Your guide

While the budget-friendly mid-range segment continues to get more and more competitive, there is no shortage of fantastic device options for consumers. That said, the really good smartphones in this category still come in at close to, or slightly higher, than the $250 mark, but if you were on the lookout for even more affordable choices, we’ve got you covered.

It’s pretty much common knowledge that devices like the Moto G offer exceptional value, and while you can find some of the more common low-cost options in our official best cheap phones list, we wanted to focus on a few devices that don’t get quite as much attention — but should. With price points well below $200, let’s take a look at three of the best bang for your buck smartphones currently available.

Meizu M2 Note

First up is recently-released Meizu M2 Note, that, despite featuring a price tag of around $160, manages to stand out by including features that you would expect from a device that costs at least twice as much, and therefore offering the most bang for your buck.

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The strongest aspect of the Meizu M2 Note is undoubtedly its 5.5-inch IGZO display with a 1080p resolution, which is certainly beyond anything you’d see with any other device in this price range. In addition to the exceptional display, the M2 Note features a commendable design, a surprisingly solid build quality, and great battery life. The camera is also capable of producing some nice looking images, even though it does require some trial and error to cater the shot perfectly. The pre-installed Music app even provides legal unlimited music streaming and the option to download music for no additional charge.

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This device is not without its flaws, however. Unfortunately, it isn’t the fastest performer on this list with its 1.3 GHz MediaTek MT6753 processor, but that’s not to say that the performance is poor by any means. Everything works as it should, and any issues with performance are seen only when playing graphically intensive games. Another noticeable issue is with the single speaker unit on the back, which does get fairly loud, but sounds distorted at the highest volume. The FlyMe OS is also a sharp departure from stock Android, and will take some getting used to.

This device manages to shine where other similar low-cost smartphones don’t, and while not without its flaws, the Meizu M2 Note is still an excellent choice, especially for those who have media consumption in mind, courtesy of its fantastic display experience.

SEE ALSO: Meizu M2 Note review

Lenovo K3 Note

Next up is the latest budget-friendly offering from Lenovo, the K3 Note. The K3 Note is a worthy alternative to the M2 Note, and is stronger in a few key areas, most notably in performance. With a 1.7 GHz MediaTek MT6752 processor, this device is noticeably faster when opening apps, and can even handle processor-intensive gaming very well.

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Performance isn’t the only strong suit of the K3 Note either, with the device featuring a good display, clear audio output, and great battery life, with users also being given the option to swap out the battery. The camera also takes some impressive images, and can take even better shots than the M2 Note in the right conditions.

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That said, while the display of the K3 Note is good, it is still far from the quality of the display of the Meizu M2 Note, and there are some issues with brightness, resulting in mediocre outdoor visibility. While the speaker features a clear audio output, it doesn’t get too loud though, and can be difficult to hear in even slightly noisy environments. The angular design may also not be for everyone, and there is the possibility of varying software experiences depending on the reseller.

The Lenovo K3 Note manages to get all the essentials right when it comes to a providing a good smartphone experience, if you are looking for the best performance possible in this price range, this is the device to get.

SEE ALSO: Lenovo K3 Note review

Elephone P6000 Pro

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Elephone may not be the most well-known Android smartphone manufacturer, but the P6000 Pro is the cheapest of the lot, with a price point starting at just under $120. It has to be mentioned though that the device seen in this comparison is P6000, the Pro iteration brings only a few subtle improvements, notably in the updated processing package and latest software version.

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The P6000 Pro is powered by the same MediaTek MT6753 processor used in the M2 Note, but is clocked at a slightly faster 1.5 GHz. Performance should be about the same with both devices, but helping the P6000 Pro is its near stock build of Android 5.1 Lollipop which should allow for a smoother experience. The 5-inch display comes with a 720p resolution, but some users will appreciate the smaller form factor of the device, compared to the other two phones on this list.

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As good as the performance is, the camera does fall quite short of the benchmark set by the M2 Note and K3 Note in terms of overall quality, and doesn’t offer as good a battery life either. The speaker also sounds tinny and distorted, even if it does get fairly loud.

The Elephone P6000 Pro may not be as impressive as the other two smartphones above, but it does have some positives, such as its smaller form factor, good performance, and near stock software experience, along with the fact that this device is also a little bit cheaper than the others. There is also a version of the device with 3 GB of RAM on-board, which will set you back only an additional $20.

Specs comparison

 Elephone P6000 ProLenovo K3 NoteMeizu M2 Note
Display5-inch IPS LCD display
720p, 294 ppi
5.5-inch IPS LCD display
1080p, 401 ppi
5.5-inch IGZO
1920 x 1080 resolution, 403 ppi
Processor1.5 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6753
Mali-T720MP3 GPU
1.7 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6752 processor
Mali-T760 GPU
1.3 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6753
Mali-T720MP3 GPU
RAM2 GB / 3 GB2 GB2 GB
Storage16 GB
expandable via microSD up to 64 GB
16 GB
expandable via microSD up to 64 GB
16/32 GB
expandable via microSD up to 128 GB
Camera13 MP rear camera with LED flash
2 MP front-facing camera
13 MP rear camera with dual LED flash
5 MP front-facing camera
13 MP rear camera with dual LED flash
5 MP front-facing camera
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.1
microUSB 2.0
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct
Bluetooth 4.0, GPRS
Battery2,700 mAh3,000 mAh3,100 mAh
SoftwareAndroid 5.1 LollipopAndroid 5.0 LollipopFlyme OS 4.5.1 based on Android 5.1 Lollipop
Dimensions143.5 x 71.6 x 8.9 mm
165 grams
152.6 x 76.2 x 8 mm
150 grams
150.9 x 75.2 x 8.7 mm
149 grams
ColorsWhite, BlackBlack, White, YellowGrey, White, Blue, Pink

Camera samples

Meizu M2 Note

Lenovo K3 Note

Elephone P6000 Pro



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So there you have it for this roundup of some of the best bang for your buck smartphones currently available! While none of these devices bring anything particularly unique to the table, what is most impressive about all of them is that they do provide the essentials that make for a good smartphone experience, all for a price point well below the $200 mark. If you’re looking for a solid device on a budget, any of these three smartphones will be great choice.

All of these devices are powered by ARM and it’s their partner ecosystem that has made these aggressive price points possible. Their tech powers more than 98% of the world’s smartphones, and we encourage you to check out their developer community if you’re interested in learning about how to develop for ARM. 

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