5 Best Phones for 500 Dollars in 2021 – Latest Guide

10 min read 📖198 people found this article helpful 👍
best phone for 500 dollars

It is easy to disregard cheaper phones when all around us people walk around with expensive phones. But the question is what are you actually sacrificing by choosing a cheaper phone? In this article, we will describe 5 phones whose price is below 500 dollars, and explain why they are worth considering.

Each budget phone will have its own unique set of sacrifices. For example, one phone might have a very good camera but a poor processor performance. Others might sacrifice screen size in order to increase the battery life. Of course, there are also specification cut-off points based on the price range. We can’t expect a cheap phone to have a processor equivalent to an expensive phone. Phone producers try to balance features based on price ranges and make certain features stand out within the price range. This gives customers a wider array of options, allowing them to choose the best product that satisfies their needs.

If you want to read a full detailed review of our recommended phone for 500 dollars click here. Or if you are more interested in our top budget pick we got you covered here.

DID YOU KNOW: Cheap Android phones such as XIAOMI Mi 10T actually perform perfectly fine for the purposes of social media, email, YouTube, taking photos, and all the things people generally use their smartphones.

NOTE: Below you can find a comparison table and a detailed description of the best phones for 500 dollars.


BUDGET RECOMMENDED
Xiaomi Mi 10T Samsung Galaxy Note10 Huawei P30 Samsung Galaxy S20 Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Xiaomi Mi 10T

Samsung Galaxy Note10

Huawei P30

Samsung Galaxy S20

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
Display 6.67 inches 6.3 inches 6.1 inches 6.2 inches 6.5 inches
Main camera 64 MP wide, 13 MP ultrawide, 5 MP macro 12 MP wide, 12 MP telephoto, 16 MP ultrawide 40 MP wide, 8 MP telephoto, 16 MP ultrawide 12 MP wide, 64 MP telephoto, 12 MP ultrawide 12 MP wide, 8 MP telephoto, 12 MP ultrawide
Video max. 8K@30fps max. 4K@60fps, HDR10+ max. 4K@30fps max. 8K@24fps, HDR10+ max. 4K@60fps
Front camera 20 MP wide 10 MP wide 32 MP wide 10 MP wide 32 MP wide
Battery 5000 mAh, non-removable 3500 mAh, non-removable 3650 mAh, non-removable 4000 mAh, non-removable 4500 mAh, non-removable
Buy on Amazon Buy on Amazon Buy on Amazon Buy on Amazon Buy on Amazon

* International and US hardware.


OVERALL RATING

We evaluated the phones based on several key factors that are important to capture high-quality photos. The most important being camera megapixels, resolution, and lens zoom performance and capacity. And we must not forget the display as you don’t want just to capture an image in high quality but to also look nice on the screen.

We tested and evaluated all mentioned features and compiled results to a single score number. Please note that the final score does not take the price into the account. So obviously the budget phones will not perform as well as the high-end flagship. But we make sure that all our recommended phones will give you a great camera experience.


What are the best phones for 500 dollars?

XIAOMI Mi 10T – Top Budget Phone for 500 dollars

One of the best phone for 500 dollars
CUSTOMER REVIEWS

KEY CAMERA FEATURES

MAIN CAMERA FRONT CAMERA VIDEO
Triple with 64 MP wide, 13 MP ultrawide and 5 MP macro Single 20 MP wide Up to 8K 30 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Xiaomi Mi 10T is a brand’s flagship phone that was released in 2020. However, price wise it’s more of a mid-ranger. It sells at a very reasonable price, especially if we take into account everything the phone offers us. It’s still isn’t the cheapest phone you will find, but it’s quite a bargain for such quality. The phone has a great chipset and amazing battery life. The camera performance is awesome and there aren’t any major issues here. Therefore, we decided to list this phone as one of the best phones for 500 dollars.

The quality of cameras is surprisingly good for a mid-range phone and is one of the phones strong points. The phone features triple camera setup, with one 64 MP main camera, one 13 MP ultrawide camera and a 5 MP macro camera for close-up shots. You will find the daytime photos to be extremely good. The phone really makes high quality photos. There is impressive amount of detail with almost no noise. Dynamic range is very good and photos appear very sharp. Colours look pretty natural. Zooming will cause loss of sharpness and detail and the quality will drop. However, photos still look good and beat some of the competition. Portraits look good and the edge detection works quite fine. Phone does a good job in low light as well. Sharpness is decent with good contrast and well preserved colours. The dynamic range remains quite wide.

As far as video recording goes, you are able to make 8K footages at 30 fps. There is also an option for 4K footages and regular 1080p footages. These videos all look great and have very good quality. Sharpness is good with the right amount of detail. Also, noise has been reduced to a minimum.

