It has been a while since I did my last research on the best entry-level or mid-range Android phones. I had a chance to review some of them and I spent some time “playing” around with what I think as the top 6 best Android phones under RM700 that are currently available in Malaysia.
This time around it is not an easy task for me to choose which one is better than the other. Most of the newly released mid-range smartphones are packed with awesome goodness that were being used in the flagship phones a year ago. One year made a lot of difference in terms of price and technology. Now let’s see what I’ve compiled.
So this is my list of the most affordable phones as of the month of August 2014 which I think worthy of being published in this blog.
#6 – Sony Xperia C
Although Sony makes some good high-end phones, they do have a good role in making some cheap mid-range phones as well. The Sony Xperia C is one of them. But this one sits at #6 because of its price and specifications. It is the most expensive in the list at RM699 per unit. Having said that, it is also has the lowest specifications among all that only comes with 4GB of space and 1GB of RAM. The 5-inch 540×960 display and resolution is nothing to shout about. It also doesn’t come with Sony’s famous Bravia Engine display. The 8-megapixel camera is not the same as the one in Sony’s flagship Z1 or Z2 so don’t expect your photos to be as good looking as you think you’ll get. I’m including this phone here in the list simply because I want to show you that “branded stuffs” doesn’t always mean quality. In this case, you get an expensive phone with mediocre specs.
#5 – Asus Zenfone 5
Asus introduced 3 new lines of Intel based CPU phones recently, the Zenfone 4, 5 and 6. I am featuring the Zenfone 5 “high spec” here this time because it is what I think is the best value for money that is produced by Asus. Funnily, they make many varieties of the same phone. They have the low “standard” spec, the mid spec and the high spec of the Zenfone 5. I don’t know why but I’m not going to crack my head thinking about it so I’ll stick with my opinion on the high spec instead.
The high spec Zenfone 5 comes with Intel Atom processor (same processor as my 2008 netbook) clocking at 2.0GHz CPU with PowerVR GPU. The Intel processor is able to multitask as usual without any lag and it also performs well for gaming. On heavy gaming graphics however, some lags occurs and starting to show its weaknesses. But if you’re not an avid gamer, the phone is still good for normal use, ie: Facebook, Instagram, emails and office stuffs. You have plenty of space inside for your photos as it comes with 16GB of ROM and 2GB of RAM to support the memory usage. The HD 720p 5″ screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Class 3. The Zenfone 5 is priced at around RM539, price varies depending on where you buy it from. From some reviews that I read online, I can only find one flaw with this phone. The GPS locking can be a nuisance. It is slow and sometimes inaccurate. But the new software update to KitKat may solve this problem. Will check again on that matter.
#4 – Xiaomi Redmi 1S
Xiaomi is currently the most popular China brand Android smartphone here in Malaysia (and probably the whole of South East Asia too). What is there not to love about this phone? Good quality, cheap and MIUI. Unfortunately, you can only buy the Xiaomis from their respective local based online store. And to be able to purchase a unit, is a big achievement. But of course, you can still buy them at some phone shops around the city but at a higher price.
Back to the phone. I placed the Redmi 1S at #4 because this particular model holds the current lowest (but popular) spec by Xiaomi. Don’t get me wrong. In my opinion, this is still a damn good phone to buy. Believe it or not, I almost bought one. I prefer this 4.7 inch screen phone over the huge 5.5 inch Redmi Note. It comes with 720 x 1280 resolution and protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 2. It doesn’t come with a huge space. It only comes with 8GB of ROM but is expandable with an external MicroSD card that supports up to 32GB. One of the reason why I didn’t end up buying this one is because of the 1GB of RAM. Other than that, the phone is excellent. It has an 8-megapixel main camera and 1.6-megapixel front camera. Processing power is by Snapdragon 400 Quad-core CPU clocking at 1.6GHz plus an Adreno 305 GPU for the graphic power. This processing power is actually an upgrade that was announced recently. Previously it was using a Quad-core Mediatek CPU instead of a Snapdragon. This phone is priced at RM419 when you buy it from the official website. Do keep in mind that the LTE version of the Redmi 1S is coming soon. You might want to wait for that one instead.
