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June 24, 2017

Comparing smartphones to find the most bezel-less design

by John_A

A bezel is the name of the frame around displays, like your TV or smartphone. TV manufacturers have long been shaving down these edges to offer frame-less designs, and it looks like the smartphone bezel may soon become an endangered component as well. In the quest to give us bigger and better screens without creating clownishly huge phones, manufacturers have the bezel firmly in their sights.

Talk of a bezel-less phone has been swirling in recent months and the screen-to-body ratio has been steadily climbing in many of the top new releases. The bezel-less look is distinctly futuristic and, despite some compromises, we are creeping inexorably toward it. We decided to compare some of the top phones to see who can boast the smallest bezels right now.

Essential PH-1

  • Screen-to-body ratio: 84.9 percent
  • Screen size: 5.71 inches

The upcoming Essential PH-1 from Android co-creator Andy Rubin’s company instantly won praise for the edge-to-edge screen design. This is as close as we’ve seen so far to the front of a phone being entirely screen. You’ll find the thinnest of bezels on the sides and top of the screen, which has rounded corners, like the LG G6. There is still a fairly big bezel on the bottom, though it doesn’t visibly house anything — the fingerprint sensor is on the back. The Essential PH-1 raises an obvious design problem with bezel-less design – where does the front-facing camera go? The designers decided to include a curved dip at the top of the display that eats into the screen. It’s an interesting move that has divided opinion, but regardless of whether you like it or not, this is the leading smartphone when it comes to screen-to-body ratio.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus

  • Screen-to-body ratio: 83.6 percent and 84 percent
  • Screen size: 5.8 inches and 6.2 inches

With a 5.8-inch curved “Infinity Display,” the Galaxy S8 may be the best-looking phone on our list. Its big brother, the S8 Plus, actually boasts a slightly higher screen-to-body ratio with its 6.2-inch screen. There is still a thin bezel top and bottom, and an even slimmer one around the sides, though it’s not really noticeable when you look at the phone head-on because of those sloping edges. Samsung ditched the home button and used Android’s standard navigation icons on the screen, so the bottom bezel is empty, but the top bezel still contains the iris scanner, proximity sensor, earpiece, and selfie camera. These are some of the biggest screens on the market, but they’re packed into svelte bodies — largely because of the 18.5:9 aspect ratio.

Xiaomi Mi Mix

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

  • Screen-to-body ratio: 83.6 percent
  • Screen size: 6.4 inches

You may not have heard of this huge phone, but if you have it was almost certainly because of the edge-to-edge display. Xiaomi claimed a 91.3 percent screen-to-body ratio, but when the phone landed it turned out to have very thin black borders around the screen on the sides and top, resulting in an actual body-to-screen ratio of 83.6 percent. It was still top of the charts at the time, and Xiaomi deserves credit for being in the bezel-less vanguard, but it has now been surpassed. Xiaomi solved the selfie camera conundrum by housing it in the fairly large bottom bezel, which is an awkward place to put it. The Mi Mix 2 is expected before the end of the year and rumored to have a 93 percent screen-to-body ratio, but we would take that claim with a pinch of salt.

LG G6

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

  • Screen-to-body ratio: 78.6 percent
  • Screen size: 5.7 inches

It was LG that kicked off the widescreen trend, creating a 5.7-inch screen with an unusual 18:9 aspect ratio. Alongside the shrinking bezels, this is another way to pack in more screen space without making phones too big to comfortably handle. Some argue it’s a bit of a cheat, boosting the screen size, which is always measured diagonally, but even with letterboxed content it’s a trend we like. More screen is more screen regardless of aspect ratio and a lot of content is filmed in widescreen format anyway and then cropped later. You’ll only find a logo on the bottom bezel and the thin top bezel houses the camera, earpiece, and sensors. There are thin bezels at the sides, too, but it’s the rounded corners on the display that have proved to be a jarring design decision for some.

