Asus Zenfone 8 resting on rug
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

You don’t have to spend $1,000 or more to get a high-end smartphone. There are plenty of so-called flagship killers available at a significantly cheaper price, complete with a powerful chipset, a bunch of RAM, and premium designs.

However, they often lack crucial features you might find on a more expensive flagship, such as water resistance, periscope cameras, and wireless charging. Whether the trade-off is worth it or not comes down to personal preference. Nevertheless, here are the best flagship killers that won’t break the bank!

Best flagship killers:

Editor’s note: We’ll update this list of the best flagship killers regularly as new ones launch.


1. OnePlus 9

OnePlus 9 review profile
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

OnePlus has steadily been increasing its flagship pricing over the years, but the $730 OnePlus 9 is a solid proposition nonetheless. Best of all, it’s available for just $695 via Amazon as of writing.

Verdict: OnePlus 9 review — Serious business, cheap suit

The OnePlus 9 brings a Snapdragon 888 SoC, a 120Hz OLED panel, and a 4,500mAh battery with speedy 65W wired charging. The T-Mobile variant even gains an official water resistance rating, while all variants outside India pack wireless charging too.

The phone also steps things up when it comes to the camera experience, serving up a 48MP IMX689 main camera, 50MP IMX766 ultra-wide camera, and a 2MP monochrome lens. And we thought the OnePlus 9 was definitely an improvement over previous devices.


OnePlus 9 specs:

  • Display: 6.55-inch FHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 8/12GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 48, 50, and 2MP
  • Front camera: 16MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 11

2. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE rear profile 1
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Samsung launched the Galaxy S20 FE in late 2020 and it’s still one of the best affordable flagships you can get roughly a year later. The phone managed to offer a number of high-end features for a reasonable price tag, such as water resistance, wireless charging, a Snapdragon 865 SoC, and a 120Hz OLED panel.

The Galaxy S20 FE also stands out thanks to the flexible triple camera system, featuring a 12MP main shooter, 12MP ultra-wide camera, and 8MP 3X telephoto sensor. The latter type of camera isn’t always a given on affordable flagships, so we’re happy Samsung offered it here.

Samsung’s phone launched at $700 last year, but it frequently goes on sale for way below its recommended price. In fact, the device has been available for ~$550 on Amazon for a while now, making this a flagship killer of note at this price point. Toss in three major OS updates and this is hard to resist.


Galaxy S20 FE specs:

  • Display: 6.5-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: SD 865 or Exynos 990
  • RAM: 6/8GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 12, 12 and 8MP
  • Front camera: 32MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 11

3. Asus Zenfone 8

Asus Zenfone 8 standing on tracks
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The Asus Zenfone series has long offered a flagship killer option, such as 2018’s Zenfone 5Z and 2019’s Zenfone 6. It’s back with another competitively priced device in the Zenfone 8, which launched in June 2021.

Perhaps the standout Zenfone 8 feature is the compact design, packing a 5.9-inch 120Hz OLED screen. This is paired with a Snapdragon 888 flagship SoC, making it the smallest high-end Android phone you can get in 2021.

What we thought: Asus Zenfone 8 review — Pint-sized powerhouse falls just short of perfection

The phone’s small size does come with compromises though, as the 4,000mAh battery isn’t huge for a 5G device and you’re missing out on features like microSD support, wireless charging, and a telephoto camera. But you do get an IP68 rating, a 3.5mm port, and a rather attractive $630 price tag.


Asus Zenfone 8 specs:

  • Display: 5.9-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 6/8/16GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 64 and 12MP
  • Front camera: 12MP
  • Battery: 4,000mAh
  • Software: Android 11

4. ZTE Axon 30

A front view of the ZTE Axon 30.
ZTE

Believe it or not, but you can get a flagship-level smartphone with an under-display selfie camera for $500. Yes, the ZTE Axon 30 packs a 16MP camera under the screen for a proper full-screen experience. 

This isn’t the most powerful phone on the list, but the Snapdragon 870 is last year’s flagship silicon. So it should still deliver smooth performance a year or two down the line. Other notable details include a 6.92-inch 120Hz OLED panel, a 4,200mAh battery, and 65W charging.

ZTE’s phone doesn’t have the most impressive rear camera system though. Expect a 64MP main shooter, 8MP ultra-wide camera, a 5MP macro lens, and a 2MP depth sensor. 


