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Best budget smartphones in the UK: The best cheap phones you can buy in 2022

OnePlus Nord 2
(Image credit: Future)

Avoid the flagships and save yourself some cash. Here are the best budget smartphones you can buy today.

Smartphones are getting pretty pricey nowadays. The amount of slabs being priced at four figures makes for some eye-watering reading at a time when loads of us are watching what we spend.

The best budget smartphones

  1. Realme 9 Pro+ 5G
  2. OnePlus Nord 2
  3. Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G
  4. Poco X4 Pro 5G
  5. Realme GT Master Edition
  6. RedMagic 6R
  7. iPhone SE

Realme 9 Pro Plus

(Image credit: Future)
Best budget smartphone

Specifications

Display: 6.4-inch 90Hz Super AMOLED Display
CPU: MediaTek Dimensity 920 5G
RAM: 6/8GB
Storage: 128/256GB
Rear Camera: 50MP wide (ƒ/1.8); 8MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2); 2MP macro (ƒ/2.4)
Front Camera: 16MP (ƒ/2.4)

Reasons to buy

+
Sleek design
+
Smooth 90Hz display
+
Fantastic camera
+
Great battery life
+
3.5mm headphone jack

Reasons to avoid

-
Thick bottom bezel
-
Back cover is slippery
-
Lack of IP rating

The Realme 9 Pro+ is leaps and bounds ahead of its previous generation, making it an easy purchase for those looking for a commendable yet affordable 5G smartphone. That, and it’s only £349.

Don’t let that low price deter you; with a 90Hz AMOLED display offering fantastic handheld entertainment, a speedy MediaTek processor adding 5G capabilities, and a battery capacity that’s made to last, you’d be hard pressed to find an Android smartphone that can deliver this much for a more affordable price.

While it may not be a flagship killer smartphone, it still delivers everything many general smartphone users would want — especially since the 50MP Sony IMX766 camera can take some brilliant shots. Although, the best news, perhaps, is that there are no “Dare To Leap” quotes in sight (we’re looking at you, Realme 8 Pro).

See our full Realme 9 Pro+ review.

OnePlus Nord 2

(Image credit: Future)
Best balanced budget smartphone

Specifications

Display: 6.43-inch 90Hz AMOLED
CPU: MediaTek MT6893 Dimensity 1200 5G
RAM: 6/8/12GB
Storage: 128/256GB
Rear camera: 50MP wide (ƒ/1.9); 8MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.3); 2MP monochrome (ƒ/2.4)
Front camera: 32MP (ƒ/2.5)

Reasons to buy

+
Sleek design
+
Smooth 90Hz display
+
Fantastic camera
+
Great battery life
+
3.5mm headphone jack

Reasons to avoid

-
Thick bottom bezel
-
Back cover is slippery
-
Lack of IP rating

Most budget smartphones usually go in hard on one key spec and make sacrifices elsewhere on the phone. The OnePlus Nord 2 ditches this stereotype to be a real jack of all trades: achieving an impressive balance.

For £399 (regularly discounted to £350), you can snag this sleek blower with a 6.4-inch 90Hz AMOLED display, a power coupling of MediaTek Dimensity 1200 AI processor and up to 12GB LPDDR4X RAM, and a powerful, versatile camera system centred around a great 50MP Sony sensor with an f/1.88 aperture.

If you need something that nails all the essentials, OnePlus has you covered with a great spec sheet, paired with the company’s full-featured and easy-to-use Oxygen OS and a lengthy battery life.

See our full OnePlus Nord 2 review.

Redmi Note 11 review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)
Best big screen budget smartphone

Specifications

Display: 6.6-inch 120Hz FHD+ AMOLED DotDisplay
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB
Rear camera: 108MP wide (f/1.9), 8MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 2MP macro (f/2.4)
Front camera: 16MP (f/2.4)

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning 120Hz AMOLED display
+
Great performance for price
+
Good battery life
+
Bargain price tag
+
5G support

Reasons to avoid

-
Comes with Android 11
-
No 4K video

I'm not sure what Xiaomi has done in order to cut the cost down on its £319 Redmi Note 11 Pro, but it’s not apparent in the form or function of this stellar budget smartphone. With decent performance, a quality 108MP main shooter, a stunning 120Hz AMOLED display and fantastic battery life, the Redmi Note 11 Pro raises the bar on what a more affordable Android smartphone can do — putting some flagship smartphones to shame.

Not everyone will get full use out of flagship smartphones like the iPhone 13, Samsung Galaxy S22 or Pixel 6, so it’s understandable they turn to the budget smartphone market. But the people that do will be pleasantly surprised with the flagship perks phones like the Redmi Note 11 Pro deliver anyway, albeit at a subpar level in some departments such as processing power, OS sustainability and camera capabilities.

Regardless, you’d be hard pressed to find a more affordable smartphone option with these specs, and the phone cover that Xiaomi throws in with the Redmi Note 11 Pro is just the icing on the cake.

