2014 Fall Flagship Smartphone Shootout

MingJian assembled the top 10 flagship smartphones from leading brands to see which one takes the title of Best Smartphone of 2014.

On the surface, from a comparison of specifications alone, the LG G3, OnePlus One and Xiaomi Mi4 appear the fastest, sporting identical 2.5 GHz Qualcom Snapdragon 801 quad-core CPUs and 3 GB of RAM. The LG G3 also has the highest resolution display with 531 dpi. The highest main camera resolution goes to the Sony Xperia Z2 with a 20.7MPx front camera, while highest resolution selfie front camera is the Xiaomi Mi4 with 8MPx (although the just released HTC Desire Eye now boasts a 13 MPx front camera). However, from our testing experience, we know that flashy specifications do not always translate to top performance. How do the test results compare between the flagship smartphones?

Build Quality

The Huawei P7 just narrowly edges out the Xiaomi Mi4 for best build quality. The thinnest (7mm) and lightest (124g) of the flagship phones, the Huawei did not sacrifice build quality with durable glass front and back which aced our drop tests as well as our scratch tests. Even without the water resistance (Ingress Protection IP) certification of the S5 and the Z2, the P7 the only non-IP certified flagship also to fully function immediately after the rain test whereas the other phones all had issues with microphones or speakers requiring proper drying for full functionality to return. The Xiaomi Mi4 also aced both the drop and scratch tests and worked fine after drying following the rain test.

The LG G3 suffered from a wobbly power button that sometimes gets stuck. Also the device gets quite warm when filming in 4K or playing games and the brightness cannot be set above 80% to prevent overheating. The iPhone 6 Plus was the heaviest (174g) and largest (158mm x 78mm) of the group and the aluminum body is susceptible to scratches (the iPhone 6 and HTC One M8 bodies similarly scratch easily).

Signal Sensitivity

The iPhone 6 demonstrated the best signal sending power, narrowing edging out the Huawei Ascend P7 which had the highest peak power. The Sony Xperia Z2 suffered from a combination of relatively weak sending power and low peak power.

Notable findings from our tests indicate that hand positioning can dramatically reduce signal sensitivity for several of the phones. The HTC One M8 reception drops to 1/20th when a finger touches the bottom backside; an issue shared by both the LG G3 and Xiaomi Mi4 whose signal strength drops to 1/5th when touched in the same location. Both iPhone 6 models reception drops to 1/5th when a finger touches the gap on the lower left side of the phone.

Calling Convenience

The Nokia Lumia has an inconvenient quirk when it comes to calling; if your phone is on lock and you receive a call, then you need to unlock before you can answer the call. The OnePlus One also can be confusing when answering the phone because sometimes it is unclear as to which direction to swipe to answer. There is no best rating due to the rest of the phones being more or less equally as convenient.


While not the highest capacity of the flagships, the Samsung Galaxy S5 (2800 MHz) is the overall battery winner with consistent high performance battery life across continuous calling, data download, GPS navigation and standby. Additionally, it benefits from the shortest recharge time at only two hours.

The Huawei Ascend P7 (2530 MHz) suffered from poor continuous calling and standby times and the shortest battery life for data downloads. Additionally, it had one of the longest recharge times at three hours (only slightly better than the 195 minutes recharge time of the iPhone 6 Plus). The iPhone 6, with the lowest capacity battery (1809 MHz), suffered from the shortest continuous calling time as well as GPS navigation batter life, although its saving grace was a shorter recharge time at 135 minutes.


The iPhone 6 Plus has the brightest display with excellent readability both outdoor in bright sunlight as well as indoors in low light conditions. The iPhone 6 display was similar and the Samsung Galaxy S5 was very close with excellent contrast ratio and the best readability from the sides.


The camera winner was the iPhone 6 Plus, narrowing edging out the iPhone 6, Sony Xperia Z2, and Samsung Galaxy S5. Both iPhones and the S5 tied for best sharpness, contrast, color as well as overall picture quality. The optical image stabilization of the iPhone 6 Plus shinned through for lowlight photos.

The P7 images suffered from being too bright and very tinted. Additionally, it had the longest shutter delay at 400ms vs. 100ms for the HTC One M8. The M8 with the lowest resolution (4 MPx) were not much better with images suffering from weak contrast, unsharp and overexposed outdoor photos. The Nokia Lumia 930 strangely was lacking two common camera features found on most high-end smartphone: HDR and the ability to take panoramic pictures


The iPhones win it out on with the best video and sound quality. The Xiaomi Mi4 suffered from horrible recorded sound quality with strong artifacts, heavy distortion and thin sound.

Sound via integrated speakers

HTC One M8 is the clear winner here with good stereo sound in landscape mode, benefiting from separate front stereo speakers on the sides of the display. The P7 suffered from very sharp sound, although the S5 and OnePlus One are not much better with thin and slightly sharp sound as well.

GPS Navigation

Although there was no clear winner, the Xiaomi Mi4 suffered from extremely long times to get a GPS fix, taking over 2 minutes with GPS only (as compared to 14 seconds for the iPhones) and still nearly 17 seconds with the assistance of AGPS (as compared to only 4 seconds for the iPhones).

Special features









Galaxy S5


Xperia Z2


One M8

Huawei P7


Lumia 930


iPhone 6 Plus


iPhone 6















IP water resistant with fingerprint scanner, infra-red port, expandable memory slot and removable battery, the Samsung Galaxy S5 has the most comprehensive array of user-friendly special features. Other notable special features are the wi-fi charging ability of the LG G3 and Nokia Lumia 930, the fingerprint scanner of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the IP water resistance of the Sony Xperia Z2, and the infrared ports of the LG G3 and Xiaomi Mi4.

Special features notably absent include the Xiaomi Mi4’s lack of NFC capabilities and the OnePlus One missing the LTE band 20 (800 MHz) channel.

Conclusion: Flagship winner: Samsung Galaxy S5

Despite close competition from the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the Samsung Galaxy S5 retains its title World’s Best Smartphone (although its Phablet sibling, the just released Samsung Note 4, poses quite a challenge and has just been sent to the lab for testing. Watch www.mingjian.cn for the test results soon.)

Please click Samsung Galaxy S5 to know more about its performance.

If you want to know more about the other mobile phones, please click Mingjian Mobile Phones Rating.