Buying from China often gets a bad rap: we've all got stories of times we've bought something online and received something entirely different in its place or, worse, the item doesn't arrive at all. But don't tar Chinese tech with the same brush: Chinese phones now top all our major smartphone charts.
While Huawei without Google services is no longer the attractive proposition it once was, many other Chinese brands have stepped up to fill its place. From Xiaomi to OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Vivo and others, these phones typically offer incredible value for money, with the premium build quality and feature set you'd expect from the top Android phones, but at a price point much lower.
Below we've assembled some of the best Chinese phones you can buy in the UK today. If these prices are above your budget, also check out some of the best budget Chinese phones.
Oppo Find X3 Pro
- Best-in-class display
- Excellent battery life
- Phenomenal cameras
- No periscope lens
- Some performance throttling
The Find X3 Pro is deliriously expensive and not ashamed of it. But if you are willing to spend this kind of money, right now it is exactly where we would spend it. The display is the best around, the charging speeds and battery life are both exceptional, and the core specs are hard to fault - though we're hoping firmware updates will shore up the shaky thermals a little.
The camera will be a large part of the appeal here, and Oppo’s struck a smart balance. The main and ultrawide lenses excel, and though some will miss the periscope, the included telephoto is great at lower zoom levels. Our only real hesitation is the microlens - fun to play around with, but you do have to wonder how much it adds to the overall cost of the hardware, and how often you’re really likely to use it.
Read our full Oppo Find X3 Pro review
Xiaomi Mi 11
- Fast performance
- Great camera
- Attractive design
- Phenomenal value
- MIUI still sorta sucks
- No IP rating
- No telephoto camera
The Mi 11 is a fantastic bit of hardware for the price. The fastest chipset around, a beautiful display, and strong cameras are all packaged within a lovely bit of industrial design.
Some will miss the IP rating, though for me the bigger downsides are the choice of a macro over a telephoto lens, the only average battery life, and a software experience that still lags behind the key rivals.
Read our full Xiaomi Mi 11 review
OnePlus Nord 2
- Excellent software
- Great design
- Strong all-rounder
- Only 90Hz display
- Slightly thick
An outstanding follow-up to 2020's best mid-range phone, with great performance, 5G, OnePlus's signature Oxygen OS user experience, and a near-flagship main camera. 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 and 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.
Read our full OnePlus Nord 2 review
ZTE Axon 30 Ultra
- Incredible camera
- Stunning screen
- Svelte design
- Great value
- No wireless charging
- No microSD slot
The ZTE Axon 30 Ultra is a stunning proposition and offers buckets of value. It’s a genuinely exciting flagship smartphone in practically every department: it’s lightweight, feels great in the hand, the 144Hz 6.67in AMOLED display is detailed and crisp, the Snapdragon 888 allows it to perform like a gaming phone and, well, that camera setup is incredible.
Comprised of three 64Mp snappers and a 5x telescope lens, the Axon 30 Ultra’s rear camera offering is versatile, and unlike some, images captured across all sensors are comparable in terms of quality, detail and colour balance.
There are plenty of creative shooting modes available to make the most of the system, and it caters to videographers with [email protected] video recording too.
The results are comparable to those taken on ultra-premium smartphones like the Galaxy S21 Ultra and iPhone 12 Pro, but with one key difference – it’s hundreds of pounds/dollars cheaper.
The software could do with a visual tweak here and there and there's no wireless charging, but those are minor complaints in what is an otherwise phenomenal 2021 flagship.
Read our full ZTE Axon 30 Ultra review
Xiaomi Poco X3 Pro
- Phenomenal performance
- Big 120Hz display
- Long-lasting battery
- Big and bulky
- No 5G
- Average camera
The Poco X3 Pro is a phone designed for Android gamers or power users on a budget, though it might also appeal to those who want to go big on specs in order to futureproof their phone.
If pure performance isn’t your priority, then you can find phones that are slimmer and lighter, with better camera performance, for around the same price.
What you won’t find is any phone that can match this pound for pound right now. This is near-flagship processing power in one of the cheapest phones on the market, and it’s almost ludicrous that Xiaomi has pulled it off.
Read our full Xiaomi Poco X3 Pro review
Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro
- Stunning 120Hz AMOLED display
- Long battery life
- Excellent cameras
- No 5G
- No OIS
- Huge camera bump
- MIUI not for everyone
The Redmi Note 10 Pro is one of the best budget phones you can buy, with Xiaomi delivering exceptional value for money.
Highlights here start with the stunning screen offering AMOLED technology and a 120Hz refresh rate, and continue with an excellent set of cameras. The headline is a 108Mp whopper which is backed up by a reasonable ultra-wide and a surprisingly decent telemacro.
