We tested … the five best smartphones at 200 euros

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They are among the five best smartphones at 200 euros according to various European technology media. Once unboxed, you would think you were seeing clones, as these mobiles are so similar, but their fine differences end up, by accumulating, by designating a winner, as our tests revealed.

Our selection does not include models capable of surfing in 5G, which cost a few dozen euros more. But this investment is far from essential at present, as shown by our tests or the study of the telecoms “gendarme”.

Smartphones from Oppo, Realme and Xiaomi make exactly the same ergonomic compromises. Their readability is excellent thanks to their sharp and large screen (67 millimeters). Their size is neither too loose nor too thick: they hold quite well in the hand. But their screen is too high: it is difficult to touch the buttons at the top, and this slows down the use of these smartphones with one hand.

On the right, the Vivo is penalized by its thick edges which make its grip uncomfortable and hamper the mobility of the thumb on the screen.  On the left, the curved screen edges of the Xiaomi are much more ergonomic.

The Oppo, Realme and Xiaomi are not compact mobiles, far from it, but they are a little less unpleasant to handle than the average of current smartphones. The Samsung format approaches it but its screen is disappointing: it is less clear, with a resolution of only 274 dpi. Many farsighted people will not notice it, but this slight blur will hamper average myopic people, who are able to read screens very closely, especially if they are browsing A4 documents, magazines or comics.

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The Vivo suffers from the same problem of display finesse, to which is added a problem of format: it is more massive. This mobile is really unpleasant in the hand, without its screen being more comfortable. Note, the screens of these five smartphones do not display the colors in a perfectly balanced way. Color inaccuracy is very tolerable, but it will bother image professionals.

Here too, the similarities are obvious: the menus of these five smartphones are controlled not with gestural shortcuts, as on Apple or Google smartphones, but with three classic buttons which appear at the bottom of the screen. Their home page is rather stripped down, their screen background crystal clear; they are provided without a duplicate application.

All these mobiles house their applications in a separate drawer, leaving only a copy of the most useful applications on the home screen. All, except the Xiaomi: as on the iPhone, its home screen houses absolutely all the applications, often hidden in folders. The absence of an application drawer simplifies the use of the mobile, but it is perfectly possible to choose to reintroduce this element which makes Android so unique. Xiaomi offers it when you turn on the mobile for the first time.

Manufacturers express their freedom by adding a few additional icons to Google applications. Oppo is reported negatively by automatically embedding three Amazon applications, Samsung forces the download of six applications, including that of Decathlon. With all these builders follow some home applications, generally quite clear and useful. However, we regret that the icons of these applications are too similar in Vivo and Oppo: it is difficult to find them in the blink of an eye on the home page.

Aesthetically, these mobiles differ mainly in their back.

Most of the smartphones tested have a fingerprint reader on their side, which allows them to be unlocked. This reader is just as easy to use as the more traditional readers housed under the screen equipping Realme and Oppo, while proving to be more reliable and faster.

Despite the presence of an FM radio, Vivo’s smartphone is left behind: its settings are particularly poor. Its competitors are very close to each other, they offer a moderately expanded choice of parameters and share many advanced functions: “one-handed piloting” mode, configurable info panel displayed on a corner of the screen. when it is off, choice of the size of the rows of icons on the main screen, detailed setting of notifications, etc.

The Samsung stands out with a 90Hz screen mode that makes the display smoother, at least in the eyes of the users who perceive it – a minority. The Xiaomi has an infrared port that makes it possible to turn it into a universal remote control. All except the Oppo are equipped with an NFC antenna.

During the day, these five smartphones take beautiful images and rarely miss a shot in large widths. Problems are more common with Realme, however, which has an unfortunate tendency to sharpen images to the point that they become aggressive, especially when photographing nature.

The Oppo accentuates the sharpness in an exaggerated way, the trees lose all their naturalness.

Some smartphones make aesthetic choices that can be divisive: the Xiaomi captures particularly clear images, the Vivo slightly dark shots. It’s a matter of taste. At night, the Oppo loses control and makes a lot of mistakes. Most of its competitors shoot much more honorable photos, especially the Realme, on condition of activating its night mode, unfortunately a little hidden in its menus. The photos of the Vivo and Xiaomi are a little less clear, but they are still more correct when you do not make the effort to activate the night mode.

On the right, the ultra wide angle of the Samsung captures much cleaner night images than that of the Realme (on the left).

The Vivo and the Oppo are deprived of the “super wide angle” lens which equips their competitors: they see less “wide”. This will deprive them of spectacular vacation photos – some charming landscapes or villages for example. On the Samsung, Realme and Xiaomi, the super wide angle captures images less beautiful than the main lens, but still quite pleasant. When night falls, these shots become downright bad – those of the Xiaomi less than the others. Zoom side, the images of details are missed, except at Oppo, the only one to offer an acceptable X5 zoom when the light is abundant.

Sound side, all these smartphones are equipped with a headphone jack of decent, or even good, quality for the Vivo and Xiaomi. On the other hand, the speakers of these mobiles are only passable. The Oppo’s is so nasty that you can’t even use it to broadcast a podcast. The speakers of the Vivo and Xiaomi are doing less badly.

Video side, these smartphones are almost all equipped with an Oled screen, a function formerly reserved for high-end mobiles: video games and films with a dark atmosphere stand out against a perfectly black background, and it’s pleasant. Only the Vivo skips the Oled; its classic LED screen of passable resolution (1600 x 720 pixels) is not an ideal companion for films and series.

3D games side, the Oppo should be avoided: too slow, it struggles to run games like PUBG correctly. Samsung and Vivo mobiles are a bit faster, but if you want to be able to run most 3D games for a few more years, you’d better go with the significantly faster Realme and Xiaomi. Their performance is close to that of a high-end smartphone from 2018.

With their enormous 5000 Mha battery, these mobiles offer very good autonomy, which can reach two days if you play little and watch videos in moderation. The Samsung floats: its autonomy can last three days, provided you moderate the use of all its applications. These smartphones cannot be powered by a wireless charger. It takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to fill their batteries – and even two hours for the Samsung and Vivo.

With their plastic rim and back, these smartphones mark every little scratch: it is imperative to offer them a protective shell. Their all-plastic construction lets fear the worst in the event of a fall: this very flexible material will not protect the internal electronics as an aluminum frame would. In case of breakage, however, we should be able to repair the Samsung without too much difficulty, which obtains a fairly good repairability rating. The rating of its competitors is more average, even bad enough for Realme.

None of these mobiles are waterproof, only the Oppo is sold as resistant to light rain, but not to immersion. Their menus are quite fluid, but we can fear that they will slow down in two or three years, especially those of the Samsung, whose processor and memory are not the fastest. Realme and Xiaomi are the least bad performers in this regard. Overall, these smartphones are not built to last.

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For around 200 euros, you can therefore afford a versatile smartphone, which is not missing anything essential, but which will probably not last five years. As often in recent years, our choice is more on Xiaomi’s mobile. The Mi Note 10s is the smartphone with the most balanced score, with the rarest false notes. It seems a bit more durable and easier to use than its competition.

But its lead is so thin that two other smartphones can perfectly match. The Samsung A22 offers the best battery life in this comparison and does not suffer from any crippling flaw.

The Realme is also a good choice, more durable than the Samsung, thanks to its relatively fast electronic components, and a little more autonomous than the Xiaomi. More balanced in short.

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