The best phones under $250

What to expect

Before we get into the best phones at this price, let’s talk expectations. First off, many of the devices we’re discussing come unlocked, so it’s imperative that you check to see if they’ll work on your carrier before you buy one. Many unlocked handsets are only GSM-compatible, so they’ll support only ATT, T-Mobile and their subsidiaries. Sprint and Verizon customers should be especially careful when making their selections.

At this price, you’re not going to get high-end features like face-recognition cameras, curved screens or high-res, edge-to-edge displays. Most of these phones use older chipsets and often run Android 6 Marshmallow instead of the newer Android 7 Nougat (which itself is no longer the latest OS).

For daily use, you won’t really notice a difference in speed with these phones, but don’t expect much if you’re using these for heavy-duty gaming or intensive multitasking. If that’s going to be a problem, you’re better off getting a flagship phone on an equipment installment plan (EIP) instead.

Flagships on a budget

You can still get a premium phone for cheap if you have the time and patience to monitor deal listings. Some carriers and websites slash prices for older (but still perfectly respectable) phones in anticipation of new launches or when approaching the holiday season. If you can wait till Black Friday, you’ll probably find plenty of deals bringing down the cost of usually expensive phones. In 2016, T-Mobile offered the iPhone 7, the Galaxy S7 and the LG V20 for free to people who traded in eligible smartphones, while Huawei’s Honor 8 dropped that year from $400 to $300. Right now, you can even find an iPhone SE ($399 at launch) for less than $250, or the older (but still good) HTC One M8 for $160. A Google search for “iPhone SE” returns options as low as $150 at Target for an ATT version in space gray with 16GB of storage.

Affordable by design

If you weren’t fast enough to snag one of those deals, you still have decent options. Bright, crisp screens with full HD (1080p) displays are common at this price, so don’t fall for cheap phones with piddly 720p panels. Sub-$250 phones run the gamut when it comes to size, too, so you can pick from a big 5.5-inch screen down to a more compact 4.7-inch option. Many budget handsets also pack fingerprint sensors, long-lasting batteries, and dual cameras for special effects in portrait photography (although these tend to pale in comparison with iPhones and Samsung phones when it comes to quality).

The best budget phones

Motorola Moto G5S Plus

One of the best offerings is the $230 Moto G5S Plus. It’s the successor to the Moto G5 Plus, which was already our favorite budget phone. The new handset features a 5.5-inch 1080p display, dual rear 13-megapixel cameras and a generous 3,000mAh battery, all wrapped in a body that feels more expensive than it actually is. The phone uses an octa-core Snapdragon 625 chip that can go up to 2.0GHz, which is powerful enough for the average person and quite good for the price. It also runs the relatively new Android 7.1 Nougat and works on all four major US carriers. The main downside is the absence of NFC support, so if you like using your phone for contactless payments, this isn’t going to work for you.

Nokia 6

In that case, you can consider the $230 Nokia 6, which has NFC and runs the same version of Android as the G5S Plus. It features dual front-facing speakers with a “smart amplifier” and Dolby audio enhancements for louder sound. The Nokia 6 sports a single 16-megapixel camera on its rear, though, and uses a slower Snapdragon 430 processor. Also, it’s unfortunately stuck in the past with its micro-USB charging port. That’s a minor complaint, but when the rest of the world has already moved on to USB-C, it feels like an antiquated feature. Still, the Nokia 6 offers newish components for a reasonable price, and if you don’t mind getting Amazon ads on your lock screen, the Prime exclusive version of the phone is even cheaper, at $180.

Alcatel Idol 5s

Also available as a Prime exclusive is the Alcatel Idol 5s ($200 with ads; $280 without), which has a vibrant 5.2-inch, a 1080p screen and a USB-C port and runs Android 7. Like the Nokia 6, the Idol 5s has only a single 12-megapixel rear camera, but it uses the faster Snapdragon 625 processor (the same chip used in the Moto G5S Plus). Alcatel’s handset has a smaller battery than the Nokia 6 and the G5S Plus, though, so you might need to charge it more often. The Idol 5s looks and feels like a lot of Alcatel’s previous handsets, with a rounded silhouette, chrome edges and a glass rear. Despite a slightly dated design, the Idol line is known for its good quality and affordable prices. Plus, this is one of the few budget phones to support all four major US carriers while packing a well-rounded feature set.

