5G on a budget: a look at three of the most budget-friendly 5G smartphones in India

5G services will formally launch in India starting this October. Here's a look at the most budget-friendly 5G-capable smartphones.

The Indian market is set to get a taste of 5G services starting 1st October. For the past couple of years, the smartphone space is being continuously populated with 5G capable devices. As a matter of fact, 5G smartphones made up nearly a third of the total shipments in Q2 2022 as per a recent report by Counterpoint. Present in a variety of price brackets, getting a 5G handset today has never been easier. At the same time, prospective buyers might feel overwhelmed with the abundance of choices at their disposal. 

But, fret not – today, I will be highlighting some of the best budget-friendly 5G smartphones on the market. I have narrowed down the list to three devices namely Redmi 11 Prime 5G (review), iQOO Z6 Lite 5G (review) and the Realme 9i 5G (review) as I feel they have the potential to sway buyers over to their doorsteps. All three devices are priced just under Rs 15,000 so, in this comparison, let’s try to figure out which 5G capable device is best suited for you.

5G bands supported

Out of all the three devices, the Redmi 11 Prime 5G supports the most bands for 5G New Radio (NR). These include seven stand-alone (SA) bands and four non-stand-alone bands (NSA). For the uninitiated, SA bands represent true end-to-end 5G networks while NSA bands piggybank on existing 4G towers.

In terms of network strength, the Redmi 11 Prime 5G supports the lower frequency 700Mhz n28 band which can penetrate urban infrastructures more efficiently. In addition, the device also supports n1, n3, n5, n8, and n40 bands as well. There is also support for the n78 band that operates on a 3.5GHz network frequency and can theoretically deliver 1GB/s of speeds. The iQOO Z6 Lite only has two SA bands namely n77/n78 and doesn’t have support for lower frequency bands. The Realme 9i 5G comes second with six SA bands and three NSA bands. As things stand, in terms of sheer connectivity, the Redmi 11 Prime 5G will be a better choice among the three phones.

Winner: Redmi 11 Prime 5G

Design and build

All phones have a standard polycarbonate build with the Redmi 11 Prime 5G and the iQOO Z6 Lite 5G having a near identical design. The Realme 9i 5G has a more glossy look to it which makes it a massive fingerprint magnet. However, I like how the camera housing is flush with the chassis, with only the cameras protruding slightly.

As for utility purposes, all phones have a side-mounted fingerprint sensor, a single firing bottom speaker, a USB Type-C port on the bottom, and dual-SIM connectivity. The Redmi 11 Prime 5G also has an additional IR blaster allowing you to control a certain number of home appliances. However, it loses points for placing the headphone jack in an unconventional position on the top. This round is a tie between all three phones.

Winner: Tie

Cameras

In terms of cameras, all three phones have a 50MP primary shooter with the 11 Prime 5G having an additional 2MP depth sensor and the iQOO Z6 Lite 5G getting a 2MP macro shooter in its place. The Realme 9i 5G has both the sensors alongside the main snapper which make up its triple-lens setup. All phones click very similar-looking shots in daylight but the Redmi 11 Prime 5G has more trouble in low light conditions compared to the other two contenders.

The Realme 9i 5G has the advantage of shooting both macro and portrait shots. However, the phone packs in a lower resolution 8MP selfie camera as compared to the 16MP selfie cameras on the other two. Analysing photos from all three devices, I have to conclude that the Realme 9i 5G does take marginally better shots and hence wins this round.

Winner: Realme 9i 5G

Display

Talking about the display, you get about a 6.6-inch LCD panel with a waterdrop notch on all three phones. While the resolution remains FHD+ across the displays of all three phones, the iQOO Z6 Lite comes out on top as the handset’s panel refreshes at 120Hz as opposed to 90Hz on the Redmi 11 Prime 5G and Realme 9i 5G. Brightness levels on all three smartphones are around the same at 400nits and all three also have WideVine L1 certification. As such, the iQOO Z6 Lite takes this bout. 

Winner: iQOO Z6 Lite

Performance

Performance-wise, the Realme 9i 5G ships with better processing capabilities than the competition, which can be accredited to MediaTek’s Dimensity 810 SoC powering the phone. The Redmi 11 Prime 5G runs on the lower-end Dimensity 700 platform while the iQOO Z6 Lite features the newly launched Qualcomm Snapdragon 4 Gen 1 chipset. A look at the Antutu scores reaffirms the Realme 9i’s performance metrics.

In fact, the device net the highest score and secured 400,256 points in the benchmark. In comparison, the iQOO Z6 Lite and the Redmi 11 Prime overturned 385,019 and 340,756 points respectively. Turn the page over to gaming and you’ll get a similar result. In fact, the Realme 9i is able to run PUBG New State at 60fps for a longer time than the Redmi 11 Prime and the Z6 Lite. All devices have up to 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. This round is taken by the Realme 9i 5G.

Winner: Realme 9i 5G

Battery

All three devices have a 5,000mAh battery at the helm, which coincidentally, can be juiced up at 18W on all three phones. However, the iQOO Z6 Lite is the only phone that does not come with a charger inside the box. Comparing PCMark scores, the Redmi 11 Prime 5G scores 20h 6m while the numbers for the Z6 Lite and Realme 9i are 19h 9m and 15h 58m respectively. The Redmi 11 Prime 5G will take this round.

Winner: Redmi 11 Prime 5G

Final verdict

From these comparisons, we can see that the Realme 9i and Redmi 11 Prime 5G are tied with two wins while the iQOO Z6 Lite wins in the display department. However, when talking about core 5G services and capability, the Redmi 11 Prime 5G should be your ideal budget companion.