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The best smartphones under Rs 20,000 categorised according to performance, camera, design and battery life

Gone are the days when you had to shell out big buck for buying smartphones with premium features. Technology has become more accessible recently and the biggest example of that lies in the sub-Rs 20,000 category—you get good performance, design and even software at a reasonable price.

It can be confusing to pick the right smartphone for you, however, given the amount of variety that lies in the segment. So we have segregated the top smartphones under Rs 20,000 according to their strengths, so you can pick the one that suits you best.

Performance and gaming:

Xiaomi Poco F1:

Price: Rs 20,999

Display: 6.18-inch LCD, 2246×1080, 82% screen to body ratio, 403ppi

Hardware: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC, 6GB RAM, 64GB ROM, 256GB expandable storage via MicroSD

Camera (front): 20MP, f/2.0

Camera (rear):12MP+5MP, f/1.9, EIS

Android version/UI: Android Oreo 8.1, MIUI 10 with Poco Launcher

This phone actually lies just north of the Rs 20,000 price point. But if you have an HDFC debit or credit card, you can purchase the lowest spec variant with 6GB RAM and 64GB internal storage for as low as Rs 19,999, making it the cheapest smartphone to run a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC. There’s not a lot to not like about this phone—it has the fastest processor Qualcomm has to offer, some thermal trickery to keep your smartphone cool during intense gaming sessions, a very good camera and some durable plastic that doesn’t shatter or pick up scratches.

It even gets a modded version of the MIUI with an app drawer that allows you colour code your applications.

The only thing we loathe about the phone is its app optimisation, which might get better as it receives the Pie upgrade.

Honor Play:

Price: Rs 19,999

Display: 6.3-inch LCD, 2340×1080, 83% screen to body ratio, 409ppi

Hardware: HiSilicon Kirin 970 SoC, 4GB RAM, 64GB ROM, 256GB expandable storage via MicroSD

Camera (front): 16MP, f/2.0

Camera (rear): 16MP+2MP, f/2.2, EIS

Android version/UI: Android Oreo 8.1, EMUI 8.2

This smartphone has “Play” in its name, which definitely means it means business, right? Yes. It has the best chipset Huawei has to offer, the HiSilicon 970, which walks abreast with Snapdragon 845 standards. Although it doesn’t have any tricks to keep it cool, it can run PUBG on its best settings without any frame drops or heating tantrums. It also has a fairly premium design and very decent AI-powered cameras.

The only thing we dislike about this phone is its UI, which lacks an app drawer and has childish icons.


Nokia 7.1:

Price: 19,999

Display: 5.84-inch, 2280×1080, 79.9% screen-to-body, 432ppi

Hardware: Qualcomm Snapdragon 646, 4GB RAM, 64GB ROM, 400GB expandable storage via MicroSD

Camera (front): 8MP, f/2.0

Camera (rear): 12MP+5MP, ZEISS Optics, EIS

Android version/UI: Android Pie 9.0, stock Android

This phone is an absolute steal for the kind of display, software and, most importantly, the camera it has to offer— all at just a rupee below Rs 20,000. The rear of the phone sports a 12MP+5MP ZEISS-enhanced package. At the front, it comes with an 8MP camera with f/2.0 aperture. The phone was launched yesterday and it will go on sale on 7 December, so you might have to wait a bit if you wanted to buy this phone right away.

Other things to like about the smartphone are the 5.84-inch HDR display, ability to notch it up to Android Pie, understated design and stock Android experience, thanks to the Android One platform it runs (if you’re into that).

Mi A2:

Price: Rs 16,999

Display: 5.9-inch, 2160×1080, 77% screen-to-body, 403ppi

Hardware: Qualcomm Snapdragon 660, 6GB RAM, 128GB ROM, no expandable storage

Camera (front): 20MP, f/2.2

Camera (rear): 12MP+20MP, f/1.8 EIS

Android version/UI: Android Oreo 8.1, upgradable to Pie, stock Android

The Mi A2 received quite a bit of flak for skipping crucial features like the Micro USB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. It also received a significant bump in its price. But that doesn’t make the Mi A2 a slacker by any means. It is powered by the best mid-range processor Qualcomm had to offer at the time, the Snapdragon 660 and runs stock Android. It also has one of the best cameras in the segment—12MP + 20MP dual rear camera module and 20MP front-facing camera, both of which are AI-enabled.

It carries the same aluminium unimetal arch design of the Mi A1, which may look a bit dated to a few.

Design and styling:

Huawei Nova 3i:

Price: Rs 19,990

Display: 6.3-inch, 2340×1080, 82.2% screen-to-body, 409ppi

Hardware: Kirin 710, 6GB RAM, 64GB ROM, no expandable storage

Camera (front): 24MP+2MP, f/2.0

Camera (rear): 16MP+2MP, f/2.2

Android version/UI: Android Oreo 8.1, EMUI 8.2

I’m personally not a fan of gradient colours, but I’m not sure how Huawei gets it right every time. The Nova 3i is one of the prettiest smartphones not only in the sub-Rs 20,000 range but also in the premium categories. The two-tone gradient looks elegant and understated. It’s not tacky but makes you stand out at the same time—a very difficult balance to strike.

