With model new flagship smartphones just like the iPhone 14 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra costing $1,000 or extra, and much more budget-focused Android telephones like Google’s Pixel 7 nonetheless being out of attain for many people, shopping for a used telephone can prevent huge cash. A couple of hundred bucks can get you a telephone that’ll simply deal with all of your on a regular basis wants with loads of extra cool options thrown in.

However what’s the very best use of your cash: shopping for a used flagship telephone from a few years in the past or spending the identical cash on a model new finances telephone? Will the efficiency be nearly as good? Can they deal with the identical duties? And are they each secure to make use of? 

To search out out, I pitted two telephones towards one another. One is the Samsung Galaxy S20, a telephone that launched in early 2020 and acquired a really optimistic overview from CNET after we bought our arms on it. I picked it up preowned within the UK for less than £243 (about $290). Out there new for round that value is the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite, a telephone with strong specs and a value of solely £279 (that converts to round $333, however this telephone isn’t obtainable within the US). 

The purpose right here is to not evaluate two random telephones and inform you which ones to purchase. As a substitute I am utilizing these telephones as examples of what you may get with this cash, each for brand spanking new and used telephones, and hopefully to supply some steering on how one can get essentially the most on your cash. So let’s dive in.

A OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite next to a Samsung Galaxy S20 from the front

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Low-cost used telephone, low cost new telephone

The Galaxy S20 was a powerhouse of its day, packing potent specs, 5G connectivity and a a number of digital camera setup on the again that may take beautiful photographs. It first went on sale for £899 ($999) so the worth I bought it for as a used mannequin is a large financial savings. However then the cheaper OnePlus additionally has 5G and likewise has a number of rear cameras and its processor is able to dealing with the whole lot from Instagramming to gaming. 

The Galaxy S20 has a way more highly effective processor and its rear digital camera setup takes higher photos and features a superwide angle possibility not discovered on the Nord. Its flagship design makes it really feel just like the extra premium machine as properly. It additionally provides waterproofing and wi-fi charging, neither of that are supplied on the finances Nord CE 2 Lite. However the Nord has one main factor on its aspect; its age. 

New telephones get common safety updates from producers, ensuring that cybercriminals cannot exploit any holes in your telephone’s defenses that would compromise your privateness. As telephones age they finally get minimize off from this assist, often after a couple of years. A telephone that not will get safety updates is susceptible to assault as these holes in your protection are not being patched. As soon as a gap is discovered, it is open for any attacker to reap the benefits of for so long as you employ the telephone. 

Software screen on Galaxy S20

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Consequently, it is merely not secure to make use of a telephone exterior of its assist interval. OnePlus has promised that the Nord CE 2 Lite will receive three years of security updates, which, as a brand new telephone, means it is going to be secure to make use of till no less than April 2025. Samsung not too long ago introduced it should assist its telephones for longer than it is beforehand completed, giving the S20 5G four years of security updates — and a few of its more moderen handsets will get updates for even longer. However the S20 is already over two years previous, so it will nonetheless solely get updates till February 2024 — no less than a 12 months lower than the OnePlus. 

Learn extraThat Used or Refurbished Android Phone Might Be Unsafe

So whereas used flagships just like the S20 5G supply a extra premium expertise total, their usable lifespan is prone to be shorter. However two years remains to be an excellent period of time, notably should you’re searching for a less expensive telephone merely to tide you over for a 12 months or so. Shopping for a used flagship that is a 12 months or two previous generally is a excellent method of placing nice tech in your pocket on a budget. You should purchase newer fashions for more cash that might be supported for longer, or you should buy a lot older ones for low costs — however these could also be out of assist and so shouldn’t be in your purchasing record. 

Solely you’ll be able to determine what’s extra essential to you; longer assist, higher-end efficiency or value. Shopping for used or new means balancing these three components, however neither possibility is essentially ‘higher’ than the opposite. It is simply right down to what is smart on your wants or finances. For my cash with these telephones, I would go for the S20 5G. It is nonetheless bought loads of assist time left and its total efficiency — particularly from its cameras — would make it extra usable for me on a day-to-day foundation. However learn on to see extra particulars on how the S20 5G and the Nord CE 2 Lite evaluate.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite next to Samsung Galaxy S20 showing wallpaper saying 12

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Processor efficiency: Galaxy S20 beats Nord CE 2 Lite

My S20 5G runs an Exynos 990 processor — Samsung’s high processor on the telephone’s launch — with 12GB of RAM, whereas the Nord CE 2 Lite makes use of a lower-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 chip with 8GB of RAM.

