CNET has picked Samsung Galaxy S9 as one of the...

CNET has picked Samsung Galaxy S9 as one of the best phones for less than $500. Credit: CBS Interactive

Despite the prices of new flagship phones reaching well into the four-figure range, that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice a couple of months' rent to get yourself a top-end phone. With little to no digging, a number of pretty spectacular phones can be had for under $500 -- sometimes well under. These are four of CNET's best choices for phones that won't bust your bank account.

The following CNET staff contributed to this story: section editor Jessica Dolcourt and senior editors Lynn La and Laura K. Cucullu. For more reviews of personal technology products, visit cnet.com.

Samsung Galaxy S8

CNET rating (out of 5)

4.5 stars (outstanding)

THE GOOD The best-looking phone around crushes it in performance, battery life, water-resistance and wireless charging. An external storage slot lets you keep more photos, videos and music.

THE BAD Its awkwardly placed fingerprint reader leads to camera smears and longer unlock times, which is aggravating if you use it to unlock your phone dozens of times a day.

THE COST $399.99 to $499.99

BOTTOM LINE The Samsung Galaxy S8's fast speeds and fantastic curved screen make it a top phone choice.

LG G7 ThinQ

CNET rating (out of 5)

4 stars (excellent)

THE GOOD The waterproof LG G7 ThinQ has an AI camera that gives your photos a boost before you even snap them. The phone has a secondary wide-angle rear camera and a headphone jack.

THE BAD The design is familiar, its Google Assistant button isn't reprogrammable and battery life is unimpressive.

THE COST $379.99 to $679.99

BOTTOM LINE A really good phone, but it doesn’t distinguish itself from more compelling offerings from Samsung, OnePlus and Google.

Google Pixel 3A

CNET rating (out of 5)

4 stars (excellent)

THE GOOD The Pixel 3A is cheaper than the original Pixel 3 but packs the same grade-A camera that shoots great in low light. It can also record time-lapse videos and has a headphone jack.

THE BAD The phone isn't water-resistant and lacks wireless charging. Local storage is capped at 64GB, and Pixel 3A owners have unlimited uploads to Google Photos at a compressed high-quality resolution, not original.

THE COST $399 to $419.95

BOTTOM LINE The Pixel 3A has the best camera for its price.

Samsung Galaxy S9

CNET rating (out of 5)

4 stars (excellent)

THE GOOD The Galaxy S9 once again proves Samsung's formula of a gorgeous 5.8-inch screen, sexy dual-curved design and terrific camera for well-lit shots can't go wrong. Whiplash-fast speeds, wireless charging and water resistance complete the package. And it looks stunning in purple and blue.

THE BAD Low-light photos often look blurry and lack the fine texture and contrast of competing phone cameras.

THE COST $463 to $599.99

BOTTOM LINE The Galaxy S9 hold its own among 2019's best smartphones.

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