Best budget smartphones of 2019: Redmi and Realme raised the value bar exponentially this year

These all-round phones not only offered great value for money but elevated the midrange segment to new heights in 2019


While the flagship phones are the headliners of the market, the midrange phones are the real deal. These are the handsets that the masses actually buy in large numbers, and why not! The mid-range segment has undergone a massive transformation this year with certain handsets offering exceptional features and value that one would only expect in phones at least 1.5x their cost till a year ago.

 Best budget smartphones of 2019: Redmi and Realme raised the value bar exponentially this year

Redmi Note 7 Pro. Image: Tech2.

You now have phones in the sub-20K range that offer powerful processors, ample RAM and great cameras. And then you have the new breed of affordable flagships under the Rs 30,000 mark that can easily give some of the flagship phones from premium brands a serious run for their money. So let’s pinpoint the best of the lot that elevated the midrange segment to new heights in 2019.

Redmi Note 7 Pro

Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review) was perhaps the phone that made us drop the word ‘lower’ from lower midrange category at the start of this year. It was the first phone under Rs 15,000 to introduce the segment to a 48 MP camera, something unthinkable till then. And it wasn’t just the megapixel count but the actual picture quality that received a shot in the arm since then. It set a new standard for that price bracket.

The camera was not the only thing impressive about this Xiaomi phone. The Snapdragon 675 SoC on the Note 7 Pro raised the performance bar in this segment by several notches too. This phone also brought about a positive change in Xiaomi’s design language which had gone stale by then. Other key aspects like battery backup, RAM and storage weren’t ignored either. All and all, Redmi Note 7 Pro was the midrange phone to beat at the start of this year. Redmi followed that up with the Redmi Note 8 Pro this year, offering a 64 MP camera.

Realme XT

If 48 MP camera and Snapdragon 675 were impressive, then how about a 64 MP camera and Snapdragon 712? That’s what Realme XT (Review) brought to the table. Add to that a Super AMOLED display, in-display fingerprint scanner, a quad-camera setup, and the stakes were raised further in the sub-20K segment. What we also liked about Realme is that they bundled a 20 W VOOC 3.0 fast charger that could charge the phone’s 4,000 mAh battery from 0 to 100 in under 90 minutes.

The Realme XT resembles the Realme 5 Pro more than Realme X

The Realme XT resembles the Realme 5 Pro more than Realme X

The phone runs Android Pie-based ColorOS 6.0, which is one of the better Android user interfaces around and far better than Xiaomi’s MIUI. One can also expect Android 10 on this device in 2020. Thus, the Realme XT is one of the best all-round phones under Rs 20,000. Yes, you now get the Realme X2 for a similar price, but it is pretty much the same phone with a faster Snapdragon 730G SoC.

Honor View 20

Moving on the sub-30K segment, the Honor View 20 (Review) has been a constant presence in many a list of ours throughout the year. It was priced a bit higher when it was launched in Jan this year, but the price quickly dropped under Rs 30,000 making it an excellent buy. It has an eye-catching design with a 6.4-inch Full HD+ notch-less display and an in-display punch-hole front camera. At the back, you get the Aurora Nanotexture finish that creates an optical illusion and happened to mesmerise one of us.

The Honor View 20. Image: tech2/Omkar Patne

The Honor View 20. Image: tech2/Omkar Patne

Like most of the current Huawei/Honor flagships this year, the Honor View 20 is powered by Huawei’s flagship Kirin 980 chip and comes bundled with either 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage or 8 GB RAM and 256 GB storage.

This phone was one of the early ones to feature a 48 MP rear camera with pixel binning that did an excellent job in different lighting conditions. A classy design, flagship SoC, a good amount of RAM and storage, a solid camera, good battery and a great price tag; that right there is a recipe for the budget phone of the year candidate.

Redmi K20 Pro

While the Honor View 20 looked to take on the OnePlus 7 at launch, the Redmi K20 Pro (Review) was created to simply take it down. The K20 Pro was supposed to do what the Poco F1 did last year, but with more style and substance, and it did that pretty well. While a Snapdragon 855 chip in a sub-30K phone was the major selling point of this device at launch, the design and camera departments were equally impressive.

Redmi K20 Pro.

Redmi K20 Pro.

It has a triple camera setup comprising of a 48 MP main camera with Sony IMX586 sensor, 13 MP ultrawide camera with a 125-degrees FOV and an 8 MP telephoto lens that facilitates 2X optical zoom. They manage to capture some crisp images in varied lighting conditions. There’s also a 20 MP pop-up selfie camera, which was a flavour of the season back then.

The K20 Pro has one of the most attractive exteriors with a glass body and Aura Prime design. Upfront, you have a completely notch-less 6.4-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display that also has an in-display fingerprint scanner. Flagship specs, stylish looks and impressive performance at a competitive price make the Redmi K20 Pro one of our chosen phones this year.

Realme X2 Pro

The Realme X2 Pro (Review) is one of the more recent launches of 2019, and it dares to go toe to toe with the OnePlus 7T despite a sub-30K price tag. It is one specs monster from the Oppo sub-brand boasting of the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ chipset with 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage. You also get a 12 GB RAM variant with 256 GB storage, in case you like showing off. It not only tries to match up to the OnePlus 7T in terms of processing power but you also get a 6.5-inch 90 Hz Full HD+ Super AMOLED display with 20:9 aspect ratio to go with it.

Realme X2 Pro. Image: tech2/Abhijit Dey

Realme X2 Pro. Image: tech2/Abhijit Dey

The rear camera department has a quad-cam setup starting with a 64 MP primary, a 13 MP camera with an ultrawide lens, an 8 MP camera with a telephoto lens for 2X optical zoom and a 2 MP depth sensor. A 4,000 mAh battery may be standard fare these days, but the bundled 50 W Super VOOC charger takes the battery charge from 0 to 50 percent in just over 11 minutes, and from 0 to 100 percent in under 34 minutes. Yes, you read that right! That’s something extraordinary for any segment, and thus deservedly, the Realme X2 Pro makes it to our list of top budget phones of 2019.

In case you missed our list of the top flagship phones of 2019, you can check it out here.

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