Best entry-level smartphones 2020 - buyer’s guide

GSMArena team, Last updated 30 June 2020.

Asia gets all the cool phones, but also all the super-cheap, yet very good, entry-level offerings. What the equivalent of $100 buys you in Redmis, Realmes, or even low-end Samsungs in the East is more than enough to satisfy everyday needs. We're even seeing handsets in this class that offer beefy chipsets that can even cut it for gaming.


Editors' choice

Realme 5s

Realme 5s

Specs
  • Large screen, small notch
  • Powerful chipset for the price
  • Has a fingerprint sensor
  • Outstanding battery life, 5,000mAh battery
  • 64GB base storage, dedicated microSD slot
  • Quad-camera with 64MP primary
  • Low-res screen
  • Dated microUSB port

Our top pick to buy in the most affordable category if you reside in (most of) Asia is the Realme 5s. It's not the cheapest one, more like the middle of the road, but that secures you a powerful Snapdragon 665 chipset, which delivers by far the most oomph under a 720p screen you can get for similar money.

You also get plenty of battery and storage, plus a microSD slot ensures you won't be strapped for memory. It's a rarity to find a fingerprint sensor in this class, and the 5s has that too. The 64MP camera, part of a quad-camera setup, rounds up the 5s standout features.

Read full review
Xiaomi Redmi 8A

Xiaomi Redmi 8A

Specs
  • Stylish looks for the price, GG5 on the front
  • 5,000mAh battery should be plenty, supports 18W charging (but 10W unit in the box)
  • Runs MIUI 11, likely to get timely updates
  • 32GB base storage, dedicated microSD slot, USB-C port
  • 2GB of RAM in the base version could be a bottleneck
  • No fingerprint reader
  • The flipside to the huge battery is the above-average heft

The Redmi 8A is among the cheapest of the bunch for its base version, but ideally, you'd want to step a notch up for a small premium to get the 3GB of RAM. The 8A is notably missing a fingerprint sensor and comes in pretty heavy at 188g.

Is the weight really a downside when the handset packs a 5,000mAh battery? You be the judge of that, but we like high-capacity cells very much, plus the Redmi supports 18W charging (if you have a charger that can do it, though - the bundled one only outputs 10W). Since we're on the topic, the Redmi also has a USB-C port. The 8A looks particularly good for the price, and we appreciate the Gorilla Glass 5 protection.

Specs
Samsung Galaxy M11

Samsung Galaxy M11

Specs
  • Large screen, tiny cutout
  • Efficient chipset
  • Ultra-wide cams are hard to find in the segment
  • Has a fingerprint sensor
  • 5,000mAh battery, 15W fast charging, USB-C port, dedicated microSD slot
  • Its predecessor had Super AMOLED
  • Not the cheapest of the bunch

The Galaxy M11 is the lowest point of entry into Samsung's territory. It has one nicely large screen with a very small cutout, even if it's not an OLED as was the case with the M10s. It has an efficient Snapdragon chipset and an adequate triple camera with wide/ultrawide/depth combo. The 5,000mAh battery is impressive, which you can then top up with the included 15W adapter - the fastest brick you'll find bundled in this segment.

The M11 has a tick in the fingerprint sensor checkbox, and unlike many other phones in this price segment, it comes with an ultra wide-angle cam.

The Galaxy M11 isn't the cheapest around though, but if you are fan of One UI, this is a good option.

Specs
Realme Narzo 10A

Realme Narzo 10A

Specs
  • Attractive design, GG3 on the front
  • Adequate Helio G70 chip for a 720p screen
  • 5,000mAh battery
  • 32GB base storage, dedicated microSD slot
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Sluggish charging

We have another Realme on our shortlist here, the Narzo 10A, also known as C3 (3 cameras) outside India. It is a major refresh over the Realme C2, with a larger screen, much faster chipset, more cameras, and a beefier battery. It comes with 32GB storage in its base trim, though RAM is only 2GB in this version. On the back you will also find a fingerprint scanner.

The Narzo 10A (or C3) has a sheet of Gorilla Glass 3 on the front that offers protection to the 6.5-inch LCD. The Helio G70 chipset is geared towards performance and should deliver good presentation under the 720p screen. Finally, the 5,000mAh battery is greatly appreciated.

Specs

India special

vivo U20

vivo U20

Specs
  • Stylish looks, high-res screen
  • Very powerful chipset
  • 5,000mAh battery should be plenty, 18W charging
  • Runs the latest MIUI 11, likely to get timely updates
  • 64GB base storage, microSD slot
  • Triple camera, 4K video recording
  • Dated microUSB port

The Vivo U20 is shaping as one of the hottest offers, but there is a catch - it is available only in India. The U20 has one of the most powerful chips in this price bracket - the Snapdragon 675, but it also offers a high-res screen and a triple rear camera with 4K video capturing.

Other good bits include a huge 5,000mAh battery with 18W support, card slot, FM radio, the lot. The microUSB port is a bit disappointing, but at that price - we can easily forgive the dated plug.

Read our preview

Best entry-level smartphones for Western markets

Move a little to the West and Europeans can't get much for this amount of cash. Even the models that may be actually be available through official channels, come at a premium. And then North America is an entirely different landscape with carrier-specific budget models and a general preference for higher-end devices - after all, contracts make the price of a flagship device less tangible.



