These five handsets all offer something a bit different, but can 2021’s odd squad lure you away from the status quo?
Xiaomi Mi 10i (from ₹20,099)
What’s the story? Losing all your savings chasing hundred-something megapixels and hundred-something refresh rate? Well, put that cashback in your wallet champ. The Mi 10i delivers the same pixel count from its rears as the expensive Mi 10 does, but knocks the price down to as little as ₹20K.
Is it any good? Long before we were allowed to move without police lathis kissing our rear end, Xiaomi launched the Mi 10 which is undoubtedly a bang-for-your-buck and also a flagship-killer sort of smartphone. But during simpler times, the K20 from Xiaomi that shook the sub-₹30K was our go-to smartphone in this category. The Mi 10i here is a bit like the K20 and the Mi 10 mixed together. It's got the price bang on for the innards but it also grabs the fantastic 108MP rear camera from its Mi 10 brother. It's not going to process the same crispy shots that the Galaxy Note and S-series do but its more than adequate for the price. There are three more lenses here but that's just for spec-sheet nerds. It also looks fantastic with a silky smooth back and a gradient finish. Qualcomm's 7250G is quite the performer. The Mi 10i is buttery smooth in everyday tasks and if you crank up to 120Hz, your office crowd won't believe you spent as much as you did for this thing. It lasted us an entire day of heavy use but keep an eye on that 120Hz. It can drain your battery quickly. We still prefer OnePlus' software experience because Xiaomi still needs to iron out the bloatware and ads in our opinion. If you're okay with MIUI, then the Mi 10i is a banger by all standards.
Key specs● 6.67in 2400 x 1080 FHD+, 120Hz screen ● Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G, 4/6/8GB RAM ● 64/128GB storage ● 108MP+8MP+2MP+2MP rear camera, 16MP front
STUFF SAYS Cranking up the display tech and camera for the sub-₹25K segment, the Mi 10i is for geeks ★★★★★☆
Nokia 5.3 (₹13,999)
What’s the story? Is there something as too many smartphones? The sub-₹15K category seems to have clogged faster than a public lavatory. It’s also filled to the brim with many iterations of Android, which can frankly be quite daunting. Nokia seems to have simplified it.
Is it any good? Yes, Nokia 5.3 is our top pick for simple smartphone delights. You won’t need a PhD to navigate its UI and with its stock Android, there are no ads or annoying UI skins. If you’re not looking to nose dive into the spec sheet, and never be bombarded with ads, this is as affordable as much as it’s easy to use. It also has four cameras at the back. It’s not like the rear four cameras will kick start your #BornOnInstagram career but it’ll keep you happy. Especially the main 13MP primary lens that takes decent shots during the day and some crispy shots with night mode. Cameras are a solid 7/10: nothing sensational, but reliable. There’s the 13MP main lens, a 5MP ultra-wide, a 2MP macro and depth sensor. Macro and ultra-wide shots lack the punch and sharpness which is otherwise present in the many Xiaomi and Poco phones. Power-wise, it isn’t rocking the greatest specs but still enough to get you through the day, and the 4000mAh battery will cope all day. So is it worth the clean UI for the asking price? Not if you want bang for your buck; but if you crave a clean smartphone experience and want reliable Android OS and security updates, then definitely! It's for the folks who don't want much from their phone aside from calls and social media.
Key specs● 6.55in 1600x720 ● Snapdragon 665, 4/6GB RAM ● 64GB storage ● 13MP+5MP + 2MP + 2MP rear, 8MP front ● 4000mAh battery ● 164 x 76.62 x 8.5mm, 180g
STUFF SAYS The easiest sub-₹15K phone to recommend, despite its shortcomings ★★★★✩
Poco X3 (₹16,999)
What’s the story? Probably the best smartphone under twenty thousand. The Poco X3 is here for all the right reasons and deserves more attention than any product on this list. It's also the best smartphone of 2020 according to you. (check awards story here)
Is it any good? The X3 packs a 120Hz refresh rate screen with quad cameras at the back along with a 20MP snapper on the front. All of that tech cold-pressed at a starting price of ₹16,999 for 6GB/64GB variant. There’s a Snapdragon 732G at the heart of this thing with a 6000mAh battery for some power usage. It’s mighty heavy though. Enough to give your wrists a workout but if you’re rocking dumbells by the day this shouldn’t be an issue. Gaming too is handled well. In fact, you’d want to push this thing on a single charge because battery anxiety is a thing of the past with the Poco X3. The cameras also spoil you with choice. Not all of its quad cameras do justice but the primary and ultrawide will keep you pretty happy. The photos are ‘Xiaomi’, which means the saturation is slightly upped and the sharpness is a bit aggressive. Even then, at this price point, you’ll fail to find such a feature-rich smartphone. That 120Hz refresh rate is just the best to move around MIUI and since its POCO, you can kiss ads goodbye. Welcome to clean Android. It does have a bit of bloatware but deleting them is a small task that you might want to indulge in before making this your daily driver. There's very little room to complain here and everything the Poco X3 does, it does so with the best bang-for-your-buck features possible.
Key specs● 6.67in 2400x1080 LCD ● Snapdragon 732G, 6GB RAM ● 64GB/128GB ● 64MP+13MP ultra-wide, 2MP Macro and Depth, 20MP front ● 163x76x10mm, 225g
STUFF SAYS One of the best smartphones of 2020 is also loved by our readers ★★★★★
Vivo V20 Pro (₹29,990)
What’s the story? Although both brands are under the same parent company, Vivo and Oppo are siblings fated for smartphone battle. The V20 Pro is Vivo's answer to OnePlus' Nord which also happens to be our favourite affordable smartphone. But if you want something other than the OnePlus, the Vivo is the safest option out there.
Is it any good? What does ₹29,990 get you? Decent power, three cameras around the back, biometric security and a good display. There’s a case included, and a dual punch-hole selfie camera like the ones, you see on some flagship phones. Compared to the OnePlus Nord, this feels lighter and snazzier in the hand. But the FullHD+ AMOLED display is probably the best among the smartphones in the list. The colours are a bit boosted but it has a decent HDR display and inky blacks which are otherwise reserved for expensive smartphones. No high-refresh though! The Snapdragon 765G is no sloucher either, its performance is as good as the Nord and the Funtouch OS 11 brings all the joys of Android 11 to this device. We still don't enjoy the ton of bloatware on this thing but its still ad-free and a better UI experience than Xiaomi's MIUI. The dual front-facing camera is also one of the best in this smartphone segment. The shots are crisp and have tons of detail. You can do a load of make-up filtering but that kind of software smarts don't make anything feel natural. There's a 33W fast charger to juice it up and it's thin so if you're staying away from big smartphones without compromising performance, the V20 Pro is packed to the brim and cuts the excess fat.
Key specs● 6.44in 2400x1080 AMOLED ● Snapdragon 765, 8GB RAM ● 128GB ● 64MP+8MP+2MP rear, 44MP + 8MP front ● 158.82x74.20x7.49mm, 170g
STUFF SAYS A workhorse with great cameras and speedy performance for the price ★★★★✩