If you are interested in more details about the phone you can read more by clicking here.

WHAT WE LIKED
  • Performance is great thanks to Snapdragon 865
  • Camera is great with many options and settings
  • You will appreciate 144 Hz refresh rate of the screen. Especially when playing games or watching videos
  • Great battery capacity and an excellent battery life
  • Accurate target exposure in indoor and outdoor photos and videos
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • No wireless charging
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

SAMSUNG Galaxy NOTE 10

One of the best phone for 500 dollars
CUSTOMER REVIEWS

KEY CAMERA FEATURES

MAIN CAMERA FRONT CAMERA VIDEO
Triple with 12 MP wide, 12 MP telephoto, 16 MP ultrawide camera Single 10 MP wide camera Up to 4K 60 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 is a great new addition to a Note line of phones. It is a more compact version, which means that it is slightly smaller than Note 10+ and Note 10 Lite. However, this makes it easier to handle and it is also more pocket friendly than other versions. The phone is very user friendly and you will get a hang of the S Pen very quickly too. It is a great choice when buying a Galaxy Note phone and do not wish to spend too much money on it. Additionally, it is very capable and has enough storage (256 GB) for all your stuff. Note 10 is truly one of the best phones for 500 dollars.

Regarding photography, you can take some quality shots with this phone. It has an excellent dynamic range and can capture a lot of detail with a minimal amount of noise. The colors look pretty good, however, there is no autofocus, therefore close-up shots will not look their best. Still, portrait mode is awesome and shots look just as good as on Note 10+. You also get an option of 2x zoom with a telephoto camera, where you can still capture a lot of detail with practically no noise. Night shots are also no problem. The main camera is more than capable of that and you will not lose any quality.

Regarding video quality, you can make 4K videos at 30 fps or 60 fps. They look excellent and you will most likely be very satisfied with them. It also features live-focused video, which gives you the blurred background behind the subject, making the subject stand out a little bit more.

If you are interested in more details about the phone you can read more by clicking here.

WHAT WE LIKED
  • The phone was released in late 2019 and has gotten significantly cheaper since then. However the specs are still better then most new mid-range phones
  • Nice and large screen with thin bezels makes gaming and watching movies very enjoyable
  • In 2021 you can really get good deals on this phone. You can get a power house phone for bargain price
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • No memory card slot. Still 256 GB is plenty of storage space but you must consider there is no expansion possible
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

HUAWEI P30

One of the best phone for 500 dollars
CUSTOMER REVIEWS

KEY CAMERA FEATURES

MAIN CAMERA FRONT CAMERA VIDEO
Triple with 40 MP wide, 8 MP telephoto and 16 MP ultrawide Single 32 MP wide Up to 4K 30 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Huawei P30 is one of brand’s really good mid-range phones. It features beautiful design, good camera setup and awesome chipset performance. Now it lacks some of the features that a more premium version P30 Pro has. However, it is still a very good deal, especially as it is cheaper. Based on its capabilities, it makes one of the best phones for 500 dollars.

Huawei P30 features a triple camera setup. Here you will find a 40 MP main camera with laser autofocus, a 16 MP ultrawide camera and an 8 MP telephoto camera with OIS and 3x optical zoom. However, there is no depth sensor, which Pro version has. Images taken during the day look great. The main camera captures a lot of detail, with a minimal amount of noise. The dynamic range is good and the colors are pleasing. Ultrawide camera produces punchier colors and the dynamic range is not as wide. However, photo quality is still pretty much okay. You do get an option for super macro mode, which is meant for close-up shots. Images in this mode are surprisingly good and high quality. Low light photography is also satisfying. Colors are nicely preserved with really good highlights and shadows. There is some loss of detail, but noise is pretty low. You also have a night mode that improves quality of night time shots.

As far as the video recording goes, P30 can make 4K footages at 30 fps. There is an option for electronic stabilization, which makes videos look smoother. Otherwise the amount of detail is satisfying, but videos could be sharper. Dynamic range is excellent and colors are true to life.

If you are interested in more details about the phone you can read more by clicking here.

WHAT WE LIKED
  • Above average battery life. A feature that is important for gaming phone
  • Nice built quality. Gives a feeling of a top high-end flagship
  • An excellent screen
  • Very responsive performance even with 6 GB version
  • Good target exposure even in very low light
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • The phone lacks wireless charging capabilities
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

One of the best phone for 500 dollars
CUSTOMER REVIEWS

KEY CAMERA FEATURES

MAIN CAMERA FRONT CAMERA VIDEO
Triple with 12 MP wide, 64 MP telephoto and 12 MP ultrawide Single 10 MP wide Up to 8K 24 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Samsung Galaxy S20 is a powerful phone with an appealing design. Although, we have to say there are better versions out there, such as S20 Ultra. However, they usually cost more. In terms of performance, S20 works really well and it’s also very user friendly. It’s not the newest Galaxy S flagship, but regardless, it still is a high end phone. It is capable of delivering astonishing results in every field. Therefore, it makes our list of best phones for 500 dollars.

