In 2023 finding a device that balances both quality and affordability can be a daunting task. But fear not, as we have scoured the market to bring you the best old flagships under $300, with a surprising mid-ranger thrown into the mix. These devices offer impressive performance, remarkable features, and excellent value for your money. In this article, we’ll delve into the top picks for budget-conscious smartphone shoppers, analyzing their key specifications and what makes them stand out.
1. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: Still a Force to Be Reckoned With
The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra remains a formidable contender in the old flagship market. With a price point hovering around $330, this phone offers a lot for your money. What sets it apart is the fact that it’s the last Note series device to receive security patches, alongside the much-loved SD card support. Its premium design, boasting a stainless steel frame and glass back, is not only durable but also IP68-rated for dust and water resistance. Additionally, it comes with the iconic S Pen, offering a unique and versatile user experience.
The Note 20 Ultra boasts a massive 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+ support, and an impressive 1440p resolution. While it’s true that you can only use 120Hz at 1080p, the display is undeniably stunning.
The device runs on a Snapdragon 865 chip, which still delivers blazing-fast performance for a wide range of applications and games. With 128GB of internal storage, 12GB of RAM, and support for expandable storage, this phone offers a robust package. The stereo speakers provide excellent audio quality, and the under-display ultrasonic fingerprint sensor is fast and reliable.
One of the Note 20 Ultra’s standout features is its camera setup, which includes a 108MP standard lens, a 12MP Periscope telephoto with 5x optical zoom, and a 12MP ultra-wide lens. On the front, you’ll find a 10MP selfie camera. While it may not outshine the latest flagship devices in low-light conditions, it still produces excellent photos outdoors and offers impressive zoom capabilities.
The phone’s 4,500mAh battery provides around 6 hours of screen-on time for light users. With 25W wired charging, wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging, you have plenty of options to keep your device powered throughout the day. All in all, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is a solid choice for those seeking a flagship phone with top-tier performance without breaking the bank.
2. Google Pixel 6 Pro: Photography Excellence on a Budget
The Google Pixel 6 Pro, available for around $280-$320, stands out as an excellent smartphone choice for photography enthusiasts on a budget. This device features the signature Google camera technology, providing exceptional photo quality. Despite being a mid-ranger in terms of price, it continues to impress users. The design of the Pixel 6 Pro features an aluminum frame with the Pixel camera bar design, maintaining an elegant and modern feel. It’s also IP68-rated for dust and water resistance. The device houses a 6.7-inch LTPS AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+ support, and a sharp 1440p resolution. With 12GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage, it offers a snappy and smooth user experience. The stereo speakers deliver good sound quality, with a notable bass presence.
The Google Tensor chip, while not the most powerful on the market, handles everyday tasks and casual gaming comfortably. The stock Android experience ensures a bloatware-free, smooth interface. An optical under-display fingerprint sensor provides fast and secure biometric authentication. However, the absence of face unlock might be a minor downside for some users.
Where the Pixel 6 Pro truly shines is in the camera department. It features a 15MP standard lens, a 48MP telephoto lens with 4x optical zoom, and a 12MP ultra-wide lens. The 4K 60fps video capabilities and a 10MP selfie camera that also records in 4K 60fps make it an excellent choice for content creators and photography enthusiasts.
While battery life is decent, with around 6 hours of screen-on time, the Pixel 6 Pro may not be the best choice for heavy users. However, the 5,000mAh battery, 23W wired charging, and wireless charging options provide reasonable power management.
3. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: The Flagship Experience at a Discount
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, available at a slightly lower price point compared to the Note 20 Ultra, offers a compelling flagship experience. While it lacks SD card support and a built-in S Pen, it remains one of the most impressive devices in the old flagship category. With its sleek design, the S21 Ultra is a visually striking device. The aluminum frame, glass back, and IP68 rating for dust and water resistance contribute to its premium feel. Its 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED display, with a 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+, and 1440p resolution, offers a visually stunning experience.
