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Sunday debate: Stereo speakers vs minimal bezels

Paul

When it comes to smart phones, I prioritize display size and quality first. You clearly have to balance size vs pocketability, which is why Im a huge fan of the design trend of bezelless phones. The display is still the main way for us to interact with our devices.

Im an audiophile, always have been, so no phone will ever sound good enough for me. Im a perfectionist when it comes to ensuring that my sound systems at home are the best they can be within my budget and that the speakers are orientated and placed exactly where they should be.

And for that reason I prioritize screen size first at the expense of the space utilized by a speaker. For the majority of content that I listen to – be it music or movies I use headphones or earphones. These are either wired or wireless for both convenience and when Ive lost my dongle (I can see another debate on wired vs wireless coming).

Dont get me wrong, of course I value sound quality on those rare occasions when my environment allows me to listen to something through the phones speaker(s) but mono is just fine. In order to achieve a great stereo effect you need true, not artificially created, sound source separation. Ill grant you that stereo speakers in a device create a different slightly richer sound but its stereo in name only, a specification box tick if you will.

You simply have to listen to the opening riffs in Money For Nothing by Dire Straights on a half decent set of stereo speakers to hear what Im saying. I find more value in having stereo speakers in a tablet than a phone, the stereo separation is greater but still not ideal.

So there you have it, I could wax lyrical for paragraphs but its Sunday and we need to move on. One final thought though, and maybe the start of another debate, Im left wondering if Id sooner reclaim some bezel for a front facing fingerprint scanner!

Ivan

I like bezel-less phones, in fact I like them so much that I switched to one. But in so doing, I gave up something that’s become integral to my daily life – a quality pair of stereo speakers.

A bit of backstory – I owned an Apple iPhone 7 Plus for the past 11 months and it had a superb speaker duo. One was pointing downward making the setup less than ideal but they were loud and they sounded great. To my ears (and a few of my colleagues’) they blew away the Dolby-adorned stereo setup on the ZTE Axon 7 – not bad for a first attempt by Apple. The second is even better – the iPhone 8 Plus has noticeably better speakers.

So when I moved over to the killer bezel-free screen of the Galaxy Note8 I lost that quality sound and gained a single, downward-facing speaker that (to my ears, and our loudspeaker test) can’t compare. That’s the biggest regret from my jump-ship move over to good ol’ Android.

You see, my smartphone is my primary computing device. I even use to it to binge-watch TV series and new movies – go ahead, point and laugh. So I prioritized the bigger screen over the speakers, I looked at the Galaxy Note8’s immense, never-ending screen and never looked back. And now I’ve lived to regret the decision, and my hand has perfected the speaker-cupping maneuver.

It turned out that I was fine with a smaller, bezel-ridden screen. It turned out I’m not fine with a less-than-the-best single speaker. It turns out that phones like the Google Pixel 2 XL have it all – a big (ish) screen and a pair of excellent speakers – why compromise! The image below shows just how much bezel is required for a pair of quality speakers and it’s not too bad.

I continue to use my phone as my main theater but I bought a small Bluetooth speaker to compensate for the disappointing single speaker and give my hand a bit of rest. If I could do it all over again, I’d definitely consider the Google Pixel 2 XL above any phone with a single tinny speaker.

Cast your votes

So, which do you prefer? Are you okay with a bit of space up front reserved for speakers or are you fine with headphones and the downward-firing loudspeakers of phones like the Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+ and LG V30?

Small bezels vs. stereo speakers