- Pixel 4a, the best camera smartphone for less than £400
- Poco F2 Pro, a flagship for under £400
- Samsung Galaxy A71, the mid-range handset par excellence less than £400
- Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite: recommended by all our competitors
- Key criteria
This is a personal choice of the author, who in this case, is me. This choice has obviously been debated among the editorial staff, so I will furnish you with the recommendations from my colleagues should theirs differ from mine.
But for this selection of the best Android smartphones for less than £400, the best choice in my opinion would be the OnePlus Nord. It’s the most complete and best-performing smartphone in this price range. If I wasn’t afraid to get my hand slapped in the comments, I would say that the OnePlus Nord can even be considered the top mid-range device.
The OnePlus Nord has almost the same photo module as the OnePlus 8, with a 48 MP main sensor, an ultra-wide-angle and depth sensor in addition to a dual selfie camera, the first on a smartphone of the brand. It embeds an Oled 90 Hz screen, like the flagships of the brand as well as a configuration 8 GB Ram / 128 GB or 12 GB of RAM / 256 GB.
If we fly over the spec sheet, it’s hard to see what concessions the manufacturer has made compared to the OnePlus 8 to lower the price of the OnePlus Nord, apart from the choice of a less powerful chipset with the Snapdragon 765G, a mid-range chip.
For me, it’s the mid-range smartphone that makes the fewest possible concessions, and offers, and this is very subjective, one of the best user experiences on the market at this price.
You can read the full OnePlus Nord review by NextPit here
After taking the choices of the editorial staff into consideration which are necessarily subjective and will certainly not please everyone, let’s move on to the rest of the selection. It’s not a question of including all the available models that retail for under £400, but to focus on the best ones according to our opinion.
According to my colleague David, who tested this smartphone for NextPit, “the Google Pixel 4a is sold at what could be the ideal price for this type of device, which is a bit limited compared to their high-end version, but still correct”.
At £349, the concessions you have to make to arrive at that price are minimal enough to pass the mark. There is no high refresh rate of 90 Hz or 120 Hz, no multiple camera lenses but a single (and ageing 12 MP sensor), no ultra-fast charging, 5G connectivity, or tons of RAM.
But the Pixel 4a offers the best photo experience in this price range, thanks to Google’s software processing. The small 12 MP sensor far surpasses the 48 MP or even 64 MP rendering of some of its competitors’ quad-camera modules, and it also remains one of the champions of night mode with its “Night Sight”.
There is also a 5.8-inch OLED screen in Full HD+ which is more than adequate to consume video content in great detail. The neat design and compact form factor also make it a smartphone with a particularly pleasant design.
We can also add features “from the past” that are missing from high-end models, such as the 3.5mm audio jack and a fingerprint sensor at the back, and which are still appreciated by many users. It’s not the most complete model, but if you’re a photo buff, it’s definitely the best choice in this price range.
And for an extra £150, you can opt for the Pixel 4a 5G which comes with an extra camera module and a more powerful 765G Snapdragon SoC, among others.
You can read the full Google Pixel 4a review by NextPit here
This section is dedicated to honourable mentions. These are models that NextPit has not been able to review to date, either because of the lack of time or because we could not obtain it. In order to justify their inclusion in this list, we relied on the specifications sheet and information published on each model, as well as the opinion of fellow reviewers.
This is the smartphone that I regret the most simply because I haven’t been able to review it to date. I don’t know why Xiaomi did not want to send it to us, but what is certain is that it is the most powerful smartphone on the market for less than £400. In an op-ed written at the time of its release, I even explained that this is what a flagship-killer should look like in 2020.
I will list an offer sent by Amazon which helps one to avoid any scams, and it is the main reason why I decided to include this model in this selection. Because £389 for a Snapdragon 865 (6/128 GB or 8/256 GB), a 64 MP quad-camera module and a 6.67-inch Super AMOLED screen is hard to turn down
You also get MIUI 12, the latest version of Xiaomi’s stable Android skin. I’ve seen some tests criticise its rather massive weight and dimensions and the presence of ads in the interface, even within the native virus scan application.
