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Yes, high-end smartphones are slowly creeping up to the R20 000 mark (and breaching it in some cases), but budget devices are also continuing their march to great performance.
Don’t believe us? Here are some of 2017’s best budget smartphones so far. For the sake of clarity, we’re not going above R5000 (US$386).
Xiaomi Redmi 4A
The phone packs a Snapdragon 425 processor that won’t run the latest games well, but it’s ideal for general performance and lightweight 2D titles. Other noteworthy specs include 2GB of RAM, a 5-inch 720p display, 3120mAh battery and 16GB of expandable storage.
If you have a budget cap of R2000 and/or want a cheap first smartphone for a relative, this will fit the bill well enough.
The phone packs a low-end MT6737 processor and 2GB RAM combo. So much like the Redmi 4A, it’ll do just fine for 2D games and general tasks, but don’t expect graphically advanced games to run well (if at all).
Rounding out the package is a 5-inch 720p screen, a 2630mAh battery, 8MP camera on the front and back and 16GB of expandable storage. And yes, you also get pure Android and HMD’s promise of brisk updates. Let’s hope MediaTek comes to the table for the latter.
Is the Nokia 5 the sweet spot in HMD’s range of Android smartphones? Quite possibly, as it offers great value for money at R3000.
For your cash, you get a squarely mid-range Snapdragon 430 processor, 5.2-inch 720p display, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of expandable storage. Other noteworthy specs include a front-mounted fingerprint scanner, 13MP f/2.0 main camera, 8MP selfie camera, 3000mAh battery and pure Android.
Speaking of pure Android, HMD is promising that its phones will receive brisk updates. And they’re tentatively living up to the promise thus far with the Nokia 5.
We’d also recommend the R4000-tier Nokia 6, differing from the Nokia 5 by offering 3GB of RAM, a full HD screen, 32GB of storage and a 16MP main camera.
Huawei P8 Lite 2017
The P8 Lite continues to do great numbers for Huawei in South Africa, but the 2017 model also packs some welcome updates.
The biggest addition is the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner (previously found on the P9 Lite), but the phone also packs 3GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, a mid-range Kirin 655 processor and a 3000mAh battery.
Other features include a 12MP main camera and 8MP selfie shooter — not bad at all for a R3799 launch tag.
Meizu M3 Note
We’re technically cheating a little, as the M3 Note launched in December 2016. But we reviewed the phone in January 2017, so what makes it worth considering?
We’ve got a solid design, a bright 5.5-inch full HD screen and a 4100mAh battery that’s your best friend on long-haul flights. We also really like the gesture-based navigation system, which has since been poorly copied by Huawei.
We do have a few criticisms though, such as the need to install Google Play Services via the preinstalled “Hot Apps” store, a very average camera experience and the ho-hum Helio P10 processor. Nevertheless, the M3 Note is currently available for around R3000 online, being an attractive price-point.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4
Another Xiaomi smartphone predictably makes the list in the form of the Redmi Note 4 — and for good reason.
The phone combines a large 4100mAh battery with a power-efficient Snapdragon 625 processor. The result? Well, two days of solid battery life should be the norm here. Throw in a rear-fingerprint scanner, full HD display, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage and you’ve got a great start.
The features don’t stop there either, as we’ve got a capable 13MP main camera and a handy IR blaster. It all comes together to make for a great deal at just under R4000.