In our suite of benchmark exams, the Galaxy S20 was the clear winner, with higher efficiency noticed for each multicore processing and graphics. You possibly can see the total breakdown of rating on the bar graph under, however the takeaway right here is that regardless of being an older telephone, its potent specs nonetheless make it a powerful performer as we speak. 

Galaxy S20 5G vs. Nord CE 2 Lite efficiency chart

Legend:

Geekbench 5 Single core

Geekbench 5 Multicore

3D Mark Sling Shot Limitless

Word:

Longer bars equal higher efficiency

However whereas there is perhaps a distinction on benchmark exams, in on a regular basis use that distinction is not particularly noticeable. Common navigation round every telephone is swift and freed from any annoying lag, opening apps feels immediate and opening the digital camera is perhaps a half second quicker on the S20. Video streaming is dealt with simply high-quality on each telephones, as is gaming in demanding video games like Asphalt 9: Legends, even with the settings set to most. 

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite next to Samsung Galaxy S20 showing the cameras

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Certain, the older S20 5G is the extra highly effective handset on paper, however as we speak’s finances telephones nonetheless pack a punch and are not prone to allow you to down while you put them by their paces.

Winner: The S20’s superior efficiency does technically outshine the Nord’s, however in on a regular basis use you are unlikely to note a lot distinction. With as we speak’s finances telephones providing sufficient energy for many duties, most individuals will not want the additional energy supplied by older flagships.

Digicam: Older flagship takes higher photographs

Though it was the Galaxy S20 Extremely that packed essentially the most spectacular digital camera setup, the bottom S20 that I am utilizing right here nonetheless has an amazing set of lenses on the again, together with a typical view, an ultrawide and a 3x optical zoom. The OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite has a typical view and a 2x optical zoom. Instantly then, these of you searching for grand, sweeping wide-angle landscapes might be higher suited with the triple digital camera array of the S20. 

And it is the higher digital camera in on a regular basis use, too, with higher, extra correct colours, extra pleasing distinction and sharper particulars. 

Canal scene

This shot from the Galaxy S20’s major digital camera is well-exposed and with spot-on colours.


Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Canal scene

The publicity is OK from the Nord CE 2 Lite, however its colours aren’t nearly as good.


Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Canal scene

Switching to the 3x zoom lens, the Galaxy S20’s shot is once more brilliant and well-exposed with colours which are true to life.


Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Canal scene

The Nord CE 2 Lite’s zoom provides a lot the identical as its major digital camera; respectable publicity however colours that fall in need of the mark. 


Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Buildings by a river

The S20 has completed an amazing job capturing this riverside scene.


Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Buildings by a river

The Nord’s shot is not too dangerous both, but it surely once more suffers from barely off colours and a much less punchy distinction.


Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Buildings by a river

The S20’s main digital camera profit is its ultrawide lens, which helps you to seize a lot wider, extra dramatic views like this one. 


Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Selfie in front of buildings by a river

The Galaxy S20’s selfie mode has an honest publicity however its colours look fairly drab.


Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Selfie in front of buildings by a river

The Nord CE 2 Lite’s selfie mode has rather more vivid colours and punchy distinction.


Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Winner: The Galaxy S20’s triple rear digital camera takes pictures with higher publicity, colours and distinction. Its zoom is longer and its extra wide-angle lens enables you to seize photos that the Nord CE 2 Lite merely cannot handle. As a flagship of its day, the S20 was geared up with a stellar digital camera system and it is clear that it is nonetheless an amazing images software as we speak. 

Battery, show, design and extras

The S20 packs a 4,000-mAh battery that is smaller than the 5,000-mAh cell contained in the Nord CE 2 Lite. I anticipated stronger battery life from the Nord because of this, however after 1 hour of YouTube streaming, each telephones had dropped from full to 92% and after an extra hour the Nord was at 82% whereas the S20 was at 83%. On the whole use each telephones appear to supply roughly related battery efficiency, which I discovered stunning. 

