You might think you need to buy a thousand-dollar phone to have a great experience streaming movies and TV shows from services like Netflix, Hulu and Get YouTube. but that's just not true anymore. As phone prices continue to rise and the mid-range segment now ranges from $ 300 to $ 500, there are still cost-effective options with world-class displays and media features.
To make this list, we searched for cell phones with large displays. Excellent battery life, fast modems and other features that enhance the media experience. After extensive testing, we are confident that these are the best sub-500 phones for this particular application. Although there are better phones overall, the five listed here are the best midrange speakers for those who mainly want to stream movies and TV.
Table of Contents
- Starting Price: The price of the lowest price of the phone.
- SoC: The system-on-a-chip (or processor) is what powers the device. This hardware component determines the overall performance of the phone and even affects video streaming services. Three of the phones in our list have midrange processors, while two (the ZenFone 5Z and Honor View 10) have the same top-of-the-line SoCs that you find at twice the price.
- Modem: The hardware component responsible for managing your LTE wireless data connection. Modems are measured in categories, with higher numbers indicating faster theoretical maximum speeds. With a better modem, there is less chance that videos will be cached or lose quality.
- Screen Size: This is probably the most critical criterion on our list, the size of the display on the smartphone. When it comes to video consumption, a larger screen is preferred.
- Resolution: Almost as important, the resolution is the maximum number of pixels displayed on the screen. 1080p is the standard as most movies and TV shows are output at this resolution. Although there are 4K, there are not many streaming sources that support videos at this resolution.
- Pixel Density: The best measure of the sharpness of a display. If you multiply the resolution numbers (see above), you will find the total number of pixels on a screen. If you then divide that number by the total area of the screen, you will see how many pixels per square centimeter of the screen are there. The higher the PPI (pixels per inch), the sharper the screen.
- Aspect Ratio: Ratio of the width of an ad to its height. This number is used when watching movies because the aspect ratio of movies varies depending on the aspect ratio of your screen. Compared to 16: 9 screens, 18: 9 screens do not display horizontal black bars for 1.85: 1 videos (typical of older movies like The Godfather ), and black bars become smaller 2.39: 1 videos (found in recent films such as Netflix's The Cloverfield Paradox ).
- Screen-to-Body Ratio: The ratio of the display to the comparison of the front of the phone. The higher the percentage, the smaller the forehead and chin, resulting in a more immersive viewing experience.
- Display Type: The display technology used. There are only two options for smartphones: OLED or LCD. To ensure more accuracy, we have labeled the displays with their specific marketing names. In these particular phones, OLED is referred to as AMOLED and LCD as IPS-LCD.
- Battery Size: The capacity of the battery. A larger capacity usually indicates a better battery life.
- Expandable Storage: Although the internal memory of smartphones has become much larger lately, it's always nice to have microSD support. Not only does this provide a significant amount of storage space at an affordable price, it also helps if you can download videos without an Internet connection using the video streaming service you are using.
- OS version: Which version of the Android operating system is running on the phone. One of the phones on our list is currently running the latest version Android 9.0 Pie, and two other phones are just one version behind Android 8.1 Oreo.
- Netflix Picture-in-Picture: While Android 8.0 Oreo has added picture-in-picture mode to most apps, Netflix is different. The streaming service requires Android 8.1 Oreo or higher for this feature to work so that only three devices in our list can access it.
- YouTube HDR: The device can play HDR content on YouTube. HDR (High Dynamic Range) offers higher quality than HDR, as light can be displayed more accurately.
- Prime Video HDR: The device can play HDR content from content on Amazon Prime Video.
- Maximum Brightness: The maximum brightness that can be achieved by the display. This number is measured in nits, with a higher number indicating a brighter display. Brighter screens are required when looking at your phone in direct sunlight. The data was obtained from Phone Arena.
- Minimum Brightness: The minimum brightness the display can achieve. Lower brightness values help with night vision and can reduce battery consumption, which is important when viewing favorite shows. The data was obtained from Phone Arena.
- Battery life: The battery life of the phone when viewing a video at 50% screen brightness. We used data from GSM Arena, which shut down a fully charged battery to 10% while running standard definition video in airplane mode.
