We tested… five smartphones around 450 euros

These are two smartphones that appeared this summer and are unusual. Marketed on July 28, the Google Pixel 6a has a smaller size than its competitors. Released a week earlier, the Nothing Phone is clad in a transparent back that reveals five light bands, which flash when it rings. A mobile that will not leave anyone indifferent, which is the purpose of this new brand.

We face these two amazing smartphones with three of their best enemies that also cost around 450 euros: the Samsung A53, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro Plus, and the Realme 9 Pro Plus. With high expectations, because at this price level, a mobile should be impeccable.

We took about fifty photos in five prints, in rainy, cloudy and sunny weather. The Google Pixel 6a is the one that makes the least mistakes. Its night shots are much brighter than its competitors. His photos of the sun are impeccable, and, if others seem dark, this is a perceived aesthetic choice, which is pleasing. On the other hand, the shots of the Samsung A53 are clearer and highlight the colors, sometimes at the risk of being wrong. Gray cobblestones, for example, can have a slight pink tone.

Samsung improves brightness and colors, but the result is not always happy.

In broad daylight, the Xiaomi takes excellent photos, but at night, on the darkest streets, it struggles to achieve a satisfactory level of brightness. As for the No Phone, it makes more mistakes than most of its competitors. However, his shots rarely miss outright. Overall pleasant, it is hard to believe that they are from the first smartphone of a new brand. In fact, Nobody started from scratch: the company was founded by the former boss of OnePlus, Carl Pei.

At night, in good light conditions, like here, the Samsung is always as good as the Google.  It's when the light becomes so amazing that the difference comes out.

It is difficult to drain the battery of these mobiles in less than a day. If we use it moderately, we can be sure that it will last a week, especially the Realme 9 Pro Plus, the Xiaomi and the None are more difficult.

Smartphones from Google and Samsung charge slowly, in about an hour and a half. In contrast, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro Plus is charged in less than half an hour. The No Phone is supplied without a charger, but it is the only mobile tested to accept wireless charging, which is practical for everyday use.

None of the tested smartphones shines in this regard. Most wear a plastic rim that raises serious concerns about their resistance to shocks and wear. At this price level, we expect aluminum, a material that only Google has adopted. However, these two smartphones do not make a perfect copy in terms of durability because their backs are covered in plastic, which is less resistant to scratches than glass. This plastic is more exposed to Google’s rear shocks. However, this model makes up for it thanks to its water resistance (IP67). Only the Samsung A53 has the same advantage.

In terms of electronics, the Phoneless and the Google Pixel 6a are equipped with faster processors than their competitors. They may last a year or two before their menus slow down. Remember that, with Realme and Xiaomi, do not expect to receive security software updates for more than two or three years, compared to four or five for other brands.

Samsung’s efficiency index is the best (8.2). The Google rating (6.4) reveals the difficult access to spare parts. There is not a single brand that does not announce this index, which raises the fear of repair problems once the warranty has expired.

These five smartphones are big, even big in the case of Xiaomi and the Left. Their XL format is too big to fit in any pocket, but it has become the norm. The most skilled user can maneuver these behemoths with one hand, albeit slowly. But many need their second hand to guide them, meaning they can’t hold a bag or drive a stroller at the same time, for example.

The Google Pixel 6a is the smallest of the mobiles tested. If not exactly compact, it is the least painful to hold with one hand, which probably makes it the best choice for nomads who do a hundred things at once.

Compared to its competitors, Google (left) is narrower and one centimeter shorter.  In the hand, feel the difference.

The Google Pixel 6a pays here for its relative compactness: its screen is slightly narrower, which makes movies and series less immersive. The texts are not very readable, as if the font size has been reduced by one or two sizes. Unless you regularly read A4 documents, or have uncorrected presbyopia, you’ll get along with it without much embarrassment. However, this screen is also not very readable in sunlight, and some users with more sensitive eyes will notice that its fluidity is not perfect when scrolling a web page: it shows only images of 60. per second, compared to 90 to 120 for. its competitors. In short, Google’s screen is usually less beautiful than Samsung’s, wider and brighter.

Smartphones from Google and Unknown by removing their menu. A kindness accompanied, alas, by a lot of clumsiness. The icons of most apps are very similar and easy to recognize, and the shortcut buttons are very simplified – cutting Wi-Fi is grouped with cutting mobile data, for example. No Phone doesn’t always bother to show a back button: sometimes we find ourselves stuck without going back. Only connoisseurs know that a gesture shortcut replaces this button: slide your finger from the edge to the right.

Xiaomi’s ergonomics are quite the opposite: it models its menus on the iPhone. Shortcut buttons are grouped in one panel, notifications in another. Applications are collected on the home screen and not stored in the traditional Android app drawer. All this is clear and convenient, but Xiaomi overloads the homepage with unclear folders and apps, some of which are duplicated, which upsets the good balance.

Google's home page is clearer than Xiaomi's.

We also regret the slight lack of clarity in the Xiaomi applications, whose buttons remain high on the screen, when many competitors have the foresight to bring them under the screen, where they are easier to reach. With a few different applications and a little cleaning, we can make Xiaomi a crystal clear mobile, but, as it stands, it does not offer better ergonomics than Samsung and Realme, whose ergonomics navigating between the opposing principles of Xiaomi and Google.

In the game of settings and exclusive features, Samsung wins the game, thanks to its audio equalizer, the one-handed control mode and its integration with Windows – you can control some of its features directly from the screen from his PC. Xiaomi is also distinguished by its functional richness, especially with an infrared transmitter that makes it a universal remote control.

The Google Pixel 6a has some exclusive features tied to its Tensor processor, but according to our testing, a lot of it doesn’t work well. For example, its quick translation system allows videos and podcasts to be subtitled in French, but the text moves in real time to the point where it’s difficult to decipher, and translation is risky.

The No Phone is the smartphone with the poorest exclusive functions, but it includes a very interesting gadget: its back has a line of five strips of LEDs that can flash in ten different ways, combined with successful retro modernist sounds. This will attract some, while putting off other users.

It is necessary to consider deactivating these lights during performances and meetings because their light level is fixed – it does not decrease when the ambient light decreases.

In terms of music, only Realme and Xiaomi have included an audio jack intended for headphones, with good quality. Nothing’s stereo speakers are terrible, Google’s and Samsung’s sound is pretty decent – they announce bass and deliver vocals clearly. This quality compensates for Google’s weakness in video playback: its screen is smaller and less bright than its competitors.

When looking at a series with this smartphone, like Samsung for that matter, these speakers will be enough. We are more tempted to wear a helmet on Realme and Xiaomi, and it has become a necessity on the Left Phone. The latter has gained a little in the field of video games: its graphics circuits are the fastest, twice the size of Samsung, which cannot run new greedy 3D games forever.

Google Pixel 6a deserves the first place on the podium: it is a particularly versatile mobile, excellent in photography, more compact than its competitors. Many users are able to manipulate it with one hand when the need arises.

But the Samsung A53, sold 60 euros cheaper, is a tempting alternative. A little less talented for photography, it is also versatile and offers a beautiful, readable and bright screen. Its XL format will especially appeal to many sedentary people who spend almost all their time in the office and at home.

The other three mobiles tested are hardly recommended. The No Phone, which is sold only on the Internet, deserves a special mention. With flashing LED strips and nostalgic techno ringtones, it has real personality. Unfortunately, its competitors can hardly say the same.

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