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Home / iPhone / Best Chinese Phones 2017: Top Chinese Phone Reviews & Buying Advice

Best Chinese Phones 2017: Top Chinese Phone Reviews & Buying Advice

What’s the best Chinese phone you can buy in the UK?

  1. OnePlus 3T
  2. Xiaomi Mi5s
  3. Xiaomi Mi Note 2
  4. Xiaomi Mi Mix
  5. Huawei Mate 9

Jump straight to our full best Chinese phones chart

Your buying guide for the best Chinese phones in 2017

You’ve probably heard of brands such as Huawei/Honor, ZTE and Lenovo, although you might not be aware that the latter makes phones as well as laptops. Xiaomi, too, is becoming increasingly popular worldwide, and is known as China’s Apple. Also see: Best kids’ phones 2017

Also see: Best Phone Deals

But the problem with many Chinese phones is that they can be difficult to get hold of in the UK. To buy a Chinese phone in the UK you’ll either need to look on a site such as eBay or Amazon, or go through a grey-market importer such as Geekbuying, GearBest or Coolicool. Be sure to read up on our grey-market tech buying advice before you do so.

Should you buy a Chinese phone in the UK?

Pros:

• Excellent value for money

• Competitive specification

• Usually dual-SIM

• None of your friends will have the same phone

Cons:

• Without an official channel through which to purchase you may unintentionally buy a counterfeit product

• Faulty devices may be difficult to return

• You may incur import duty (charged at 20 percent of the value on the shipping paperwork plus an admin fee)

• The phone may not work with your network (be sure to check before you buy)

• Google Play may not be preinstalled (as is the case with some Xiaomi and Meizu phones)

Features and specifications to expect from a Chinese phone

The majority of Chinese phones we’ve reviewed have been dual-SIM dual-standby. We’ve found this to be a standard feature of Chinese phones at any price point.

However, in the case of Huawei/Honor phones, which are among those that are officially sold in the UK, the UK variant is often not dual-SIM. You should also check whether the second SIM slot is in addition to or replacing the phone’s microSD slot. Also see: Best dual-SIM phones 2017 and dual-SIM buying advice.

4G is a common feature even at the lower price points. An increasing number of phones will support 4G on both SIM slots, but dual-standby phones will ask you to select one or the other for data.

And while we’re used to seeing phones that standardise on nano- or Micro-SIM, Chinese phones can occasionally still feature full-size SIM slots (though this is now becoming much less common). Of course, you can pick up an adaptor from somewhere like Amazon for as little as a pound. Also see: What is 4G? Complete guide to 4G.

The fact that a Chinese phone supports 4G doesn’t necessarily mean it will work on your UK network, mind. Always check a phone’s frequency bands before purchase.

In the UK we use LTE bands 3, 7 and 20, or look for 800-, 1800- and 2600MHz. EE operates on all three, Three on 800- and 1800MHz, O2 on 800MHz, and Vodafone on 800- and 2600MHz. Also see: How to tell if a phone is supported by your mobile network.

MediaTek processors are a common feature within Chinese phones, and we’re now beginning to see the deca-core Helio X25 and X27 in some Chinese phones. More often, though, the MediaTek processors inside Chinese phones are marketed as octa-core and 64-bit.

Whereas many UK-sold octa-core flagships are sold with four cores tuned for performance and four for efficiency, here you’ll usually find all eight cores running at the same speed; increasingly UK flagships now run quad-core chips from the Qualcomm Snapdragon family.

Two- or even 3GB of RAM is not uncommon, and 4GB is often available as a top-end option, and expect to find 32GB of storage, with microSD support (often only to 32- or 64GB, rather than 128GB). Also see: What’s the fastest smartphone 2017.

Rather than NFC, phones with MediaTek processors often come with a feature called HotKnot. This works in a similar way, allowing you to do such things as share files and play multiplayer games with other HotKnot-capable phones.

You will almost certainly also find a fingerprint scanner, and thankfully most are now touch- rather than swipe-style scanners.

In the photography department a 13Mp Sony sensor with f/2.2 aperture is often found at the rear, while you’ll usually get a 5Mp selfie camera at the front. The camera functionality is very similar to that of any other Android phone, but you may find the Face Beauty mode whitens your skin tone – the painting of a face white is a cultural tradition. There will be a slider somewhere that lets you turn off this effect. Also see: Best sounding phone 2017.

A full-HD screen is common, with Quad-HD much less so and HD screens still found in the cheapest models, and we’ve reviewed many a 5.5in-screen Chinese phablet.

The screen is usually a good-quality IPS panel, and may often be marketed as having 2.5D Arc glass or 3D glass. This does not mean the screen is curved, but rather that the edges of the screen are slightly curved (like on the iPhone 7).

Gorilla Glass is another common feature, which is fortunate because getting hold of a case for a Chinese phone is just as involved as buying the phone itself (we advise getting one at the time of purchase, although you often find one is supplied in the box).

Customisable gestures are not built into Android, but they are very common in Chinese phones. This means you are likely to be able to double-tap to wake the screen, and by drawing a letter onscreen in standby mode you will be able to launch an app of your choice. Many Chinese phones will also allow you to use gestures to trigger the camera shutter.

While we’re on the subject of software, be aware that some Chinese phones are sold rooted. For many people that’s a bonus – for example UMI’s Rootjoy app lets you easily install any OS you like – but it will put off some customers.

We advise you to check whether wireless updates are available or if you will have to manually update the phone before you buy, if you think the latter may cause you grief.

What about the other brands?

We’ve been reviewing Chinese phones supplied to us by Geekbuying, Coolicool and GearBest for a good couple of years now, but the honest truth is there are still many Chinese phones out there we have yet to review, and many, many Chinese phone manufacturers we’ve never even heard of.

Some of those phones may deserve to join our list, but we won’t recommend any Chinese phone we haven’t physically held and tested.

Over time we will build up our collection of Chinese phone reviews, and in the meantime we offer this chart not as a definitive guide to buying Chinese phones but as a guide to what you can expect for your money when you buy from China.

If you’ve found a Chinese phone not listed in our chart then check its spec and compare it to the phones we’ve reviewed here.

Read next: Best new phones coming in 2017

Best Chinese phones 2017 UK – best Chinese phone reviews


1.

OnePlus 3T


2.

Xiaomi Mi5s

Xiaomi Mi5s


3.

Xiaomi Mi Note 2

Xiaomi Mi Note 2


4.

Xiaomi Mi Mix

Xiaomi Mi Mix


5.

Huawei Mate 9

Huawei Mate 9


6.

Xiaomi Mi 5

Xiaomi Mi 5


7.

UMIDIGI Z Pro

UMIDIGI Z Pro


8.

UMI Z

UMI Z


9.

Xiaomi Redmi Pro

Xiaomi Redmi Pro


10.

Honor 8

Honor 8


11.

Elephone S7

Elephone S7


12.

Elephone P9000

Elephone P9000


13.

OnePlus 2

OnePlus 2


14.

OnePlus X

OnePlus X


15.

Xiaomi Redmi 3S

Xiaomi Redmi 3S


16.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 4

Xiaomi Redmi Note 4


17.

Ulefone Future

Ulefone Future


18.

Xiaomi Mi Max

Xiaomi Mi Max


19.

Meizu M3 Note

Meizu M3 Note


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