Top 10 best budget smartphones of 2011

Features 12:53, 13 Sep 2011

We take a look at 10 budget smartphones from 2011 which are definitely worth a look if you’re considering a smartphone, but don’t want to pay premium prices

Most of us would love an iPhone or a top of the range Android device, but sometimes those pennies have to go elsewhere.

Fear not, though. We've decided to take a look at the best budget handsets on the market for under £200, ensuring you can get involved in the smartphone scene without breaking the bank.

Orange Monte Carlo/ZTE Skate

Orange’s Monte Carlo is a re-branded version of Chinese manufacturer ZTE’s Skate model.

Regardless of whether you get the handset through Orange or otherwise you’re getting a very nice phone for your money here, with competitive performance from an 800MHz processor.

It might not have the top-end performance of those 1GHz plus premium handsets but for general use you’re certainly not going to be left standing still.

Although you get a good deal through Orange at £149.99, or free on a pay monthly contract, it should be noted that Orange’s interface overlay doesn’t exactly make for smooth navigation through the phone’s Android 2.3 Gingerbread menus.

We found it quite easy to get around this in our review through the use of third party launchers like Launcher Pro, which allow for extra customisation, too.

At its price point we were really impressed with the 4.3-inch display that offers very clear visuals at 217 pixels-per-inch (ppi) and in particular we found the phone excellent for reading websites on the go.

The onboard speakers were also surprisingly good, delivering high-quality audio with virtually no distortion.

HTC Trophy 7

Most Windows Phone 7 smartphones are on the expensive side. HTC’s Trophy 7 is probably the lowest priced model so far and can be had for around £200, depending on where you look.

It's more expensive than some of the other phones here, but you do get quite a bit of power for your money, including a 1GHz single core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 8GB of onboard storage and 576MB of RAM.

The screen is on the smaller side of things at 3.8-inches but with a 480x800 pixel resolution you get a razor sharp image quality at 246ppi.

But perhaps the most appealing aspect is the operating system itself. Windows Phone 7 is gleefully simple to get to grips with and with the forthcoming Mango update will be one of the most feature-packed platforms on the market.

Over 500 changes and tweaks are planned, many of which are focused on making as fluid and intuitive an experience as possible.

Motorola Defy

With the above phones you actually get a little more than you might expect from a budget package. The Motorola Defy is a decent enough phone but is far more in-line with its status as a mid-range model.

It packs an 800MHz processor, just like the ZTE Skate, only this time it’s based on ARM’s powerful Cortex-A8 architecture and the TI OMAP3610 chipset.

Storage is on the smaller side with 2GB of internal capacity, but it can be upgraded via a microSD card, and the 512MB of RAM is not bad. It may look a bit like an iPhone but the Defy runs Android 2.1 Éclair, though, it can be upped to 2.2 Froyo.

The screen is a bit smaller than the Trophy’s at 3.7-inch but it sports a 480x854 pixel resolution and an extremely clear picture with its lofty 265 ppi pixel density. You’d be hard pushed to find a better ppi screen at this level.

BlackBerry Curve 9360

RIM’s BlackBerry Curve 9360 is a brand new up-to-date model of the classic BlackBerry.

A screen, a fixed Qwerty keyboard and an optical track-pad is all you need on this handset.

And that screen might not be a sweepy touch-sensitive one, but it’s still quite pretty. Okay, so it’s only 2.4-inches, but with a 480x360 pixel resolution and a pixel density of 246ppi everything is presented sharply.

Processing power comes from an 800MHz processor backed up by 512MB of RAM. You also get 512MB of onboard storage and micro SD support up to 32GB, if you have quite the media collection.

Best of all, it comes with the latest version of RIM’s own operating system, BlackBerry OS 7, which is the most well-rounded and feature-rich build to date and much more competitive with rival platforms.

Samsung Wave 2

The Samsung Wave 2 is rather similar to Motorola’s Defy in terms of spec line-up, although the processor is bumped up by 200MHz to a 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8.

There’s also the extra graphical grunt provided by the PowerVR SGX540 graphics processing unit (GPU).

For storage, 2GB of internal space is supplemented by microSD support for up to 32GB.

The operating system used here is Samsung’s own Bada version 1.2. Bada 2.0 is coming soon but ultimately it’s not as appealing a platform as Android, Windows Phone or BlackBerry OS. It's lacking in features, for one thing.

One of the more impressive features is the capacitive touchscreen, using Samsung’s Super Clear LCD technology, which is as good as Super Amoled, though, it does consume a bit more power.

The display measures 3.7-inches and boasts an impressive 800x480 pixel resolution and 252 ppi, meaning image quality is crystal clear.

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