LaptopMedia’s choice for best back to school smartphones

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With summer coming to an end, it’s time for the school year to start. Alongside other important things, a smartphone could also prove to be a useful addition, that would help a lot in the learning process. Not long ago we introduced you to our top back to school choices for laptops and now we are going to do the same, but for smartphones. Once again we divide the devices into different categories to make things easier for you. In this article, we are going to take a look at smartphones, starting from the entry-level ones and working our way up to some of the top models. You should keep in mind that even though some devices have low prices, their performance is up to par with other, more expensive offerings.

Through this list we aren’t trying, by any means, to force our opinion on you – the choice remains in your and only your hands. The devices, that you will see in this article are included based on the specific needs of different consumers.

Contents


Under $200

Samsung Galaxy J1

So we’re kicking off with one of Samsung’s most budget models. The phone has a 4.3-inch screen, that means that it’s overall size is compact and is very easy to use with one hand. In addition to that, the thickness of the device is only 8.9 mm.

Samsung Galaxy J1’s battery made a good impression, as it performed great in out battery tests and on top of that it has Samsung’s Ultra Power Saving mode, that can significantly increase battery life. School days are sometimes very long and it is always good to have a phone, that offers such durability.

Our display tests show that there isn’t any PWM across all brightness levels. This means that even after extended use of the device you won’t feel any strain on your eyes. You won’t also be disappointed by the features of the device’s camera unless you have unrealistic expectations for the price class.

You can check for more information about the device in our in-depth review: http://laptopmedia.com/smartphone-review/galaxy-j1-review-samsung-is-getting-stronger-in-the-budget-class/

You can check the current price of Samsung Galaxy J1 here: http://amzn.to/1PAwEQP

Specs sheet


OS Android v4.4.4 (KitKat)
CPU Spreadtrum SC7715 (2-core, 1.20GHz, Cortex-A7)
RAM 512MB
Storage 4GB
GPU Mali-400
Display 4.3-inch capacitive, 800 x 480 pixels
Connectivity Bluetooth v4.0, A2DP, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, GPS, АGPS
Camera 5MP with autofocus and LED flash (back), 2MP (front)
Features
  • MicroSD slot (up to 128GB)
  • MicroUSB v2.0 port
  • 3.5 mm audio jack
  • FM radio with RDS
  • Accelerometer
  • Proximity sensor
Battery 1850 mAh
Dimensions 68.2 x 129 x 8.9 mm
Weight 122 grams (4.30 oz)


Microsoft Lumia 535

Next in our list is Microsoft Lumia 535. Although we are talking about a low class model this is one of Microsoft’s most sold Lumia phones of all times. The main reason behind this is its low price. The phone also has the typical characteristic for the Lumia line – wide variety of colors.

One of the impressive things about this phone is its 5-inch IPS screen with high contrast ratio and wide viewing angles. Adding a Gorilla Glass 3 protective layer to the already good display makes Lumia 535 a real gem. The phone is good for both entertainment and school work as it could support a microSD card with up to 128GB of storage, where you could save all your favorite multimedia content and also has many pre-installed applications, that could be of great assistance for some school assignments (we are referring to Microsoft Office). Among many other useful applications, you will also find the HEREmaps navigation, which is good as it is, but keeps on improving anyway. On the back of the device you see the 5MP rear camera, that does a decent job for the given price and around the front we find the more impressive 5MP front-facing camera, that would definitely appeal to the selfie fans as it packs a lot of extra settings and features.

You can check the current price of Microsoft Lumia 535 here: http://amzn.to/1O3X532

Specs sheet


CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 MSM8212 (4-cores, 1.2GHz, Cortex-A7)
RAM 1GB
Storage 8GB with microSD card slot (up to 128GB)
GPU Adreno 302
Display 5-inch IPS LCD capacitive display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 и 960 x 540 pixels resolution
Camera 5MP with LED flash и autofocus(rear), 5MP (front)
Connectivity Bluetooth v4.0, A2DP, LE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, GPS, A-GPS
Features smartphone with two SIM cards (Micro-SIM, dual stand-by)
microSD card slot, supports up to 128GB
microUSB v2.0 port
built-in speaker
3.5 mm headphone jack
FM radio
Battery 1905 mAh
Dimensions 72.4 x 140.2 x 8.8 mm
Weight 146 grams
OS Microsoft Windows Phone 8.1


Lenovo A5000

We are kicking things up a notch with this next model, even though it still fits in the $200 category. It is called Lenovo A5000 and without any doubt we can say that it’s key feature is the insane 4000 mAh battery packed inside. Impressive not only on paper, this huge unit proved to be very durable in our tests – about double the battery life of competitor models. The large battery, of course, leads to a larger body, but it is still acceptable.