Now let’s move to camera capabilities. Samsung Galaxy S20 has three cameras: a 12 MP main camera, a 12 MP ultra-wide camera, and a 64 MP telephoto camera with 3x hybrid optical zoom. Photos made during day hours look excellent. The camera captures a lot of detail and photos are generally very sharp and high quality. However, with zooming the quality will decrease, so we recommend you not to zoom too deep into the frame as you will capture more noise. Still, a telephoto camera without zoom can produce even better photos than the main camera. It will capture more detail, less noise and photos will be sharper and in general, look more attractive. Nighttime photos are surprisingly good and so are low light photos, which are simply excellent. However, it may interest you that there is no night mode.

The camera can make amazing 4K videos. You have the option of filming at 30 fps or 60 fps. Footages taken in either mode will look pretty decent and there really are no major problems with the video quality. S20 also has an awesome feature, which is 8K videos at 24 fps. Such videos are taken with a 64-megapixel camera and they look much nicer than 4K footages.

If you are interested in more details about the phone you can read more by clicking here.

WHAT WE LIKED
  • The screen is clear and large with strong backlight and punchy colors
  • The phone sits in hand comfortably due to slim and nice design
  • If you get a 5G version you will also be getting 12 GB of RAM instead of standard 8 which makes this phone more future proof
  • Great image processing
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • Some users have reported occasional freezes on some apps. It has not happened to us and we assume it is a minor issue that may be already solved by latest updates
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

SAMSUNG Galaxy S20 FE

One of the best phone for 500 dollars
CUSTOMER REVIEWS

KEY CAMERA FEATURES

MAIN CAMERA FRONT CAMERA VIDEO
Triple with 12 MP wide, 8 MP telephoto and 12 MP ultrawide Single 32 MP wide Up to 4K 60 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is leaner and more affordable version of S20 phones. The FE stands for Fan Edition. This is a phone made especially for the fans and brings premium features at a lower price. There are some trade-offs that come with it, but this still is a very good phone that swings all the way to the top. Therefore, we believe it is one of the best phones for 500 dollars.

The camera setup here is slightly different to the one on regular version. The phone features 12 MP main camera which is the same as on other versions, however it also has 8 MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom and 12 MP ultrawide camera, which features smaller pixels. Quality of photos taken with main camera is very much the same as on other more premium versions of this phone. In general, photos are sharp with a lot of detail and have very little noise. Colours are nicely saturated and look good, but not as good as on other versions, so there is a bit of a flaw here. However, otherwise the photos taken during the day look great and very professional. Night-time photography delivers very good results as well. The photos have wide dynamic range, but this time, you will notice more noise than on other versions. The camera captures a lot of detail, but low-light photos are a bit less sharp. Still, these flaws are barely noticeable, so keep that in mind. Average users will not notice the difference. As far as the video quality goes, you can make 4K footages at 30 fps or 60 fps. Both look pretty decent and have wide dynamic range. The quality however seems to be slight lower than on other more expensive versions of this phone. Still the videos are sharp and they really do not appear that different, especially to an average user that does not pay that much attention to such details.

If you are interested in more details about the phone you can read more by clicking here.

WHAT WE LIKED
  • The S20 FE feels premium despite having a plastic back. This is due to its thickness and weight.
  • The battery is pretty decent and will definitely last you a full day. Even if you are a heavy user
  • Thanks to Snapdragon 865 the performance is very smooth. If you are planning to play games a lot we recommend getting an 8 GB version
  • The fingerprint reader is accurate and fast.
  • Accurate photo and video target exposure in most conditions
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • It comes with some preinstalled Samsung apps which most users probably will not need. But you can uninstall them and rearrange the phone the way you like
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

Additional hardware information

Cameras

The phones these days feature multiple-camera setups. In fact, it is very difficult to find a phone with just one camera. Usually, they have at least two in the back and some even feature four. Now there is a logical explanation behind all this. The companies aren’t just stacking cameras left and right. Each camera is different and serves its own purpose. This is how we get the best results and enhance our photography experience. The most common camera types you will find are wide camera, ultrawide camera, telephoto camera, macro camera and ToF sensor.

Wide camera – It is also known as the main camera that we find on the rear side of the phone. You will notice differences in Megapixels that a certain camera has. A good main camera should have at least 12MP. Furthermore, it is also good if it has good autofocus and an optical image stabilizer, also known as OIS.

