Not everyone is ready to splurge north of a $1000 on a smartphone. Luckily, the progression of technology means it’s possible to get incredible hardware that gets you most of the way to a flagship experience for not a lot of money. Be it a high-end, versatile camera setup or top-notch gaming performance, value-focused hardware today delivers tremendous bang for your buck.
As the commodification of hardware trickles flagship features to lower price points, the interplay between hardware and software becomes all the more important. Slapping in hardware is relatively easy, making sure the buyer gets a great user experience isn’t.
Let’s take a look at the phones which delivered the most value for your money without compromising user experience as we crown the Best of Android: Mid-2020 value winner.
Editor’s note: If you’re wondering why your favorite phone isn’t on this list, keep in mind only phones released in the first half of 2020 are here. 2019 phones and phones released after the end of H1 2020 are not eligible.
What and why we test
Reviews at Android Authority are a combination of a series of exhaustive battery, performance, display tests, and more. Just as important are the intangibles: the software and more importantly, the user experience. Does the phone include ads? How quick is the manufacturer to include updates? Just how well does it hold up against the competition? How is the availability? What about the ecosystem?
We use industry-spec tools to test our displays, our very own Speed Test G for performance benchmarking, and an entire gauntlet of tests that push every facet of a smartphone. The key insights we get from testing, combined with the overall user experience and the price point, gives us a good idea of just how much value a phone provides.
Of course, any category as subjective as value requires you to make your own judgments, and what’s a value pick to you may not be such a good deal for someone else. Before crowning the Best of Android: Mid 2020 award for the most value, we limited our focus only to devices that:
- Cost under $1000 (with a preference for less expensive phones)
- Have current or top-shelf hardware
After that, it became a question of which phones performed the best, while keeping costs to a minimum.
There’s been fewer devices released in 2020 compared to previous years, but the overall quality and value on offer has gone up. Across price segments, phones offer incredible performance, high-quality displays, and multiple cameras delivering a versatile imaging setup. Our selection of devices was no exception.
The definition of value varies quite a bit depending on what the consumer demands from a device and what a phone offers at a specific price point. The Poco F2 Pro offers top-ranging specs at an unbeatable price point, but the LG V60 gives you value adds like an incredible DAC making it a winner in our audio category — if you are willing to stretch your budget.
Predictably, the list is dominated by Chinese value-flagship smartphones. These offer a lower bill of materials by cutting out extraneous additions, focusing on tried and tested components, and of course, economies of scale.
As you can see, the display and camera performance shook out like the price may suggest, however, the Poco F2 Pro slightly outperformed its nearest cost competitor here. Between the Poco F2 Pro and the LG V60, the selection ranged from $500 all the way up to $999.
When it comes to chip performance though, all four phones score reasonably well. Of course, the standout performance in terms of consistency and sustained peak performance is the OnePlus 8. Even though the Poco F2 Pro looks like it lags behind the pack, in context things aren’t so bad — it’s leagues better than last year’s winner, the Google Pixel 3a. Not too shabby, all things considered. In the plot below, the green boxes contain 50% of each phone’s Speed Test G results; the larger the box, the less consistent that phone’s performance is.
But the big metric we’re looking at here is battery life. If you’re willing to sacrifice a small bit of performance, the Poco F2 Pro has by far the best battery-life-to-cost ratio.
It should be pointed out that both the LG V60 and the Poco F2 Pro are absolutely excellent performers when it comes to battery life — an oft-misunderstood metric that doesn’t always follow the cell size. So at the cost of a little bit of performance, the Poco F2 Pro is among the best phones out there for battery life. No small feat for a sub-$500 phone, when you consider that the upgrade pick is almost double the cost.
The Best of Android: Mid-2020 value winner is Poco F2 Pro
The Poco F2 Pro has a lot going for it, price notwithstanding. Starting off with the design, the all-display front gives you an expansive canvas to watch videos on, play games, and browse the internet. The Gorilla Glass 5 and metal framing interplay beautifully to create a device that feels a lot more premium than its price belies.
The Poco F2 Pro delivers the essentials and goes a step beyond with additions like an IR blaster, a macro camera done right, and yes, a headphone jack too.
The company hasn’t skimped on feature additions either, with niceties like an IR blaster, dual SIM support, and rather good audio capabilities through its headphone jack.
Packing a Snapdragon 865 chipset, performance is, of course, as good as it gets and you get an option of 6GB or 8GB of RAM. No matter what you throw at it, the phone is more than capable of powering through it and multi-tasking is a breeze. In our review, we found gaming performance to be as good as it gets with nary a hiccup once in-game.
Elsewhere, there’s an enormous 4,700mAh battery coupled with 30W charging that handily delivers two-day battery life. Even on the camera front, Poco delivers with a versatile setup ranging from a 64MP primary camera, 13MP ultrawide shooter, a depth-sensing camera, and a rather impressive 5MP telephoto macro lens.
MIUI has come a long way and coupled with Poco Launcher’s buttery smooth optimization, it delivers on a very good if not excellent user experience. Unlike markets like India, MIUI doesn’t ship with adware globally, which makes it an easy recommendation if you are not too fussed about a stock-Android-like user experience.
The Poco F2 Pro delivers an exceptional user experience by trimming the fat and sticking to the things that make a great smartphone -- performance, battery and camera.
Simply put, the Poco F2 Pro gives you all the important bits from a current flagship while cutting out the fluff. That’s value right there.
Runners up: OnePlus 8 and Realme X50 Pro
The OnePlus 8, a fan-favorite, came close as well but there’s no getting around the fact that the lack of a headphone jack, lower quality macro camera, and a significantly higher price just don’t make it as much of a value proposition. And if you like an expansive display, the motorized camera on the Poco F2 Pro definitely pulls ahead of the camera cut-out on the OnePlus 8.
The Realme X50 Pro is a beast of a device that matches the Poco F2 Pro in key specs. In fact, packing a 90Hz refresh rate and dual selfie cameras, it even marches ahead of the Poco F2 Pro in a few areas.
However, the lack of a headphone jack, iffy image quality, a significantly smaller battery, and that additional $100 slapped on to the price are definite downers.
All things considered, the Poco F2 Pro still offers better value and simply scores higher in our objective testing.
A special note on the Apple iPhone SE
An iPhone in a best of Android listing? Here at Android Authority, our readers come first and it is our duty to present the best options on the market. As it turns out, the $400 iPhone SE brings the heat to Android value flagships. That’s why we list it as a “honorable mention,” as an alternative to the value-focused Android phones we mentioned.
Not only does the iPhone SE have the same Snapdragon 865-beating chipset as the top-tier iPhone and a really good camera, it is also very affordable. Between excellent apps, a sprawling ecosystem, as well as that cute-as-a-button size, the iPhone SE is an excellent alternative if you are looking for something different with a value-focused bend to it.
More from Best of Android: Mid-2020
Revisit the Best of Android: Mid-2020 awards for each category: