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  • Cheryl Tan

Best Smartphones Under S$1000 (Mid-2020)

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

Mid-range phones have definitely come a long way, and there are plenty of phones that offer a lot of performance at a reasonable price. We’ll be discussing phones that are under S$1000, or US$720.

Let’s start off with the cheapest and work our way up.

The Huawei Nova 7 SE comes in at just S$528, or approximately US$350, and the performance of this phone actually stunned us. You get the new Kirin 5G 820 SoC, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a 6.5-inch full HD display and a quad-camera array at the rear with a 64MP main camera.

The phone runs extremely smoothly and definitely exceeds my expectations of what a S$500 phone should do. The only downside is the lack of Google Mobile Services, and perhaps the relatively small 4000mAh battery.

Next up is the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite at S$549, or US$395. Running on the Snapdragon 730G, 8GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a 6.47-inch AMOLED display and a quad-camera array, it doesn’t quite match up to the Nova 7 SE on specs, but the main draw here is that the Mi Note 10 Lite still has Google Mobile Services and the Google Play store.

Another plus point is that the phone has a 5,260mAh battery, which is definitely the biggest one on this list. At the $500 range onwards, it’s rare to find a phone that will stutter or lag when running multiple apps, and it’s the same here. The Mi Note 10 Lite runs smoothly, although I do have to point out the speaker placement on this phone is easily covered when using the phone in landscape mode.

With the Sony Xperia 10 II, you might be confused who this phone is for. Using a unique 21:9 aspect ratio, it’s definitely a great device to watch movies on, or even just for web browsing since you get more information on the screen. Specs-wise, it’s not great. At all. The phone runs on a Snapdragon 665, 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage and a tri-camera array on the rear with a 12MP main camera.

With the older processor and small amount of RAM, it does mean that you can feel the phone being rather sluggish when opening too many apps or when scrolling through videos. The bright spots of this phone are definitely targeted towards people who want to consume content on their phone. The screen makes for excellent movie watching, and the phone supports Sony’s DXEE HX upscaling as well as the LDAC high-res codec. The battery is a weak point here though, with only a 3,600mAh battery inside.

For S$569 though, this might be a bit lacklustre for the general public. For the movie buffs or audiophiles out there though, this is an affordable option for content viewing on the go.

At S$599, the Vivo V19 is an interesting choice here. Although the Snapdragon 712 processor is a mid-range chip, performance is smooth thanks to the 8GB of RAM included. It seems like storage pretty much tops out at 128GB for most midrange phones, and you get that with the V19 as well.

Camera performance is a bit of a mixed bag, but overall, I’d say selfies taken with the phone are pretty decent and the wide-angle camera stands up admirably against a flagship phone like the Huawei P40 Pro Plus.

But if you compare overall performance to price, some of the phones mentioned earlier in the video might be more value-for-money.

Let’s take a break from Android phones since Apple has refreshed their midrange series with the new iPhone SE. Even though it’s considerably more affordable at just S$649, you still get top-notch specs here, with the same A13 chip found in the iPhone 11 Pro Max. Touch ID also makes a return here, which is pretty convenient in this day and age of everybody being required to wear masks when we’re out and about.

The iPhone SE might not have the ultra-wide and telephoto lenses that flagship phones have, and in fact, it’s the only phone on our list that has a single lens at the back, but it’s a great camera. Our one quibble is battery life. The battery life is on par with the iPhone 8, and with heavy usage, you might find yourself having to charge the iPhone SE twice a day.

Aside from that though, it’s an excellent budget phone for Apple users.

We come to the most expensive of the pack, the OnePlus 8 at S$998. OnePlus has definitely surprised us with this phone. You get a Snapdragon 865 processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a 6.5-inch AMOLED display, 90Hz refresh rate and a 4,500mAh battery. Are you stunned yet? Because I was. These are flagship specs, for about US$700.

And even the phone itself feels amazing in the hand, with a satin glass back. There were features cut to keep the price low, so yes, no wireless charging and no IP rating, but are those really all that necessary? Personally, I think removing those features is a worthwhile tradeoff. But if they’re absolutely indispensable to you, there’s also the OnePlus 8 Pro which has wireless charging, IP68, a bigger battery, 120Hz refresh rate and more for S$1298, or US$899.

With these great phones, is there even really a need for flagship phones anymore? Well yeah, for sure. But if you’re on a budget and you want good performance out of whatever phone you buy, there definitely are excellent options out there that won’t kill your wallet.

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