Iphone se (2020) review: the best cheap iphone

The iPhone SE 2020 is an outstanding phone for under $400, delivering fast performance and very good cameras in a compact thiết kế.

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ByMark Spoonauer08 September 2021

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Our Verdict

The iPhone SE is an outstanding phone for less than $400, delivering fast performance and very good cameras in a compact thiết kế. The only thing missing is Night Mode.


ForAffordable priceFast A13 Bionic performanceVery good camerasCompact designSupports wireless charging
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Price: $399/£419 CPU: A13 Bionic Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB Display: 4.7 inches (1334 x 750) Rear camera: 12MPhường (f/1.8) Front camera: 7MPhường (f/2.2) Video recording: 4K Clip up lớn 60 fps Water resistance: IP67 Battery life: Up khổng lồ 13 hours đoạn phim playback Wireless charging: Yes (Qi) Fast charging: Yes via optional 18W adapter Size: 5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 inches Weight: 5.22 ounces


The iPhone SE 20đôi mươi remains one of the best phones for those on a budget, even more than a year after its release. For less than $400, you get Apple"s A13 Bionic processor, delivering fast performance and camera capabilities you’d expect from a pricier phone. And it"s all wrapped in a compact design.


The iPhone SE also offers premium features you won’t find on some Android phones in its price range — including its metal-and-glass kiến thiết, wireless charging & water resistance. Some old-school features are along for the rider here, too, such as Touch ID for unlocking the device (which can come in handy at a time when we"re still wearing face masks).

As I wrote this iPhone SE 20đôi mươi Review, I wished Apple trimmed the bezels on this phone and added a night mode for the camera. Some may prefer the pricier iPhone 12 mini, which delivers a bigger 5.4-inch display and 5G in a compact kiến thiết — but that phone costs $300 more than the iPhone SE.


The iPhone XR is another good alternative sầu, as it offers a bigger screen than the iPhone SE; its price has fallen to lớn $499. Some may want khổng lồ wait until next year, as rumors suggest that an iPhone SE 3 with 5G is due out in early 2022.

Regardless of how good the new iPhone 13 may look when it debuts, you can"t deny that the iPhone SE 20đôi mươi remains one of the best phones you can buy for the money.


iPhone SE 20đôi mươi price and release date

The iPhone SE costs $399/£419, the same price it debuted at in April 20trăng tròn. The $399 model features 64GB of storage for $399, but you can upgrade to lớn the 128GB version for $449/£469 và to lớn 256GB for $549/£569.

Trade in your old device when you buy the iPhone SE, và you could get as much as $120 off your new phone, lowering the price to $279. You can also check out the best iPhone SE deals to see if there are additional savings available.

The iPhone SE is available through all of the major carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-di động and Verizon, as well as other carriers including Xfinity mobile & Visible.


iPhone SE 20trăng tròn review: Design và colors

I generally like the iPhone SE’s kiến thiết — with one exception. On the plus side, it’s a very well made handset with the same sturdy glass-and-aluminum kiến thiết of the iPhone 8. There are three color options for the iPhone SE: black, Trắng & (Product)Red. I lượt thích how the aluminum bvà is color matched with the baông xã of the device.


(Image credit: Tom"s Guide)

I tried out the blaông xã model, which looks và feels sleek but did piông chồng up smudges despite the oleophobic coating. You’ll probably want khổng lồ opt for Trắng if you want to hide fingerprints.


(Image credit: Tom"s Guide)

Another plus lớn the iPhone SE: The whole kiến thiết is almost comically compact compared to the iPhone 11 Pro Max or the new iPhone 12 Pro Max. It’s the difference between barely noticing a phone is in your front pocket & having it bulge out. I also didn’t feel any discomfort when gaming for over 30 minutes at a time; I can’t say that about my iPhone 11 Pro Max.


(Image credit: Tom"s Guide)

The iPhone SE measures 5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 inches and weighs 5.22 ounces, which is smaller and narrower than the Google Pixel 4a but about the same weight. The Pixel 3a has a much bigger 5.81-inch edge-to-edge display with a hole punch cutout. However, unlượt thích Google"s budget phone, the iPhone SE 2020 has IP67 water resistance. That means it can be submerged in 1 meter of weather for up lớn 30 minutes. You also shouldn’t have sầu to worry about coffee or soda spills with this phone.