The S21 Ultra is upgradable to Android 13 and is expected to receive Android 14. Powered by the Snapdragon 888 processor, it handles all tasks with ease, making it a robust performer for both everyday use and gaming. The device comes with 128GB of internal storage and 12GB of RAM, while a higher storage variant can be found at an attractive price. Stereo speakers provide impressive sound quality, with a notable bass presence.
One of the standout features of the S21 Ultra is its camera system. It boasts a 108MP standard lens, two telephoto lenses with 10x and 3x optical zoom capabilities, and a 12MP ultra-wide lens. The 40MP front camera takes stunning selfies. The device excels in photography, offering excellent dynamic range, vibrant colors, and remarkable zoom quality.
Despite a 5,000mAh battery, the S21 Ultra provides similar battery life to other devices in its price range, delivering around 6 hours of screen-on time. With 25W wired charging, wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging, you won’t have to worry about running out of power during the day.
4. Apple iPhone 12: An Affordable Entry Into the Apple Ecosystem
The iPhone 12, with a price tag hovering around $300, offers a fantastic entry point into the Apple ecosystem. Its modern design, impressive performance, and excellent camera capabilities make it a worthy contender. The iPhone 12’s aluminum frame and glass back lend it a contemporary look and feel. Additionally, it carries an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance. The device features an XDR OLED display with HDR10 support, providing a bright and sharp viewing experience. With a 6.1-inch screen size and 1170 x 2532 resolution, it offers excellent clarity.
Powered by the Apple A14 chip, the iPhone 12 remains incredibly fast, capable of handling all tasks and offering an optimal gaming experience. The base model includes 64GB of internal storage and 4GB of RAM, with a higher-capacity model available at a reasonable price. Stereo speakers deliver outstanding sound quality, and Face ID ensures secure biometric authentication.
The iPhone 12’s camera system includes a 12MP standard lens, a 12MP ultra-wide lens, and a 12MP selfie camera. While it may not boast the highest megapixel count in the industry, it consistently produces impressive photos and videos, offering excellent dynamic range and vibrant colors.
The 2,815mAh battery may seem small in comparison to some Android counterparts, but it still manages to provide around 6 hours of screen-on time for most users. With 23W wired charging and support for wireless charging, the iPhone 12 is a reliable daily driver.
5. Poco F5: The Budget Champion with Surprising Features
The Poco F5, a relatively new entrant in the market, is available for around the same price as the older flagship devices but offers several surprises. This phone may not be a flagship, but it’s packed with features and an excellent value proposition. The Poco F5’s all-plastic design may not be as premium as some other options, but it remains attractive and durable. It has an IP53 rating for dust and splash resistance, providing a level of protection. The device boasts a 6.67-inch AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+ support, and 1080p resolution, offering an excellent visual experience.
Running on Android 13 with the Snapdragon 7 series Gen 2 processor, the Poco F5 delivers impressive performance and is capable of handling casual gaming and multitasking with ease. The base model offers 256GB of internal storage and 8GB of RAM, providing a generous amount of storage and memory for a budget device. The stereo speakers deliver good audio quality, and the inclusion of a headphone jack and an infrared port adds versatility to the phone.
The Poco F5 features a camera setup that includes a 64MP standard lens, an 8MP ultra-wide lens, and a 2MP macro lens. While it may not be the most feature-packed camera system, it still produces decent photos. The 5,000mAh battery, combined with a 67W fast charging brick, ensures that the phone remains powered up throughout the day.
In Conclusion, Old Flagships Provide New Opportunities
These five smartphones, available for under $300, offer a range of features and capabilities, providing excellent value for budget-conscious consumers. Whether you’re in the market for a device that excels in photography, offers a flagship experience at a discount, or simply provides an affordable entry into a renowned ecosystem, these old flagships and the mid-range Poco F5 have you covered. With their blend of impressive specifications, stylish designs, and reasonable prices, you’ll find that owning a top-tier smartphone doesn’t have to break the bank. So, which one will you choose for your next smartphone adventure?