Despite that the OS is Android 4.4 KitKat, Lenovo’s UI adds a lot of useful features. Some of them are WPS Office for viewing and editing documents, txt, ebooks for reading books, Evernote for taking notes and many others. Another important thing to note is that even after extended use it still remains cool to touch. There is also an improvement over the aforementioned models in the camera department and as evidence of that serve the test shots we took with it, that could be found in its review.

Specs sheet


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OS Android 4.4 (KitKat)
CPU MediaTek MT6582 (4-core, 1.20GHz, Cortex-A53)
RAM 1GB RAM
Storage 8GB
GPU Mali-400MP2
Display 5-inch IPS LCD capacitive multi-touch display with resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi: 802.11b|g|n, GPS
Cameras 8MP with autofocus and LED flash as main and 2MP as secondary
Features
  • 1 x micro SIM
  • microSD up to 32GB
  • microUSB 2.0
  • integrated loudspeaker
  • 3.5 mm audio jackк
  • FM radio
  • Accelerometer
  • Proximity sensor
  • Compass
Battery 4000 mAh
Dimensions (W/H/D) 71.4 x 140 x 10 mm
Weight 160 g


Motorola Moto G3

Up next we have the successor of one of the most famous line of smartphones – the Motorola G3. Ever since the first generation the series managed to attract a lot of fans, thanks to its perfect combination of price and features. The successor to the original Moto G brought with itself some improvements and further proved that you don’t have to spend big amounts of money to get top tier performance and features. Perhaps the only drawback of that model was its not-so enduring battery. The 3-rd generation of the Moto G series, which now serves as a standard for the middle class is already out on the market.

Moto G3 offers more impressive battery life, better camera and improved features – a worthy successor to the line. One of the improvements is the IPX7 water resistance certificate, which means that the phone could be submerged 1 m into water for 30 minutes. Although the 5-inch display seems the same, it has also undergone some changes. We are referring to the 95% sRGB color gamut coverage, that provides more vivid colors. We also didn’t register any PWM, meaning that there won’t be any excessive strain on your eyesight caused by the display. The sample shots we took with the phone’s 13MP rear camera look splendid, turning it one of the model’s best features.

You can find more information and test results about the Motorola Moto G3 in our in-depth review: http://laptopmedia.com/smartphone-review/motorola-moto-g-3rd-gen-2015-review-the-new-flagship-in-the-mid-range/

You can check the current price of Motorola Moto G3 here: http://amzn.to/1Qg9PTq

Specs sheet


Operating system Android 5.1 Lollipop
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 (MSM8916) (4-core, 1.36GHz, Cortex-A53)
RAM 1GB RAM (2GBs of RAM for the 16GB model)
Storage 8/16GB + microSD
GPU Adreno 306 (400 MHz)
Display 5.0-inch IPS LCD, 1280×720 pixels, capacitive
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, GPS (A-GPS, GLONASS), Bluetooth v4.0, A2DP, LE
Back Camera 13.0MP, f/2.0, HDR, dual-LED (dual tone) flash, IR filter / [email protected], SlowMotion – 720p
Front Camera 5.0MP, f/2.2 (front)
Features
  • PX7 certified – water resistant up to 1 meter and 30 minutes
  • FM radio
  • MicroUSB 2.0 (On-The-Go support, USB Host)
  • 3-axis Accelerometer – Kionix
  • 3-axis Calibrated Magnetic field sensor – Asahi Kasei Microdevices
  • Orientation sensor – Asahi Kasei Microdevices
  • Ambient Light sensor – TAOS (1.0 lux resolution)
  • Proximity sensor – TAOS
Battery 2470 mAh
Dimensions (W/H/D) 141.9 x 72.3 x 11.2 mm
Weight 154 g (5.43 oz)


Lenovo Vibe X2

Fitting in this price range, thanks to a big discount, is Lenovo Vibe X2. This model has a 5-inch IPS screen with Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution – rarely seen specs for this price tag. The pixel density of the display is 440 ppi or, in other words, you can enjoy highly detailed images.

