Best Phones Under $600 – Top 5 Best Phones in 2020
If you are looking for the best phones under $600 in 2020, you can stop right here and look at this Top 5 list. Here you can find flagship quality smartphones of popular brands without spending more than $1000.
But before you pick a smartphone, you need to know first the best specs that you can find in phones under $600. It will help you make a good decision when buying.
Contents (Jump to the sections below)
I. Best Feature of Phones Under $600
II. Top 5 Phones Under $600
III. CPU Benchmark Scores of the Top 5 – Under $600
IV. My Recommendations from the Top 5 Phones Under $600
Best Features of Phones Under $600
If you think about 5G, the first thing that will come to your mind is ultrafast network speed. However, with this new generation standard for internet speed, the smartphones that are capable of using it also became more expensive.
When you look at the price of the Samsung Galaxy S20 lineup that was released in March 2020 as the first “all-5G” smartphones, the price started at $1000 compared to its previous year’s lineup that started at $750. That’s right, the 5G capability contributed to the higher price.
But you don’t have to spend $1000 or more to get a 5G-capable smartphone. Today, even for a budget under $600, you can already own one.
If you have a phone in mind that you want to buy in the $600 budget range but it’s not yet 5G-capable, you need to ask yourself if you will still be using it after two years from today. If you feel that you will still be using the phone after two years, then you might really need to consider getting a 5G-capable smartphone today.
Now you may be aware that 5G speed also depends on the choice of your carrier network. It doesn’t mean that when you own a 5G smartphone today, you can instantly download at a very high speed with any network carrier. Right now, you will notice that only a few network carriers provide really fast 5G connectivity like Verizon. Most of the other network carriers just provide low-band 5G which is not significantly faster than 4G LTE.
However, you can also see in recent news the continuous efforts of the other networks to deploy 5G in many locations using mid-band or high-band signals. This will significantly increase the 5G speed in the future. With that, you can picture what the coming years will look like. So you may also take that into consideration when getting a 5G-capable smartphone or not.
High-end Chipset and Bigger RAM
In this budget range, you can already get a smartphone with a flagship chipset. This means that your processor (CPU), graphics hardware (GPU), modem, and memory controller are the BEST and most powerful hardware in the market.
How can you identify a high-end chipset?
Let’s start with Apple. Apple designs their own chipset and you can check their most powerful chipset in their latest iPhone flagship models. As of September 2020, that chipset is the Apple 13 Bionic chipset which can be found in the iPhone 11 lineup.
Samsung also designs and manufactures their own chipset series, Exynos. When Samsung releases their flagship phones every first quarter of the year, you’ll usually see a Global version that has Exynos and a U.S. version that has Snapdragon chipset. In 2020, that’s the Exynos 990 and Snapdragon 865.
You can find these flagship chipsets in some of the phones on the list. You might want to know which of these chipsets is better. In that case, you can check the CPU Benchmark Scores section for the comparison of performance between these chipsets.
For the RAM size, if you want an iPhone, you can settle for at least 3GB RAM in this budget range. That 3GB is more than enough to run even your power-hungry Augmented Reality (AR) games. Apple’s seamless hardware and software design will allow you to do more even with a smaller RAM.
The RAM size on Android phones is a different story. You can’t settle at 3GB RAM for Android, that is not the optimal spec in this budget range. In order to match the iPhone’s performance, you can settle from 6GB to 8GB of RAM instead. That’s just how it works with Android phones. 🙂
If being able to capture the best landscape photo while traveling excites you, then it’s a good thing because you can get a high-end camera in this budget range. It’s very convenient to capture those moments because you have your phone with you all the time.
I personally think that the brand has a lot to do with camera quality. Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and Google make the best smartphone camera around. Aside from looking at the actual photos captured by their flagship phones, there are indicators on the specs that you can use as an additional guide to finding a high-end camera. These are not absolute indicators but it will give you a clue in advance. So, what are these indicators in the specs of a high-end camera that you should look for?
One of the specs you need to look at is the aperture size. Aperture is an opening through which the light can enter your camera. Flagship smartphones in 2020 usually have an aperture size of f/1.8 or wider. Wider means better photo quality in low light. When you are looking at the numbers in aperture sizes, the lower the number, the wider it is. Thus, f/1.7 is wider than f/1.8.
OIS or Optical Image Stabilization is another spec that you need to look into. High-end cameras always have OIS. If you don’t have a tripod while capturing photos, OIS plays a significant role by counterbalancing your hand’s physical movements in order to produce photos that are not blurry. This is also very important if you love recording videos, or else, your audience will suffer from motion sickness while watching them.
