Xiaomi flagships are stuffed with powerful hardware, but you don’t need to pay flagship money when the company’s mid-range and budget offers also pack enough high-end features to make them amazing bargains. The Poco F3 is one of these models, which despite being over a year old, is still a tempting 5G phone for $ 300. Xiaomi recently released a higher-end GT variant of its successor, but the regular F4 is yet to be announced.
Powering the Poco F3 is Qualcomm’s SD 870 5G SoC, that’s paired with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. These specs, along with Android 11-based MIUI shine on a big and bright 120Hz 6.67-inch 1080p AMOLED display inside a well-built, well-designed glass and plastic body. The Poco F3’s triple-camera array is big on megapixel count, though expect to see decent results (and not much else) from its 48MP primary shooter.
It comes with a chunky 4,520mAh battery with 33W fast charging support, so you’ll be charging it less often. A microSD slot and a 3.5mm jack are perhaps the only notable omissions, which can be found on all of our remaining budget picks. Nevertheless, there are other niceties that make up for these two, such as stereo speakers, a side-mounted fingerprint sensor and an IR blaster.
For the price, the Poco F3 offers an outstanding display for content consumption, long battery life and solid build quality. Xiaomi’s highly customizable MIUI skin can be a bit quirky at times, but the company does offer decent software support, which means you’ll get up to Android 13 and monthly or quarterly security patches until 2024.
OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G
OnePlus mid-rangers have become more exciting than the company’s flagships, as they align more with OnePlus original philosophy of delivering the best bang for buck. That’s why the Nord series has seen a rapid expansion in the past few years, with the Nord CE 2 5G being the best value OnePlus currently available.
The 2022 model is essentially an Oppo Reno 7 dressed in a slightly different design and OnePlus branding, but don’t let that put you off. Underneath its sleek 7.8mm clean-looking shell is a capable Dimensity 900 SoC with 6GB of RAM that runs Oxygen OS 11 on a smooth and sharp 6.4-inch 90Hz AMOLED display. Although OnePlus’ iconic alert slider is absent, this model adds microSD expansion over the original Nord CE and retains the 3.5mm jack.
The Nord’s triple-camera system performs admirably for a mid-ranger, especially the primary 64MP wide lens. While it matches the aforementioned Samsung rival in terms of battery capacity, the 4,500mAh unit in the Nord CE 2 supports reverse charging as well as much faster 65W SuperVOOC charging, with OnePlus being generous enough to include the adapter in the box.
In terms of software and security support, OnePlus lags behind Samsung. The 2022 Nord CE 2 is expected to get just two major OS updates (up to Android 13) alongside three years of security support. Although another year would have greatly added to its value proposition, the mid-range price point of this accomplished all-rounder will make upgrading easier when the need eventually arises.
Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G
Phone shoppers looking to get the best value out of their next purchase should consider the Galaxy A52s 5G. In some ways, this mid-ranger is even better than its successor, the A53 5G. Not only does the older A52s have nearly identical specs in terms of display, cameras and memory / storage, it powers these components with a superior Qualcomm chip instead of Samsung’s own Exynos SoC used in the newer model, and includes the ever-useful 3.5mm audio jack.
For just over $ 300, buyers get 5G connectivity, a sharp 6.5-inch 120Hz AMOLED display, 64MP triple-camera array and 4GB / 128GB of storage (base model) with microSD expansion.
The 4,500mAh battery will easily last through a day of moderate use, though it will take a few hours to charge with the provided 15W adapter. The phone also supports faster 25W wired charging, so users can address the issue by getting a more powerful adapter.
Being an older model, the 2021 Galaxy A52s ships with Android 11 out of the box and will consequently see less software support down the line. Three more years of major OS updates mean that this phone will be eligible for Android 14, while four years of security support will have you receiving monthly patches until 2025.
Apple iPhone SE 2022
In several good and bad ways, the iPhone SE 2022 offers what no other phone on this list can do. A truly compact, yet powerful package with 5G connectivity (sub-6GHz) for $ 429 that not only outclasses similarly priced competition with ease but will even give expensive Android flagships a run for their money. On the other hand, you won’t find such a dated display and bezel-heavy design on a $ 400 + phone.
The iPhone SE 2022 uses the same A15 Bionic chip as the iPhone 13, which means blazing iOS performance and industry-leading software support. The single-lens 12MP camera with OIS, while not as versatile as dual or triple-lens systems, is still a solid performer. What’s disappointing, is that you’ll be experiencing this hardware, and all other features, on a sub-par 4.7-inch 750p 60Hz display. The inclusion of big bezels, top and bottom, don’t help either. Perhaps the only thing going for it here is the return of the iconic Home button with Touch ID, which some Apple users still prefer (and miss) over Face ID.
Due to its smaller size, the iPhone SE 2022 also suffers in terms of battery life. Despite its efficient SoC and software, the 2,018mAh battery is nearly half the capacity of what mid-range Android rivals are packing these days, so expect to charge it regularly overnight (more so with 5G enabled).
If you really want a compact phone that will last you for years, the iPhone SE 2022 with all its compromises is still the best bet for now. It is also the most affordable way to experience iOS, since the modern-looking iPhone 12 Mini ($ 599) and 13 Mini ($ 699) are too expensive for what they offer.