Best flagship killers 2023 - buyer’s guide

GSMArena team, Last updated 6 November 2023.

Last updated: November 6, 2023 (Changelog)

High-end hardware at half the price of the big names, what's not to like? A category started by OnePlus in 2014, the top-specced 'flagship killer' is a crowd favorite. OnePlus itself now fights in the upper echelon with its top offerings, but with its diversifying portfolio there's one for this level as well. Brands that usually top bang-for-buck charts are here too - both Realme and Xiaomi have options for those who aren't willing to shell top dollar, but still appreciate top-tier performance.


Editors' choice

Xiaomi 13T

Xiaomi 13T

Specs
  • Decent build with IP68 certification, the vegan leather option is nice
  • Superb OLED, 12-bit color depth, color accurate, 144Hz, Dolby Vision
  • Okay battery life with fast charging
  • Good Dolby Atmos speakers
  • Excellent camera performance all-around, dedicated zoom camera
  • IR blaster, 4 promised major Android updates, 5 year of security patches
  • The selfie camera is disappointing
  • The panel doesn't reach 144Hz in most apps and system menus

The Xiaomi 13T is in an excellent spot right now as it offers a substantial upgrade over its predecessor with a minimal price hike and there just aren't many direct competitors in this particular price bracket. Even though the Xiaomi 13T is a few weeks-old now, we already see a significant price drop. The handset initially launched at €650 but is now easy to find for about €530. That's highly competitive in the current market conditions.

Xiaomi 13T is an excellent upper-midranger with flagship-like feature, and the only thing that keeps us from calling it an affordable flagship is the not so flagship SoC. We have expected more from the new Dimensity 8200 chip.

However, it's hard to overlook the package as a whole. The 13T is an IP68-rated phone, also a proficient shooter with superb photo and video quality across the board (excluding the selfie camera), it sports a flagship-grade display, decently fast charging, 4 years of full software support and has dependable battery life, albeit not impressive. It covers almost all bases and offers a good value overall, so it gets the flagship killer nod from us.

Read full review
Xiaomi Poco F5

Xiaomi Poco F5

Specs
  • Awesome, lightweight build, IP53
  • Excellent AMOLED, 120Hz refresh, Dolby Vision, HDR10+
  • Unrivaled performance thanks to the SD 7+ Gen 2
  • Loud dual speakers, Dolby Atmos
  • Solid battery life with competitive fast charging solution
  • Great camera experience all-around (except selfies)
  • 3.5mm audio jack, IR blaster, premium haptics, 256GB base storage
  • Side-mounted fingerprint reader instead of UD scanner
  • Night mode needs more work, selfies are meh

The Poco F5 is here to stay as it offers an excellent all-round package at a bargain price. There is also an F5 Pro model with a marginally faster chipset, but its 1440p screen makes it slower than the standard F5 – hence the F5 remains our pick here.

The Poco F5 has a superb display with all the HDR certifications, battery life is solid, charging speed is competitive, camera quality is surprisingly good (except for the Night mode and the selfies), performance is unrivaled even by more expensive phones thanks to the brand new SD 7+ Gen 2, loudspeakers are decent, and design and ergonomics are excellent. Bonus points for being IP53-rated, offering flagship-level haptics and having an OIS on the main camera. It makes the shooting experience a tad better.

If we go into nitpicking mode, we can complain about the side-mounted fingerprint reader. The under-display one is more versatile, and it just doesn't sit well in 2023. The handset uses an OLED panel too, so there's no reason to opt for the side-mounted fingerprint reader. But it is, obviously, nitpicking.

The best part of the Poco F5 is its pricing, of course. The phone costs about €350, which makes it the cheapest flagship-like phone you can buy in 2023, a flagship killer, if you will.