Lenovo Vibe X2 is a device with that you would want to show off with, thanks to its interesting multilayer design and 7.27 mm thickness. In the slim body, you will find a powerful octa-core MediaTek CPU. The 32GB of internal storage compensates for the lack of microSD card slot to some extent. The capacity of the battery is 2300 mAh and even though it doesn’t sound very impressive, according to the manufacturer a single full charge of the battery should be enough for 22 hours of talk time.

You can check the current price of Lenovo Vibe X2 here: http://amzn.to/1OkXID9

Specs sheet


OS Android 4.4.4 (KitKat)
CPU MediaTek MT6595M (4-cores, 2.00GHz, Cortex-A17 & 4-cores, 1.50GHz, Cortex-A7)
RAM 2 GB RAM
Storage 32GB
GPU PowerVR Series6 G6200
Display 5-inch IPS capacitive multi-touch screen with 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution
Connectivity Bluetooth, Wi Fi 802.11bgnac, А-GPS
Cameras 13MP with LED flash (rear), 5MP (front)
Freatures
  • micro SIM card slot
  • no microSD card slot
  • microUSB v2.0 port
  • built-in speaker
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • camera with geo-tagging, touch to focus, face recognition, panorama, HDR
  • accelerometer, gyroscope
  • proximity sensor, compass, barometer
Battery 2300 mAh
Dimensions 68.6 x 140.2 x 7.27 mm
Weight 120 grams


Below $300

LG Spirit (H440N) LTE

Even though the price gap isn’t that big, it is time to jump to a model, that offers mostly a pleasant appearance. We are talking about LG Spirit, whose design is close to that of the manufacturer’s this year flagship model. The design features a slightly curved display, as well as Power button and volume rocker located at the back. Speaking of the back, it is made out of plastic imitating aluminum and helps for the great looks of the device.

Aside from the fancy design, this model offers a lot of software features, which is somehow common for LG. Some of these features are KnockON and gesture control. By holding the volume rocker buttons, you can easily access the camera app or QuickMemo+, where you can take quick notes. We also find the Polaris Office app, that is used to create, view and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents.

There aren’t any weak spots in the hardware department of LG Spirit. The display is 4.7 inches, IPS with HD resolution and In-cell Touch technology, covered with Gorilla Glass 3 protective layer. Moreover, we didn’t detect PWM at any brightness levels. The camera and SoC are also at par. Battery life is good and the temperatures remain low, no matter how much you use the device.

You can read our detailed LG Spirit review here.

You can check the current price of LG Spirit here: http://amzn.to/1K2g8ZV

Specs sheet


OS Android v5.0.1 (Lollipop)
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 MSM8916 (4-core, 1.20GHz, Cortex-A53)
RAM 1GB
Storage 8GB
GPU Adreno 306
Display 4.7-inch IPS capacitive LCD (1280 x 720 pixels) with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection
Connectivity Bluetooth v4.1, A2DP, LE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, GPS, A-GPS
Camera 8MP with autofocus and LED flash (back); 1MP (front)
Features
  • microSD memory card slot (up to 32GB)
  • microUSB v2.0 port
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • FM radio with RDS
  • accelerometer
  • proximity sensor
Battery 2100 mAh
Dimensions (W/H/D) 66.1 x 133.3 x 10 mm
Weight 124 g (4.37 oz)


Meizu m2 note

The time has come for Meizu to shine. Even though we are still in the below the $300 price range, the next model has specs inherent to notably more expensive devices. The device we have in mind is Meizu m2 note having a rather impressive specs sheet.

The Meizu m2 note boasts a 5.5-inch IGZO display from SHARP with Full HD resolution. This screen is famous for having low energy consumption, that in combination with the 3100 mAh battery will give you a lot of on screen time. Octa-core MediaТek CPU is what takes care of the high performance and the 13MP rear camera with f/1.3 aperture and double LED flash will definitely not disappoint. Software-wise things get even better – the device runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop and it takes advantage of optimizations that come with it, along with Meizu’s UI, which adds a lot of useful features and apps. All this is packed within a stylish and thin body of only 8.7 mm.