ZTE Blade V8 Pro

The ZTE Blade V8 Pro is a compelling option. It sports a 5.5-inch 1080p display and dual 13-megapixel rear cameras that enable Portrait mode for bokeh on your photos, although you won’t get iPhone-quality images here. The Blade V8 Pro isn’t as adept at detecting outlines when applying the blur, but in ideal conditions it pulls off the effect well. I liked the phone’s sturdy build when I tried it out in January, but it’s not as pretty as the other options on this list. The V8 Pro is equipped with the same Snapdragon 625 chip as the Moto G5S Plus and the Idol 5s, but it runs the older Android 6 Marshmallow instead. It does support NFC, though, making it one of the few on this list to do so and a good option for people who don’t want to give up Android Pay.


Huawei Honor 6x

There are several other options in this space, but we’ll cap off this roundup with two quick mentions. Huawei’s Honor 6x is very similar to the ZTE Blade V8 Pro: It has dual cameras, runs Android 6.0 and features a 5.5-inch full HD display. But it doesn’t support NFC and it costs $20 more. Also, Huawei’s EMUI Android skin makes the software look cartoonish, despite adding useful fingerprint sensor shortcuts. The main reason to spend more for this phone over the Blade V8 Pro would be the Honor’s more elegant metal body.

ZTE Blade ZMax

Finally, those who want a big screen at this price should consider ZTE’s Blade line of affordable large phones. In particular, the Blade ZMax sports a 6-inch full HD display, dual cameras and a large 4,080mAh battery for $129. It’s also impressively slim for such a large phone and was easy to use with one hand during a brief demo. Some caveats: It uses a relatively slower octa-core Snapdragon 435 CPU and is available only via MetroPCS for now, but we expect it to be sold unlocked soon as well.

Final thoughts

With all the improvements trickling down from high-end flagships to today’s budget phones, shopping for a sub-$250 device no longer feels like digging through a bargain bin of iPhone rejects. They won’t be the fastest or have the best cameras, but the options in this category are respectable handsets with relatively modern features. If you have a bit more cash to spare, you’ll find even better phones in the sub-$500 category that are nearly on par with flagships in terms of performance. We’ll be putting together those recommendations soon, so stay tuned.

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Nissan teases mystery SUV concept for Tokyo Motor Show

Nissan is setting the stage for its presence at the Tokyo Motor Show with a teaser for what looks to be a rakish crossover SUV concept. 

The Japanese automaker has been rumored to be expanding its Leaf electric car into a family of vehicles for some time now, and an SUV would seem to be a natural extension, given the global buying public’s seemingly insatiable appetite for all things softroader. Whether the vehicle seen here is just such a model is unclear.

As seen here in a shadowy outline featuring an unusual blue-tinged light signature, the show car appears to have a radically tapered roofline, oversized wheels and, more than likely, four doors. So far, the company isn’t providing many hints about exactly what’s in store at the biennial exposition next week, other than to say the mystery machine “embodies the future of Nissan Intelligent Mobility.”

The latter suggests the concept vehicle will be both electric and feature some level of Piloted Drive autonomous or semiautonomous capability. Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility vision for zero-emission, zero-fatality motoring was unveiled at last year’s Geneva Motor Show, and electrification and self-driving technology are the two key pillars of this company-wide initiative.

Nissan’s as-yet-unnamed concept will bow at the biennial exposition next Wednesday, Oct. 25, alongside other company reveals that include a racier Nismo version of the company’s aforementioned Leaf, as well as an electrified development of the Serena, a Japan-only minivan.

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New UE Blast and Megablast speakers jump on Alexa train

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The speakers ship in late October.

John Falcone/CNET

Ultimate Ears has gone from boom to blast.

