Not too long ago, it was surprisingly difficult to find an unlocked, capable smartphone for an affordable price point. To get a mobile device that worked properly, it wasn’t uncommon that users would need to spend anywhere around $500-$800. Luckily for everyone, a number of device manufacturers have been releasing smartphones that are capable of handling everyday tasks, but still won’t break the bank.
Specifically, lesser known but rapidly growing smartphone companies such as OPPO and Asus have been releasing some great devices, and so have well-known manufacturers like Samsung and Sony. But how do the most prominent mid-tier smartphones from these companies compare? While this is not a complete list by any means, we decided to pit just a few mid-range handsets against one another to see how they fare.
Today we’ll be comparing the OPPO R7, Samsung Galaxy A7, ASUS ZenFone 2, and the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua. It should be noted early on that we haven’t reviewed the Galaxy A7, though given its comparable specifications to the competition, we thought it to be a good device to add to the comparison. Although these smartphones bring somewhat similar specifications and price points to the table, many of them still differ from one another when it comes to overall user experience. Before we get too far into the details, let’s take a look at the specification list below:
Samsung Galaxy A7 (A700FD)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
ASUS ZenFone 2
5.0-inch Super AMOLED display with 1080 x 1920 resolution
5.5-inch Super AMOLED display with 1080 x 1920 resolution
5.0-inch IPS LCD display with 720 x 1280 resolution
5.5-inch IPS LCD display with 1080 x 1920 resolution
2.3GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 (4GB RAM),
1.8GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3560 (2GB RAM)
16GB, expandable up to 128GB
16GB, expandable up to 64GB
8/16GB, expandable up to 128GB
16/32/64GB, expandable up to 64GB
13MP rear f/2.2
8MP front-facing f/2.4
13MP rear camera
5MP front camera
13 MP rear camera
5MP front camera
13MP rear camera
5MP front camera
Color OS 2.1, Android 4.4.2 KitKat
Samsung TouchWiz, Android 5.0.2 Lollipop
Android 5.0 Lollipop
Zen UI, Android 5.0 Lollipop
143 x 71 x 6.3mm, 147g
151 x 76.2 x 6.3mm, 141g
145.5 x 72.6 x 7.3mm, 136g
152.5 x 77.2 x 10.9mm, 170g
Bringing a great price tag and solid specs, the Asus ZenFone 2 is one of the best mid-range options on the market.
To begin, let’s talk about the display. Mid-tier smartphones have come a long way on the display front, with many options now hitting the market with Full HD panels – and that’s true for the ZenFone 2, the Oppo R7 and the Samsung Galaxy A7. The big difference between these displays, however, is that the R7 and A7 both feature Super AMOLED displays instead of an LCD. AMOLED vs. LCD is still an ongoing debate, but much of the time you’ll find more vivid colors with AMOLED technology and there are certainly a number of folks that prefer AMOLED over LCD.
Unfortunately, Sony chose to go with a 5.0-inch 720p panel on their device, which might upset a few users hoping to get the clear 1080p resolution out of their mid-tier smartphone. Even though having a device with a lower resolution display might result in a tad better battery life, we’re sure most users would choose Full HD over this option if given the chance.
With a Snapdragon 615, the OPPO R7 stands towards the top when it comes to performance.
When it comes to performance, none of these smartphones are particularly poor at handling everyday tasks, though a few still manage to stand out from the rest. The OPPO R7 and ZenFone 2 both performed really well in our full reviews, largely due to their impressive internals.
Featuring 3GB of RAM and a Snapdragon 615 CPU, the R7 is quite the competitor to the ZenFone 2 with 4GB of RAM and Atom Z3580 CPU. Both devices handle gaming quite well, and they do a great job at performing everyday tasks. The Snapdragon 615 found in both the R7 and A7 has proven itself to be quite a capable processor overtime, making both OPPO’s and Samsung’s offerings a great option for those looking for a device with a reliable processor. It should be noted, however, that we have not posted a full review of the A7, so we aren’t as informed on this device as we are with the others. As for the Atom Z3580, while it might perform similarly, Qualcomm processors tend to have better app compatibility and simply have a better rep (810 overheating drama aside).
