Ah yes, it’s that time of the year where people start singing in celebration and the festival mood appears—no not Christmas, but the annual SoyaCincau wrap up of the best smartphones you can get for under RM1,000. That’s right, we’re back with a bunch of devices that’ll do the job for you and won’t break the bank too.
As usual, before we get to the actual list, let’s first make it clear how we selected our list. We’re mostly focused on new smartphones launched in 2021; yes, you could snag yourself an older flagship for around RM1,000 too, but then it’ll open up a new can of worms about support and updates and what not; those seeking the performance of a yesteryear flagship though will be pleased to know that one of our entries uses the Snapdragon 860, which is pretty much a Snapdragon 855+ without the age. Furthermore, the prices of the phones listed here all use their recommended retail price. In other words, you’ll likely find them cheaper especially during sales.
Interestingly, this is also the first year where 5G is now one of the factors in the spec sheet. At this price range, 5G may not be the priority option, but with the 3G network ending soon, a number of Malaysians may want to use this time to upgrade to a new device while on a budget. As such, you may want to future proof as much as possible and so want a 5G smartphone even on a RM1,000 budget.
Now that we’ve gotten that sorted, here’s our list of smartphones under RM1,000 in no particular order. If you’d like to see all the smartphones listed stacked against each other, you can look to the end of the article where we have a table of them and their specs and prices.
Poco X3 Pro
Xiaomi’s Poco sub-brand is synonymous with raw power at a great price, and the Poco X3 Pro launched in March is no exception. Packing a 6.67-inch FHD+ LCD display capable of a 120Hz refresh rate, the real star here is the almost flagship level Qualcomm Snapdragon 860 system-on-chip under the hood. Essentially a beefed up Snapdragon 855, it should edge out flagship devices from two years ago and most mid rangers today still. Configured in either 6GB RAM + 128GB storage or 8GB RAM + 256GB storage variants, it’s phenomenal value for the processor you’re getting.
Camera-wise, there’s a quad-camera setup on the rear of the Poco X3 Pro with a main 48MP f/1.79 shooter. It gets flanked by an 8MP f/2.2 ultrawide angle camera, a 2MP f/2.4 macro camera and another 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor. Meanwhile, on the front of the device you’ll find a punch-hole cutout that houses a 20MP camera for all your selfie needs.
Other features of note include a nice 5,160mAh battery with 33W fast charging via USB-C, a 3.5mm audio jack, expandable storage, stereo speakers and a side-mounted fingerprint sensor. However, it’s limited to WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 5.0 however, and you also won’t find 5G connectivity on it.
Technically speaking, only the lower spec 6GB + 128GB model is under RM1,000, but if you have RM300 to spare you can get the 8GB + 256GB variant too.
Poco X3 Pro—6GB RAM, 128GB storage—RM999
Poco X3 Pro—8GB RAM, 256GB storage—RM1,299
Poco M3 Pro 5G
The Poco M3 Pro 5G is not only the cheapest offering on our list, but it also has, as its name suggests, 5G connectivity. This is thanks to the lower mid-range MediaTek Dimensity 700 SoC under the hood, which comes with either 4GB or 8GB of RAM and 64GB or 128GB of storage, with more storage possible via expandable storage.
It has a 6.5-inch, FHD+ LCD display capable of a 90Hz refresh rate. In the camera department, you’ll find a 48MP main camera flanked by a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth sensor. Selfies meanwhile get taken care of with an 8MP front camera.
Keeping the lights on is a 5,000mAh battery with 18W fast charging via USB-C, while there’s a 3.5mm audio jack in case you aren’t a fan of the mono speaker on it. There’s a side-mounted fingerprint sensor too as well as NFC, WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 5.1.
As mentioned earlier, it’s the cheapest device on our list, starting at just RM699, though if you top up an extra RM100 you will be getting double the storage and some extra memory too.
Poco M3 Pro 5G—4GB RAM, 64GB storage—RM699
Poco M3 Pro 5G—6GB RAM, 128GB storage—RM799
Redmi Note 10 Pro
Xiaomi’s domination of our RM1,000-and-less list continues, but this time in the form of their other sub-brand Redmi. The Redmi Note 10 Pro’s most notable upgrade over the previous two entries is its screen. It has a 6.67-inch, FHD+ AMOLED display capable of a 120Hz refresh rate. An AMOLED display coupled with the high refresh rate on offer should provide a better user experience than your typical LCD display, as it is often brighter and offers more vibrant colours and deeper blacks. The back of the device has a nice glass back too.
Meanwhile, under the hood is a still capable Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G SoC that is either paired with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, or 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. You’ll also get a quad-camera setup on the rear, with a 108MP main shooter, an 8MP ultrawide camera, a 5MP macro lens and a 2MP depth sensor. This makes it a solid choice for those who love to take photos with their smartphone. On the front of the Redmi Note 10 Pro is a 16MP camera for selfies too.
It has a solid 5,020mAh battery with 33W fast charging via USB-C too. Other specs of note include a stereo speaker setup, expandable storage, a side-mounted fingerprint sensor and a 3.5mm audio jack.
Just like the Poco X3 Pro though, it just barely scrapes by to make this list via its base model, though again you could add an extra RM100 to your budget and get more memory, which could be good if you’re a heavy user or mobile gamer.
Redmi Note 10 Pro—6GB RAM, 128GB storage—RM999
Redmi Note 10 Pro—8GB RAM, 128GB storage—RM1,099
Redmi Note 10S
The second member of the Redmi Note 10 series to make our list, the Redmi Note 10S has a smaller 6.43-inch, FHD+ AMOLED display. However, it loses out on a high refresh rate, as it’s locked to a standard 60Hz. Powering the device is a mid-range MediaTek Helio G95 system-on-chip, together with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
Just like our previous entry, the Redmi Note 10S has a quad-camera setup too, but the main camera gets downsized to a 64MP main shooter. That gets flanked by an 8MP ultrawide camera, a 2MP macro lens and another 2MP depth sensor. For selfies, you get a 13MP camera on the front.
Other features of note include a 5,000mAh battery with 33W fast charging, stereo speakers, expandable storage and a 3.5mm audio jack. The Redmi Note 10S may have a few downgrades over the Redmi Note 10 Pro, but it is priced RM100 cheaper, though we don’t think it’s worth the savings compared to the Note 10 Pro.
Redmi Note 10S—8GB RAM, 128GB storage—RM899
Redmi Note 10 5G
Capping off the trilogy of Redmi Note 10 series devices on our list is the Redmi Note 10 5G. It has a 6.5-inch FHD+ LCD display that can do a 90Hz refresh rate too. Underneath is a lower mid-range MediaTek Dimensity 700 processor that’s paired to 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. You can add more too via expandable storage.
As for cameras, you get a triple camera setup on the rear of the Redmi Note 10 5G, with a main 48MP shootar flanked by a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth sensor. You’ll also find an 8MP camera on the front for selfies. Meanwhile, there’s a side-mounted fingerprint sensor too.
Powering the smartphone is a 5,000mAh battery with 18W charging. Of course, it has 5G connectivity too, though it is limited to just WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 5.1. Incidentally, it is also the cheapest one among the Redmi Note 10 devices we picked for this list while also coming with support for 5G.
Redmi Note 10 5G—8GB RAM, 128GB storage—RM799
Oppo A74 4G
This one might seem a little out of left field, but that’s not to say the Oppo A74 4G is a bad smartphone; it’s just that it’s a little overshadowed by the Oppo A74 5G variant. But while it shares a similar name to it, the Oppo A74 4G is actually pretty different.
It has a 6.43-inch, FHD+ AMOLED display, though it’s limited to the standard 60Hz refresh rate. Powering it is a lower mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 processor mated to 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Camera-wise, the Oppo A74 4G has a triple-camera setup with a 48MP main shooter, a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth. The front of the device has a punch hole cutout housing a 16MP selfie camera.
Other features of note include an under-display fingerprint sensor, expandable storage and a 3.5mm audio jack. You’ll also find a 5,000mAh battery with 33W fast charging via USB-C. Compared to the similarly priced Redmi Note 10S, there’s probably better value in the Redmi than here as it has some better specs.
Oppo A74 4G—6GB RAM, 128GB storage—RM899
Realme 8 5G
The Realme 8 5G features a 6.5-inch FHD+ LCD display that’s capable of a 90Hz refresh rate. Like the other 5G-capable smartphones on this list, it has a MediaTek Dimensity 700 SoC. It also has 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, with expandable storage also possible.
As for cameras, you’ll find a triple-camera setup comprising of a 48MP main shooter with a 2MP monochrome camera and another 2MP macro lens. Selfies get taken care of with a 16MP front camera. There’s also a 5,000mAh battery with 18W charging via USB-C, a side-mounted fingerprint sensor, and a 3.5mm audio jack.
Overall, it’s very similar to the aforementioned Redmi Note 10 5G, but edges it out slightly with its higher resolution front camera. This however also means that it’s priced slightly higher than the Redmi device.
Realme 8 5G—8GB RAM, 128GB storage—RM899
Where to buy:
Store: Realme authorised reseller
Realme Narzo 30
The Realme Narzo 30 features a 6.5-inch, FHD+ LCD display that has a 90Hz refresh rate. Realme have given it the mid-range MediaTek Helio G95 processor underneath, and paired it with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
There’s also a triple-camera setup on the rear with a 48MP main camera, a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP monochrome lens. You also get a 16MP selfie camera on the front. Furthermore, keeping it powered is a 5,000mAh battery with 30W fast charging via USB-C. There’s a side-mounted fingerprint sensor, a microSD card slot for expandable storage and a 3.5mm audio jack too.
Compared to the Redmi Note 10S, the other Helio G95-powered device on this list, it’s a little cheaper but you do lose out on an AMOLED display, stereo speakers and an ultrawide camera.
Realme Narzo 30—6GB RAM, 128GB storage—RM799
Where to buy:
Store: Realme authorised reseller
Samsung Galaxy M22
The Samsung Galaxy M22 has just been announced for Malaysia at time of writing, and features a 6.4-inch, HD+ Super AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate. While the AMOLED display should be great, it’s unfortunately limited to just a HD+ resolution, so it might not be the best choice for those who love streaming content. Samsung have fitted it with the lower mid-range MediaTek Helio G80 underneath, and it gets 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. You can add on more storage via microSD too.
Despite its perhaps underwhelming HD+ display and processor, it stands out in the camera department as it has a quad-camera setup with a 48MP main shooter. You also get an 8MP ultrawide camera, a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth sensor. As for the front camera, Samsung have put an 13MP camera for selfies.
As for the battery, it continues the large battery capacities on this list so far with a 5,000mAh battery coupled with 25W fast charging via USB-C. However, you should note that only the slower 15W charger comes in the box. There’s a side-mounted fingerprint sensor and a 3.5mm audio jack too. Incidentally, the Galaxy M22 looks very much like a rebranded Galaxy A22 4G, with the only notable difference being the 25W charging rate over the A22 4G’s 15W. If you don’t mind that too much, you can perhaps look for either device for whichever is cheaper.
Samsung Galaxy M22—6GB RAM, 128GB storage—RM899
Where to buy:
Store: Samsung authorised reseller, Samsung Experience store
Samsung Galaxy A22 5G
When the Samsung Galaxy A22 5G launched, it was widely seen as the competitor to the Redmi Note 10 5G, and it’s easy to see why. Priced below RM1,000, it came with the same processor as the Redmi does in the form of a MediaTek Dimensity 700. It also comes with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
The Galaxy A22 5G does have a slightly larger 6.6-inch, FHD+ TFT LCD display capable of a refresh rate of 90Hz, and has a side-mounted fingerprint sensor too. Samsung have put a triple-camera setup on the rear of the phone, with a 48MP main sensor flanked by a 5MP ultrawide camera and a 2MP depth sensor. The front of the Galaxy A22 5G meanwhile has an 8MP camera for selfies.
Other features of note include a 5,000mAh battery with 15W charging, as well as a 3.5mm audio jack for when the mono speaker won’t suffice. There’s also expandable storage and of course, is 5G-ready too.
Samsung Galaxy A22 5G—8GB RAM, 128GB storage—RM999
The Vivo Y31 just about makes this list, being priced a ringgit below our cutoff. It comes with a 6.58-inch, FHD+ LCD display that’s limited to the usual 60Hz. Under the hood is the lower mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 processor that’s been paired to 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
You get a three-camera setup on the rear with a main 48MP shooter flanked by a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth sensor. There’s an 8MP front camera too. Powering it all is a 5,000mAh battery with 18W charging via USB-C. Other features of note include a side-mounted fingerprint sensor, expandable storage and a 3.5mm audio jack.
It’s probably not the best choice here based on either value or specs, but if you get it on a massive discount it could be worth a shout.
Vivo Y31—8GB RAM, 128GB storage—RM999
If you’d like to compare all of our entries against each other, here’s a table with all the key specs listed down for comparison, along with their price tag. You can also click on the image to view it in higher resolution and zoom in.
However, if you’re unsure as to what you should be on the lookout for, you could tailor it to your specific needs. For instance, those who like to stream a lot of content on their device such as Netflix and YouTube should be looking at phones with a FHD+ AMOLED display. With their brighter and more vibrant displays, AMOLED screens will offer a much better viewing experience than your typical LCD display. The inclusion of stereo speakers is perhaps another important feature here too.
Those who are more of a power user though will want the best processor under the hood. The same goes for those of you who like to play a lot of games on their smartphone. If you look at our table above, there’s really only one SoC there that stands out from the crowd—the Qualcomm Snapdragon 860. As mentioned earlier, it’s an even faster version of the Snapdragon 855 processor powering the flagship phones of 2019. Another solid piece of silicon is the upper mid-range Snapdragon 732G.
Mobile photography aficionados though will be targeting not just the highest resolution cameras but also the best overall camera setup. That means having some solid supplementary cameras like an ultrawide and macro lens. Meanwhile, if 5G connectivity is what you’re looking for, then we’ve also added 5G support in the table.
But for those of you who just want a simple recommendation, well we’ve rounded it down to the two best options available now.
#1 Poco X3 Pro: the best overall smartphone under RM1,000 right now
The first is without a doubt the Poco X3 Pro. It packs the best processor among the bunch, with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 860 system-on-chip pretty much outclassing the rest here. You’ll be able to multitask and play video games with it no problem. It comes with up to 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM and up to 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage.
As for the display, it has a 6.67-inch FHD+ LCD screen with a 120Hz refresh rate and a 240Hz touch sampling rate. Poco have also covered it with Corning Gorilla Glass 6 for scratch resistance too. Furthermore, it has the largest battery of the bunch at 5,160mAh, albeit by a small amount. There’s other nice-to-haves too, like 33W fast charging, stereo speakers with Hi-Res certification, an IR blaster, NFC and a 3.5mm audio jack.
The cameras aren’t too shabby either. You’ll find a quad-camera setup on the rear with a 48MP f/1.79 main camera, an 8MP f/2/2 ultrawide angle camera, a 2MP f/2.4 macro lens and another 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor. The front of the device meanwhile has a punch-hole on the display housing a 20MP front camera.
Overall, it offers great value for its price and is our editor’s choice recommendation for those looking to get a smartphone below RM1,000.
#2 Redmi Note 10 Pro: The best-in-class display for media consumption
However, for those who like to consume a lot of content on their phone instead of playing games, the Redmi Note 10 Pro may be better suited to you. It has a 6.67-inch AMOLED display compared to the LCD panel on the Poco X3 Pro, and still keeps the 120Hz refresh rate too. There’s stereo speakers as well which ought to be great combination of specs for media consumption.
Under the hood though is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G SoC. While it’s perhaps not as powerful as the Snapdragon 860, it’s still a fairly capable upper mid-range processor and should be able to handle most of your usual daily tasks. It also comes with up to 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Keeping it juiced up meanwhile is a 5,020mAh battery with 33W fast charging via USB-C.
You’ll also be getting a better 108MP f/1.9 main camera that’s flanked by an 8MP f/2.2 ultrawide angle camera, a 5MP f2.4 telemacro camera and a 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor. Selfies meanwhile get taken care of by a 16MP front camera housed in a punch-hole cutout. Other features of note include a 3.5mm audio jack, an IR blaster, NFC, and a glass back for a more premium feel.
But what about 5G?
Ah but here’s the thing: those two smartphones aren’t 5G-capable. We know that we’re still a while away from having 5G network access in Malaysia, but for those who are looking to change their device soon and stick with it for at least another two to three years, being ready for 5G might be a valid concern. As such, our recommendation would be either the Redmi Note 10 5G or the Samsung Galaxy A22 5G.
Both offer very similar specs, with the Redmi Note 10 5G being the cheaper of the two. If you’d like to go with the better bang-for-buck option, then that should be on your list. However, the Samsung Galaxy A22 5G may be the better option if you want a slightly bigger screen and an ultrawide camera. Samsung’s One UI skin of Android is also known to be fairly simple to use and navigate, making it a good choice if you’re getting a new phone for your parents and want them to be 5G ready too.
However, you’d probably notice by now that all of the 5G-capable phones under RM1,000 use the MediaTek Dimensity 700 processor and LCD displays as a means of cutting production costs. If you can, we suggest topping up your budget to get the Xiaomi 11 Lite 5G NE. It’s a little pricier starting at RM1,199, but has a more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G processor and a much better 6.55-inch, FHD+ AMOLED 90Hz display. That price gets you the 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage configuration, but you can also get up to 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
Other honorable mentions for 5G-ready devices include the OnePlus Nord N10 5G and the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G. The Nord N10 5G retails for RM1,199, and features a 6.49-inch, FHD+ LCD 90Hz display and a Snapdragon 690 processor with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G goes for RM1,199 too, but only packs a 6.5-inch HD+ TFT LCD display. Under the hood is a MediaTek Dimensity 720 SoC, with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
All in all, we hope this buyer’s guide helps you pick out your next smartphone of choice for those of you on a RM1,000 budget. But remember, with the seasonal sales set to begin soon, it’s best you take your time to wait for a good deal to show before pulling the trigger as you can get most of the devices here for cheaper than its listed price. And if you think you’ve got a better smartphone choice for under RM1,000 in 2021, leave a comment and let us know!