We are all tightening our purse strings in 2022, so luckily when it comes to buying a new smartphone you don’t have to break the bank. You can get a lot more bang for your buck with a Chinese phone than if you buy from Samsung or Sony’s entry-level range.
We’ve rounded up the ten best cheap Chinese phones but don’t worry, our picks don’t look or feel cheap. These phones won’t outperform a phone four times their price but, well, they make up for that by costing four times less.
If a low price isn’t your number-one priority, also check out the best Chinese phones you can buy today.
Best Budget Chinese Phone reviews
- Stunning design
- Flagship-level 120Hz AMOLED display
- Capable 108Mp camera
- Plastic body
- Occasional lag
The Poco X4 Pro 5G is a huge upgrade over its predecessor in terms of features and design, with a premium look and feel despite the plastic body. The 120Hz AMOLED display is bright, vibrant and buttery-smooth, with one of the smallest camera cutouts we’ve seen.
While the refresh rate isn’t adaptive like premium alternatives, the phone can still comfortably last more than a day with average use, and when it does need a top up there’s 67W fast wired charging (with the necessary charger supplied in the box).
The 108Mp camera is a real treat too, offering impressive detail and colour representation in well-lit environments, although the lack of OIS means night photography could be improved. The accompanying 8Mp ultra-wide is handy, but the same can’t be said for the 2Mp macro lens.
The internals are mid-range, with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 695 leading the show, but performance is very decent for the money. A tempting option for the cost-conscious.
Read our full Poco X4 Pro 5G review
Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro
- Stunning 120Hz AMOLED display
- Long battery life
- Excellent cameras
- No 5G
- No OIS
- Huge camera bump
- MIUI not for everyone
The Redmi Note 10 Pro is one of the best budget phones you can buy, with Xiaomi delivering exceptional value for money.
Highlights here start with the stunning screen offering AMOLED technology and a 120Hz refresh rate, and continue with an excellent set of cameras. The headline is a 108Mp whopper which is backed up by a reasonable ultra-wide and a surprisingly decent telemacro.
There are smaller delights too such as the inclusion of a headphone jack, Arc fingerprint scanner, stereo speakers and even an IR blaster. Battery life is also strong (Xiaomi includes a 33W charger in the box), and core specs are decent with a Snapdragon 732G ensuring smooth performance.
Our only real gripe is a lack of support for 5G.
Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro review
- Excellent software
- Great design
- Strong all-rounder
- Only 90Hz display
- Only two years of Android updates
An outstanding follow-up to 2021’s best mid-range phone, with great performance, 5G, OnePlus’s signature Oxygen OS user experience, and a near-flagship main camera. What’s not to love?
What the OnePlus Nord 2T really demonstrates is the company’s ability to prioritise the features that users are looking for right now and wrapping them up in an attractive package with a compelling price point.
The Nord 2T misses out on flagship niceties like wireless charging and waterproofing, but those are really the only compromises made here.
Read our full OnePlus Nord 2T review
- Superb performance
- Excellent OLED display
- Impressive cameras
- Underwhelming battery life
- MIUI not for everyone
The Poco F3 is a cracking mid-range phone. Stellar hardware is led by Qualcomm’s 5G-enabled Snapdragon 870 chipset, which delivers excellent performance across the board.
That extends to gaming, where the 120Hz OLED display comes into its own. However, that high refresh rate does hit battery life, especially when you’re working with a smaller capacity than the Poco X3 Pro. The software is also still an acquired taste, despite big steps forward for MIUI in recent years.
A premium design and solid set of cameras make for an excellent smartphone experience, but the strength of the competition makes it more difficult to recommend.
Read our full Xiaomi Poco F3 review
- AMOLED display
- Improved 64Mp camera
- Easy-to-manage design
- Solid battery life
- No 5G
- Not exceptional in a competitive field
- Pointless macro lens
The Poco M4 Pro takes things in a surprisingly different direction to the Poco M4 Pro 5G (below). Though you may lose 5G connectivity, you gain quite a bit more in return.
It enables the inclusion of the first AMOLED display in the series, as well as the first 64Mp main camera.
It’s debatable whether the Poco M4 Pro’s unique design is any better than its brother’s, but the fact that some effort has gone into making it different is worthy of praise. It’s undeniably a little more compact and thus easier to use single-handed, too.
