If you're curious about the potential of 5G but aren't willing to pay flagship prices to get it, here's a rundown of 5G-capable handsets for less
By Alex Walker-Todd
The popularity and availability of 5G continues to grow, and with it comes a wider breadth of smartphones supporting this latest connectivity standard, including many at increasingly competitive prices.
The higher pricing came from the added costs in research and development needed to facilitate early 5G modems, not to mention it was partially a price premium marketers could simply slap on a phone just by its nature of being among the first to offer support for the new standard.
Luckily, adding 5G to a phone has become increasingly cost-effective, meaning the technology has also been able to trickle down to affordable handsets that don’t command a flagship price for what could still be considered a flagship feature. As such, we’re rounding up 5G phones costing roughly £600/US$700 or less.
If nothing here takes your fancy and you decide 5G isn’t an essential feature right now, then it’s also worth checking out our
best mid-range phone and
best budget phone rundowns. They’re filled with offerings that are still considerably cheaper than the flagships that currently make headlines, offering both 4G and 5G connectivity.
If you want to know about the benefits of 5G support in a phone and what you need to make sure you get the most out of a 5G phone, check out our
what is 5G? guide and our
best 5G phone roundup for more details.
Best cheap 5G phones 2022
1. OnePlus Nord 2 – Best overall
Only 90Hz display
No wireless charging
Unavailable in the US
An outstanding follow-up to 2020’s best mid-range phone with great performance, OnePlus’ signature Oxygen OS user experience, a near-flagshipmain camera and, of course, 5G. What’s not to love?
What the OnePlus Nord 2 really demonstrates is the company’s ability to prioritise the features that users are looking for right now, wrapping them up in an attractive package with a compelling price point.
The Nord 2 misses out on flagship niceties like wireless charging and waterproofing, but those are really the only compromises made here, and it’s still our
favourite mid-range phones right now.
A mid-range reworking of Xiaomi’s Mi 11 flagship from the start of 2021, the 11T sports a similar top-tier Snapdragon 888 chipset and other highlights, like a strong lead 108Mp camera, but all at a considerably lower price.
It lacks the astounding 120W super-fast charging of its‘Pro’-branded siblingbut still supports rapid 67W speeds that aren’t to be sniffed at.
The 6.67in 120Hz Full HD+ AMOLED display comes protected by Gorilla Glass Victus, while a 480Hz touch response rate and stereo speakers mean the 11T is also great for gaming.
While Samsung already pushed out a respectable 5G-capable mid-ranger in 2021, in the form of the Galaxy A52 5G, the modestly revised Galaxy A52s 5G, which arrived a few months later addressed one key pain point: Performance.
There’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G powering the A52s that gives it more bite against mid-range rivals, like the OnePlus Nord 2, compared to its non ‘s’ sibling.
This reliable mid-range offer may be about to be ousted by the new Galaxy A53 (which boasts 5G as standard) but that will only make this great device even more affordable.
Come for the nice design, good battery life and rich camera experience, stay for the impressive long-term software support that Samsung pairs with the phone; it’s practically unmatched.
Red Magic 6S Pro might still be a solid buy but Nubia’s brought its top gaming phone up to date by swapping out the chipset in the Red Magic 7 for Qualcomm’s current top offering: the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.
The 7 is also one of the few phones boasting an impressive 165Hz display (making it ideal for gaming) and camera performance has finally been tended to, giving you a photographic experience that doesn’t underwhelm compared to the rest of the phone.
Not everyone will gel with the Red Magic 7’s skinned Android user experience, a smaller battery than its predecessor definitely wasn’t the smartest move (gaming requires a lot of juice, after all) and it’s a pretty bulky device, but value for money and gaming performance mean it’s still a tempting buy, all the same.
It’s hard to tell whether the OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G is a meant to be a successor to the previous
Nord CE 5G or a cut-down version of the brilliant
OnePlus Nord 2. Regardless, it’s a nicely-appointed mid-ranger with strong battery longevity, offering great value.
The 4500mAh battery is supported by impressive 65W rapid charging, the 6.43in AMOLED display packs in a smooth 90Hz refresh rate, the main camera is competent and there’s even a headphone jack.
The flip side manifests in an Android 11-powered user experience at launch (i.e. not Android 12) that’ll likely only see updates up to
Android 13. Still, this is a strong 5G phone for the money.
The Xiaomi-made Poco X4 Pro 5G ups the ante compared to its predecessor both in terms of design and functionality.
The squared-off form factor is very on-trend, even if it is all plastic. On the front, you’ll also find a bright, vibrant and smooth 6.67in 120Hz AMOLED display with a tiny cutout for the front-facing camera, while performance from its Snapdragon 695 chipset isn’t to be sniffed at, either.
Other highlights include a surprisingly capable 108Mp lead camera, for the price and decent battery life that’s bolstered by impressively rapid 67W fast charging.
Honor has weathered the storm and come out the other side, releasing the first of its devices to feature Google Play Services (and thus support for Google apps and the Play Store) once again.
The company’s first phone to get a global release since going independent, it’s really the only Honor phone we’ve tested that we’d recommend most people consider.
The design and display are the biggest selling points here – the Honor 50 looks and feels great, and it’s both slim (7.8mm) and light (175g). The curved 120Hz OLED display is also one of the best you’ll find in any phone at this price.
The 108Mp rear camera is pretty strong, though the other rear lenses disappoint. The selfie camera is still good though, and at 32Mp it’s one of the higher-resolution front-facing cameras around.
If 5G isn’t a concern for you, the
Honor 50 Liteis another solid affordable phone, built in a similar fashion to the standard Honor 50.
The Realme GT Neo 2 is a tweaked take on last year’s Realme GT that comes in at about the same price while remixing a few specs.
The chipset drops to the (still excellent and still 5G) Snapdragon 870 but an improved display, bigger battery and tweaked design mean this alt still has plenty of appeal.
65W wired charging is just as nippy as you’d expect but sadly the fairly basic camera setup is also unchanged. Expect a solid main camera, but don’t get your hopes up about the ultrawide and macro alongside it.
Design usually takes a hit early on when you start cutting costs but the Realme 9 Pro+ holds attention with an eye-catching colour-changing Sunrise Blue finish that’s rather unique.
Beauty isn’t skin-deep either, with impressive two-day battery life, a surprisingly competent main camera, considering the price, and Realme UI atop Android, which is going from strength to strength across the company’s devices.
Don’t expect much from the secondary snappers on the 9 Pro+’s back and you’ll be happy with what this mid-range Realme has to offer.
If you hate when notches or hole-punch front-facing cameras intrude on your phone’s display, the ZTE Axon 30 5G may be the perfect remedy.
Its 6.92in 120Hz Full HD+ screen is both physically huge and a huge selling point, doling out smooth, responsive interaction that’s great for gaming but also houses the company’s greatly-improved second-generation under-display camera (UDC) too.
ZTE’s implementation is even more advanced than what you’ll find on ultra-premium devices, like the
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, even if quality against standard front-facing cameras still doesn’t compare.
The rear-facing setup – while lacking a telephoto lens – offers otherwise decent performance, plus the phone possesses 65W fast charging, a pleasant software experience and, despite the innovation on show, a price tag that won’t cripple your bank balance.