Not everyone can afford a flagship phone like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra or iPhone 12 Pro, but the good news is that plenty of cheaper devices offer an excellent experience all the same.
Some are half the price or even less, so don’t panic if your bank account is looking a little bare and you’re in need of a new smartphone. We’ve reviewed and ranked the best mid-range phones you can buy today.
We define a mid-range phone as one that costs between £250/$350 (the higher limit of our even cheaper budget phones chart) and £600/$850, on a SIM-free basis – perfect to pair with a SIM-only plan.
You’ll find anything more expensive than that in our general best smartphone ranking, which tends to focus on flagship fare, along with our pick of the best Android phones.
Mid-range smartphones aim to combine flagship-level features with great value. You may have to compromise slightly on one aspect or another, like the camera or build quality, but it’s often totally worth it to save hundreds – and some of the phones at the top of the price range are flagships in their own right.
Phones from the likes of Realme, Xiaomi, and Poco are prime choices, but note that many of these don’t release in the US and Canada, where OnePlus, Motorola, and Google are better buys. Read past our rundown for more mid-range phone buying advice.
Best mid-range phone 2021
OnePlus Nord – Best overall
Middling specs for 2021
Oldest phone on our chart
An outstanding affordable buy from 2020, with great performance, 5G, OnePlus’ signature Oxygen OS user experience and a more diverse camera setup than the company has ever used on a phone. What’s not to love?
What the OnePlus Nord really demonstrates is the company’s ability to prioritise the features that users are looking for right now and wrapping them up in an attractive package with a compelling price point.
The only real downside is that the Nord is almost a year old now, and more recent phones have outpaced it on some specs. There’s also the OnePlus Nord CE 5G available, which delivers a stripped-back version of the Nord for a slightly lower price.
Read our full OnePlus Nord review
Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro – Best budget option
120Hz AMOLED display
Big camera bump
Not our favourite software
The Redmi Note 10 Pro is one of the best phones you can buy at its price point, with Xiaomi delivering exceptional value for money.
Highlights here start with the stunning screen, offering AMOLED technology and a 120Hz refresh rate, and continue with an excellent set of cameras. The headline is a 108Mp whopper which is backed up by a reasonable ultra-wide and a surprisingly decent telemacro.
Core specs are decent, hinging on the Snapdragon 732G to ensure smooth performance. However, the Redmi Note 10 Pro doesn’t support 5G, which might be a deal breaker.
MIUI is also a downside with its overly complex interface that’s simply not as stylish or easy to use as many rivals – even if you can make it a lot better than default with some tweaking.
Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro review
OnePlus 8T – Best cheap flagship
Expensive for mid-range
Nord is better value
The OnePlus 8T costs a little more than the Nord, but for that you get a faster 120Hz refresh rate, more powerful chipset, and twice the charging power with 65W wired speeds.
At full price those upgrades are a little hard to justify, but now that the 8T has dropped in price a little since launch it makes much more sense for those whose budgets will stretch a little higher than the Nord’s price.
The more recent OnePlus 9 is also available, but we actually recommend the 8T instead – the 9 costs a fair bit more, and other than adding in wireless charging the improvements are minimal. Stick with the 8T and save some money.
Read our full OnePlus 8T review
Realme X50 5G – Best for cheap 5G
No headphone jack
The Realme X50 and slightly pricier X50 Pro both offer phenomenal value for the specs they deliver.
A 120Hz display, the excellent Snapdragon 765G chip, 5G, superb battery life and a surprisingly-capable main camera collectively render the X50 a far better phone than anything you’d expect at this price.
It even gives devices like the OnePlus Nord and Google’s Pixel 5 a run for their money in certain areas.
Read our full Realme X50 5G review
Google Pixel 4a – Best camera
Amazing main camera
Great Google software
Excellent value in US
If you’re in the US and looking for a great mid-range Android phone the Pixel 4a is one of the best choices you can make. It really is a knockout handset from Google with so much on offer for an incredibly affordable price.
Outside the States, competition is much tougher from rivals with features like 5G support and higher refresh rate displays, if those are important features – though of course the larger Pixel 4a 5G also offers competition when it comes to connectivity.
Otherwise, this is a charming phone with a rare compact design, smooth performance, excellent cameras and easy-to-use software with at least three years of updates.
With word that the Pixel 5a isn’t set to launch outside the US and Japan, the 4a is likely to remain the best budget Google phone for a while yet.
Read our full Google Pixel 4a review
Poco F3 – Best value specs
Weak battery life
MIUI not our favourite
Poco’s X3 Pro is the best budget phone around, and the F3 is almost as impressive in the mid-range market.