Throw in more generous RAM and storage options, and you have a well-equipped budget phone that just feels that tiny bit more premium than its close brother.
Read our full Xiaomi Poco M4 Pro review
- Attractive design
- AMOLED display
- Strong main camera
- Headphone jack
- Average performance
- Ships with Android 11
The OnePlus Nord CE 2 is an impressive affordable mid-ranger, with only a few flaws. In fact, perhaps its biggest challenge is simply that spending only a little more would net you the even better Nord 2.
Performance, battery, and charging all impress for the price, and the design is slick enough to outgrow its humble plasticky origins.
The camera has its flaws, but is typical for the price, with a main camera that’s good during the day, and other lenses that are at least serviceable.
The biggest down side is really OnePlus’s lacklustre commitment to software updates, which will likely see the phone out of updates by the end of next year.
Read our full OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G review
- Great value for money
- Pocket-friendly design
- Side fingerprint scanner
- Middling cameras
- Doesn’t handle high-end games well
The Xiaomi Poco M4 Pro 5G offers good overall performance for basic mobile needs, a lightweight, stylish design, and a strong, long-lasting battery, for a very low price. The cameras are so-so, but that’s the only real drawback of what’s otherwise a bargain buy.
Read our full Xiaomi Poco M4 Pro 5G review
- Beautiful display
- Thin and light
- Great software
- Plastic body
- Average camera
- No Alert Slider
The original Nord was a category defining device, and the Nord CE doesn’t quite pull off the same trick. Compromises on the camera and build quality – as well as odd choices like ditching the Alert Slider – make the Nord CE stand out less. This feels typical of the price range, and much closer to the competition.
Still, a solid mid-range chipset, a slim build, and excellent battery life and charging chops are enough to ensure that the Nord CE is still a strong option for budget buyers. It’s also one the cheaper phones around with 5G support included, and OxygenOS alone is enough to give it an edge over the competition.
While the Nord excelled, the Nord CE is instead a capable all-rounder. Other phones out there will trump it on specific specs, but few at this price can deliver such a strong overall package.
Read our full OnePlus Nord CE 5G review
- Unique rear design
- Two-day battery life
- Strong main camera
- Other lenses are unimpressive
- No IP rating
- Inconsistent charging speeds
The Realme 9 Pro+ has some notable features for a mid-ranger, with an impressive main camera lens, an aesthetically pleasing design, a decent battery life, and user-friendly software.
The inconsistent charging and underwhelming secondary cameras make it clear that this isn’t quite the flagship killer that Realme is promising, but at this price it was never going to be.
For sub-£350 there is still a lot to enjoy – it all depends on what you’re willing to compromise on.
Read our full Realme 9 Pro+ review
- Excellent 90Hz display
- Tidy design
- Strong battery life
- Camera no great shakes
- No 5G
- MIUI is an acquired taste
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 offers a compelling combination of specifications and a pleasant design at an affordable price.
Noteworthy is the Note 11’s level of stamina, which will get most people through two days of usage on a single charge. Redmi impresses by throwing in a speedy 33W charger, too.
Performance and camera quality are merely adequate, which is where scaling up to the Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G might be worth considering. But if you’re on a strict budget, this is a phone with few glaring weaknesses.
Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 review
- Excellent Battery Life
- Decent performance
- Nice colour options
- Average cameras
- MIUI is loaded with bloat
- Lacking high refresh rate
This is the first Redmi Note phone that is just good enough. At times one needs to question the reason for its existence since there are other great Redmi Note 10 models that can provide everything this phone can in a more capable package.
That being said it comes with its own set of strengths – its battery life is definitely superior to its other Redmi Note 10 cousins and its new blue colour is very attractive.
But at a budget price, it just about makes the cut, as spending slightly more will get you a better screen and camera combination in a knockout package that too from the house Xiaomi.
Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 10S review
- Thin, lightweight design
- Outstanding battery life
- Rapid charging
- Unreliable fingerprint sensor
- Middling performance
- Plastic build
The Realme 8 Pro is a device seemingly centred around raising the profile of the company’s camera credentials. Based on the rest of the spec sheet, it’s a reworking of last year’s Realme 7 Pro with a thinner, more lightweight build, slower charging and the same underlying components – save for that all-important camera.
