Some of the biggest Chinese phone brands now officially sell their smartphones in the UK, and consumers are becoming more familiar with the likes of Huawei, Xiaomi, OnePlus, Oppo and Vivo. Even today, though, it can be difficult to source some of these phones on British soil - and knowing which handset to plump for can be complicated.
It has always been the case that Chinese phones offer better value for money than those officially sold in the UK. We're starting to see brands like Huawei, OnePlus and Oppo push up their prices, going some way to bridge this gap, but Xiaomi and Realme are among those still offering often unbelieveable pricing.
Lower down the smartphone food chain there are countless other Chinese brands you'll likely not have heard of, for example UMIDIGI and Bluboo, Ulefone and Elefone, Oukitel and Meizu. On paper the specifications of their phones impress, but you'll often find corners are cut in the specifications to keep down prices - they might swap in lower-power MediaTek processors and large but lower-resolution displays, for example, while NFC, wireless charging and waterproofing can be rare.
On the plus side, Chinese phones pretty much always support dual-SIM (dual-standby), with Xiaomi phones usually offering dual-4G, and often will provide this in addition to expandable storage. As they strive to mimic the market leaders, design and build quality of Chinese phones tend to be very high.
Depending on the brand, it can be cheaper to buy Chinese phones from China itself. We've used suppliers such as Geekbuying and GearBest to do so in the past. There are some caveats, of course, and as well as potentially longer delivery times you do face the prospect of being asked to pay import duty (20% of the value printed on the shipping paperwork). Check out our grey-market tech buying advice for more.
Below we've assembled some of the best Chinese phones you can buy in the UK today. If these prices are above your budget, also check out some of the best budget Chinese phones.
1. OnePlus 8 Pro
The OnePlus 8 Pro is arguably the company's first full flagship, finally incorporating long-requested features like wireless charging and an IP68 waterproof rating to make it a genuine contender with Samsung's finest.
Understandably the price has gone up accordingly, but at £799/$899 for the base model - no slouch at 8GB RAM and 128GB storage - it still represents serious value by flagship standards, meaning you will save at least some money by opting for OnePlus over most other manufacturers. You can save even more with the £599/$699 OnePlus 8, though you'll have to give up a few features and downgrade the display and cameras.
The 8 Pro camera is OnePlus' best yet, and while it still lags behind rivals slightly in some software the hardware is among the best around, which has helped to close the gap considerably. Throw in 5G, a great design, and the best Android skin around and the OnePlus 8 Pro is easy to recommend to anyone who can afford it.
Read our full OnePlus 8 Pro review
2. Oppo Find X2 Pro
The Oppo Find X2 Pro is a phenomenal phone by any measure. The 6.7in, 10-bit, 120Hz, QHD+ panel is the best display in any phone right now, and Oppo backs it up with the fastest wired charging around at 65W, and a top-tier camera that boasts two 48Mp lenses and up to 10x hybrid zoom.
You’ll have to live without wireless charging, and the choice between bland grey ceramic or garish orange vegan leather finishes might leave some struggling to find a design that suits their style.
For pure performance though, the Find X2 Pro can’t be beat right now, with all of the above plus a Snapdragon 865 5G, 512GB storage, and 12GB RAM - you just have to be willing to pay the price, as at £1,099 it doesn't come cheap.
Read our full Oppo Find X2 Pro review
3. Realme X50 Pro
Realme's first 5G flagship (and second-ever flagship phone) is an impressively affordable device that doesn't skimp on high-end specs and features.
The Realme X50 Pro forgoes aspects like IP water resistance and a thin body, but in return sports the latest and greatest Snapdragon 865 chipset, 5G, up to 12GB of RAM, fast UFS 3.0 storage and insane 65W 'SuperDart' fast charging, which delivers 60% charge in just 15 minutes and a full charge in only 35.
Best of all, with an initial starting price of £569, the X50 Pro costs nearly half that of most top-tier Android flagships on the market in 2020.
Read our full Realme X50 Pro review
4. OnePlus Nord
An outstanding affordable buy for 2020 with great performance, 5G, OnePlus' signature Oxygen OS user experience and a more diverse camera setup than the company has ever used on a phone. What's not to love?
What the OnePlus Nord really demonstrates is the company's ability to prioritise the features that users are looking for right now and wrapping them up in an attractive package with a compelling price point.
Read our full OnePlus Nord review
5. Realme X3 SuperZoom
It's hard to consider the Realme X3 SuperZoom without also taking into account the OnePlus 7T.
The OnePlus costs the same and offers a more premium design and user experience, while the Realme wins out with extra memory, an even higher 120Hz refresh-rate display and an impressively versatile camera that you don't find at this price point.
Read our full Realme X3 SuperZoom review
6. OnePlus 8
Colour quirks aside, the OnePlus 8 is a fantastic flagship smartphone at an amazing price. You rarely get this quality level of design, features and performance at such good value.
When the biggest let down is that the main camera can do a better job of close-ups than the macro lens, you know you have an excellent phone. The main thing is whether the Pro is enough to tempt you to splash out.
Read our full OnePlus 8 review
7. Oppo Reno 10X Zoom
The Reno 10x Zoom feels a lot like the OnePlus 7 Pro, but trades that phone's phenomenal screen for a better camera instead - a trade-off that's likely to make sense for a lot of people. It's got top 2019 specs, decent battery, and a slick design - as long as you don't mind the shark fin.
Getting a Snapdragon 855 and a full-screen, notchless display for £699 is a good deal no matter which way you look at it, but the real sell is the triple camera array. With a 48Mp main lens and a 5x optical zoom that can simulate 10x thanks to software tricks, this is one of the few cameras on the market that can rival the Huawei P30 Pro.
The few downsides are that the AMOLED panel is only 1080p, the speakers are a bit wimpy, and ColorOS still feels like a bit of a work in progress - but for most people these will hardly matter at all.
Read our full Oppo Reno 10x Zoom review
8. Huawei P30 Pro
We love the P30 Pro. The design is top-drawer stuff, the display is outstanding and the cameras are truly some of the best ever seen on a phone, even one year on.
Prices have dropped since it launched early in 2019 and it’s great value compared to many rival flagships.
If you want to spend less (and get a little less), there's the Huawei P30 to consider too.
Do note that the P30 was announced before Huawei was put on the US trade blocklist and Google announced its decision to pull support; therefore, it continues to have full access to Google apps, services and security updates.
Read our full Huawei P30 Pro review
9. Xiaomi Mi 9
It's now been superceded by Mi 10, but at significantly higher cost. Devilishly fast, insanely beautiful and offering the best value for money you'll find in any smartphone, anywhere. Mi 9 is a cracking deal below £500 where stock remains available.
It has an in-display fingerprint sensor as standard, Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 855 processor, 20W wireless charging, a larger screen and a triple-lens camera that includes a massive 48Mp lens.
Read our full Xiaomi Mi 9 review
10. Huawei P30
Huawei's pitch for the P30 is all about its camera, and it's fair to say that the company has delivered. The Pro model may be one step ahead, but this version is still a match for plenty of high-end phones out there.
Low light and long-distance shots are where Huawei has really thrown down the gauntlet, with a combination of three great lenses and some software tricks that even Google's Pixel phones struggle to match.
The P30 also looks stunning, with a big display (and small notch), some lovely colourful finishes, and a seriously slim body. Plus, there's even a headphone jack.
If you want a phone with a phenomenal camera but can't justify dropping close to a grand in one go, the Huawei P30 is seriously worth a look.
Do note that the P30 was announced before Huawei was put on the US trade blocklist and Google announced its decision to pull support, and as such, continues to have full access to Google apps, services and security updates.
Read our full Huawei P30 review
11. Xiaomi Mi Note 10
With Mi Note 10 Xiaomi has made a giant step forward in design, and complements its elegant body with enhanced MIUI 11 software.
Its USP is the penta-lens 108Mp camera, which wows on paper but can't stand up to the best cameraphones. More successfully, then, battery life is incredible.
This is not a flagship phone, but it’s a strong all-round mid-ranger, and thanks to an attractive price point it has serious appeal.
Read our full Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review
12. Xiaomi Mi Mix 3
Swapping out the awkwardly placed selfie camera with a new dual-lens model that is tucked away behind the screen, the Mi Mix 3 is one of several slider phones that shows how the concept should work. Not only allowing a proper full-screen display, but adding quick-access functionality to the phone.
In other respects Mi Mix 3 is not a huge upgrade over the 2S, and actually loses some of its bling over its predecessor with the absence of its 18K gold camera surround. But it's still a great phone, and it's astonishing to see just how far the original full-display phone has come.
Read our full Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 review
13. Nubia Z20
A dual-screen phone won’t be for everyone, but the Z20 is the closest you’re likely to get to a second display with mass-market appeal. A variety of settings and options mean you can use the second display as little or often as you like (for multi-tasking, always-on display, the camera, and more), while still enjoying all the benefits of the main camera for selfies, but it still feels a little awkward even at the best of times.
