Best budget 5G smartphones of 2021: Xiaomi 11 Lite NE, Realme 8s, and more

Poco M3 Pro, Realme 8s, Redmi Note 11T, and more – our top picks for best budget 5G smartphones of 2021.

2021 year-ender
(Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

5G isn’t here, yet, but that’s not stopping brands from launching phones that would seemingly be ready to support and work with the next gen connectivity standard as and when it arrives in India. Hopefully soon, it will. What’s new with “5G” (versus 4g) is that, more and more brands have been coming out with budget 5G phones earlier than what was expected (of them). Now, that doesn’t mean you should pick one right away. Ideally, you should wait.

Also Read | The A-list: Best tech gadgets of 2021

There are multiple reasons why you should think twice before investing in a seemingly affordable 5G phone, today. The biggest red flag is the “5G tax” which is to say, these phones don’t end up being as value for money as other 4G phones. Any 5G chip calls for a premium, at least at this point in time, and brands tend to compromise in other areas in order to keep prices low. That’s not to say, all 5G budget phones are bad. Some are good, too. More importantly, they’re getting better.

Here’s a look back at some of the best budget 5G smartphones launched this year.

Poco M3 Pro 5G

2021 year-ender
(Photo credit: Poco)

This is the cheapest “viable” 5G phone in the market, at the time of writing. The design is a little unorthodox so to say – though still appealing – but the rest of the hardware is pretty nice. There is a 6.5-inch 1080p LCD display with a 90Hz dynamic refresh rate and centrally aligned hole punch cut-out. This is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Biometrics are handles by a side-mounted fingerprint reader. Under the hood, there is a 7nm MediaTek Dimensity 700 chip paired with fast UFS2.2 storage. There is a triple camera setup on the rear with a 48MP main and two 2MP cameras, one for depth and another for macros. On the front, there is an 8MP camera. Rounding off the package is a 5,000mAh battery with 18W fast charging.

Street price: Rs 14,499 (starting)

Realme Narzo 30 Pro 5G

2021 year-ender
(Photo credit: Realme)

The Narzo 30 Pro is the most powerful 5G phone under Rs 20,000 in the market, today. Even though it was launched in the first half of 2021, no other phone has come close to taking this crown from it to this day. At its heart lies the 7nm MediaTek Dimensity 800U chip. This is paired with UFS2.1 storage. Rest of the package is, also, very solid. There is a 6.5-inch 1080p LCD display with 120Hz refresh rate and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection. The phone has a triple camera setup on the rear with a 48MP main, 8MP ultrawide angle, and another 2MP shooter. On the front, it has a 16MP camera. The 5,000mAh battery inside the phone supports 30W fast charging. If you can somehow get it, this is the budget 5G phone to get.

Street price: Rs 16,999 (starting)

Realme 8s 5G

2021 year-ender
(Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The Realme 8s 5G is the second-best budget 5G Realme phone in the market, this year. It’s not as powerful, also, it misses out on a ultrawide angle camera and has a relatively slower display, but rest of the spec sheet is either better or competitive. Regardless, this is a great value 5G phone that plays the balancing act quite well. It has a 6.5-inch 1080p LCD display with a 90Hz refresh rate and hole punch cut-out – this houses a 16MP camera. Under the hood, there is a Dimensity 810 chip with UFS2.1 storage. There is also a dynamic RAM expansion feature in the phone. It has three cameras on the back including a 64MP main and two 2MP sensors, one for macros and another for portrait photography. The phone is backed by a 5,000mAh battery with 33W fast charging support.

Street price: Rs 17,999 (starting)

Redmi Note 11T 5G

2021 year-ender
(Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The Redmi Note 11T is quite a capable 5G phone with good looks and great battery life. It has a 6.6-inch 1080p IPS LCD display with a 90Hz adaptive refresh rate. It is powered by MediaTek’s Dimensity 810 chip with UFS2.2 storage. The phone has a 5,000mAh battery with 33W fast charging support. It has only two cameras on the back. There is a 50MP main and another 8MP ultra-wide-angle camera. On the front, it has a 16MP camera. An interesting thing to note about this phone is that is comes with an IP53 dust and splash-resistance rating.

Street price: Rs 16,999 (starting)

Lava Agni 5G

2021 year-ender
(Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Fiery performance on a budget is the best way to describe the Agni. This is homegrown brand Lava’s first 5G phone. Its hardware is very similar to that of the Realme 8s and Redmi Note 11T but with the same core hardware, which is the Dimensity 810, it can mete out better sustained performance. Though, it falls back in battery life which isn’t the phone’s greatest suit. The Lava Agni 5G comes with a 6.78-inch 1080p LCD display with a 90Hz refresh rate and hole punch cut-out. It has two cameras on the back including a 50MP main, and another 8MP ultrawide-angle shooter. On the front, it has a 16MP camera. The phone is backed by a 5,000mAh battery with 33W fast charging.

Street price: Rs 19,999

Xiaomi 11 Lite NE 5G

2021 year-ender
(Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The 11 Lite NE 5G is the first Xiaomi phone in India that’s eligible to get three major Android OS updates and four years of security patches right out of the gate – that is its biggest USP. Rest of the package is also very attractive. It has a 6.55-inch AMOLED display with a 1080p resolution and 90Hz refresh rate. This screen, also, supports 10-bit colour which is a first in this price range. The 11 Lite NE 5G is also the only phone at its price that supports Dolby Vision playback. Under the hood, the phone has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G chip and a 4250mAh battery with 33W fast charging. For photography, the 11 Lite NE has a triple camera setup with a 64MP main, 8MP ultra-wide angle and another 5MP macro camera with autofocus. On the front, it has a 20MP camera. And did we mention, it’s quite a looker, too.

Street price: Rs 26,999 (starting)

Samsung Galaxy M52 5G

2021 year-ender
(Photo credit: Samsung)

The M52 5G goes neck and neck with the Xiaomi 11 Lite NE in almost all the departments. This is the sleekest and most powerful Galaxy M-series phone yet with a 6.7-inch 1080p Super AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate and hole punch cut-out — this houses a 32MP camera. It is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778 chip. For photography, the M52 has a triple camera setup on the rear with a 64MP main, 12MP ultra-wide-angle and another 5MP macro camera. Fuelling the package is a 5,000mAh battery with 25W fast charging support — though Samsung bundles a 15W charger in the box.

Street price: Rs 27,499 (starting)

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