Now, you might have heard the big misconception that the higher the resolution or MP of a camera, the better the quality. In 2020, some of the best smartphone cameras around like iPhone 11 Pro Max and Google Pixel 4 only have 12MP resolution. Trust me on this, a 12MP resolution is enough to capture exemplary details.
With that said, you can easily identify in advance which phones on the list have a high-end camera.
Top 5 Phones Under $600
The list below was sorted based on the release date with the most recently released smartphone on top.
1. Samsung Galaxy A71 5G (Released: June 2020)
Display: 6.7 inches; 1080 x 2400 pixels (393 PPI); Super AMOLED Plus capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
OS: Android 10, One UI 2.1
Storage and RAM: 128GB 6GB RAM; 128GB 8GB RAM
Camera: Quad-camera: (1) 64 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/1.72″, 0.8µm, PDAF, (2) 12 MP, f/2.2, 123˚ (ultrawide), (3) 5 MP, f/2.4, (macro), (4) 5 MP, f/2.2, (depth)
CPU: Exynos 980 (8 nm); Octa-core (2×2.2 GHz Cortex-A77 & 6×1.8 GHz Cortex A55)
Battery: Non-removable Li-Po 4700 mAh battery
Network: 5G, 4G, 3G
Geekbench Score: 604 (Single-Core); 1,875 (Multi-Core)
Price: USD 599.99 (128GB)
Samsung released the 5G version of the Galaxy A71 in June 2020. You can also find a non-5G version released six months earlier which is much cheaper. So you must look for the “5G” label in the model name if you are getting the 5G version.
If you are wondering if 5G is the only feature that makes it different than the non-5G version, well, it’s a good thing it’s not. You can find two more differences that make the 5G version better.
First, it has an Exynos 980 chipset and it’s slightly faster than the Snapdragon 730 chipset of the non-5G version based on Geekbench test. The Geekbench Multi-Score result is 1,875 while the non-5G has 1,733. And second, this model has an aluminum frame as opposed to the plastic frame of the non-5G version.
Samsung offers a trade-in of your existing phone, if it’s eligible, so you can get the A71 5G with $175 discount. But I personally don’t like trade-ins because vendors will usually quote a very low trade-in value to your phone. It’s better to sell your old phone online, set your price, negotiate with your potential buyers, and use the proceeds to buy your preferred phone.
If you like infinity displays in smartphones, the A71 5G has a very high screen-to-body ratio. The whole front of the phone is almost filled with the display which is great for watching your favorite movies and shows. It’s also Super AMOLED, so you’ll have more dramatic contrast and realistic colors.
The camera specs are the same as the non-5G version. For a mid-range phone, the camera is great. You can capture very good photos with nice contrast and lively colors with enough details. However, it has no OIS. The battery capacity is big, the battery life is excellent, and you can charge about 50% in just 30 minutes because it supports fast charging (25W).
The box comes with the unit, fast charger (25W), USB-C to USB-C cable, and a 3.5mm headphone.
2. Apple iPhone SE 2020 (Released: Apr. 2020)
Display: 4.7 inches; 750 x 1334 pixels (326 PPI); Retina IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
OS: iOS 13
Storage and RAM: 64GB 3GB RAM; 128GB 3GB RAM; 256GB 3GB RAM
Camera: Single: 12 MP, f/1.8 (wide), PDAF, OIS
CPU: Apple A13 Bionic (7 nm+); Hexa-core (2×2.65 GHz Lightning + 4×1.8 GHz Thunder)
Battery: Non-removable Li-Ion 1821 mAh battery
Network: 4G, 3G
Geekbench Score: 1,331 (Single-Core); 2,864 (Multi-Core)
Price: USD 529.99 (256GB); USD 449.99 (128GB)
The cheapest and fastest iPhone. That’s the short description for the iPhone SE 2020. This is the phone for you if you want an iPhone that can work as fast as the iPhone 11 Pro but still falls under your $600 budget. You can look at the Geekbench score and notice that it has the speed of a flagship smartphone.
You can get the 128GB or 64GB version if you want to spend less. It does not have 5G though. Apple is still producing those 5G phones as of September 2020 and due to the pandemic, the release of those phones will probably be later than usual. And also, I expect those phones to be more expensive.
So back to iPhone SE 2020, aside from the flagship chipset, the camera is amazing. You can try the Portrait Mode where it will blur your background so the focus is on your subject. And you can also use this mode with the front camera. You can control the blurring of the background from little to more using depth control.