Read full review
Google Pixel 7

Google Pixel 7

Specs
  • Compact and premium build, easy to handle, unique-looking design, dust- and water-resistant
  • Sharp, bright, color-accurate display
  • Good battery life considering the phone's size
  • Android from the source, exclusive feature set, unrivaled perception of smoothness on this side of the OS divide
  • Overall, great camera quality with an unmatched character that has a loyal following
  • The display is just 90Hz as opposed to competitors pushing beyond 120Hz
  • Very slow charging by the standards of the day
  • Ultrawide camera is underwhelming in low light
  • Selfies rarely come out tack sharp

The Pixel 7 is definitely one of the best options in the €450-€500 range, especially when considering camera quality. It has a flagship-worthy performance, although a bit lower than you'd expect; it's one of the best phones for mobile photography, and it has bright OLED, great-sounding stereo speakers, long battery life (with the size category in mind) and exceptional software ensuring timely updates and smart features.

Sadly, there are a few caveats to consider here. There's no true telephoto camera; the display is limited to 90Hz; some of the most advanced software features are region-dependent, and the charging solution is just way too outdated for a 2022 flagship release.

But we do recommend it- at that price, the Pixel 7 offers a unique combination of ultra-premium camera experience, long battery life and AI-based features that make it the smartest kid on the block.

Read full review
OnePlus Nord 3

OnePlus Nord 3

Specs
  • IP54-rated dual-glass design, beautiful colors
  • Outstanding display of high-resolution, brightness, refresh rate, HDR10 support
  • Excellent battery life, plenty fast charging
  • Flagship-grade performance
  • Reliable photo and video quality from all cameras but macro
  • Fluid OxygenOS
  • No EIS in 4K resolution
  • The selfie camera is basic, macro shots are poor
  • No high frame rate gaming, GPU could be prone to throttling

The €480 OnePlus Nord 3 is easy to like - it has an impressive high-resolution display with even more impressively thin bezels and cutout. The flagship-grade hardware is a real treat in this price range, and so is the flagship battery life and charging. And we cannot but appreciate the IP54-rated body, a thoughtful step that gives an extra peace of mind.

The camera has been improved since the Nord 2, there is no doubt. The main camera saves great photos and videos, day and night, and so does the ultrawide shooter. Over-processed a bit, sure, but still better than what Nord 2 had to offer.

The selfie camera is a bit disappointing, and the macro cam turned out pretty poor. But not having electronic stabilization for the 4K videos is a real crime. That, and the Quad-Bayer selfie sensor. Oh, and being a BBK-made phone, the OnePlus Nord 3 does not offer high frame rate gaming.

Even with these imperfections, the Nord 3 manages to impress us with everything else - screen, performance, speakers, charging speed and battery life, overall camera quality, fluid OxygenOS. It has a competitive price, too, and we do suggest putting the Nord 3 on your shortlist, somewhere around the top picks.

Read full review

OnePlus 10 Pro

OnePlus 10 Pro

Specs
  • Distinctive design with premium finish
  • Superb 120Hz LTPO2 AMOLED display with granular HRR control and great color-accuracy
  • Competitive battery life, 80W SuperVOOC charging speeds are excellent
  • Excellent sustained performance and thermals
  • Reliably good performance from the primary camera
  • No formal IP rating outside US
  • OxygenOS 12 no longer has that OnePlus fan-favorite look and feel
  • Ultra wide is not at the level of last year's model and also lacks AF or Macro
  • Most games limited to 60Hz refresh rate
  • Front camera and telephoto camera only offer 1080p video recording

The OnePlus 10 Pro price has already dropped down to less than €600 and being a full-fledged 2022 flagship in 2023 with rising prices is what makes it perfect for this flagship killer category. It's not only fairly affordable for a premium smartphone, but it also has everything – an attractive premium design, an outstanding OLED screen with high resolution and refresh rate, flagship performance and plenty fast charging.

This OnePlus 10 Pro also comes with a versatile triple camera setup on the back with high-res primary and ultrawide cameras, plus an 8MP 3.3x telephoto. The quality, while not class-leading, is still more than enough for the premium segment.

Overall, the OnePlus 10 Pro is a solid offer with all-round flagship specs. The only real caveat is the USA exclusive IP68 certification, something OnePlus has been known to do for a while.