HTC U11

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

  • Screen-to-body ratio: 71.4 percent
  • Screen size: 5.5 inches

In our HTC U11 review, we felt compelled to mention the dated look of the front face and the relatively big bezels. Glancing further down the list at some of the phones with even bigger bezels than the U11, we can see how quickly and far this trend has come in the last few months. The U11 has lozenge-shaped, recessed, touch-sensitive fingerprint scanner at the bottom and the usual mix of speaker, camera, and sensors at the top. It does also have side bezels which are exaggerated slightly by the curved glass as it blends into the frame. The U11 also has Edge panels, enabling you to squeeze to launch the camera and trigger apps, which may account for an extra slice of width on the frame.

Google Pixel and Pixel XL

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

  • Screen-to-body ratio: 69 percent and 71.2 percent
  • Screen size: 5 inches and 5.5 inches

Despite shifting the fingerprint sensor onto the back of the phone, Google’s duo of Pixels still sports a massive bottom bezel. The top bezel looks matched proportionately and contains the camera, earpiece, and proximity sensor. The side bezels on the Pixel phones are also quite big, but it’s the large, entirely unused bottom bezel that really stands out. The Pixels were actually manufactured by HTC and reportedly in a bit of a rush, so it will be interesting to see if shrinking the bezels is a priority for Google next time around.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

  • Screen-to-body ratio: 68.4 percent
  • Screen size: 5.46 inches

Ridiculed unfairly as the king of the big bezels, Sony’s phone design is not actually as bezel-loving as critics would have you believe. The side bezels have melted away, but we still get that thick band top and bottom, accentuated by the boxy angles. At least Sony makes use of the space with dual front-facing speakers, but that big top bezel still has space for a logo alongside the camera and other sensors.

Apple iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

  • Screen-to-body ratio: 65.6 percent and 67.7 percent
  • Screen size: 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches

In general, the smaller the screen, the lower the screen-to-body ratio, and so it’s not a big surprise that the iPhone 7 has the lowest screen-to-body ratio on the list. However, even the 7 Plus, with its much bigger display has stonking big bezels. The round, recessed Touch ID demands a lot of room at the bottom and that seems to be matched by a thick band at the top, which only houses the small front-facing camera, earpiece, and sensors. Both Phones also have noticeably bigger side bezels around the screen than their competitors. We would be shocked if Apple didn’t at least shrink the bezels in its next iPhones, and rumors of a bezel-less iPhone persist.

Lenovo Moto G5 Plus

Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

  • Screen-to-body ratio: 67.1 percent
  • Screen size: 5.2 inches

The budget smartphone market has just caught up with the glass and metal trend, when the goalposts are moved again. The Moto G5 Plus still has big bezels, but interestingly the screen-to-body ratio is still higher than in the iPhone 7. Lenovo has a large recessed fingerprint sensor on the bottom, and there’s room for a superfluous logo in the huge top bezel, along with the camera and everything else. The shrinking bezel movement seems to be a distinctly high-end trend for now.

Table for comparison at-a-glance

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

 Phone
 Screen Size
 Aspect Ratio
 Screen-to-body Ratio
Essential PH-1
 5.71 inches
 19:10
 84.9 percent
Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus
 6.2 inches
 18.5:9
 84 percent
Samsung Galaxy S8
 5.8 inches
 18.5:9
 83.6 percent
Xiaomi Mi Mix
 6.2 inches
 17:9
 83.6 percent
LG G6
 5.7 inches
 18:9
 78.6 percent
HTC U11
 5.5 inches
 16:9
 71.4 percent
Google Pixel XL
 5.5 inches
 16:9
 71.2 percent
Google Pixel
 5 inches
 16:9
 69 percent
Sony Xperia XZ Premium
 5.46 inches
 16:9
 68.4 percent
Apple iPhone 7 Plus
 5.5 inches
 16:9
 67.7 percent
Lenovo Moto G5 Plus
 5.2 inches
 16:9
 67.1 percent
Apple iPhone 7
 4.7 inches
 16:9
 65.6 percent




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