We all want more for our money, and that includes when we’re looking for our next smartphone purchase. If you don’t want to pay for the name, know that you can get a lot more bang for your buck with a Chinese phone than if you buy from Samsung or Sony’s entry-level range.
We’ve rounded up some of the best budget options for getting a cheap Chinese phone that looks and feels anything but.
Best Budget Chinese Phone reviews
The first Redmi 8-series phone to make its way to the UK, the Redmi Note 8T offers extraordinary value at £179. This is a mid-ranger with a budget price, offering a 48Mp quad-lens camera, a 6.3in AMOLED display, a 4,000mAh battery and a capable Snapdragon 665 processor. It adds NFC and 18W wired charging to the Redmi Note 8 elsewhere. You won’t find better value for money anywhere else.
Read our Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T review.
2. Oppo A9 2020
The Oppo A9 2020 is a budget handset the manages to excel in multiple areas – with an attractive design, a 48MP quad-camera and a massive 5000mAh battery that outshines even some of the most expensive phones on the market.
It’s not without faults, of course. Though the battery life is excellent, there’s no fast charging. Though the night mode on the camera is stellar, the user-experience of taking photos really needs refining to be simpler and cleaner.
For the price point, however, you’re getting a very good camera smartphone that feels high-end and a device that won’t die on you quickly. For these reasons we’d definitely say that the Oppo A9 2020 is a budget contender.
Read our Oppo A9 2020 review.
A mid-range phone with a budget price, it’s difficult to argue with the incredible value offered by Redmi Note 7 – nothing even comes close to it in the UK budget phone market.
Looking more like the Mi flagship line than ever, it has a gorgeous all-glass design and rocks an impressive dual-camera with 48Mp lens.
With a big screen and all-day battery life, we love Redmi Note 7’s headphone jack and IR blaster, dual-SIM functionality and microSD storage expansion, and given the low price can turn a blind eye to the lack of NFC and premium features such as an in-display fingerprint sensor, wireless charging and waterproofing.
General performance is decent, up there with other Snapdragon 660 phones costing around £350, and even Xiaomi’s own Mi 9 SE, making this a great all-rounder.
Read our Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 review.
4. Oppo A5 2020
The Oppo A5 2020 is a great affordable option without making too many compromises. With a huge 5000mAh battery, a classy exterior design and a big display, you’d find it hard to believe that it’s priced at just £179.99.
Of course the quad camera doesn’t quite match up to it’s rivals – with just a 12Mp main lens and limited options, especially when it comes to low light. However, at this price compromises are expected, and these downfalls don’t quite detract from what is a powerful entry-level phone.
Read our Oppo A5 2020 review.
5. Honor 9X
The Honor 9X manages to mimic some elements of flagships but for a fraction of the price. With a geometric, shimmery exterior and a notch-free display thanks to a pop-up camera, you’d find it hard to believe that this is a phone below £250 – especially when you take into consideration the camera that comes with it.
Of course it’s not without its flaws. The triple lens camera isn’t quite as good as the specs suggest, and night mode in particular doesn’t hold up, while performance across the board gives away that this isn’t as high-end as it looks. But still, you get a lot for the price, and a phone that looks like a lot more.
Read our Honor 9X review.
6. Elephone U2
A very strong contender at the sub-£250 price point, Elephone’s U2 is a good-looking phone with a cool pop-up selfie camera and conveniently located fingerprint sensor. Under close scrutiny some corners have been cut, including the lack of support for NFC and personal audio, relatively slow charging and a disappointing camera app. Performance and design go a long way to making up for this, however.
Read our Elephone U2 review.
Budget Android phones don’t come better than this. The Mi A2 Lite has a premium design with 19:9 notch display, dual rear cameras and decent performance. Storage is generous, and we like the fact you can bolster the 64GB internal space with microSD cards up to 256GB in capacity without sacrificing dual-SIM support. A great budget buy.
Read our Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite review.
It’s a bit of a stretch to call this a budget phone, but it’s a quarter of the price of an iPhone XS. Given that perspective, the 20 Lite offers solid value with decent cameras and performance.
It’s still built to a price and is no flagship rival, but if you have this much to spend it’s very good indeed.
Read our Honor 20 Lite review.
9. Honor 8X
Though it only costs £229.99 in the UK, the Honor 8X looks, feels and performs like a high-end smartphone in most respects. It features a gorgeous shimmering glass back and a stunning 6.5in FHD+ bezel-less display on the front, complete with a Notch housing a 20Mp camera.
It offers advanced features including facial recognition that works well in most environments, and although performance isn’t perfect when running demanding apps, it should be more than enough for casual browsing and gaming.
Read our Honor 8X review.
10. UMIDIGI S2 Pro
The S2 Pro from UMIDIGI offers amazing value at just a touch over £200 thanks to its large 18:9 display, huge battery and capacious internal storage. Performance and photography are adequate, making this an excellent budget- to mid-range choice, and worth considering as an alternative to the Moto G6 if you need the extra storage or dual-SIM capability.
Read our UMIDIGI S2 Pro review.
Your buying guide to the best budget Chinese phones in 2020
Many Chinese phones are now officially available in the UK (in fact all those in our current chart are), but you may still find cheaper prices in China through the likes of GearBest. If you’re buying from China rather than the UK you’ll need to factor import duty into any budgeting decision, which is calculated at 20 percent of the value printed on the shipping paperwork plus an admin fee of around £11.
You’ll also have to accept slightly longer delivery times (though free international delivery is offered), and accept that should something go wrong it’s going to be more difficult to get your money back.
A big one to watch out for is the cellular bands supported by the phone: many Chinese phones don’t support 800MHz 4G LTE. That doesn’t mean they won’t work at all in the UK, but if your network relies on that frequency alone for 4G then the most you’ll get is 3G. This will affect you if you subscribe to an O2, GiffGaff or Sky Mobile tariff.
Talking of contracts, you won’t get one for a Chinese phone if you buy it from China. Instead you’ll need to buy the phone up front and then subscribe to a SIM-only deal, but if you’ve got the funds to do so it’s a much better option and can save you a lot of cash in the long run.
Particularly with regard to Xiaomi phones, your smartphone may not come with Google services preinstalled (opt for a Global model or buy within the UK to avoid this). We explain how to install Google Play on a Xiaomi phone here.
We’ve rounded up some of these things you should consider in our guide to buying Chinese tech.
If you can live with all these things, buying your next smartphone China is the best way to get an extraordinary deal on a new phone. We’ve rounded up some of the best cheap Chinese phones below – smartphones for which you’d pay two or three times the price in the UK, US or Europe. If you’re happy to pay a little more and get even more for your money, also see our guide to the Best Chinese phones.
If you decide you want a budget phone but don’t want one from China, also check out our guide to the best budget phones available in the UK.