CES 2014: Top smartphone picks

People look over headphones and Xperia Z1 smartphones at the Sony booth during the 2014...

People look over headphones and Xperia Z1 smartphones at the Sony booth during the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Jan. 7, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

Peter Nelis, ClickOnline.com

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

This year's CES saw plenty of announcements for brand new Smartphones set to land in the coming 12 months, including the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

 


Sony has been ticking all the right boxes for us with its ever-expanding Xperia Z range, both on the smartphone and tablet front, and with the Z1 Compact, the company has taken everything that was great bout last year's Z1 and scaled it down to a smaller footprint, without sacrificing any of the quality associated with the handset.

Like its predecessor, the Z1 Compact boasts an incredibly powerful camera with a 20.7 MP sensor and an assortment of built-in software to further improve your shots on the go. Under the hood it's powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor and 2 GB of RAM, as well as 16GB of internal storage space. As usual, this space can be increased by up to 64 GB through the use of a microSD card, so users who like to store all their images and videos locally will have plenty of room available.

As a smaller version of the Z1, it's a little surprising that the Z1 Compact is actually a touch thicker than its bigger sibling at 9.5 mm, but it's far from unmanageable, and weighing in at just 140 g, it's an incredibly lightweight device.

That trademark glossy finish makes a return, and it's looking a sharp as ever - even if it does have a fondness for gathering up fingerprints with startling frequency. Those of you looking for a device with added protection should note that the Z1 Compact also features the same waterproof, scratch resistant and dustproof chassis of the larger version, making it an incredibly tantalizing proposition.

As smaller form factor, high-powered smartphones go, this is right up there with Apple's iPhone 5S, albeit without the 64-bit architecture, but it's nevertheless a device that's going to be well worth considering when it launches in the coming weeks.

Acer Liquid Z5


It may not be the high-end device that some may have been hoping for, but Acer's latest Liquid Z5 is a cut-price phone that packs an incredible amount value into its humongous form, potentially making it an attractive proposition for those wanting to try Android out for the first time.

With a dual-core Mediatek processor clocked at 1.3 GHz and 512 GB of RAM, it's not going to have any Snapdragon 800 devices quaking in their boots any time soon, but the end result is a device that performs incredibly smoothly, belittling its lower specs thanks to extreme optimization from Acer.

Again, the 5-inch screen's specs aren't going to win any technical achievement awards with a resolution of just 854 x 480 - positively antiquated by today's standards - but the brightly backlit display performs a lot better than you might expect. Slightly more in line with the day's norms is the Liquid Z5's 5MP camera, and there's an LED flash present for shots in darker lighting conditions too.

It's not going to be launched in North America, which is unfortunate for bargain hunters, but Europeans and Asians (or eager North American importers) will be able to get their hands on the device, unlocked and ready for any network, for an extremely budget-friendly €169!

LG G Flex

 


It looks like we're going to be seeing a lot more curved display technology in the months and years ahead, with LG leading the push in the smartphone space thanks to the incredibly nifty LG G Flex device. The handset, which will launch next month in the UK, followed by North America on selected carriers, boasts a uniquely curved body which, LG claims, is more naturally suited to the act of making and receiving calls on the device. While we remain to be wholly convinced, especially since it's impossible to gauge just how much of a difference it makes to call clarity on a packed and noisy show floor, it definitely does feel a little more comfortable than its straight-edged counterparts.

The device is a very reasonable 177 g, and measures just 8.7 mm at its thickest, while those of you concerned about breaking it while carrying the handset around in your pocket due to its curvature can be safe in the knowledge that, true to its moniker, it will happily give to reasonable amounts of pressure before returning to its natural shape.

With a 6-inch display, it's a bit of a monster, even by smartphone standards, and some will be disappointed at the fact that it lacks full HD, and instead offers a resolution of 720p - but it still manages to look excellent, particularly when placed in landscape mode where the curvature of the screen manages to make the viewing experience borderline theatrical!

On the raw power front, the device features the now-standard quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor running at 2.2GHz, 2 GB of RAM, 32 GB of internal storage, a 3500mAh battery and a 13 MP camera, which makes it a pretty solid device all-round. Whether or not it's going to capture the imagination or the general public are interested in the novelty of curve screens when it launches remains to be seen, but it's definitely an interesting device nevertheless.

Lenovo Vibe Z


When you think Lenovo you typically think of dull, uninspired business or education-oriented laptops, right? Well that's something the company has been fighting to change over the last couple of years, and it will definitely be helped by the lovely Vibe Z smartphone - a beautiful device available in silver or titanium that left us rather impressed on the show floor this year.

At 5.5 inches, it's far from the biggest device hitting the market in 2014, but despite that its weight of just 147 g surprised us - for its size this is an astonishingly light device! That 5.5-inch display runs in full 1080p HD and a pixel density of 400ppi while the device's rear is comprised of a laser-etched material that feels incredibly pleasing to the touch, and adds a real premium feel to the handset.

With a full HD display to run, it's not surprising that the Vibe Z features a 2.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor and 2 GB of RAM to ensure that everything stays smooth and responsive. Snap-happy users will be impressed with the 5 MP front facer (perfect for high resolution selfies) as well as the 12MP traditional rear facing camera, and 16 GB of built-in storage should be enough to keep you in Facebook profile pics for the foreseeable future.

Everything is powered by the latest version of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, and with a 3,000mAh battery lurking behind that laser-etched rear, we're hoping that real-world performance should make this a very realistic proposition for smartphone connoisseurs when it launches initially in February.

Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G


If you had hoped that the days of ludicrously large smartphones were starting to become a thing of the past, you've got another thing coming - at least where Huawei is concerned! The Ascend Mate2 4G is the company's latest attempt to break into the Western market, and although it's not a huge upgrade on its predecessor, the 6.1-inch phablet does potentially have enough about it to interest those who think that bigger really is better.

Our main concern with ramping up the display size of mobile devices has always been the impact on battery life - the more screen you have to light the more power you need - but Huawei has gotten around this particular stumbling block by packing an astonishing 4050mAh battery into this beast! Power consumption has also been lessened by the decision to max the resolution out at 720p, which has disappointed some.

It might be a monster in terms of its form factor, but the Mate2 4G is far less impressive underneath all that screen. It's got a quad-core 1.4 GHz Snapdragon processor that doesn't manage to come close to the clock speed of today's premium devices, but with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of built-in storage it's still got plenty to keep users up to speed.

Asian markets will get their hands on the device before the rest of us, with launch coming first in China by the end of this quarter, but everyone else should see it landing on their shores shortly afterwards - let's be honest, it'd be hard to miss the thing!


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