But the ads are easily removed by following my comprehensive dedicated guide, although I hate this practice. You also don’t need a high refresh rate or stereo speakers, which the Poco F2 Pro lacks in order to be fully high-end. But these are tiny details that this highly affordable smartphone that go against it, although the price has now dropped below the £400 mark.
You can read NextPit’s article on the launch of Xiaomi’s Poco F2 Pro here
The Galaxy A range alone represents a large part of the mid-range offering in the smartphone market (although it also includes entry-level models, which was previously denoted by the J range).
The Samsung Galaxy A71 is the big brother to the Galaxy A51 and the successor to the highly successful A70. It’s also a smartphone that was released at the end of 2019, which unlike almost all the other models in this selection, were released in 2020. Nevertheless, it remains a very good choice at the sub-£400 mark.
The A71 stands out in particular for its large 6.7-inch Super AMOLED screen, compared to the 6.5-inch display on the A51. With its 64 MP main sensor, 5 MP portrait mode, 12 MP ultra-wide-angle and 5 MP macro mode, the A71 provides a very versatile camera module in this price range.
The smartphone is based on the Snapdragon 730 SoC that is coupled with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage, expandable up to 512GB via microSD. And the OneUI interface, which is extremely popular on the Android market, remains very pleasant to use as I’ve been able to explain in many of my Samsung smartphone reviews this year.
It’s not the best choice, in my opinion, some colleagues may have noticed battery life issues that are inherent to most Samsung smartphones as well as slowdowns due to the ageing chipset. But the Samsung Galaxy A71 is very competitive in terms of photo-taking, although the SoC is not the best but the quality of the display achieved by Samsung is very difficult for other competitors to catch up with. And if you’re a OneUI fan, it’s definitely a good choice.
In 2020, all tech journalists hate curved screens. In 2020, everyone loves compact smartphones. In 2020, everyone refuses to recommend a Huawei smartphone. Such consensus is not necessarily the product of an echo chamber, of which the existence I do not totally deny.
But I must admit that selections and reviews sometimes have the unfortunate tendency to look the same in one media to another. That is not necessarily an unwarranted or a bad thing. For example, one model that I’ve often seen recommended at the top of the list of the best smartphones for under £400 happens to be the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite.
It’s a smartphone that I totally ignored and never went through with the NextPit editorial staff. However, after reading several reviews, I find that it has its place in this selection.
As its name suggests, the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite is a lower-spec version of the Xiaomi Mi Note 10, which my colleague Stefan did a full review of it last December. It features a very neat design with a 6.47-inch curved AMOLED screen and glass back.
The Snapdragon 730G SoC is paired with either 4 GB or 6 GB of RAM and powered by a very large 5,260 mAh battery that is compatible with 30-watt fast charge. As for the camera modules, we don’t benefit from the 108 MP sensor found in the normal Mi Note 10 but from a quadruple 64 MP module.
All in all, it’s a very nice technical compromise, a smartphone with an elegant design and the largest battery among all the models in this selection.
The pricing between £300 and £400 constitutes the bulk of the mid-range segment of the smartphone market, which means that in this price range, models cannot compete in terms of technical specifications with high-end smartphones. However, the compromises are not very constraining in terms of price.
OLED screens are increasingly found on smartphones for less than £400. Mid-range processors such as the Snapdragon 765G are also becoming more and more popular, ensuring good gaming performance.
It is also almost common to have sub-£400 smartphones equipped with triple or even quadruple-camera modules with a 48 MP main sensor. On the other hand, the additional sensors often tend to be relatively useless, like a low-resolution macro or 3D sensor.
In this price range, the compromises depend greatly on the choice of device. You can very well find a powerful smartphone, equipped with a nice OLED screen and also with good battery life for less than £400. On the other hand, you’ll have to do without the little extras that are normally reserved for high-end smartphones, such as wireless charging and IP certification that guarantees protection against water and dust.
