the telephone hard? How quickly does the battery charge again?
Other factors we include in our analysis are material choice, build quality, whether the manufacturer has discarded important functions/hardware and how much value for money the mobile phone represents – both in terms of what you get for your money and how it compares to its competitors. The final score reflects the value for money.
The Samsung Galaxy S8+ is bursting with technology and has an attractive design and an impressive specification. For example, take the login options. You can choose between a pin code, a pattern, face recognition, iris recognition or fingerprint recognition. It has everything. Unfortunately, we discovered that it’s primarily the pin code or pattern alternatives that perform best, as the others don’t always work satisfactorily. For example, the fingerprint solution is quick but the positioning is badly chosen. Once you have access to the S8+ for your first exploration, there's a continuing cavalcade of different functions and options. Fortunately, you get used to these over time, but for a new user it can feel rather overwhelming. You can switch off the majority of the alternatives, but one function that you unfortunately can’t stop is Bixby, which is Samsung’s extremely inferior version of Google Now. But regardless of what you think about the surplus of functions, you can’t complain about the Galaxy S8’s hardware or performance. The handset is, after all, hardware – and everything works extremely quickly. Apps open at lightning speed and we couldn’t find any game that made the mobile pause for breath. The 6.2 inch screen (with the slightly odd 18.5:9 format) is among the best we’ve ever encountered – particularly in direct sunlight.
One hardware function that’s missing is the physical “home” button. This has been replaced by a pressure sensitive digital variant, which is part of the screen. It takes a while to get used to pressing it, but with time it feels OK. You can also set how sensitive it should be. The mobile phone’s camera is excellent, particularly when taking photographs in poor light conditions. Colour reproduction is very good and there’s no shortage of settings to change if you want more manual control. The battery time is good without being noteworthy. In general we had about 30% left when it came to bedtime. In terms of audio, we appreciated Samsung including a 3.5 mm contact on the telephone. However, we thought it was a bit of a shame that the handset only has one external speaker. Overall, Galaxy S8+ users won’t lack much when it comes to performance and functions. But the flagship mobile isn’t entirely faultless, as described above, so it doesn’t get a perfect score.
The Asus Zenfone 3 mobile telephone has a crystal clear screen with very good contrast and colour reproduction regardless of whether you're indoors or outdoors in strong sunlight. In this price class it's the best screen we’ve seen. The screen is also extremely quick to respond – in fact the entire phone feels very responsive when we move through the interface and apps, even if it doesn’t have the best processor on the market. However, the camera is no more than OK. The images are acceptable in good light conditions, but it has problems as soon as there’s more contrast in the environment, for example if the camera is in direct sunlight but aimed at an area of shade. In poor light the images can very easily be blurry and the camera finds it difficult to focus. The images also feel overprocessed. Video clips tend to be extremely dark with the consequence that many details disappear if you don’t have good, uniform lighting. Given the price class the camera is acceptable, but don’t expect wonders.
But there are other things that are good about this telephone. It’s well constructed without any play in the buttons. A small LED on the front indicates if you’ve received new messages without hearing them. The material is rather slippery, so it’s a good idea to buy a protective shell so that it doesn’t get damaged if it falls out of your pocket. This is also the reason that we would have liked the fingerprint reader to be on the front instead of high up on the back. That would also be a better position from a purely ergonomic viewpoint. The battery life is good despite a relatively small battery. The phone does a good job of keeping energy consumption down and never gets particularly hot even if we play games and push the hardware to its limits. It also obtained very high points in the performance tests we put it through. All in all this is a very good choice in the medium price class, even if Asus can still improve several things prior to the next version of the Zenfone 3.
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium is a mobile telephone that literally breathes quality, with its glass back and metal frame around – an impression that is reinforced by top-class hardware on the inside. If we were to criticise one thing it would be that it has obvious screen edges, which many other manufacturers have abandoned. This may be perceived by many people as old-fashioned, and also creates unnecessary dead space that could have been used to give the phone more screen space. According to Sony, it's the 4K HDR screen and the possibility to take ultra-rapid video at a full 960 frames per second which are the high points of the phone. These are pretty cool features, it’s true, but both currently suffer from limitations. For the screen, there are only a few apps that support 4K at the moment, so you can rarely see the benefit. However, in the future things will be different. The ultra-rapid function isn’t so good. You can only take a short video clip at top speed and both the light conditions and subject must be ideal to get a good end result. With a bit of practice and a spot of luck you can produce really good results, but it’s a bit too fiddly to achieve these for this function to really stand out.