Now, we know that the iPhone is popular for producing natural-looking photos with superb contrast and the iPhone SE 2020 is not an exception. There is also the OIS and Portrait Lighting feature that will let you choose from six studio-quality effects. The effects are Studio Light, Natural Light, Contour Light, Stage Light Mono, Stage Light, and High-Key Light Mono. Even at low-light, you can capture photos with outstanding details and excellent and real colors.
If you are not yet convinced that this is an excellent smartphone that is worth every penny, you can even immerse it underwater up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. It’s IP67 water-resistant and dust-resistant. And you can also watch videos for up to 13 hours and charge up to 50% in just 30 minutes with a 15W charger.
In the box, you can find the unit, 5W charger, EarPods, and a lightning cable. Note that you need to buy the 18W charger separately.
3. Xiaomi Mi 10 5G (Released: Feb. 2020)
Display: 6.67 inches; 1080 x 2340 pixels (386 PPI); Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
OS: Android 10, MIUI 12
Storage and RAM: 128GB 8GB RAM; 256GB 8GB RAM; 256GB 12GB RAM
Camera: Quad-camera: (1) 108 MP, f/1.7, (wide), 1/1.33″, 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS, (2) 13 MP, f/2.4, 12mm (ultrawide), (3) 2 MP, f/2.4, (macro), (4) 2 MP, f/2.4, (depth)
CPU: Qualcomm SM8250 Snapdragon 865 (7 nm+); Octa-core (1×2.84 GHz Kryo 585 & 3×2.42 GHz Kryo 585 & 4×1.80 GHz Kryo 585)
Battery: Non-removable Li-Po 4780 mAh battery
Network: 5G, 4G, 3G
Geekbench Score: 901 (Single-Core); 3,214 (Multi-Core)
Price: USD 599 (128GB, 8GB)
Every spec in this smartphone screams flagship. And there are many features that you will love like the elegant design that stands out from the rest. The curved display with glass front and back is cool and the 90% screen-to-body is actually very high.
Performance-wise, it’s the best and fastest Android phone that you can find on the list. The Snapdragon 865 is the second fastest Android chipset in 2020 after 865+ was released later in the same year. With 25% better performance and 25% less power consumption, you can do more with games and other applications.
Another cool aspect if you’re a gamer is the liquid cooling system through a combination of large vapor chamber surface area, graphite layer, and heat-transmitting gel that can reduce temperature up to 10°C. This is very beneficial if you play games for longer hours.
The camera has OIS with ultra-wide, macro, and depth. Although you can capture at 108MP resolution, the file size will be around 30MB and there are still some imperfections. I suggest that you stick with 25MP which is the default. It’s excellent at low-light too. Overall, you can capture great quality photos that are flagship worthy.
The display refresh rate is 90Hz so your videos and game movements are smoother than your usual smartphone. Because of the Super AMOLED display, the colors are also more vivid. For stereo speakers, you can hear a balanced stereo sound because of the dual speakers which release sound on opposite sides.
The box contains the unit, 30W fast charger, USB-C cable, USB-C to 3.5mm jack adapter, and a silicone case.
4. Google Pixel 4 (Released: Oct. 2019)
Display: 5.7 inches; 1080 x 2280 pixels (444 PPI); P-OLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
OS: Android 10
Storage and RAM: 64GB 6GB RAM; 128GB 6GB RAM
Camera: Dual: (1) 12.2 MP, f/1.7, 27mm (wide), 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, (2) 16 MP, f/2.4, 50mm (telephoto), 1/3.6″, 1.0µm, PDAF, OIS, 2x optical zoom
CPU: Qualcomm SM8150 Snapdragon 855 (7 nm); Octa-core (1×2.84 GHz Kryo 485 & 3×2.42 GHz Kryo 485 & 4×1.78 GHz Kryo 485)
Battery: Non-removable Li-Po 2800 mAh battery
Network: 4G, 3G
Geekbench Score: 710 (Single-Core); 2,346 (Multi-Core)
Price: USD 549.99 (64GB, 6GB)
If you want the best camera smartphone under $600, Google Pixel 4 is the best on the list. It is notable for its fast and accurate auto-focus and outstanding performance in low-light. You will also like the natural-looking photos like accurate skin tones and shadow details. The daylight image quality is also superb with its accurate exposure, color rendering, texture, and details.
When it comes to processor performance, it’s still one of the fastest you can find. Snapdragon 855 is the 2019 flagship chipset of Android smartphones and you can take a look at the Geekbench score in the next section for the comparison with 2020 flagships.
Since this is a flagship phone from Google, you can also expect a premium design. With the aluminum frame and a body that is covered by Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back, it’s sleek, sturdy, and trendy. Not only that, it will still work even if you accidentally spilled water on it because it’s also IP68 water-resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 minutes) and dust-resistant.