It’s just a shame that camera itself isn’t better, with strong triple lens hardware let down by software that’s only OK, resulting in heavily over-saturated colours in every shot. Then again, factor in the price - and super specs - and the Z20 delivers plenty of bang for its buck, competing surprisingly comfortably with phenomenal mid-range offerings from Xiaomi, Asus, Honor, and more.
If you want a second screen, the Z20 is almost certainly the best dual-display phone on the market right now - but it’s probably not quite enough to win over any new converts.
Read our full Nubia Z20 review
14. Huawei P40 Pro
A superb follow-up to one of 2019's best smartphones. The Huawei P40 Pro excels in every area, offering top-tier performance with the latest 5G and WiFi 6 networking technologies, superb battery life and fast charging, a stupendous camera setup on both the front and back, plus an eye-catching 90Hz 'Overflow' display.
For everything the P40 Pro brings to the table, though, the experience is tarnished by the absence of Google Mobile Services and the workarounds needed to make the phone as easy or as enjoyable to use without GMS aren't all that accessible to the average user.
Read our full Huawei P40 Pro review
15. Huawei Mate 30 Pro
The Huawei Mate 30 Pro is a promising phone that offers everything you'd want in a next-gen flagship, but without the say-so from the US government, asking people outside of China to spend close to £1000 on a phone that lacks what is considered a fundamental part of the Android experience in most other markets, renders the Mate 30 Pro a tainted product that will likely perform far worse than it deserves.
Read our full Huawei Mate 30 Pro review
16. Huawei P40
The P40 is a great bit of the kit that, although missing out on some of the high-end features of the Pro and Pro+ variants, can still take on most 2020 flagships in terms of photography and raw performance, beating the likes of the Galaxy S20 Ultra in most benchmark tests. It's also a good-looking smartphone with a unique matte glass finish on the rear that leaves a soft-touch sheen, and the bright 6.1in OLED display looks crisp too.
Of course, the real issue is the lack of Google Play services. Huawei has undercut its rivals, offering a significant saving on flagship-level hardware, but you won't be able to access apps like Google Maps and YouTube. Huawei's alternative store, AppGallery, has come a long way in the past year, but it still doesn't have all the apps that Westerners use most.
If you're a confident techie that doesn't mind side-loading apps and working around a Google-less ecosystem, the P40 is a phenomenal phone at a great price, but if you just want something that works out of the box, we'd suggest going for another option.
Read our full Huawei P40 review
17. Honor 20
The Honor 20 is a great-value phone that offers a lot for your money. It has better cameras than the View 20 and now costs about the same, though the premium finish (and headphone jack) help the View 20 just pip it in our view - though there isn't much in it.
The 20 is more powerful than the similarly priced Google Pixel 3a, but the trade-off is that you don't get stock Android or the guarantee of fast updates to new versions.
Read our full Honor 20 review
18. Oppo Reno2 Z
The Oppo Reno 2 Z, while not a complete redesign of the budget-friendly smartphone, offers a range of improvements including rear-facing quad-cameras, improved internals and large battery, making this a great incremental update and well worth considering at £329.
Oppo has managed to further improve the camera setup with a quad rear camera setup (48Mp + 8Mp ultra-wide + 2Mp mono + 2Mp depth sensor) and a retractable front-facing selfie camera that contributes to the smartphone's high-end look. It's also speedy, beating popular mid-rangers like the Pixel 3a in benchmarks, and the battery lasts all day without any issues.
Read our full Oppo Reno2 Z review
19. Realme 6
The Realme 6 is hands-down one of the best budget phones we've ever tested.
It's slightly chunky size won't be for everyone but this is currently the cheapest phone you can buy with a 90Hz display and it also has some decent cameras, speedy performance and solid battery life.
There's very little to dislike, especially when you can get it for just over £200. It can rival phones more than double the price.
Read our full Realme 6 review
20. Xiaomi Mi 9T
It never officially went on sale in the UK, but the Mi 9T is available through some UK distributors.
Until the Mi 9T Pro came along, the Mi 9T was the most balanced Xiaomi phone in the Mi 9 line-up, combining some of the best features of the Mi 9 series to create an affordable and strong all-rounder. Mi 9T Pro is now out of stock pretty much everywhere.
The large notch-less display, its huge battery and a triple-display camera promise to revolutionise the mid-range phone market.
Read our full Xiaomi Mi 9T review