8 off-contract smartphones compete without breaking the bank

The Nexus 5 could be the best overall smartphone value right now, but at least half a dozen other competitors for the title have recently emerged.

The Galaxy S4 Mini is one way to get some of that Galaxy S4 pizzazz at half the cost. Sarah Tew/CNET

This holiday season is shaping up to be the year that getting a solid new Android smartphone doesn't also mean signing up for 24 months of ever-increasing monthly fees at the same time.

The trend away from flagship phones that required such big commitments in order to lock down a quality device for under $400 arguably started last year with the release of the Nexus 4 from Google, available unlocked for just $299.

This year, Google filled in some of the gaps with the Nexus 5, which -- unlike its predecessor -- comes with LTE support and is again available for half the price of other flagships, and with the latest version of Android KitKat to boot.

While the Nexus 5 now represents perhaps the best all around value in a smartphone, I tracked down over half a dozen other devices that also offer decent phones at great prices -- as much as 50 percent below the price of even the Nexus 5.

Browse through our gallery of smartphone steals below and let me know in the comments and on Twitter (@crave and @ericcmack) if I've left any out.

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