You need a new device but (rightly) think spending north of $800 is insanity, right? Well, you’re not alone. An entire segment of budget flagship devices has sprung up and they’re surprisingly good! Today we’re taking a look at the best phones you can purchase if you have between $300 and $500 to spend.
Without further ado, here’s our list.
Okay, right out of the gate, we’re going to cheat a little bit– but stay with us! The OnePlus 6 starts off at $529 and offers excellent specs, build quality, and a second-to-none software experience.
The OnePlus 6 features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC. The octa-core chip is clocked at 2.8 GHz and is fast as hell. Backing up the SoC is either 6 or 8 GB of RAM and 64, 128, or 256 GB of storage. While there’s no expandable storage here, OnePlus offers a ton of storage standard and it’s only about $50 to purchase a model with higher capacity.
On the back of the phone, we find a dual 16 + 20 MP camera setup. Both of the sensors have a f/1.7 aperture, while the main sensor has both EIS and OIS for extra stability. The front-facing camera is a 16 MP f/2.0 sensor that promises excellent selfies.
One of the biggest changes for OnePlus is going to a glass back. Previous iterations normally had metal backs, but this year we’re seeing a gorgeous black or white glass that gives the OP6 an even more premium look.
Unfortunately, we still don’t have wireless charging, but OnePlus does include its excellent DASH charging that promises a day’s worth of battery in just an hour of charging.
Xiaomi Mi 8
Xiaomi has a reputation for making the best phone possible then charging the least amount it can. The Mi 8 follows that trend.
With true flagship specs, the Xioami Mi 8 represents a fantastic value for just under $500. The phone has a top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, 6 or 8 GB of RAM, and anywhere between 64 and 256 GB of storage depending on which model you pick up. Unfortunately, there’s no expandable storage in the Mi 8 this year.
No expandable storage is one of only a handful of compromises Xiaomi had to make to keep the price down. We’d have like to see an IP rating, wireless charging, dual speakers, and a headphone jack. None of these features are dealbreakers, but other phones at this price do have them.
Those missing features aside, there’s plenty to love about the Mi 8. It features face unlock akin to Apple’s FaceID, extremely good build quality, and dual 12 MP + 12 MP cameras that do a fantastic job. Battery life is another standout feature with users getting close to two days of usage. And when that battery finally does run dry, you can recharge quickly because the Mi 8 supports Quick Charge 4, the latest quick charging standard.
Nokia 7 Plus
Nokia is back in a big way and the Nokia 7 Plus is one of the best choices for people on a budget. While it’s specs won’t blow you away, its performance surely will.
The Nokia 7 Plus comes standard with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor, 4 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of storage. Those are solid specs for a phone at this price. We really like the inclusion of the Snapdragon 660 processor here. It’s not as powerful as the flagship Snapdragon 845 processor, but can still chew through tasks and isn’t as power hungry.
There are also a ton of little features to love here. We get a microSD card slot that supports up to 256 GB of additional storage. This is fantastic if you live in an area without the best service because you can save all of your movies, music, and pictures directly onto your memory card and avoid trying to stream.
But, we have to admit that one of the best things about the Nokia 7 Plus is software. Nokia has committed to using stock Android on its devices and that’s a decision we support. It’s clean, it’s fast, and updates come quickly. We love Google’s software vision (we are the AndroidGuys, aren’t we?) so if we can pick up a device with stock, we’re going to.
Nokia 7 Plus purchase links: Amazon
Huawei Honor 10
If you want a phone that thinks too, the Honor 10 might be your best bet. Honor built in a ton of AI features into the Honor 10 and included a processor with a Neural Processing Unit. It almost sounds like SciFi, doesn’t it?
Well, it isn’t. It’s science fact because the Honor 10 includes the Kirin 970 that has a dedicated processing unit just for AI. This helps the phone identify scenes in the camera to give you better pictures and a whole host of other options within the software. While some people think AI a buzzword (and perhaps rightly so), Honor is trying to prove them wrong.
The device includes a notch and very, very small bezels. It isn’t much larger than the (extremely nice) display and is very easy to handle. We found it to be a great one-handed device in a world of ever-expanding phone sizes.
Huawei Honor 10 purchase links: Amazon
Huawei’s sub-brand Honor released one of the best phones of the year in the Honor View10 (also called the Honor V10 in some markets). The $499 device combines high-end specs, simple yet elegant design, and a great camera to offer great value to customers.
One of the most impressive aspects of the Honor View10 is the display. The display itself won’t blow anyone away, but Honor somehow managed to get a 6-inch 18:9 display on the device and keep the front-facing fingerprint scanner too. The button sits just below the screen and can also go back and open the multitasking menu via swipes and taps. We’ve seen this tech in phones from Motorola, but never on a phone with this aspect ratio.
Just because you’re spending a little bit less on a device doesn’t mean you should miss out on the best processor available. Honor included the Hisilicon Kirin 970 chip, Huawei’s in-house flagship processor, in the Honor View10. The chip also includes a dedicated Neural Processing Unit (NPU) that helps the phone process AI-related tasks. Not bad for $500.
Not only do you get a great processor, but the rest of the specs are impressive too. There’s 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage standard. A 3750 mAh battery keeps the show running all day, and a dual 16 MP + 20 MP camera provides great pictures even in low light.
So, what’s the biggest problem with the Honor View10? Availability. Right now it’s hard to get the phone in the United States. The only official outlet we can find is Amazon. If you are out of luck there, you can try importing it from a site like GearBest or AliExpress or take your chances with eBay.
The Essential Phone has had an interesting journey. The phone was teased in early 2017 by Android co-founder Andy Rubin. It wouldn’t ship for another five months, but the hype around it built to a fever pitch. And then…. disappointment.
While the Essential Phone is a fantastic phone, missed deadlines, broken promises, and leaking customer data killed the shine on the device. But, that’s all in the past. What matters now is the device you can purchase today for as low as $250 during Prime Day. The phone now normally sits anywhere between $300 and $350 on Amazon.
When picking the best looking phones on the market, the Essential Phone should be near the top of your list. The almost all screen design looks absolutely gorgeous. Sure, the notch isn’t for everyone and we’d prefer AMOLED over LCD, but the phone looks great and feels fantastic in the hand.
The Essential Phone runs stock Android and received frequent updates. It’s one of the first major devices to get an Android 8.0 beta while flagships from Samsung, LG, and others are stuck on Nougat. Not only that, but the Essential Phone received a day one update to Android 9 Pie. How’s that for quick software updates?