Poco X4 Pro 5G

(Image credit: Future)
The Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G in disguise

Specifications

Display: 6.6-inch 120Hz FHD+ AMOLED DotDisplay
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB
Rear camera: 108MP wide (f/1.9), 8MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 2MP macro (f/2.4)
Front camera: 16MP (f/2.4)

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning 120Hz AMOLED display
+
Great performance for price
+
Good battery life
+
Bargain price tag
+
5G support

Reasons to avoid

-
Comes with Android 11
-
No 4K video

The Poco X4 Pro 5G is an identical phone to the Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G: the smartphone equivalent of the “Spider-Man pointing at Spider-Man” meme, where you see a lot of brands owned by Xiaomi launching exactly the same phone under different names.

But that doesn't make it a bad thing necessarily. Instead, it gives you the gift of choice — if you prefer Poco's design language, then you can snag this one instead with a flatter chassis. And I will always shout from the rooftops that a flatter design is a more premium one.

Plus, right now at £299, the Poco is cheaper than the Redmi. Jump on it!

Realme GT Master Edition review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)
Most stylish budget smartphone

Specifications

Display: 6.43-inch 120Hz Super AMOLED
CPU: Snapdragon 778G 5G
RAM: 6/8GB
Storage: 128/256GB
Rear camera: 64MP wide (ƒ/1.8); 8MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2); 2MP macro (ƒ/2.4)
Front camera: 32MP (ƒ/2.5)

Reasons to buy

+
Zippy performance
+
Long battery life
+
Buttery smooth 120Hz display
+
Gorgeous design
+
Decent main camera...

Reasons to avoid

-
...but other cameras are mediocre
-
OLED panel isn’t as vivid as others
-
Can get hot under strenuous use
-
Deceptive “Master Edition” branding

At £329, the Realme GT Master Edition is an impressive cost-cutting exercise from the original GT: giving you a watered down version in both specs and price. In turn, Realme accidentally made one of the best, sexiest budget phones you can buy.

Sure, some of the budget phone tropes make a return in this cost-cutting exercise: no wireless charging, no waterproofing and a design that can feel a little cheap to the touch.

But if you can look past these issues, you’re in for a treat. The high quality screen, fast charging, reasonable performance and a decent main camera make for a great mid-range phone at an even better price.

See our full Realme GT Master Edition review.

Red Magic 6R review: a flagship killer disguised as a gaming phone

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)
Best budget gaming smartphone

Specifications

Display: 6.67-inch 144Hz AMOLED
CPU: Snapdragon 888 5G
RAM: 6/8/12GB
Storage: 128/256GB
Rear camera: 64MP wide (ƒ/1.8); 8MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.0); 5MP macro (ƒ/2.4); 2MP depth (ƒ/2.4)
Front camera: 16MP

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful Snapdragon 888 chip
+
Long battery life
+
Super smooth 144Hz refresh rate display
+
Premium construction
+
400Hz trigger buttons for gaming

Reasons to avoid

-
Middle of the road camera system
-
Gaming-centric design is not for everyone
-
Can get hot under strenuous use
-
Mono speaker is pretty tinny

Gaming phones are usually giant slabs with top-of-the-range specs and a big price tag. RedMagic begs to differ with the impressive £349 RedMagic 6R: packing a Snapdragon 888 processor with liquid cooling, a fluid 144Hz display and a gaming-centric design featuring shoulder buttons and a blazing fast 360Hz touch sampling rate.

The build is premium, performance is fast and responsive, and the screen is gorgeous. Out of all the phones on this list, games will look and play at their best on this slab.

Provided you can look past the average cameras, and the gamer-fuelled hardware design and Android skin, this is a great device for power users that offers seriously good value for money.

See our full RedMagic 6R review.

(Image credit: Apple)
The best (and only) budget iPhone

Specifications

Display: 4.7-inch, 60Hz, Retina HD
CPU: A15 Bionic chip
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64GB/128GB/256GB
Rear camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8)
Front camera: 7MP (ƒ/2.2)

Reasons to buy

+
A13 Bionic performance
+
Premium design
+
Great price-performance ratio
+
Wireless charging

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life could be better

At £419, the iPhone SE 2022 is ideal for a specific consumer: a budget-conscious homebody seeking a portable, powerful, unpretentious phone. 

This pocket-friendly powerhouse continues to use the iPhone 8 body, but don't let its old frame deceive you. The A15 Bionic inside makes this one of the fastest phones on this list, the main camera produces great shots in the day (nightlife lovers may frown at the SE’s Night Mode deficiency) and the incredibly useful, easy-to-use iOS is nice to use.

The battery life is not as long as we'd like, but that can be answered with a portable battery. If you need a dirt cheap Apple iPhone, this is the one to get.

 Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag. He takes a particular interest in writing articles and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already. 

With contributions from