- Display 90/120 Hz refresh rate but LCD
- OLED screen but 60 Hz refresh rate
- Snapdragon 765G chipset at best
- Solid battery life at over 4,000 mAh
- 48 or 64 MP main camera sensors
- More LCD screens than OLED
- Storage not always expandable
- No wireless charging
- No IP certification
- Often useless macro and 3D photosensors
How did NextPit select its best smartphones that are under £400?
As explained in the introduction, this list is arbitrary since it is based on the preferences of the author (in this case, me) and the rest of the editorial staff (the list was discussed among all the reviewers).
We decided not to make a catch-all list and to select only the best smartphones between the £300 and £400 range according to several categories: the best all-in-one, the best value for money, the best for photography, with possibly the best alternatives.
But the goal is not to rely on the selection sequence too much. The purchase of a smartphone is the product of several criteria. One rarely chooses his or her smartphone based on a single criterion such as battery life or screen quality, the idea here is to offer you a complete picture.
The selected models are nevertheless picked on the basis of certain objective criteria such as price, performance (as observed by benchmarks), their technical spec sheets, etc.
This list is the product of several subjective opinions but is always partly supported by objective and verifiable elements. We also remain attentive to the community by taking into account readers’ recommendations in the comments section to filter the selection.
Concretely, only models that have been reviewed at the time of publishing are selected. The smartphone takes into context the current state of the market, taking into account possible price reductions, the release of new competing models, available for purchase, etc. If a model is unavailable, it will be replaced by a new one, deservingly too, on paper, to be in the running but seeing that we could not review it, we will also include it by fleshing out our recommendations based on the opinions found in other tech sites that have reviewed it.
How to find your smartphone at the best price?
I’ve devoted an ultimate and complete guide to anticipating price drops, sort through promotions, compare prices, avoid marketplace scams…in short, to buy a smartphone online at the best price without being scammed.
Instead of telling you which is the best smartphone for your needs and your budget, I explained how to search for it online and most importantly, how to find it at the best price without getting ripped off. This article currently includes 4 topics of a series that will continue for a long time. It will therefore be updated as it goes along. Think of it as a book, a Wikipedia page for the online shopper that you can consult at will.
You can find the links of the 4 topics separately below, with a quick summary:
- Always check that the original price has not been inflated by the seller to artificially increase the amount of the discount.
- On the Marketplace of Amazon or others, beware of third-party sellers and exclusion of VAT.
- Always compare the prices of a smartphone before you buy it.
- You can find a cheaper or better-priced smartphone without waiting for selections from specialised tech sites or Black Friday type promo periods.
- The “Buy on Google” interface of Google Shopping does throw up some good deals at random, to sniff out exclusive promotions when the marketplaces do not offer much.
- The calendar of commercial sales (Black Friday, Cyber Monday) is not the most reliable factor. It must therefore be combined with each manufacturer’s release calendar.
- A good price for a smartphone is -20% of the original price at the time of its release.
- This type of discount will be found mainly on offers from third party vendors, where the usual precautions (origin, the identity of the seller, VAT included) apply.
- You have to wait at least 3 months (and 6 maximum) to reach this threshold of -20% for an Android smartphone.
- The range of 3 to 6 months also applies to Apple smartphones, with lower price reductions than for Android.
- Buying on AliExpress or Gearbest is not a risk-free purchase.
- You can go through these sites legally.
- European sellers cannot match Gearbest or AliExpress’s tax-free rates.
- You may be required to pay these taxes upon delivery. Always keep in mind that you will probably have to add 20% of the price paid to get the final rate.
- Warranty and after-sales service are not as comprehensive as those from Amazon or the manufacturer’s official shop itself.
What do you think of this selection? Which models do you think we have forgotten and deserve to be included? Do you find the advice and methodology sections useful? What do you think of this new format? Give us your feedback in the comments section!
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