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Best of MWC 2019: Foldable Phones and 5G Rule

Every year, Mobile World Congress gives device makers a stage to show off the smartphones, tablets and other mobile gadgets they plan to release during the rest of the year. And strolling through the Fira Barcelona Gran Via during this year’s edition of MWC, it’s clear companies had two things on their mind — foldable phones and 5G connectivity.

Credit: David Ramos/Getty Images

(Image credit: David Ramos/Getty Images)

But there was more to this year’s show than just faster networks and smartphones with bendable screens. From an updated augmented reality headset to phones at every price range — and yes, that includes a folding phone — here’s what grabbed our attention at Mobile World Congress.

Best Smartphone: Huawei Mate X

Sticker shock aside, if I was going to drop $2,000 on a foldable phone tomorrow, I'd want it to be Huawei's Mate X rather than Samsung's Galaxy Fold. No matter who I spoke to at MWC this year — be it journalists or taxi drivers — everyone seemed in collective agreement that Huawei has approached its foldable the right way, in terms of design and ergonomics.

With one massive 8-inch display on the outside and a “handle” of sorts that houses the Leica triple-camera system, USB Type-C port and most of the device's components, the Mate X is the kind of tablet/phone hybrid that actually makes sense, and has excited the entire Tom's Guide staff. Additionally, Huawei's commitment to 5G would suggest that the Mate X has the speed and performance to complement its futuristic good looks.

No other handset at the show this year wowed us quite like Huawei's marvel, and out of all the company's phones that have been withheld from the U.S. market, the Mate X would assuredly be the absence that stings the most.—Adam Ismail

MORE: How the Mate X Beats the Galaxy Fold

Best 5G Product: HTC 5G Hub

The HTC 5G Hub, co-developed with Sprint, is the jack-of-all-trades when it comes to hotspots. Yes, it can share its 5G signal with up to 20 devices, but HTC’s Hub also features a 5-inch display and runs Android 9 Pie. Inside, there's a Snapdragon 855 chipset and 4GB of RAM to power all sorts of apps, streaming services and games, as well as a speaker and microphone that turn it into a makeshift 5G-connected Echo Show or Google Home.

The excitement around 5G can be a little overzealous at times, but we like that it's energized companies like HTC and Sprint to produce something that sits between product categories, and is more than just another hotspot or mobile phone. And seeing as how 5G handsets probably won't be adopted in earnest by most consumers until next year, the 5G Hub, due out likely in the spring or summer of 2019, could serve as many users’ first exposure to the wireless technology that will change the way we work and play.—Adam Ismail

Best Wearable: HoloLens 2

Microsoft’s $3,500 second-gen HoloLens headset isn’t priced for us regular folks, but that’s OK. This mixed-reality device is designed for businesses who have thought of all kinds of interesting use cases for it: assembling machines in a factory, diagnosing mechanical issues, even surgery.

HoloLens 2 is lighter and more comfortable than the first-gen model, and has a wider field-of-view. Microsoft says the improvement is like going from 720p screens to 2K ones, directly in front of each eye. The new device can also track both hands and eyes, which I got to try for myself by calling a holographic hummingbird to my hand simply by reaching out, and reading text on a screen that automatically scrolled when my eye finished a paragraph. Just because HoloLens 2 isn’t made for the home doesn’t mean it isn’t damn cool.Caitlin McGarry

Best Budget Phone: Nokia 4.2

With the Nokia 4.2, HMD Global (which designs and sells phones for the Finnish brand) continues to show its rivals how budget handsets can be done right. The 4.2 may only cost $199, but it sports a thoughtful design with premium-feeling plastic and glass, a playful and classy blush pink colorway and decent power under the hood from a Snapdragon 439 chip and up to 3GB of RAM.

What we especially love is that Nokia treats its budget lineup with the same respect as its flagship devices, with a pure Android One software experience and two guaranteed years of software updates. Other popular high-end features — like two-dimensional face unlock and dual cameras capable of bokeh effects — are also included, and we really like the dedicated Google Assistant key and light-up power button on the side, which doubles as a notification light. If only all budget phones could be so pleasant to use.—Adam Ismail

Best Mid-range Smartphone: Xiaomi Mi 9

OK, so the Xiaomi Mi 9 is unlikely going to make it to U.S. shores, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be admired from afar. And there is a lot to admire here: a 48-MP camera, premium curved body design, AMOLED screen, Snapdragon 855 chip, wireless charging… this is phone that should be expensive but Xiaomi has priced it at €449.

It feels weird calling the Mi 9 a mid-range handset given those specs, but its price puts it firmly in this bracket. All of the companies pricing their phones closer to the $700 mark need to watch out — Xiaomi is offering a stunning slab of phone for a price that’s really tempting.Marc Chacksfield

Best Laptop: Huawei MateBook X Pro

Our favorite MacBook Pro alternative is getting better with the latest edition of Huawei’s MateBook X Pro, which keeps the things we like about the laptop — the aluminum chassis, thin bezels and comfortable keyboard — while upgrading other areas.

Huawei upgraded the processors to either 8th Gen Whiskey Lake Core i5 or Core i7 CPUs, which should mean a 10 percent boost in performance. You’re also getting discrete graphics now in the Core i5 model, and the MateBook’s Thunderbolt port is now full speed. Throw in up to 12 hours of rated battery life, and you’ve got a winner.—Philip Michaels

Best Innovation: LG G8 ThinQ Z Camera

LG’s G8 ThinQ isn’t a perfect phone, but by packing its front-facing camera with depth-sensing time-of-flight tech, LG has made one of the more interesting products of 2019. While other smartphone makers are working to make their phones bendable, LG wants to change the way you interact with your phone entirely.

The G8 ThinQ uses Infineon’s ToF sensor to power two refreshing features: Hand ID, which uses the vein patterns in your palm to unlock your phone, and Air Motion, which uses your hand movements to control the device. Neither of these features works 100 percent of the time, but with refinement, LG could bring the technological feats envisioned in Minority Report to life.Caitlin McGarry

Best Camera Phone: Nokia 9 PureView

Yes, it’s overkill. Yes, the back of the Nokia 9 PureView looks like a Trypophobia nightmare, but Nokia has created something special and, more importantly, different with the 9 PureView.

Where most camera phone manufacturers are either obsessed with upping the megapixel count or trying to squeeze a big optical zoom into a phone chassis, Nokia has gone a different route. Enlisting the help of Light, a company obsessed with redefining camera technology, it has squeezed five 12-MP lenses on the back of the 9 PureView — three monochrome and two RGB. They combine to offer picture quality with incredible detail and are all flush to the back of the device, thanks to their being no optical zoom on board.

In theory this should mean images with superb detail and depth — we can’t wait to get more time with it to try this out.—Marc Chacksfield

Best Accessory: Lenovo ThinkVision M14

I’ve never considered a portable monitor a must-have accessory until I picked up Lenovo’s ThinkVision M14.

This $250, 1.3-pound second screen has everything I never knew I wanted: A 14-inch, full-HD (1920 x 1080) display with a fold-out kickstand, a slide-over hard cover to protect the glass, USB-C ports on the right and left with full power-through, and two mounting points if you want to put it on a stand. Lenovo even thoughtfully added an adjustable flap for increasing the kickstand’s height, in case you want your display and laptop to be on the same level.

Plenty of companies have come up with solutions to help make you more productive, but Lenovo’s ThinkVision nails the combination of price, specs and usefulness. We can’t wait to pick one up when the monitor goes on sale in June.Caitlin McGarry

Credits: Tom's Guide