Best overall

Google Pixel or Pixel XL

This is pretty simple. If you don't want to spend on the latest generation, pick up the previous generation Google Pixel or Pixel XL. Even though they're over a year old, you can easily find listings for new, refurbished and used Pixels.

You get the same solid metal build, a still-fantastic camera, wonderful performance and a good bit of runway in terms of software updates still. Sure you get bigger bezels and last-generation specs, but those things really aren't the reason you buy a Pixel phone in the first place — it's all about the Google experience, and 2016's models still deliver that. They even have a headphone jack, which is significant for many people.

Bottom line: The same core Pixel experience can be found in the last-gen Pixels for 20-50% less.

One more thing: Be diligent when buying an older phone, making sure to note the condition (new, used or refurbished) and sale type before you buy.

Best high-end

OnePlus 5T

OnePlus is known for clean, simple and great-performing software — many of the same descriptions we give to Pixels. You won't find an issue with the smoothness or performance on the OnePlus 5T, and OnePlus is at pains to keep things simple with the smallest number of pre-installed apps possible in order to rely on Google's apps and services.

The 6-inch 18:9 display with a metal frame is very similar to the Pixel 2 XL in terms of size and feel, and the speedy software and top-notch specs line up as well — it even has a headphone jack. The only real shortcoming here is the dual rear cameras, which are a considerable notch below the Pixel 2 XL. In addition, you just don't get the guarantee of software updates that Google gives its own phones.

But on the other hand, you'll only pay $499 for a OnePlus 5T that gets you a lot of the things the Pixel 2 XL is known for.

Bottom line: At $499, you get a Pixel-like experience for a few hundred dollars less than a Pixel 2 XL.

One more thing: To go even cheaper, you can pick up the slightly smaller last-gen OnePlus 5 second-hand online.

Best for less

Android One Moto X4

Android One phones run an extremely similar build of Android as you'd find on a Pixel — and even include a similar guarantee of future software updates. The Moto X4 is the nicest Android One phone available right now, and it tops out at just $399, considerably less than even the smaller Pixel 2.

But even with that lower price, the Android One Moto X4 offers solid metal-and-glass construction, a good screen, slick performance considering its somewhat middling internal specs and of course great clean software without bloat. The dual cameras on the back are better than average, and the phone has a headphone jack as well.

The only real downside to the Android One Moto X4 is that it's exclusive to Google's Project Fi. Other versions of the Moto X4 aren't running Android One software.

Bottom line: For a Pixel-like software experience for 60% the cost, the Android One Moto X4 is great.

One more thing: At the time of writing the Android One Moto X4 is only available from Project Fi, significantly reducing its potential market.

Conclusion

If you're after a Pixel experience on a budget, the 2016 Pixel and Pixel XL are the best choices. For something more modern, a OnePlus 5T follows a lot of the same features as a Pixel 2 XL. At a cheaper price point with very similar software, you have the Android One Moto X4.

Best overall

Google Pixel or Pixel XL

This is pretty simple. If you don't want to spend on the latest generation, pick up the previous generation Google Pixel or Pixel XL. Even though they're over a year old, you can easily find listings for new, refurbished and used Pixels.

You get the same solid metal build, a still-fantastic camera, wonderful performance and a good bit of runway in terms of software updates still. Sure you get bigger bezels and last-generation specs, but those things really aren't the reason you buy a Pixel phone in the first place — it's all about the Google experience, and 2016's models still deliver that. They even have a headphone jack, which is significant for many people.

Bottom line: The same core Pixel experience can be found in the last-gen Pixels for 20-50% less.

One more thing: Be diligent when buying an older phone, making sure to note the condition (new, used or refurbished) and sale type before you buy.