But it’s not all looks and no hooks— it runs a very capable Kirin 710 chipset underneath that two-tone skin and comes with a beautiful display, ample RAM and storage. It is marred, however, by its UI, which is a common letdown in all Huawei and Honor phones. You can bandage the eyesore with a launcher though. It runs Android Oreo 8.1 and while Huawei hasn’t

announced a Pie update for the phone, it may be safe to assume it might get one in the first quarter of January.

Realme U1 and Realme 2 Pro:

Price: Rs 14,499 (Realme U1) | Rs 17,990

Display: 6.3-inch, 2340×1080, 4% screen-to-body, 409ppi (Realme U1 and Realme 2 Pro)

Hardware: MediaTek Helio P70, 4GB RAM, 64GB ROM (Realme U1) | Qualcomm Snapdragon 636, 8GB RAM, 128GB ROM (Realme 2 Pro)

Camera (front): 25MP f/2.0 (Realme U1) | 16MP, f/2.0 (Realme 2 Pro)

Camera (rear): 13MP+2MP, f/2.2 (Realme U1) | 16MP+2MP, f/1.7

Android version/UI: Android Oreo 8.1, ColorOS 5.2

The two smartphones from Realme were launched keeping the “youth” in mind. This basically means three things—selfies, gaming and looks. The two smartphones boast nearly the same design—6.3-inch LCD display with a dewdrop notch, faux metal railing and polycarbonate back with acrylic coating. The back of the phone produces “vertical light pillars”, which may be tasteful to a lot of people.

The difference lies inside, however. The Realme U1 is powered by MediaTek’s flagship Helio P70 processor paired with 4GB of RAM and up to 64GB internal storage. The Realme 2 Pro has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC and is paired with up to 8GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage.

The Realme U1 has a more selfie centric 25MP front-facing camera with a Sony IMX 526 sensor while the Realme 2 Pro has a perfectly capable 16MP camera.

Both phones are capable of gaming, but don’t expect top-end, mind-blowing stuff—the highest default graphics setting available on PUBG is medium.


Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1:

Price: Rs 14,999

Display: 5.9-inch, 2160×1080, 76.2% screen-to-body, 404ppi

Hardware: Snapdragon 636 SoC, 6GB RAM, 64GB ROM, 512GB expandable storage via MicroSD card

Camera (front): 16MP+8MP, f/2.2

Camera (rear): 16MP+5MP, f/2.0

Android version/UI: Android Oreo 8.1, ZenUI

The most utilitarian phone of the lot, the Zenfone Max Pro M1 is easy to be overlooked. But once you get past the glamour of other phones, you see the genius of this one. It comes with up to 64GB of internal storage, 6GB of RAM, Snapdragon 636 processor and a humongous 5,000mAh battery. While the camera performance can be named as run-of-the-mill, this is the perfect smartphone for those who are always on the go and don’t have the time to charge up their phones. The UI is one of the more bearable ones and has some really useful features as well.

Motorola One Power:

Price: 15,999

Display: 6.2-inch

Hardware: Snapdragon 636 SoC, 4GB RAM, 64GB ROM, 256GB expandable storage via MicroSD

Camera (front): 12MP, f/2.0

Camera (rear): 16MP+5MP, f/1.8

Android version/UI: Android 8.1 upgradable to Android Pie 9.0

The Motorola One Power is very similar to the Zenfone Max Pro M1, except that it has a better 6.2-inch display with a pixel density of 402ppi which is more spread out to the edges. It has the same 5,000mAh battery which has fancier charging options like Turbo Charging with a USB Type-C port.

Motorola also has promised a Pie upgrade for this phone, so it is definitely a must buy for those with a peeve to be updated with the latest Android versions.

The camera can be a letdown for people buying the One Power, however.

Honourable mention:

Redmi Note 6 Pro:

Price: Rs 15,999

Display: 6.2-inch, 2280×1080, 81.1% screen-to-body, 403ppi

Hardware: Snapdragon 636 SoC, 6GB RAM, 64GB internal storage expandable to 256GB via MicroSD card

Camera (front): 20MP+2MP, f/2.0

Camera (rear): 12MP+5MP, f/1.9

Android version/UI: Android Oreo 8.1, MIUI 9

The Note 6 Pro is a marginal upgrade over the already awesome Note 5 Pro, except that it could have waited a bit longer. It gets an upgrade in its battery capacity, which has been upped to 4,000mAh and an additional camera at the front. The rear camera is great, just like its predecessor, and can give the best camera phones mentioned above a run for their money. The display is also spread out further to the bezels. The rest of the phone, from the processor to the overall design, remains the same. It is still a very good buy at Rs 15,999.

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