PDA Recommendations

Disclaimer : It could be rewritten / modified at any time.

- Introduction -

- Not recommended / avoid -
Huawei
Apple
LG (except the V30 and/or EU LG PDAs)
Xiaomi (except Android One)
Nokia (HMD)
Samsung
Carrier-locked devices
PDAs with dynamic partition
"Gaming" PDAs
PDAs without headphone jacks

- Universally recommended -
Bootloader unlockable
Custom ROMs & TWRP availability
PDA Condition
Warranty
Miscellaneous hardware stuff you care about

- Recommended with caveats -
Anything on my list
OnePlus [3(T); 5(T); 6]
Xiaomi (with someone else who has a Mi account)

- Questionable recommendations -
ASUS
Google Pixels

- Not tried out yet / unknown -

Introduction

Personal PDA recommendations of what you should get & what you should avoid.

For those who'd like to see the past article, here's the link.

Not recommended / avoid

First off, here's the rough list of devices / brands I recommend avoiding.

Huawei

On paper, Huawei has an undeniably awesome spec sheet - enough to arouse my performance enthusiast side. However, as its bootloader are no longer officially unlockable, it is getting a veto from me, regardless of its mouth-watering specs.

In addition, while there are unofficial methods of unlocking the bootloader, they're either a paid service, or malware bait.

Apple

Sure, iPhones have those good build quality & record-smashing benchmark performance (breaking their own record obviously). They're also easy to use for the sheeple who's allergic to Android (or more specifically Samsung). However, even with those advantages, I don't think they're worth getting, considering the issues below :

LG (except the V30 and/or EU LG PDAs)

By default, LG will not allow bootloader unlocking unless you're using the EU variants (officially supported) / US unlocked (might require screwing around with the site).

However, the V30 is one of the few LG PDAs to be exempt from this list just because it has an exploit for bootloader unlocking (Archive). But still, development for the V30 is basically dead in the water.

Xiaomi (except Android One)

Xiaomi's official bootloader unlock protocol requires a Mi Account; a phone number; Mi Unlock, a Windows-only unlocker app; & takes at least 72 real time hours, if not more (up to 2 weeks AFAIK). In addition, EDL requires a Mi Authorized Account, something owned by either overpriced & probably shady providers, or service centers who don't know how to use them & instead charges you for a motherboard replacement. However, if you have a friend / family / relative with a Mi Account, you could ask them for a favor & have them lend their account & SIM card (obviously have to be tied to the account) to help you unlock the bootloader.

As for their Android One PDAs, their hardware may suck (except for A2, it's horrible), but at least the EDL & UBL methods are similar to Pixel & OnePlus.

Nokia (HMD)

Similar to Huawei, Nokia doesn't officially allow bootloader unlocking (except for Nokia 8). However, unlike Huawei, Nokia releases their PDAs under the Android One program, which makes them even worse, since Xiaomi & Motorola's Android One PDAs allow bootloader unlocking. While there could be some unofficial ways to unlock a Nokia PDA's bootloader, it might involve tearing down the PDA (or, even worse, using paid shit).

In addition, Huawei also made it clear that there's no bootloader unlocking for their PDAs, unlike Nokia, as Nokia has a bootloader unlocking site (but it's only for Nokia 8).

Samsung

The elephant in the room. The biggest Android manufacturer known to date. But not a PDA brand that I would take, use, & recommend without severe hesitation. However, after hearing a news where Samsung disables the Fold 3's cameras once the bootloader's unlocked, I decided that Samsung PDAs are simply not worth it.

General advantages of Samsung devices :

General disadvantages of Samsung devices :

Tips for getting Samsung PDAs if you really want (and have) to get one :

Carrier-locked devices

Carrier-locked devices may not have the ability to unlock bootloader, putting their life at the mercy of the carrier & their maker. Once either deems them obsolete, you can't extend their life by installing custom ROMs, since there's no way to unlock the bootloader to begin with. Of course, some carrier locked PDAs (LG V30 is the only example I could provide) could unlock bootloader (by using an exploit), but they're rare.

PDAs with dynamic partition

This indirectly translates to any & all PDA released with Android 10 (and beyond) out of the box. Since PDAs with dynamic partition are currently unable to modify system, vendor, & product partition (aside from installing custom ROMs, for now), you can't just debloat it as you wish. However, there is work done to make super partition read/writeable, so you might want to wait & see.

"Gaming" PDAs

These so-called "gaming" PDAs such as Xiaomi BlackShark, ASUS ROG, Lenovo Legion, & Nubia Red Magic. They're not really gaming PDAs - they're actualy just decent networking PDAs with some gaming flairs, such as :

Personally, other than the ROG Phone II (since there's some custom ROMs & the ever-important inbuilt headphone jack), I don't want to recommend "gaming" PDAs, at least until someone out there makes an actual "gaming" PDA, with microSD, HRR LCD, inbuilt headphone jack, & active custom ROM support.

