2017 is wrapping up meaning we get to reflect on some of the best smartphones launched this past year. In my opinion, this has been one of the biggest years for smartphones where performance and hardware features have plateaued a little bit, we have seen big improvements made to the displays and just the overall designs of the devices we carry around in our pockets every single day.
It’s incredibly tough to narrow the list down to just 5 smartphones but I’m going to do my best to explain why each device deserves its spot. The margins for the best smartphones are so slim. If your prized device doesn’t earn the best spot or the spot you have in mind, don’t get your panties in a bunch because the differences are so minor.
Coming in at number five, we have the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+. These two devices are the only devices on the top five list to launch in the first half of the year but they still hold their own to this day. The S8 and S8+ brought a fresh, new design to the Galaxy lineup, one that set the tone for 2017. Both devices feature a near bezel-less Super AMOLED QHD resolution 18:9 aspect ratio displays that are curved on the sides. They are absolutely stunning with the Snapdragon 835 chipset and 4GB of RAM. The S8 continues to pack a punch in the performance department as well and I especially enjoy the S8+ because of its massive 3,500mAh battery that’s even bigger than the Note 8.
Coming in at number four, we have the LG V30. The V30 is the most stylish, well-built LG smartphone to date. It has slim bezels than the LG G6 and if you compare it to the LG V20, the design is immensely superior. You no longer have a removable battery but you have a beautiful AMOLED edge-to-edge display that’s a pleasure to look at. And one of the things that make this phone so special is its headphone jack and quad DAC. When I listen to music via the headphone jack, the sound is incredible. It’s louder and more detailed than on any other smartphone I’ve ever used.
There’s also a wide-angle camera sensor in addition to the main 16-megapixel sensor that offers an industry first f/1.6 aperture. The wide-angle sensor is so fun to use. I wish every smartphone had a wide-angle sensor like this.
Coming in at number three, we have the Apple iPhone X. It took longer than I would have liked to have seen a big design refresh with the iPhone but Apple finally delivered with the iPhone X, which was just released this last month. It features a lot of firsts for an iPhone: an edge-to-edge display, AMOLED display, new form of navigation, Face ID, Facial Recognition software, dual rear-facing cameras with support for Optical Image Stabilization. You have portrait mode via the front-facing camera. The list goes on and on. While I’m definitely more critical of the software and the hardware, the iPhone X gets some serious points in my book for its cutting edge hardware.
Coming in at number two, we have the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. That’s right guys, there are two Samsung phones on the top five list. The Note 8 is probably the most feature packed smartphone on the market. It has a massive 6.3-inch QHD Super AMOLED display that is the best in the business. There is a Snapdragon 835 chipset with 6GB of RAM, dual rear-facing camera sensors both with Optical Image Stabilization, a microSD card slot for expandable storage, large 3,300mAh battery, a Stylus, and a headphone jack. There’s also a host of software features for the S Pen stylus and for other areas. The software isn’t as strong as the hardware but overall this is an incredible device.
Now coming in at number one on the list and my personal favorite device of 2017 that I just cannot put down and I always want to switch back to when I’m reviewing another device is the Google Pixel 2 XL. I’m going to try and explain without rambling too much but I will say that I’ve flip flopped between the Note 8 and Pixel 2 XL several times trying to create this list. Last year, I loved the software on the Pixel XL but I couldn’t get myself to use it as my daily driver due to the hardware limitations. There were thick bezels and just no water resistance rating.
The Pixel 2 XL features a bigger display with much slimmer bezels. It features water-resistance and it has the brains to make you one heck of a productive human being. The Google Assistant can be activated by literally squeezing the phone or by simply saying “Okay Google.” The software is clean, simple, and innovative. There’s no Samsung bloatware. The camera is phenomenal, even outperforming the more expensive iPhone X and the Galaxy Note 8. It doesn’t have all of the hardware features as the Note 8 but what it lacks in hardware, it makes up for in software. It’s the phone that I actively enjoy using on a daily basis.
With that said, there are some other incredible devices that didn’t make my top 5 list but are still excellent smartphones depending on your budget and intentions. If you want a flagship smartphone but don’t want to pay the premium price for one, the OnePlus 5T is going to be the best device for you. It features the same processor that’s in the flagships with up to 8GB of RAM, a near stock Android experience, large 6-inch AMOLED display with very thin bezels, and a premium aluminum design. I just love this smartphone.
And if you’re a gamer, you should check out the Razer Phone. This phone features a massive 4,000mAh battery to provide some of the best battery life on the market and a large 5.7-inch display with a 120Hz refresh rate that will make games and entertainment appear incredibly smooth.
I never got a chance to use the HTC U11 but it looks like a great device and it definitely looks like a step up from the previous offerings from HTC that were in need of some serious innovation.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus also feature pretty much the same specs as the iPhone X but with an older, chunkier design and cheaper price. So if that doesn’t bother you, these are great options.
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 also deserves a shout out for being faster and smaller than its predecessor and being more compatible as well. It is now supported here in the US via GSM carriers. It still has that edge-to-edge display but it adds support for GSM carriers so you can actually buy this thing and use it in the US.
If there are any devices you think I missed or if you could make a better top five list, I’m all ears. Let me know in a comment below. I’ll be reading each one of your comments. This has been, once again, a great year for smartphones. I really look forward to 2018.