Otherwise the camera is very good, particularly the colour reproduction. It also takes high-quality images in poor light conditions, but there are premium priced class mobiles that perform better on this point. The functional interface contributes to using the camera being a straightforward experience. The interface is also easy to use generally, largely because the system is the quickest and most lag free that we have experienced on an Android mobile. The fingerprint reader, which is set into the on/off button on the side of the mobile, is also responsive and functions faultlessly. The Xperia XZ Premium also has stereo speakers, which is a big plus. And of course it’s also water and dustproof, which has been one of Sony’s showpieces for a long time now. There are also a number of clever AI functions built into the system, such as the mobile reminding you when you should charge it based on your general charging habits. Over time the AI will learn a number of your user habits and give you recommendations based on them. We think this could be useful, but it’s difficult to say whether that perception would change depending on how insistent the XZ Premium becomes over time. Sony has achieved considerable success with the Xperia XZ. If you like the design and think that the price is reasonable for a top mobile phone which doesn’t have an “edgeless” screen, you probably won’t regret your purchase.
The Sony Xperia XZ2 has an inviting and useful design. The squareish design from the previous Xperia series is finally gone. Instead the Xperia XZ2 boasts curvy shapes and an 18:9 screen that reaches right out to the edges. The rounded corners mean that the mobile sits very nicely in the hand. At the same time it's not so definite that it suffers from other rounded screens' tendency to sometimes refuse to detect the user's fingers at the outer edges. However, there is one disadvantage, which is that it's very reluctant to lie still on flat surfaces. For example, if you're charging the mobile wirelessly and the underlying surface slopes in the slightest it's likely to slide off towards potentially catastrophic destinations. Of course you can fix this with a suitable shell. The Xperia XZ2's performance is top class, and the operating system is really quick. This is most obvious when we have lots of apps running and change between them, but also in more demanding applications. It runs smoothly regardless. The camera is good, but there's a question mark here. Given that the competitors have two or even three primary cameras, it's a little surprising that Sony insist on only one. This means that you have neither optical depth effects or zoom, and that it can't measure up to the top models in dark environments. However, the camera does an excellent job when the light conditions are advantageous, and it can film in 4K HDR, which is useful if you have a TV that supports the format.
The Xperia XZ2 has a fingerprint reader in the standard position, on the back, below the camera lens. The reader is fast and takes you directly into the system. The problem with the size and positioning of this is that users with longer fingers can easily mistake the camera lens for the reader before they get the hang of it. The unique 3D scanning function from the previous model is still present, but has been updated and is now even better. The results are more reliable. When it comes to sound, the XZ2 is one of the best mobile telephones on the market. Sony's digital sound improvement works very well, and the same applies to the stereo speakers. However, the dynamic vibration function, making the mobile vibrate with the bass tones in films, apps and music, is only interesting in theory. It only works when the screen is on, which means that it's only actually active when you're holding the mobile. And the function is pretty thirsty in terms of battery power. The battery lasts for about a day if used frugally. We'd have liked to see a 3.5 mm outlet on the phone. But overall, this is an interesting choice if you're looking for a mobile phone with very good sound and excellent performance.
For many years, the Sony Xperia XZ Compact has been unique, simply because of its size. While the majority of other high performance mobiles are increasing in size, the Compact series has remained a neat format with a screen size of less than five inches. And the same is true in this version, despite it sharing many of the characteristics boasted by its full-sized sibling model, the XZ. The screen size is good if you're looking for something a bit more compact than the current standard. At the same time, it must be said that Sony hasn't exactly been imaginative with the design. It's actually hard to see any difference between this and its predecessors. Another disadvantage is the sharp edges, which makes it less comfortable to hold.
The Xperia XZ Compact's camera delivers good results. Details tend to appear digitally compressed, but overall the telephone produces really good images even in darker environments. One cool extra function is an app that makes the camera a 3D scanner. In terms of performance, the XZ Compact is a positive experience. Everything works very quickly - in fact even a bit faster than many of its competitors. One advantage is that the small screen has significantly fewer pixels to handle, partly because it's small and partly because the resolution is lower. But you don't actually notice the latter because of the screen size. The lower resolution also means that the battery lasts longer, and you'll get a full day's use from it without any problems. If you're looking for a relatively compact mobile phone, the XZ is an obvious choice, partly because you won't be losing anything in terms of speed, but also because it's the only phone available in this size class.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is a mobile phone that comes with a great camera and a giant of a screen. The format is quite rectangular, though, so it's never difficult to hold. However, it is very long which means it's not always easy to fit it into your pocket. The screen has curved sides as a design feature and performs very well in terms of image quality, regardless of whether you're just browsing the internet or watching a high resolution film. The same thing applies to performance as a whole, which is definitely top class. A new feature for the Note series that arrives with the launch of the Note 8 is the double cameras. This gives a kind of simulated zoom without quality loss and the ability to achieve short depth of field. The image results are among the best you can get from a mobile phone today, with good contrast, image processing and a decent colour spectrum. Alongside the camera is the fingerprint reader, which is unfortunately not very well located because you keep poking the camera lens when you're trying to find it with your finger. Also, with a shell on the phone it becomes difficult to reach the reader. The biometric login process could have been rescued by the iris scanner or facial recognition. However, the former doesn't work if you're wearing spectacles and the latter is incredibly slow. This means that the Galaxy Note 8 currently underperforms on every front when it comes to biometrics.