You can check the current price of Meizu M2 note here: http://amzn.to/1O3YAyc

Specs sheet


OS Android v5.0 (Lollipop)
CPU Mediatek MT6753 (8-cores, 1.30GHz, Cortex-A53)
RAM 2GB
Storage 16GB
GPU Mali-T720MP3
Display 5.5-inch IGZO capacitive multitouch screen with protection and 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution
Connectivity Bluetooth v4.0, A2DP, LE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, GPS, A-GPS
Cameras 13MP with autofocus and double LED flash (rear), 5MP (front)
Features
  • dual SIM card phone (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)
  • microSD card slot, supports up to 128GB
  • microUSB v2.0, USB Host
  • built-in speaker
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • camera with 1 / 3.06 ” sensor, geo-tagging, touch to focus, face recognition, HDR, panorama
  • accelerometer
  • proximity sensor
Battery 3100 mAh
Dimensions 75.2 x 150.9 x 8.7 mm
Weight 149 grams


Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3

The next model we have prepared is somewhat different than all the others before it, since it’s key feature is it’s durable and rigid design. The device at hand is Galaxy Xcover 3, that has an IP67 certificate (dust and waterproof). This feature allows you to basically use your phone everywhere, no matter if you’re in the shower or out in the rain. On top of that Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3 has MIL-STD-810G certificate, that protects the device from salt, dust, moist, rain, vibrations, sun radiation, transport and thermal damage. So if you are looking for a truly durable device this is the phone for you.

The specs sheet of the model include quad-core CPU, 4.5-inch display, 5MP rear camera with LED flash, as well as a microSD card slot, that supports up to 128GB of storage, allowing users who love to listen to music and have a huge collection of songs to enjoy the extra storage. According to the manufacturer, the battery capacity is 2200 mAh and it should be enough to provide up to 10 hours of talk time.

You can check the current price of Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3 here: http://amzn.to/1UtttRF

Specs sheet


OS Android OS, v4.4.4 (KitKat), possible update to v5.0 (Lollipop)
CPU Marvell Armada PXA1908 (4-cores,1.20GHz, Cortex-A53)
RAM 1.5 GB
Storage 8GB
GPU Vivante GC7000
Display 4.5-inch PLS TFT capacitive multitouch display with 800 x 480 pixels resolution
Connectivity Bluetooth v4.0, A2DP, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, GPS, A-GPS
Cameras 5MP with autofocus and LED flash (rear), 2MP (front)
Features
  • Micro-SIM card slot
  • microSD card slot, supports up to 128GB
  • microUSB v2.0 port
  • built-in speaker
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • IP67 dust and waterproof certificate
  • MIL-STD-810G certificate – salt, dust, moist, rain, vibrations, sun radiation, transport and thermal damage
  • accelerometer
  • proximity sensor
  • compass
Battery 2200 mAh
Dimensions 70.1 x 132.9 x 10 mm
Weight 154 grams


Lenovo A7000

Next in line at the under $300 price range is Lenovo A7000. One of the best features of this device is its 5.5-inch IPS display with HD resolution. Along with the big size of the screen, it offers high brightness and contrast, vivid colors and lack of PWM across all brightness levels.

Another great reason to consider this device is its software capabilities, that are especially useful in school. One of the features, that could find application is “Smart scene”. With this app, you can create different user modes that allow you to adjust the volume settings, data transfer, notifications etc. by one tap. Let’s say that during class you don’t like to be bothered, you can easily create a School mode that turns your phone on silent, while Wi-Fi, 3G data, and notification are off. Other useful apps are txt ebooks and Evernote, which we explained earlier. There are a couple of gesture options, that could grant you quick access to a certain app just by typing a letter on the turned off screen.

