There's no doubt that the Asus ROG Phone 5 is a beast — as a gaming phone, it packs all of the latest and greatest hardware, and that makes it a really chunky boy. Asus has a laser focus on gaming-centric features that will delight its core demographic, but the ROG 5 isn’t a complete nightmare to use outside of gaming either. The ROG Phone 5 offers stable everyday use with the added benefit of killer specs that can be tweaked and adjusted like a gaming PC. This is indeed a phone for gamers, but that means it lacks some popular features, and the software has some rough edges.
Xiaomi's phones have long been known for their exceptional value proposition. You can always find the latest specs and features in a Xiaomi flagship phone, and it won't cost you an arm and a leg. It's something you don't often see these days when $1,000 has become the standard price for high-end hardware. That's not how Xiaomi rolls, though. With the Mi 11, Xiaomi has one of the best flagship phones on the market, offering killer specs and a great value, unless you happen to be in the US.
Google released the original Nest Hub (née Home Hub) in 2018, and we liked it even at $150. That price came down substantially, giving more people a chance to try out what was arguably the best Assistant smart display. Google says one in five people put that device in their bedrooms, thanks largely to the lack of a camera. The second-gen Hub still doesn't have a camera, but it does watch you. Hiding inside the almost identical chassis is a Soli radar module, which monitors your movement and breathing to track sleep. Any technology product that watches you sleep is bound to come off a little creepy, but there's more to the Hub than sleep tracking.
When a product is priced significantly higher than its competition, there are two potential reasons: either A) it's a legitimately superior option, or B) the company that makes it knows its target demographic will pony up regardless of how much it costs. Most luxury goods are some combination of the two (think Apple or Tesla). Bang & Olufsen's second-generation Beosound A1 also fits that bill: at $250, the Bluetooth speaker hardly reinvents portable audio — but it does everything it does so well, I'm inclined to put it more in column A than column B. I love this thing.
OnePlus has been hugely successful in 2020. It's the only company in the US that managed to grow during the pandemic and decline of smartphone sales. Clearly, it's doing a lot of things right, but that doesn't mean its products are perfect. Performance, battery life, and software features have always impressed, but photo quality has always been behind the curve, and its update policy falls behind its competitors now, as does the quality of those updates over time. Will the nearly $1,000 OnePlus 9 Pro fix these last two lingering issues?
There was a time not that long ago that OnePlus phones were a guaranteed excellent value. That's no longer the case as the company has increasingly focused on flagship devices and carrier partnerships, pushing the cost of some devices over $1,000. Still, that doesn't mean OnePlus is incapable of delivering a good value anymore. The new OnePlus 9 is only $729, which is more than two Benjamins less than the OnePlus 9 Pro. It's even cheaper than the OnePlus 8T it replaces, which is a welcome reversal of trends.
Aside from Samsung, Lenovo is one of the few Android OEMs that bothers to release tablets. The company has a tendency to be showy with products in the Yoga series, especially the one with that weirdo keyboard. But this ain't no Yoga — the Android-powered Tab P11 Pro is a typical tablet with an optional keyboard accessory. It was announced last year and launched just recently.
For the last several years, Samsung's flagship Galaxy S phones have been split into three variants: a kitchen sink smartphone at the high-end, an entry-level device, and that phone in the middle you probably don't think about. This cycle, I've spent some time with Samsung's middle child, the Galaxy S21+, and I came away impressed. It's not as capable as the S21 Ultra, of course, but the form factor, build-quality, and features carve out a niche in the saturated smartphone market. I'd even go so far as to say the Galaxy S21+ is worth the $1,000 asking price for some people.
Xiaomi may have diversified its product range to offer flagship phones, but the sub-$200 segment is still where all the action happens. The fact that it has maintained its lead in the budget segment, despite the increased pressure from Realme and Samsung, speaks volumes about how well Xiaomi knows what it's doing. That shows in the 2021 Redmi Note series. With the Redmi Note 10, Xiaomi has once again managed to find the balance between performance and price, which matters more than anything else in a market like India. But that doesn’t mean the Note 10 has no weak spots — it's got its fair share of them, and they could easily be a dealbreaker for some.
You could argue that Motorola made budget phones worth buying when it launched the original Moto G in 2013. That device was a marvel at the time—for under $200, you could get a smartphone that didn't suck. Suddenly, everyone was making $200-300 phones that also mostly didn't suck. Today, the mid-range space is much more crowded, and Moto has sometimes failed to make a splash with the annual Moto G revamp. This year there are three new G-series phones, including the Moto G Power. Arguably, this is the device with the widest appeal. There's no stylus included, but it's got more muscle than the G Play, and it has a big honkin' battery.