The arrival of Chinese manufacturers has shaken the market and split it into two main parts. On the one hand there are enthusiasts and affluent consumers who are willing to spend more than 1000 euros on a smartphone. On the other hand, we find users with more limited budgets or with fewer needs.
In 2021 you will be spoiled for choice. The majority of the smartphones brought onto the market each year are sold for between 200 and 700 euros. And their pricing doesn’t mean they will serve your needs any less. If you’re on a budget, we recommend checking out our guide to the best smartphones under $ 300. If you are ready to invest a little more, here is our selection of the best smartphones under 500 euros.
Important note: All models in this manual have been tested by the editorial team.
If you’re on a different budget, check out our other guides:
OnePlus Nord: the new benchmark
After focusing its strategy on the premium segment, OnePlus returned to fundamentals this year. With the OnePlus North, the manufacturer undoubtedly offers the best smartphone for less than 500 euros. The North, which was marketed for 399 euros at the time of publication, contains almost everything you would expect from a high-end smartphone at a low price.
Behind its slim design and raised 6.44-inch 90 Hz AMOLED screen, the Nord hides a Snapdragon 765G chip that is optimized for gaming and ensures very good performance. The smartphone lives up to the reputation of its predecessors and has an excellent battery life. OnePlus ships it with a Warp Charge 30T fast charger that charges it to 70% in 30 minutes.
If he’s not the best at photography, he doesn’t have to be ashamed of his talents. Its trio of lenses (wide angle, ultra wide angle, macro) in connection with a ToF ensure a certain versatility. Its only weakness is the average quality of the night photos.
Other victims of the brand are the lack of water resistance and wireless charging. Small flaws that we accept without hesitation as the OnePlus North is attractive.
After just under a year, the OnePlus Nord is available for less than 350 euros. One more reason to make it the most interesting model in this comparison. While he is waiting for his successor, who is slated for June 2021.
OnePlus Nord 256 GB at the best base price: € 499
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Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro: the complete one
Launched just a few months after the Mi 9 (the brand’s top model), the Mi 9T Pro offers some welcome improvements at a great price. For less than 400 euros, the Mi 9T Pro delivers a good package of high-end technologies: Snapdragon 855 processor, 6 GB of RAM and up to 128 GB of storage.
It stands out above all with its 6.39-inch Full HD AMOLED display without notch or punch. The front sensor is housed in a mechanical system commonly known as a “pop-up”. The multimedia experience is only better.
On the photo side, the Mi 9T Pro is armed with triple 48 + 8 + 13 megapixel sensors, a less muscular arsenal than its predecessor. Still, the difference in quality between the two models is difficult to see.
As persistent as the Mi 9, the Mi 9T Pro inherits fast charging. However, to differentiate it from the premium model, Xiaomi has omitted wireless charging. Not enough to weaken our enthusiasm. The Mi 9T Pro remains a very complete model for its price and logically takes first place in our guide to the best smartphones under 500 euros.
Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro 128 GB at the best base price: 449 €
Xiaomi Mi Note 10: the 108 megapixel sensor
Xiaomi also stood out this year with the Mi Note 10, a smartphone with a 108 megapixel photo sensor. If the figure impresses, the most important thing is to emphasize the versatility of the photophone. In addition to the ability to take 108 megapixel shots, the Mi Note 10 has an ultra-wide-angle lens, a macro sensor and a telephoto lens that can zoom up to 5 times.
As a good photographer, the Mi Note 10 is also a durable smartphone. With a 5260 mAh battery, the opposite would have surprised us. So plan more than two days of autonomy for versatile use before going through the charging box. Xiaomi also offers a 30W fast charger.
Note, however, that the performance of this smartphone remains average as it has a mid-range Snapdragon 730 processor. The 6 to 12 GB of RAM handle multitasking and resource-intensive applications well. Good point, however, for the 6.47-inch screen, which is based on Amoled technology. Offered for less than 400 euros, the Mi Note 10 does not lack arguments to seduce and is one of the best.
Realme X2 Pro: the performance
While the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 lacks a bit of power, the Realme X2 Pro isn’t. With its Snapdragon 855+ processor and 12 GB of RAM, it stands out as the most powerful smartphone in this ranking. In addition, there is a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display with a refresh rate of 90 Hz and you have a successful cocktail for gamers.