- Speaker Placement: The position of the speaker on the device. When you watch videos without headphones, the placement of the speaker plays a big role in making listening easy. Ideally, you want the speakers to be aimed at you.
- Speaker Volume: How loud the speakers can be. Measured in decibels, higher numbers are better because your content is easier to hear in noisy environments. This data is from Phone Arena.
- Headphone Jack: Indicates whether the phone contains the 3.5mm headphone jack. Since we enjoy movies on the go, this port offers the best listening experience.
How We Dialed These Phones
Our first requirement was that every phone on our list cost $ 500 or less. Today, the $ 1,000 price level was well above $ 1,000, and we felt that half the price was within the budget of most users, without compromising functionality.
Second, we focused exclusively on phones released on or after January 1, 2018. Although older flagships could have been considered at this price, Android OEMs are giving up software support as soon as they leave, We did not want to recommend a phone that could become obsolete soon.
We only selected phones that did this Google's Compatibility Test Suite – without this certification, you would lose access to certain apps on the Google Play Store, including Netflix. Many phones from various Chinese manufacturers have been abolished due to this requirement.
In connection with this requirement, we focused only on phones that were officially released in the US. While importing is always an option, these phones are usually not guaranteed because the manufacturer does not support a device in regions where it has not been officially released. For this reason, some Nokia mobile phones and the Honor 8X could not be used to make our list.
We consider screen size as one of the most important components when it comes to video playback. Therefore, we have strictly followed phones with a display of at least 5.5 inches. With this screen size, videos can be easily viewed, including subtitles if you need them.
At first glance, you question the $ 349 of the Nokia 7.1. HMD (Nokia's developers) were able to develop a phone that looks like a flagship and is priced well. Typically, OEMs do this by saving on the hardware by combining the midrange specifications with a nice design. However, this is not the case with Nokia 7.1. HMD included not only midrange specs but also a brand new display that provides HDR content for a small budget.
In addition to the design, the Nokia 7.1 is characterized mainly by its new PureDisplay technology. Since the screen is the most important factor in a film's movie surveillance features, it's no wonder that Nokia was able to lead our list. Because the new PureDisplay brings HDR content to an IPS LCD panel. HMD partnered with Pixelworks to improve the quality of LCD panels so they could achieve the one million to one dynamic contrast ratio required to display HDR content. And although the Moto Z3 Play has an AMOLED panel (more on that later), this is just one HDR10-certified panel on our list and the only one that can display high-dynamic-range content.
The Nokia 7.1 was certified by Amazon to display Prime Video in HDR, so Users can see thousands of hours of content. In addition, the Nokia 7.1 includes an SDR-to-HDR converter that allows non-HDR content to be converted to HDR in real-time. This feature allows the device to enjoy HDR content even with services that are not certified for Nokia 7.1.
Even if the screen is not the brightest, it will be for the times when you have something too Stay up late to watch a show, pretty weak. Like any other Nokia device released in 2018, Nokia 7.1 is part of the Android One program. Software updates are controlled by Google, meaning that they are received much faster than other home appliances. At the time of this article's release, Nokia 7.1 is on Android 8.1 Oreo with the promise of Android 9.0 Pie in the coming months.
Even with the second most recent version of Android, it has an advantage over some other phones on our list. Although Android introduced the Picture-in-Picture mode in Android 8.0 Oreo, Netflix decided to limit this feature to Android 8.1 Oreo devices and newer. With the exception of the Moto Z3 Play and Honor View10, this is the only phone on our list that supports PiP mode in all apps, including Netflix.
The Nokia 7.1 is the best choice for those who use their phones primarily for media consumption. Its HDR-capable screen outperforms many cell phones in this price range and even offers the ability to convert SDR video to HDR. Fast software updates also make it possible to be one of the first devices to take advantage of Android's latest features, including video enhancements. It's also one of the best looking phones on our list, all at the lowest price. With the Nokia 7.1 you get not only the best mobile phone for streaming movies, but also the best price.
Buy a Nokia 7.1: Amazon | Best Buy | B & H
Phone 2: ASUS ZenFone 5Z
For many, the ASUS ZenFone 5Z was written off as an iPhone X clone. However, if you dig deeper, you will find that ASUS has done some impressive things with this device, especially for the price. This phone is so good for streaming video, we initially had it on our best mobile overview for those who had no budget. Just because of the recent releases of cell phones in October and the release of an even better phone, the so-called ROG Phone, by ASUS, we had to downgrade it to this midrange list.
The ZenFone 5Z has the highest screen-to-body ratio of 90% Value on our list. No other phone cracks 80%, so this feat is very impressive. With this ratio, you can enjoy the 6.2-inch display (the highest on our list) with minimal bezels. According to ASUS, it has a case that resembles a 2017 5.5-inch phone in terms of context. It's also one of the few phones on our list with the ability to adjust the color temperature of the screen based on the environment to get the best viewing experience based on your location.
And then there are the speakers: The ZenFone 5Z is the only phone with stereo speakers on our list Give them real 2-channel sound in movies and shows. The two speakers are similar to many flagships arranged and combine The speaker with the lowest shot and the earphone Each speaker has its own intelligent amplifier NXP 9874, which produces a loud sound without affecting the audio quality. Besides, it is the only phone on our list that supports the function DTS Headphone: X which artificially creates s urround sound audio via headphones. Instead of directing audio in one direction, the sound is focused on your ears from multiple angles, which makes the experience more intense.
The ZenFone 5Z is one of two phones on our list using a SoC with flagship caliber. This device is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, the preferred SoC for all 2018 flagship smartphones, including Pixel 3 XL and Galaxy Note 9. Daily tasks are fast, from opening emails to playing games. However, for the film observers, the Adreno 630 GPU, which can handle more than any video you send, is important. The X20 modem is one of the fastest modems in a smartphone with peak download speeds of 1.2 Gbps.
The only big problem with the ZenFone 5Z is the lack of HDR support for Netflix, YouTube and Prime Video. With an LCD display and no enhancements it can not produce HDR content (unlike Nokia 7.1). At $ 499, though, this is a tough bid. Flagship SoC, stereo speakers, 90% screen-to-body ratio and the second brightest screen on our list – a great phone for those who want to carry a mini TV.
Buy a ZenFone 5Z: Amazon | ASUS | B & H
Phone 3: Honor View 10
Earlier in the year, when Huawei was trying to boost the US market, they released one of the best phones on this side of OnePlus. Priced at $ 528.99, the Honor View offers 10 flagship specifications such as a large 18: 9 display and a super-fast modem at a price that is about half the price of other OEMs. As Huawei continued to lose the fight against the US government, the price of this device fell to $ 479, making this device an even better price, especially for those who want to watch videos on a budget.
Except for the ASUS ZenFone 5Z There is no other phone on our list that uses a flagship SoC. Honor View 10's Kirin 970 is a system-on-chip exclusive developed by Huawei for its Huawei and Honor brands. These SoCs compete with Qualcomm's latest offering and are typically a few points better in benchmarks. The Kirin 970 is actually the same chipset used in the 2017 Huawei Mate 10 Pro. Since it was released before the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, it's a bit slower, but not nearly. His GPU, however, is more than capable of playing any video you need.
More importantly, the phone includes a modem. Like the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, it uses a modem with Cat. 18 download speeds. With this modem, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and other video streaming services can maintain the 1080p resolution the display can deliver.
The Honor View 10 has a large 5.99-inch IPS LCD screen with a resolution of 2160 x 1080. The battery life is not as impressive as we hope (especially because it has the largest battery capacity However, we expect that this will change with the Android 9.0 Pie Update. The update (which shifts out at the time of writing) adds new battery management tools, such as Adaptive Battery, that automatically limit AI's background usage. As soon as the update reaches our view 10, we will certainly update our diagram.
The Honor View 10 is an excellent phone for streaming because of its value. For $ 479 you get a flagship with fast modem, large screen and the latest Android version. They get the second highest pixel density, so that pictures are sharp and even a headphone jack (a rarity in cell phones, which is twice as expensive). The Honor View 10 is a great choice for movie watchers who are looking for a budget phone that wants a good overall performance.
Buy an Honor View10: Amazon | B & H | HiHonor
Phone 4: Moto Z3 Play
Since 2016 Motorola has released phones that are compatible with their Moto Mods. Accessory that magnetically connects to pins located at the bottom of the back cover. These "mods" enhance the phone by adding features like a bigger battery and better speakers. Lenovo (owner of Motorola) promised to maintain support for three generations, which also extends to this year's Moto Z3 Play. And with these mods, the Moto Z3 Play can shine as a media consumption device.
