Gadget display borders have made for a delicate, controversial, sometimes even uncomfortable topic basically since the inception of the so-called mobile tech industry. Okay, so maybe this wasn’t really a focal point back when the Nokia 1100 was selling in hundreds of millions of copies, but the prospect of a truly “bezel-less” smartphone captured the imagination of Android enthusiasts for many years now.
Of course, as hardware manufacturers repeatedly highlighted, a completely bezel-free handheld would be as impractical as betting on a three-legged horse in the Kentucky Derby. There would be nothing to hold on to, not to mention the tricky software optimizations required to shun accidental touch interaction.
Also, be honest, a little bit of panel frontier often gives off an air of distinction and style compared to how an entirely stripped-down phone would probably look. The key is obviously to limit yourself to the absolute minimum necessary, coming as close as possible to a perfect screen-to-body ratio.
What’s perfect? Considering the premium Galaxy S6 offers 70.7 percent of its surface as usable real estate, anything above that mark sounds great. The more screen, the merrier, as long as you don’t exceed 80 percent. All in all, 80 is likely the max sweet spot.
- Sharp Aquos Crystal – $132 prepaid; 78.5 percent screen
- Huawei Ascend Mate 7 – available at $449; 77.6 percent
- LG G3 – $345 factory unlocked; 75.3%
- BLU Studio 6.0 LTE – $207; 74.6%
- Huawei Honor X2 – $437; 74.5%
- Motorola/Google Nexus 6 – $600 and up unlocked; 74.1%
- Meizu MX4 Pro – $410; 73.7%
- LG G Flex 2 – starting at $560 unlocked; 73.5%
- Huawei Honor 6 Plus – $472; 73.2%
- Meizu M1 Note – $209; 72.9%
Our first proposition and the overall compact form factor champion of the world falls short of the aforementioned magic number, but boy, does it come close to aesthetic perfection. Too bad Sharp couldn’t find a way to maybe split Crystal’s “chin” in slightly more harmonious slim strips of bezel all around the 5-inch 720p display.
As things stand, this surprisingly affordable mid-end Android looks a little awkward, though the “sharp” edges are certainly a(nother) nice design touch. Beauty isn’t everything, of course, so you should be ecstatic to hear 130 bucks buy you Harman Kardon sound enhancements as well, plus quad-core Snapdragon 400 power and 1.5 GB RAM.
Huawei Ascend Mate 7 – available at $449; 77.6 percent
Despite what the name suggests, the Mate 7 is “merely” a 6 incher with a robust, elegant metallic exterior, fingerprint recognition tech, octa-core Kirin 925 juice, 4,100 mAh battery capacity and almost no visible empty space to the sides of its Full HD panel.
Above and underneath it, there’s enough room for a couple of sensors and subtle company logo, and unlike the Aquos Crystal, everything’s symmetric and mighty attractive here. Hands down the best use of the “edge-to-edge” concept to date.
You probably never realized just how thin G3’s “outskirts” were and how difficult it was for the OEM’s designers to make this a feasible build until the G4 dropped with a “modest” 72.5 percent screen quota. Now you understand why we’re urging you to buy this living legend before it vanishes into oblivion?
Well, there’s that, plus a gorgeous 5.5-inch Quad HD piece of glass, Snapdragon 801 chip, Lollipop software, 13 MP laser autofocus camera and 3,000 mAh pacemaker.
BLU Studio 6.0 LTE – $207; 74.6%
How can such a massive beaut cost so little SIM-free, sans contractual obligations or strings attached of any sorts? Simple, BLU Products is still struggling to make a name for itself and pulling all the stops to become the US king of unlocked gear.
Now, make no mistake, build quality is short of premium, with cheap plastic everywhere, and the specs are nothing to write home about. Nonetheless, for a low-cost trooper, the bang for buck factor is mind-blowing. Check it out and see for yourselves!
Huawei Honor X2 – $437; 74.5%
Known as MediaPad X2 in certain circles, this full-metal bad boy decidedly trudges on tablet turf, with a screen measuring, you guessed it, 7 inches in diagonal. But Huawei bills it a phone, and it can make and receive voice calls, so why not?
After all, it’s pretty light, at 239 grams, and impressively slender, at 7.2 mm. Phenomenally handsome too, with a near-microscopic black vertical layer on the screen’s right and left and perfectly tolerable horizontal dead spaces.
The prettiest Nexus family member was bound to be the most compact also in addition to gigantic, fast and furious. Such a shame it’s a bit overpriced, even following a recent trim, and tacky according to some, due to the polycarbonate body and much too rounded corners.
Meizu MX4 Pro – $410; 73.7%
It comes from a Chinese brand many of you may not entirely trust, it’s fairly hard to score stateside via conventional retail channels and runs an Android fork most Westerners don’t approve of. Yet the MX4 Pro makes up for all its flaws with first-rate design, a high-res screen, 3 whopping gigs of RAM and top-class 20.7 MP rear camera.
Last but not least, very low price relative to what’s brought to the table.
Curved doesn’t have to mean bezel-y… or repulsively experimental anymore, and somehow, the arch makes the G Flex 2 seem shorter than 149 mm and more compact than “just” 73.5 percent functional display.
It’s a victory of mindful design, if you will, especially compared to the first-gen “banana phone”, which looked crazy and not entirely in a good way. Let’s not forget the G Flex 2 saw its list price plummet already, and an on-contract Sprint version only costs $100. With Snapdragon 810 inside, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB internal storage and fast-charging 3,000 mAh battery.
Huawei Honor 6 Plus – $472; 73.2%
Wait, three Huaweis on such a competitive top ten list? Do you dare still call the Chinese device maker a mobile underdog? Sounds to us it’s more than ready for the big leagues, albeit the Honor 6 Plus will probably never leave the Asian continent… officially.
Unofficially, a few third-party Amazon sellers specialized in imports promise to ship the 7.5 mm thin 5.5 incher at a decent price if you’re willing to give them some time. Roughly a month, to be specific. Worth the wait? Consider this – while only 4 mm taller than HTC’s Desire 626, the Honor 6 Plus offers a whopping half an inch extra of Full HD IPS LCD glass.
Meizu M1 Note – $209; 72.9%
Almost unbelievably cheap, the non-stylus-capable iPhone clone homage boasts a fitting glossy plastic rear, but it’s by no means ugly. The razor-thin bezels emanate a distinguished vibe, the corners are just the right amount of circular and the signature home button somehow raises M1 Note’s elegant profile even more.
Under the hood, an adequately zippy octa-core 1.7 GHz MediaTek MT6752 processor runs the show, backed by 2 GB RAM and a hefty 3,140 mAh cell. Add in a 13 MP dual-LED camera, a secondary 5 MP shooter, 5.5-inch IGZO 1,080p panel and KitKat-based Flyme 4.0 OS, and you get one of the best sub-$250 propositions around, not only an extremely compact one.