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CheckMag | Forget the iPhone 15 Pro, Galaxy S24 Ultra: 4 flagship killers with competitive price tags

We liked the Xiaomi 14 Pro and 13T in our recent tests of the Chinese smartphones. (Image source: Notebookcheck reviews)
We liked the Xiaomi 14 Pro and 13T in our recent tests of the Chinese smartphones. (Image source: Notebookcheck reviews)
If you're looking for the best of the best, Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra and Apple's iPhone 15 Pro Max will both likely call your name, but they demand a price premium. Here are four alternatives to the typical flagship choices, from the video-snapping Xiaomi 14 Pro to the venerable Google Pixel 7 Pro.

1. Google Pixel 7 Pro - last year's flagship is this year's mid-range

One of the best strategies for smartphone bargain hunting is to look at last year's flagships. While the Google Pixel 7a is technically newer than the Google Pixel 7 Pro, the full-fledged Google Pixel 7 Pro can consistently be found for as little as $520 on sites like Amazon — even lower, if you're prepared to wait for a deal.

In our in-depth review, we found the Google Pixel 7 Pro to perform admirably compared to its competitors in day-to-day tasks, but where it truly shines is in the photography department. Thanks to a versatile 50 MP main camera with OIS, a 12 MP ultra-wide lens, and a 48 MP 5× telephoto lens, the Google Pixel 7 Pro is a strong candidate for cut-rate photography champ.

Given the older Google Tensor G2 chipset, the Google Pixel 7 Pro won't get as many Android updates as its cheaper 7a brethren, but it will still get Android version updates until at least October 2025 and security updates until October 2027.

Get the Google Pixel 7 Pro on Amazon for $519.66 at the time of writing.

2. Xiaomi 13T - Galaxy S24 killer

The Xiaomi 13T delivers everything you might expect from a flagship smartphone at nearly half the price. Where the Samsung Galaxy S24 starts at $799 from Amazon, the Xiaomi 13T can be had for as little as $472 on Amazon. In our testing of the Xiaomi 13T, we found it to be impressively performant and offer a solid flagship experience with very little compromise.

The MediaTek Dimensity 8200-Ultra in the Xiaomi 13T is sufficiently fast to get through everyday tasks and even enjoy a spot of gaming, while the 144 Hz AMOLED display delivers 1,250 nits of brightness, and the 5,000 mAh battery is plenty for even an average power user.

The camera system on the Xiaomi 13T also offers few compromises, featuring a 50 MP main sensor with OIS and a Leica lens, a 12 MP ultra-wide lens, and a 50 MP 2× telephoto camera. We found its low-light performance to be particularly good for the category, while colour rendition and detail levels are rather pleasing, especially given the price.

3. Xiaomi 14 Pro - affordable ultra video

At the more expensive end of the flagship spectrum lie devices like the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and iPhone 15 Pro Max. It's these devices that need to watch out for the likes of the Xiaomi 14 Pro. In our review of the Xiaomi 14 Pro, we praised its camera system for delivering crisp, bright images across a range of conditions and at various zoom levels.

The main 50 MP lens in the Xiaomi 14 Pro has a nifty trick up its sleeve. The f/1.9–4.0 variable aperture makes it particularly well-suited for video, allowing smartphone videographers to maintain a set frame rate while moving through different brightness settings. This makes the Xiaomi 14 Pro a particularly strong contender against those $1,000+ devices, like the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra (curr. $1,299.99 on Amazon) or the Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max (curr. $1,199.99 at Best Buy).

The large battery, sharp 2K OLED screen that delivers 1025 nits of brightness, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 SoC also make the Xiaomi 14 Pro pleasant to live with, although those sensitive to PWM flickering has best look elsewhere.

The Xiaomi 14 Pro can be imported to the EU and US from sites like TradingShenzhen for $793.72.

4. OnePlus 12R - flagship specs at mid-range prices

At the time of writing, the OnePlus 12R is on sale in the US for $499 via Amazon, putting it significantly below the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S24 and other flagship alternatives. Considering the price, the OnePlus 12R doesn't cut too many corners. Apart from the older Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoC inside the device, it's got flagship-grade hardware all around.

The 6.78-inch LTPO4.0 AMOLED ProXDR display is clad in Gorilla Glass Victus 2, while the frame is constructed from aluminium with a glass back. In terms of camera hardware, the OnePlus 12R is packing a triple-lens setup with a 50 MP main sensor with OIS, an 8 MP ultra-wide sensor, and a measly 2 MP space-wasting macro sensor.

Frivolous use of camera hardware aside, the OnePlus 12R also promises solid battery life with a 5,500 mAh battery and 80 W SuperVOOC fast charging to top it up once it does die.


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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2024 02 > Forget the iPhone 15 Pro, Galaxy S24 Ultra: 4 flagship killers with competitive price tags
Julian van der Merwe, 2024-02-27 (Update: 2024-02-27)