(Image credit: Tom"s Guide)

Unfortunately, the bezels around the iPhone SE’s screen look big and dated for a 2020 smartphone. I kept trying to zoom in on videos lớn no avail. I would have sầu liked Apple to fit a larger display in the same form size chassis.

Another issue is that Haptic touch does not work on the loông chồng screen of the iPhone SE for some reason. Unlượt thích other iPhones, you can"t long press on notifications to expvà them on the lochồng screen.

iPhone SE 2020 review: Touch ID

Although Apple has offered Face ID on all of its newer phones for the past couple of years, the new iPhone SE 2020 uses a Touch ID sensor underneath the display for unlocking the device. This same sensor can be used for authorizing App Store downloads, Apple Pay and entering passwords.


(Image credit: Tom"s Guide)

Just like I remembered, the full bộ Touch ID/trang chính button worked well, and you can choose the amount of haptic feedbaông chồng you prefer when you press down. The cảm ứng ID button has a very important — and unexpected — benefit right now as many are being ordered lớn wear face masks in public. You can still easily unloông xã your iPhone SE without having to lớn take off your mask. Face ID won’t work with masks.

iPhone SE 20trăng tròn review: Display

A 4.7-inch screen on a modern-day phone may seem antiquated, but those shopping for one of the best small phones won’t be disappointed in this panel.

I enjoyed checking out the Wonder Woman 1984 trailer on YouTube on the iPhone SE 2020’s Retimãng cầu Display. The superhero’s gleaming red, blue & gold suit popped as she deflected bullets with her silver bracelet. The iPhone SE’s screen also did a good job rendering finer details in a Tiger King scene: I could make out individual whiskers on the majestic animal’s face.


(Image credit: Tom"s Guide)

Just don’t expect a full HD picture. The iPhone SE’s display resolution is just 1334 x 750 pixels. We would prefer to lớn see a 1080p display but it’s not too bad of a trade-off.

The iPhone SE’s screen is bright, as it’s rated for 625 nits và scored an even higher 653 nits in our testing. It’s just a bit dimmer than the Pixel 4a’s 681 nits.

I didn’t have any issues viewing the screen outdoors when surfing the web or taking photos. The panel also supports True Tone, which means it can automatically adjust the screen’s color temperature based on the ambient lighting conditions.

Based on our tests, the iPhone SE’s display reproduces 111.2% of the sRGB color gamut, which just barely beats the 105.8% from the Pixel 4a’s OLED panel. The iPhone SE delivers accurate colors, too, achieving a Delta-E score of 0.2; a score of zero is perfect. The Pixel 4a’s screen scored 0.29.

iPhone SE 2020 review: Cameras

The iPhone SE 2020’s camera is so good that you’d be hard pressed khổng lồ tell the difference between it và the iPhone 11 in many cases. The one exception is Night mode, which the iPhone SE simply does not have.


(Image credit: Tom"s Guide)

Like the iPhone 8 before it, the iPhone SE features a single 12-megapx rear camera and a 7MP. front camera. You don’t get a ultra-wide angle lens like the iPhone 11 or a telephoto lớn lens with optical zoom like the iPhone 12 Pro models. But the iPhone SE"s A13 Bionic chip boosts its camera performance in several ways.

For instance, you can take portraits using both the baông chồng & front camera on the iPhone SE, complete with Portrait Lighting effects & the ability to lớn control the depth of field. The iPhone SE also benefits from Smart HDR for bringing out the highlights in faces.


(Image credit: Tom"s Guide)

I was pleasantly surprised by the màn chơi of detail in this iPhone SE phokhổng lồ of a man-made pond. You can make out the drops of water in the waterfall in the distance, and the greenery pops around the roông chồng formations. The iPhone SE also did a great job capturing the black-and-White và orange-and-White fish in that pond, as well as the blue-green water.

The iPhone SE held its own against the Pixel 3a in this phokhổng lồ of light pink cherry blossom flowers. The iPhone SE’s shot is warmer và brighter, but the Pixel 3a’s image is a bit more detailed và has more contrast.

