If you’re shopping for smartphones, the first thing you’ll likely check is the spec sheet. While this is an excellent way to start figuring out if a device is right for you, the specifications on paper may differ from the actual performance.
Smartphone manufacturers hide the low performance by writing larger numbers elsewhere in the specifications. But even if these numbers are correct, they don’t tell the whole story. All you do is influence paper, nothing more.
So, how do you check the specifications of a smartphone? What hardware capabilities should you ignore, or at least be wary of, when looking at a new smartphone?
1. Processor cores and speed
In the early days of computing, we learned that more is better. However, this is no longer true, especially with ever-decreasing chip sizes. For example, let’s compare the iPhone 13 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G.
The flagship iPhone 13 model has six cores of two 3.23 GHz and four 1.82 GHz Blizzard, while the mid-range Samsung has eight cores of two 2.4 GHz Cortex-A78 and six 2.0 GHz Cortex-A55. If you add them, the iPhone offers total clock speeds of 13.74GHz, while the Samsung has 16.8GHz.
But it doesn’t work that way. If you take a look at the GeekBench scores, the iPhone’s score of 4,645 has more than double the A53 5G’s 1,891 performance points. You get this result even though both phones have the same 5nm process chips and additional Samsung core. In this case, the iPhone chip is more powerful, despite the “lower specs” on paper.
If you are comparing processor performance between two phones, it is best to check the type of chip that is running and look at their benchmark results.
2. Screen resolution
While screen resolution is essential, to some extent it is not the ultimate solution to determining what your phone screen will look like. For example, a resolution of FHD (1920 x 1080) will be sufficient for most smartphones with a screen of 6.5 inches or smaller.
However, screen brightness and color accuracy is what you want to look at when choosing a phone. After all, what good is a high-resolution screen if you can’t see it under direct sunlight? Instead of looking at the number of pixels, you should consider the type of screen the phone is using.
The best and brightest displays you can get today are AMOLED or OLED displays. IPS displays are also a good alternative, but TFT displays should be avoided. You should also look at the phone’s brightness rating. An average brightness of 800 nits lets you see the phone’s screen, even if you’re looking at it under the midday sun.
The megapixel race started first with manufacturers of digital SLR cameras increasing each other, from eight until finally reaching 20 megapixels and more. This race has hit consumers hard, with many now equating more megapixels with better picture quality.
So, when smartphones started getting cameras, manufacturers strived to add as many pixels as possible to their sensors. However, this does not mean that the image quality is as good as the numbers say.
Let’s compare once again between iPhone 13 and Samsung A53. The first primary camera has a 12MP sensor, while the last one has 64MP. But according to multiple reviews, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is arguably the best camera smartphone of 2022, not to mention the Samsung A53.
So, if smartphone photography is important to you, don’t base your decision on megapixels. Instead, look at the phone’s other camera features, like sensor size (bigger and better), image stabilization options, and processing power. Even better, look at the reviewers’ results, and you can see which smartphone camera offers the best results.
4. Digital (or Hybrid) Zoom
One of the other things that smartphone manufacturers advertise on their smartphones is zoom. Some manufacturers say their phones have a hybrid zoom, while others claim they have a 100x ultra-high-resolution zoom.
Whatever they call it, zooming in on a scene without an optical lens means lowering the quality and resolution of the original image. This is because what the digital zoom does is to crop the image. If you’re only doing 1.5 to 2x zoom, the quality won’t drop much, especially if you have a 50+ MP sensor. But if you zoom in more than three times, expect the final image to be blurry.
Moreover, if you zoom in at 100x, the phone should have good image stabilization, and you should also have a steady hand (or at least a tripod or tripod). This is because even small hand movements affect the image greatly, making the final images blurry and poorly accurate.
If you care about mobile photography, you should keep in mind the optical zoom specifications. When you use the viewfinder to zoom in on a scene, you won’t lose any resolution because the lens brings what you’re capturing closer to the phone. So, when you take the photo, you get the full resolution of the smartphone camera sensor.
You should also consider the ultra-resolution lenses in a smartphone, as they can help you make unique photos with your device. Without the ultra-wide sensor, you’ll struggle to take expansive landscapes, group photos, and selfies.
Take the specs of a smartphone with a grain of salt
When browsing for a new phone, don’t base your buying decision on the numbers on the box, the GSM Arena specifications, or a smartphone salesperson’s offer. Instead, you should watch trusted reviewers crack the device and see their thoughts on it. Or you can read reliable publications and see what the writer has to say after living with the device for two weeks.
Once you’ve narrowed down your selection to a couple of smartphones, you should head to a physical store and see for yourself. Answer the following questions: Do you like the feel of the device? Does it suit your style and usage? Does it fit your budget?
When you finally get the answer to those, that’s when you should make your choice. With it, you will know that you made an informed buying decision, thus reducing the chance of getting buyer’s remorse.
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