We’ve made it! If you’ve gone through each listing above, kudos! Now you’ll have a better idea of the budget options we have available in 2019, and you’ll be better equipped to make a decision (or to give some advice) for yourself. But if you’ve skipped ahead to the editor’s choice, no worries—here are what we think the 3 best smartphones below RM1,000 are.
#1 Realme 3 Pro: the best overall budget smartphone right now
The Realme 3 Pro is essentially a great all-rounder of a device. One of, if not the most important factor that will greatly affect your experience (especially over time) with a smartphone is the processor powering the device. In this respect, Qualcomm’s upper-midrange Snapdragon 710 does a fine job, with many of the other options below RM1,000 utilising Snapdragon 6xx processors (or their equivalents from other brands).
It sports a 6.3″ Full HD+ LCD display, which is certainly large enough for any number of tasks, and a 4,045mAh battery is certainly sufficient by today’s standards. In a nice touch, Realme also throws in a VOOC 3.0 fast-charger into the box, with the Realme 3 Pro supporting up to 20W charging. And of course, it comes with Android 9.0 (Pie) out of the box, with the relatively recent launch date (April 2019) of the device making it a safe bet for continued support from Realme in terms of updates.
As for photos, it’s a decent enough setup with a main sensor that supports 4K video recording, although you miss out on the versatility offered by an ultra wide-angle lens. A front-facing 25MP for selfies doesn’t hurt, either. But at RM999, the Realme 3 Pro offers some genuine value, with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage available at such a low price. If 128GB isn’t enough, there’s also a dedicated microSD slot on the device, which means that you’ll be able to have 2 nano-SIMs running at the same time, all while having a microSD card expanding your storage.
Overall, a superb smartphone for its price, and thanks to the recent release of the Realme 5 Pro, the RRP of the Realme 3 Pro has dropped to provide some great value for the budget smartphone segment.
#2 Redmi Note 7: yet another solid midrange phone from Redmi
Every year, the new Redmi Note smartphone is always something I look out for. They usually offer a really good blend of specs, solidity, and power, and the Redmi Note 7 isn’t any different in this aspect. It’s processor is the more-than-capable Snapdragon 660 from Qualcomm, and the top-spec model gives you 128GB paired with 4GB of RAM—all within RM1,000.
With smartphones at this price point, cameras can sometimes be a little disappointing, but the Redmi Note 7 sports a pretty solid 48MP main camera. This is backed up with a 5MP depth sensor for those bokeh effects. Overall, a colleague of mine found that the photos that you get from the Redmi Note 7 ranks up there with some of the best you can expect from a smartphone in this range.
It isn’t lacking as far as the battery is concerned, with a 4,000mAh battery under the hood. You charge the phone through USB-C (yay!), and there’s an 18W charger in the box—but the Redmi Note 7 also supports up to 27W charge, so that means that you can use a Quick Charge 4.0+ charger for the best results. Throw in a large 6.3″ Full HD+ screen, and you’ve got yourself a well-rounded smartphone with 128GB of storage for under RM1,000.
#3 The Mi A3 is the way to go if you want that stock Android experience
Not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mi A3 makes it onto the podium due to the vanilla Android experience it offers, coupled with some solid specs. But let’s get the elephant out of the room—the Mi A3 uses a HD+ display, which is a downgrade from its predecessor, the Mi A2, in terms of resolution. Heck, even the Mi A1 had a Full HD display.
But perhaps that’s due to the new in-screen fingerprint scanner, which is a first on any of Xiaomi’s Android One smartphones. It’s also a Super AMOLED screen, which is great for visibility, and is a generally more vivid display. But resolution is a big thing to you, perhaps this isn’t the phone for you.
Besides that, it’s a familiar experience for those of you that are familiar with the stock Android experience, although there is still the infuriating camera app that Xiaomi pre-loads with all of its smartphones. The mid-range Snapdragon 665 handles most tasks well enough, and it should be sufficient for all but the most arduous tasks such as power-demanding gaming.
The Mi A3 was only released in July 2019 with Android 9 (Pie) out-the-box, and you can expect to get updates relatively fast, with Android 10 expected to arrive on the smartphone once it’s officially released. As for its camera, it’s certainly solid enough. You get the versatility offered by an ultra wide angle lens, and the 48MP main sensor is complemented by a 2MP depth sensor.
Not to mention a 4,030mAh battery that supports Quick Charge 3.0—which you can charge via USB-C. Overall, a great choice for someone that’s looking for a stock Android experience on a budget; its Super AMOLED display, for me, compensates for a lower resolution 720p screen.
But before we part ways, here are some honourable mentions to some devices that didn’t make it onto the podium, but still offer a lot for what it’s priced at. First up, the Vivo V11, which for me, is a great device for media consumption due to its 6.4″ Super AMOLED Full HD+ display. It’s paired with a solid specs under the hood, but I’d say that it’s held back by a small battery: 3,400mAh. But if you can live with that—and Vivo’s FunTouch OS—it’s certainly a decent smartphone.
And of course, the Honor Play, which is the only smartphone on the list to have a genuine flagship processor. The Kirin 970, lest we forget, is also featured on older Huawei flagships like the P20, and along with GPU Turbo tech, should give you a great gaming experience. It’s a little older, and it’s pretty average besides that, but still: a great gaming device.
And there we have it. Do keep in mind that each user’s demands differ from the other, so use the comparison table above if you have specific needs, as the editor’s choice is made up of the best overall smartphones here.
Did this buyer’s guide help you come to a decision? Leave a comment below (or on our Facebook post) with your thoughts.