The Galaxy Note 8 naturally comes with a pen - which as always has its own storage slot in the phone. This is incredibly accurate compared to a finger. The pen is perfect for handwritten notes, sketches and working with spreadsheets. If you often need to do this type of task with your phone, the pen is an invaluable aid. The only thing about it that we don't like is that writing on the screen feels a bit slippery. At the same time there are loads of extra functions for smart screen capture, gif animations, translation and many other things directly linked to the pen, which gives it more added value. Disappointingly for a unit that's meant to offer extra everything, six months after release the phone still hasn't been upgraded to the latest version of Android. And the battery is equally sad, barely managing a full day's use despite power saving modes. The fingerprint reader, Android version and the battery life leave an unpleasant aftertaste in a mobile phone that shouldn't have this type of shortcomings. But the pen is great and if you need it, this telephone really does offer almost extra everything. If you want a phone with a large, inviting screen, pen functionality and a great camera, this is a good buy, and it's also the only premium telephone to have a pen.
The Sony Xperia XZ1 is an energy-efficient mobile phone with an exciting 3D scanning function and interesting positioning of the fingerprint reader. Sony's genius idea to build the fingerprint reader into the power button on the mobile's long side makes the phone extra energy-efficient. Some people may find it irritating that you have to first press the power button before the fingerprint reading works, but it saves on battery life. The Xperia XZ1 also has advantages in terms of its AI learning and other built-in power saving functions. It's fortunate that Sony have been so innovative with energy saving. The battery is really not great. The energy saving functions mean that despite this the battery lasts for a whole day - in the majority of cases. But it may be close if you need many power-hungry functions or use the telephone a lot during the day.
The Sony Xperia XZ1 has a camera that performs very well in daylight. There are competitors with sharper cameras, particularly in more difficult light conditions, but the XZ1's is definitely among the best. The fun 3D scanning function and the opportunity to film in what Sony calls super slow motion (although only for 6 seconds) are entertaining and unique functions. It isn't easy to find suitable occasions on which to use them, but when you do the end result is well over expectations. We also award plus points for the mobile's sound properties, particularly the alternative that makes high-resolution sound possible. In terms of appearance, there's not a lot to distinguish the XZ1 from previous Sony mobiles. The slightly sharper corners make it easy to hold the mobile comfortably in your hand in certain positions. Details that give the feeling that the Xperia XZ1 is behind its competitors include the fact that the screen doesn't go right out to the edges and the large amount of metal above and below the screen. But if we look inside, this "old fashioned" style has its advantages, for example the fact that you get a pair of stereo speakers that sound much better than the single one in competitor phones. The Xperia ZX1 is good in many ways. It has a good screen, intelligent software functions, delivers good sound, a competent camera, dedicated camera button and the mobile looks perfectly OK even if you may feel it lacks that touch of luxury. It's best for those who don't use their mobile phone too often during the day and who therefore don't need a more powerful battery.
The Nokia 8 is an interesting mobile phone, at least on paper. It has a modern, fast processor, despite the slightly lower price, double rear cameras with a respectable Zeiss label and a bright screen that's nice and sharp. But other than the highly capable sound recording solution, the Nokia 8 doesn't make the most of its hardware. The manufacturer, HMD, has pretty much left Google's operating system intact. There's hardly anything that says that you're holding a Nokia 8. This makes the mobile phone anonymous and far from as function-rich as we're used to when it comes to premium telephones. We would like to have seen an individual interface overlaying Google's basic Android. The only unique touch is in the camera app. Using this you can take pictures and record video with the selfie camera and the main camera at the same time. The screen is divided into two halves, with each camera's field of view displayed. In marketing terms this is called a "bothie" instead of a "selfie". If you're taking a video, "bothie" material can be direct streamed to YouTube or Facebook. Unfortunately, the two main cameras, one colour and one black and white, can't be used to create or manipulate depth of field. Instead the system is intended to help create more detail in the images in poor light conditions. Unfortunately it doesn't really succeed with this. The Nokia 8 also sometimes has problems with autofocus which can't choose the focal point quickly enough. In ideal conditions, the images are perfectly OK, but given how much emphasis the Nokia 8 places on its cameras, we'd expected more.
In terms of appearance, however, it's hard to complain about the Nokia 8. It's stylish, and the mobile is generally relatively thin and neat in your hand. The screen is sharp and bright and the mobile has an SD card slot, which is another plus. The fact that it's absolutely no problem going a whole day without having to charge the mobile is also positive. What's perhaps the Nokia 8's best feature is the relatively competitive price. The question is whether this is enough. Several competitors have more unique solutions, more or less equivalent hardware and some of them are even more affordable. In comparison, the Nokia 8 is a mobile phone with very few faults but which still doesn't feel completely right. Nor is the mobile watertight like its competitors in the same category; instead it's only water resistant. It's a shame that the manufacturer hasn't made more use of the hardware, because the Nokia 8 is interesting both in terms of its price tag and exciting heritage.