Its new Blast and Megablast portable speakers are shaped like its earlier Boom 2 and Megaboom Bluetooth speakers but the new models add Wi-Fi connectivity and Amazon Alexa voice control. They respectively cost $230 (£200) and $300 (£270) and you can also purchase an optional Power Up charging base for an additional $40 (£35). There’s no word yet on Australian pricing or availability.

As with Amazon’s Echo devices, to use Alexa you have to be connected to Wi-Fi or a mobile hotspot. You get access to the more than 25,000 skills available for Alexa, including the ability to control smart home products.

That said, only Amazon Music, iHeartRadio and TuneIn music services will be Alexa-enabled at launch. UE expects to add voice control for Pandora and Deezer in the future, but there’s no word yet on when the speakers will get voice control support for Spotify. However, you can stream any music service via Bluetooth.

The Blast is very similar to the Boom 2 but UE says the Megablast has been completely redesigned from the “ground up” and is equipped with new drivers that deliver enhanced sound with a top volume that’s 40 percent louder than the Megaboom’s. Both new speakers are fully waterproof with a range of 330 feet (100 meters) on Wi-Fi and 150 feet (45 meters) on Bluetooth.

Battery life for the Blast is up to 12 hours, and 16 hours for the Megablast. There’s also a new Ultimate Ears app, which will allow you to update the speakers with new features over time.

It’s worth mentioning that the earlier Boom 2 and Megaboom will remain in the line, but will only be compatible with the old UE app. That means you won’t be able to link older UE speakers with the new Blast and Megablast. UE also notes that at launch you’ll only be able to play music through one Blast or Megablast at a time; you can’t link them.

The speakers are set to ship at the end of October in six colors, though some colors will be limited to certain regions: The US will get Graphite (Black), Blizzard (White), Blue Steel and Merlot (Red), but Mojito (Green) and Lemonade (Yellow) will only be available in the UK. UE will also sell speakers bundled with the Power Up charging base for a small discount. 

While the Blast and Megablast join an increasingly crowded Alexa smart speaker market, the fact that they’re battery-powered and water-resistant set them apart from AC-powered, indoor-only competitors like the new Sonos One, second-gen Echo and Echo Plus.

We’ll have full reviews in the coming weeks. 

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These colors will only be available in the UK.

Nic Henry/CNET

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Pixel 2 XL: What’s up with that screen?


The Pixel 2 vs. the Pixel 2 XL. The smaller phone uses a 5-inch Samsung AMOLED screen, while the larger has a 6-inch LG P-OLED one.

James Martin/CNET

You might have heard: The Google Pixel 2 XL has a less-than-perfect screen.

Depending on whom you ask — see: Reddit, XDA Developers — the phone’s LG-made P-OLED screen has muted colors, a bluish tint or a blotchy, grainy texture that’s visible when you scroll down webpages.

The short answer: It’s basically all true.

But after a close comparison of five different phones here in the CNET offices — two Pixel 2 XL, two LG V30 and a Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus for comparison — it’s more of a nuanced issue, and less of an open and shut case.

Screen nerds may want to steer clear of the Pixel 2 XL for now, but we don’t believe any of the issues we’re seeing are deal breakers for ordinary users.

Here’s how things shake out.

1. Muted colors

There’s no question that the colors on the Pixel 2 XL’s 6-inch, 2,880×1,440-pixel P-OLED screen aren’t quite as vibrant as those on the flagship Samsung phone we used for comparison. We created pure red, green and blue RGB images in Photoshop at each phone’s native resolution for an apples to apples test, and the Pixel 2 XL’s colors were consistently muted by comparison. It didn’t matter whether we turned on the phone’s “Vivid” mode, or reduced the Samsung phone’s brightness to better match — the Samsung’s colors always popped in a way the Google’s screen didn’t.

But would you notice in everyday use? We’re tempted to argue you wouldn’t. When we watched movie trailers and CNET videos instead of peeping pixels, we had a tough time noticing a difference in color. (Maybe the skin tones were slightly better on the Samsung.)