In practice, it achieves its intended purpose and happens to be a well-balanced affordable mid-ranger in the process, with a killer feature that sets itself apart from the rest of Realme’s line-up. Just as Xiaomi is a keen rival of Oppo in the wider mobile market, however, so too is the company’s Redmi line against Realme in the mid-range and affordable spaces.
The price/camera performance proposition of the Realme 8 Pro is undeniably strong but Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 10 Pro just pipped it to the post, hitting the market only a few weeks earlier. It totes a superior processor, higher refresh rate AMOLED display and the same Samsung-supplied 108Mp camera sensor, all for the same price as the Realme.
Read our full Realme 8 Pro review
- Thin & light
- Solid specs
- Reliable main camera
- No 5G
- Only 60Hz refresh rate
- Giant slogan on the back
The Realme 8 is a solid, if unremarkable, budget buy.
For the price you’re getting a dependable main camera, strong battery life, and OLED screen, all backed up by a smooth software experience that prioritises ease-of-use.
Similarly priced rivals might beat the Realme 8 on one or two specs, and particularly you may feel that it’s worth investing in a 5G model at this point.
But you’ll find a welcome balance of features here that should suit most users more or less, making the Realme 8 a jack-of-all-trades.
Read our full Realme 8 review
- Impressively priced
- Great battery life
- Fingerprint sensor
- 90Hz with AdaptiveSync
- LCD display lacks vibrancy
- Basic camera setup
- Slow 18W charging
The Xiaomi Redmi 10 is a dependable phone that won’t blow your mind, but it won’t hit the wallet too hard, either.
Its camera and display tech are fairly basic, but it does offer a sizeable screen with an adaptive refresh rate of up to 90Hz, solid battery life, and it looks great, too.
Understandably for the price, there’s no 5G and performance is limited, charging is slow and there’s no waterproofing. Still, this is one of the best options at under £200 right now if you don’t need a phone to be all singing and all dancing.
Read our full Xiaomi Redmi 10 review
- Great longevity
- Sharp 90Hz display
- Affordable 5G
- Middling performance
- Inconsistent fingerprint reader
- Slow charging
The Oppo A54 5G is a budget handset the manages to excel in multiple areas – with an attractive design, 5G, a 48Mp quad-camera and a massive 5000mAh battery that outshines even some of the most expensive phones on the market.
It’s not without faults, of course. Though the battery life is excellent, 10W charging is glacial in this day and age. Though the night mode on the camera is stellar, the user-experience of taking photos really needs refining to be simpler and cleaner.
For the price point, however, you’re getting a solid camera phone that feels high-end and a device that won’t die on you quickly. For these reasons we’d definitely say that the A54 5G is a budget contender.
Read our full Oppo A54 5G review
Your buying guide to the best budget Chinese phones in 2022
Many Chinese phones are now officially available in the UK, but you may still find cheaper prices in China through the likes of GearBest. If you’re buying from China rather than the UK you’ll need to factor import duty into any budgeting decision, which is calculated at 20 percent of the value printed on the shipping paperwork plus an admin fee of around £11.
You’ll also have to accept slightly longer delivery times (though free international delivery is usually offered), and accept that should something go wrong it’s going to be more difficult to get your money back.
A big one to watch out for is the cellular bands supported by the phone: some of the more obscure Chinese phones don’t support 800MHz 4G LTE. That doesn’t mean they won’t work at all in the UK, but if your network relies on that frequency alone for 4G then the most you’ll get is 3G. This will affect you if you subscribe to an O2, GiffGaff, Tesco or Sky Mobile tariff.
Talking of contracts, you won’t get one for a Chinese phone if you buy it from China. Instead you’ll need to buy the phone up front and then subscribe to a SIM-only deal, but if you’ve got the funds to do so it’s a much better option and can save you a lot of cash in the long run.
Particularly with regard to Xiaomi phones, your smartphone may not come with Google services preinstalled (opt for a Global model or buy within the UK to avoid this). We explain how to install Google Play on a Xiaomi phone here.
We’ve rounded up some of these things you should consider in our guide to buying Chinese tech.
If you decide you want a budget phone but don’t want one from China, also check out our guide to the best budget phones available in the UK.
Related stories for further reading
Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn’t affect our editorial independence. Learn more.