The icing on the cake, its autonomy reaches a day and a half, a very decent performance for a model in this range. Realme also offers a 50W fast charger that can fully charge the X2 Pro in just over 30 minutes.
The X2 Pro is overwhelming for its price and effective in photography too, though it struggles with some difficulty in low light. Realme does not sell its smartphone as a photo reference. With this model, the manufacturer is offering a successor to the Pocophone F1, powerful and inexpensive. Marketed for less than 400 euros, the X2 Pro will seduce gamers and power lovers, according to retailers.
Realme X2 Pro at the best base price: € 469
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Google Pixel 4a 5G: the king of photography
After the excellent Pixel 3a, Google launched the Pixel 4a and then the Pixel 4a 5G. If both deserve their place in this top, our pick fell on the 5G version for obvious reasons of durability. In fact, like the OnePlus North, the Pixel 4a 5G embeds a Snapdragon 765G chip that is more powerful than that of the Pixel 4a.
Still made of plastic, the 4a 5G shows off a beautiful 6.2-inch OLED screen, making it the largest in the Pixel family. With this smartphone, Google is primarily confirming its know-how in optimizing mid-range chips. The Pixel 4a 5G has a battery life of almost two days and is fully charged in 1.5 hours.
Obviously, the real originality of this model lies in its photo module. Google relies on a double module (wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle), which could look very light compared to the competition.
And yet. Thanks to the American’s expertise in algorithm development, the Pixel 4a 5G won the title of King of Photos by hand. It can even rival Google’s top-of-the-line Pixel 5, which comes with the same photography gear.
Of course, Google has to sacrifice a few features to keep costs down. The Pixel 4a 5G is also not certified waterproof and not compatible with wireless charging, like the OnePlus Nord. For 499 euros, however, these small flaws are more than acceptable. For us, the Pixel 4a 5G is our little darling.
Google Pixel 4a 5G at the best price base price: 499 €
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iPhone SE 2020: the compact one
2020 is arguably one of the busiest years for Apple. While all eyes were on the four new iPhone 12s at the end of the year, the American relaunched an iconic model at the beginning of last year. The iPhone SE 2020 has landed on Apple’s official website in all modesty. But this compact model has its fans.
For this new edition, Apple uses the ingredients for the success of the first version. The iPhone SE 2020 is therefore based on the design of an old model (here the iPhone 8) with the latest components. Under its glass cover it houses the A13 Bionic Chip, which also powers the iPhone 11 Pro. Suffice it to say that the performances are there.
If it has a single photo sensor, the iPhone SE 2020 will enjoy software optimization of onions. It also makes great shots. However, it lacks versatility compared to the competition, especially in more difficult conditions (from a distance, in low light). Another weak point: its autonomy is very poor and its charging system (5 W charger) comes from another time.
Still, it’s the only compact model that’s as complete. It mostly comes with iOS 14 and will benefit from unparalleled monitoring. The iPhone SE 2020 can also be with you for 4 to 5 years. Finally, the iPhone SE 2020 is one of the few smartphones in its category that is IP68 certified and compatible with wireless charging. Material assets.
iPhone SE 2020 64 GB at the best base price: € 489
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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G: the right balance
As every year, Samsung has renewed its Galaxy A range to respond to very aggressive Chinese competitors. As the successor to the Galaxy A51 (the company’s bestseller in 2020), Samsung has therefore launched the Galaxy A52 in 4G and 5G versions. Of course, this latest version wins its place in our comparison of the best smartphones under 500 euros.
First of all because of its design of rare elegance in this price segment. Samsung chooses plastic, but opts for a matt coating with the most beautiful effect. Clearly inspired by the design of the Galaxy S21, the Galaxy A52 has it all.
To this attractive design comes a beautiful OLED screen that Samsung knows. When the performance isn’t the best on the market, it provides the essentials and even allows for a few enjoyable gaming sessions. In addition, there is good battery life, a fast charging system and, above all, an impressive camera.
Marketed under 400 euros, the Galaxy A52 5G has its place in this comparison of the best smartphones under 500 euros.
Galaxy A52 5G at the best base price: € 449
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Our comparison of the best smartphones under 500 euros ends here. We will update it regularly according to the announcements from the manufacturers. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to let us know which model you are good at pushing under the tree.
Apple iPhone SE 2020 64GB