Ultrawide camera – It offers a wider field of view than the main camera. This way you can capture more into the image and it is more similar to what our eyes see. It can offer a great advantage when taking wider images such as family reunion photos for example. However, sometimes a photo can appear curved due to a wider angle and some objects might appear abnormally shaped.

Telephoto camera – It is normally used for zoomed-in shots that are taken from a distance. You can zoom in on a scene or subject and get closer without actually having to move. This can serve us well when we don’t want to approach the subject. A telephoto lens increases focal length. It brings objects closer to you.

Macro camera – It is used for close-up shots. We can capture images of small objects, such as insects or plants. These objects can appear big in a photo and we can capture a lot of detail. In fact, we can capture things that are too small to be visible to the naked eye.

ToF sensor – It is a piece of equipment that most flagship phones these days have. A ToF sensor can help you determine the distance between the camera and the object. It is actually a depth sensor that helps the phone create a three-dimensional map of the world. It uses infrared light to determine the distance between the objects and maps 3D space.

Dynamic range

The understanding of dynamic range can really help us improve our photos. Dynamic range describes the ratio between the maximum and minimum light intensities. In simple words, it tells us the difference between the lightest and darkest tones in an image.  Each device has its own dynamic range, which affects the output – that is our image. The wide the dynamic range, the better. You will stumble across this topic a lot in photography. So just remember that a wider dynamic range gives you better results. A wide dynamic range will allow you to capture more detail in brighter or darker areas. Otherwise, those areas will just appear very bright, nearly white or very dark, nearly black. So to create a good exposure, there must not be too bright or too dim parts.

An interesting fact is that human sight has a relatively high dynamic range. No camera can match it. Therefore some pictures of sunsets for example appear different than they are in real life.

Sharpness

Sharpness in photography stands for the overall clarity of the image. This combines focus and contrast. The subject must be clear, lifelike, and have a lot of details. This is when we can speak of sharpness.

Sharpness is very important in photography. Better sharpness means more detail. Furthermore, it also emphasizes the textures of the subject. You should always try and make your photos as sharp as you can. This way the images will appear more professional and interesting for the viewers.

For the best results, you will have to have good equipment as well as the right technique and well-developed skills. However, with the right gear, it can be much simpler. It is also important to know that sharpness is related to the resolution, as the number of pixels and their size affect overall sharpness.

Resolution

The image resolution relates to the number of pixels that are featured in an image. Higher resolutions simply mean that there are more pixels in the photo, whether lower resolutions mean that there are fewer pixels in a photo. The number of pixels also determines how much information is captured in an image. Or in other words, how much detail it can hold. So, the more the better, as it usually results in higher quality photos.

Changing the resolution, you are basically saying how many pixels you want to have per square inch. So it is always good to have a little more than less. After all, it affects the sharpness of the image as well, and you don’t want blurry photos. You want to capture as much information as you can. Cropping the photo, while keeping the same resolution will significantly drop the quality of the photo. That happens because you remove a certain amount of pixels, which basically means you lose a certain amount of information that should occupy that space. So avoid doing that.

There is a lot of talk about Full HD resolution these days. Here we have 1920 pixels wide and 1080 pixels high image. Such resolution is very common among televisions these days. However, there is also Ultra HD, which is also known as 4K. This means that the resolution here is about 4000 pixels, although is usually a bit less – 3840 pixels.

Contrast

Contrast represents a visual ratio between different tones in an image. It defines color characteristics and affects areas such as highlights, shadows, colors, clarity, and textures. A simple way of putting it is to say that contrast is the scale of difference between black and white in the photo. High contrast means that there will be bright highlights and dark shadows, whether low contrast images have little difference between light and dark tones.

We also know different types of contrasts. There is Tonal contrast, which refers to dark and bright areas in the photo. Then we have Color contrast which means pairing warm and cold colors to make them stand out more. We also know Conceptual contrast, which helps us add depth and encourages viewers to engage with the photo. Then there’s also Texture contrast, where we combine rough and soft elements for an extra punch. All of the contrasts are very important if we want the image to look professional and appealing. So we must know how to use them if we want to achieve that magical result. They can help us tell a story and make certain things stand out more. So we can really be artistic with the contrast.

Best phone for 500 dollars – CONCLUSION

As you have learned choosing the best phone for 500 dollars is not a trivial task. The phone cannot compare to a professional DSLR camera with its small sensor size. Therefore, it is important that the sensor quality is at the top level and you will also need to play with some manual camera settings, as standard auto mode usually won’t cut it.

Any phone from our list will give you the best camera experience. So if you stay within our selection of the best phones for 500 dollars you are good and ready to go. Have fun taking photos.

People also like

Leave a Reply