Google’s phone is water-resistant.

James Martin/CNET

You might also argue that the muted colors are intentional, that Google calibrated its screen this way. Google certainly argued that, in a statement to CNET:

“We designed the Pixel display to have a more natural and accurate rendition of colors this year but we know some people prefer more vivid colors so we’ve added an option to boost colors by 10% for a more saturated display. We’re always looking at people’s responses to Pixel and we will look at adding more color options through a software update if we see a lot of feedback.”

But again, the “Vivid” mode didn’t make a big difference in our tests — and for whatever reason, the two LG V30 phones we tested, also with identical size and resolution P-OLED screens, didn’t have muted colors. They looked nearly as vibrant as the Samsung.

Besides, colors aren’t the only potential issue with Google’s screen.

2. Blue shift

The phone looks fine viewed head-on, pointed directly at your face. OK, maybe the colors are a touch muted. (See above.) But tilt it even a little bit, and all those colors get way cooler. Everything you see takes on a blue tint.

It’s not unusual for a screen’s colors to change at off-angles, particularly in phones with curved glass edges like these. Even our reference Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus takes on blue tint if you tilt it far enough. But the Pixel 2 XL’s blue shift is so immediate, the sweet spot so small, that you need to hold it perfectly level with your face to avoid the blue color cast.

Here’s the thing: It’s not nearly as bad on LG’s own phone, the LG V30. We pit two LG V30 phones against two Pixel 2 XL phones, and the V30s didn’t take on nearly as deep a blue tint when tilted the same degree.

3. Noisy/blotchy screen

Of the various concerns with the Pixel 2 XL’s screen, this is the tiniest by far. One of my colleagues said she couldn’t see the issue at all. But if you look very closely, particularly when scrolling down a white webpage, with the phone’s brightness turned down, maybe in a dark room, for good measure, you can see little splotchy rainbows appear on the surface of the screen, or a fine grain like the noise of a photo taken in poor light.

The theory is that these are because the individual subpixels that make up the pixels of the screen aren’t all lighting up to the same degree, and so some of those subpixels stand out. I can’t confirm that, but I definitely saw it happen on both the Pixel 2 XL and LG V30 phones.

However, once again, it wasn’t nearly as noticible an issue on our twin LG V30 units as it was on our two copies of the Pixel 2 XL. 

Which leads me to believe there’s more to the story than Google is letting on.

Eye of the beholder

The “smoking gun” for some are the noisy, blotchy patterns that are (barely) visible in the Pixel 2 XL’s screen, which directly mirror those in early “preview” samples of the LG V30 sent to journalists over six weeks ago, such as the ones highlighted by Ars Technica’s Ron Amadeo.

LG V30

Early previews complained of issues with the LG V30’s screen as well.

Sarah Tew/CNET

That’s effectively what Vlad Savov at The Verge is saying: That LG’s P-OLED screen technology may be to blame. Both screens are from the same manufacturer, are the same size and resolution, and use the same underlying P-OLED screen technology, so it’s not a huge leap to make.

But when we compare the V30 and the Pixel XL, we’re seeing something different. Our final review units of the LG V30 look considerably better.

What does it mean? Well, with the caveat that perceptions are subjective, perhaps Google got a bad batch of LG screens, similar to the ones that wound up in those LG V30 “preview” units a few early reviewers got.

I’ve no proof of that — Google declined to comment and LG didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment — so take that idea with a grain of salt.

But it wouldn’t be the first time that an initial manufacturing run had some teething problems. Remember the “yellow-tinted” iPhone 4S screens in 2011?

The question is: Will the Pixel 2 XL you buy have a screen that looks more like the Pixel 2 XL units we have, or the LG V30s we have? I can’t answer that question.

You’re not missing much

Again, none of these issues are deal breakers. Many of them aren’t even noticeable unless you’re a pixel peeper, or compare the Pixel 2 XL side by side with other phones. We’re not currently planning to dock points from our Pixel 2 XL review, because the screen is still beautiful, sharp and colorful, even if it’s not the best that OLED has to offer.