The big selling point is the near-flagship Snapdragon 870 chipset, making the F3 one of the fastest phones in this chart.
At 7.8mm thick it’s also one of the slimmest, mid-range phones around, which helps it feel compact despite the large 6.67in, 120Hz AMOLED display.
The 48Mp main camera is also surprisingly strong, but battery life could be better – and MIUI is still far from our favourite Android skin.
If performance and design are your priorities on a tight budget though, it’s hard to do much better.
Read our full Xiaomi Poco F3 review
Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G – Thinnest 5G phone
Slim & light
Middling MIUI software
Better value elsewhere
The Mi 11 Lite 5G is one of the slickest looking and feeling mid-range phones thanks to the decision to combine a glass back with the thinnest design in any 5G phone at the time of writing – just 6.81mm.
Specs are solid, with a 90Hz AMOLED display and Snapdragon 780G chipset, but you will find more bang for your buck elsewhere if performance is the priority.
Outside of the omission of OIS the camera is also a strong point, with a capable 64Mp main lens and 20Mp selfie shooter – both great in daylight, if a little lacking in the dark.
Read our full Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G review
Red Magic 6 – Best for gaming
Highest refresh rate display
Fastest charger not included
Nubia’s Red Magic 6 manages the trick of delivering the top-tier specs demanded by a gaming phone without breaking out of the mid-range pricing bracket.
The 165Hz refresh rate is the fastest around right now – besting even the priciest gaming phones around – and you also get a Snapdragon 888 chipset combined with up to 12GB of RAM and 256GB storage. You’ll also get 66W fast charging, though be warned: the phone only ships with a 30W charger in the box.
Like most gaming phones the camera is a little lacklustre, and the design is…specific. But if that’s what you’re looking for, the Red Magic 6 is hard to beat on value right now.
Read our full Nubia Red Magic 6 review
Realme 8 Pro – Best for battery
Redmi Note 10 Pro is better
The Realme 8 Pro ups the company’s camera credentials with a 108Mp main camera that really does deliver the goods, backing it up with a lightweight design and two-day battery life.
You’ll have to put up with Realme’s garish ‘Dare to Leap’ branding on the back, and unfortunately the AMOLED display is only 60Hz – though the touch sample rate is a nippy 180Hz, which is great for gaming.
Charging is also fantastic at 50W wired, though curiously this is slightly slower than last year’s Realme 7 Pro.
Really, the Realme 8 Pro’s biggest problem is just that it’s remarkably similar to Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 10 Pro, which just manages to pip it on one or two specs.
Read our full Realme 8 Pro review
Moto G100 – Best for working on the go
Unique Ready For dock
Big and heavy
Ready For dock compulsory
The Moto G100 is a powerful and capable mid-ranger with a twist: Motorola’s ‘Ready For’ dock, which comes included with the phone in the UK (though is optional in some markets), and lets you hook the phone right up to a monitor for a portable desktop experience.
You’ll need to pair a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse too, but if you do you get a dedicated desktop interface, making this an ideal option for anyone who wants a basic mobile work setup.
Otherwise you’re getting a powerful Snapdragon 870 chip, 90Hz display, and stock Android – though the camera setup is admittedly a little basic.
Read our full Moto G100 review
Specifications to look for in a mid-range phone
It’s difficult to define a mid-range phone by its specification, hence why we’ve opted for a price bracket instead.
Some mid-range phones will take the all-round good-value approach, with capable specs in each area; others will focus on a key trait, such as the camera or display, and promise flagship-rivalling capabilities in that one aspect; others still used to be those flagships, so will offer fantastic specs at a brilliant price, but may be running on slightly older hardware.
One common element is that you’ll likely have to give up on nice-to-haves like wireless charging or a waterproof rating – these still tend to be reserved for the most expensive phones on the market.
Chinese phones are a great choice in the mid-range market because they balance very good specifications with a lower price than you’d expect – but sadly few go on sale in the US. You may have heard of Xiaomi, Realme, and OnePlus offering staggering value, but there are plenty of other less well-known Chinese manufacturers that can also offer a very good deal.
Note that there is one mid-range iPhone on the market – 2020’s iPhone SE – but we don’t think it offers great value compared to Android rivals. Consider it if you know you need an iPhone, but otherwise steer clear.
Try to remember that it’s not always about specs either. We’ve hit something of a ceiling when it comes to smartphone tech anyway, so although these phones may not be as fast as your average flagship, they are almost certainly fast enough for most users. Go for a phone that balances value, performance, features and design in a way that appeals to you and your needs.
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