#3 – Huawei Honor 3C
At first I thought that Huawei’s Honor 3C is going to be a hit and a good contender against the Redmi Note. But it fell short in some areas. This one was also one of my consideration for purchase a while back. I love the clean design and beautiful interface. For a mid-range smartphone, this can be considered as one of the big players. It is powered by a Mediatek Quad-core CPU at 1.3GHz with a Mali-400 GPU. For GPU in smartphones, Adreno is the current best, Tegra is not far behind, PowerVR is for the basic use but a Mali based GPU is best for mid-range…hence why I wanted to buy this one before this. It comes with 8GB of ROM space and 2GB of RAM. Apparently the camera picture quality is good with this phone. Main shooter is shooting at 8-megapixel but it also comes with a 5-megapixel front shooter. Good phone for selfie lovers. The big 5-inch screen at 720 x 1280 resolution is sharp and clear. It has a 2300mAh battery, so going on a full day use should be enough. The Honor 3C can be found priced at around RM499.
#2 – Lenovo S960 a.k.a Vibe X
Actually I fell in-love with the VibeX as soon as it was announced last year. I didn’t managed to buy it yet back then. But I do find some time to play with this phone when I have the opportunity because it is always on display at telco stores and also in Harvey Norman. One thing I can say about this phone is, superb! It is very responsive and the screen is simply so damn pretty. The colours are vibrant and crystal clear…all thanks to the full HD 5-inch 1080 x 1920, 441ppi display and protected by Gorilla Glass 3. It comes with 16GB or 32GB of ROM space variant and supported by 2GB of RAM. All the good stuffs are being put in the VibeX. Going on under the hood, it is powered by Mediatek Quad-core CPU at 1.5Ghz with PowerVR GPU. The phone will also fit nicely in your palm because the ergonomics are pretty slim. To me, a 5-inch screen phones are just about the right size. Now the camera in this baby is at 13-megapixel around the back and 5-megapixel in the front. In my Lenovo reviews, I have said that Lenovo pays more attention on the camera features. That works really well with the VibeX. Photos are awesome. Colours are spot on and quality is definitely above par. This should be one of your consideration if you plan to buy a new mid-range phone. Price is around RM669.
#1 – Xiaomi Redmi Note
No doubt that the Xiaomi Redmi Note is on top of my list. I have reviewed this phone when it first released in the Malaysian market and my review on it is nothing less than positive. Although the specification of the Redmi Note is notably high, I placed this particular phone at the top of my list because of its growing popularity and value for money. No doubt that it is very new and still gradually improving on its reliability. But on the positive note, this phone is worth a buy.
Starting with the heart of the phone, it is beating at 1.7GHz with its powerful Mediatek Octa-core CPU, that is eight cores to those who don’t know what octa-core is. In fact, this phone is the only one that comes with an octa-core here in my list. The performance of this monster is really good, scoring high on the Antutu benchmark rating and being the highest scoring mid-range phone currently on the market. The octa-core CPU is supported by Mali-450MP4 GPU, which is a big improvement from the old Mali-400 GPU. The high-spec version comes with 2GB of RAM but it only holds 8GB of ROM space. Thankfully, this Note has an expendable MicroSD slot which supports up to 32GB of external memory. The huge 3200mAh battery plays a big role on keeping the phone alive for a whole day too. As for the display, the 5.5 inch screen with 720 x 1280 resolution is bright and crisp. It is not protected by a Gorilla Glass, so a tempered glass screen protector is useful for this phone. Good news for photography enthusiast, the main shooter comes with 13-megapixel f/2.2 at 28mm wide angle. At f/2.2, this means that you can take a picture quite clearly in low light, but of course not in pitch black places. Front camera comes in 5-megapixel, which means vain people would love this phone. The Redmi Note is being sold in their online store at RM509 each.
I have reviewed the Redmi Note a while back and you can check out some sample photos from the review here.
Another new Android smartphone that is worth a mention is the all new MOTO E by Motorola. Selling for only RM369 currently at Lazada.com.my.
I am not being bias to any brands here. I just list out what I think is worth the money spend that goes along with the specifications of each devices. The Redmi Note is clearly the best at the moment in terms of value for money. I love the awesome Lenovo VibeX for its powerful specs and superb display. Huawei’s Honor 3C is something to look at if you’re thinking of buying a different China brand Android phone. Redmi 1S is the low end and cheap MIUI based Android device and also a good value for money phone. If only the GPS locking is not a problem with the Asus Zenfone 5, I would have placed it in the position above Redmi 1S. And finally the Sony Xperia C is the cheapest good option so far made by a mainstream brand, but still too expensive for its poor specifications.
At the end of the day, you make your own choice. My list is only to help you with your decision if you’re thinking of buying a good mid-range Android smartphone here in Malaysia. I hope this information is useful for all of you. Until my next list of best buys, thank you for reading.
P/S: Price for each phone varies at different places. The price listed are based on the price where I usually buy my phone(s) from at DirectD in Subang Jaya.