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10 charming Chinese Android phones that are worth the hassle to import

If the devices made by Apple, Samsung, LG, HTC, Motorola, or any other mainstream companies don’t appeal to you, then there’s a whole world of smartphones out there that may hit the spot. Over the past few years, China has produced a steady stream of competent and well-priced devices designed to tempt us away from the more well-known manufacturers. Moreover, thanks to a variety of online retailers that specialize in phone imports, they’re available for us to buy if we put in a little effort.

The sheer amount of options is staggering, however, and picking a phone from such a massive catalog is a tough task for anyone. After much deliberation, we present our list of the 10 best Chinese smartphones that have been revealed in 2015.

Xiaomi Mi Note Pro ($489)


Xiaomi announced the Mi Note and Mi Note Pro right at the start of 2015, and it’s the latter that really captured our attention. It took a while to go on sale, but it’s still one of the most powerful and stunning smartphones you can buy. The screen is a massive 5.7-inches and touts 2,560 x 1,440-pixel resolution, it houses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor inside its 7-millimeter thick metal body, and has 4GB of RAM. The smartphone also runs Android with Xiaomi’s MIUI over the top, which makes the user experience very different from stock Android. Read more here.


ZTE Axon Elite ($300)


Axon is another ZTE brand, and the Axon Elite is exclusive to the United Kingdom and Europe. It showcases more desirable specs than the cool Axon Pro — which is available in the United States — and it has fingerprint, eye scanning, and voice unlock security systems. The eye-catching design also makes the Axon Elite stand out, and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor ensures it’s a good performer. If that wasn’t enough, the dual-lens camera makes those cool bokeh shots possible without a DSLR. Read our full review here.


Nubia Z9 Max ($247)


Nubia is a ZTE brand that concentrates on building super stylish smartphones. Encased in glass and outfitted with a 5.2-inch borderless display, the Z9 is a real beauty. It also has a very cool secret feature. The edges of the screen hide a gesture control system, which you can use to activate a host of preprogrammed actions, allowing you to capture a screenshot or turn of the display with a simple maneuver. Inside, the Z9 houses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 64-bit octa-core processor, along with a 3GB of RAM and either 32 or 64GB of internal storage. Other components, namely a 2,900mAh battery and 16-megapixel camera outfitted with a host of optical settings, also come standard. Read more here.


Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 ($180+)


If the Mi Note Pro is too expensive given the $500+ price tag, then the recently-announced Redmi Note 3 may be of greater interest to you. It’s available for less than $180, yet remains wrapped in a metal chassis — a first for the Redmi series of mid-range hardware — and comes with an octa-core MediaTek processor, 3GB of RAM if you opt for the 32GB model, and a 5.5-inch display. It runs Android with MIUI, and the whopping 4,000mAh battery with fast-charging should keep the phone going for a couple of days before needing a recharge. It even has a fingerprint sensor. Yes, all that for about $180. Read more here.


Huawei Mate 8 ($571)


It may be one of the least subtle phones on our list, from a manufacturer many have probably already heard of, but the Huawei Mate 8 is a powerhouse of a phone. It’s a giant 6-inch phablet with the new Kirin 950 oct-core processor inside, Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and a 16-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization. Despite the slim 8-millimeter chassis, there’s a 4,000mAh battery inside and a fingerprint sensor on the back. No, it’s not small, but then it has just about everything you’d need from a modern smartphone in terms of spec. Read more here.


Huawei P8 ($447)


Do you question whether Huawei can make a pretty phone? Look no further than the gorgeous P8 for proof. The company released the lesser P8 Lite in the United States, but not the P8 itself. That’s a shame, because not only is it good looking, but the 13-megapixel camera offers plenty of toys — including a manual mode — and the smartphone’s screen is sensibly sized at 5.2 inches with 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution. It’s powered by the 64-bit Kirin 930 octa-core processor and 3GB of RAM to boot. Read our full review here.

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LeTV One Pro ($300)


Letv is a name that’s likely to become more familiar to you in the near future, as the Chinese mega brand intends to launch its smartphones in the United States soon. In the meantime, the One Pro is a prime example of why we should be interested in the company. The 5.5-inch, 1440p screen is wrapped in an aluminum body, there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor with 4GB of RAM inside, Android Lollipop onboard, and a 13-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization on the back. It can be purchased for as little as $300, so it represents excellent value. Read more here.

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Zuk Z1 ($300)


Zuk is a Lenovo spin-off brand, and the Z1 is its first smartphone release. Just $300 buys you this attractive, high-spec phone that uses Cyanogen (an alternative version of Android) as its OS, separating it from the competition with custom user interfaces, because it looks and acts like stock Android. The phone’s competent, too, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, a 13-megapixel camera, and a 5.5-inch 1080p screen. A big 4,000mAh battery, USB Type-C fast charging, and a fingerprint sensor make it even more desirable. Read our full review here.

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Meizu Pro 5 ($500)


Meizu’s MX5 is a good phone, but the massive 5.7-inch Pro 5 version is even more desirable. You’ll want to spend the extra money to get the Premium version with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. The screen has a 1080p resolution, and the processor driving it all is Samsung’s octa-core Exynos 7420 chip, which is the same one found in the Galaxy S6. Meizu has used a 7.5-millimeter thick aluminum body for the Pro 5, with a 2.5D glass front, and put a fingerprint sensor inside the home button. There’s Android 5.1 onboard, USB Type-C, and a 21-megapixel Sony camera on the back. Expect to pay around $500 for this beauty, but given the specification, that’s good value. Read more here.

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Oppo R7 Plus ($402)


If you’re going to buy a big phone, buy a big phone. The whopping $500 Oppo R7 Plus has a 6-inch AMOLED screen, yet manages to remain surprisingly compact, thanks to screen bezels that measure just over 2 millimeters in size. It’s stunning to look at, with an aluminum body and 2.5D screen curving around the edges. Interestingly, the processor is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 615 octa-core chip, and it has 3GB of RAM, so it’s not quite as powerful as other phones on our list. However, the massive 4,100mAh battery should make the most of the smaller chip and 1080p screen’s lower power needs. A 13-megapixel camera, fingerprint sensor, and 32GB of internal memory with MicroSD card expansion complete the spec list, along with Android 5.1. Read more here.

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