There are smaller delights too such as the inclusion of a headphone jack, Arc fingerprint scanner, stereo speakers and even an IR blaster. Battery life is also strong (Xiaomi includes a 33W charger in the box), and core specs are decent with a Snapdragon 732G ensuring smooth performance.
Our only real gripe is a lack of support for 5G.
Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro review
- Flagship specs
- Superb value
- Nice 120Hz AMOLED display
- 65W fast charging
- Underwhelming cameras
- No water resistance
- No wireless charging
Last year's Realme X50 Pro offered impressive performance for any flagship, let alone one at the price point it managed to hit, and history looks to be repeating itself, with this year's Realme GT.
First off, make sure to pick up the yellow vegan leather-backed model, it's an undeniable head-turner.
In all areas except perhaps camera, the GT is as capable as phones twice its price. A Snapdragon 888 runs the show, paired with up to 12GB of speedy LPDDR5 RAM and accompanied by equally snappy UFS 3.1 storage (up to 256GB).
A 120Hz Full HD+ AMOLED display sits on the phone's front, while a 4500mAh battery with 65W fast charging keep the GT going. This thing is all about speed and delivers it at an incredible price.
If you like this you should also check out the Realme GT Neo 2.
Read our full Realme GT 5G review
- 120Hz curved OLED screen
- Fast 66W charging
- Slim & light
- No wireless charging
- Average specs
The Honor 50 is the first phone to launch globally since the company split from former owner Huawei - and as a result it's also the first Honor phone in years to run Google software.
Setting the software aside, it's the beautiful curved OLED display that really excels by mid-range standards, made better by being squeezed into a phone that's only 175g and 7.8mm thick. That makes this one of the best choices around if you want a big, beautiful display without a bulky phone.
The Snapdragon 778G delivers solid specs and 5G, but the base 6GB RAM is a little low for the price. Solid battery life and fast 66W wired charging help though.
The main 108Mp rear camera is also impressive, but the other lenses on the back are mostly just taking up space. Selfie shots are great though, and extra video options make this a top choice for vlogging.
Read our full Honor 50 review
Nubia Red Magic 6S Pro
- Stellar performance for gamers
- Luxurious 165H display
- Solid battery life
- Imposing, bulky design
- Underwhelming cameras
- Frustrating software
The Red Magic 6S Pro is the cautious update we’ve come to expect Nubia’s mid-cycle refresh, but its predecessor didn’t leave much room for improvement.
Performance remains the highlight, with a move to the Snapdragon 888+ making the phone even more powerful. It works in tandem with the stunning 165Hz display - it's still the highest refresh rate you’ll find on any phone, even if not many games support it.
Battery life is respectable, even with 165Hz enabled, although we wish Nubia had upgraded the hit-and-miss cameras. Even if you love playing games, you might still want decent photos.
The software is well-optimised for gaming, but frustrating in everyday use, especially as the default launcher can’t be swapped out.
Whichever way you look at it, the design and bulk means this phone isn't for everyone. Keen mobile gamers should put it on their shortlist, but most other people will be better off elsewhere.
Read our full Nubia Red Magic 6S Pro review
Xiaomi 11T Pro
- Unspectacular design
- Photography could be improved
- Performance glitches
The Xiaomi 11T Pro is a strong upper-mid-range smartphone with decent performance, an excellent 120Hz display, and a capable 108Mp camera.
The implementation of 120W wired charging is certainly eye-catching, and if you frequently find yourself recharging on the fly, there’s no better phone on the market.
But it’s not perfect: its design is drab and unappealing, and its ultra-wide and telephoto cameras aren’t of the quality we'd expect.
Read our full Xiaomi 11T Pro review
Today it's easier than ever to get hold of Chinese phones in the UK, with many of the big names now officially retailing here. This means you no longer need to rely on Chinese stockists such as GearBest and Geekbuying to import Chinese phones - though you will very often still find cheaper prices when you do. (Do keep in mind that when importing phones from China to the UK you are liable for import duty at 20% of the value on the shipping paperwork.)
Chinese phones are now regularly offered on contract by the UK's major mobile operators, but sometimes when buying a Chinese phone you will need to get a SIM-free model and then pair it with a SIM-only plan. This is more cost-effective in the long run, but does mean you have to pay the full price of the phone up front.
Lower down the smartphone food chain there are countless other Chinese brands you'll likely not have heard of, for example UMIDIGI and Bluboo, Ulefone and Elefone, Oukitel and Meizu. On paper the specifications of their phones impress, but you'll often find corners are cut in the specifications to keep down prices - they might swap in lower-power MediaTek processors and large but lower-resolution displays, for example, while NFC, wireless charging and waterproofing are rare.
On the plus side, Chinese phones pretty much always support dual-SIM (dual-standby), and often will provide this in addition to expandable storage. As they strive to mimic the market leaders, design and build quality of Chinese phones tend to be very high.
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