Speaking of which, we didn’t spot any dead or discolored pixels in any of these phones, which was one forum concern. We tested with completely-black and completely-white images, and each phone offered the brilliant whites and inky blacks that OLED screens are known for. No issues there.

If you’re an absolute screen nerd, for whom the screen is the main reason to pick one phone over another, you might reconsider your Pixel 2 XL decision. (You might also reconsider if you’re planning to use Google’s VR headset.) 

Otherwise, we currently think the Pixel 2 XL is an excellent choice.

Just maybe buy it through Google’s Play Store, which generally has a much more liberal return policy than other retailers.

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‘Mythbusters’ reboot comes to Science Channel on November 15th

Jon Lung and Brian Louden will anchor the new series, which aims to continue the original’s mission to debunk fantastic claims and myths using actual science. The first episode will have the leads testing to see if an airbag can be lethal to front-seat passengers who put their feet on the dashboard. Of course, they’ll use a cadaver to do so. In addition, the team will test out whether a bad guy or zombie will hold still for a dramatic pause if you decapitate them with enough force like they do in the movies. A rocket-powered sword will be their instrument of truth.

Louden and Lung won a national talent search in Mythbusters: the Search, beating out 9 other teams who wanted to host the reboot. Louden has a biology degree and has trained in emergency medicine while Lung is an engineer and product designer.

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Sneak Peek: The MP Gautheron Custom Dunny Series

We were stopped in our tracks when we found MP Gautheron’s instagram page. The vibrant colors and fine details of her pieces are something of a special kind of art. We immediately reached out to her in the hopes of bringing the audience of collectors a unique custom Dunny series and were more than thrilled when she agreed to do a set of 38 individual custom Dunny’s for Below you will find an exclusive photo sneak peek of the specialty Dunny series named The 38 Custom Dunny Collection by MP Gautheron.  This one-of-a-kind custom Dunny collection officially releases for collectors in the USA on this Saturday, October 21st, 2017 at 10:00am MST.  Make sure to set your alarm for this one.

The collection will be available at

This exclusive collection features 38 intricately hand-painted custom Dunny creations featuring MP Gautheron’s signature style applied to 3-inch, 5-inch, 8-inch and 20-inch Dunny’s. Each art piece is signed, numbered and comes with an official Certificate of Authenticity signed by MP Gautheron which includes the name of the piece, number of the piece and photos authenticating an official part of The 38 Custom Dunny Collection by MP Gautheron.

About MP Gautheron:

MP Gautheron is a French artist based in Lyon, France. She has always been immersed in an artistic environment, as her mother is art professor and painter. Since her childhood she has navigated between her mother’s classes and art schools. As a painter and sculptor, her graphic universe is a mix of skulls, animals, nature and patterns.

After seeing a skull filled with colorful pattern, a French toy collector asked her to paint a designer toy. This was the beginning of her venture into the world of customizing art toys.

Her toy customizations are filled with colorful hand painted designs and some even react to black light. Recently she has began adding sculpts to some of the toys, bringing a new dimension to her customs. Today she juggles between her paintings exhibitions and her toy customizations.


Custom Octopus Dunny Designs by MP Gautheron

Custom Gold Dunny Designs by MP Gautheron

Custom Cyclop Dunny Designs by MP Gautheron


Custom Butterfly Dunny Designs by MP Gautheron


Custom Black White Dunny Designs by MP Gautheron


Custom Monster Dunny Designs by MP Gautheron

Custom Pink Lady Dunny Designs by MP Gautheron


Custom Multicolor Dunny Designs by MP Gautheron

Custom Skull Dunny Designs by MP Gautheron


Custom Stripy Dunny Designs by MP Gautheron


Custom Crystal/Stone Dunny Designs by MP Gautheron


Custom Volt Face Dunny Designs by MP Gautheron

Custom 20″ Big Cyclop Dunny Custom 20″ Butterfly in the Dark Dunny

MP Gautheron 20 Dunny for Kidrobot

The 38 Custom Dunny Collection by MP Gautheron



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