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What is a DxOMark Mobile score, and what does it mean?

Mobile phone cameras are often rated with a ‘DxOMark Mobile’ score, but what does the DxOMark rating actually mean, how are the phone cameras tested and is it a reliable comparison to tell which mobile snapper is best? Here’s all you need to know about DxOMark Mobile camera ratings.

Google’s new Pixel and Pixel XL flagship phones boast an impressive 12-megapixel camera slapped on the back, which we’re busy testing out – stay tuned for our full Pixel camera review. In the meantime, you might notice Google banging on about how the Pixel handsets have the ‘best DxOMark Mobile score’ of any phone in existence. And most people will no doubt immediately wonder, what the hell actually is a DxOMark Mobile score?

Here’s everything you need to know about the DxOMark camera ratings system, to clear things up.

What is a DxOMark Mobile score and who’s responsible for coming up with the ratings?

A DxOMark Mobile rating is basically a way of ranking mobile phones based on the prowess of their main cameras. It’s a score out of 100, and the higher the DxOMark Mobile rating, the better the camera.

To get a DxOMark Mobile rating, a phone has to be tested by the DxO Labs, a French software company that specialises in image processing software.

As a sideline to creating software, DxO Labs tests out the latest camera hardware and then rates and ranks cameras based on the results of those tests. In 2012 the company introduced its DxOMark Mobile tests for smartphone cameras, although the DxO Labs don’t test out every phone that’s launched.

How is the DxOMark Mobile score determined?

DxO Labs’ imaging experts run each handset through a series of rigorous tests in order to come up with the final DxOMark Mobile score. These are designed to scutinise a selection of photo samples based on colour, contrast, detail level, noise, distortion and so on.

The DxOMark Mobile tests involve the use of some expensive equipment, but are also designed to replicate real-world usage as closely as possible. DxO Labs use the phones outside as well as in their science hole, to get accurate outdoor results.

Clearly testing cameras is a fulfilling career

Check out this DxO Labs blog post to read more on how smartphone cameras are tested to determine the DxOMark Mobile score. And you can also read in-depth how the Google Pixel DxOMark Mobile score was reached.

What are the best mobile phone cameras according to DxOMark Mobile rankings?

According to DxOMark Mobile scores, the Google Pixel phone does indeed have the best camera of every mobile the company has tested. The Pixel scored 89 out of a possible 100, while its closest rivals (the HTC 10, Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and Sony Xperia X Performance) are snapping at its heels with a score of 88.

The iPhone 7 lags behind with a DxOMark Mobile rating of 86, the same as the LG G5 and last year’s Galaxy S6 Edge.

Read next: iPhone 7 camera vs Xperia XZ camera vs Galaxy S7 camera, which is best?

Of course, some big smartphone snappers are conspicuous by their absence. For instance, the Huawei P9 – which sports a very funky dual lens camera – hasn’t been tested, nor has the Xperia XZ by Sony.

Is the DxOMark Mobile system an accurate and reliable way of ranking smartphone cameras?

Of course, even though the DxO Labs tests are completely independent of the phone manufacturers and therefore trustworthy, a large part of a photograph’s appeal comes down to your personal tastes. After all the tests and numbers, what it really comes down to is someone’s opinion, be it your own or some boffin’s.

So for instance, while the iPhone 7 camera scores lower than the HTC 10’s in the DxOMark Mobile tests, we found that it performed just as strongly in most conditions and produced better results in low light.

Stay tuned for our full Google Pixel review.

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