Read full review

India special

OnePlus 11R

OnePlus 11R

Specs
  • Bright 120Hz display
  • Fastest Android chipset on the market, great sustained performance
  • Competent main camera for both stills and video, in good light and at night alike
  • Some of the fastest charging in the business, solid battery life
  • Nice sounding stereo speakers
  • No IP rating
  • Most games limited to 60Hz, browsers to 90Hz
  • OxygenOS is now but a reskinned ColorOS
  • No telephoto camera, the ultrawide is so-so

The OnePlus 11R is an excellent offer in India, it is basically a version of the international OnePlus 10T with a larger display and battery capacity. It’s a INR 40,000 smartphone with a large Fluid AMOLED screen with 1B colors and 120hz refresh. It also packs the latest Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset with proper cooling solution that helps for great sustained performance.

Of course, there is more. The phone has a reliable enough camera system, good battery life and plenty fast 100W charging. The stereo speakers turned out quite nice, too.

It’s not all so flagship-grade, through – the camera system is so-so, there is no zoom camera, no IP rating.

In its essence, the OnePlus 11R is an upper-midrange phone with a top-tier chipset and class-leading charging capability. We'd say it's priced accordingly and is worth what OnePlus is asking.

Read our hands-on

Most recent updates

November 6, 2023: Added the Xiaomi 13T as new top. Replaced the Pixel 7a with the Pixel 7. Added the OnePlus Nord 3, OnePlus 11R. Removed the Realme GT2 Pro, Motorola Edge 30, iQOO 11.

June 13, 2023: Replaced Poco F4 GT with the Poco F5, added the Pixel 7a.

March 21, 2023: Replaced iQOO 9T with iQOO 11.

March 13, 2023: Replaced OnePlus 10T with OnePlus 10 Pro.

October 21, 2022:Added the Realme GT2 Pro, OnePlus 10T, Motorola Edge 30 Pro, and the iQOO 9T. Removed the Poco F4, Realme GT Neo 3T, Realme GT Neo 3, OnePlus Nord 2T, Xiaomi 11T, Xiaomi 11T Pro, Motorola Edge 30, and the iQOO Neo 6.

June 29, 2022: Replaced the Poco F3 with Poco F4 GT as new Top. Replaced the OnePlus Nord 2 5G with the OnePlus Nord 2T. Replaced the Moto Edge 20 Pro with the Moto Edge 30. Added Poco F4, Realme GT Neo 3T, Realme GT Neo 3, iQOO Neo 6. Removed OnePlus 8T, Zenfone 8 Flip, Red Magic 6R, Google Pixel 6, Realme GT Neo 2.

December 7, 2021: Added the Motorola Edge 20 Pro, Xiaomi 11T Pro, Pixel 6, Asus Zenfone 8 Flip and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3.

November 18, 2021: Added the Realme GT Neo2 and the Xiaomi 11T. Removed the nubia Red Magic 6R.

October 20, 2021: Added the OnePlus Nord 2 5G. Removed the Galaxy S21 5G, Xiaomi Mi 11, Zenfone 8 and the OnePlus 9R.

June 30, 2021: Added the Realme GT 5G and the nubia Red Magic 6R.

May 17, 2021: Replaced the Galaxy S20 FE with the Poco F3 as our Editor's choice. Replaced the Mi 10T Pro 5G with the Mi 11. Added the Galaxy S21 5G, the Zenfone 8 and the OnePlus 9R, and removed the Realme X50 Pro, the Redmi K30 Pro Zoom and the iQOO 3.


Best phones by category

Reader comments

  • Anonymous
  • 11 Feb 2024
  • ndi

Poco x6 pro should be in the list

  • Lowemon
  • 05 Jan 2024
  • Y7W

Idk dude, I got a Oneplus Ace 2/11R, and it also throttles as soon as temp starts to increase. My brother also has a Nubia Z50 that does the same. Both reach temps between 39-42 degrees, so unless you have an external cooler, you'll see a perfor...

  • Anonymous
  • 01 Jan 2024
  • Hx7

one plus 10 pro reaches max 42 degrees celsius in heavy games at max settings like genshin and even with the heat the performance is pretty high