It’s the time of the year again where we gather to see some of the best budget smartphones in the market. To your surprise, some of which will even provide a gaming experience like no other, so be prepared to make the correct informed decision. In this article, the smartphones that we are closing in for a look will largely be smartphones within the price range of RM1,000 to RM1,400, for the base model of course. For this price range, the listed smartphones are far better in delivering value-for-price compared to the good old-fashioned premium flagship devices that scream “Give me your money!” while you scratch your head. I have listed down the criteria when it comes to choosing a smartphone in this price range, hence you will be mainly looking for:

  • A display with 5.5 inch or more
  • A decent processor with decent performance
  • A large battery capacity for all-day usage
  • A phone that can game a little without compromising performance
  • Some cool features offered on some devices

Honor Play (RM 1,249)

First off, the Honor Play is probably the catch of the day mainly because this has been somewhat a well-defined device for that price. Paired with a high-end chipset from Huawei which is the Kirin 970 together with a large battery of 3,750mAh, the Honor Play will undoubtedly deliver you one of the best user experiences with almost no bottlenecks at all. Its large 6.3-inch Full HD+ display provides a useful immersive media consumption experience and thanks to the dedicated GPU turbo, this phone can bring gameplay to a whole new level; it can significantly boost performance by 60% which includes increased frame rate while reducing power consumption by 15%, therefore making it the better option if you want a long-lasting and fluid gameplay.

In addition to that, the Honor Play has also included a set of gaming features like the AI 4D Smart Shock which can enhance the vibration depending on the situation in the game, hence an overall improved experience. Not to mention that the audio in this phone has also made a significant upgrade which includes 3D sound 7.1 Channel Histen Audio (an FPS game will take advantage of this as you can hear where the shots are from) for richer audio which in my opinion, fairs up better than the OnePlus 6. Therefore, the Honor Play is no doubt a smartphone that caters to a huge number of customers while offering the capability to game, not a little but extensively, at this sweet price point. An alternative to this device would be the Honor 10, but only to be priced higher at RM 1,469.

Pocophone F1 (RM 1,299)

Although at first glance this device doesn’t look pretty with its rugged design, the true beauty lies inside it. Packed with the best SoC in the market right now-Snapdragon 845, this Xiaomi sub-brand device has been the talk of the town recently with its performance on par with devices 3 times its price. With a Snapdragon 845 on board, you really can’t complain much as this phone has truly lived up to its hype as a performance-driven device.

Plus, in a size smaller than the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, it is equipped with one of the largest battery capacities on the market and the 4,000mAh will never make you crave for more. Oh, if you were thinking of gaming on this phone, fear not as it comes with liquid cooling system called LiquidCool which transfers heat away from the processor, leaving much room for more intensive gameplay. If all these still haven’t taken your breath away, try looking at the price and come back to witness how well it performs.

Asus Zenfone 5 (RM 1,299)

This isn’t a gaming-centric smartphone by any means, but in this price range, the Asus Zenfone 5 is not bad an option to consider if you want to include a little gaming on this phone. Like the Honor Play, its 6.2-inch large display provides an immersive session when gaming. Although it comes with a mid-range Snapdragon 636 processor and 4GB RAM, in actual fact it is not that much different from last year’s Snapdragon 835, especially on the GPU side.  The smartphone scores a mediocre 4,854 points in Geekbench 4, albeit much lower than the OnePlus 6, but its performance comes quite close to its competitors in the price range.

Playing games with HIGH graphics on the Asus Zenfone 5 will mostly not yield the same result as the devices mentioned above, but looking at the bright side, the hardware that Asus is offering is perfect for enthusiast on a sensible budget. The speakers are exceptionally good as the earpiece does play high-frequency audio as well to make it sound “stereo”. Besides, the headphone jack is still there whenever you need it. The Game Genie features that let you record gameplay footage, block notifications or even “speed up” gameplay add up to an overall tasteful experience.

Xiaomi Mi A2 (RM 999)

Coming down to this phone, you don’t see it as a gaming phone at all because it largely focuses on bringing the best all-inclusive user experience. It comes with a Snapdragon 660 which is perfect for everyday use and at the same time a presentable chipset for gaming. The clean and sleek software doesn’t really show off its capabilities at being a powerhouse, but the Android One device has been holding up well. That said, having a clean software means it can run apps smoothly without much complications and the chipset offered here is just perfect for daily tasks.

The 3010mAh battery doesn’t look enticing at all but be rest assured that it can last you a whole day, so there’s no need to worry about having a dead battery half day through. While this phone is not specifically aimed at gamers, it excels in the camera department while being at that price point. If you don’t mind having a smartphone with Android One and doesn’t do much gaming, this smartphone is an all-rounder to be exact. Ultimately, it shouldn’t be a gamer’s focus if you are buying this phone as it is heavily focused on the clean and neat software of Android One.

Oppo F9 (RM 1,399)

While Oppo devices are not well-known for games but selfies mostly, this one could be the exception here. The Oppo F9 comes with a respectable Mediatek Helio P60 processor and while some may not like it, it actually fairs up well against mainstream silicon like the Snapdragon 600 series or Kirin 700 series. In fact, this processor is comparable to the Snapdragon 660 and while both have similar benchmark scores, the former aces the comparison due to its 12nm production process which in turn provides more efficient energy consumption. To be precise, it is not a gaming-centric processor but is well-optimized for most games to run on with little bottlenecks, though some claims to have witnessed a choppy experience with simple games. Other than games, this device has no issue tackling daily apps or browsing through web pages. Battery-wise, its 3500mAh has no problem lasting its users through the whole day.

While the software Oppo is offering doesn’t seem to appeal to many, it is quite a two-camp situation where if you like it, you will love it and vice versa. Similarly, the teardrop notch will either be a love-or-hate thing as some view it as having a little more screen space. Otherwise, this is a reasonable smartphone for the price.


Final verdict

The smartphones listed above may appeal to you if you are one of many seeking the best budget option within the said price range. While the list doesn’t come in any specific order, I personally prefer the Honor Play as it checks pretty much all the pillars of a great smartphone while being offered at that price. It might not take the crown as the best budget smartphone of the year, but it definitely has made its presence a well-known device among said choices.