2020 has been a big year for budget phones, as the economic crunch has emphasised the importance of affordable devices and forced manufacturers to be even more competitive than normal. Despite that, it was relatively easy to pick our budget phone of the year – it was always going to be the Poco X3 NFC.
Xiaomi’s budget brand threw out all the stops with the X3. It packs a 120Hz refresh rate display, a slick Snapdragon 7-series processor, and a 64Mp quad camera setup that actually doesn’t suck – no mean feat in a phone that starts from just £199!
Sure, it’s not all perfect. Xiaomi’s Mi UI Android skin is a little cluttered, and it would be generous to call the phone’s rear design ‘divisive’ - we’d probably put a case on this if we were you.
But for sheer performance per pound, nothing else out there really comes close to the Poco X3 this year. In our benchmarking it kept pace with phones twice its price like the OnePlus Nord and Pixel 4a thanks to the decision to prioritise pure performance instead of including 5G support – pretty smart for a cheap phone, given how limited 5G support still is anyway.
It remains one of the only budget phones to support 120Hz refresh rates – a feature you still won’t even find on the latest iPhones – lasts two days on a single charge, and has one of the best camera setups you’ll find at the price too, holding its own in anything except especially low light.
Tempted? Here's where you can pick up a Poco X3 right now:
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Of course, the Poco X3 wasn’t the only budget smartphone we loved this year, and honourable mention has to go to Realme, which released both the second and third best cheap phones in 2020.
The Realme 6 was our favourite affordable device for most of the year thanks to the combo of an eye-grabbing design, 90Hz display, and smooth performance. Then the Realme 7 came along offering all that with some minor spec bumps and an even cheaper price.
Neither Realme phone can quite match the Poco X3 on pure power, but a slimmer, slicker design and smaller screen mean plenty of people are likely to prefer them, and both still far outclass our usual expectations of phones below £200.