One of the features can be unsatisfactory for some people who used to have Android phones and that is the lack of a memory card slot. The battery life may concern you a bit because of the 2,800 mAh battery capacity which seems smaller than other flagships today. However, you don’t have to worry because Pixel 4 can still last up to 10 hours of web browsing or 11 hours of video playback.
As of August 2020, Pixel 4 is only available in retail stores like Amazon and not in the official Google store. I think that was expected. Google will focus on producing and selling Pixel 4a, their latest mid-range smartphone that they released in the same month.
The box comes with the unit, 18W charger, USB-C to USB-C cable, USB-C to USB-A adapter. There are no headphones though.
5. Samsung Galaxy S10 (Released: Mar. 2019)
Display: 6.1 inches; 1440 x 3040 pixels (550 PPI); Dynamic AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
OS: Android 9.0 (Pie), upgradable to Android 10, One UI 2.1
Storage and RAM: 128GB 8GB RAM; 512GB 8GB RAM
Camera: Triple: (1) 12 MP, f/1.5-2.4, 26mm (wide), 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS, (2) 12 MP, f/2.4, 52mm (telephoto), 1/3.6″, 1.0µm, AF, OIS, 2x optical zoom, (3) 16 MP, f/2.2, 12mm (ultrawide), 1/3.1″, 1.0µm, Super Steady video
CPU: Qualcomm SM8150 Snapdragon 855 (7 nm) – USA/China version; Octa-core (1×2.84 GHz Kryo 485 & 3×2.42 GHz Kryo 485 & 4×1.78 GHz Kryo 485)
Battery: Non-removable Li-Po 3400 mAh battery
Network: 4G, 3G
Geekbench Score: 723 (Single-Core); 2503 (Multi-Core)
Price: USD 575 (128GB, 8GB)
The Galaxy S10 is Samsung’s 2019 flagship phone. You can still get this amazing phone if you don’t want to spend on the S20 lineup that cost more than $800. Also, you need to be aware that Samsung released the S10 (non-5G) and S10 5G version. The S10 5G version is pricier and it has less 5G bands (5G band: 78 NSA/Sub6) compared to the newest 5G phones of Samsung.
The aspect of this phone that will impress you the most is the design. It’s beautiful. The curved front glass and the Dynamic AMOLED screen makes it an eye candy. But the design is not superficial because the front is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 6, the back is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 5, and it has an aluminum frame. And like most flagships, you will like the IP68 water-resistance and dust-resistance.
Now the main camera is superb because you can capture photos with great detail rendering and with little to no imperfections. You will notice the excellent noise suppression that removes those imperfections for both daylight and low-light photos. Overall, the quality is very close to Pixel 4 with Pixel 4 taking the lead with a very small margin.
When it comes to processor performance, you will notice that the Geekbench scores are very close to Pixel 4 because the US version of the S10 also has Snapdragon 855. The 6.1 inches display makes it wider than the Pixel 4 so this is preferable if you want a larger screen. You can also enjoy up to 10 hours of internet browsing or up to 13 hours of video playback.
The box contains the unit, 15W charger, USB-C cable, USB-A (female) to USB-C (male) adapter, USB-B (female) to USB-C (male) adapter, and a headphone.
CPU Benchmark Scores of the Top 5 – Under $600
Below are the CPU benchmark scores from Geekbench. If you see a higher score, it means than the CPU is faster.
My Recommendations from the Top 5 Phones Under $600
If you prefer an all-around Android phone, my overall recommendation is the Xiaomi Mi 10 5G. It has 5G capability, one of the latest and most powerful chipsets in 2020, excellent design, and an impressive camera.
Now if you prefer a Samsung phone with 5G capability and mid-range performance, I highly recommend the Samsung Galaxy A71 5G. It has more 5G bands, a beautiful display, and a great camera for a mid-range smartphone.
If you like an iPhone, the iPhone SE 2020 is perfect. You can experience flagship performance without spending more. It also has an excellent and sturdy design, long battery life, and excellent camera quality that only iPhones can provide.
If you want the best camera in a smartphone under $600, I highly recommend the Google Pixel 4. The photos produced by this phone are natural-looking and have accurate texture and details. It’s still available in online stores like Amazon.
If you want a flagship Samsung phone under $600 and you are not too concerned about 5G capabilities, I recommend the Samsung Galaxy S10. It’s very fast, has a beautiful design, excellent battery life, and a camera that’s almost as great as Google Pixel 4.
Also check out our posts about: