Update, March 2017: The $229 Moto G5 Plus is now our go-to budget pick, and we've added the ZTE Blade V8 Pro as a great option for dual-camera fans. The Moto E 2015 has also been replaced with the Moto G4 Plus.

Best overall

Moto G5 Plus

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Motorola performed yet another pricing miracle with the Moto G5 Plus, the successor to last year's excellent Moto G4 series and a contender for the best affordable smartphone today.

It starts with the excellent 5.2-inch Full HD display, but the real benefit to the G5 Plus this year is the excellent performance and battery life from the combination of a Snapdragon 625 platform and a 3,000mAh battery.

Also of note is the improved low-light performance from the 12MP camera, which boasts the same hardware as (and similar results to) the Galaxy S7.

Bottom line: This is the best sub-$250 phone you can buy today, and it's still a great device even if price isn't a factor.

One more thing: Motorola.com is offering the Moto G5 Plus with inexpensive financing if you don't want to pay up front.

Why the Moto G5 Plus is the best

Last year, we recommended the $199.99 Moto G4 over its $249.99 Plus variant, but this year the only distinction is between memory and storage amounts: the Moto G5 Plus comes in either a $229.99 2GB RAM / 32GB storage version, or a $299.99 4GB RAM / 64GB storage version — they are otherwise identical.

With either decision, you'll be happy with your purchase. Motorola has changed up the phone's design this year, adding a metal back and a more compact, mature look that complements the Moto Z series, and the excellent 5.2-inch IPS display is much more manageable in one hand. Also more manageable is the improved shape of the front fingerprint sensor, which is turned oblong and considerably easier to activate.

Motorola has also bestowed a fantastic camera on the Moto G5 Plus this year, giving it the same 12MP sensor and lens combination that's in the Galaxy S7 — though the results aren't quite as good. The phone isn't perfect — there's no NFC on the U.S. model, and it still uses the older Micro-USB charging port — but it's close.

And if you buy it through Amazon, you can save $45 on the base model, bringing it down to $184.99!

Best for dual camera

ZTE Blade V8 Pro

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Who would have thought that a device with an absurd name like the Blade V8 Pro (it sounds like a weaponized drink) would end up on this list, but here we are. ZTE has done an amazing thing: make a big, plastic phone that adds up to far greater than the sum of its parts. The 5.5-inch 1080p display is fantastic, and it runs like a dream on the Snapdragon 625. There's a massive 3,100mAh battery inside, too, to go along with the dual-13MP cameras, something you don't see from this class of phone.

Bottom line: The ZTE Blade V8 Pro has everything going for it, including great hardware, endless battery life and competent cameras.

One more thing: The phone runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, with no timeline for an upgrade to Nougat.

Best all-metal

Honor 6X

Honor 6X

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For the new year the Honor 6X replaces its predecessor the 5X on this list. While you won't be blown away by magnificent design or all of the top-end features, the Honor 6X is an exercise in what you can get for about $250. You get a good enough screen, expandable storage and a fingerprint sensor, wrapped in a metal body that's better than the plastic offerings out there. There's also a neat dual camera setup around back that can take interesting-looking shots.

Sure it's stuck on Micro-USB and the software has yet to make the jump to Huawei's new EMUI 5.0 (and we can't wait for that to come), but you can't get that complete of a package in a phone this inexpensive.

Bottom-line: It doesn't offer everything, but it's a solid package for the money.

One more thing: Keep an eye out for discounts and promotional "flash sales" at lower prices.

Best under $100

Moto G4 Play

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We're stretching this one a little, because the Moto G4 Play is actually $149.99, but you can get it for under $100 by purchasing it through Amazon's Prime Exclusives section. It's the same phone, but it comes preloaded with unobtrusive lockscreen ads and a few pre-installed Amazon and partner apps and games.

Looking at the phone itself, this is a very well-rounded product for the price. You get a 5-inch 720p display, a quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor at 1.2Ghz, 2GB of RAM, 16GB storage, and an 8MP rear camera, with all-day battery life from the 2,800mAh cell, running Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

Bottom-line: The Moto G4 Play is the spiritual successor to the Moto E, but it has a bigger and better screen, more power, and a much nicer design.

One more thing: Don't expect an update to Android 7.0 Nougat on the Moto G4 Play.

Best in Europe

Wileyfox Swift 2

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The Wileyfox Swift 2 is the British company's latest Android phone and has every right to be taken notice of. It costs a ridiculously cheap £119 and packs Moto G-matching hardware while undercutting it on price.

The display is nice, the battery life is pretty good, the overall appearance is on point and the software provided by Cyanogen is slick, speedy and bloat-free. It's not available officially outside Europe right now, but it's absolutely one of the best cheap phones money can buy. And with recent offers dropping the price to just £99, it really is a bargain.

Bottom-line: For those in Europe looking something a little nicer than a Moto E, with a fresh software experience, the Swift is a good choice.

One more thing: Don't be tempted by the lower-end Spark or Storm. The Swift is the only one we recommend.

Conclusion

If you don't want to spend over $250 and still want a great Android phone, the Moto G5 Plus is the best choice. You don't get the best looking or feeling phone, but it offers a top-notch experience, especially for the price.

Best overall

Moto G5 Plus

See at Amazon

Motorola performed yet another pricing miracle with the Moto G5 Plus, the successor to last year's excellent Moto G4 series and a contender for the best affordable smartphone today.

It starts with the excellent 5.2-inch Full HD display, but the real benefit to the G5 Plus this year is the excellent performance and battery life from the combination of a Snapdragon 625 platform and a 3,000mAh battery.

Also of note is the improved low-light performance from the 12MP camera, which boasts the same hardware as (and similar results to) the Galaxy S7.

Bottom line: This is the best sub-$250 phone you can buy today, and it's still a great device even if price isn't a factor.

One more thing: Motorola.com is offering the Moto G5 Plus with inexpensive financing if you don't want to pay up front.

Best Android phones under $400
Best Android phones under $100