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I also give the nod khổng lồ the iPhone SE here with this portrait. My skin tone looks more natural và the bokeh effect looks very convincing. The Pixel’s manages lớn take a chunk out of the right side of my head. There is one small drawbaông xã to the iPhone SE when taking portraits, though; you have to lớn get considerably closer to lớn your subject than you vì chưng with the iPhone 11 Pro because the iPhone SE doesn’t have sầu a telephokhổng lồ lens. (You will be within 6 feet, which is not social-distancing friendly.)

The iPhone SE pulled ahead in this photo of an Aperol Sprtiz cocktail. The overall image just looks brighter & more appetizing. I also lượt thích how the iPhone SE blurs out the background. The only strike against the iPhone here is that the tile looks more yellow than white; the Pixel 3a got that right.

The one camera weakness for the iPhone SE is the lachồng of a Night Mode. In this photo taken outside at night, the Pixel 3a is able to render the trees in the foreground, the oto in the street and the house in the background. You can barely make out anything in the iPhone SE’s shot. I don’t know if the iPhone SE could pull off a Night mode with a software upgrade, but it would be great lớn see Apple add the feature.

If you"re wondering how the iPhone SE"s cameras measure up lớn a more recent device than the Pixel 3a, check out our Google Pixel 4a vs. iPhone SE face-off for a camera comparison to lớn Google"s current budget offering.

On the đoạn Clip front, the iPhone SE can record 4K đoạn phim at up khổng lồ 60 fps, & you can enjoy extended dynamic range if you drop down the frame rate lớn 30 fps. This brings out more details in the shadows along with better highlights.

iPhone SE 2020 review: Performance

While Android phone makers outfit their budget phones with weaker processors, the iPhone SE packs the same A13 Bionic chip as the iPhone 11 và iPhone 11 Pro. This means you’ll enjoy the same fast and responsive sầu performance.


(Image credit: Tom"s Guide)

For example, the iPhone SE delivered silky smooth gameplay while I sped along in Sayonara Wild Hearts và tried to stay on the track in Super Impossible Road. The graphics were not as crisp due to lớn the iPhone SE’s lower-res display, but the overall action was just as swift and enjoyable. Loading apps và switching between apps was also lag-free.

Scrolling on the iPhone SE feels slower than on phones with a 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rate, but I don’t expect that perk on a sub-$400 phone.

On Geekbench 5, which measures overall performance, the iPhone SE scored 3,226 on the multi-core test và 1,337 on the single-core portion. Those numbers are comparable to what the iPhone 11 (3,251 và 1,331) turned in. They also beat the Galaxy S20, which scored 3,147 & 867 and costs $600 more.

The iPhone SE performed very well on real-world performance tests, too. It took the phone just 43 seconds to lớn transcode a 4K video lớn 1080p after applying a few edits in the Adobe Premiere Rush app. That result actually beats the pricier Samsung Galaxy S20, which took 1 minute & 15 seconds.

Since our testing iPhone SE Review, Apple has released the iPhone 12 family, with four models powered by the faster A14 Bionic chip. Those phones outpersize the iPhone SE, but make no mistake — the A13 inside Apple"s cheapest iPhone still delivers a punch that tops many other devices.

iPhone SE 20đôi mươi review: Battery life & charging

The iPhone SE is rated for less battery life than the the iPhone 11, so you shouldn"t expect the longest endurance. For instance, Apple says that the iPhone SE delivers 13 hours of Clip playbaông xã, versus 17 hours for the iPhone 11.

On the Tom"s Guide Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over 4G LTE, the iPhone SE 20đôi mươi averaged 9 hours & 18 minutes. That"s well below the endurance of the iPhone 11 (11:16), iPhone 11 Pro (10:24) và iPhone 11 Pro Max (11:54). The iPhone SE did, however, best the Pixel 4a, which scored a mere 8:55.


(Image credit: Tom"s Guide)

In my anecdotal testing, I found that the iPhone SE does have sầu less staying power than my iPhone 11 Pro Max, as it has a smaller battery. For example, after unplugging the iPhone SE at 7 am và using it for website surfing, playing games, taking photos and more throughout the day, I had 20% juice left at 8 pm. That"s not bad, but my iPhone 11 Pro Max still had cthua thảm to lớn 40% power.

