If you’ve shopped for an affordable smartphone recently, you know just how challenging an undertaking it can be. While most phones around the $200 mark aren’t exactly best-in-class, some manage to surpass expectations — but they can be tough to find. To make things easier, we rounded up the best budget phones of 2017. Here’s a list of our top three picks.
Our criteria for the best “budget” smartphone
Picking the year’s best smartphones is a lot easier if money’s no object, but most folks don’t have that luxury — nor does it make sense to spend $500+ for a phone when you can smartly shop the budget phone category, save a lot of money, and have a really great phone for years to come. To help make this decision easier, we developed a three-prong methodology to whittle down the list.
We looked for phones that punched above their weight class:
- They had to deliver on value. Our picks offer compelling features for their price brackets. Whether that means an innovative design or a wealth of accessories, these devices distinguished themselves from the rest. We tried to find phones that sell for around $200 brand-new.
- They had to have a supportive community. Our selections are more than just great products in and of themselves. XDA’s all about community and development, and we chose the phones that are supported by passionate developers and development teams. These phones, regardless of OEM support, are likely to enjoy software updates and mods for years to come thanks to a strong development community, and it’s always nice to have the option to change ROMs or get root access.
- They had to have great hardware. We chose phones that offer fantastic hardware for the money. They’re not packing run-of-the-mill processors from an off-brand you’ve never heard of; they’ve got solid specs, translating to amazing performance whether you’re running multiple apps or playing the latest games. Additionally, all of these phones are made with premium materials, so they feel great in the hand.
Runner-up 1: Moto G5S Plus
|Moto G5s Plus||Specifications|
|Dimensions||153.5 x 76.2 x 8 mm|
|Software||Android 7.1 (Nougat)|
|CPU||Qualcomm MSM8953 Snapdragon 625 Octa-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A53|
|RAM and Storage||64 GB, 4 GB RAM or 32 GB, 3 GB RAM|
|Battery||3000 mAh battery|
|Display||5.5 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels (~71.3% screen-to-body ratio)|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth 4.2 LE|
|Rear Cameras||Dual: 13 MP, f/2.0, autofocus, dual-LED dual-tone flash|
|Front Camera||8 MP, f/2.0, LED flash|
Motorola phones don’t tend to steal the spotlight very often, but the company’s been putting out really good phones in recent years. They’ve done especially well in the budget department — Motorola’s G series have always impressed with their quality and performance.
The Moto G5S Plus keeps with tradition: It’s got everything you’d want in a budget phone, including a 1080p display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, up to 4GB of RAM, and a 3000 mAh battery. The G5S Plus earns bonus points for its Turbo Charge technology that delivers up to six hours of power in 15 minutes, its fingerprint sensor, NFC, and the ability to shoot in 2160p. That’s not to mention its background-blurring dual 13M cameras, a first for the G series, and its front-facing camera flash.
The G5S Plus’s affordable price and Snapdragon system-on-chip has fueled helped to attract a dedicated following. If you’re looking to customize the look and feel of your smartphone, there are plenty of different ROMs and kernels to choose from on the XDA forums.
The Moto G5S Plus is $279.99 from the Motorola website. Check out the Moto G5S Plus forums on XDA.
Runner-up 2: Sony Xperia XA1
|Sony Xperia XA1||Specifications|
|Dimensions||145 x 67 x 8 mm (5.71 x 2.64 x 0.31 in)|
|CPU||Mediatek MT6757 Helio P20 Octa-core (4×2.3 GHz Cortex-A53 & 4×1.6 GHz Cortex-A53)|
|RAM and Storage||32 GB, 3 GB RAM|
|Battery||2300 mAh battery|
|Display||5.0 inches, 720 x 1280 pixels (~70.9% screen-to-body ratio)|
|Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth 4.2 LE|
|Rear Cameras||23 MP (f/2.0, 24mm, 1/2.3″)|
|Front Camera||8 MP (f/2.0, 23mm, 1/4″)|
Sony has a habit of charging a lot for its phones, so it’s nice to see the company put out a great budget device, too. The Xperia XA1 has all of the style and sexiness that you’d expect from a Sony phone, but at a price point that’s likely to be in line with more people’s budgets.
For just $259.50 on Amazon, you get a compact device a 5-inch display, a Helio P20 system-on-chip, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage . You also get a USB Type-C port to charge the battery, which lasts an impressive 72 hours on a charge, and a 3.5mm headphone jack that doubles as an FM radio antenna when plugged into a pair of smartphones. While this phone is not a part of Sony’s “compact” series of phone, it is indeed petite with just a 5.0″ display, making it perfect for one-handed usability.
Perhaps the Trojan horse of the Xperia XA1, though, is its camera. It’s 23MP sensor, and it’s been praised for its excellent low-light performance and outstanding clarity.
If you’ve been wanting to try out a Sony phone for a while but haven’t been willing to spend an arm and a leg, the Xperia XA1’s the best bet yet. And Sony’s judicious firmware policy, which has helped to spawn dozens of ROMs and customs kernels, is icing on the cake. You can pick up the Xperia XA1 in black, white, gold and pink.
While there’s no development for this phone yet, keep a close eye on the forums as more people get this phone. Check out the Xperia XA1 forums on XDA.
Winner: Honor 7X
|Dimensions||156.5 x 75.3 x 7.6 mm|
|Software||Android 7.0 EMUI 5.1|
|CPU||Kirin 659 Octa-core (4×2.36 GHz Cortex-A53 & 4×1.7 GHz Cortex-A53)|
|RAM and Storage||64 GB/4 GB RAM (L21) or 32/64 GB/4 GB RAM (L22) or 32 GB/3 GB RAM (L24)|
|Battery||3340 mAh battery|
|Display||5.93 inches, 1080 x 2160p, 18:9 ratio (~77.0% screen-to-body ratio)|
|Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n|
|Rear Cameras||Dual: 16 MP (1/2.9″, 1.25 µm) + 2 MP|
|Front Camera||8 MP, 1080p|
If you’ve seen some of our latest videos on the Honor 7X, it probably comes as no surprise that it’s our pick for the best budget smartphone of 2017. The Honor 7X comes at the insanely low price tag of $199, and has a premium quality body and a FullView 5.93-inch display that outclasses most phones in its category. You’d be hard-pressed to find a phone that performs well for less.
The Kirin 659 chipset is paired with 3GB or 4GB of RAM, which translates to swift and speedy performance. Applications launch quickly and without lag or stuttering, even when you’re playing graphics-intensive 3D games.
But by far the most most attractive part of the Honor 7X is its screen, which has a 18:9 aspect ratio and 1080x2160p resolution. The 77 percent screen-to-body ratio looks spectacular — it’s the perfect balance between style and comfort, giving you plenty of screen space while just enough bezel to get a solid grip.
As far as community development support, thanks to the recent release of kernel source for the 7X, we expect to see many popular ROMs and kernels come out for the 7X in the coming months, just like we did with other Honor phones that saw kernel source release such as the Honor 8 and Honor 5X.
We’ll say it again: At $199, the Honor 7X a tough phone to beat. Check out the Honor 7X forums on XDA.
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