Last on the list is the Xperia M4 Aqua. While this device features the same 615 processor found in the R7 and A7, our reviews have found that Sony’s offering tends to overheat relatively easily when playing games, which is one of our biggest points of contention with the device.
The M4 Aqua stands out when it comes to camera performance.
Oddly enough, all four of the devices we’re comparing today feature 13MP rear-facing cameras, though there’s still a big difference when it comes to image quality.
No matter which device you pick out of the lot, you won’t be disappointed in the camera department. But if you want a mid-range smartphone with a camera that stands above the rest, we’d suggest going with the Xperia M4 Aqua. In our full review, Sony’s offering consistently produced shots with great detail and with vivid colors. Sony’s camera app is quite simplistic and doesn’t come with too many features, though more can be downloaded separately.
Next up we have the OPPO R7 and ASUS ZenFone 2, which both produced average shots in our full reviews. Although we haven’t tested the A7’s camera for ourself, Samsung devices in the past have consistently produced well-balanced, accurate photos. Like most other smartphone cameras, these devices perform best in well-lit areas, with a noticeable decline in quality when moved into low-light situations. Ultimately, the R7 struggles in the post-processing department, while the ZenFone 2 fails to provide an acceptable amount of dynamic range.
All of the extras
One of Sony’s signature features is waterproofing, and so it is great to see this present in the Xperia M4 Aqua.
Design and build quality are two big areas where manufacturers are shifting focus in the mid-range market, and all four of these smartphones surely don’t disappoint on that front. Whether you choose to go with the familiar design language of Sony’s Xperia M4 Aqua or the premium-feeling OPPO R7, we’re sure most of you won’t have to sacrifice too much when it comes to overall design.
OEMs are also noticeably focusing on their software experiences, too. All of these devices feature software that’s been toned down significantly throughout the past few months, which has been a big pain point for mid-rangers in the past. OPPO’s simplified ColorOS provides a much smoother overall experience, while the ZenFone 2, Xperia M4 Aqua and Galaxy A7 are much more feature-rich than the others. When it comes to software, it ultimately comes down to which OEM skin you prefer, but you really can’t go wrong with any of these options.
Quick charging? Yes please!
All four of these devices come with non-removable batteries, but that actually may not be a deal breaker. These mid-range offerings can all last around a full day on a single charge, though not much more than that. What’s more, you don’t have to worry about running out of space on your device, because all of them also come with microSD card slots.
The differences begin to really stand out when we take into account other attractive features such as IP68 water and dust resistance or quick charging technology. For instance, I’d much rather recommend the Sony option to anyone who spends the majority of their summer days sitting next to the pool, but I’d rather recommend the OPPO R7 or ZenFone 2 to someone who needs to charge their battery in half the time thanks to integrated quick charging.
Pricing and final thoughts
OPPO R7’s design and performance put it towards the top of the list, though ZenFone 2 and the others follow close behind.
Choosing the right smartphone isn’t always an easy decision, and it can take some time to figure out what best suits your needs. Out of the pack, the OPPO R7 seemingly stands out above the rest if you’re looking for a powerful handset with an ultra-premium build and high-end features like quick charging. The ZenFone 2 certainly follows close behind, though many may be turned off by its choice of an Intel processor and its somewhat less attractive design (though that last point is completely subjective).
The Samsung Galaxy A7 also seems like a capable enough device, though we think it’s price tag may be too high for most users looking for a solid mid-range offering. As for the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua? Special features like waterproofing are great, though we certainly are a bit alarmed by the device’s apparent overheating issues.
All in all, this post is meant to condense our full reviews down to make it easier for you to decide on which phone is right for you. However, that’s not always the easiest way to get information across, so we’ve also linked our full reviews down below. Feel free to let us know which device you think is worth your hard-earned cash, and why the other smartphones won’t find their way into your pocket anytime soon.