Best cheap 5G phone 2021

5G is still a relatively new technology but we’re already seeing more affordable smartphones that support these new super-fast data speeds.

When 5G phones first started hitting the market, they arrived as special iterations of existing devices (like the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and the Oppo Reno 5G) and were priced highly because of this.

This was partly down to the fact that these were the first phones to support a new feature in 5G, which from a manufacturing standpoint came with added costs in research and development, as well as tooling; not to mention the price premium marketers could slap on a phone just by its nature of being among the first to offer 5G support.


The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G cost £1,099 at launch

Thankfully, the cost of implementing 5G technology is rapidly dropping and we’re seeing a growing number of handsets that don’t command a flagship price for what could still be considered a flagship feature.

If nothing here grabs your fancy and you decide 5G isn’t an essential feature right now then it’s also worth checking out our ‘Best mid-range phone‘ and ‘Best budget phone‘ rundowns. They’re filled with offerings that are still considerably cheaper than the flagships that currently make headlines, and yet all still deliver a great experience for £600 or less. 

Best cheap 5G phones

1

OnePlus Nord 2 – Best overall

OnePlus Nord 2

  • Pros: Excellent software | Great design | Strong all-rounder
  • Cons: Only 90Hz display | Slightly thick | No wireless charging

An outstanding follow-up to 2020’s best mid-range phone, with great performance, 5G, OnePlus’ signature Oxygen OS user experience, and a near-flagship main camera. What’s not to love?

What the OnePlus Nord 2 really demonstrates is the company’s ability to prioritise the features that users are looking for right now and wrapping them up in an attractive package with a compelling price point.

The Nord 2 misses out on flagship niceties like wireless charging and waterproofing, but those are really the only compromises made here.

There’s also the OnePlus Nord CE 5G available, which delivers a stripped-back version of the original Nord for a slightly lower price.

Read our full OnePlus Nord 2 review

2

Realme GT – Best value flagship

Realme GT 5G

  • Pros: Flagship specs | 120Hz AMOLED display | Slick yellow design
  • Cons: No wireless charging | No IP rating | Basic cameras

The Realme GT essentially offers flagship specs – a Snapdragon 888, 65W charging and a 120Hz AMOLED displayat a price that undercuts even the OnePlus 9.

The value proposition is almost impossible to beat here, helped by a striking leather finish on the yellow model that guarantees the phone even feels premium.

There are limitations – a fairly average camera setup and the omission of either wireless charging or water resistance. Look to the OnePlus 8T for a superior camera, or if you want a more restrained aesthetic, but otherwise the Realme GT is better than almost anything else at this price.

Read our full Realme GT 5G review

3

OnePlus 8T – Best user experience

OnePlus 8T

  • Pros: Stunning display | Rapid fast charging | Great user experience
  • Cons: Weaker cameras than expected | OnePlus Nord 2 is better value

Bigger numbers in all things except price render the OnePlus 8T a great buy.

It’s cheaper than the OnePlus 8’s original RRP and yet sports a smoother 120Hz refresh rate display and is the first of the company’s phone‘s to integrate blisteringly-fast 65W fast charging.

Launching on Android 11 with the company’s superb Oxygen OS on top and promised several years of OS updates also makes this a great long-term buy.

Read our full OnePlus 8T review

4

Nubia Red Magic 6 – Best for gaming

Nubia Red Magic 6

  • Pros: Impressive display tech | Top-notch performance | Strong longevity
  • Cons: Loud fan | User experience isn’t for everyone

Nubia’s Red Magic gaming phones always deliver an outstanding price/performance balance and one of its latest entries – the Red Magic 6 – is no exception.

Its headline feature is a rapid 165Hz high refresh rate display, but the 6 also totes flagship performance, with a Snapdragon 888 processor (backed up by up to 12GB of RAM) and a 4500mAh battery capable of impressive 66W fast wired charging.

The design is also a little more conservative than its predecessors too, so if you’re not a fan of the stereotypical ‘gamer’ aesthetic that products in that realm typically sport, you won’t be too embarrassed to whip the Red Magic 6 out in public.