You can check the current price of Lenovo A7000 here: http://amzn.to/1EKqOvO

Specs sheet


OS Android v5.0 (Lollipop)
CPU MediaTek MT6752 (8-cores, 1.50GHz, Cortex-A53)
RAM 2GB
Storage 8GB
GPU Mali-T760MP2
Display 5.5-inch IPS LCD capacitive multitouch display with 1280 x 720 pixels resolution
Connectivity Bluetooth v4.0, A2DP, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, GPS, A-GPS
Cameras 8MP with autofocus and LED flash (rear), 5MP (front)
Features
  • Dual SIM card smartphone (Micro-SIM, dual stand-by)
  • microSD card slot, supports up to 32GB
  • microUSB v2.0 port
  • built-in speaker
  • 3.5 headphone jack with Dolby Atmos
  • FM radio
  • камера с geo-tagging, touch to focus, face recognition
  • accelerometer
  • proximity sensor
Battery 2900 mAh
Dimensions 76.2 x 152.6 x 8 mm
Weight 140 grams


Below $400

ASUS Zenfone 2 (ZE551ML)

The rich software features of the UI are one of the main reasons why we chose ASUS Zenfone 2 (ZE551ML) to be in this article. You will definitely not be bored with this phone in your hands since only the pre-installed applications are 65 with many more features, modes and options available for download.

ASUS Zenfone 2’s 5.5-inch Full HD screen performed well in our tests. It offers high brightness and contrast, 94% sRGB color gamut coverage and lack PWM across all brightness levels. The internal storage space is also impressive – 64GB. If that isn’t enough for you, there is a microSD card slot present. Among the other great things about this device is the camera. Photos come out sharp and bright with vivid colors. Despite the powerful Intel Atom Z3580, the phone doesn’t overheat even after many hours of usage.

You can find more information about this model in its review – http://laptopmedia.com/smartphone-review/asus-zenfone-2-review-asus-is-definitely-up-to-something-here/

You can check the current price of ASUS Zenfone 2 (ZE551ML) here: http://amzn.to/1K2igAJ

Specs sheet


Operating system Android 5.0 (Lollipop)
CPU Intel Atom Z3580 (4-core, 2.30GHz, 2MB cache)
RAM 4GB RAM
Storage 64GB flash memory + microSD card up to 64GB
GPU PowerVR G6430
Display 5.5-inch IPS, Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection, 1080 x 1920 resolution
Connectivity Bluetooth v4.0, A2DP, EDR, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, GPS, A-GPS
Cameras 13MP with autofocus, dual-LED flash + 5MP front-facing
Features
  • Micro-SIM, dual stand-by, dual call
  • microUSB v2.0 (MHL TV-out), USB Host
  • accelerometer, gyro, e-compass
Battery 3000 mAh
Dimensions (W/H/D) 77.2 x 152.5 x 10.9 mm
Weight 170 g (6.0 oz)


Above 400$

Meizu MX5

In this category, we have only one model prepared. Despite not being as famous as the top-selling devices on the market, Meizu MX5 packs specs that are in par, if not better, with most of its competitors.

The first thing that makes an impression about this device is its thin body – only 7.6 mm thick. However, it is packed with a 3150 mAh battery that will provide a lot of on-screen time. The eight cores of Mediatek’s MT5695 HelioX10 CPU are clocked at 2.2 GHz and offer high performance, rivaling even the best of Qualcomm. The rear camera of the device is one of its key features having a 20.7MP sensor, with double LED flash, laser focus, six-element lens, f/2.2 aperture and many shooting modes. We already talked about Meizu’s UI and the many features and apps it has in it and things aren’t any different in this case.

You can check the current price of Meizu MX5 here: http://amzn.to/1K2ioQB

Specs sheet


OS Android v5.0 (Lollipop)
CPU Mediatek MT6795 Helio X10 (8-cores, 2.20GHz, Cortex-A53)
RAM 3GB
Storage 16GB
GPU PowerVR G6200
Display 5.5-inch AMOLED capacitive multitouch display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution
Connectivity Bluetooth v4.1, A2DP, LE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, GPS, A-GPS, NFC
Cameras 20.7MP with lazer autofocus and double LED flash (rear), 5MP (front)
Features
  • no memory card slot
  • Dual SIM card smartphone (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)
  • microUSB v2.0 port
  • built-in speaker
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • камера с 1 / 2.3 ” sensor, geo-tagging, touch to focus,face recognition, HDR,panorama
  • accelerometer
  • proximity sensor
Battery 3150 mAh
Dimensions 74.7 x 149.9 x 7.6 mm
Weight 149 grams

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