Unfortunately, the iPhone SE comes with Apple’s standard 5-watt Lightning charger. (The bright side? Apple stopped including chargers with last fall"s iPhone 12 releases.) And with that you can expect to lớn get lớn just 29% power in 30 minutes, based on our testing. If you want khổng lồ be able to lớn juice this phone lớn 1/2 in 30 minutes, you’re going to have sầu lớn pay extra for an 18W charger from Apple. It’s $29 for the power brichồng và another $19 for the USB C lớn Lightning cable.

If you want to go wireless, the iPhone SE supports 7.5W wireless charging and supports the Qi standard. Chechồng out all the best wireless chargers to lớn pair with this phone.

iPhone SE vs Google Pixel 4a

Released after the iPhone SE, the Google Pixel 4a is a very good alternative sầu to Apple"s phone. At $349, it costs $50 less than the iPhone SE. And for that price you get a bigger 5.8-inch OLED display, much slimmer bezels & a Night mode for the camera, which the iPhone SE lacks. The Pixel 4a also offers double the storage at 128GB vs 64GB for the iPhone.

On the other h&, the SnapLong 730 processor inside the Pixel 4a is slower than Apple"s A13 Bionic chip. Plus, the iPhone SE has a water resistant kiến thiết, as well as wireless charging. So it really comes down to lớn whether you prefer iOS or Android.

iPhone SE 2020 review: Verdict


(Image credit: Tom"s Guide)

The iPhone SE 20trăng tròn is the affordable iPhone to lớn beat, and the one of the best cheap phones you can get. It’s the closest thing to lớn future-proof you’ll find under $400, offering the fasdemo performance around, very good cameras, wireless charging & a premium kiến thiết that outclasses cheap Android phones.

Yes, I wish the bezels were smaller và that Apple included Night mode for the camera — và you don’t get 5G connectivity — but overall it’s hard khổng lồ complain too much at this price. A 5G-capable iPhone SE 3 could be on the horizon, but it likely won"t arrive sầu until 2022.

The iPhone XR is a tempting alternative sầu to lớn the iPhone SE as it now costs just $499. For that money you bet a bigger display & bigger battery but a slower CPU & less advanced cameras. If you prefer a smaller phone, however, this handset will not disappoint. Overall, the iPhone SE is the one of the best phones for those on a budget.

iPhone SE nhận xét cheat sheet: Reasons to lớn buy & skip

Reasons khổng lồ buy the iPhone SE 2020

A13 Bionic processor: The A13 chip is the faschạy thử in a phone and offers smooth performance, whether you"re juggling multiple apps, playing games or using AR apps.Solid cameras: That A13 chip also boosts the photography powers of the iPhone SE, as you get Portrait mode for the front and rear shooters, Smart HDR for better highlights và extended dynamic range in 4K Clip.Premium design: While a lot of premium phones have sầu plastic designs, the iPhone SE is made of glass và metal and is also IP67 water resistant.Bright & colorful display: It"s not full HD, but the 4.7-inch Retimãng cầu Display on the iPhone SE is easy to see outdoors và provides a vibrant picture.Easy khổng lồ use with one hand: Fans of small phones will appreciate how compact the iPhone SE is. And the Touch ID button lets you easily unlochồng the device.

Reasons to skip the iPhone SE 2020

Big bezels: The iPhone SE would be even more attractive sầu if Apple were able lớn deliver something closer lớn a full-screen kiến thiết.No Night mode for the camera: The iPhone SE lacks the Night Mode camera feature on the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, not lớn mention every iPhone 12 mã sản phẩm. So you"ll have sầu to lớn rely on the flash in really dim conditions.

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No 5G: Apple didn"t add 5G lớn its phones until the iPhone 12 family last fall. 5G networks are expanding, and you"ll miss out on the faster download speeds with this iPhone SE.
Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom"s Guide and has covered giải pháp công nghệ for nearly đôi mươi years. In addition to lớn overseeing the direction of Tom"s Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things Mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones và other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events và appears regularly on TV khổng lồ discuss the lakiểm tra trends. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at

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