The new trend in smartphone photography is having a 48MP main sensor on the back. Technically, this will achieve higher quality photos compared to smartphones from last year. But the sensor is just one part of the story. Software, lenses and many more play a crucial role in the quality of your shots. Still, thanks to improvements in all those areas, a 48MP camera on even mid-range devices is a possibility. In this article, we will look at three of the most known mid-range devices that have a 48MP main camera and are priced below $300.
Redmi Note 7, Meizu Note 9 and Umidigi S3 Pro – Specification comparison table
|Redmi Note 7||Meizu Note 9||Umidigi S3 Pro|
|CPU||Snapdragon 660||Snapdragon 675||Mediatek Helio P70|
|RAM||3GB, 4GB or 6GB||4GB||6GB|
|Storage||32GB or 64GB||64GB or 128GB||128GB|
|Back camera||48MP + 5MP (depth-sensing)||48MP + 5MP (depth-sensing)||48MP + 12MP|
|Software||MIUI 10 (Android 9)||FlymeOS 7.2 (Android 9)||Stock Android 9|
|Fingerprint reader||Yes (rear-mounted)||Yes (rear-mounted)||Yes (rear-mounted)|
|Connectivity||Dual-4G SIM slots, Wifi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, USB Type-C connector, Infrared, FM Radio||Dual-4G SIM slots, Wifi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, USB Type-C connector||Dual-4G SIM slots, Wifi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, USB Type-C connector, NFC|
|Additonal features||SD Card Slot||SD Card Slot, ceramic body|
|Price||$200, $230, $270||$190, $230||$276|
Redmi Note 7, Meizu Note 9 and Umidigi S3 Pro – Specification comparison
All three phones are pretty similar in terms of specs, but each one has some unique feature that makes it stand out. The Redmi Note 7 is basically the “standard” mid-range smartphone from Xiaomi. It has the Snapdragon 660 CPU that proved quite good for this price range, 3GB to 6GB of RAM and all the features you may need, including an SD Card slot and infrared blaster. Its price is the one that varies the most so that as much of the market gets covered.
Meizu wants to get in on this market as much as possible, so the Meizu Note 9 bumped the CPU to a newer model. It comes with the Snapdragon 675 chipset that is built on 10nm (compared to 14nm on the SD660) and has a better GPU. Currently, only the 4GB models are available, but it is rumored that a 6GB version will also be released. You don’t get an SD Card slot here, but the price is very competitive. From my perspective, this phone is better balanced and future proof.
Umidigi S3 Pro is the most expensive phone in this lot. Sadly comes with the Mediatek Helio P70 CPU, but it does have 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. Don’t get me wrong, the Helio P70 is a decent chipset for the price, but Mediatek phones don’t get custom ROMs and this may be a problem (more on that later). The phone has an SD Card slot, but no infrared blaster. Two things make it stand out when compared to the other two. The Umidigi S3 Pro has NFC that can be used for payments as well and a ceramic body, which will make it feel more premium. If the phone will drop below $250, it may be a good alternative to the other two smartphones presented here.
All three phones come with a 48MP main camera on the back, but as we know, not all pixels are created equally. Even though the actual sensor is of 48MP, the quality of the image varies from sensor to sensor. Furthermore, the lens and software play a big role in the final image quality as well. Currently, there are two main sensors for smartphones that are 48MP: Samsung GM1 and Sony IMX586. Both sensors are very similar in terms of specs and features (there are many articles with a more in-depth comparison between the two) and both output a final image of 12MP.
The difference is in how well does the manufacturer use those features and how well the software was written.
Both Redmi Note 7 and Meizu Note 9 use the Samsung camera module while Umidigi opted for the Sony variant. It is hard to truly compare them at the moment (especially since I don’t have any of the phones at hand), but judging based on what other reviewers wrote on these two sensors, the Samsung version tends to be better overall. Still, Umidigi has a 20MP secondary sensor, which may help reduce the gap further. In the end, all three devices should manage to capture good photos and it should be hard to distinguish between them.
If there is one thing that sets these phones apart, it is the software. Each one has a different flavor of Android. Umidigi S3 Pro comes with stock Android 9 out of the box. You would say that this is a good thing, however, having reviewed one of Umidigi’s devices, I can say that it is not the case. Yes, stock Android is very good, but Umidigi tends to abandon their devices after launch. This means that the version of software that the phone has while in the box, is the last version of Android it will see. Don’t expect to get Android Q on the S3 Pro. You would be lucky if at least one or two security patches will be provided by the company. And, because this phone has a Mediatek chipset inside, there are slim chances of getting good custom ROMs.
On the opposite side, Xiaomi is well known for its MIUI skin and good update record. MIUI 10 is not for everyone, but it does come with some very useful features. Furthermore, this phone will probably get Android Q and at least one new major version of MIUI. Xiaomi usually provides 2 years of Android updates and about 3 or 4 years of MIUI updates. I honestly think that for many people, the software will outlive the phone. Not because it will break, but because many will get tired or bored of it and will want to change. And at below $250, it won’t be a major financial burden.
Meizu sits somewhere between the two extremities. There are good changes that the Meizu Note 9 will see a new major version of Android, but probably that’s it. I expect that Meizu will provide 2 years of updates and after that, it is end of life for the Note 9. Yes, we would all love updates for a more extended period of time, but considering that the phone has a really low price, we can’t really complain. FlymeOS, their version of Android, is quite good, with some handy features and good UI, but, just like MIUI, it is far from stock Android and not all will like it.
Conclusions and where to buy
It is really good that mid-range smartphones get to have decent cameras. A few years ago devices in this price range usually were really bad when it came to photos. Now you can get a good device quite cheap and with good features and software. You still have to make a few compromises compared to getting a high-end model, but the smartphone you will receive is more than enough for most people.
Now, what to get? If you want the best software and updates, go for the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7. If you must have NFC and/or stock Android, the Umidigi S3 Pro is the right phone for you. The best overall device here is the Meizu Note 9. It has a better CPU than the others, good software and decent specs altogether. Furthermore, it has the best price-to-performance ratio out of all three smartphones.
Buy Umidigi S3 Pro