The Moto Z3 Play is the only phone on our list that uses an AMOLED panel. AMOLED is better than IPS-LCD because it provides excellent picture quality and better contrast, since pixels can be switched off. It is usually rare to find a phone at this price point to include this type of screen (which you can see from our list). Unfortunately, the panel is not HDR10 certified, which means that no HDR content can be viewed.
The Moto Z3 Play is an example of why datasheets do not tell the full story. Despite the lowest battery capacity on our list, it has the highest battery life and beats second place by 15% thanks to the energy-saving Qualcomm Snapdragon 636. For this reason, it also offers more than 15 hours of video playback while changing mid-range performance.
The Moto Z3 Play uses the handset for audio output. While using a single front speaker is not the same as stereo speakers, it is preferable to a lower-edge speaker because the sound is directed toward your ears. The loudspeaker of the Moto Z3 Play can produce a loud sound and reaches the third highest dB on our list (only by 0.5 dB in second place).
Unlike the other phones, you are not stuck with the single speaker. With Moto Mods you can add different stereo speakers, each offering different advantages. Two of the speakers have a battery on the back, while one even gives access to Amazon's Alexa voice assistant for voice control. But the mods do not stop.
Besides the obvious advantages of the battery mod, there is also the projector sharing. This mod adds a mini projector on the back of your device that allows you to display your display on a wall. The projector can take a picture up to 70 "in size and even includes a 1,100 mAh battery (60 minutes only).
With Moto Mods, you can turn your Moto Z3 Play into a powerhouse with even better battery or better sound, and unlike other phones, easily share your video with friends, combining this accessory with the AMOLED display and the already fantastic battery and you can see how this phone is perfect for streaming movies.
Buy a Moto Z3 Play: Amazon | Motorola | Best Buy | B & H | Walmart
Phone 5: Xperia XA2 Ultra  If you value aesthetics, you might want to check out the Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra, which prompted one of our authors to call him one of the ugliest cell phones he saw in 2018 tte – but hey, just the beauty skin deep: If you focus on the specifications and internals, the XA2 Ultra is an Exce A budget phone that can compete with any device in this price range. And when it comes to watching movies and TV shows on Netflix, Hulu and Prime Video, you will not find too many options for the price.
The XA2 Ultra's biggest selling point by far is the 6.0 "display, which has a resolution of 1080p, so you can watch videos on the go The Xperia XA2 Ultra also has the brightest screen on our list that allows you to see the screen easily even in a very bright environment, and the night sessions require two very deep nits, which is the eyes spares and helps save battery.
The XA2 Ultra has the second largest battery in the list at 3,580 mAh and uses it like many others Phones on our list, an energy-efficient midrange SoC In combination with its IPS LCD panel, the XA2 Ultra has a full-time battery at GSMarena the life of the battery was checked. Only the Moto Z3 Play could last longer than this device.
When it comes to the Xperia XA2 Ultra, there is not much to like. Although it's not the nicest phone, there is a lot for its price. Fantastic battery life, a solid midrange processor and a big screen – with the Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra, you can not go wrong.
Buy an Xperia XA2 Ultra: Amazon | Best Buy | B & H
Buy an Xperia XA2 Ultra: Amazon | Best Buy | B & H
When you think about non-flagship phones, you often think about compromises. Due to your tight budget, you are usually looking for the phone that is the least annoying. However, as you can see with our list, you can get a true value below $ 500. The drop in component prices now allows OEMs to offer real value at much lower prices. With each of our options you can enjoy your favorite movie or enjoy your favorite shows from anywhere.
If your maximum amount is $ 500, there is no better choice than the Nokia 7.1. It's the only phone on our list that supports HDR content and can promote SDR video to HDR. It has the best pixel density of all phones on our list and looks fantastic. And it is also the cheapest phone. If HDR is not your thing, check out the ASUS ZenFone 5Z. With the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 you get a true flagship processor, stereo speakers and a stunning screen and body ratio of 90%.
This article was produced during the annual Movies & TV by Gadget Hacks on Mobile special coverage. Read all movies and TV shows on mobile devices.