ZTE Axon 30 specs:

  • Display: 6.92-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 870
  • RAM: 8/12GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 64, 8, 5, and 2MP
  • Front camera: 16MP
  • Battery: 4,200mAh
  • Software: Android 11

5. Realme GT

Realme GT review outdoors side profile
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Realme has been expanding in a big way these last few years, targeting Europe and other markets. And one of the devices leading the charge in 2021 is the pleather-clad Realme GT, packing the latest and greatest silicon under the hood.

The Snapdragon 888 is joined by a 120Hz OLED panel, a 4,500mAh battery, and 65W wired charging. So the fundamentals are pretty good here. The camera system is perhaps the weakest area though, featuring a relatively pedestrian 64MP main+8MP ultra-wide+2MP macro setup.

Don’t expect premium flagship staples like wireless charging and water resistance here, then. But the €499 RRP (and a €429 promo price) make it worth a look if you want a powerful phone without splashing out a ton of cash.


Realme GT specs:

  • Display: 6.43-inch FHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 8/12GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 64, 8, and 2MP
  • Front camera: 16MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 11

6. Nubia Red Magic 6

Red Magic 6 back of device on steps outsides
Gary Sims / Android Authority

Nubia’s Red Magic series of gaming phones have been around for a while now, and they’ve generally offered flagship-level power and gaming features at a more affordable price tag. The Red Magic 6 is no different in this regard, starting at $600 from the official store.

There are plenty of reasons to consider the Nubia device, such as the 165Hz OLED screen (an industry first), a pair of capacitive shoulder triggers, a large battery, and a Snapdragon 888 chipset with a built-in cooling fan. So if sustained gaming performance is your top priority, you should add this phone to your list.

The phone’s biggest weakness is the photography experience, though, as the triple rear camera system delivers average snaps. Then again, you probably wouldn’t buy this device if you value a top-notch camera experience in the first place.


Nubia Red Magic 6 specs:

  • Display: 6.8-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 12/16GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 64, 8, and 2MP
  • Front camera: 8MP
  • Battery: 5,050mAh
  • Software: Android 11

7. Poco F3

Poco F3 Review Home Screen
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Is the Poco F3 as close as we’ll get to a Poco F1 successor in 2021? It’s tough to argue otherwise, as the combo of a Snapdragon 870 SoC, 120Hz OLED panel, and €349 price tag is very competitive.

There are two areas where the Poco device lags behind rival phones though, and that’s in the camera and software arenas. In the case of the former, the 48MP+8MP+5MP triple camera setup is very average. When it comes to software, our own C. Scott Brown thought the phone was very buggy and unpolished, but we hope subsequent MIUI updates have rectified some of these issues.

Our verdict: Poco F3 review — Killer hardware brought down by sub-par software

Alternatively, the Poco F3 GT is also available right now in the likes of India. This particular phone offers a Dimensity 1200 flagship SoC, a pair of retractable shoulder buttons for gaming, and a larger battery than the standard F3. And with a price tag of Rs 27,000 (~$365), this is another affordable flagship worth considering.


Poco F3 specs:

  • Display: 6.67-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 870
  • RAM: 6/8GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 48, 8, and 5MP
  • Front camera: 20MP
  • Battery: 4,520mAh
  • Software: Android 11

Poco F3 GT specs:

  • Display: 6.67-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Dimensity 1200
  • RAM: 6/8GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 64, 8, and 2MP
  • Front camera: 16MP
  • Battery: 5,065mAh
  • Software: Android 11

8. Xiaomi Mi 11i

The Xiaomi Mi 11i is actually a rebranded, global version of the China-only Redmi K40 Pro Plus. They’re essentially the same device otherwise, and we’re glad for that because it’s definitely a flagship killer if ever there were one.

Xiaomi’s smartphone packs a Snapdragon 888 SoC, a 120Hz OLED panel, and a 4,520mAh battery with 33W wired charging. The Mi 11i also serves up a 108MP main camera, 8MP ultra-wide, 5MP telemacro lens, and a 20MP selfie snapper.

Expect to pay a recommended price of €650 (~$765) for the Mi 11i, but the phone is available via Amazon for just €528 (~$621) as of writing. So this is definitely worth adding to your watchlist if you want a cheaper high-end device.


Xiaomi Mi 11i specs:

  • Display: 6.67-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 108, 8, and 5MP
  • Front camera: 20MP
  • Battery: 4,520mAh
  • Software: Android 11

These are the best flagships killers you can get in our opinion. We’ll be sure to update this post once new models hit the market.