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite next to Samsung Galaxy S20, lower parts

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Batteries in telephones do age over time, even when they don’t seem to be closely used. I even needed to change a battery myself on an iPhone 6 because it had aged a lot. Two years may not be an enormous period of time, however I did count on to see poorer efficiency from the S20 right here and it is actually a mark in its favor that it put up such a battle. Do consider although that older telephone batteries may need aged and it is nonetheless usually a wise transfer to cost your telephone each night time, whether or not it is used or brand-new.

The S20’s show is smaller (6.2 inches versus 6.59 inches) but it surely’s bought the next decision and its AMOLED tech makes it brighter and extra vibrant than the Nord’s, so watching movies or taking part in colourful video games is a usually nicer expertise on the S20. Bodily the S20 looks like a correct flagship telephone with a glass and metallic development that feels much more luxurious than the fairly plasticky Nord CE 2 Lite. 

You will additionally discover extra options on the S20 like an in-screen fingerprint scanner (moderately than a side-mounted one on the Nord) and an IP68 score to maintain water at bay. The Nord does allow you to develop its 128GB of storage, nonetheless, whereas the S20 doesn’t. The Nord additionally has a 3.5mm headphone jack that might be useful to these of you continue to utilizing wired headphones. 

Winner: The S20’s premium design, extra vibrant show, water resistance score and comparable battery life will make this telephone extra pleasing to make use of every day they usually’re nice causes to contemplate a latest, used flagship telephone over a brand new finances handset.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite next to Samsung Galaxy S20 showing the cameras

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Safety: The Nord CE 2 Lite provides peace of thoughts for a bit longer

As a result of any telephone that does not have the newest safety patches is extremely vulnerable to being hacked, software program safety on an older handset is a good larger deal than it usually is. Most Android producers are likely to assist their telephones for 2 to 3 years, then successfully minimize them free because it turns into too time-consuming to maintain updating older fashions.

With the Nord being a brand-new telephone and OnePlus promising to assist its telephones with safety updates for 3 years, it is secure to imagine the Nord CE 2 Lite will nonetheless be secure to make use of in April 2025. The S20 5G will probably lose safety assist round Feb 2024. That is a complete 12 months much less usable time than the Nord but it surely’s nonetheless two years of fine use from now, which is not dangerous contemplating it is already 2 years previous. 

Personally I would take into account two years to be sufficient time to justify going with the older flagship, but when it have been a good older mannequin just like the Galaxy S9 that was already — or about to be — minimize off then I would not even entertain the concept. Utilizing a telephone exterior of its assist interval merely is not secure. In the event you’re eager to squeeze each month of usable life out of this buy then the brand new finances telephone will be the higher possibility, however be sure that to verify when every telephone is prone to lose assist. Corporations supply completely different assist intervals, notably with more moderen fashions, so it’s possible you’ll discover the distinction is not all that a lot. 

Winner: When your telephone receives an replace additionally depends upon your service, however because the newer telephone, the win technically goes to the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite. Nonetheless, the S20 nonetheless has two years of life forward of it, which makes it nonetheless price contemplating.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite next to Samsung Galaxy S20 from the back

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Which do you have to purchase?

I first wrote this text in 2020 based mostly on a three-year-old telephone that was proper on the cusp of being minimize off from its safety assist. Then, the selection was clear: The previous flagship would quickly be unsafe to make use of, so it was a lot smarter to go for the brand new finances telephone. Having up to date the article with a brand new comparability, although, the S20 5G I’ve examined nonetheless has an excellent two years of usable life forward of it, which makes it completely price contemplating — particularly when shopping for used means conserving one other telephone out of landfill. 

And people two years with an older flagship just like the S20 will probably be extra pleasing than shopping for a brand new finances telephone, due to its higher cameras, its nicer display screen and its extra luxurious design, construct and options like waterproofing. It is an amazing machine that gives a hell of so much contemplating the low value I paid for it on the used market. 

So do take into account shopping for used — it is an effective way of placing superior tech in your pocket, not overstretching your finances and rescuing an in any other case nice telephone from landfill. Nevertheless it’s essential to buy good: Purchase from a trusted supply (I used MusicMagpie within the UK, however Gazelle performs an similar service within the US) and ensure it is latest sufficient that it will nonetheless obtain safety updates for no less than a 12 months or two.



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