Editors' choice

Samsung Galaxy A20e

Samsung Galaxy A20e

Specs
  • Ultra-wide cams are hard to find in the segment
  • Lightweight and compact due to small screen and battery
  • Has a fingerprint sensor
  • Efficient and decently powerful chipset, 15W fast charging
  • 32GB base storage, dedicated microSD slot, USB-C port
  • 3,000mAh battery is on the small side
  • Cheap-looking plastic build
  • Android 10 update is uncertain

One of the most affordable Galaxies you can get, the A20e isn't too shabby. It packs a couple of cams, including an ultra wide angle one, and has a fingerprint reader on the back. Samsung's own Exynos 7884 chipset is good enough for the money, and the bundled 15W charger will quickly top up the otherwise small-ish 3,000mAh battery. It's got the important stuff covered (RAM, storage, microSD slot) too.

The A20e keeps things compact thanks to its 5.8-inch display, so the battery capacity doesn't sound like much of an issue - in fact, you may appreciate this Galaxy's lightness. The A20e gets Samsung's OneUI so the interface looks like on any other contemporary Samsung, and Android 10 update is in the works. It's also cheap to the eye and to the touch, but it is cheap to buy too, after all.

Specs
Xiaomi Redmi 9

Xiaomi Redmi 9

Specs
  • Stylish looks for the price, GG5 on the front
  • Large 1080p screen
  • Has a fingerprint sensor
  • 5,020mAh battery should be plenty, supports 18W charging
  • Runs the latest MIUI 12, likely to get timely updates
  • 32GB base storage, dedicated microSD slot, USB-C port
  • The flipside to the huge battery is the above-average heft

The Redmi 9 is a great budget smartphone with a large 6.53" 1080p screen and powerful enough Helio G80 chip. It has four cameras on its back - wide, ultrawide, macro and depth.

There is also a huge 5,000mAh battery with 18W support, USB-C port, card slot, the lot. MIUI is among the best platforms for updates too, and as far as China-originating interfaces go - it's one of the easiest on the eyes for the Western user.

Specs
Nokia 4.2

Nokia 4.2

Specs
  • Super cool light-up power button, overall nice design
  • Its small screen means it's compact
  • Has a fingerprint sensor, NFC
  • Runs Android One, so it has a clean OS with good update potential
  • The 16GB/2GB base version is better avoided
  • Small battery, 5W charger in the box

The Nokia 4.2, being a Nokia, is notably more recognizable than a Xiaomi. It's got pleasing looks too, and one of the coolest power buttons around - it lights up for notifications. It's also a compact handset, which isn't all too easy to find these days. It's got a fingerprint sensor on the back, and the phone supports NFC too - again, not a given at this price. Android purists will also appreciate the fact that the 4.2 is on the Android One branch - clean UI, speedy updates.

By all means, however, avoid the 16GB/2GB version despite its more attractive price tag - neither is enough, regardless of the Android One argument and the dedicated card slot. Additionally, the Nokia 4.2 comes with a rather small-ish 3,000mAh battery, which you have to charge from a 5W adaptor via microUSB. The Nokia 4.2 is not a trend setter in features and technology but it's reliable and fits the budget just fine.

Read preview

US special

Samsung Galaxy A20

Samsung Galaxy A20

Specs
  • Large 6.4-inch Super AMOLED on a budget, GG3 on top
  • Ultra wide cams are hard to find in the segment
  • Has a fingerprint sensor
  • Efficient and decently powerful chipset, big 4,000mAh battery, 15W fast charging
  • 32GB base storage, dedicated microSD slot, USB-C port
  • Low-res display
  • Cheap-looking plastic build
  • Android 10 update is uncertain

The US doesn't get the A20e, but Samsung sells the A20 proper there and it's mostly the same phone, but for a few important differences. Chief among them is the display - not only is it 6.4-inches in diagonal vs the A20e' 5.8 inches, but it's also AMOLED - nice. It's not very high-res, though, but it had to fit the budget somehow. The Gorilla Glass 3 protection did make the cut, so that's good as well.

To go with the bigger display, battery capacity has been bumped to 4,000mAh, and the phone has gotten heavier in the process, but at 169g it's still among the lighter offerings. A well-rounded entry-level Galaxy with an AMOLED display - that's it.

Specs

Almost there

Motorola Moto G8 Play

Motorola Moto G8 Play

Specs
  • 6.2" screen, reasonable size
  • Efficient and decently powerful chipset
  • 32GB base storage, microSD slot
  • Triple rear camera with high-quality 8MP ultrawide shooter
  • 4,000mAh battery
  • Cheap-looking plastic build
  • Sluggish 5W charger
  • 2GB of RAM in the base version could be a bottleneck
  • Android 10 update is uncertain

The Moto G8 Play is one very interesting offer. It is a cheap phone with cheap design and cheap screen, but it offers adequate chipset with great GPU performance for the class, a large battery and a triple camera.

The camera on the back is rather special - it has a 13MP primary, an 8MP ultrawide and a 2MP depth sensor. The 8MP snapper has large pixels for enhanced photo and video quality. It is also a dedicated action camera with very capable electronic stabilization.

The Moto G8 Play isn't the best phone in this category, but it could be a great companion of gaming or action videos are your thing, and you don't care much about looks, photo quality, and Android updates.

Specs

Best phones by category

Reader comments

The Vivo u20 runs Funtouch os 9, not miui 11

  • Awrangzeb

Bought a Nokia 4.2. For the price- Display- Good Design and build- VERY GOOD Performance- good, judging the specifications. Battery life- Ok Main Camera- Bad, especially under low light. Charging- Slow as it doesn't have fast char...

  • Junama

They should be add More storage copacity and battry timing.