MWC 2018 is almost upon us and with it new flagship smartphones. The Galaxy S9, the 2018 LG V30, the Huawei Mate P20, and more will most likely hog the spotlight, one way or another, and it might be too easy to think that these are the best that the Android world has to offer. Or that you have to pay premium to get the best stuff. Fortunately, there are some new upstarts, and one still young company, that is giving the big boys a run for their money. We look at the OnePlus 5T, the Essential PH-1, and the Razer Phone to see which of these three rebels might be worth your money and dethrone the smartphone kings.
Specs & Performance
Smartphone hardware specs have more or less consolidated around a standard set, but there can still be some subtle differences that could give one the upper hand. All three of our contenders, for example, run on the still latest Snapdragon 835. That, however, is where their similarities end. They all have dual cameras but of varying capabilities and performance. The OnePlus 5T and Razer Phone both have 8 GB RAM options but the OnePlus 5T comes with 128 GB of storage. The Razer Phone, on the other hand, has the largest battery of the three at 4,000 mAh.
Winner: OnePlus 5T. Although the gaming-oriented Razer Phone comes close, the latest OnePlus flagship has a more well-rounded feature set. It makes up for its smaller battery with DASH charge fast charging and a less power-hungry 1080p display.
The screen has become the center of attraction these days, with the growing number of 18:9 ratios and nearly bezel-less screens. These three, however, are as different as they can be when it comes to their displays. The OnePlus 5T did jump on the 18:9 bezel-less bandwagon but kept its resolution down to 1080p. The Essential went for striking beauty but does have a rather odd pixel resolution. And while the Razer Phone is more traditional, it has one trick up its sleeve that trumps them all.
Winner: Razer Phone. Razer’s first phone has a crisp and vibrant display and its 120 MHz refresh rate doesn’t hurt either. It’s a gaming phone, of course, but whose to say that the feature won’t be useful for other things in the future.
Considering how close the competition is, you might decide your purchase based on the wow factor. You’ll probably want to skip the Razer Phone, then, which is essentially a brick. The OnePlus 5T is more traditional but also runs the risk of looking just like everybody else. Unless you manage to get the Lava Red edition. Which leaves us with …
Winner: Essential PH-1. You can’t deny that the Essential phone looks stunning. Especially if you were already enchanted by the iPhone X. Yes, there will be some comparisons, but if you want a dashing phone to flaunt and don’t mind (or actually want to) being mistaken for an iPhone user, this is pretty much it.
Great hardware can be rendered useless by terrible software. Fortunately, these three are pretty much at the top of their game. Having been in the market the longest, the OnePlus 5T has had the most experience and most time to be refined. It’s also the most customized of the three, and one that is always under scrutiny for privacy lapses. Both the Razer Phone and the Essential PH-1 ship with near stock Android but, of the two, the Razer has more added on top. Not surprising as it needs to customize its experience for gaming.
Winner: Essential PH-1. Clean and fast, Essential has proven the benefits of not having bloatware onboard. Updates come quickly and so do fixes. You’ll need to know your way around Android though, as it also doesn’t offer too much convenience features you’d expect from a phone these days.
The Razer Phone stands out as the most expensive of the newcomers but, at $700, it’s still lower than the likes of the Galaxy S8 (and soon Galaxy S9) or an iPhone. The Essential PH-1 started out that way as well, but, for better or worse, has slashed its price tag down nearly in half. The OnePlus 5T, on the other hand, comes from the opposite direction and is the most expensive OnePlus phone yet.
Winner: Essential PH-1. The $499.99 is too good to ignore, especially when you’re getting almost everything the others have at a lower price. If you want to splurge, you can get the new $599 Ocean Depth color instead.
With 3 scores out of 5, the Essential PH-1 definitely comes out at the top. Of course, it’s not a clear-cut victory and you might have other considerations. The Essential’s design, despite its looks, is not exactly conducive for gaming the way the Razer Phone is. It pretty much started on the wrong foot when it came to camera experience but has so far proven it could improve update after update. It still hasn’t made use of those two small holes on its back beyond the 360-degree camera. And it has also thrown out the 3.5 mm headphone jack that the OnePlus 5T lovingly holds on to.
Perhaps the most pressing of late is the question of Essential’s business. A new and small company, sales figures haven’t exactly been encouraging. If Essential closes down, so will the update gravy. But Essential has defied odds even before it launched its first and so far only phone and has proven itself to be just as much a fighter as any other smartphone maker. And, hopefully, it will last as long as any other as well.