Read our full Nubia Red Magic 6 review

5

Xiaomi Poco F3 – Best value mid-range

Xiaomi Poco F3

  • Pros: Great price/performance balance | Nice OLED display | Solid cameras
  • Cons: Weak battery longevity | MIUI not for everyone

Xiaomi sub-brand Poco is playing hardball in 2021, delivering some of the best value-for-money on the smartphone scene by quite some margin.

The Poco F3’s main point of appeal has to be its flagship-class Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 chipset, paired with an astoundingly low asking price, considering the level of performance on offer.

The F3 also offers up speedy 33W fast charging and a large super-smooth 120Hz AMOLED Full HD+ display, meaning it’s also great for media and gaming.

Read our full Xiaomi Poco F3 review

6

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T – Most affordable

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T

  • Pros: Great value 5G | Good performance | Long battery life
  • Cons: Cheap design elements | Weak fingerprint sensor | Middling display

An incredible budget performer, the Redmi Note 9T packs in premium features and doesn’t skimp out on performance either, considering its low price.

Its design is a little lacklustre and you’re going to have to settle for 60Hz visuals but beyond that, there’s plenty on offer for the money.

Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T review

7

Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G – The world’s thinnest 5G phone

Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G

  • Pros: World’s thinnest 5G phone | Feature-packed | Nice display
  • Cons: MIUI not for everyone | No IP certification

Not only does the Mi 11 Lite 5G retain the same impressive proportions as its 4G counterpart, it also delivers better specs with greater performance to boot.

Boasting the title of “the world’s thinnest 5G phone” at the time of review, the Lite 5G is an attractive piece of kit; fronted by a Gorilla Glass 6-covered HDR10+ 90Hz OLED display and running on Qualcomm’s competent Snapdragon 780G.

That svelte waistline does mean you lose out on features like OIS and wireless charging, however.

Read our full Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G review

8

Red Magic 6R – Great for gaming

Nubia Red Magic 6R

  • Pros: Fantastic performance | Stunning 144Hz display | Tasteful design
  • Cons: Underwhelming cameras | Average battery life | Unintuitive software

While the Red Magic 6R doesn’t match the standard model’s class-leading 165Hz high refresh rate, it’s still specced to be one of the best gaming phones on the market right now, and yet its aesthetic is far more conservative and covert than you might expect.

If you’re looking for a capable 5G phone with flagship-level specs that’s equipped to tackle competitive gaming, without looking like a stereotypical gaming phone, the Red Magic 6R threads this needle perfectly.

Read our full Nubia Red Magic 6R review

9

Realme 7 5G – Great performance

Realme 7 5G

  • Pros: Competitive SoC | Nice finish | Great value
  • Cons: Realme UI not for everyone | Plastic build | Average cameras

Don’t mistake the Realme 7 5G as a repeat of the standard model with a 5G modem tacked on. While it shares a near-identical camera setup, practically everything else – from the processor to the display – has been overhauled.

A 120Hz LCD, a huge 5000mAh battery with 30W ‘Dash Charge’ fast charging and the first phone to boast MediaTek’s Dimensity 800U chipset, make this an impressively-powerful and yet affordable device.

At launch, it boasted the title of “Europe’s most affordable 5G phone” too (a title which has since gone to the budget Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T).

Read our full Realme 7 5G review

10

Nokia 8.3 5G – Great for ease of use

Nokia 8.3 5G

  • Pros: Long battery life | Pleasing display | Pro video recording features
  • Cons: Plastic design elements | Poor palm rejection tech

Despite a delayed release, the Nokia 8.3 5G proves to have been worth the wait, with superior 5G band support than any other phone so far, along with a flair for videography – all at a competitive price.

HMD Global’s clean take on Android, along with multiple years of software and security updates make the Nokia 8.3 a great mid-range 5G proposition.

Read our full Nokia 8.3 5G review

If you want to know about the benefits of 5G support in a phone and what you need to make sure you get the most out of a 5G phone, check out our What is 5G?‘ guide and our Best 5G phone roundup for more details.

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