PDAs without headphone jacks

This is my personal opinion - I cannot & will never use a PDA without a headphone jack (and PDAs without any kind of ports by eventual extension, should it got into the marketplace) unless I have a very good reason to do so. Here's why I won't generally use and/or recommend PDAs without headphone jacks :

Universally recommended

Actually, I cannot universally recommend a device at the moment - there's just no "truly perfect device" out there (perfection is subjective). Currently, I'd like to believe that the ROG Phone 2 is the perfect PDA for me, ignoring the fact that it has an OLED display (at least it's 120hz), & lacks microSD (at least there's another USB-C-based port on the side). The runner-up's the X3P, since it's X3N with better overall performance (but still tied down with Xiaomi's bootloader protocol).

Hence, instead of truly recommending a PDA, I'd recommend what you should look for in a PDA, & in which condition as well.

Bootloader unlockable

This is the most important factor in selecting a PDA. However, many brands vary in their bootloader unlock protocol.

Avoid PDAs with non-unlockable bootloaders, since you can't install custom ROMs and/or TWRP without unlocking the bootloader.

Consider getting someone (a friend / family member) to help you if your PDA's bootloader unlock protocol requires an account & you refuse to make an account for it. This applies to plenty of brands, such as Xiaomi & Sony.

Bootloader unlock protocols can be divided into several types, such as :

Custom ROMs & TWRP availability

Even if the device can be unlocked, it won't matter much if there's no custom ROM and/or TWRP to apply it. You could technically use adb sideload, but it's not ideal, especially if you're flashing on the move & away from a PC.

You could also make the mod support yourself if you wish.

PDA Condition

Advantages of getting an used PDA :

Disadvantages of getting an used PDA :

Advantages of getting a brand-new PDA :

Disadvantages of getting a brand-new PDA :

Warranty

Moving on to what most of us may have in mind - warranty, since we've probably been conditioned to take our device to the service center every time there's an issue with it.

While it's a good thing to have when your device fucks itself up, chances are it's going to be void - especially if you have unlocked the bootloader. So, in this case, don't rely on warranty - start learning how to fix your own PDAs. Only go to service centers when you're absolutely sure you can't fix it.

Miscellaneous hardware stuff you care about

These includes "optional" hardware features you'd want to have in a PDA, such as headphone jack, micro SD, alert sliders, side buttons, & such. My preferences can be found in the personal recommendations section below.

As for more interesting hardware features such as kill switches (Wi-Fi, mobile, mic, camera, & such), you probably won't find them anywhere except for something like Purism Librem 5. While I'm somewhat interested in having this feature, chances are they either won't fully work like expected (disabling microphone won't prevent other sensors such as the gyroscope from recording audio, for example), or questionably useful (physical network kill switch are fine & all, but someone with physical access could disable / enable it without you knowing).

Recommended with caveats

Here's the rough list of devices / brands I recommend getting, with a few caveats that can be (somewhat) easily bypassed for the most part.

Personal recommendations

I'll link my PDA list & PDA reviews for more details (read : what I've gotten & used personally).

Also, let me add in what I tend to look for in PDAs :

OnePlus [3(T); 5(T); 6]

OK, let's face it: OnePlus is basically the US branch of Oppo (BBK by extension) in anything but name. However, this doesn't mean that their older (& unfortunately discontinued) PDAs suck. In fact, the 3(T) is pretty good (and less problematic than the more advanced Poco F1). 5(T) & 6 are also fine, but I haven't used them & probably won't use them, considering OnePlus' rarity in the region I'm stuck in) is fine enough, provided that you could maintain it yourself (it's discontinued, remember?)

General advantages of OnePlus :

General disadvantages of OnePlus :

Tips for getting OnePlus PDAs :

Xiaomi (with someone else who has a Mi account)

Ok, I seem like flip-flopping on Xiaomi. However, Xiaomi PDAs are generally popular for developers due to their relatively affordable prices, so you'll be guaranteed to have a decent selection of custom ROMs, at the very least.

General advantages of Xiaomi / Redmi / Poco:

General disadvantages of Xiaomi / Redmi / Poco:

Tips for getting Xiaomi PDAs :

Questionable recommendations

Here's the questionable recommendations - brands I'd like to recommend, but have enough flaws that even recommending them with a caveat sounded a bit too nice for them.

ASUS

ASUS - once a brand I could recommend, now a questionable one. In a nutshell, good hardware with decent stock ROM (that's still bloated with Facebook bloat) & questionable quality assurance.

General advantages of ASUS :

General disadvantages of ASUS :

Tips for getting ASUS PDAs if you really want (and have) to get one :

Google Pixels

In contrast to their Goolag & Go-ogle policies, Google's Pixel PDAs are surprisingly open towards modders... at first sight.

General advantages of Google's Pixels :

General disadvantages of Google's Pixels :

Personally, I don't want to recommend Google's Pixels since they are generally inferior to most PDAs at their price point (aside from their camera if you consider it). However, depending on your usage case, here is what I can recommend in case you really want to get a Pixel PDA :

Not tried out yet / unknown

Brand(s) I haven't tried out yet at the moment (and have no plans on trying out unless there's a good reason for me to do so).

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